Family Matters – Sergeant John W. Loomis

Family Matters – Sergeant John W. Loomis

Hartford clerk John W. Loomis could not have imagined the horrors of war that were to come when he mustered in as a Quarter Master Sergeant of Co. D, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. And even though he lost his Sergeant stripes in February of 1863 “for using too much whiskey,” (and was promoted back to Sergeant in October of the same year) his valor while a prisoner merits our remembrance.

Loomis and his cousin Corporal William T. Loomis (Co. D) were captured along with most of the 16th Connecticut in Plymouth, SC on April 24, 1864 and sent to Andersonville Prison.  General Sherman’s march through Georgia compelled the Confederates to move most of the Andersonville population to Charleston. Ill with scurvy, Sgt. Loomis could not endure the march from the stockade to the railroad depot and was forced to turn back. Ten days later Loomis, along with fellow 16th Connecticut comrades Ira E. Forbes, 1st Sgt. Oliver W. Gates and Sgt. Lyman Colburn, were sent to Americus, GA and later to the Confederate prison at Florence, SC.

Shortly after Thanksgiving 1864, John Loomis was fortunate enough to secure a place in a group of prisoners to be sent to Savannah for exchange. Without hesitation, John Loomis gave his place up to his cousin William who was gravely ill and not expected to live much longer. John Loomis would not be released from Florence for another three months.

Postscript: John Loomis returned to Hartford and was employed as a clerk for the Aetna Life Insurance Company for forty-six years. He died at the age of 82 on January 3, 1919 at his West Hartford home and is buried in his family’s lot in Old North Cemetery.

William T. Loomis returned to Connecticut for a few weeks furlough after his release from Florence prison. Returning to his regiment, he was on board the steamship Massachusetts on the Potomac River when it was rammed by the steamship Black Diamond on April 24, 1865. He was among the approximately seventy passengers, most of them soldiers, who perished.


George Q. Whitney Civil War Collection, Connecticut State Library, Record Group 69:23, Box 8.

John W. Loomis Dead At Age 82. Hartford Courant, June 6, 1919, pg. 9.

Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the Army and Navy of the United States during the War of the Rebellion (Hartford: The Case, Lockwood and Brainard Company, 1889)

Photograph: Andersonville Prison circa 1865 (Library of Congress photograph)

A Monument to the Knightly Soldier

A Monument to the Knightly Soldier

Along with Griffin Stedman, Major Henry Camp was one of the golden boys of Hartford who would be venerated as a martyr to the Union cause after the Civil War. Extremely well liked, handsome and devout, Camp’s life and death on the field was memorialized by his best friend in the 10th Connecticut Infantry, Chaplain H. Clay Trumbull in the biography The Knightly Soldier.

Killed in the battle of Darbytown Road, VA on October 13, 1864, Camp was originally laid to rest in Spring Grove Cemetery. His remains were re-interred on October 12, 1868 in Cedar Hill Cemetery beneath the polished Scotch granite monument fashioned in James Batterson’s monument workshop on North Main Street. While not as elaborate as Griffin Stedman’s sarcophagus, the Camp monument stands out amidst the field of white marble and grey granite gravestones.

Camp, Henry Cedar Hill monument eagle detail cropped compressedThe striking bronze details describe Camp’s military service. The eagle on the east side of the stone is surrounded with a wreath of victor’s laurels. In its talons it grasps a major’s shoulder strap. Beneath this is the cap ornament of an infantry officer, the bugle enclosing the number 10 representing the 10th CT Infantry. The ribbons hanging below display the badges of the 18th (on the left) and the 10th Army Corps.

On both the north and south sides of the monument, Batterson placedCamp, Henry  Cedar Hill monument south detail bronzed swords, created in realistic detail even down to the worn tip of the scabbard caused from being dragged on the ground in active service. The swords are entwined with the drapery of an officer’s sash.

The Hartford Courant, in an article describing the monument and announcing to its readers that the monument was available for viewing at Batterson’s establishment, aptly said that “The monument . . . will be another of the educators for the community, to teach that patriotism and devotion to duty are remembered and honored by survivors are the fallen heroes.”

“Monument to Major Camp.” Hartford Courant, August 6, 1868, pg. 2
Cedar Hill Cemetery burial records

Separate Not Equal

Separate Not Equal

Cemeteries are the biography sections of the cities and towns they are located in. And the locations and styles of grave monuments (or lack thereof) belonging to the dead more often than not reflect their social standing much like the location and architecture of the homes they lived in. There can be no doubt that the Battersons and the Beachs and the Colts resting in Section 2 of Cedar Hill Cemetery were wealthy citizens of Hartford. The dead resting in the unmarked graves in the town section of Old North Cemetery led humble lives and received humble burials.

