Saturday, February 27, 2016

'Most valuable' Gettysburg relic: Image found on fallen Rebel

This photo, reproduced in the 14th Connecticut regimental history, was
found with the body of a Confederate at Gettysburg.
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The story of the 154th New York soldier who was found dead at Gettysburg with an ambrotype of his three small children has been told countless times. Discovered without identification, Amos Humiston was finally identified by his widow, who learned of his death after reading a detailed description about the image found on the sergeant's body in a publication. Humiston's remains were recovered and re-buried in the national cemetery in Gettysburg.

During my visit to the Cold Harbor battlefield several years ago, a long-time area resident told me of the discovery by his friend and fellow relic hunter of a daguerreotype of a woman among the hand bones of a soldier's skeleton uncovered in a old war trench. Poignant stories of dead or dying Civil War soldiers found with images of loved ones have been re-told many times over the years. While reading my original copy of the 14th Connecticut regimental history this morning, I came across another one -- a story that also has been briefly mentioned in books about Gettysburg.

      Glenn probably found the image of the woman in the field beyond this stone wall.

On July 3, 1863, Sergeant Russell Glenn of the 14th Connecticut  defended Cemetery Ridge during Pickett's Charge. The next day, he ventured out beyond his lines to survey the awful scene and probably to comfort wounded Confederates. Perhaps, too, he aimed to grab a war trophy, not an uncommon activity of soldiers on both sides. In his own words, here's Glenn's story:
"It was on the battle-field of Gettysburg where I secured this picture [shown above] and I prize it as the most valuable relic of my war experience. It was on the morning of July 4th, 1863, that I went among the Confederate dead who fell during the previous day's fight. I, with others, was searching for the sick and wounded who were being conveyed to the rear for treatment. I had hardly entered that terrible valley of death when I beheld a handsome, noble looking youth, lying prone upon his back; his eyes side open and staring towards heaven. His countenance wore the most beseeching expression that I ever beheld. At first I thought the youth was alive and was about to speak to him when I observed that he held something in his hand that lay upon his left breast. 
I stooped over him and discovered that he had been shot through the heart and probably did not live more than thirty seconds after the fatal bullet hit him. In his hand was a daguerreotype of the above profile, the case of which had been shattered by the deadly ball, but, marvelously as it may seem, the profile remained uninjured. It is certain that the poor fellow lived but an instant after being hit, but in that short space of time his thought was of the picture -- probably the face of his sweetheart -- and, taking it from his breastpocket, he saw the shattered case, but was permitted to gaze on the features of a loved one as his soul took its immortal flight. I took the picture from the rigid grasp of the dead soldier, and taking the skirt of his coat, wiped off the blood from the glass and carefully placed it in my pocket, intending, if possible, to find the original, but as yet have not been successful."

                    PANORAMA:  Cemetery Ridge stone wall defended by 14th Connecticut. 
                                        (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)


Glenn survived a slight wound at Gettysburg, a severe wound in the breast at Petersburg and two other war wounds. After the Civil War, he became a police officer in Bridgeport, Conn., where he died at age 75 in 1919. What happened to the image of the young woman, "the most valuable relic" of his war experience, is apparently lost to history.


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7 comments:

  1. Great story here. Thanks for bringing it to the light. John.

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  2. Someone must have photographed the daguerreotype. Do you know when this image first appeared?

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  3. David: Sorry for tardy reply. The image appeared in the 14th Connecticut regimental history, published in 1906. (I own an original copy.) Not sure when the image was photographed for publication in the book. And, sadly, do not know where the image is today. Perhaps it's in someone's attic. Hopefully, it will turn up somewhere.

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  4. Thank you for bringing this back to light!
    Joy Melcher, CivilWarLady.net

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  5. Thank you for bringing this back to light!
    Joy Melcher, CivilWarLady.net

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  6. Another incident of photographs being found on the field of battle, this time at Gettysburg, ended with the images being returned to the family years after the war.

    “This picture was one of ten found in an album on the field of Gettysburg on July 3d 1863 by John H. Hawthorn, Co. G. 18 Miss. [Regiment] C.S.A. and forwarded to his home in Fannin Miss. The last he sent before the war was over. 32 years afterwards his half brother Charles N[?] found the Album and sent it to the enclosed address Robert Kenderdine Lumberville. The latter was killed at Gettysburg so that his brother Watson got the Album so it came into my possession. The cards I have lately distributed as best I could but of the 10 have [?] Judge Fell over myself. In his writing on one of them Chas Hawthorn called his find a `trophy.’” … T.S. Kenderdine” (Handwritten note on reverse of Thaddeus Kenderdine photograph. Courtesy of R. Dean Kenderdine.)


    “’Think of me kindly for my spirit may want help ere this terrible work is done.’: Commemorating Solebury’s Soldiers,” Solebury Chronicle (Newsletter of the Solebury Township Historical Society), vol. 12, no. 2 (Spring 2010)
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/191677126/%E2%80%9CThink-of-me-kindly-for-my-spirit-may-want-help-ere-this-terrible-work-is-done-%E2%80%9D-Two-of-Solebury%E2%80%99s-Soldiers-Robert-Kenderdine-and-William-Tinsman

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