|Joe Newman, 83, served in the U.S. foreign service in London, Paris and Rome.|
Spend 90 minutes with 83-year-old Joe Newman, a gregarious New Jersey native, and this is what you'll probably discover:
He's passionate about baseball. (He officially "retired" from playing in 2008.)
He enjoys telling tales about his family. (Newman wrote a book about growing up in Maplewood, N.J.)
He's a stickler for grammar.
|As a private in the 16th Connecticut, Augustus Funck was |
wounded at Antietam and survived imprisonment at
Andersonville and Florence, S.C.
(Photo: Connecticut State Library archives)
On a raw, rainy day in Connecticut, Newman bounded from room to room in his beautiful, early 19th-century house, showing me his vast collection of books, art and historical treasures, some of which were collected during his days as a U.S. foreign service officer in Paris, London and Rome.
In his office/library, he pointed out first-edition memoirs of Grant and Sherman; a huge history book published in 1611 that he purchased in London; a typewritten letter written to him and signed by LBJ and a magnificent, rare early 20th-century book on the history of baseball.
In the living room, near several other shelves of books, he showed off two metal lanterns and then handed me a small box that included an old tag. The lanterns, the tag noted, were from Old North Church, the one of Paul Revere fame in Boston.
"And here's the piece de resistance, John," he said, gesturing to a large box on a table in another room. Inside it were original New York newspapers that covered the shelling of Fort Sumter that ignited the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee's surrender at Appomattox and Lincoln's assassination.
Of course, I was most captivated by the collection of 16th Connecticut reunion ribbons on a four-foot, brown wooden board mounted high on the wall in his library/office. Newman's ancestor, Private Augustus Funck of the 16th Connecticut, was wounded at Antietam, captured at Plymouth, N.C., on April, 20 1864, and survived nine months in Rebel captivity in Andersonville, Ga., and Florence, S.C. (His brother, Henry, perished in Florence.) As did many of his fellow veterans, Augustus attended post-war gatherings of his comrades, including an excursion to Antietam at which the 16th Connecticut monument was unveiled on Oct. 11, 1894.
An immigrant from Germany, Augustus was a self-made man, taking over his father's undertaking/furniture business after the war and becoming a prosperous businessman. "He worked harder than anybody else in the business for years," the Hartford Daily Courant noted in his obituary in 1911, "and the success of the big enterprise was due to no one else but himself."
After our visit concluded, Newman put on his hat and gloves and headed out into the light rain for a short walk on his 150-acre property. "Come back again, John," he said with a wave and a smile. Makes sense to me, Joe, makes sense to me.
|16th Connecticut veteran Augustus Funck's reunion ribbons.|
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
| Augustus Funck attended a gathering of 16th Connecticut veterans at Antietam on |
Sept. 17, 1889, the 27th anniversary of the battle.
|16th Connecticut reunion ribbons from 1894 and 1895.|
|Funck attended 16th Connecticut reunions in 1898, 1899, 1903, 1904 and 1905.|
|Augustus Funck survived Andersonville, but his brother died in a Rebel prison in Florence, S.C.|