Sunday, June 14, 2015

Descendant visits for first time grave of his 8th Connecticut ancestor, who was killed at the Battle of Antietam

Robert Anderson holds a copy of an image of his great-great-great uncle Robert Ferriss, 
who's buried in Center Cemetery in New Milford, Conn. Ferriss was
 a corporal in the 8th Connecticut.

After he was killed at the Battle of  Antietam, 27-year-old Corporal Robert Ferriss of the 8th Connecticut was found with a “very pleasant smile upon his countenance,” according to his captain, “as if he had lain down to his long rest with the sweet consciousness that his work was done, and well done.”  David Lake, another member of the regiment's color guard from New Milford, Conn., died a day after the battle, on Sept. 18, 1862. A bullet had torn through the sergeant's hip and glanced upward into his bowels, causing his death.

“As a company we feel his loss deeply, one of our best and most efficient officers had fallen,” Captain William Roberts wrote to Ferriss' mother that September. "He was looked upon among the 1st to take command of important & dangerous posts. Brave, yet prudent, firm and unyielding. Our country has lost a gallant soldier, our state an excellent citizen, his comrades a trusted friend and his parents a noble son."

In the fall of 1862, the remains of the Lake and Ferriss were returned to New Milford, where they were buried side-by-side in Center Cemetery. At Antietam, nine other color-bearers in the 8th Connecticut were killed or mortally wounded, perhaps the highest total for any regiment that served in the Union army that day. (One of the color-bearers, George Marsh of Hartford, may have been the first Connecticut soldier killed at Antietam.)

On a hot Sunday afternoon nearly 153 years after Antietam, the great-great-great nephew of Ferriss visited for the first time his ancestor's slender, weather-worn gravestone, likely a replacement for the original stone.

"This is just awesome," said Robert Anderson, a lifelong Connecticut resident, who spent at least 20 minutes looking in the hilly cemetery for the marker in a sea of other gravestones, many dating to the 18th century. An old metal Grand Army of the Republic marker and an American flag marked the graves of Lake and Ferriss, whose brother, Stephen, served as an officer in the 28th Connecticut and survived the war.

After several minutes' reflection, Anderson had his photo taken at Robert's grave, a copy of an image of his ancestor firmly grasped in his hand. About 15 minutes later, another discovery was made: Only yards from Ferriss' grave appeared the gravestone for Roberts, the officer who wrote in detail to Louisa Ferriss about her son's death on a ridge near the village of Sharpsburg, Md., so long ago.


William Roberts' letter to Louisa Ferris, September 1862, Robert Anderson collection.

8th Connecticut Pvt. Charles Garlick letter to his father, September 28, 1862, Western Connecticut State Archives and Special Collections, Box 2, Item 4.

The side-by-side graves of 8th Connecticut color-bearers Robert Ferriss and David Lake.
8th Connecticut Captain William Roberts, who wrote a condolence letter to Robert Ferriss' mother,
is buried only yards from Corporal Ferriss, who served under him in Company I. 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting read and great photo of your ancestor. I wish I had a photograph of my ancestor in uniform however; I did just find a photograph of him after searching for over 5 years. Feel free to check out my Journey to Finding my 2X Great Grandfather.