The Two Burials of Oliver Cromwell Case

The Two Burials of Oliver Cromwell Case

As morning broke on the morning of September 19, 1862, Captain Wolcott P. Marsh, Commander of Company F, 8th Connecticut awoke to discover the rebels gone and that he was now assigned to lead the remains recovery detail for the regiment. Appropriately, Marsh, the former lieutenant and friend of Oliver Case, is the first member of the regiment to learn Oliver’s disposition:

We stacked arms and details were sent from different to pick up the dead so that could be buried together. I went up where our regit. was engaged and there what a sight. 30 men from our regit. alone lay dead in a little field and near by was 42 Zouaves (9th N. Y.) and many more from other regit. The first man I came to of my company was Charles E. Louis my acting orderly. Then Corp. Truck my color corporal and close by them lay Dwight Carry, Herbert Nee, Horace Rouse and Mr. Sweet all of my company then passing on to Co. A. were the body’s of Olive[r] Case, Orton Lord, Martin Wadhams and Lucius Wheeler then to Co. K. saw Jack Simons body the only one whose name remember…[1]

These soldiers of Company A are well known to Captain Marsh from his tenure as a lieutenant of the Company prior to being promoted and transferred to Company F. Captain Marsh’s detail goes about their work and the commander “had all body’s brought from hill down by several straw stacks.”[2]

This description taken with Marsh’s report of the unit positions on the day of the battle make it clear that the remains were removed from the “high water mark” area near the present-day monument. The area of the hay stacks is located to the north of the 40-acre cornfield in the area where the 8th CVI step off for the final assault on the day of the battle.

 

Brothers

(Photos courtesy of John Banks and Matt Reardon)

By afternoon, Oliver’s two brothers are allowed on the field to search for their younger brother. This will begin a chain of events which results in two burials and two graves for Oliver. Alonzo writes of seeking information about Oliver on the night after the battle and their journey onto the field two days later:

I went with my Brother to the Eighth Regiment to learn the fate of my younger Brother Oliver and found only eight or 10 of his company left from about 40 they had in the morning. Was told by a comrade that stood beside him that he fell and he called him by name but no reply. Said he was no doubt killed. The next morning we were marched down near the bridge and lay there all day. No one was allowed on the field as it was held by sharpshooters on both sides. The next day September 19 myself and brother had permission to go over the field and what for our brothers body being very sure he was dead we each took our canteens filled with water and commenced that awful sickening tramp and if I could picture to you the sad sites that we beheld. The ground for acres and miles in length were strewn with dead and wounded. The wounded crying for water they having lain there the whole day before and two nights — but everyone was looking for some comrade of their own Regiment but some time that afternoon we found the body of our brother we were looking after. He was no doubt killed instantly the bullet having passed through his head just about the top of his ears. We wrapped him in my blanket and carried him to the spot where the 16th dead were to be buried having first got permission from the Colonel of the Eighth and the 16th to do so. The 16th men were buried side by side in a trench and they dug a grave about 6 [feet] from them and we deposited the remains of my brother and that having first pinned a paper with his name and age on the inside of the blanket. Then they put up boards to teach with name and Regiment on them.[3]

 

img_0721.jpg

The Grass Field behind the Otto Farmhouse, Site of Oliver’s First Burial

 

This was not the final resting place for Oliver. Alonzo continues:

His body lay there until December when father went there and brought the body to Simsbury where it now lies to mingle with the sole of his native town.[4]

case3

Oliver’s Final Resting Place, the Cemetery in His Hometown of Simsbury, Connecticut

(Photo credit: John Banks)

 

ENDNOTES:

  1. Letters of Captain Walcott Marsh
  2. IBID.
  3. “Recollections of Camp and Prison Life” by Alonzo Grove Case, Company E, 16th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers (from the collection of The Simsbury Historical Society)
  4. IBID.

 

 

Advertisements

Across the Antietam: The Operation at Snavely’s Ford

Snavely sign

One of the facets of studying the life of Oliver Case that I enjoy most is attempting to recreate in my mind the emotion of the situation that Oliver and his fellow soldiers were dealing with at any given moment on the battlefield. This is particularly true when it comes to the events of September 17, 1862, the final day of young Private Case’s life. On a few occasions, I have taken some liberties by projecting emotions into Oliver’s mind based on what I’ve learned about him through his letters and my experience as a soldier. So, I go back periodically to the letters, reports and maps to see if I’ve missed something or if any new information is available to help me get a better sense of Oliver’s experience.

One of the phases of Oliver’s experience at the Battle of Antietam that has long held a great interest for me is the crossing operation by Rodman’s Division at Snavely’s Ford during the early afternoon of September 17, 1862. Recently, I discovered a small detail that caused me to revisit and enhance my view of the operation from Oliver’s perspective. This small detail led me to readdress the entire operation and attempt to piece together a clearer picture of events. A recounting of the events leading up to the crossing operation is helpful to appreciate the soldier’s state of mind at that point.

In the late morning of September 17, 1862, likely around 11:30, the two brigades of Rodman’s Division (Fairchild and Harland) began to move to their left and downstream away from the intense fighting of the morning at Rohrbach’s Bridge. In search of a ford which had been previously identified by an engineer from McClellan’s staff, the Union troops crossed the Rohrbach Road moving toward a large bend in the Antietam Creek.

Ezra Carmen recounts the events:

…Rodman moved from his position on the high ridge at 10.30 a.m., crossed the Rohrersville road about 1000 yards below the bridge, marched some 500 yards after crossing the road, and halted opposite the great bend in the Antietam, where the course of the stream changes from due south to west. Whiting’s five guns were put in position to shell the wooded bluff opposite the ford by which it was proposed to cross, and shelled the road and woods on the opposite side of the creek, driving the enemy from their positions. This fire of Whiting’s enfiladed the line of Georgians, at and below the bridge, and the annoyance it caused them is referred to in some of their reports.[1]

The division was accompanied by a Union battery; Company K of the 9th New York Infantry Regiment (Hawkins’ Zouaves) also known as Whiting’s Battery. The battery was organized in New York City and mustered into service in April of 1861 under the command of Captain James R. Whiting. Interestingly, it was one of only two batteries at Antietam, Union and Confederate, equipped with 12-pounder Dahlgren Boat Howitzers which, as the name implies, were intended primarily for use by the Navy. Whiting’s battery had a total of five guns with three smoothbores and two rifled pieces. The guns were outfitted with unique carriages constructed of wrought iron and highly prized by artillerists for their light weight.

12 lb Dahlgren Boat Howitzer

An example of the Dahlgren Boat Howitzer 12-pounder with wrought iron carriage.

