Honoring the fallen

It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it,” are the words of General Robert E. Lee.

A famous military leader, he was the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, the main fighting force of the Confederacy during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. America paid a dear price for that war, with over 620,000 men lost from battle wounds and/or disease.

Even before the war’s end, women in the south began to decorate the graves of their beloved sons, husbands, and brothers with flowers. This is the root of “Decoration Day,” now known as “Memorial Day.” The name of the holiday was changed after World War I to honor all those killed in wars.

Tomorrow, Memorial Day, American citizens are asked to remember the men and women who made the “ultimate sacrifice,” meaning they died in service to our country. Sadly, there are seemingly countless names from the earliest founding of our nation to the present times.

This month marks the 150th anniversary of a tragic period during the Civil War in the months of May and early June of 1864.

Known as the Overland Campaign, Ulysses S. Grant was recently put in command of the Federal Army by Abraham Lincoln. Tired of leaders who retreated from battles or were slow to forge ahead, Grant’s charge was to continuously pursue Lee in a strategy of sorely depleting his resources of men and supplies, forcing an eventual surrender of the Confederacy. Unfortunately, this “attrition” strategy resulted in huge and painful losses of men on both sides with over 65,000 casualties, ranking among the bloodiest of the war.

To say that men suffered greatly is an understatement considering the battle scenes during this campaign in Virginia. Separated into three major engagements but with fighting throughout the month, the first is known as the “Wilderness” from May 5-7, 1864. The second is “Spotsylvania” from May 8-18, and the last as “Cold Harbor” from June 1-3. In the Wilderness battle, heavy gunfire set the dry underbrush on fire where wounded men choked and burned to death, too weak to crawl to safety. There were 17,000 casualties from just the Federal forces.

Continuing southward at a place called Spotsylvania Courthouse, several large-scale assaults caused another 18,000-plus casualties, as compared to fewer than 8,000 of the Confederate forces. One particular battle, known as the “Bloody Angle,” was the site where Union soldiers attempted to break through a weak spot in Lee’s line of trenches and fortifications. This resulted in hand-to-hand combat and slaughter. After 24 hours, the landscape was destroyed and men were strewn on the fields of battle. One of Grant’s aides described it as a ghastly scene with men still alive struggling to escape through the carnage. In most cases, help came too late.

Chautauqua County was not immune to hardships created by the Civil War. Many men served and many never came home. One loss from a rural community was difficult, but was made even worse when more and more families received the sad news of a loved one’s death. Memorial Day is an appropriate time to remember these men. Perhaps their individual names have not been spoken in 150 years. In their honor, some of the names from the first engagements of the Overland Campaign (Wilderness and Spotsylvania), are listed by towns.

Carroll: Thomas Brooks Wounded in action at Spotsylvania; died of wounds May 28, 1864. (49th NY Infantry).

Cherry Creek: Franklin Phillips Killed May 8, 1864 at Todd’s Tavern. (9th NY Cavalry).

Clymer: Elijah Shippee Killed May 12, 1864 at Spotsylvania. (49th NY Infantry) and Mortimer Tyler Killed May 12, 1864 at Spotsylvania. (49th NY Infantry).

Dunkirk: Peter Austria Wounded in action at Wilderness; died of wounds June 1, 1864 (72nd NY Infantry); Amos Bird Killed May 11, 1864 at Yellow Tavern. (9th NY Cavalry); Orrin Camp Killed May 24, 1864 near Hatcher. (112th NY Regiment); Nicholas Keoner Killed May 6, 1864 at Wilderness. (72nd NY Infantry) and August Schluter Killed May 12, 1864 at Spotsylvania. (72nd NY Infantry).

Ellicott: Michael O’Brian Wounded through the breast at Bermuda Hundred; died of wounds May 24, 1864. (112th NY Regiment) and Warren Ward Killed May 6, 1864 at Wilderness. (49th NY Infantry).

Ellington: Edward Shelters Wounded in action at Drury’s Bluff; died June 10, 1864. (112th NY Regiment).

Forestville: James Coonrod Killed May 5, 1864 at Wilderness. (49th NY Infantry); John Grisley Killed May 10, 1864 at Wilderness. (49th NY Infantry) and Lafayette Hunting Wounded in action at Spotsylvania; died June 3, 1864. (49th NY Infantry)

Fredonia/Pomfret: Thomas Anthorp Wounded in action at Spotsylvania; died June 21, 1864. (49th NY Infantry); Franklin Barker Wounded in action at Spotsylvania; died May 15, 1864. (49th NY Infantry); Jonas Conger Captured in action at Spotsylvania; died while prisoner September 16, 1864. (49th NY Infantry); William Doolittle Wounded in action at Spotsylvania; died May 16, 1864. (49th NY Infantry); Adam Foley Wounded in action at Wilderness; died May 8, 1864. (49th NY Infantry); Jerry Gobham Killed May 5, 1864 at Wilderness. (49th NY Infantry) and Arthur Newman Wounded in action at Wilderness; died June 23, 1864. (49th NY Infantry)

Jamestown: John Cameron Killed May 8, 1864 at Todd’s Tavern. (9th NY Cavalry); Gilbert Harris Killed May 12, 1864 at Bloody Angle. (49th NY Infantry); Orlando Hoover Missing in action, May 5, 1864 at Wilderness. (49th NY Infantry); Oscar Kimball Wounded in action at Spotsylvania; died May 12, 1864. (49th NY Infantry); Reuben Preston Killed May 6, 1864 at Wilderness. (49th NY Infantry); John Reinard Killed May 6, 1864 at Wilderness. (49th NY Infantry); Henry Valentine Killed May 6, 1864 at Wilderness. (49th NY Infantry); and Daniel Wilcox Killed May 12, 1864 at Spotsylvania. (49th NY Infantry).

Sheridan: Oscar Howard Wounded in action at Tavern and left in hands of enemy May 11, 1864; assumed dead. (9th NY Cavalry).

Sherman: Thomas Ore Killed May 12, 1864 at Bloody Angle. (49th NY Infantry).

Silver Creek/Hanover: Franklin Harrington Killed near Proctor’s Creek May 16, 1864. (112th NY Regiment).

Westfield: Milton Bacon Killed at North Anna River May 23, 1864. (72nd NY Infantry); Ezra Cook Wounded and captured at Todd’s Tavern; died May 8, 1864. (9th NY Cavalry); James Gady Wounded and captured at Wilderness; May 12, 1864. (49th NY Infantry) and Oscar Watts Wounded in action at Spotsylvania May 11, 1864; died of wounds. (72nd NY Infantry).

A more comprehensive list of men and women will be out soon in the third edition of the book called, “No One Forgets.” Co-authored by George Burns, John Fedyszyn, Richard Titus, and Ryan Deas, it will cover the Civil War through the Vietnam War.

Make it a good Memorial Day and week by thanking these and all men and woman who died while in service to their country. Consider attending the 28th Memorial Day Services at the Dunkirk Lighthouse Monday morning at 8:45 a.m. (before the Dunkirk parade) for a patriotic and solemn remembrance.

Next week:, The story of Cold Harbor where Grant was nicknamed “the butcher” will be told. I will give the sad list of more men from Chautauqua County who died in this part of the Overland Campaign.

Mary Burns Deas writes weekly for the OBSERVER, Comments may be directed to lifestyles@observertoday.com