In May of 1863, black men were allowed to serve in state and federal regiments but were formed into segregated units led by white officers. Upon their return to Hartford in November of 1865, they received a welcome that rivaled those that other white regiments had received. But even though their service was acknowledged to be on par with their white comrades, they returned to a society little changed save the abolition of slavery. As Governor Buckingham acknowledged in his welcoming address to them:

1865 Buckinghams address to returning 29th Regiment

(from “Reception of Colored Regiments,” Hartford Courant Nov 25 1865)

The burial sites of Hartford’s Civil War veterans also reflect the times they lived in. The citizens of Hartford erected an elaborate monument in Old North Cemetery to honor the Weld brothers, one of whom, Lewis Ledyard, was Lt. Colonel of the 41st United State Colored Infantry. Forty-six enlisted who served in Connecticut, Massachusetts and United States Colored infantries were laid to rest in segregated sections well west of the Weld gravesite. African-American veterans were limited to burials in Sections 5 and W at Spring Grove Cemetery. No enlisted colored troops are buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Gravesite Button & Washington

Gravesite Button & Washington

But in one of Hartford’s cemeteries, Zion Hill, African-American veterans were laid to rest side-by-side with their white comrades. Two burial plots in Zion Hill were designated “GAR lots” and the Grand Army of the Republic was the first integrated society in the United States. And even though families of color were discouraged from seeking burial in Zion Hill Cemetery prior to 1911, the GAR broke the color barrier in the 1880’s. And so it is that Edward Button, Co. A, 22nd CT Infantry was laid to rest next to George Washington, Co. C, 31st US Colored Troops and Charles Barnes, Co. C, 29th CT Colored Infantry lies next to Ferdinand Hauf, Co. A, 1st CT Calvary.


Silent Sentinels – Civil War Headstones

Alexandria National Cemetery 1862-1869 Andrew Russell photographer (attributed) Library of Congress

Alexandria National Cemetery 1862-1869 Andrew Russell photographer (attributed) Library of Congress

In the time I have spent searching through the Hartford cemeteries my eyes have become trained to pick out the distinctive “Civil War Headstones” marking the resting places of so many of the Hartford veterans. With few exceptions, these silent sentinels stand as erect and true as the day they were installed.

The U.S. War Department initially provided wooden headboards (see photo left) for the graves of the Union dead whose remains were removed from the battlefields and reinterred in the ever-expanding national military cemeteries. Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs – whose boundless resentment over fellow West Pointer Robert E. Lee’s betrayal of his country resulted in his seizing Lee’s estate for Arlington Cemetery – lobbied hard for permanent, durable gravestones. But it was not until 1872 that the War Department adopted the slab marble design with the rounded top for the gravesites of the identified dead buried in the national cemeteries. [1]

In 1879 Congress, undoubtedly yielding to pressure from the members of the ever- growing Grand Army of the Republic, authorized the furnishing of stones for veterans buried in private cemeteries. [2]

The D. W. Whitney Company of Troy, NY was hired to provide the stones for many states including Connecticut. [3] Their work proved unsatisfactory and in 1881 the D. L. Kemp Company of East Dorset, VT was contracted to complete the work.[4]

In 1882, the Connecticut General Assembly authorized funding for the State Quartermaster General to provide and supervise the installation of headstones for Union veterans buried in the state. The first contract was awarded to the Bridgeport Monument Company [5] who manufactured monuments made of “white bronze” (zinc). 193 of these stones were furnished until Quartermaster General Arthur Goodrich, displeased with the quality of the zinc monument, issued a request for proposals in May of 1885 for the manufacture and installation of headstones

to be of the best quality of American white marble, each stone to be not less than 5 feet 6 inches long, 1 foot 4 inches wide and four inches thick, and to stand 2 feet 6 inches above ground. That portion of the stone which will be above ground, when set (2 feet 6 inches) to be sand-rubbed; the top of the stone to be curved (convex). [6]

Hartford’s own Stephen Maslen won the bid and was paid $14.50 for each gravestone, including the setting at the gravesite. [7]

Thanks to the foresight of General Meigs, the rigid specifications of QM Goodrich, and the workmanship of Stephen Maslen, these grave markers have survived the vandalism inflicted in many cemeteries; and those with little means – like Private William Murphy – rest in marked graves, recognizable and identifiable 150 years later.

Private William Murphy, Co. F, 1st CT Heavy Artillery, Old North Cemetery

Private William Murphy, Co. F, 1st CT Heavy Artillery, Old North Cemetery


[1]National Cemetery Association, “History of Government Furnished Headstones and Markers” accessed Jul 1 2013

[2] Ibid.

[3]”Headstones for Soldiers’ Graves: Failure of the Government Contractor.” Hartford Courant, November 11, 1881, p. 2.

[4] Ibid.

[5] For more about the Bridgeport Monument Company see Rotundo, Barbara “Monumental Bronze: A Representative American Company.” Cemeteries & Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture. Ed. Richard E. Meyer. (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1992) p. 263-291.

[6] “Proposals for Soldier’s Headstones.” Hartford Courant, May 23, 1885, p. 2.

[7] Record of Headstones for Civil War Veterans, 1882-1888, Record Group 13, Item 14, Connecticut State Library.