While the work of the gunners seemed to be effective in causing the Georgia infantry to retire from its position on the high bluff across the creek, no soldier of Rodman’s Division would be crossing via this ford.

Meanwhile skirmishers had gone down to the creek and Rodman had come to the conclusion that this ford was not one that could be crossed and directed Colonel Harland to make further reconnaissance.[2]

General Rodman’s reconnaissance was likely to have been comprehensive since the opposing Confederate troops were driven off the hilltop and back toward the Harper’s Ferry Road. However, Oliver Case and most of the other infantry soldiers would have had very limited knowledge about this part of the operation. This is evidenced by the fact that little has been written about it in letters, diaries or even in official reports. It seems certain that Rodman had ordered his commanders to mask their movement to the maximum extent possible by using the hills near the creek as a shield. Only the artillerymen, skirmishers and leaders would have a good view of the creek and the far side.

One of the new nuggets I first stumbled onto came while reviewing (for the 20th time, I think) the battle report of Colonel Edward Harland, 2nd Brigade commander in Rodman’s Division and former commanding officer of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Harland recounts the situation as the brigade approached the ford on the south (east before the bend in the creek) bank of the Antietam Creek:

General-Rodman ordered me to detach one regiment for the support of the battery belonging to the Ninth New York Volunteers, and to send the remaining regiments of the brigade across the creek in rear of the First Brigade, and, when I had placed the regiment in proper position, to join the balance of the brigade. I found the battery on the hill just below the ford. I detached the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers placed it in what I considered the strongest position for the defense placed behind a stone wall, with orders from General Rodman to wait there for orders.[3]

In my previous reviews of this report, I had missed the significant phrase “placed behind a stone wall” referring to the position of the 8th Connecticut on the far bank. In this position, Oliver had an excellent view of the ford and John Snavely’s field and farm on the far side. Today, this is private property, but can be viewed from the National Park Service side of the ford where there is no apparent trace of a stone wall. From existing contemporary descriptions, the September woods were thinner than they appear today giving a clear view of the crossing site.

Hill across from Snavely_s Ford

Snavely’s Ford looking toward the south bank. From behind a stone wall on this hill, Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut defended a Union battery covering the crossing site.

Sometime before 1 o’clock in the afternoon, the troops of Rodman’s division were prepared to cross the Antietam Creek and move toward the sound of battle around Sharpsburg that had rung in their ears for the entire day.

… [Rodman’s reconnaissance] found a practicable ford, and the column, Fairchild’s Brigade in advance, marched down to it. Whiting’s Battery, supported by the 8th Connecticut, was put in position on a hill just below the ford to cover the crossing. Much time had been lost and it was nearly 1 o’clock… [4]

Carman’s comment about lost time is noteworthy since some might accuse Isaac Rodman with delaying the movement and crossing thereby causing more deaths in the repeated attempts to take the Rohrbach Bridge. However, the pace of Rodman’s movement down the Antietam is easily understood by considering the obstacles he faced. He had received indecisive orders for most of the morning and once he was ordered to shift downstream to the left of the Union line, Rodman without a doubt believed he would be crossing a known ford only a short distance away based on what should have been reliable information from one of General McClellan’s engineers who had allegedly conducted a reconnaissance the previous day. When the two brigades arrived at this supposed ford and prepared to cross, Rodman’s discovery that the ford was impracticable for crossing infantry soldiers caused the need to resume the movement toward Snavely’s Ford. This essentially became a reconnaissance in force, a very time-consuming activity for two brigades of infantry moving in unfamiliar territory.

Whatever the reason for the slow movement, it was now time for the crossing operation to begin. The ford located on the property of farmer John Snavely presented the first practical site for this type of crossing downstream from the Rohrbach Bridge. Moving south and then west (after “the great bend”) from bridge, the opposing bank was essentially a high, continuous bluff which had provided the Confederate defenders an excellent command of the creek. This bluff ended at Snavely’s Ford and morphed into a plain several hundred yards wide and even with the creek bank following the run for about one-half mile to the Snavely farmhouse. A natural draw bordered by a farm road led away from the ford to the northwest toward the town of Sharpsburg. The Confederate commander responsible for defending the ford and the Rohrbach Bridge recognized the danger of failing to defend this position.

The old road, by the upper of the two fords referred to, led over a hill on my right and in my rear, which completely commanded my position and all ingress and egress to and from it below the bridge.[5]

In the mind of Robert Toombs, Snavely’s Ford may have held more tactical significance than the Rohrbach Bridge in the defense of the southern end of the field. A more thorough reconnaissance by Union forces on the day before the battle could have altered the operational plans of McClellan and Burnside and saved the lives of countless Union troops who died attempting to capture the bridge. As it was, the Confederate defense of the bridge collapsed at about the same time Rodman’s soldiers set foot in the cool waters of the Antietam. This situation may have saved Rodman from much stronger resistance by the Confederate defenders.

Snavely_s ford looking south

Modern photo of Snavely’s Ford looking downstream to the south. The trace of the old road used by Rodman’s troops can be seen running parallel to the creek.

Opposing the crossing at Snavely’s was one very thinly manned regiment of Georgia troops extensively bloodied by the Battle of South Mountain only three days before. The 50th Georgia Infantry Regiment had been under the command of General Toombs for only one day before Rodman’s Division appeared to their front across the creek. Toombs had a bleak assessment of the regiment that was now barely the size of a company, but he employed them as best he could.

you placed under my command the Fiftieth Georgia (Lieutenant-Colonel Kearse), numbering, I should suppose, scarcely 100 muskets. I ordered this regiment on the right of the Second Georgia, extending it in open order, so as to guard a blind plantation road leading to a ford between the lower ford before referred to and the right of the Second Georgia Volunteers.[6]

In fact, Lieutenant Colonel Kearse and General Toombs had recognized the strong points overlooking the ford and Snavely’s field. Kearse deployed his troops in what amounted to a skirmish line extending from the crest of the high bluff to the right on the ford (as viewed from the far side) to a point on a rise overlooking Snavely’s field with a clear view of the crossing site. The Georgia troops also received some important augmentation from about 25 soldiers of the Palmetto Sharpshooters, highly skilled marksmen carrying Enfield rifles who were normally assigned to Jenkins’ South Carolina Brigade. To the right rear of the 50th Georgia, Kearse received supporting fire from an artillery battery emplaced just prior to the arrival of the Union troops at the ford.

