Friday, August 18, 2017

Masterpiece: What Maine private's wife created in his honor

Ambrotype of 21st Maine Private Adoniram Judson Trask of Noblesboro, Maine.
A shell-encrusted parlor memorial on display at Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
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Eliza Trask
Of the 101 soldiers from tiny Noblesboro, Maine who served in the Union army, 17 died during the war. Thankful her husband was not among them, Eliza Trask created a remarkable work of art to commemorate his military service and celebrate his return. Fashioned from an old candle stand, the 4-foot parlor memorial is topped with a wooden pyramid encrusted with hundreds of seashells – some from Maine, others found by 21st Maine Private Adoniram Judson Trask while he served in the Deep South, probably in Louisiana. The unique artwork, known as "memory ware," also includes an ambrotype of Adoniram himself, perhaps taken in Bangor, Maine before the 29-year-old soldier's regiment departed for Washington in August 1862.

Trask's service in Company I of the 21st Maine, a nine-month regiment, was brief -- he was discharged for disability on Feb. 18, 1863. Adoniram, whose post-war claim to fame was for receiving a patent for a boot/shoe ventilator, returned to his life as a farmer in Nobleboro (pop. 1,438 in 1860). He died in 1897.

Eliza, who is believed to have made the parlor memorial between 1865 and 1870, also made room on it for images of their children and other family members. On one side of the memorial there’s a cracked ambrotype of Frank and Adoniram Trask, no older than six, with their cheeks tinted red by a long-ago photographer.  On another side of Eliza’s creation is a photograph of a couple holding two young children. And inches above the ambrotype of Adoniram is the most curious image of all: a tintype of a young woman, the plate scratched to make her almost unrecognizable. Perhaps she fell victim to mischievous children or somehow fell out of favor with the Trask family.

You can mull that by checking out this beautiful folk art at Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Purchased in a Maine antiques store, it was donated in 1986 to the museum, where it’s on display in an exhibition of American art.


-- American Civil War Research Database.
-- Find A Grave.
-- Scientific American, Feb. 7, 1885.

A cracked image of the Trask children, Frank and Adoniram, their cheeks tinted red.
The parlor memorial includes images of the Trask family of Maine.
A close-up of seashells on the memorial, also known as "memory ware."
A scratched tintype of a young woman. Who did this dastardly deed?

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A remarkable gift in honor of 'poor, poor John' Bingham

The name and date of the bloodiest day in American history appear on the front of the secretary.
Crafted to honor Private John Bingham, the secretary is on display at the Wadsworth Museum of Art.
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The story of a remarkable piece of handcrafted furniture on display at a Hartford museum involves the death of a teen-aged soldier at Antietam, a piece of a flag that may have been secreted away at a notorious Civil War POW camp, a suicide in New Jersey in the summer of 1904 -- and plenty of questions.

Carving of Lincoln in cattle bone
on the front of the secretary.
This tale began for me in November 2011, when antiques dealer Harold Gordon e-mailed about an unusual soldier memorial he had purchased in 2006 from descendants of Civil War soldiers John and Wells Bingham, brothers from East Haddam, Conn. Eager to show off his impressive acquisition, Gordon invited me to see the secretary in the cramped living room of his small house in central Massachusetts.

 A 17-year-old private in the 16th Connecticut, John Bingham had been killed in the 40-Acre Cornfield on Sept. 17, 1862. His 16-year-old brother, Wells, broke the awful news to his father.  "It is a sad tale which I am about to tell you," the private in Company H of the 16th Connecticut wrote three days after the battle. "Poor, poor John is no more." (See interactive panorama of 40-Acre Cornfield on my photo blog.)

As he went to view John's body on the battlefield, Wells was so overcome by the gruesome death scenes in the vast, rolling field just outside the village of Sharpsburg, Md., that he couldn't bear to look at his brother. "I thought that if he looked like any of them which I saw there," the teenager wrote, "I did not want to see him."

