Burkittsville, MD: The Aftermath of Crampton's Gap September 1862

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
6,189
1561953345975.png

"It is my painful task to announce to you the death of your brave and interesting son, Benjamin Mell. You have perhaps heard that he was wounded in the battle of Crampton Gap, which was fought on the 14th of September, on a mountain pass...." Sgt. Benjamin Mell, Company D, Cobb's Legion was mortally wounded and died at the home of T. S. Lee at Petersville, MD. It would be nearly four years before Patrick Hues Mell would finally answer the heartfelt letter from young Miss Lee. Some sorrows are assuaged by silence.

20 October 1862

My Dear Sir:

It is my painful task to announce to you the death of your brave and interesting son, Benjamin Mell. You have perhaps heard that he was wounded in the battle of Crampton Gap, which was fought on the 14th of September [1862], on a mountain pass about three miles from the house of my father, Mr. T. S. Lee. He was taken to Burketsville (a village close by) by the Federal authorities, where he remained under the care of the Federal surgeons for about a week and was very kindly treated by them.

My father then obtained permission to remove him to our house. You may feel assured, my dear sir, that he received every care and attention that it was in our power to bestow. He was attended daily by two excellent physicians. My parents, my brothers and myself nursed him day and night, but unfortunately our care was unavailing to preserve his life.

The wound which terminated his life, struck his arm and passed from that into his side and around his back. His sufferings were very great, but he bore them with the utmost patience and fortitude, not the slightest murmur or complaint ever escaped him. He seemed to be most grateful for any little kindness or attention that was in our power to bestow. His great desire was to see his dear father and sisters and brothers of whom he often spoke with great affection, and to whom he desired me to send his tender love. He was perfectly resigned to die and he felt he was prepared. He read his Bible very often and said to my mother and myself that he prayed always.

He said he wished his coat to be sent to you, that his father might see where he had been wounded, and that he had not disgraced his dear father, but had behaved bravely. He expired on Monday, the 20th of October, about eleven o'clock a.m., and was buried the next day in the churchyard of the Episcopal Church in this neighborhood. The Rev. Mr. Trapnell performed the service over his remains. His name is marked on the headpiece above his grave so that it can be recognized hereafter.

We have no opportunity of sending you his clothes and the other little articles which he had about him, but they shall be carefully preserved to deliver to you at some future time, but I enclose to you a lock of his hair. I will keep a part of the hair for fear that this letter should miscarry. We shall be most happy, dear sir, to see you at any time, and if there is any thing that I have unintentionally forgotten to mention about your son only let me know and I shall be most happy to inform you. We feel great sympathy for you in the loss of your brave and interesting son.

Yours most respectfully.
Mary D. Lee
1561955776326.png

Saint Marks Apostolic Church Cemetery, Petersville, MD.
1561955844949.png

Image by Jen Snoots at FindAGrave
Inscription:
Of Athens, Ga. Wounded at Crampton's Gap, Sept. 14, 1862, died Oct. 21, 1862, aged 21 years.
He died as he had lived, a Christian. Fond hearts will always mourn his loss.

Sources:
Thanks to @Brian Downey for providing the link to the book containing the letters.
Portrait of Benjamin Mell also provided by @Brian Downey 's Antietam on the Web http://antietam.aotw.org/officers.php?officer_id=4346
Letter from Life of Patrick Hues Mell, P. H. Mell, Baptist Book Concern, Louisville, KY, 1895. pp. 140-141. https://archive.org/details/lifeofpatrickhue00mell/page/140
Find-A-Grave memorial Benjamin Mell https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/28534356/benjamin-mell
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,742
Location
Hannover, Germany
What a sad story! It must have been a consolation for his family that Benjamin was cared for to the last and had affectionate people around him, plus medical care from two doctors. But having read about the medical aspect, I think nothing could have saved him at that time.
I always marvel at those people back then, how much they suffered without complaining. I'm whining about my hurting knee and that young man suffered undescribable pain and still read the Bible and did not despair, but prepared himself for the next world.
Thanks for the Find a Grave link, I left him some flowers. Brave Benjamin Mell has more than deserved every bit of attention.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
6,189
1561988792851.png