During the forenoon the Washington Artillery was engaged with the enemy’s heavy Batteries on the opposite side of Antietam Creek…at noon the 4th Company, Eshleman, was moved farther to the right to guard the fords below the Burnside Bridge.[7]

This was one of the four batteries of the Washington (Louisiana) Artillery and was under the command of Captain Benjamin Franklin Eshleman. The 32-year old Confederate artilleryman was actually born into a Pennsylvania Mennonite family relocating to New Orleans only about ten years before the war. He joined the Washington Artillery in May of 1861 and suffered a wound during the First Battle of Bull Run. Eshleman, surviving the war and reaching the rank of Colonel, returned to New Orleans to become a successful and respected businessman for the next fifty years.[8]

BF Eshleman2

Captain B.F. Eshleman, Commanding Officer, 4th Battery, Washington (LA) Artillery, was sent to help check the Union crossing at Snavely’s Ford.

On September 17, 1862, his battery played a key role in opposing the crossing of Snavely’s Ford and the subsequent Union attack toward Sharpsburg. With his four cannon (2 – 6 pounder guns and 2 – 12 pounder howitzers), Eshleman could easily range all of the soldiers of Rodman’s division as they crossed the river.

The fourth, under Eshleman, was not idle during this eventful day, when the battalion was so actively and effectually employed. About noon on the 17th he was directed by General Jones, in front of whose position he was placed, to remove his battery to a position to guard the ford below the bridge held by General Toombs. The battery was placed in position between the Blackford House and the ford, and opened fire upon the enemy, who were crossing in force.[9]

The hilltop location of the battery is visible today to Antietam National Battlefield visitors traveling along Branch Avenue toward the intersection with the Harper’s Ferry Road. While the position was commanding, there were limitations for the Confederate artillerymen that would be revealed as the afternoon progressed.

Eshleman Battery location Snavely_s Ford crossing

Modern day photo taken from the Harper’s Ferry Road shows the exposed hilltop (now a cornfield) from where Eshleman directed fire on Union troops in Snavely’s field.

With the 8th Connecticut perched on the hill above the ford and taking cover behind a stone fence, Private Oliver Case had a panoramic view of the evolving action as the other regiments from Rodman’s Division began to cross the Antietam Creek at around 1 o’clock. Direct fire on the position of the 8th Connecticut was unlikely due to small number of Confederate infantry near the ford and the distance. The soldiers of the 50th Georgia were likely focused on the ford as the Union troops began to set foot in the waters of the Antietam. Fairchild’s Brigade was the first to navigate the ford with the 9th New York (Hawkins’ Zouves) in the lead. A lieutenant in the 9th New York described the action from the perspective of the first Union regiment to cross the ford:

Then came the crossing of the creek. We marched by the left flank down what appeared to be an old wood-road, and filed to the right at the edge of the stream. I do not remember how deep it was, but it was quite an effort to stem the current. When partly across we received the fire of a detachment which was stationed behind a wall at the head of a ravine which opened up from the water towards our left front. I judge there were about two companies of infantry of them. Their fire was not very heavy, rather scattering, and we did not answer it. One reason was that we would have to stop in the stream while firing, and any of our men who might be wounded would be in great danger of drowning, so we urged the men forward and passed the order not to fire. I had two men hit here.[10]

Lieutenant Graham and his fellow soldiers of the 9th New York hurriedly crossed the ford and immediately began to seek shelter from the musket fire of the 50th Georgia. The high bluff to their right gave them cover but presented a new problem with a relatively small area available to stack in the regiment with the only route of advance being up the steep bluff in front of them. While the commanders prepared their companies to ascend the hill, General Rodman joined the regiment to encourage them with this difficult movement.

We then faced to the left, which brought us by the rear rank into line, and marched, or rather climbed, directly up the bluff; the ground in front of my company was very rough and difficult and also very steep. Rodman appeared here again on foot and went up with the regiment.[11]  

The 9th New York was followed across the ford by the other two New York regiments of Fairchild’s Brigade, the 103rd and 89th. With Fairchild’s men clear of the ford, the two remaining regiments of Edward Harland’s Brigade marched along the wooded road leading up to the ford with the 4th Rhode Island Infantry in the advance.

… [the 4th] moved by the left flank to the creek at a ford under fire from the enemy’s skirmishers, who were sheltered behind a stone wall. The Fourth, after crossing the ford, filed to the left (the other brigade going to the right, and the rest of Harland’s brigade not yet having crossed)…[12]

Since a relatively small area existed on the right of the ford exit with three regiments traversing it, Harland’s Brigade was forced to move into Snavely’s open field on the left. This presented to the sparse group of Confederate defenders the opportunity to direct unobstructed musket fire into the ranks of the 4th Rhode Island and the 16th Connecticut, the next regiment crossing the ford. However, the small band of Georgians was no match for the Rhode Island infantry supported by the artillery battery on the far side.

Harland followed Fairchild and while the latter was making his difficult way up the bluff, on the right, the 4th Rhode Island crossed the creek under fire of the enemy behind the stone fence, filed to the left on open ground, then one company to the front and one to the left as skirmishers, and advancing drove the enemy from the stone fence and formed behind it, and almost immediately received a musketry fire from the left, which was almost immediately silenced by Whiting’s guns across the creek.[13]

Carman’s description of this segment of the action is confirmed by the report of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph B. Curtis, the commanding officer of the Fourth Rhode Island Infantry.

…after throwing out Company H as skirmishers to cover the front, and Company K to the left, advanced in line toward the stone wall, the enemy retiring, but shortly after opening a fire of musketry on our left, which was soon silenced by the fire from our battery covering the ford.[14]

Snavely_s Farm and field

Modern photo showing John Snavely’s field briefly occupied by the 4th RI and 16th Connecticut after crossing the ford. A small force covered the field and ford from a stonewall no longer visable on the slope to the right in this photo.

With the first two regiments of Harland’s Brigade safely across the Antietam, only the 8th Connecticut remained on the far side of the creek. However, as the soldiers of the 8th left their defensive positions on the hill and the opposing troops of the 50th Georgia faded away from the stone wall north of Snavely’s field, a new problem presented itself for Colonel Harland.

Shortly after my [Harland] arrival opened an enfilading fire from a section of a battery which had been placed on our left flank. In order to protect the men, I moved the command more to the right behind the crest of a hill, and awaited in that position the orders of General Rodman. While in this position the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers rejoined the brigade, and I moved still more to the right, in the direction of the bridge, and halted in the woods, just under the brow of the hill.[15]

The highly exposed troops of the 4th Rhode Island and the 16th Connecticut were being rained on by Eshleman’s Confederate artillery battery to the northwest of Snavely’s field. Harland had no choice but to remove the troops from these positions and seek shelter in the draw leading away from the ford to the right of Snavely’s field. Eshleman’s battery was positioned on a spur pointing toward the ford to the southeast. Harland realized that moving his troops quickly to the right and up the ravine would shield them from the line of sight of the Confederate artillerymen.

