Kady Brownell: Oliver’s Mysterious Fighting Wife

Hat tip to Gilbert Riddle who commented on my previous post and several others who have pointed me in the right direction to identify the mysterious fighting wife from Oliver’s letter of 16 March 1862.

She is the legendary Kady Brownell, wife of Robert Brownell of the 5th Rhode Island Infantry. Oliver incorrectly identified the unit as the 4th Rhode Island. This is understandable given that the 4th and 5th were part of the same brigade.

Kady Brownell is legendary not only because of what she did during the Civil War, but because of the post-war publicity she received for these deeds. The story of her actions, particularly at the Battle of Newbern on March 14, 1862 seems to have grown and changed with each retelling. Today, sorting fact from fiction is difficult for those who attempt to uncover the true Kady Brownell.

However, Oliver’s description of Brownell does confirm some of the basic facts surrounding her actions at Newbern. Just to recount a few of the passages from the previous post:

…a woman that goes with them wherever they go. – Most of the accounts of Brownell confirm that she followed her husband from April 1861 when he joined the 1st RI Infantry, a three-month unit, until he later enlisted in the 5th RI participating in Burnside’s operations on the coast of North Carolina.

She dresses in bloomer costume with black pants, a closely fitting bodice with a skirt coming nearly to the knees, men’s boots with her pants tucked inside and a nice velvet hat. – Although later photographs presumably taken for publicity purposes depicted her in a Zouave uniform, Oliver’s description of her attire matches most of the contemporary accounts.

 

 

Kady Brownell pictured in a post-service "Army uniform"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw her with the regiment Thursday straining through the mud with her blanket on her shoulder, equal to the best of them. – Accounts of this march toward Newbern do confirm that Kady was marching through the mud with the men of the regiment. However, a story about one of the male soldiers giving Kady his boots seems to be suspicious, but Oliver’s eyewitness account of her attire does note her wearing “men’s boots” whatever the source of supply may have been.

There was one of the officers’ aides riding one horse and leading another one when he came up to where she was. She jumped on to the horse as easy as any man. It was the first time I ever saw a woman ride a horse like a man. – I did not find this part of the story in any other descriptions. However, there are accounts that Kady’s shoes were destroyed during the march and that she was so exhausted that she cried on her husband’s shoulder.

[On the morning of the battle, 14 March 1862]…the regiment formed in the road close by her; she was ahead carrying the flag. – There is some historical dispute as to whether or not the unit even had a set of colors at the time of the battle. Oliver, as an eyewitness, confirms that indeed Kady was carrying the unit colors on the morning of the battle.

She went with them into the battle field and ran some very near chances of being hit, the shell of one bursting close by her side. – Most of the contemporary descriptions of her actions during the battle attest to her bravery under fire. In fact, she is credited with preventing a fratricide incident between the 4th RI and the 5th RI. Although Oliver doesn’t mention any of these details, he confirms she was in the thick of the fighting.

Kady Brownell became so famous that American poet Clinton Scollard composed a tribute to her in the years after the war:

 

“The Daughter of the Regiment”
Clinton Scollard (1860-1932)

Who with the soldiers was stanch Danger-sharer,–
Marched in the ranks through the shriek of the shell?
Who was their comrade, their brave color-bearer?
Who but the resolute Kady Brownell?

Over the marshland and over the highland,
Where’er the columns wound, meadow or dell,
Fared she, this daughter of little Rhode Island,–
She, the intrepid one, Kady Brownell!

While the mad rout at Manassas was surging,
When those around her fled wildly, or fell,
And the bold Beauregard onward was urging,
Who so undaunted as Kady Brownell!

When gallant Burnside made dash upon Newberne,
Sailing the Neuse ‘gainst the sweep of the swell,
Watching the flag on the heaven’s broad blue burn,
Who higher hearted than Kady Brownell?

In the deep slough of the springtide debarking,
Toiling o’er leagues that are weary to tell,
Time with the sturdiest soldiery marking,
Forward, straight forward, strode Kady Brownell.