Left: 16th Connecticut Private John Bingham, 17, was killed at Antietam. Right: His 16-year-old
brother Wells survived. (Photos courtesy of Military and Historical Image Bank)
A small plaque on the front of the secretary was made from a shard of John Bingham's knife.
A typewritten note inside the front drawer of the secretary is signed by Wells Bingham's son, Edgar.
About 1876, 16th Connecticut veterans gave Wells an impressive gift in John's memory: a beautiful, 8-foot secretary made predominantly of walnut and oak. Spelled out in cattle bone on the ornate front are the words "Antietam" and "Sept. 17, 1862" as well as John's first two initials and last name. A Ninth Corps badge is mounted between the "18" and "76," which are also made of cattle bone. The knobs are bird's-eye maple with bone inset circles. A clock, crowned with an eagle and including the words "The Union Preserved" near the base, is mounted on top. When the inside right front door is opened, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" plays on a music box.

A newspaper story about the 16th Connecticut's 
reunion at Antietam in 1889 appears under
glass inside a secretary door.
On a small plaque on the front of the secretary are these words:
"Presented to Wells A. Bingham by his friends. The secretary a rememberance of his brother John F. Bingham who offered up his life at Antietam, Maryland Sept. 17, 1862. The encased star a remnant of the colors carried that day by the 16th Infantry. The memory plaque made from a shard of his knife."
Old newspaper clippings about the 16th Connecticut flag and a regimental reunion at Antietam are mounted under glass inside doors on the front of the secretary, now on display at Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. An unsigned note from 1900 found in a drawer of the secretary references "battlefields' thunder and flame." And glued inside another drawer is this typewritten note signed in ink by Wells Bingham's son, Edgar:
"This desk made for my father Wells Anderson Bingham. A tribute to his brother John killed September 17, 1862 at the battle of Antietam. They both served in the Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Company H. Both enlisted August 17, 1862 at South Manchester. The cased part of the regiment's flag was givin [sic] in honor by my father's close friend and comrade Sergeant Edgar C. Wheeler. I am proud to carry his name. The knife handle was in the possession of my father and with great sadness taken from the body of his brother after the battle." 
-- Edgar M. Bingham
Northhampton, Massachusetts
September 22, 1972
Age 93
Antiques dealer Harold Gordon (right) examines the 16th Connecticut flag in the Hall of Flags
at the State Capitol Building in Hartford in 2013.
A canister attached to the secretary may hold a piece of the 16th Connecticut regimental flag..
A Vietnam veteran and an Abraham Lincoln lookalike, Gordon was especially intrigued with the small canister on the front of the secretary. If it indeed held a piece of the the 16th Connecticut's regimental flag, it would be an amazing find. After the regiment was captured nearly en masse at Plymouth, N.C., on April 20, 1864, hundreds of 16th Connecticut soldiers were imprisoned at Andersonville, the deadliest prison camp of the war. On detached duty, Wells luckily was not among them. "Could not have been happier or more envied," he wrote after the war, "if I had been chosen to be a Major General."

After the war, pieces of the 16th Connecticut regimental flags were gathered by Andersonville survivors, sewn together to form a shield and scroll and mounted in the middle of a new silk flag, which was created by Tiffany and Co. in New York. During a 2013 visit with me to the State Capitol Building in Hartford where that flag is displayed, Gordon aimed to match his piece of flag with the shield and scroll on the flag made after the war. His comparison was inconclusive, but it merits an expert investigation.

Like his brother, Wells Bingham met a sad end. Alone in his Bloomfield, N.J., house at 58 Monroe Place while his wife, two sons and a daughter were away, the 58-year-old businessman inhaled "illuminating gas," killing himself on Aug. 16, 1904. An employee from his wallpaper company discovered his body. Bingham had $238.70 in his pocket. A suicide note to his wife "said his business worries prevented his sleeping and advised his sons never to enter the same business."

