Cemetery Stories – in the words of George Washington Allen

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By Jackie Hemond from a script she wrote for the Suffield Historical Society’s Suffield Cemetery tour in October. All photos by the author.

Alexander King aka Randall Nelson

I was tall, 6 feet, 4 inches. I stood out in the crowd and maybe that’s why it was inevitable that I died at the Battle of Antietam. I was just too damn tall and too damn young. I was 35 and really unprepared for the onslaught of the battle. I was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1830 but I fought for the Union Army. In July 1862, I enlisted in Hartford with the 16th Regiment, Company D. Connecticut Infantry. Less than two months later, on September 16th, I was slaughtered with about 23,000 others, more than half of them Union soldiers. We were killed in a cornfield on John Otto’s farm. In our company, 43 men were killed and 161 were wounded. It was our first battle and our company had little training. We loaded our muskets for the first time the day before the battle. Perhaps it was better that I was killed that day. The soldiers in my regiment who stayed to fight and didn’t desert, and who also survived dysentery and Antietam were captured in 1864 and sent to the infamous Andersonville prison where 13,000 Union soldiers died. Maybe I was the lucky one.

I married Jane Doyle when I was 18. Jane was from Windsor; her father was one of the Irish Catholic laborers who helped build the Windsor Locks Canal. Jane and I had seven children, the youngest was two and a half months old when I was killed. I was a cigar maker.

Kaitlyn Webster presenting Civil War soldiers.

There were other Suffield men from my company who died at Antietam and are buried here. They are Private Henry Barnett and Corporal Horace Warner. Henry was also a cigar maker who was born in London in 1832. He and his wife Emily had two children, a boy and a girl. A third child was born four months after Henry died. His wife married a second time to Richard Jobes who was also in our Company. He was quite a bit older, 35, when he enlisted as a Corporal. He was wounded in the left forearm at Antietam. His forearm was amputated, and he was discharged for disability in 1864. He was a cigar maker, chicken farmer and a postmaster in Suffield. Emma bore him a son.

Rose MacNeeley presenting Mary Uzell and telling about Irish canal workers.

I know little about Horace, except that he was only 23 or 24.

After the battle, the men who died in our company were interred in the shade of a large tree near the cornfield. Adjutant John Burnham marked each of us with a headboard noting our name and company. He was very particular about the precise location of each body so that family members could retrieve and bury us in Connecticut. For that act of kindness, I am grateful.

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