Reaching the lines where the army was forming,
Forming to charge on those ramparts of hell,
When from the wood came her regiment swarming,
What did she see there- this Kady Brownell?

See! why she saw that their friends thought them foemen;
Muskets were levelled, and cannon as well!
Save them from direful destruction would no men?
Nay, but this woman would, -Kady Brownell!

Waving her banner she raced for the clearing;
Fronted them all, with her flag as a spell;
Ah, what a volley–a volley of cheering–
Greeted the heroine, Kady Brownell!

Gone (and than God!) are those red days of slaughter!
Brethren again we in amity dwell;
Just one more cheer for the Regiment’s Daughter!–
Just one more cheer for her, Kady Brownell!

So, there is much more to Oliver’s story of the woman with “more pluck” than first expected. Little did Private Case realize that he was encountering one of the legendary women of the Civil War.

 

 

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“…not many men with more pluck than she has.”

Oliver’s first taste of battle – Part II

The work was not finished with the 8th CVI planting the colors on top of the captured Confederate battery. The Eighth plus the rest of Parke’s Brigade would go on to seize control of a second battery and continue toward Newbern before making camp for the night.

The brigade including the 8th had wounded and dead men to show for their efforts this day.

Our loss is about 100 killed and 200 or 300 wounded. There are two wounded in our company, one in the wrist and one in the head…

Another Connecticut, the 11th CVI, regiment had suffered losses as well.

Capt. Lee from Hartford was killed and two of his company by the same ball.

More information on Captain Edwin Ruthven Lee of the 11th CVI can be found at the most excellent John Banks’ Civil War blog.

For his sister Abbie, Oliver offered the good news that “no one of your acquaintances [was] killed in the battle.”

The spoils of conquest would be enjoyed heartily by the Union forces that evening as commissary tents and other supplies were captured from “three secesh camps…” It would be good living for soldiers who had spent weeks aboard cramped ships, participated in long marches in the mud and fought their first real battle of the war.

We have been living some since we came here upon what the secesh left. We have found molasses, sugar, rice, coffee, etc. which we cook ourselves. Just imagine a soldier having his griddlecakes for breakfast, fresh meat for dinner, boiled rice and coffee for supper and you have an idea of the way we are living at present.

Oliver explored other treasures of a more personal nature left behind by the Confederate soldiers in their hasty retreat:

There were lots of clothes left that had never been worn, also double barrel shot guns, carpet bags full of trinkets, letters, daguerreotypes, etc. I have read about a dozen of the letters, but find nothing interesting in them and of no interest in themselves except as specimens of poor spelling.

As with most units in the Civil War, cowardice was not treated lightly. The immediate humor of the Philo Matson “Oh, I am killed” situation was given a dim view in the long run by these now battle-hardened soldiers. Oliver painted a picture for Abbie of the attitude toward those like Matson who failed to do their duty before the enemy.

There were a few of our boys that fell out before the battle and have thus made themselves the laughing stock of the company. I tell you it does not play well to play coward here.

Oliver also related a most unusual incident to Abbie in this letter of 16 March 1862. While there were women who served dressed as men in Civil War units and wives who followed their husband’s regiment, Oliver devotes two paragraphs to this “one thing I forgot to tell you.”

There is one thing I forgot to tell you. It is that in the Rhode Island 4th there is a woman that goes with them wherever they go. I saw her first upon the Island, but have seen her often since. She dresses in bloomer costume with black pants, a closely fitting bodice with a skirt coming nearly to the knees, men’s boots with her pants tucked inside and a nice velvet hat. There, that is the first time I ever described a lady’s dress and I hope you will not criticize it too much. I saw her with the regiment Thursday straining through the mud with her blanket on her shoulder, equal to the best of them. There was one of the officers’ aides riding one horse and leading another one when he came up to where she was. She jumped on to the horse as easy as any man. It was the first time I ever saw a woman ride a horse like a man.