John Bingham's name appears prominently on the front of secretary.
Ill and eager to sell the secretary, Gordon, whom I had lost contact with since 2013, sold it to an Connecticut antiques dealer for a handsome profit in 2014. That winter, the asking price at a New York show was $375,000. In March 2015, the secretary was acquired by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. On Saturday morning, Brandy Culp, museum curator of decorative arts, showed me the secretary -- the first time I had seen it since Gordon showed it off in his cluttered living room nearly six years ago. "Patriotic symbols and mottoes cover this secretary," reads the placard next to Wells Bingham's long-ago gift, "dangling like medals on a Civil War veteran's uniform."

An inkwell mounted on front.
A student of history herself, Culp is as eager as I am to find out more about the memorial to a 17-year-old soldier who was killed at Antietam. We have many questions:

Who crafted this impressive piece of furniture?

Who were the 16th Connecticut veterans who gave the unique piece of American folk art to Wells Bingham? What was so special about Wells that he merited such a beautiful gift?

Does the small canister on the front of the secretary really contain a remnant of the 16th Connecticut regimental flag? Was it part of the regimental flag at Antietam?

Who was Edgar Wheeler, namesake of Edgar Bingham, who gave the "cased part of the regiment's flag" to Wells? Where did he get the small piece of "flag"?

Did the horrors Wells Bingham witnessed at Antietam have anything to do with his suicide?

And, finally, how did this amazing work of art ever get out of the Bingham family's hands?

We'll keep you posted.

An unsigned note from July 1900 found in the desk drawer.
A clock, crowned with an eagle and including the words "The Union Preserved" 
near the base, is mounted on top.
Pencil scrawling, perhaps by a child, on a secretary drawer.
The secretary on display at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford.

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.


-- Marquis de Lafayette GAR Post No. 140 Record Book, April 13, 1904.
-- New York Times, Aug. 17, 1904.
-- Private Wells Bingham's letter to his father, Sept. 20, 1862, Antietam National Battlefield Research Library.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Antietam: Re-examining Gibson's image of Middle Bridge

Middle Bridge over Antietam Creek (James Gibson | Library of Congress)
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Days after the Battle of Antietam, Alexander Gardner and James Gibson shot several photographs of the Middle Bridge, also known as Antietam Bridge, on the Boonsboro Pike. Although little fighting took place in this area, the bridge was used by thousands of troops in both armies to cross Antietam Creek, perhaps the reason the photographers chose it for subject matter. (The bridge, built in the early 1800s, was destroyed by flood in 1891. A modern bridge crosses the creek today.)

On initial inspection, this Gibson image, taken from a steep bluff on the east bank of Antietam Creek, is unremarkable. But cropped enlargements of the photograph, available in high-resolution format on the Library of Congress web site, reveal cool details you may not have noticed. Click on the image above to enlarge -- the famous East Woods, where fighting raged on Sept. 17, 1862, appear in the right background, just above the farm buildings. Traveling west (to the left), the village of Sharpsburg is about two miles down the turnpike.

What else do you see?

... the ghost-like image of a man, his elbow resting upon the bridge near its east end. To his right, a large piece of cloth or canvas. What could that be?

.... several feet from the man leaning against the bridge, another ghost-like figure and what appears to be a barrel resting on some type of implement ....

.... toward the west end of the bridge, we find three human-like forms, each looking like the grainy figures that appeared in a Nov. 22, 1963 photograph of that infamous grassy knoll in Dallas. ...

.... at the far west end of the bridge, a covered wagon and a horse ...

... at the bottom of the image, this unusual object appears. What was it used for?

... a canoe on the eastern bank of Antietam Creek ...

... and on land in the background, on the west side of the creek, split-rail fencing, apparently with little damage ...

... and in the middle background, more fencing, apparently undamaged. A short distance over the ridge, a sunken road infamously known today as Bloody Lane ...