Snavely Crossing graphics

This map depicts the positions and actions of both Confederate and Union units during the crossing operations at Snavely’s Ford on the afternoon of September 17, 1862.[16]

The commanding view from the hill where Eshleman’s four guns had been emplaced about one hour earlier offered a good fields of fire on Snavely’s field and the first hundred yards of the road leading away from the ford. However, Captain Eshleman’s guns were unable to acquire the troops of Rodman’s Division as they moved to the north under the cover of the same terrain feature that gave the Confederate gunners such an excellent view. Also, Whiting’s New York Battery was able to easily range Eshleman.

Oliver and his fellow Connecticut troopers had benefited by the distraction from the 4th RI and the 16th CT by quickly crossing the ford and moving up to join Harland in the ravine. The thicker stand of trees and the brow of the hill gave Colonel Harland the opportunity to reposition and reorganized his regiments in accordance with instructions from General Rodman prior to commencing the final attack against the Confederate troops now searching for fresh defensive positions closer to the Harper’s Ferry Road. The Confederate general charged with the defense of Snavely’s Ford tried to put a positive angle in his report after the battle.

The Fiftieth Georgia and the company from General Jenkins’ brigade were at the same time ordered to the same position, and were led back by their respective officers. This change of position was made to my entire satisfaction, and with but small loss, in the face of greatly superior numbers.[17]

Of course, Toombs was provided scant resources to stop an overwhelming force attempting to cross in two locations. Considering the size of his force (around 500 at best) versus the opposing Union forces (up to 5,000 or more), the Georgia political general had put up a significant resistance and served the important purpose of delaying Burnside’s corps long enough for A.P. Hill’s division to arrive on the field from Harper’s Ferry. According to Toombs’ battle report, he had recognized the importance of the position and requested reinforcements to stop the Union assaults.

…it was for this purpose that I so often and urgently asked the aid of a regiment on the day of the battle, not having another man available for that purpose. Not being able to get any re-enforcements for the defense of these two fords, and seeing that the enemy was moving upon them to cross, thus enabling him to attack my small force in front, right flank, and rear, and my two regiments having been constantly engaged from early in the morning up to 1 o’clock with a vastly superior force of the enemy, aided by three heavy batteries…the ammunition of both regiments being nearly exhausted, and Eubank’s battery having been withdrawn to the rear nearly two hours before, I deemed it my duty, in pursuance of your original order, to withdraw my command and place it in the position designated by you opposite the two lower fords, some half a mile to the right and front of your line of battle.[18]

For Oliver Case and the soldiers of the 8th Connecticut, they would no longer find themselves last in the line of battle for this day as they had been at Snavely’s Ford. As the attack began against Toombs and his reorganizing units near the Harper’s Ferry road, the 8th Connecticut would be the vanguard of the attack.

ENDNOTES:


[1] Carman, Ezra Ayres, Antietam Manuscript (unpublished), Chapter 21

[2] IBID.

[3] Number 151. Report of Colonel Edward Harland, Eighth Connecticut Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, Third Division, of the battle of Antietam. OR Series I Volume XIX Part I

[4] Carman.

[5] Number 234. Report of Brigadier General Robert Toombs, C. S. Army, commanding division (temporary), of the battle of Sharpsburg. O.R. Series I Volume XIX Part I

[6] IBID.

[7] From War Department Tablet No. 308 located west of Boonsboro Pike near intersection with Rodman Avenue, Antietam National Battlefield.

[8] Obituary of Benjamin Franklin Eshleman, accessed from “Find A Grave” at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=66881495

[9] Number 217. Report of Colonel J. B. Walton, Washington (Louisiana) Artillery, of the battle of Sharpsburg. O.R. Series 1, Vol XIX, Part I

[10] Letter of Lieutenant Matthew J. Graham, formerly of 9th New York Infantry, September 27, 1894, extractedfrom “The Ninth Regiment New York Volunteers (Hawkins’ Zouaves): A History of the Regiment and Veteran Association from 1860 to 1900. Access from 1860 to 1900.

[11] IBID.

[12] Number 153. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph B. Curtis, Fourth Rhode Island Infantry, of the battle of Antietam. Series I Volume XIX Part I

[13] Carman.

[14] Curtis.

[15] Harland.

[16] Map adapted from Antietam on the Web, http://www.aotw.org.

[17] Toombs.

[18] IBID.

A Tale of 3 Cornfields and What Ifs

A bit off the normal subject of this blog I know, but this was too good to resist.

During my Columbus Day hike across the Antietam National Battlefield, I made an interesting observation that lead to a little historical speculation. First, I observed that growing in D.R. Miller’s 22-acre cornfield, otherwise known to history as the Bloody Cornfield, was a fine crop of soybeans…yes, soybeans. Something struck me as a bit hypocritical about this discovery, but I soon remembered the necessity of crop rotation to preserve the soil and then I was on my merry way hiking down the Hagerstown Pike.

 

20141013_091633

The D.R. Miller cornfield growing soybeans in 2014

 

Next stop, the much larger cornfield of John Otto. Forty acres of corn stood tall here on September 17, 1862, but today there stands a much smaller field of sorghum. Again, seems the park service could be a bit more historically accurate, crop rotation notwithstanding. It’s also very rocky terrain causing me to wonder how Mr. Otto ever made a go of corn and giving the modern farmers who lease the land a good reason to seek another hardier crop. Ok, I’m satisfied for the moment and it’s time to move on to the last of Antietam’s three famous fields of corn.

 

20141013_102448

Sorghum stands tall in John Otto’s cornfield, 2014

 

Last stop, the Bloody Lane and Mr. Piper’s cornfield. Whew…it’s still there albeit smaller and growing corn! The park service has done a great job in replanting Piper’s orchard and the farmer leasing the land has a nice small field of harvest-ready corn just in front of the orchard. While the field extended all the way to the sunken farm lane in 1862, the tour access road doesn’t allow for that in 2014. I couldn’t resist a short hike around the cornfield and orchard before making my way back across the Bloody Lane and toward my waiting car at the visitors center.

 

20141013_095318

It’s smaller, but still growing corn in Piper’s field

 

So, now the historical speculation. In both the Otto and Miller cornfields, absent the corn, I observed how easy it would have been for opposing sides to view the movements of the other from their side of the fields. How would this have changed the actions of the commanders engaged that day? Of that, one can only guess. Would Hooker change his approach if he observed that he was facing a much smaller force? How would the loss of the element of surprise have affected Hood’s decision-making and the morale of his troops? Would Rodman have spread his division across a wider front to meet the threat of Hill’s approaching troops? Could the 16th Connecticut and 4th Rhode Island have refused the flank to meet the threat of the arriving Confederates? All good questions that will remain unanswered but often pondered in the mind of a wanderer of the Antietam National Battlefield…

 

 

 

 

Just before the battle…

Just before the battle, mother,

I am thinking most of you,

While upon the field we’re watching

With the enemy in view.