Miss Mary D Lee (the writer of the letter) was the granddaughter of Thomas Sim Lee, a Maryland patriot colonel of militia who served as governor of Maryland from 1777 - 1782 and 1792-1794; in the Continental Congress 1783-1784; and as a member of the State convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Mary's father was named after the patriot governor, but he went by "T S Lee" to ensure there was no confusion. Thomas Sim Lee purchased a 1500 acre property in Frederick County MD and called it "Needwood." The governor died at Needwood in 1819 and the house went to Mary's father. The original house is still there - the one where Benjamin Mell died. The house received a makeover in 1870. With the addition of the tower in front and a 3rd floor, it would probably be unrecognizable to Benjamin Mell if he saw it today.
Image source: https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/Frederick/F-2-63.pdf p. 23.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
6,189
It would be nearly four years before Patrick Hues Mell would finally answer the heartfelt letter from young Miss Lee. Some sorrows are assuaged by silence.
1562030433437.png

https://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/topics/people/article/educators/patrick-hues-mell

In June of 1866, Rev. Dr. Patrick Hues Mell, the father of Benjamin Mell the subject of this sketch; Vice-Chancellor of the University of Georgia; and President of the Southern Baptist Convention, sat down to write the reply that he had postponed for forty-four months:

University of Georgia
Athens, June 13th, 1866

My Dear Miss Lee:

Your kind letter of the 20th October, 1862, reached me, I cannot say how. It came to hand after a long delay, and was delivered to me by the Engineer of the railroad here, who received it from a passenger on a connecting line, he knew not whom. It had been preceded by a letter from Dr. West*, which reached me in a way alike undefinable.

This letter arrived while I was absent in Virginia making fruitless efforts to get access to the bedside of my wounded boy. The tidings had reached here, with all the appearance of authenticity, that he had died on the field of battle, and I did not learn to the contrary until the return of Captain Camack four weeks after. God knows how my heart yearned towards my son, and what strenuous efforts I made to get to his side. He was the pride of my heart. But the will of the Lord be done!

I did not learn of his death until I returned from Virginia; and ever since, I have been living under the shadow of a great sorrow.... I have long desired to write you and express to you and your father's family my deep gratitude for your kindness to my noble boy. First the progress of the war prevented; then the want of mail facilities here, and finally when this want was removed, my poor heart, longing as it was to unburden itself of expression of the gratitude it felt, sunk at the idea of recurring to a loss so irreparable; and shrunk from a task which necessarily filled it with unutterable anguish. Some sorrows are assuaged by silence.

The arrival through Dr. Fuller of the little relics of my son, preserved and forwarded by you, however, chides my delay, and demands that I should nerve myself for the task. I thank God for the evidence that my boy did his duty; that he bore his sufferings with manly fortitude; and that he died in the hope of immortality. It is no small consolation too to know that he did not find an indiscriminate grave on the field of carnage; but that kind hands closed his eyes and sympathizing hearts followed him to a Christian burial, and perhaps dropped a tear, (ah me!) over his premature grave. Perhaps I shall recover pecuniary resources time enough to remove his body; but if not, the Archangel's trump will awake him as easily under the hospitable sod of Maryland as though he was sleeping by the side of his sainted mother here.

Be pleased to present my gratitude to Dr. West and the other physicians who attended him in his illness, and be assured, my dear Miss Lee, that I shall ever retain you and your father's family in grateful and affectionate remembrance.

Praying God's blessings on you and yours, I remain,
Yours with gratitude,
P. H. Mell

*Dr. George Washington West (1803 - 18 August 1888) https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/150822175/george-washington-west
Dr. West was a local civilian Burkittsville/Petersville, Maryland physician who tended wounded after the Battle of South Mountain. He set up a makeshift hospital at the old Methodist Episcopal Church building in Petersville.
1562030317588.png

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/archives/m-e-church-in-petersville-on-county-s-historic-register/article_3bc12423-42ee-549d-af70-a6a6893dce83.html
Letter from Life of Patrick Hues Mell, P. H. Mell, Baptist Book Concern, Louisville, KY, 1895. pp. 141-142. https://archive.org/details/lifeofpatrickhue00mell/page/142
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
6,189
Louis Steiner was the US Sanitary Commission's Medical Director for the region, and had his office nearby at Frederick, Maryland. Some correspondence survives in his papers. Two days after the Battle of Antietam, H. A. Dubois* Assistant Surgeon, US Army, in charge of the field hospitals at Burkittsville, wrote to Steiner:

"I am in charge of 600 wounded and sick at this place [Burkittsville], I have used all my bandages and medicines and have been able to obtain only 350 rations during the 4 or 5 days that I have had charge of this place. If you have medical stores I should be very glad to get bandages, as many as possible, lint, old linen, salt, quinine and any other things that you may have. Morphia." [Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War, Margaret Humphreys, JHU Press, 2013.]