... and in the upper right, the farmhouse, barn and outbuildings used by tenant farmer Joseph Parks.  During the battle, the farm was well within Federal lines, but no significant action took place there. The farm may have been used as a hospital after the battle, although definitive information could not be found. Accessible to battlefield visitors, the farm is rarely visited. Below are present-day images of the Parks barn and farmhouse (in background). To visit the farm, park at the war-time Joshua Newcomer House on the west side of Antietam Creek and follow the signage for the 3 Farms Trail.

The barn and farmhouse are believed to have been constructed in the 1830s.

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Chancellorsville Then & Now: Stonewall Jackson wounding site

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Stonewall Jackson
On May 2, 1863, Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville, site of his greatest triumph. Nearly three years after the calamity that rocked the South, George Oscar Brown photographed the scene, part of an extensive series of photos of central Virginia battlefields he took during a U.S. Army medical expedition. The caption on the April 1866 stereoview,  the earliest known image of the Jackson wounding site, notes the general was shot to the left of the two men who appear at the center of the photo. Dr. Reed Bonetecou, who led the expedition for the U.S. Army Medical Museum, is believed to be at the far left. (For more on Bonetecou, see John Cummings' fine Spotsylvania Civil War blog here.)

This previously unknown Brown stereoview -- the right half appears above -- was purchased by a private collector on eBay in November 2016. (How did I miss it?!!!) Note the plank road at the far right of the 1866 image. Very cool.

On a mid-March afternoon, a certain Civil War blogger dodged traffic on ridiculously busy Route 3 -- the war-time Orange Plank Road -- to shoot a present-day view of the scene. The result is a representative but not spot-on "Now" photo. The shooting site, marked in 1888 by a monument near the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitors' Center, is no longer visible to motorists who pass by.

The existence of Brown's Jackson wounding site image was first reported by Bob Zeller, president and co-founder of the Center for Civil War Photography, in the organization's Battlefield Photographer magazine. Consider joining the outstanding CCWP here. (Full disclosure: I am CCWP secretary-treasurer.)

Grab the slider to toggle from the "Then" to "Now" image. For a large-format version of this Then & Now, visit my Civil War photo blog here.

A cropped enlargement of Brown's image shows the planks on the old Orange Plank Road.
Post-war image by George Oscar Brown of the Orange Plank Road and Mountain Road intersection.
Jackson is believed to have been shot at the far right or farther down the road,
 out of view of the camera. (Library of Congress | CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
An 1890 painting of the Jackson wounding site. The monument was added in 1888.
 (Library of Congress)
An early view of the Jackson wounding monument, date unknown. The monument is no longer 
surrounded by a fence. (Library of Congress)
                  GOOGLE STREET VIEW: Explore an August 2016 view of the scene.

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Seldom-seen circa-1877 photo of Main Street in Sharpsburg

Left half of William Tipton stereoview of Sharpsburg, Md., shot from national cemetery lodge.
(American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.)
Google Street View: A comparable, present-day view from near ground level.

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A cropped enlargement may show the
belfry of the German Reformed Church
on Main Street. The building was
used as a makeshift hospital after the
Battle of Antietam.
Best known for his battlefield images at Gettysburg, William Tipton also photographed Antietam late in the 19th century. For example, see this image, probably taken in 1894, of the 16th Connecticut monument in The 40-Acre Cornfield. About 1877, Tipton photographed Burnside Bridge and a bullet-riddled Dunker Church as well as Antietam National Cemetery, which had been dedicated in 1867.

