|A MONUMENTAL MYSTERY, or, THE 28th MAN
Final Report on William L. Blood, 1841 - 1862
by Brian Burns, September 22, 2002
"Although the names are not on the monument, W. L. Blood was killed at Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862, and A. F. Crosby was killed at Winchester, Virginia, Sept. 19, 1864."- A. B. Chamberlain, "Sturbridge in the Civil War" 1903 and 1905.
The Question -- do their names belong on the 1871 Soldier's Monument?
* Town votes to erect a monument "in Memory of the Soldiers from this town [emphasis added] who sacrificed their lives in the defense of the Country during the late war of Rebellion . . . " [TR]
* Soldier's Monument dedicated, with 27 names of "young men who went from Sturbridge in the full vigor of youthful strength to meet death in defense of their country." Some controversy over location-- fortunately, there was the shoe factory on the common to use as a point of reference. Specs at 18 ft granite w/cap w/curbing, at a cost of $1150. The memorial is unusual in several respects, possibly the result of the length of time from the end of the war to its dedication. Unlike the more ornate markers erected in the 1880s and 90s, often with heroic statues, this appears much more like the memorial stones in the north cemetery. Also, although the dedication speech was a "Death to Treason!" affair, there is no reference to the war anywhere on the shaft-- just "Soldier's Monument-- Erected by the Town, 1871". As Chamberlain accurately reports, neither Blood nor Crosby appears there.
* J. Arthur Johnson Post No. 173 of the Grand Army of the Republic founded in Sturbridge. A. B. Chamberlain a member. [JHL]
* Town votes in the affirmative to "cause the names of all soldiers and sailors who enlisted from this town [emphasis added], and served in the war of the Rebellion, to be inscribed with the names of the Regiments to which they belonged, on tablets of marble and placed on the walls of the Town Hall . . .". As Chamberlain accurately reports, both Blood and Crosby appear. [TR]
* Sturbridge Town Clerk A. B. Chamberlain delivers an address and publishes his remarks as "Sturbridge in the Civil War" for the Quinebaug Valley Historical Society. The relevant section is quoted above. [AB]
* A question from the president of the Sturbridge Historical Society- is there time to put Blood and Crosby on the 1871 monument for this Memorial Day?
The short answer . . . yes, there is, but don't believe everything you read.
Here's the long answer:
* William L. Blood born September 2 to Lawson and Susannah P. Blood in Sturbridge. On the birth registration, the father is described as a carriagemaker, though in the 1850 Federal census as a wheelwright. Residence/shop on Charlton Street, the old Stafford Turnpike- now Butch Jackson's house. [TR, FC per SLH, BB]
* Death of Susannah P. Blood. (There is no death record for Lawson Blood in Sturbridge.) [TR]
* Lawson Blood, father of William L., listed as Sturbridge resident in federal census[FC per SLH].
* June/July-- Blood enlists in Capt. Sardus S. Sloan's company in Brookfield. [MMA]
* July 12-with 9 other companies from Worcester county, Sloan's company forms the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, to serve for three years. Sloan's company is now Company F of the 15th Massachusetts. Blood appointed 5th corporal. [MMA]
* August 6- Descriptive muster roll of F/15 describes Blood as follows: "Res. Sturbridge Shoemaker B.P. [birthplace] Sturbridge Single" [MMA]
* October 21-at Ball's Bluff, Virginia, the 15th suffers 334 casualties out of 653 engaged.
* May 31- July 1-- Fair Oaks, Seven Pines, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Glendale, Malvern Hill. Heavy casualties in 15th.
* July 25-- Asa S. Crosby enlists the 34th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment in Sturbridge. No Sturbridge birth record. [NA, TR]
* September 16-17-Battle of Antietam. Blood listed missing in action at Antietam, September 17. Of 608 engaged, 318 casualties in the 15th- many from friendly fire in the West Woods. Greatest loss of any single regiment at Antietam. [MMA, NA]
* September-- Crosby contracts rheumatic fever while stationed at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. In various military hospitals until July, 1865. [NA]
* July 18- at muster-out of 15th in Worcester, Blood listed "killed in battle of Antietam Sept. 17/62." He is not listed as buried at the Antietam National Cemetery, nor has a local site been identified. However, of the 4,776 Union soldiers at that national cemetery, fully 38% are "unknown". [MMA, SLH]
* No pension claims filed for Blood. Together with his unmarried status the year before, this fact strongly indicates that he had no dependants or direct descendants. [NA]
* July 25-Crosby receives disability discharge from 34th Massachusetts. Applies for and receives pension which is renewed and increased . . . until his death in 1902. [NA]
* Federal census shows no Bloods in Sturbridge. Remarried Lawson now resident of Springfield [FC per SLH]. Town votes to establish Soldier's Monument.
