Tuesday, December 10, 2019

For $45, did Georgia collector purchase Antietam history?

The photo of a Connecticut soldier bears a striking resemblance to 11th Connecticut Capt. John Griswold,
shown in an illustration from a book published in 1868. Griswold was mortally wounded at Antietam.
(Robert Wayne Elliott collection | Right: The Military and Civil History of Connecticut, The War of 1861-65)

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A war-time photograph of 11th Connecticut Captain John Griswold, object of my nearly decade-long search, finally may have surfaced. Unsurprisingly, the purported image of the officer mortally wounded at Antietam popped up on social media -- on Facebook's Civil War Faces page -- on Monday afternoon.

(Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg. Now about those political ads.)

Carte-de-visite, probably John Griswold, won on an eBay auction.
(Robert Wayne Elliott collection)
Robert Wayne Elliott, a 71-year-old retired commercial pest control account manager from Grayson, Ga., recently submitted the winning bid on eBay for a war-time carte-de-visite of a Connecticut soldier. Elliott, who believed before he bid that the image was Griswold, figured the CDV would go for perhaps $500 if someone connected it to a soldier who was killed at Antietam. His winning bid: $45.

The eBay seller, Elliott told me, said the image came from an album of 11th and 16th Connecticut soldiers, two of the four regiments from the state that fought at Antietam. Elliott's detective work included a visit to this 2011 post on Griswold on my blog. He compared the CDV to an illiustration of Griswold, which originally appeared in this 1868 book on Connecticut's Civil War role.

"I believe, without a doubt, this is Griswold," Elliott said.

Although not definitive proof, the illustration bears a strong resemblance to the soldier in Elliott's CDV, which has a backmark of a Hartford photographer. The 11th Connecticut organized in Hartford in late October 1861.

Elliott, a Civil War-era photograph collector since 1999, owns only has a handful of Union images. The Georgia native, whose ancestors fought for the 42nd Georgia, collects mostly Confederate photographs. Among his collection is a beautiful, post-war painting of 20th Georgia Lieutenant Arthur C. Ford, who was severely wounded at Burnside Bridge. Perhaps Ford, a dentist as a civilian, was among the Georgians who fired on Griswold from the bluffs along Antietam Creek.

       The 11th Connecticut attacked from right to left across this field on Sept. 17, 1862.
   Antietam Creek is at left, behind trees. (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

View John Griswold may have had of Burnside Bridge on  morning of Sept. 17, 1862.
               PANORAMA: Confederates' view of Burnside Bridge and Antietam Creek. 
                                     (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)     

My interest in Griswold began in 2011, when I first came across his heart-rending story.

The 11th Connecticut had been ordered to storm Rohrbach Bridge (Burnside Bridge) and the Confederate position beyond on the morning of Sept. 17, 1862. Impatient, Griswold, a 25-year-old captain from Lyme, Conn., boldly led a group of skirmishers across the 4-foot deep creek.

It was a deadly move.

Backmark on Elliott's
"In the middle of the creek a ball penetrated his body," Griswold's friend, Dr. Nathan Mayer of the 11th Connecticut, wrote in a letter from Sharpsburg to his brother on Sept. 29, 1862. "He reached the opposite side and lay down to die."

In an account written decades after the war, 11th Connecticut veteran Philo Pearce wrote:

"Our Capt. John Griswold was a brave man and jumped over the fence saying ‘come on boys!’ I, with some others, did jump. As we did, we got a volley of shots from the Rebel line. I had a ball cut through the top of my left side but did not cut the flesh. I fell into the road ditch where it had been plowed and scraped. This surely saved my scalp. Now it was time to do our duty. Capt. Griswold was hit and he rushed into the creek and kept plunging ahead until he got across. He shouted for us to come and get him but we had our hands full."

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Mayer claimed he summoned four privates, and together they forded the creek and climbed a fence while under fire to reach Griswold. The men carried the blood-soaked captain to a nearby small shed, Mayer wrote, where the surgeon from Hartford gave his "ashly pale" friend morphine to ease his pain. Griswold died the next day, probably on the Henry Rohrbach farm, a IX Corps hospital.

When I lived in Connecticut, I visited Griswold's gravestone in a small, private cemetery cemetery in Old Lyme. The ornately carved marker is a work of art. And during many visits to Antietam over the years, I've walked in Griswold's footsteps, wondering about the remarkable courage the captain summoned on Sept. 17, 1862.

Elliott has visited Antietam three times. His most recent trip, in 2016, was especially eventful.

"I stepped up on Burnside Bridge with my camera to take some shots," he said. "Then I stepped backwards and fell off bridge flat on my back and literally knocked myself out. ... A group of school kids there said, 'Oh, my gosh. Is he OK?'"

Back in Georgia two days later, Elliott was in pain from the fall. By the third day, he said, "I thought I was dying." Thankfully, good meds and rest saved him.

And, thankfully, a descendant of Rebel soldiers may have saved an image of a Connecticut Yankee. Keeping history alive is what it's all about.

John Griswold's final resting place in Griswold Cemetery in Old Lyme, Conn. His
monument was described as "strikingly beautiful" in the Hartford Courant on Aug. 5, 1863.
A post-war painting of 20th Georgia Lieutenant Arthur C. Ford, who was severely wounded
in the right side during the fighting at Burnside Bridge on Sept. 17, 1862. Did he fire on John Griswold?
(Robert Wayne Elliott collection)

-- Have something to add (or correct) in this post? Email me here.


--Hartford Courant, Oct. 6, 1862, Page 2

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting John. John Griswold’s family may have established The Griswold Inn in Essex, Ct. across the river from Old Lyme. Truly a great place and one of the oldest taverns still in operation.