The Gettysburg-based photographer also shot an image of Main Street in Sharpsburg from near the top of the national cemetery lodge, probably during the circa-1877 visit. This seldom-seen view, shown at the top of this post in the left half of a stereoview, includes rich detail: an unpaved, dirt road; seven recently planted trees outside the national cemetery fence; a field of corn by an old, stone wall; and a barely visible church belfry, perhaps of the old German Reformed Church, which had been used a hospital after the battle in the fall of 1862. (Services are still held in the small, brick church on Main Street.) In the far left background, near the tree line, Robert E. Lee made his headquarters during the Battle of Antietam.  An ink inscription below the image, copyrighted in 1877, reads: “View of Sharpsburg, Md., near battle-field of Antietam, looking west.”

What else do you see in the images? E-mail me here, jump into the comments section below or add your two cents on my blog Facebook page.

The Tipton stereoview of Sharpsburg is in the vast holdings of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. The Society's impressive collection of hundreds of Civil War stereoviews, including rare battlefield images, may be viewed online here.

Ink inscription on stereoview notes it is a "View of Sharpsburg, Md., near battle-field of Antietam."
Stone wall and cornfield on Main Street in Sharpsburg.
Recently planted trees near the national cemetery fence.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Then & Now: General James Longstreet at Gettysburg

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In July 1888, 25 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, former Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet posed on horseback with Daniel Butterfield (on second horse from right in top image), George Meade's former chief of staff, near the summit of Little Round Top. The 155th Pennsylvania monument appears in the right background. In late April 2017, I did my best to match the scene in the long-ago image by Gettysburg-based battlefield photographer William Tipton. Brush, trees and incompetence prevented me from producing a spot-on present-day photo.

Sometime after the 155th Pennsylvania monument was dedicated on Sept. 17, 1886, regiment veterans had a statue added to it. Read more about Longstreet's 1888 Gettysburg visit here on my blog.

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For large-format Then & Now images, go to my blog here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Face of the Civil War: Remembering Nancy Campbell

A daguerreotype of Nancy Campbell. (National Park Service collection)

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During visits to Sharpsburg, Md., more than a decade ago, I was fortunate to spend time with Earl Roulette and his wife, Annabelle, at their ranch house on Main Street, a stone's throw from the site of Robert E. Lee's headquarters during the Battle of Antietam. While Annabelle rocked in her chair in the living room, Earl and I chatted about the Civil War in a small backroom. Earl, whose great-grandfather's farm was scene of horrific fighting during the battle, especially enjoyed showing off Civil War artifacts he had found while farming in the area for more than 50 years. During one visit, he reached into a small box and pulled out an amazing photograph of a remarkable woman named Nancy Campbell. My friend Richard Clem, a lifelong resident of Washington County (Md.) and frequent contributor to my blog, picks up her story. 

Richard E. Clem
By Richard E. Clem

Maryland's 1860 census for Washington County lists a “Nancy Campbell” as a servant living with the Roulette family in the Sharpsburg District. History reveals little about this small, black slave. The first the author heard the name mentioned was in Sharpsburg while visiting dear friends Earl and Annabelle Roulette. In his normal high-pitched voice, Earl handed me an old daguerreotype in its small, protective case and with pride explained: “This is Nancy Campbell; she was my great grandfather’s house servant.” Earl’s ancestor was William Roulette, whose farm suffered great damage on Sept. 17, 1862, during the Battle of Antietam – the bloodiest day of the Civil War. From the very moment I examined Nancy’s image, I was determined to cast light on the life of this virtually unknown woman.

The name “Nancy Campbell” first appears on a Certificate of Freedom recorded in the Washington County Court House in Hagerstown, Md.:

Nancy Campbell toiled for 
William Roulette, whose farm was scene
 of terrible fighting at the Battle of Antietam 
on Sept. 17, 1862.
At the request of Nancy Campbell, the following deed was recorded June 14, 1859, by Andrew Miller of Washington County, Maryland. I do hear-by set free my Negro slave, Nancy Campbell, her freedom to commence from the year eighteen hundred and fifty nine.

The document was witnessed and signed by Justice of the Peace Thomas Curtis McLaughlin and Andrew Miller – Campbell’s former owner or, as referred to in the South, her “master.”