Comrades brave are ’round me lying,

Filled with thoughts of home and God

For well they know that on the morrow,

Some will sleep beneath the sod.[1]

As the dawn broke on the morning of September 16, 1862, Oliver Case and his comrades in the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment awoke from what must have been an uncomfortable night of sleeping “on their arms” in a stubble field on the Geeting Farm just outside of Keedysville. After viewing the horrifying results of the battle at Fox’s Gap on South Mountain, the troops had marched about five miles from the gap to the Geeting Farm arriving around midnight. McClellan was in pursuit of Lee’s army and a renewed battle was anticipated at any point along the way. As one company commander from the 8th recalled the night of the September 15th, “…we marched quite a number of miles that day and night to the little village called Keedysville (or some such name) where by midnight we got a chance to lie down for night.[2]

The Geeting Farm, also known as Crystal Spring or Locust Spring, provided an excellent source of clear, cool water from the spring near the farm house and it’s highly likely that Oliver Case filled his canteen from the spring as the regiment prepared to move out on the morning of the 16th. Some of Oliver’s fellow soldiers would return to this farm in less than 36 hours as patients in the Union hospital established in the farmhouse. For more on the hospital and the farm, see John Banks’ excellent post on his blog.

As the 8th Connecticut and the rest of the IX Corps began to move toward the Antietam Creek that morning, the soldiers could hear the artillery duel which had already begun between opposing forces from opposite sides of the creek. The movement by the Union corps was slow as the wagon trains had continued to move up during the night and now clogged the roads.

Finally, around 1:00 pm, the 8th Connecticut was placed into a line of battle behind a hill opposite the Rohrbach Bridge. Confederate artillery continued to rain down on the Union formations and several wagon trains were destroyed plus as many as four soldiers were reported as being fatally injured although it is unclear as to their regimental attachment. This reference in found in the writings of Captain Marsh of the 8th Connecticut writing that “a few soldiers [were] killed and wounded.”[3] However, the official regimental history written by Croffut and Morris, simply states that the Confederate “guns dropped shells among the men” with no reference to any soldiers from the 8th being wounded or killed.[4] Since both of these are primary, eyewitness accounts (Morris being the regimental chaplain of the 8th), it would seem that the causalities may have been from other regiments in the vicinity.

 Burnside Bridge looking toward Rohrbach farm
Burnside Bridge view looking toward the Rohrbach farm and the position of the 8th Connecticut (hill on the upper right corner) on the night of 16 September 1862

 

As nightfall neared, the regiment finally settled into their battle positions for the night on ridge behind the Henry Rohrbach farm house and about 300 yards from the Antietam Creek. Captain Marsh described the night as “dark and misty.”[5] The Union regiments were not allowed to light fires. However, the glow from the fires of the Confederate soldiers across the Antietam could be clearly seen. All the officers and men seem to understand that tomorrow there will be a large battle.[6]

Although Croffut and Morris indicate that Harland’s Brigade was joined by the new 16th CVI at nightfall on the 16th of September, other primary sources such as the letter of Charles E. House, Wagoner for Company B, 16th CVI, seem to suggest that the regiment might have joined the brigade at a much earlier date.[7] For his part, Captain Marsh recorded that on this day “that the 16th Connecticut Volunteers were with us having overtaken the brigade the day before.”[8]

The historian of the 16th CVI puts the date of the reunion as the 16th of September:

Colonel Beach, with his experienced eye, first spied the distant jets of white smoke. All were watching the peculiar puffs of smoke with great interest, when Adjutant Burnham, who had been absent, returned with the order that we were wanted at the front. This took us a little by surprise as we did not expect to go into battle so soon. But on went the bundles, and after a tedious march through ploughed fields and forests, passing brigades and divisions, the booming of artillery and bursting of shells sounding louder and louder, we finally joined a brigade consisting of the 4th R.I., and the 8th and 11th C.V.[9]

Whatever the case, by dark on the 16th of September, Harland’s Brigade was now in its final form by the addition of the 16th Connecticut. There is no way of determining if Oliver Case was reunited with his two brothers, Ariel and Alonzo, who were both members of the 16th. If the 16th joined the brigade on the day before the battle, a reunion is an unlikely possibility due to the regiments being placed in battle formations. Soldiers would not have been allowed to leave their regiments for other than official business. Alonzo Case does not mention a reunion with his brother in his post-war writings.[10] It is possible that the brothers could have caught a glimpse of each other during the numerous movements of the regiments.

ENDNOTES:

[1] Root, George Frederick, “Just Before the Battle, Mother,” public domain

[2] Letters of Wolcott P. Marsh (unpublished), accessed from The Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers at Antietam website, http://home.comcast.net/~8cv/8cv-frame.html

[3] IBID.

[4] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[5] Marsh.

[6] Diary of Charles S. Buell, 8th Connecticut, as published on Antietam on the Web, http://antietam.aotw.org/exhibit.php?exhibit_id=369

[7] Civil War Manuscripts Project, The Connecticut Historical Society, access from http://www.chs.org/finding_aides/kcwmp/exams/McnaughtonR.html

[8] Marsh.

[9] History of the Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers, B.F. Blakeslee, The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1875.

[10] Recollections of Alonzo Case (full citation pending)

Death Comes Calling

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?[1]

The American Civil War connected death and dying to the country’s citizens like no other war before or since with an average of 600 men dying in the conflict every day. That’s more Americans killed than were killed on September 11, 2001 per week for four years. Two percent of the entire population of the United States (31 million in 1860) were killed, died of wounds or died of other non-combat causes during the war. Everyone, north and south, was touched by the death of a soldier or sailor either directly or indirectly.

Marching over the rolling hills south of Sharpsburg and into the jaws of battle, Oliver Case fully understood that he faced his own morality…

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.[2]

Oliver had witnessed the sting of death first-hand. He had seen his friends and fellow soldiers killed in battle. He stood with them as they fought horrible disease to the point of death. Death was familiar to Oliver, but not his friend. It was the encounter he wanted to avoid, but knew that, sooner or later, death would come calling. That was part of life especially the life of a Civil War soldier.

