Exploring The Last Green Valley – Memorial Day: Remembering the Andersonville Nine at Yantic Cemetery
Exploring The Last Green Valley, Memorial Day: Remembering the Andersonville Nine at Yantic Cemetery
As Memorial Day approaches, it is time to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This Monday, many towns in The Last Green Valley will hold parades and remembrances and place flags on the graves of those who died fighting for our country.
During the days leading up to and following Memorial Day, I am always pleased to see the final resting places of our region’s war dead and veterans decorated with new flags. It is humbling to see the new flags waving in the breeze — a silent reminder to honor their passing.
A few months ago my colleague Marcy shared with me a book she has purchased called Stories from Yantic Cemetery, written by Melodye A. Whatley. The stories of more than 100 fascinating people are included in this interesting book and I recognized many well-known Norwich names as I read through the entries and learned more about the life they led.
Melodye’s book has a chapter devoted to the Civil War with entries for 16 of those buried in Yantic Cemetery that died or served in the War. One story that really drew me in is about the graves referred to as the Andersonville Nine. I share it with you today as we remember all who served.
Melodye learned about these soldiers from Vic Butsch and the Civil War Round Table and local historian Rick Kane. In 2014, Melodye attended a talk that Rick gave about Norwich soldiers imprisoned at Andersonville. With his cooperation and encouragement, she added information about them in her book.
Andersonville, Georgia, was the location of the largest Confederate military prison during the Civil War. It was called Camp Sumter, though it came to be known simply as Andersonville. During the 14 months the camp existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned and almost 13,000 died, mostly of malnutrition and disease. Today it is a National Historic Site and memorial to all American prisoners of war throughout our nation’s history.
“At the end of the Civil War, there was a concerted effort by the city of Norwich to retrieve our war dead from the horrific prisoner-of-war camp, Andersonville Prison located in Georgia. There were sixteen soldiers from Norwich that died in Andersonville, but only nine could be positively identified. On February 1, 1866, the town turned out for the memorial service held downtown and a procession was made to the Yantic Cemetery.”
“George W. Smith was the man chosen from Norwich to travel to Georgia to retrieve the bodies of the soldiers. His story in included [in the book], as well as the life stories of the nine.”
“Although a couple of these soldiers are buried with their families in family plots … most are buried in the Soldier’s Circle, which is located in Section 67. The section is easily recognized by the flagpole in the middle, next to the cannon, and surrounded by concentric circles of memorial stones from that war as well as other wars.”
Melodye Whatley, Stories from Yantic Cemetery
The Andersonville Nine listed in Melodye’s book include:
- Edward Blumley lived in the Greenville section of Norwich. He enlisted September 26, 1861, and served in the 8th Connecticut Volunteers, Company D. He was captured at Petersburg Railroad, Walthall Junction, Virginia on May 7, 1864, and died on October 6, 1864 in Andersonville Prison at the age of 39.
- Henry F. Champlain enlisted in Company F of the 10th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers on October 1, 1861. He was captured while on picket duty near St. Augustine, Florida and died on August 11, 1864 at the age of 20. He was brought back to Norwich with the others from Andersonville Prison.
- William Davis served in the 1st Connecticut Calvary and was captured at Craig’s Church, Virginia in May of 1864. He died in Andersonville on August 30, 1864.
- Sylvanus Downer, Eighteenth Regiment of the Connecticut Volunteers, died at Andersonville Prison on November 5, 1864 at the age of 44. He had been the chief engineer of the Norwich Fire Department. He is not buried in the Soldier’s Circle but is buried with his wife Emma in Section 81.
- William G. Hayward enlisted and served as a mechanic with the 18th Connecticut Volunteers. He died at Andersonville Prison on September 8, 1864 at the age of 34.
- James S. McDavid enlisted as a private in Company K, 1st Connecticut Calvary. He died in Andersonville in August of 1864 at the age of 17.
- Edward F. Tisdale was only 15 years old when he enlisted in November of 1861 in the 9th Connecticut Volunteers and served in Company H. He was discharged in October due to a disability but enlisted again in the 1st Connecticut Calvary. He died at Andersonville Prison on September 23rd, 1864 at the age of 18.
- George W. Ward joined the 18th Connecticut Volunteers and served in Company C and died at Andersonville Prison. He is not buried in the Soldier’s Circle in the Yantic Cemetery and is buried in the Ward family plot in the Norwich Oak Street Cemetery.
- Joseph H. Winship enlisted in the 18th Connecticut Volunteers and served as a clerk. He was captured after the battle of Winchester, Virginia, when he had been left behind to care for the sick and wounded. He died in Andersonville Prison on March 5, 1864. He is not buried in the Soldier’s Circle and is buried in the Winship family plot in Section 76.
You can purchase Stories from The Yantic Cemetery through a local website called New London Librarium at NNLibrarium.com, at Small Potatoes on Otrobando Ave. in Norwich, and at Backus Hospital Gift Shop. It can also be found on Amazon.com.
I hope you’ll take part in one of The Last Green Valley town’s remembrances on Memorial Day. Many people from our region served in our country’s wars. Please take a moment on Monday to thank them for their service and sacrifice.
The history of the Andersonville Nine and the efforts of the City of Norwich to bring them home is one we should all remember. It is but one of the many stories here in The Last Green Valley that we should remember, share, and pass on to the next generation.
I hope you enjoy Memorial Day weekend and remember why we celebrate this national holiday.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the preceding article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work
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