This was a seriously devoted wife! This unnamed woman was also very protective of her husband as Oliver continues in the second paragraph:

In the morning when we got up to start, the regiment formed in the road close by her; she was ahead carrying the flag. She went with them into the battle field and ran some very near chances of being hit, the shell of one bursting close by her side. She begged the Col. to let her kill one of the wounded rebels to pay for her husband being wounded. She looks, a little way off, like a young girl of twelve or fourteen years. She was out in the three months campaign. Her husband is now the Lieut; he was orderly when she was married. There are not many men with more pluck than she has.

How had his first taste of combat action affected Oliver? In this letter, he seems more determined than ever to do duty and always show courage in the midst of the fight. Oliver also appears to value his relationships more than before as he changed his normal parting tag line of “regards to all” into “love to all” and “your ever affectionate brother.”

Battle had changed Private Case.

“I had no idea of the noise created in battle…”

 Oliver’s first taste of battle – Part I

As the fleet of Army transports carrying the troops of Ambrose Burnside’s expeditionary force lay at anchor in the mouth on Slocum Creek 12 miles south of the North Carolina city of Newbern, Oliver Case was about to get his wish to try his hand at fighting. While back aboard the old familiar surroundings of the “Chasseur,” Oliver read a letter from his sister, Abbie, received on the 11th of March 1862 from a ship of Union fleet traveling from the north. The mail call was a time of much interest from the soldiers of the 8th CVI as it had been a considerable period since the last delivery.

You ought to have seen that boat about eleven o’clock, every light occupied by at least a dozen different persons each anxious to read the news from home.

Burnside's Expeditionary Force sails for Newbern (Harper's Weekly, 5 April 1862)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oliver and his comrades would have only about 36 hours left to digest the latest news from the homefront. By Friday morning, the orders were given by General Burnside to commence the landing operations. Oliver and the soldiers of the 8th CVI along with the other regiments in Parke’s Brigade landed “in a small cove and immediately commenced marching up the river.” The river was actually Slocum Creek which probably seemed more like a river to Oliver and many of the boys from Connecticut. The 8th marched along the creek’s edge on what Oliver called “the beach” for about two miles before turning to head inland. Not long after heading away from the water, the regiment came upon a welcome sight that was just too good to resist for some of the troops.

In a short time we came up to an encampment of cavalry which had been evacuated but a short time. Some of the boys fell out and helped themselves to chickens, ham, biscuits etc.

Good things cannot last and so it was for the feasting troopers who were soon given the order to move out. In a scene that would be a preview of Burnside’s infamous “mud march” in Virginia almost one year later, the troops struggled against terrible conditions.

We travelled till after sundown over the muddiest road (if road it could be called) that I ever saw.

The units saw little enemy activity during on the first day of the campaign, only evidence of their former presence in the area. Oliver observed the abandoned enemy camps and fortifications realizing that the soldiers of Parke’s Brigade may have dodged the bullet for this day.

About the middle of the afternoon we came to the first battery, which had just been evacuated and the barracks set on fire, which were still burning as we passed. We found out afterward that if we had been a day later the rebels would have had their forces there and mounted and it would have taken the lives of many men to have dislodged them for it is a very strong point. The fortification is a mile long, with a large ditch in front protected in the rear by breast works of huge trees felled top of one another. It would have been almost impossible to have flanked them and they would undoubtedly have had to be charged upon to have dislodged them.

After struggling against the terrible road conditions, the troops were allowed to make camp for the night to include building fires using the available pitch pine wood which burned even in the wet conditions. That night, the rain “commenced in good earnest” creating miserable conditions for the soldiers who found that “after 12 o’clock very little sleeping was done by the soldiers in this division.” Oliver observed that the milder southern climate granted some relief when the order to move out came at 6 am, although “our blankets were as heavy as 8 ought to be.”

The regiments and brigades of Burnside’s expedition were up and moving again on the morning of 14 February 1862 advancing toward Confederate breast works that, unlike those of the first day, were occupied by soldiers in gray and butternut. As his regiment approached the works, it was the moment of truth for Private Case as “the balls rung tunes over our heads and occasionally played a little nearer our heads than we cared for.” It was the beginning of his baptism of fire.