<Morphia, apparently included as an addition to Dr. Dubois' letter, refers to morphine which must have been badly needed for DuBois' 600 patients.>

*It's not entirely clear if this Dr. H. A. Dubois was Henry Augustus Dubois (b. 1800) or his son, Henry A. Dubois (b. 1840) - both were physicians. But, either way, they were of a prominent New York family. The elder Henry A Dubois was the grandson of John Jay, first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Messages
19,175
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I'm not sure it wouldn't finish you off getting the blood stained clothing. It was sent at the request of the dying man so had to be done but can you imagine?

600,000. The pain so apparent in this letter illustrates war at it's core. This letter times 600,000 individual stories during the ACW alone. Then there was another war and another and another. We don't learn swiftly.
 

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
6,189
In August 1862, about a month prior to the Battle of Crampton's Gap, at the age of 42, Daniel Morse Holt was appointed Assistant Surgeon of the newly formed 121st New York. He was the oldest member of the staff.
1562440033980.png

Two days after the battle, in this letter dated Sept. 16, 1862, Holt writes to his wife....
"Louisa, I have seen what I never once expected I should see - a battlefield - a field of blood and carnage - a field where brother met brother - where the closest ties of consanguinity and blood are forgotten. When the evil passions of men are let loose and hellish deeds of cruelty are perpetrated - where blind with rage and maddened with pain, men forget their God and die blasphemer." <entire letter transcribed below>

Headquarters, 121st Regt New York
Vols. Crampton's Gap, Md.
September 16, 1862

My dear Wife:

When I last wrote you we were on the march, and so we are now. Yesterday morning we reached this place (on the crest of a mountain pass eight miles from Harper's Ferry, one from Burkittsville, and about four from Jefferson.) The position was occupied by a brief but bloody conflict. By nature, no site is better provided as a means of offense or defense than this. The enemy had planted upon its heights and in the gorge; a battery of Artillery [the Troup Artillery; they had 2 cannons] and a large force of infantry [@1500 muskets total] occupied the sloping hill sides. From their position they were able to shell us at pleasure which they did, without our being able effectually to answer on account of their elevated position; and in order to join Burnside and Sumner who were at Antietam four miles in advance, it was necessary to carry the gap and hold it, which was done in gallant style. General Slocum who commanded the Division and General [Joseph J.] Bartlett* who commanded the Brigade, effected it in about three fourths of an hour. The 96th Pennsylvania and 5th Maine were deployed as skirmishers but failed to find the graybacks,** when General Slocum, who was sitting close by where I was lying, sprang into his saddle and calling upon his old regiment (the 27th New York) soon gave notice that the ball had fairly opened.

Column after column charged up the rocky declivity and the rattle of musketry which followed too plainly told that the Angel of Death was abroad in the land. In this engagement, we lost 250 killed and the usual proportion of wounded. [Actual reported Union casualties were 113 killed; 418 wounded; 2 captured.] The loss of the enemy was much greater both in killed and wounded. The exact number on either side is not known owing to the consequent confusion and excitement attendant upon such a struggle. We have captured at least 800 prisoners [actual reported at 400] and one gun which had been dealing death and destruction among our gallant boys....Generals Slocum and Bartlett, under whose immediate control we are, are gentlemen as well as soldiers....

Louisa, I have seen what I never once expected I should see - a battlefield - a field of blood and carnage - a field where brother met brother - where the closest ties of consanguinity and blood are forgotten. When the evil passions of men are let loose and hellish deeds of cruelty are perpetrated - where blind with rage and maddened with pain, men forget their God and die blasphemer.