Andrew B. Miller was born March 24, 1826, in Washington County, Md. At an unknown date, he purchased a 50-acre farm in Tilghmanton, where his wife, Heaster Ann (Smith) Miller, gave birth to at least three children. Tilghmanton is a small town (population today, 465) on the Sharpsburg Pike, 8.5 miles south of Hagerstown and about the same distance from Sharpsburg.

When Andrew’s father, Peter Miller, passed away, his will provided his son with a servant named “Nancy Campbell,” described as: “One Colored Woman, 5 feet 1 ½ inches high, worth $250.00.” With this appraised value, Miss Nancy was worth as much as a good horse.

It was against the law to teach a slave how to read or write, so no record exists to state where Campbell was born or who her parents were. Even the date she was acquired by the Peter Miller family is unknown. Along with being a house servant, Nancy would have also taken care of the younger children as a “nanny.” When not occupied with the kids, she would have been required to do cooking as well as other household chores and perhaps tend to the vegetable garden.

Freedom and New Home

William Roulette's springhouse, where the farmer's African-American field hand, Robert Simon,
is believed to have lived. (Photo: Richard E. Clem) 
Looking to take life easier, Andrew Miller sold his Tilghmanton property in 1859, just prior to outbreak of the Civil War.  Now with no need for a slave, the retiring farmer decided to grant Miss Campbell her freedom. But without a home or education and no way to support herself, what would happen to the 46-year-old black servant trying to survive in a world among white strangers?

Less than one year after being freed, she not only had a new home, but would receive wages for her labor. It is believed this freed slave first met the Roulettes through William’s marriage (March 4, 1847) to Margaret Ann Miller. In April 1853, Mr. Roulette bought the farm of his wife’s father, John Miller. John’s brother, Peter Miller, Nancy Campbell’s first owner, was an uncle to Mrs. Roulette. So it's very possible Campbell knew the Roulettes before she went to live with them.

When Miss Campbell began working for William and Margaret Ann, they were the parents of five children. Their need for a good, experienced nanny was great. Although Mr. Roulette owned no slaves, he employed and paid for the services of Nancy and a 15-year-old boy named Robert Simon.

The new nanny occupied a small room over the Roulette’s kitchen, while Robert was employed as an “African American field hand, resided somewhere on the property.” Evidence clearly shows Roulette’s springhouse once had a third floor; some historians speculate this upper room was occupied by Simon. Soon after Nancy’s arrival, Margaret Ann gave birth (Feb. 23, 1860) to her third daughter, Carrie May.

Manor Church, where the Roulette family is believed to have been sheltered 
during the Battle of Antietam. Nancy Campbell attended services here. (Photo: Richard E. Clem)
In the late 19th century, William Roulette and his close neighbor, Samuel Mumma, were considered the most prosperous farmers in the Sharpsburg District, raising mostly corn, oats and barley in their fine limestone soil. And then the War Between the States came to Maryland! According to William’s History of Washington County, the day before the Battle of Antietam, William Roulette “took his family six miles north to the Manor Church where they were sheltered by Elder Daniel Wolf, a minister of that church.” Campbell and Simon probably joined the Roulette family at the Manor Church. The Mummas also evacuated their farm and sought protection at the Manor house of worship.

While living at Tilghmanton, Miss Campbell, a member of the mostly white Manor congregation, probably heard Reverend Daniel Wolf’s sermons against the evils of slavery. If you owned a slave or slaves, you were not allowed to be a member of this church. Locals called this sanctuary the Manor Dunker Church or “Tunkard” in German. Built in 1830, this meeting house just east of Tilghmanton was the mother church of the now-famous Dunker Church on the Antietam battlefield. (Services are still held every Sunday in the old limestone structure that now has a large, brick addition and is known as the Manor Church of the Brethren.)