One of the phenomenons that are difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it is that in the midst of battle there is still room for humor. So it was for Oliver Case and the soldiers of Company A, 8th CVI:

Philo Matson, from out on Firetown mountains, was in the rank ahead of me and was much frightened; he would have fell out if possible. The orders were given to fall down, right up, fix bayonets, fire. As soon as I had fired, I heard Philo say, “Oh, I’m killed”, turned and saw a slight flesh wound on the top of his head. I certainly could not help laughing to see him. He turned to the orderly and asked him if he thought he was killed and, when he found out that he was still in the land of the living, took his gun and made himself missing as soon as possible.

Here stands Oliver in the middle of bullets flying over his head, any one of which could strike him and cause instant death, yet he’s laughing. For his part, Private Philo A. Matson of Canton “made himself missing” on a permanent basis being listed as a deserter in April 1862.

The humor was short-lived as some of the Confederate rounds found their mark. Two companies of the 8th (G and H, actually K) were sent out as skirmishers as company A and the remainder of the regiment lay on the ground with the bullets buzzing just above them. Oliver reports to Abbie on the first causalities of the battle:

Capt. Epham [This name was unclear to the original transcriber] of Co. H was wounded in the shoulder at this time; it is feared mortally. Howes Phelps from Co. B was killed.

In fact, there is no record of a Capt. “Epham” in the 8th CVI. The company commander of company H at this time appears to have been Capt. Thomas D. Sheffield of Stonington who had replaced Capt. Douglass Fowler [INSERT LINK]. Sheffield originally enlisted in company G as the 1st Lieutenant and it is assumed he was promoted and transferred to company H upon the resignation of Fowler. He was honorably discharged on January 17, 1863. Rolls of the 8th confirm that Houlsey F.D. Phelps (aka “Howes”) of East Windsor (likely a distant cousin of Oliver), was killed at the Battle of Newbern on March 14, 1862. Capt. “Epham” was likely Capt. Charles L. Upham, commander of company K, who was reported as being wounded in the battle by the account of Croffut and Morris, but this status is not found on the company rolls.

These causalities occurred during the assault of the Confederate battery known as Fort Thompson described by Oliver:

At this time, word came that the 21st Mass. had charged upon the battery and were repulsed. We were ordered on double quick through [word unreadable] until we reached the rail road where was a high embankment where we halted to form.

Moving quietly down the railroad, Colonel Harland had positioned his regiment to assault the battery from the flank. Oliver observed some deception in the works:

We were then ordered to fall and by mistake our colors fell too, and the rebels, deceived by our gray coats, took us to be rebel reinforcements arriving by rail road and ceased firing upon us; this mistake probably saved many lives.

The soldiers were ordered to fix bayonets and the charge was then directed by Colonel Harland:

“…with a clear, shrill voice, and the emphasis of coming victory, rang the orders, “By company into line!” An advancing front of forty men appeared before the astonished rebels. ” Fix bayonets ! ” It was done at a rapid walk. ” Forward into line ! ” Up the embankment, and across the railroad, dashed the rear companies, coming into line within a hundred paces of the works. “Steady, guide center, forward, double quick ! ” [Croffut and Morris]

And here is one of those points of disputed history. From Oliver’s view:

When we started from there we went double quick to charge their battery, but as they did not like the look of cold steel they left in a hurry. The color guard immediately ran up to the battery and planted the colors which were the first upon the battery.

At least three regiments including the 8th CVI would claim the title of “First to Plant the Flag” upon the Confederate works. The 11th CVI and the 4th Rhode Island would also declare that they were the first regiment to the top. Croffut and Morris reported it this way:

The Eighth contests the claim of the 4th Rhode- Island to having first entered the enemy’s works; and it is certain that the flag of the Eighth was first displayed therein.

