Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What 14th Connecticut Lt. Theodore Stanley left behind

14th Connecticut Lieutenant Theodore Stanley's inscribed Smith & Wesson revolver.
(Photos courtesy of current owner)
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Shot through the lungs at the Battle of Fredericksburg, 14th Connecticut Lieutenant Theodore Augustus Stanley was transported across the Rappahannock River for treatment in a makeshift hospital. The 29-year-old officer didn't expect to live long -- in fact, he told his men to leave him on the battlefield after he was wounded during the disastrous charge on Marye's Heights on Dec. 13, 1862. But Stanley, from a prominent New Britain, Conn., family, survived the battle's immediate aftermath and what must have been an excruciating journey north to Armory Square Hospital in Washington.

Built earlier that year, Armory Square was one of many Washington hospitals that handled a flood of wounded soldiers from battlefields throughout Virginia. The 1,000-bed complex consisted of 12 pavilions and overflow tents spread on the National Mall, across from the Smithsonian Museum grounds and a short distance from the White House. Wounded arrived from nearby wharves in southwest Washington after sailing up the Potomac River aboard hospital ships or other vessels. President Lincoln himself often visited Armory Square, telling the most seriously wounded soldiers "God bless you," according to a nurse who served there.

There's no known record that the president stopped to visit the bedside of Stanley, who died on New Year's Eve 1862 after 18 days of suffering, "much of which was intense." (According to the Dec. 27, 1862, Washington Chroniclethe president and his wife visited Washington hospitals on Christmas Day.) Stanley's body was returned to New Britain, where a funeral service was held at a packed South Congregational Church followed by burial with military honors at Fairview Cemetery.

"Lieutenant Stanley was very quiet and reticent with strangers," a regimental historian wrote of the Company F officer, "and was not well known to many in the regiment, but his Colonel truly said: 'He was always found to the front,' and the officers and men of his own company testify to his uniform regard for their comfort and welfare."

Stanley's sidearm, a Smith & Wesson revolver, survived the war. It was purchased decades ago at a Civil War show by the same collector who owns the sidearm of Perkins Bartholomew, another 14th Connecticut lieutenant who did not survive the war. Judging from the wear on the weapon, it may have been carried by Stanley in the "storm of shot, shell, grape, and canister" at Fredericksburg, Va., more than 153 years ago.

(Do you have a photograph of Lieutenant Theodore Stanley? If so, e-mail me.)

Armory Square Hospital in Washington. 14th Connecticut Lieutenant Theodore Stanley
died here on Dec. 31, 1862. (Library of Congress collection)
Patients in Ward K of Armory Square Hospital in 1865.
(Library of Congress collection)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent item and historical account, John. Should you ever tire of it, I know of a Marye's Heights' collection that would welcome it.