War Hits Home

                 PANORAMA: William Roulette farmhouse and barn (pan to the right).
        PANORAMA: Roulette's farmhouse and barn were used as makeshift hospitals
          during and after the battle.  (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

Early on the misty morning of Sept. 17, 1862, General George B. McClellan, commander Army of the Potomac, launched a series of assaults on General Robert E. Lee’s formidable left flank. When these attempts failed to dislodge General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s veterans from the West Woods, another attack on the Rebel center was made at 10 a.m. by General William H. French’s division. The 5,000 mostly untested Yankees marched blindly toward a Southern line concealed in a sunken farm lane referred to as Hog Trough Road. Directly in the path of the Federal advance stood the Roulette farm.

While the Battle of Antietam raged, William Roulette
found shelter in his cellar.
With his family safe in the Manor Church, William Roulette returned to protect his farm, spending most of the day of the battle in the cellar but at least once sticking his head out and cheering on the Union infantry. (Some historians claim the Roulette family stayed in their cellar day of the battle, too.) Following the firestorm, one Federal soldier remembered, “Around the surgeon’s table in the Roulette barn amputated arms and legs were piled several feet deep.” Another witness later recalled the damage to Roulette’s property, “The buildings were struck by shot and shell of which they still bear the marks. One shell pierced the southern end of the dwelling, went up through the parlor ceiling and was found in the attic.” (The Samuel Mumma family, however, lost far more during the battle -- their house and barn were burned and destroyed, leaving only smoldering ruins.)

The Roulette family must have been devastated and disheartened to see their home and barn converted into a field hospital filled with bloodied, dead and wounded soldiers. Just south of Roulette’s lane, Confederate dead and wounded were stacked in the sunken road, now better known as Bloody Lane. One report stated at least 700 dead were buried on the Roulette farm. Crops about to be harvested were ruined and the farmer's fields were strewn with canteens, blankets, guns, knapsacks and countless other implements of war. According to a damage claim filed by Roulette, his house was “stripped during the battle of furnishings and floors were left covered with blood and dirt from being used as a hospital.” The Federal government compensated Roulette $371 toward an estimated claim totaling $3,500.

Like most residents of the Sharpsburg area, Campbell, Simon and the Roulettes pitched in to bring comfort and relief to thousands of bloodied humanity. Adding grief to misery, on Oct. 21, 1862, just 31 days after the battle, the Roulettes' 20-month-old daughter, Carrie May, died from typhoid fever. The toddler may have contracted the fatal disease from exposure to wounded soldiers. Nancy Campbell, Carrie May’s nanny from birth, surely suffered from the death of the little girl.

Final Homecoming

Nancy Campbell attended the one-room Tolson Chapel on High Street in Sharpburg, Md., 
 (Photo: Richard E. Clem)
In 1887, William Roulette turned over the farm to his youngest son, Benjamin Franklin Roulette, and the 63-year-old farmer moved into a smaller house in Sharpsburg. By this time, Nancy was getting up in years herself and only able to do “light” work, but the caring Ben Roulette let her stay on at the old homestead. William Roulette died Feb. 27, 1901. Margaret Ann had passed away 18 years earlier, on Feb. 19, 1883. Both are buried in Mountain View Cemetery on the eastern edge of Sharpsburg.

There is no doubt Miss Campbell was respected and paid decently for her household labor. At an unknown date, she had her picture taken, perhaps by a professional Sharpsburg photographer. The dress she wore in the image appears to be of fine material. (In a velvet-lined case, the photograph is now in the collection of the National Park Service at Antietam, courtesy of Earl Roulette.)

Miss Nancy was set free “forever” on Jan.  5, 1892, at age 79. On Jan. 20, 1885, seven years before her death, she had recorded a last will and testament with the Register of Wills in the Washington County Court House. It was rare for a slave, freed or in bondage, to have a will or a significant amount of money.