Of course, the 8th CVI had a significant advantage here as “Morris” was the Rev. John M. Morris who would become the regimental chaplain just over one month after the Battle of Newbern.

The storming of Fort Thompson during the Battle of Newbern (Harper's Weekly, 5 April 1862)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be continued…

“I expect like everyone else to come out alive”

On March 7, 1862, the 8th CVI is still aboard the ships awaiting their destination on this day. According to Oliver’s letter on March 11th, General Burnside issues orders to all three brigades to stand by for orders to march with a one hour notice. This will entail a landing at some location and marching into a fight. The orders also include instructions for the individual soldiers to prepare them for possible combat:

…each man to carry one woolen blanket, one days rations in his haversack (two others to be cooked and carried in bulk,) 40 rounds of ammunition in the cartridge boxes and twenty more in pockets. Each man is to be held responsible for his blanket and the excitement of an engagement or of a charge will not be deemed a reasonable excuse for their loss.

Oliver’s letter to Abbie is a mixture of operational rumors and soldier speculation along with some very personal thoughts and deliberations. The hottest rumor around the unit deals with the destination of the expeditionary force which Oliver seems to believe (correctly) is Newbern. Oliver gives himself allowance for possibility of missing the location by using the caveat, “as likely to be some other place.” Whatever the final destination might be, the men “are eager for a start and shall probably go today and we expect to make a hole somewhere when we move.” The prospect of once again spending weeks on a ship in the Hatteras Inlet is not exciting to them.

This letter reveals that Oliver has an amazing grasp of some of the major operational and strategic issues surrounding the upcoming campaign.

It is likely that the fleet and land forces will act in conjunction and while the former peppers them in front, we shall attack them in the rear…We want to do a big thing here as well as the army in Tennessee, and if we succeed in cutting railroad communication between north and south Secession it will be a big thing.

In fact, this is General Burnside’s plan to conduct a joint Army and Navy operation with the ships of the Navy providing supporting fire against Confederate forts and earthworks as the Army troops attack.

Having missed the relatively light combat action at Roanoke Island, Oliver along with his fellow soldiers seems to sense that this operation will bring more intense fighting. For the first time in his letters, Oliver opines on the prospect of facing death:

There will doubtless be a large number killed on both sides, but will it not be a good time to die? A man better die fighting for his country than at home. There is not the dread of Death here as there; but I expect like everyone else to come out alive. I have yet to see the man that did not. It is much the best way on the men to go into action with high hopes and good spirits instead of feeling low and depressed.

His wording is reminiscent of the inscription found in the Bible.

If you die, die like a man.

 Although it had been almost one year since the capture of Fort Sumter signaling the beginning of the conflict, the full impact of the horror of war with its death and destruction had yet to be felt by the majority of the soldiers fighting for both armies and certainly not by the general public. The bond of soldiers living in community enforced a code of bravery to face death and dying that Oliver would soon see tested. For now, as they rode the seas headed for New Bern, all were of “high hopes and good spirits” and expecting to survive the coming combat action.

As he continues to write, Oliver reveals that he is facing a decision that is revealing about the man he is:

There has been some talk of enlisting in the regulars. The recruiting officer has been around in some regiments and many have enlisted. He has not been here and probably not in this division, but doubtless will be. I should like very much to enlist but will not until I hear from home, and know what you think about it. As for me, I should like it better than anything else I can do. Write what Father and Mother think about it when you receive this.

These two paragraphs are enlightening about the man, Oliver Cromwell Case. Although the youngest son of a highly capable and upstanding Connecticut family, Oliver stands tall in the cause of his country and is fully prepared to do his duty. He is the man who believes that it is “better [to] die fighting for his country than [to die] at home.” Oliver has not only left the comforts of home in the service of his country, but he now expresses a depth of commitment that is leading him to enlist in the Regular Army. He wants a level of permanence expressed by his desire to become a career soldier. In fact, he writes that “I should like it better than anything else I can do.” Despite his recurrent illness and the horrible death of two friends from disease, Oliver wants to enlist in the Regular Army.

