Friday, May 27, 2016

Paying respects to teenager William Hall, killed at Antietam

Lonnie Schorer cleans the marker of her ancestor, 11th Connecticut Private William Hall, 
in Chaplin, Conn(Photos courtesy of Lonnie Schorer)

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At the Battle of Antietam, scores of teenagers on both sides became casualties.

Shot through the side, George Crosby died of his wounds at his parents' house in Middle Haddam, Conn. The 14th Connecticut lieutenant, a student at Wesleyan University, was only 19. Marvin Wait, a 19-year-old lieutenant in the 8th Connecticut, was riddled with bullets and killed near Harpers Ferry Road. "His death brings a peculiar and poignant sorrow," noted his hometown newspaper, The Norwich (Conn.) Daily Bulletin.

Somehow Dwight Carey of Canterbury, Conn. — killed at Antietam — persuaded his parents to allow him to join the Union Army. He was 15. Wrote his local newspaper:
"In September, 1861, while yet but fifteen years of age he entered the service of the United States, as a private, in the Eighth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers. This act originated in no rash, impulsive enthusiasm, impatient of restraint and headstrong for excitement and novelty, but was the result of calm discussion with his parents and friends, who unwillingly gave their assent on account of his extreme youth."

The 11th Connecticut suffered 139 casualties during
its attack at Burnsde Bridge on the
morning of Sept. 17, 1862.
(Library of Congress collection)
A private in the 11th Connecticut, Daniel Tarbox suffered a wound through the abdomen at Burnside Bridge. The 18-year-old died the next day.

William H. Hall, Daniel's comrade in the 11th Connecticut, was also killed at Antietam, almost certainly in the attack at Burnside Bridge. It's unclear if his body, like the remains of Tarbox, made it back to Connecticut or if the 17-year-old rests in the national cemetery in Sharpsburg, Md., or elsewhere. Years ago, I found a marker for Hall in Bedlam Road Cemetery in rural Chaplin, Conn. Tree branches, weeds, briars and grime covered his slate-gray, state-issued stone. 

In 2016, Antietam guide William Sagle told me about a battlefield tour with a descendant of a soldier from Connecticut. He wondered if I knew the soldier's name.

"Ever hear of William Hall?

"He was killed at Antietam. His descendant really wants to find his grave."

"There," I said, "is your William Hall." I pointed to a post on my iPhone.

And so I started corresponding via e-mail and over the phone with Hall's descendant, former Connecticut resident Lonnie Schorer, who lives in Virginia. It was a  moving experience for her to stand by the 11th Connecticut monument, near Burnside Bridge, and see Hall's name etched on the granite marker among others killed there. I explained that William may not be buried in Chaplin and told what little I knew of her ancestor. No image of the private or wartime correspondence from Hall are known to exist.

On a trip to Connecticut in 2016, Schorer and her husband Dave stopped at Bedlam Road Cemetery. Using toothbrushes, water and determination, they cleaned Hall's out-of-the-way marker. Swarms of mosquitoes couldn't spoil the moment or the view of the cemetery grounds dotted with wildflowers. .

"We had our own Memorial Day service when we finished," Schorer told me, "thanking William for his courage and his life — and letting him know that his family remembers."

A close-up of William Hall's marker in Bedlam Road Cemetery in Chaplin, Conn.

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  1. A great story that is especially poignant on Memorial Day. Thanks for sharing it John.

  2. Thank you John for contributing yet another fascinating story to the Antietam narrative. And for William Hall....once was lost and now is found.

  3. I so appreciate an ancestor finally connecting with a "lost soldier" from the Civil War. I too have been searching for a family member for many years, only to come up empty handed. I have documentation right up to the few minutes after death at Annapolis Junction. The doctor's pronouncement of death and a list of personal items turned over to another family member. After that moment, nothing. It's almost as if the hospital staff opened the window and dumped the body.

  4. Thank you, John. Your piece illustrates that the combat soldier can experience two deaths: One, when he is killed; the other when those left behind forget about him. But that isn't the case with young William.