For himself, Oliver resolved that he would not run in the face of his own death because a far worse fate would await him. As a witness to the dishonorable behavior of others as death began to stalk them, he wanted no part of such conduct. As he had done before on the coast of North Carolina, he would not falter. Oliver would rather rely on the mercy of a sovereign God that the judgments of a pitiless people who would surely sentence him to a lifetime of shame for cowardly bearing before the enemy. In his letters to his sister and brothers, Oliver had drawn a clear line from which he could not retreat.

Make no mistake, fear always hovered about him. Like the fever Oliver had struggled against for so many of the past months, fear would always return, unwelcomed, but inescapable.  Oliver must have realized that if fear was an inevitable visitor, then he must overcome it. It was analogous to leaping into the swiftly flowing Farmington River back in Connecticut and trying to fight upstream against the current. No, he had to ride the current of fear to the destination of his choosing. Strength came from those men on his left and right – those he could trust with his life. The ultimate power to overcome the fear of death was a gracious gift of the Creator and Sustainer who made the river of this present life flow to the sea of life hereafter.

But thanks be to God what is our loss is his gain.[3]

The hopes and spirits of Private Case and the other soldiers of the 8th Connecticut would be harshly tested in the fields outside of Sharpsburg on that late afternoon in September 1862…[4]

 Just one more push over that next rolling hill and then, the Harper’s Ferry Road and the town of Sharpsburg. I can see the two cannons of the enemy guarding the road at the top of that final hill. At least, I can see the business end of the guns as they begin to spew the deadly canister into our ranks.  Artillery incoming! No, ours…over our heads. Hitting all around the rebel cannons. There’s Captain Upham and his company within 20 feet of the guns. The smoke is clearing; rebels have abandoned the battery. Maybe we have a chance…we can win a great victory.

Beyond those brave Confederate gunners, officers in gray are shouting at disoriented troops milling around to rally and stand their ground. The reorganizing rebels in front are now firing into our ranks or above our ranks. This swale is protecting us from their Minnie balls. I see the Zouves to our right…many firing but many falling. Now they are beginning to fall back down the slope. Lieutenant Colonel Appelman orders the regiment forward followed by the echoes of the captains. The boys are rising up all around me. Now I know how Philo Matson felt at Newbern. God forgive me for my ridicule of Philo because I want to make myself missing from this field. Orton, Martin, Lucius…I must go with them. I will not leave them. I cannot disgrace my family. This may be the end, but I will not be branded a coward. God give me courage to face the enemy and, if needs be, my own death!

      106 (2)         

The field where the 8th Connecticut made their desperate stand just short of the Harpers Ferry Road

 

I haven’t seen the other Connecticut boys in the 16th since they stepped off into that big cornfield. Lots of firing coming from that direction. I can’t look back…Colonel Harland is urging us forward from atop his horse. What a fine officer. More firing and a rebel yell rising from that cornfield. God protect my brothers.

It seems like we’ve barely started to move when Appelman falls to our front. Four men (I don’t know them) are bearing him rearward. There stands Chaplain Morris loading a rifle as the cartridge box dangles from his neck. Our position is desperate. The Major screams above the din for the regiment to lie down again. I must reload, aim, and fire. May be ten rounds left in my box. What’s that on our left beyond the enemy battery now abandoned by Captain Upham and his men? Soldiers in blue? But, wait…a flag. The colors are red, white and blue, but not the national colors. I know that flag. I remember from Roanoke Island. It’s a North Carolina regiment and another forming into double file. God help us, we are done for.

The bullets are hitting our ranks thick as flies now from our front and the left. Thud…Orton is hit on my right and crumbles to the ground. I’m kneeling and reloading but Lucius stands to fire in front of me…he shouldn’t. Too late, he’s shot twice in the chest and spins around falling at my feet. No turning back…I stand, aim at the rebel color bearer, squeeze the trigger…darkness, silence…

Oliver Case had finally met death, but on his terms.

I went with my Brother to the Eighth Regiment to learn the fate of my younger Brother Oliver and found only eight or 10 of his company left from about 40 they had in the morning. Was told by a comrade that stood beside him that he fell and he called him by name but no reply. Said he was no doubt killed. The next morning we were marched down near the bridge and lay there all day. No one was allowed on the field as it was held by sharpshooters on both sides. The next day September 19 myself and brother had permission to go over the field and look for our brothers body being very sure he was dead we each took our canteens filled with water and commenced that awful sickening tramp and if I could picture to you the sad sites that we beheld. The ground for acres and miles in length were strewn with dead and wounded. The wounded crying for water they having lain there the whole day before and two nights — but everyone was looking for some comrade of their own Regiment but some time that afternoon we found the body of our brother we were looking after. He was no doubt killed instantly the bullet having passed through his head just about the top of his ears. We wrapped him in my blanket and carried him to the spot where the 16th dead were to be buried having first got permission from the Colonel of the Eighth and the 16th to do so. The 16th men were buried side by side in a trench and they dug a grave about 6 [feet] from them and we deposited the remains of my brother and that having first pinned a paper with his name and age on the inside of the blanket. Then they put up boards to teach with name and Regiment on them. His body lay there until December when father went there and brought the body to Simsbury where it now lies to mingle with the sole of his native town.[5]

IMG_0967 (2)


[1] King James Bible, 1 Corinthians Chapter 15, verse 55

[2] The Letters of Oliver Cromwell Case (Unpublished), Simsbury Historical Society, Simsbury, Connecticut. While his was written regarding the coming battle(s) in North Carolina, the witnesses to his conduct on September 17, 1862 indicate that he continued to face the enemy and perform his duty as a soldier.

[3] IBID. In his letter of January 7, 1862, Oliver wrote these words in describing the death of his friend, Henry D. Sexton aboard a hospital ship in Annapolis harbor.

[4] The following is a fictionalized account from the perspective of Private Oliver Cromwell Case using actual sources that describe this segment of the battle of Antietam and Oliver’s letters written October 1861 to August 1862.

[5] “Recollections of Camp and Prison Life” by Alonzo Grove Case (unpublished), Company E, 16th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers (from the collection of The Simsbury Historical Society).

Monument Dedication Remarks of Captain Henry R. Jones

Remarks of Captain Henry R. Jones upon the dedication of a monument to the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment at the Antietam battlefield.

 

Given October 11, 1894

 

Comrades and Friends:

 

We stand on hallowed ground. The story of this spot, written in blood in 1862, has passed into the history of the Republic, and each loyal commonwealth, whose sons here did battle for the Union, has a share in the gallant record. The survivors of four Connecticut regiments are here to-day to dedicate perpetual

memorials of their several organizations. On one pilgrimage, and with a common aim, they are come, and each brings a tribute of loving remembrance for the comrade who here won a victor’s laurels and a victor’s grave.