However, he is concerned about Abbie’s opinion and will not make a commitment until she relays to him her opinion and the feelings of his father and mother concerning his desire to join the Regular Army.

On the eve of his first combat experience, Private Oliver Case seems to be mentally prepared and committed to die if necessary in the service of his country. But, like all his fellow soldiers in the 8th CVI, he expects “to come out alive.”

Hurry Up and Wait 150 Years Ago

 

Anyone with military service is familiar with the phrase, “hurry up and wait.” It’s a fact in the life of a soldier to prepare for something big and then wait until your leaders are satisfied with conditions and the command is given to move out. This time is often spent by young soldier speculating and reflecting especially when the hurry up and wait is in anticipation of combat operations.

So it was with Private Oliver Case and his fellow soldiers of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry on March 4, 1862 as they waited for the final orders to load the ships and move out to what they all believed would be their second battle experience. Rumors flew, but as Oliver puts it in his letter to his sister Abbie:

As to our destination we are entirely ignorant, some say one place – some another, but none know.

The regiment had been anticipating a movement for many days and their leaders had prepared by ordering “to keep three days rations cooked in advance so as to be ready to start at a moments warning.” Just the day before he wrote this letter, Oliver and his fellow soldiers were told that tomorrow would be the big day only to experience more disappointment in the morning.

But when the reveille was beat the order to strike tents was not given as had been expected, and it was shortly given out that we should not be able to go aboard this forenoon on account of the wind which was blowing a strong northeaster at the time.

The volatile North Carolina weather had once again caused more hurry up and wait for the Union forces. However, Oliver used this occasion to rely the latest news from camp to Abbie including the word of several resignations among the officers of the regiments. In addition to the resignation of Capt. Fowler already mentioned in his letter of  February 27, 1862, Oliver also includes that “Capt. Nash and a couple of Lieut’s. have gone home.” Captain Charles W. Nash from New Hartford enlisted on 25 September 1861 as the Commanding Officer of Company C, 8th CVI. He resigned 2 March 1862 at Roanoke Island, NC.

Based on the regimental rolls, the resigning Lieuteants may have included some or all of the following:

Lieutenant Robert H. Burnside

Enlisted 25 September 1861, New Hartford

Company C, 8th CVI

Resigned 1 March 1862

1st Lieutenant Henry N. Place

Enlisted 25 September 1861, Waterbury

Company E, 8th CVI

Resigned 18 March 1862

2nd Lieutenant Luman Wadhams

Enlisted 25 September 1861, Waterbury

Company E, 8th CVI

Resigned April 8, 1862

1st Lieutenant Noah P. Ives

Enlisted 23 September 1861, Meriden

Company K, 8th CVI

Resigned 18 March 1862

Oliver does not give the reason for these resignations, but there are also other troubling rumors spreading through the camp:

It is rumored that the Col. and the Chaplain are both going home, also several others. The reason assigned for the resignation of the Col. was that Gen. Burnside had given him particular fits about the way he had conducted the regiment.

The Colonel of the 8th CVI at this time is Edward Harland and he did not resign. In fact, he would rise to command the entire brigade by the Maryland Campaign. Whatever performance deficient that may have existed in the mind of Ambrose Burnside was obviously corrected and Harland was well respected as a leader.

As for the chaplain, Oliver’s information was much more accurate. The 8th CVI chaplain was Joseph J. Woolley of Norwalk who mustered into the 8th on October 5, 1861 and did resigned on March 13, 1862. The roster of the regiment lists health problems as the reason for his resignation.

Joseph J. Woolley, First Chaplain of the 8th CVI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oliver also gives an interesting assessment of the leadership abilities of the Commanding General, Ambrose Burnside:

The Gen. looks out for this men and woe be to the officer under him that tries to “rough it” on them. When we first came here we had some salt junk that was cooked up for two or three days rations and put hot into barrels, and before we ate it up it was a little tainted around the bones. The Gen. found it out and gave the commissary to understand if it happened again he could march. His men were not going to eat stinking meat.

