Sunday, February 15, 2015

Third Battle of Winchester: Where a Connecticut Indian died

The old Taylor Hotel on Loudoun Street in Winchester, Va., was a hospital for
 both armies during the Civil War.
Today, the old hotel is home for a Cajun restaurant. There are no visible signs
 of its use during the Civil War.

I think I lost the waitress when I said, "I'm researching a soldier who died in this restaurant." She smiled weakly, rolled her eyes and asked if I'd like something to drink. I was in Winchester, Va,, on Wednesday afternoon, trying, and ultimately failing, to understand what happened to the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery at the Third Battle of Winchester. Much of the battlefield is lost in urban sprawl, a chunk behind a local high school and slivers by a mall and alongside the busy Berryville Pike. After a frustrating two-hour adventure. I headed to the Old Town section of Winchester for lunch at the old Taylor Hotel on Loudoun Street. During the Civil War, the hotel was used as a hospital for both armies. Today, after narrowly escaping the wrecking ball and undergoing a massive restoration, the building houses a restaurant that serves pretty decent Cajun food. (I highly recommend the excellent steak bites.)

William Cogswell, a lieutenant in the
 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery, was
 mortally wounded at the
Third Battle of Winchester.

(Photo: Cornwall Historical Society)
On Sept. 19, 1864, casualties from the Heavies were taken to the Taylor Hotel, not exactly a pleasant prospect for the building landlord, “Strange to say,” a private in the regiment noted, “[he] did not seem to be at all pleased by the sudden accession to his guests.” Among the wounded was a 25-year lieutenant named William Cogswell, a part-Schaghticoke Indian from Cornwall, Conn., who overcame prejudice to become one of the regiment's more respected soldiers.

Severely wounded when a Rebel artillery shell burst among Yankee soldiers, Cogswell was transported to a field hospital on the west side of Opequon Creek before he was taken to the Taylor Hotel hospital with other injured from the regiment, After his left leg was amputated above the knee, he died at the hotel hospital on Oct. 7, 1864, 19 days after he was wounded.

“No one who knew him would object to serve with him as a soldier,” a correspondent to the Winsted (Conn.) Herald wrote after Cogswell's death. “…Many an idle hour in camp was beguiled of its tediousness by his ready wit, while his long yarns would do credit to any sailor. A little Indian blood is not considered bad for fun or fighting.”

Cogswell’s body was returned to Connecticut, and on November 21, 1864, his remains were laid to rest in North Cornwall Cemetery before “a large concourse of citizens who paid the dead soldier every respect.”


The Winsted Herald, Sept. 30, 1864
Hartford Daily Courant, Dec. 3, 1864

A major chunk of the Third Battle of Winchester may be found behind a high school. 
The land has been preserved by the Civil War Trust. 
(Click on image for full-screen interactive panorama.)
Union troops marched down the Berryville Pike to attack Jubal Early's Rebels 
during the Third Battle of Winchester.

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