Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lt. Benjamin Bartlett - Died - August 22, 1863

Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photograph Collection
Today's post is dedicated to a Union soldier who died 150 years ago today, August 22, 1863: Lt. Benjamin Bartlett, 42nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
I've gained an affinity for Bartlett: he was born and raised more than 1800 miles from my house ...he was captured at the Battle of Galveston on January 1, months later he was buried less than an hour from my house.

The post below includes images of Bartlett and documents associated withhis military service, imprisonment, an death.  At the end of the post, you'll see an embedded YouTuve video put together by one of his descendants in his honor.

I first came across Lt. Bartlett when doing research a couple years back for my book, Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom (The History Press, 2012).  

One of my first steps to learn more myself was to order his Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR), held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); you can never be sure how full (or how slim) a CMSR is going to be until you look at it. In the case of Benjamin Bartlett, it is rather slim (but I've seen less!), containing just a summary card, a company muster-in roll card, a handful of muster roll cards, a "Casualty Sheet," and a "Memorandum for Prisoner of War Records."

Still, the seeming dearth of records is pretty easy to explain, owing 1) to his rather short enlistment; he was mustered in September 1862 and died in August 1863; and 2) fully eight of those eleven months were spent as a prisoner of war.

Fortunately, we can still flesh out the life and service of Bartlett and the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry from some other sources, including a published regimental history (1886) and an excellent widow's pension file, also held by NARA, but available for online viewing via my Fold3 subscription.

Bartlett - who, according to his wife, was "commonly called by his middle name, Frank" - then 24, was married to Hannah S. Bartlett (nee Goss), then 30, on May 20, 1855, in Roxbury, Massachusetts; their only child, Lizzie H. Bartlett, was born in 1861 and was only two years old when her father died.

The genesis and early history of the regiment is detailed in History of the Forty-Second Regiment Infantry Massachusetts Volunteers (1886) by Charles P. Bosson, once Sergeant-Major. You can read the regimental history at Google Books

"Frank" Bartlett mustered in to the 42nd Regiment, Massachusetts State Militia, Company I, in September 1862. The regiment was then mustered into Federal service as the 42nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in November 1862.

The regiment left Massachusetts for New York on November 11; sailed December 2 for New Orleans, La. (Cos. "D," "G" and "I") on the steamer "Saxon"; arrived at Ship Island December 14, and at New Orleans December 16. Companies "D," "G" and "I" again moved on the Steamer "Saxon" to Galveston, Texas, December 19-24, 1862. and occupied the city of Galveston on December 24.

The three companies were then involved in the Battle of Galveston, January 1, 1863, putting up a brave defense on Kuhn's Wharf, until their reluctant surrender.

Harper’s Weekly’s 1863 engraving of the fighting on Kuhn’s Wharf.

The soldiers in the 42nd were taken prisoner; the enlisted men were soon paroled but the officers spent time in Houston and Huntsville, TX, before being sent to Camp Groce, a POW camp in Hempstead, TX, not far from my home in the north Houston suburbs.

It was at Camp Groce that Lt. Bartlett - along with many other Union soldiers, sailors, and Marines held there - died.

While his CMSR is rather sparse, his wife Hannah's widow's pension record is full of interesting paperwork, including handwritten affidavits that give some detail on Lt. Bartlett's final days:

"...we had been here [Camp Groce] about two weeks when Lieut. Bartlett was attacked with dysentery brought on by exposure, insufficient quarters, and the want of proper medicine...that he was sick about four weeks...sometimes he would be better then relapse again until the day of his death which was August 22, 1863...I was with him when he died and took care of him,,,his body was buried at Hempstead, Tex." - Josiah A. Hannum, U. S. Navy, May 11, 1864.

Last month, at the monthly meeting of our local The Woodlands (TX) Civil War Round Table, we heard an exceptional presentation given by Danial F. Lisarelli, who has written exceptional book about Camp Groce, The Last Prison.  I'll do a proper book review in a future post but I highly recommend it!

About a week before his lecture, I went to Hempstead and visited the state historical marker there for the site of the Union POW cemetery...the site was plowed over in the mid-1900s...Frank Bartlett is still out there, somewhere...

Photo by James M. Schmidt

Photo by James M. Schmidt

Marker Text:

Several Confederate military facilities were positioned near Hempstead (2.5 mi. w), an important railroad junction, during the Civil War. Camp Groce (then about 6 mi. e) was a prisoner-of-war stockade established on the plantation of Leonard Waller Groce (1806-1873). Union Army prisoners who died at various camps were buried hear this site on the McDade Plantation, adjacent to the McDade family cemetery (about 25 yds. ne). The cemeteries were near a narrow gauge spur off the "Austin Branch" of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, built from Houston in 1858. A yellow fever epidemic in 1864 resulted in many deaths at Camp Groce and other camps, chronicled by Aaron T. Sutton (1841-1927). a Union prisoner in Company B, 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Sutton noted in his journal the presence of more than 100 fresh graves here soon after his arrival at Camp Groce in 1864. Sutton later escaped from the stockade and made his way to Beaumont (115 mi. e) on foot. Crude crosses made of cedar limbs marked the prisoners' graves through the early 1900s, according to local residents. But the stream-fed woodland was cleared in the 1940s for pasture land, and all surface evidence of the cemetery was lost.

Lt. Bartlett, Rest in Peace.

As promised above, below is a short YouTube video prepared by Pamela Caliandro, a descendant of Lt. Bartlett.  Her description:

"This video uses photos from his family album from 1855-1863. We hope you enjoy them. It also honors Ebenezer Nimrod Bartlett and his 15 yr old son, who both died while serving in 6th Light Artillery Battery from Lowell Massachusetts. They were both killed during the Battle of New Orleans."


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