* Soldier's Monument dedicated. Blood and Crosby not included.
* Town erects tablets in town hall with the names of soldiers and sailors "who enlisted from this town". Blood and Crosby included. [TR]
* Andrew E. Ford's The Fifteenth Massachusetts Infantry in the War of the Rebellion published. In this "official" regimental history, Blood listed as a Sturbridge resident, killed in action at Antietam. Although it was based on the best available evidence (the incomplete 1870 Massachusetts AG compilation), modern research, especially by SLH, has demonstrated many inaccuracies in the book's reports on individual soldiers.
* Crosby dies in North Bridgewater. From pension records, it appears that he lived there or in surrounding Plymouth County towns until his death. [NA]
* Chamberlain's comments appear.
A. B. Chamberlain, long-serving town clerk and prominent Sturbridge citizen, was extremely meticulous, as period town records and his own Civil War diary illustrate.
However, in the case of his comments in the early 20th century about Asa F. Crosby and William L. Blood, we should be very circumspect.
While Crosby did enlist in Sturbridge, he certainly did not die at Winchester, Virginia, in 1864. Though crippled from service-connected rheumatism, possibly evolving into the then-unknown rheumatoid arthritis [LK], he lived until 1902. Certainly, he meets the 1888 criteria for the Town Hall wall, but in no sense does his name belong on the 1871 monument. What was A.B. thinking?
Blood, however, presents a compelling case.
Most significantly, the hand-written descriptive muster list at the Massachusetts Military Archives notes Blood's birthplace and residence as Sturbridge. This statement is definitive. Further, the regimental history lists Blood as a Sturbridge resident, as does the appropriate volume in Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War-not much of a surprise, as these later books certainly used the muster lists as a source. Also, he was recognized as "from Sturbridge" on the 1888 Town Hall tablets
So, Blood "enlisted from this town" by the 1870 definition, and both regimental and National Archive records have him "killed at Antietam". Therefore, having "sacrificed his life", he meets both stark qualifications to appear of the monument.
It's not in any way unusual that Blood enlisted in Brookfield and not Sturbridge in June/July of 1861. Quite simply, the mobilization before Bull Run was urgent and chaotic, and not the regular business it would become by the time Asa Crosby enlisted just a year later. In addition, Blood in 1860 had lived and worked as a shoemaker in Brookfield [FC per SLH]. One of his fellow boarders, Artemus D. Ward, himself would later enlist in the 15th.
Independent companies, such as Captain Sloan's in Brookfield, organized under state law, were combined into state regiments and taken into federal service, as happened with the 15th. Six other Sturbridge volunteers joined that company then and later and so served in F /15.
For our purposes, it is both sad and ironic that William H. Clark and Alfred F. Russell, two of those other Sturbridge men, do appear on the 1871 monument. Further, Clark and Russell were killed at Antietam. In other words, they belonged to the same unit and died or were mortally wounded at the same place and on the same date as William L. Blood, probably within sight and minutes of each other. September 17, 1862, was a hard day for Sturbridge, perhaps the hardest single day of any of the country's wars.
If, as has been established, Blood was a Sturbridge man, then why, a short few years after the war, was his name forgotten on the 1871 monument, when members of his own company who died at the same place and time were memorialized? If Clark and Russell, then why not Blood? Also, since the facts were known more than 100 years ago (per Ford and AB), why was no action taken?
Pending discovery of further evidence, there is no definitive answers to these questions. Possible explanations include the significant fact that none of the Blood family lived in Sturbridge in 1870- father Lawson resided in Springfield, and younger brother George in Brookfield. Also, the mountains of paperwork generated by the war were decades away from being organized. The records existed, certainly, but retrieval was problematic. Finally, simple human error cannot be discounted, and the monument, with raised letters, had to be done correctly the very first time.
In any case, the evidence detailed above- with special emphasis on the muster lists of F/15, his inclusion on the 1888 tablets, and his place in the official regimental history-- suggests to me that the name of W. L. Blood of Sturbridge was wrongly omitted from the 1871 monument.
Simply, he is the 28th man.
Sources include manuscripts in the National Archives [NA], Massachusetts Military Archives [MMA], Sturbridge Town Hall [TH], Joshua Hyde Library [JHL], the Federal Census [FC], and numerous secondary sources, including Sturbridge: A Pictorial History [BB] and the Leaflets of the Quinebaug Historical Society [AB]. Special thanks to Susan L. Harnwell [SLH], Linda Kijowski, RN [LK], Charles T. Blanchard, James J. Malloy, and Douglas Quigley.