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]

 

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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]

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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.

 

 

A Panoramic View of the Grave of Oliver Case

On January 6, 2012, I was fortunate enough to be contacted through this blog by John Banks who is, in my humble opinion, a phenomenal teller of the personal stories of the individual Connecticut Civil War soldiers. While my immediate interest was directed toward only one of those great soldiers, John has uncovered the stories of dozens of these soldiers, many hidden away from the public for 150 years. He has gone hither and yon gathering in the pieces to form their stories for all of us to enjoy on his outstanding blog.

John also takes great photographs and has kindly shared a few of those with me. These are all from his recent visit to the Simsbury Cemetery.

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This is the grave of Oliver Cromwell Case, my Connecticut soldier of interest, at the Simsbury Cemetery in Connecticut. Click on the photo to view the interactive panorama shot.

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Thanks John for some great photos to remember Oliver!

The Burial of Oliver Case

The following passage is taken from “Recollections of Camp and Prison Life” by Alonzo Grove Case, Company E, 16th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers (from the collection of The Simsbury Historical Society):

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. 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.

The Two Graves of Oliver C. Case

 

Private Oliver Cromwell Case has two graves. At least, he has two gravestones in two different cemeteries. One is located in the Antietam Battlefield National Cemetery (photo above) and the other is in the Simsbury Cemetery [Memorial Gateway,Simsbury Cemetery Lot C-10] in his hometown of Simsbury, Connecticut(article, cemetery photo and recent photo of the gravestone are below). Where is he actually buried? Good question. I believe his remains were transferred to the Simsbury Cemeteryin December of 1862 by his father as his brother Alonzo recounted it after the war, but we cannot be completely certain. In the account Alonzo gives of finding Oliver’s body and burying him on the battlefield, he indicates that he and his brother Ariel pinned a paper identifying Oliver to his coat before he was buried in a temporary grave after the battle near Burnside’s Bridge.
 

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Vandals Topple Gravestones
June 2, 2004
By DON STACOM, Courant Staff Writer
SIMSBURY — The headstone for Union soldier Oliver Cromwell Case has stood over his grave at Simsbury Cemetery since 1862, when a grieving Job Case buried his 22-year-old son after the bloody Battle of Antietam. Now the marble monument lies face down in the dirt, toppled during the Memorial Day weekend in a vandalism spree at one of the town’s oldest burial grounds. Vandals knocked over 27 gravestones and shattered another one, doing thousands of dollars in damage. But the timing of the destruction infuriated local veterans, and dismayed townspeople who lined the sidewalks of Hopmeadow Street for the Memorial Day parade Monday. ‘It makes me sick that someone would do that. This was a soldier at Antietam. There’s no respect for people,’ said Evan Woollacott, commander of the town’s American Legion Post. Cemetery officials spotted the damage Monday afternoon as they prepared for a Memorial Day ceremony to dedicate a new flagpole on the hilly property. Several parade spectators walking back to their cars also noticed, said Jackson F. Eno, president of the Simsbury Cemetery Association. ‘It was disgusting. First we saw a couple of stones were knocked over and thought it was done by one jerky kid. Then we realized the magnitude and felt sicker,’ Eno said Tuesday. Police suspect the vandals randomly knocked down gravestones Sunday night or early Monday. Three detectives examined footprints and looked for other evidence Tuesday. Eno offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrests and convictions. The vandals broke some stones off their bases, and shattered one by prying it out of the ground and smashing it against a larger granite monument. Oliver Cromwell Case joined the Connecticut Volunteers Eighth Regiment, and was killed at Antietam in September 1862, according to documents at the cemetery and the historical society. In a letter, his brother Alonzo wrote of searching the battlefield with another brother, Ariel, for the body. ‘We found him lying dead,’ Alonzo Case wrote. ‘We got help and had him buried near the men of the 16th … His body remained here until Dec., when father went and had it brought to Simsbury for burial. Those were sad days for me.’ Simsbury police Sgt. Brian Cavanaugh is asking for tips. Det. Jim Polomsky can be reached at 860-658-3130.