After spending a comfortable Sunday afternoon perusing the various auction sites for 17th CVI-related artifacts I came across a couple of letters written by Rufus Tilbe up for auction. Tilbe was a member of Company E, having enlisted at the age 22 from Westport, CT. He was promoted to the rank of corporal just prior to Chancellorsville, and made it through both Chancellorsville and Gettysburg unscathed.
After the regiment was transferred to the Department of the South following Gettysburg, Tilbe fought in the various skirmishes in and around Charleston, SC. It was there that he received a wound to his right foot that was reported in the August 26, 1863 edition of the New York Times. Something went wrong with that wound, for sure, as he soon enough underwent an amputation of his right leg.
Tilbe would become one of 4 members of the regiment who would be awarded the Gilmore Medal. The Gilmore Medal?
Here’s a description of the medal, created and issued by Major General Quincy Gilmore, from the March 30, 1864 edition of the New York Times:
From the Palmetto Herald.
The Hilton Head and Beaufort papers of March 24, have the following items:
It will be remembered that after the reduction of Fort Wagner and the demolition of Fort Sumter, last Fall, Gen. GILLMORE announced that medals of honor would be presented to such enlisted men as had especially distinguished themselves by gallant conduct during the siege. They have been struck, and samples are already here, though the entire number will scarcely be ready for delivery sooner than two or three weeks. There are about five hundred candidates (500) for the honor, each of whom will have his name neatly engraved on the buckle to which the medal is attached. The medal itself is of bronze, about the size of the silver dollar of blessed memory, and bears
upon its obverse in bold relief, a very accurate representation of Fort Sumter at the termination of the first bombardment, taken from an original drawing by Mr. W.T. CRANE, with the legend “Fort Sumter, Aug. 23, 1863,” the whole encircled by a border of stars. Upon the reverse in this inscription, in raised letters: “For gallant and meritorious conduct. Presented by Q.A. GILLMORE, Major-General.” The name of Gen. GILLMORE is a fac simile of his autograph. The medals are beautiful in design, and are very neatly and carefully made. They come from the establishment of BALL, BLACK & Co., New-York City.
Besides Corporal Tilbe, the following soldiers from the 17th CVI were also awarded the Gilmore Medal:
Private Walter Jarmon – Company F
1st Sergeant Charles Smith, Jr. – Company G
Private Richard McGee, Jr. – Company K
As for Corporal Tilbe – he would transfer to the 128th Company, 2nd Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps in December 1863, until his discharge in July 1864. He died at age 80 in May 1920.
Thanks to AT&T, the email address for the site has needed to change. The good news is that the new address is easier to type. The bad news is that because I cannot access the old email at all means that all my contacts are gone with it. So – if you have emailed me and have NOT gotten a reply it is not because I am ignoring you. It is because I just can’t get back into the original email account I’ve used for a long, long time.
The new email address (don’t cut and paste it, you’ll need to remove ALL the spaces) is: 17th cvi @ gmail.com
So, unless you’ve left a comment with your email address I don’t have a way to recover my old list. There was something to be said about pre-computer days and a Rolodex!
Another letter from Stephen Wilcox written prior to the Battle of Chancellorsville was added to the site today. Thanks once more to Paul Keroack from the Norwalk History Room at the Norwalk (CT) Public Library for finding this letter and transcribing it for addition to the site.
It’s been a long summer with a lot of different things happening – all of which show by the lack of content posted since June. Hopefully the fall season will allow for more frequent updates and additional content. By the end of the day I expect that there will be some new material (as in letters and photographs) that have been provided by Eric Johnson and Paul Keroack – thanks to both for their contributions! So far, there are additional Ruscoe letters online as well as a postwar photograph, some photos from the later veterans reunions (1929, to be specific) and a great Gettysburg-content letter from Corporal Aaron Lee.
Hopefully this will be a fall and winter with regular updates – always made easier when there is new material to add coming in from you, the visitor!
What do the 17th Connecticut and the National Weather Service have in common?
Henry Eugene Williams.
Henry Williams was an 18-year-old teacher living in Bethel, CT when he enlisted as H. Eugene Williams in Company C of the 17th in July 1862 and mustered in as Corporal. Williams served throughout the war with the 17th, rising to the rank of 1st Lieutenant (although not mustered in as such) by the time he mustered out with the regiment 3 years later. Williams was captured at Chancellorsville. By the end of the war he often found himself in command of Company C while still a 1st Sergeant.
Following the end of the war, Williams stayed in uniform, enlisting in the Regular Army and remaining there until 1876. After leaving the Army, Williams enlisted in the US Army Signal Corps, where he was assigned to the new “Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce.” The mandate of the division, as stated by a Joint Resolution of Congress, was “…to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the States and Territories…and for giving notice on the northern (Great) lakes and on the seacoast by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms.”
As related in a summary of his career published by the War Department’s Office of the Chief Signal Officer upon Williams’ 1920 retirement, “…the greater portion of Mr. Williams’s tour of duty in the meteorological service was spent in the Forecast Division of the central office in Washington. While not himself a forecaster, being chiefly concerned with administrative matters in connection with the division, he had the unique experience of a close up view of the forecasting activities of the Army Signal Corps and the civilian organization the United States Weather Bureau that succeeded it in 1891. He was assistant chief of the Weather Bureau from July 1, 1903 to June 30, 1912.” This included a stint as an instructor at Fort Myer (then known as Fort Whipple and now known as Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall) during the 1880s, where Williams became well-known for the grey mule he commuted from Georgetown on each day.
