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)