To say this is in my wheelhouse is a bit of an understatement.
But still can’t wait to see this. C’mon down if you’re in the Columbus Area.
The group’s music is inoffensive and catchy enough, but that band name is anything but to anyone with a minor understanding of American history.
As a Yankee living in the Deep South, I am in heart of these issues. I was just in Savannah—it is beautiful beyond my vocabulary. I live in a house that was a plantation house—it’s a farmhouse, certainly not Tara—but my bedroom may have at one time been slave quarters. I don’t know. I do know that the land I live on was certainly tilled by slaves.
It is convenient for me to be passionate about my brevet captain and who he was; I am no fan of the Lost Cause, but I can be: my great-great-grandfather was on the right side of history. Maybe.
My grandfather, Robert’s grandson, never knew his grandfather. But he hated him. My grandfather was a pacifist to his core and knew Robert had been in a war before coming to America. He thought it was the Crimean War (it was the Anglo-Persian War), and considered Robert a mercenary—a ‘Hessian’ he called him. I think Robert was, like many young men born into the British Empire, a man who wanted to get off the farm (Robert was born near Belfast) and the Regular Army presented the easiest opportunity to do so. I certainly don’t think less of him for making the Army his vocation. It kept him out of factory and farm work.
How he ended up in Middlesex County Connecticut in the spring of 1861 remains a mystery to me—he was honorably discharged from Her Majesty’s Army in 1859—but had he gone, like many Ulster-Scots, to Savannah or Charleston instead of Hartford, he would have worn gray, not blue in the War.
My guess is that like a lot of Union soldiers, Robert had no love of Africans in America and didn’t sign up to fight to free slaves. My best guess is that he fought to become an American citizen (he was naturalized in the 1870s), and gain a foothold in the New World. After the War, he married a fellow 1st CT Heavy Artillery man’s sister, was a ‘Finisher of Saddler’s Tools’ (according to the Census of 1880 iirc) and eventually bought a farm near Middleton, Connecticut. He was clearly proud of his actions—he had multiple portraits made in uniform, went to many Army of the Potomac reunions, and had his tombstone inscribed with his rank and his unit.
I am proud of his service—he certainly helped defeat Lee in a small way—but I am not naive enough to think that he could have easily been part of the Confederacy and celebrated as one of the defenders of the Old South.
Unidentified Union Solider, c. Civil War. Source: Library of Congress
I can’t see the insignia. Is this Jon’s (several greats) Grandfather?
While a great photo, my guess is, based on the uniform, this man was in the cavalry, not the artillery like my great-great-grandfather.
The sword is also probably cavalry.
Wow, what a treasure. We have very little from Robert—nothing in his own hand, just some letters to him from Glasgow from his sister and brother in law asking for money while he is ‘living it up’ in Washington after Lee’s surrender, the family Bible kept by his wife and then daughter, his British Army enlistment papers, and his promotions up from private to captain in the Union Army.
The 1CT Heavies were around Washington much of the War, so lots got malaria and yellow fever, but when didn’t suffer many casualties as they were almost never used as infantry as their comrades the 2nd CT Heavies were at Cold Harbor where they were massacred in a series of more and more desperate and foolish charges.
As far as resources, the best for me was the incredible unit photo album assembled by Samuel Hatfield Proal and donated to Wesleyan—the 1CHA were assembled as the 4th CT Infantry there before being changed to the HA.
Other than that, several online sources including the Soldier-Sailor system and a book about the unit about the Siege Trains in the Army of the Potomac.
Got a reprint of the History of the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery by John Taylor and Samuel Proal Hatfield from 1893 today. It is glorious. Full of reprints of field reports, pictures, graphs and charts of what cannon, gun, mortar, and other field pieces were fired and how much ammunition spent.
It ends with a directory of all members of the unit as well as all the officers’ promotions.
My Brevet Captain is a minor player in this ‘play,’ but I’m mighty proud to have this record of his contribution to his adopted country.