 

 

Ambrose Burnside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all the rumors and reflection, it seemed that the soldiers of the 8th were moving much closer to ending this episode of hurry up and wait.

I think in all probability we shall not go aboard before morning although we are prepared to hear the order any moment to “strike tents in fifteen minutes.” I have just stopped writing to take some cartridges from the orderly to make up my forty rounds.

And that’s “hurry up and wait” one hundred and fifty years ago…

 

The House that built Oliver Case

Thanks much to John Banks for some wonderful photos of the house that Oliver Case grew up in… 

The Job Case home 2012 (John Banks photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to the National Register of Historic Places, this house known as the Job Case House, is a colonial style, two and one-half story home built around 1795. It is located in the Terry’s Plain Historic District designated by the National Park Service in 1993. This is the home that Oliver Cromwell Case grew up in and left in September 1861 to join the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

The Job Case House (John Banks photo)

The Job Case House (from National Register of Historical Places)

Douglass Fowler: “The best military man in the regiment”

In Oliver’s letter of February 27, 1862, he mentions a Capt. Fowler of the 8th CVI.

Capt. Douglass Fowler of Norwalk, Connecticut originally enlisted in the 3rd Connecticut Infantry, a three-month regiment, as the commander of Company A on May 14, 1861. He served alongside future 8th CVI regimental commander Edward Harland during the First Battle of Bull Run and was honorably discharged on August 12, 1861.

Fowler returned to service with the 8th CVI as Commander of Company H on September 23, 1861. The records for the 8th CVI indicate that he resigned on January 20, 1862. Oliver Case’s (Company A, 8th CVI) letter dated February 27, 1862 relates that Capt. Fowler’s resignation had recently been returned as accepted from Washington and he would be heading home soon. Case gives the reason for his resignation as well:

Capt. Fowler got into a fuss with the Lieut. Col. at Annapolis and sent in his resignation. It just came back from Washington accepted and he is going home. I think he would be glad to stay as his company think everything of him. He was the best military man in the regiment and should have been Maj. Instead of Capt. Appleton. The only thing I know against him is that he did not come from Norwich.

It seems that Douglass Fowler joined the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry as the commanding officer of Company A on July 14, 1862. He participated in the Battle of Chancellorsville and was promoted to Lieut. Col. after the wounding and death of the regimental commander and Lieut. Col. Fowler was in command of the 17th on the first day of Gettysburg. He was killed leading his regiment into action on Blocher’s Knoll. As Lieut. Col. Fowler rode forward on a white horse encouraging his men by his fearless example, he told the soldiers to “Dodge the big ones Boys” as the Confederate artillery reigned in on their position. Only moments after his words of encouragement, Fowler decapitated by a Confederate solid shot. His remains were never recovered, but he is memorialized in the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lieut. Col. Douglass Fowler, 17th CVI                                                             

Photo courtesy of Bobby Dobbins/17thcvi.org

 

From THE MILITARY AND CIVIL History of Connecticut THE WAR OF 1861-65, BY W. A. CROFFUT AND JOHN M. MORRIS:

Lieut.-Col. Douglass Fowler of Norwalk was shot dead during the first day’s fight. He had been in the war from the beginning ; having led a company in the Third Regiment through the three-months’ service, and afterwards raised a company for the Eighth. When he resigned his commission in the latter, he recruited a company for the Seventeenth. He was sick before the battle of Chancellorsville, and was borne to the fight in an ambulance ; but he afterwards fought with great endurance, being among the last to retreat. He was by nature a true soldier, brave and skillful ; and his genial temper, generous disposition, and buoyant spirits, united with a fervent interest in the loyal cause, had won for him an enthusiastic regard ; and the men followed him willingly into the deadly strife. He was struck down while leading them in a charge ; and still he sleeps in his unknown grave upon the battle-field of Gettysburg.

Additional info on Douglass Fowler can be found at:

17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry

The American Civil War: Battle of Gettysburg (17th CVI page)