Oh! the terrible sight which met our eyes on the morning after that short and terrible conflict as we marched up those rugged steeps! (for we lay the night of the engagement on the South side of the mountain.) First in the road, lay a dead horse, his Federal rider having been killed and removed to the rear shortly after the engagement, then knapsacks, canteens, cartrage [sic] boxes, and accoutrements of all kinds strewed the ground. Shortly a rebel with his brains blown out, arms extended, and eyes protruding from their sockets – still on, others in all manner of positions -- some not yet dead but gasping the few remaining breaths away in utter unconsciousness of surrounding circumstances – others mortally wounded calling for water, knowing that eternity was separated only by a hair’s breadth with thoughts of the far distant home in the South on their minds and the loved ones at home clustering around his dying – pillow—did I say, ah no! mother earth to which he soon will be consigned his only pillow now.

Let his ears be jarred no more by booming cannon and rattling small arms, but let the heavenly choir as he is about to enter the portals of the tomb, enchant his departing spirit. No more let vengeance follow our misguided brother now he is going where loyal men and Rebels one are alike before a just and loving God. Surely this is no time to think of aught but mercy. Let not my passionate temper lead me to unfeeling hardship toward a fallen foe. <to be continued>

* Although Holt refers to Joseph J Bartlett as "General," he was not officially promoted to Brigadier until October 4, 1862.
** emphasis as in original
[A Surgeon's Civil War: The Letters and Diary of Daniel M. Holt, M.D., Daniel M. Holt., Kent State University Press, 1994., pp. 18-20.]
 
Last edited:

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
6,189
1563339074254.png

Dr. Henry Janes, Surgeon, 3rd Vermont Infantry. He operated on Sgt Henry Clay Brown after he was wounded at Crampton's Gap. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/14502426/henry-janes

Sgt Henry Clay Brown (B/Cobb's Legion) August 1, 1861, at the age of 17, Brown enlisted in the "Bowden Volunteers" which became Company B of Cobb's Legion (GA.) He was seriously wounded September 14, 1862, during the battle of Crampton's Gap. His leg was amputated at the thigh by US Surgeon Dr. Jaynes of the 3rd Vermont Infantry. In 1867, Brown relayed the story of his wounding and subsequent medical care as follows:

We remained in line about five minutes, during which time about one-third of our number was either killed or wounded. Quickly every man sought shelter for himself behind a tree. So completely protected was the enemy that Sergeant Brown was compelled to reserve his fire and await an opportunity. Several had sought shelter behind the same tree, and it was soon observed that the largest trees afforded no protection, even to those who were immediately behind them.
Taking position some distance from the nearest tree and resting upon the right knee, three balls were observed to strike a stone hard by, nearly at right angles to each other. Attention was immediately directed to the right where the enemy were distinctly seen. While thus kneeling the gun of Sergeant Brown became clogged, and rising to his feet to force the ball down, he was struck by a minnie ball, breaking the left thigh and severing the femoral artery. Just at this time our line began retreating, fighting as they retired.
Being compelled to sit erect, notwithstanding the cross fire, Sgt. Brown removed one of his suspenders and bound his thigh as tightly as his strength would permit and prevented further loss of blood. The enemy soon passed, and the dead and wounded were left alone. About midnight the litter-bearer came and Brown was carried back to the rear, where there were two others wounded, and remained there until the next evening. He was then taken to a village called Burketsville, about half a mile from the battle-ground. On the evening of [September] 16th the thigh was amputated by Dr. Jaynes [sic], of the 2d [sic; 3rd] Vermont regiment, an excellent man, and held in grateful remembrance.
The treatment, with few exceptions, was good by everyone. From thence, they were removed to Frederick City, where they remained one month. During all this time noble women failed not six days of seven to visit them, carrying not only words of comfort, but baskets filled with the most palatable food the country could afford, books, clothing, and every man (rebel) that was able to go from the hospital, either did or was solicited to make his home among them. Brown left Frederick City on December 13, 1862. He arrived at Petersburg December 19, 1862 - remained there two months and reached his father's residence at Bowdon Georgia February 18th, 1863.

Source: The Newnan Herald. (Newnan, Ga.), May 11, 1867, page 2.
Henry Clay Brown (19 February 1844 - 13 May 1913) https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/66536157/henry-clay-brown
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top