 

This hour, with its reminiscent story, belongs in a special manner to the Eight Connecticut Volunteers, and it is of them, for them, and to them that I shall briefly speak. In complying with the request to prepare an address for this occasion two difficulties have been encountered. First, there was a hesitation in withdrawing the service of my own regiment from that vast record of heroic deeds of which it forms a page, lest I might seem to be overmuch praising the survivors, for whom I speak. But there came to me these words of Dr. Bushnell’s grand commemoration address: “It is the ammunition spent that gains the battle, not the ammunition brought off the field. These dead are the spent ammunition of the war, and theirs above all is the victory.” The other difficulty was, that the mention of single deeds of valor, must necessarily be omitted; where every man was a hero a choice of names seemed impossible, and where leader and rank and file together threw themselves into the breach, they should have a common eulogy in their common death.

 

When, in the dark days of the summer of 1861, President Lincoln issued the call for volunteers for three years, Connecticut promptly responded. Regiments were organized and sent to the front with all possible speed. The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth were soon filled, and volunteers for the Seventh came forward in such

numbers that the overplus — the New Hartford Company — formed the nucleus of the Eighth, and were ordered into camp in Hartford early in September. By the 15th the regiment was full, and the gallant Edward Harland, who won his spurs in the three months’ service, commissioned as Colonel.

 

The regiment was well officered, and the rank and file represented the best blood and sinew of six counties. Hartford sent two officers and nine men ; Bridgeport one officer and eight men ; Norwich the officer and thirty-three men of Company D. The rest were country boys; Meriden, which sent a company under Captain

Upham, and Norwalk, which sent a detachment under Captain Fowler, being then but thrifty villages. The regiment, as it left Hartford for Annapolis, October 17th, 1861, halting at Jamaica, L. I., where it encamped two weeks, mustered over one thousand strong. Some were scholars ; some were farmers ; some were artisans or laborers— plain men who had never heard of Thermopylae or Sempach, but m whose breasts burned the fire of Leonidas at the pass ; of Winkelried, as he gathered to his bosom the Austrian spears and ” made way for liberty.” The inspiration of an exalted patriotism made heroes of them all.

 

They were men that day who would stand alone

On the bridge Horatius kept;

They were men who would fight at Marathon,

Who would battle with Stark at Bennington.

When flashing from sabre and flint-lock gun,

The fires of freedom leapt.

 

Such was the heart and fibre of the men who embarked at Annapolis, November 6, to take part in that famous Burnside expedition. We can but briefly follow the stormy and tedious voyage, the engagements at Roanoke Island and at Newbern, where the Eighth were’among the first over the ramparts, and where two men of the regiment were killed and four wounded.

 

At FortMacon, worn with the long siege, with ranks depleted by sickness, and forty dying of typhoid fever, the Eighth did most arduous service. Ordered forward to pick off the rebel gunners, eight men were killed and twenty wounded before the fort capitulated. Colonel Harland was ill, Major Appleman wounded, and no field officer of the regiment was present to receive the surrendered flag, which trophy the Eighth had fairly won.

 

Tediously the early summer of 1862 wore away to the soldiers encamped on the banks of the Neuse and at Newport News, with fever making inroads on constitutions worn by a laborious siege. August found them at Fredericksburg, near which city they were for a month on picket duty.

 

But Washington was menaced, and August 31st saw the Eighth, with the Ninth Army Corps, on line of march for the Capital, from which city they moved September 8 to join McClellan’s army in pursuit of Lee, arriving at Frederick just in time to see Jackson‘s cavalry driven out of its streets.

 

On the 14th was won the furious and bloody fight of SouthMountain, where the Eighth was under fire, but held in reserve, with the bullets cutting the branches of the trees overhead.

 

At noon on the 15th of September the Ninth Corps took up the march from SouthMountain to Sharpsburg, and morning found Harland’s Brigade near Antietam Creek, where they remained all day within range of the rebel batteries on the heights beyond. At dark the brigade moved to position on the extreme Union left, and lay all night in line of battle. The Union line stretched for four miles along the Antietam, the enemy holding a position on the west side of the stream, protecting Sharpsburg, the bridges and the fords. General Burnside was in command of the Ninth Corps, which formed the left wing, Brigadier-General Rodman, of the

Third Division, and Colonel Harland, of the Second Brigade ; the Eighth, Eleventh and Sixteenth Connecticut, and the Fourth Rhode Island. At sunrise a ball from a rebel battery crashed through the Eighth, killing three men, and frightfully wounding four. The Connecticut Brigade was early in the day advanced on the left to support a battery near the creek, and came again under a sharp fire.

 

But how shall tongue recount the stubborn fighting all throughout the day, the awful carnage all along the line, as four times the field was lost and won ? How shall we picture the desperate conflicts in the cornfield and in the “bloody lane,” or tell how Burnside held the hill, or the Eleventh stormed the bridge, or Harland’s

Brigade forded the stream in the face of furious cannonading and

raking musket fire ?

 

At four o’clock Rodman’s division was ordered forward. At the command from Colonel Harland the Eighth on the brigade right started, the Eleventh had not come up, the Sixteenth and the Fourth Rhode Island were delayed by some confusion of orders, but the Eighth, under Colonel Appleman, now on the extreme Union left, charged steadily up the hill, and as they reached the crest the rebel troops were but a few yards in front.

 

Halting and firing as they can, the Eighth pass on until alone they gain the crest of the hill, with three batteries turned upon them and a storm of shot and shell sweeping through the ranks. The color guard falls ! Another siezes the standard, he too falls ! A third ! A fourth ! and with him the standard goes down. But

Private Charles H. Walker, of Company D, siezes the staff and waves the riddled banner in the very face of the foe. The ofiicers stand like targets. Colonel Appleman falls ! . Nine others are wounded, staggering, dying. Men fall by scores, as thick and fast pours the leaden hail. Major Ward rallies the thinning ranks, and looks for re-inforcements. ” We must fall back.” And down the hill, in stern, unwilling column, march a hundred men where four times that number charged bravely up the slope. In the words of Chaplain Morris :

 

” No regiment of the Ninth Corps has advanced so far, or held out so long, or retired in formation so good. By their stubborn fight they have saved many others from death or capture, and by their orderly retreat they saved themselves.”

 

And here, on this spot, marking the advanced position of the regiment on that ” bloodiest day that America ever saw,” the Eighth has chosen its monumental site. Is it not indeed hallowed ground, its precincts baptized with the blood of one hundred and ninety- four men of the regiment here killed or wounded? In no battle of the war did Connecticut troops suffer so heavily. Harland’s Brigade

loss was six hundred and eighteen in killed and wounded, one of the heaviest brigade losses in the entire army. Here General Rodman fell, mortally wounded, in the charge which cost Connecticut so dear.