Combining cash in the bank with “cash in the house,” her estate value totaled $867.04, not including Nancy’s personal property. The will gives testimony to where this one-time slave placed her trust: “I give and bequeath to the Manor Church of the Tunker denomination to which I belong in Washington County, Maryland, the sum of Fifty Dollars.” The Afro-American Methodist Church in Sharpsburg also received $20 along with her personal Bible. Still standing and recently restored, this one-room log church was built in 1866 by Rev. J. R. Tolson for slaves and their children freed after the Civil War. Campbell attended Tolson Chapel while staying with the Roulettes, and the gift from her will is another example of the value she placed on spiritual guidance and worship.

Nancy also remembered with fondness her former master: “I give and bequeath to Andrew Miller, my chest, my trunk and my stand.” The will also provided $25 each to three of Miller’s children, Hamilton, Thomas and Susan. Heaster Ann Miller passed away March 11, 1899, and her husband, Andrew, was placed at her side in the Manor Church Cemetery on Dec. 8, 1910.

The will also reveals one of Roulette’s daughters was highly thought of by her nanny. “And unto Rebecca Roulette, daughter of William Roulette," the document reads, "I give the sum of One Hundred Dollars together with all my personal effects.” When Nancy went to live with the Roulettes, Susan Rebecca was only 5. It is evident the bond of affection and love between these two individuals was strong.

Nancy Campbell's gravestone in Manor Church Cemetery. Her last name is misspelled "Camel."
(Photo: Richard E. Clem)
As executor of the Campbell estate, Ben Roulette was responsible for paying the deceased’s burial expenses. For a coffin of “rough lumber,” J. L. Highberger, a Sharpsburg blacksmith, was paid $46. Samuel Line was paid $2.50 for hand-digging the grave. A member of the Manor Church congregation, Nancy was entitled to burial in church cemetery. Unknown for years, her tombstone remained face down. It was recently accidentally discovered and set erect by the cemetery caretaker. The stone is inscribed:

OCT. 15, 1813
JAN. 5, 1892
78 Ys 2 Mo & 20 Ds

At the bottom of the well-worn stone are these words from Scripture: “Blessed Are The Dead Which Die In The Lord.” Revelation 14:13.

Annabelle and Earl Roulette.
Records do not exist as to who furnished the gravestone or why the last name is spelled “Camel.” The same spelling, however, is found on several other legal documents for Nancy. But because she had no known relatives, perhaps it is understandable why the stone engraver inscribed it as he did. Even Miss Campbell, not being able to write, wouldn’t have known the correct spelling of her last name, which also explains why she signed her last will and testament with an “X.”

The life story of this humble yet “blessed” servant is dedicated to the lasting memory of Earl and Annabelle Roulette. The author will always cherish their warm, Christian friendship and hospitality given on a fall afternoon in Sharpsburg.

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.


-- Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam, Time-Life Books Inc., Alexander, Virginia, 1984.
-- Ernst, Kathleen A., Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians In The Antietam Campaign, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1999.
-- Frassanito, William A., Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America’s Bloodiest Day, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1978.
-- Morrow, Dale W., Washington County, Maryland Cemetery Records – Volume 1, Family Line Publications, Westminster, Md., 1992.
-- Maurice, Henry J., History of the Church of the Brethren in Maryland, Brethren Publishing House, Elgin, Ill., 1936.
-- Murfin, James V., The Gleam of Bayonets, Thomas Yoseloff Publisher, Cranbury, N.J., 1968.
-- Reilly, Oliver T., The Battlefield of Antietam, Hagerstown Bookbinding & Printing Co., Hagerstown, Md.,1906.
-- Schildt, John W., Antietam Hospitals, Antietam Publications, Chewsville, Md., 1987.
-- Sears, Stephen W., Landscape Turned Red, Ticknor & Fields, New Haven and New York, 1983.
-- Williams, Thomas J. C., History of Washington County, Maryland, Regional Publishing Company, Baltimore, Md., 1968.