Williams wrote a history of the Weather Bureau in 1916, as well as another volume titled “Temperatures Injurious to Food Products in Storage and During Transportation, and Methods of Protection from the Same” in 1896.
All told, Williams spent a combined 52 years and 4 months in military and civil service, 44 of which were spent in the Weather Service. He died on March 28, 1930 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 17, Grave 21639 – very near old Fort Myer, where he spent so many years in the service of his country. His gravestone carries his last confirmed rank from his Civil War service with the 17th CVI more than 60 years earlier.
Added a nice article from the July 8, 1884 Gettysburg Star and Sentinel regarding the dedication of the 17th CVI monument on Barlow’s Knoll. It is a nice compliment to the official publication put out by the veterans.
“Skull of Civil War soldier found at Gettysburg to be auctioned”
The short version of the story is that the skull was found near the “Benner’s Farm” in 1949 and it was expected to sell for $50,000 to $250,00o to a collector. Really? From Katie Lawhorn, the spokesperson for Gettysburg National Military Park – “very unfortunate.”
Assuming that the skull was found near the Josiah Benner farm – where 4 companies of the 17th CVI fought on July 1st and which served as a field hospital during the battle, and given the article’s description of the various Civil War artifacts found in close proximity to the skull, then it is not a stretch to imagine that the skull belonged to a soldier who fell during that portion of the battle. Not that this really mattered.
But – somewhere good taste, common sense and basic decency prevailed, because an hour ago the following story appeared in the online edition of the York (PA) Daily Record:
“Auction company says it will donate Gettysburg soldier’s remains”
Allegedly to the National Park Service. From the newer article:
“In the 20 years Lawhon has worked in Gettysburg, she’s never heard of soldier remains being for sale.
“In the past, there have been humans remains that have come into our possession,” she said.
The park doesn’t participate in archeological digs, as it believes all the battlegrounds are burial places for soldiers. The only exception would be if remains were disturbed, she said. In 1996, heavy rains along a railroad embankment disturbed human remains that were buried nearby, Lawhon said.
An expert from the Smithsonian Institute found lead splatter on the cranium of the young man, believed to have died in his 20s, she added.
He was buried on what they believe was the anniversary of his death based on what battles took place where he was found, Lawhon said.
“If we came into possession of the remains (in Hagerstown), we would do the same,” she said.
The sale of a Civil War soldier’s skull illustrates the need to preserve places such as Gettysburg, Lawhon said. The reason it was dedicated as a national park was to keep such things from happening.
“I think the right thing to do is get (the remains) to us,” she said, “and that’s what I hope happens.”
I recently came across the book published by the State of Connecticut to commemorate the dedication of the Connecticut monument at Andersonville, Georgia. The monument committee had originally planned on locating the monument on the grounds of the former prison camp itself, but, after visiting the National Cemetery, decided upon that place for the monument instead. The monument depicts a young Civil War soldier, meant to represent the common soldier.
On October 21, 1907 nearly 80 survivors of Andersonville from Connecticut regiments, along with family members and friends, boarded a train in New Haven for the trip back to Georgia. There, on October 23rd, the monument was dedicated. Due to some transportation problems, the monument was not actually in place until the following day, but concerns over the weather led to the dedication going forward anyway.
Although the majority of veterans in attendance were from the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (who had suffered greatly there after their capture at Plymouth, North Carolina), members of the 17th Connecticut made the trek as well.
By 1907, there were 18 surviving veterans from the 17th CVI who had been imprisoned at Andersonville. Looking at the list of those veterans, some showed Noroton Heights as their place of residence – Noroton Heights being the location of the Fitch Soldiers Home – and they were probably too frail to make the trip.
5 veterans did make the trip to Georgia to attend the dedication: former 1st Sergeant George Scofield, Sergeant Lewis Scofield, and Martin Cash of Company B; former Musician Frederick Wilmot of Company D; and former Corporal Seth Remington of Company H.
The photograph of those veterans, all survivors of Andersonville, was probably taken on October 24, 1907 after the monument was placed on the oft-traveled pedestal. And somewhere in that group are probably the 5 attendees from the 17th Connecticut.
There is one soldier from the 17th Connecticut listed as being buried in the National Cemetery there – Private Edward S. Hoyt. Hoyt, a 28-year-old sailor and a Darien resident, was captured along with nearly all of Company B at Welaka, Florida on May 19, 1864. He died at Andersonville on August 27, 1864 and is buried in Grave #6964.
Andersonville National Cemetery is one of 14 National Cemeteries adminsitered by the National Park Service and is still an active cemetery. The former prison camp is a National Historic Site and also home to the National Prisoner of War Museum. This year and next marks the 150th anniversary of Andersonville.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” – Abraham Lincoln
On Memorial Day, remember that the freedom we enjoy came at a great cost to so very, very many.