 

Night closed the contest, but Oh ! the appalling scenes after the battle, the agonies of the wounded and the dying, the unspeakably mournful tasks of the surgeons and the survivors who all that night and the next day buried their dead. Near the point where they made their gallant charge, side by side, were laid the dead of the Eighth, with rude pine headboards marking the graves.

 

Continuing on duty with the Army of the Potomac, it was not until December that the Eighth saw fighting again, this time at Fredericksburg. At FortHuger, Walthall Junction, Drury’s Bluff, Cold Harbor, FortDarling, Petersburg and FortHarrison, the Eighth was engaged with more or less loss.

 

At Drury’s Bluff they were commended for special gallantry ; at FortHarrison the regiment suffered a loss of eight killed and sixty-five wounded. On the 3rd of April, 1865, they were with the advance of the Union army at Richmond. After the close of the war the Eighth did military duty for several months at Lynchburg,

and was mustered out December 12th, 1865, after a service of four years and two months, a longer time than was served by any Connecticut regiment, except the First Artillery and the Thirteenth Infantry.

 

Meager as has been the foregoing outline of a four years’ record of heroic sacrifice, it calls for an answer to the question :

 

*’ For what cause did these men do battle ? ” A candid look at the question compels the answer : “They and all the loyal men who fought from 1861 to 1865 were battling for Union and liberty against disunion and treason.” Those good people who counsel that the issues of the late war should be spoken of only in whispers, who say, apprehensively, *’ the war is over, we are all brethren again,

don’t mention the sectional differences of 1861,” are demeaning the services of every man who fought in the late war for the Union. If the men who left home and all that was dear to peril life at their country’s call had no high motive, no inspiration that is worth the mention, where was the heroism ? Take away the righteousness of a cause, and war is but stupendous butchery.

 

I tell you, comrades, in such a place as this we must speak of the issues at stake in that dreadful war, or our hearts would burst as we contemplate the fearful cost at which this Union was saved, the Union for which these our brothers fought and bled and starved and died. The Union threatened with dismemberment, assailed by those who had sworn to support and defend it ! The Union, not only of Lincoln and the Republic of t86i, but the Union of Washington and the men who fought in 1776, and cemented their rights of government in a ratification of the constitution of 1787. Washington himself, who presided over the convention which framed

our national constitution, said : “In all our deliberations we kept steadily in view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American — the consolidation of our Union — in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, and, perhaps, our national existence.” The Union, complete and indissoluble, was the first great principle of Washington‘s policy. In that immortal address

at the close of his Presidential service, the father of his country summed up his farewell to his countrymen in these words :

 

” It is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your National Union to your collective and individual happiness ; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, immovable attachment to it ; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the palladium of our political safety and prosperity ;

watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety ; discount nancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can, in any event, be abandoned ; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”

 

Shade of Washington, son of Virginia, noblest type of Southern chivalry ! Didst thou forsee that it would be a Virginian, one allied to thine own house, one nurtured and educated by the nation, who would turn traitor to his oath of fealty, and lead an army to destroy the structure thou didst rear, and dying, bequeath to this Republic ?

 

The Union, the legacy of Washington and the fathers to succeeding generations, the Union which had stood before the world for seventy years as the home of peace, of prosperity, of constitutional liberty ; whose emblem, the stars and stripes, was hailed as the banner of the free in every clime ; it was to preserve this from dismemberment, to snatch its banner from disgrace at home and from obloquy among the nations, it was for this that two millions of loyal men periled life in that four years’ struggle, it was for this that blood ran as rivers on this ghastly field in 1862.

 

And, thank God ! the Union was preserved. To-day it stands, forty four stars studding its blue ensign, seventy millions of people within its borders, with a prosperity and a future opening before it such as the world has never seen.

 

Standing on the verge of the twentieth century, we look back thirty-two years, and say of those who fell here, and on every bloody field of that long conflict, ” Theirs v/as a glorious death, and for a glorious cause, and its meaning grows more luminous with the lapse of years. We were too near them to fully under-

stand. They who fell never knew that Time, the great transmuter, would make heroes of them all. We saw their imperfections, we knew them as 7nen, future generations will know them as martyrs whose blood was the seed of a reunited nation.

 

” So take them, Heroes of the songful Past ! Open your ranks, let every shining troop Its phantom banners droop, To hail Earth’s noblest martyrs and her last.

Take them, O Fatherland, Who dying, conquered in thy name : And, with a grateful hand. Inscribe their deeds who took away thy blame. Give, for their grandest all, thine insufficient fame ! Take them, O God, our brave.

The glad fulfillers of Thy dread decree; Who grasped the sword for Peace, and smote to save. And dying here for Freedom, died for Thee.”

 

And now, comrades in arms, tried friends in peace, we who came from this field in our young manhood, scathed, it may be, proud to carry through life an empty sleeve, a shattered breast, a halting step, an aching wound as our offering, where the supreme sacrifice was not required ; we who, on other fields, carried the musket or unsheathed the sword ; we who languished in prison pen

or noxious swamp ; now, a handful, representing the two hundred survivors of the two thousand men who fought under the banner of the Eighth, we have come again. All things are changed ; these hills give back no echo of the battle’s din ; no rushing charge tramples the grassy fields ; no gory tide flows down the quiet

stream. The graves are leveled, their rough headboards gone.

 

In yonder cemetery, watched by a nation’s care, sleep those of our comrades who were left upon the field. Along the Carolina coast and on Virginian hills lie many more, while mouldering with kindred dust in the cemeteries of our own state, or in lonely graves ” by mount and stream and sea” the scattered remnant rest. For some the hand of affection has raised a memorial stone, and the names of many are graven on the soldier’s monuments in the old home towns. Some lie in nameless graves, and of some the only record is the sad word “missing.”

 

But here is a monument for all. The State of Connecticut commissions us to-day to dedicate to the memory of every soldier of her Eighth Volunteer Infantry this monument, that henceforth none who served in that organization shall fail of a fitting memorial. Here, cut in enduring granite, is their record of valor ; here the knapsack and the bayonet, symbols of the march and the intrepid charge.

 

O, comrades ! who, weary with the march and the onset, have heard the tattoo call, drawn the curtains of your tents and fallen asleep — to you, we who remain, in the name of our grateful commonwealth, dedicate this perpetual memorial. Be it ours to tend it, and ours to accept the legacy which you have left us — devotion

until death, to a Union saved and reunited.