A Dayton paper this morning with a few lines from brother John informed us of the irreparable loss you have sustained in the death of your only son. You all have my deepest sympathy, and I would…[say?] something to comfort you yet feel that any attempt at consolation would seem like mockery while my own heart is breaking for Oh! Sarah, we can learn nothing of the fate of our own precious one, and know not whether he is killed or captured…
-Mary Affleck to her sister Sarah Forrer, 4 Aug. 1864
While the Forrers of Dayton mourned the tragic deaths of two of their own—Luther Bruen and Howard Forrer—in the late summer of 1864, the Afflecks of Bridgeport were anxiously awaiting news of the whereabouts of Edward, their youngest and only remaining son.
Edward Tullibardine Affleck was born August 23, 1843, in Belmont County, Ohio, the youngest son of Dr. John G. Affleck and Mary (Howard) Little Affleck. Edward, or “Ned,” as he was sometimes called in the family, was 18 years old, when his older brother Howard returned home the bloodbath at Shiloh, sick and injured, suffering horribly until his death on May 15, 1862 (see Parts 1, 2, & 3). Even as she grieved for the loss of one son, Howard and Edward’s mother Mary began to fear for the life of the other, her sister Sarah wrote:
Howard left us about ten this morning… Mary…is distressed for fear Edward is going to the war…
Mary wished for Edward to return to Dayton with her sister Sarah Forrer, to attend school, visit, and otherwise take his mind off thoughts of enlistment. It is unclear whether Edward actually did this. Nevertheless, much to Mary’s relief (I’m sure), Edward stayed on the home front—and not the war front—for the next two years.However, Edward did join the Ohio National Guard, and in September 1863, his mother Mary wrote to her sister about it:
Edward came home from Newark a week ago today, where he had been eight days in camp, drilling. He is Adjutant in one of the state volunteer militia regiments, but is not to be called into active service unless the state is invaded. I don’t think there is much danger of that—from the rebels, but am afraid we will have trouble at the time of the election next month, there is so much bitterness of feeling between the Republicans and Democrats. Truly we have ‘fallen upon evil times’ and I am beginning to despair of peace in our day…
In late April of 1864, the family received news that Edward’s Ohio National Guard regiment, the 74th Battalion, would be called up for active service. The 74th Battalion was combined with the 78th Battalion of nearby Harrison County to form the 170th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, organized in mid-May 1864. Mary Affleck was quite upset when she learned that this was to take place. She wrote of the news to her sister Sarah on April 28, 1864:
I am heartsick and remain at home to brood over my troubles. It does seem as though they are never to end. Now my only remaining son is to be taken from me. The National Guard is ordered to leave next Monday and I cannot prevail upon [Edward] to send in his resignation, as he says it would not be accepted. Mr. Patterson will also be obliged to go unless he can procure a substitute. He is furious, and declared he will not go, and there is some talk of his brother going in his place.
The “Mr. Patterson” to whom Mary refers is probably her son-in-law Benjamin C. Patterson. Incidentally, his name appears nowhere in the roster for the 170th O.V.I., although there is a George Patterson (the name of B.C.’s brother), although the age is about 8 years off. Who knows! Maybe it’s a completely different George Patterson, and B. C. procured a substitute instead; nevertheless, Benjamin C. Patterson did not serve in the 170th O.V.I. Edward Affleck did go with the 170th O.V.I., though. His official enlistment date is recorded as May 2, 1864, although obviously he was in the National Guard before that, per Mary’s letter above (from late April). Edward served as a first lieutenant and adjutant for the regiment. His term of service was 100 days, the same as the rest of the men in his regiment. The 74th Battalion, Ohio National Guard, was just one of many battalions that were called up for federal service in May 1864:
Over 35,000 Ohio Guardsmen were federalized and organized into regiments for 100 days service in May 1864. Shipped to the Eastern Theater, they were designed to be placed into “safe” rear area duty to protect the railroads and supply points thereby freeing regular troops for Grant’s push on the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia…
Edward’s particular regiment, the 170th O.V.I., was first assigned to duty in and around Washington, D.C., arriving about May 22, and leaving for a new assignment in Sandy Hook, Maryland, on July 4. Edward was apparently enjoying himself on his “safe” adventure, according to a letter his sister Harriet wrote on June 5:
We received a letter from Edward last Wednesday and expect another today or tomorrow. He was well and enjoying himself very much. Mother is afraid he will enjoy himself so well, that he will not be willing to come back.
Edward happened to be in Washington during the same time that his Dayton relative (by marriage), Major Luther Bruen, was a patient at Douglas Hospital there, attempting to recover from wounds he had received in the Battle of the Wilderness (see Part 9). Edward apparently visited Luther at the hospital and wrote home about it to his mother Mary, who later wrote thus to her sister Sarah (Luther’s mother-in-law) on June 19:
I am very glad to hear there is a fair prospect of the Major’s recovery, and am much obliged to thee for sending me Augusta’s letters. I received one from her a few days ago, also one from Edward, from both of which I learn that his health is still improving. Edward has yet seen nothing but the “poetry of war,” and seems to be enjoying it greatly. I am afraid he will find it so fascinating that he will not be willing to return at the end of the hundred days—if[,] which I scarcely dare to hope, they are thus permitted to return.
Two days after this letter was written, Luther died. And it seems odd that, even after visiting a maimed family member in the hospital (Luther’s leg had been amputated)—not to mention whatever other atrocities he might have passed between the hospital threshold and Luther’s bedside, that Edward could still see only the “poetry of war.” Perhaps Mary was referring to whether or not Edward had participated in any actual battles, which at that time, he probably still had not. Unfortunately for Edward Affleck (and his worried family), things were about to get very real and very un-poetic. Despite the intended (relative) safety of the National Guard units’ positions, many soon found themselves in not-so-safe locations after all:
…As events transpired, many units found themselves in the thick of combat, stationed in the path of Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s veteran Army of the Valley during its famed Raid on Washington. These Guard units participated in the battles of Monacacy, Fort Stevens, Maryland Heights, and in the siege of Petersburg.
The 170th O.V.I. left Washington, D.C., on the night of July 4 and headed for Sandy Hook, Maryland, where they joined with other regiments in the defense of Maryland Heights.The following multi-part letter (July 17-25) from Edward’s mother Mary to her sister Sarah tells a little of Edward’s experience at Maryland Heights:
For more than a week we have been in a state of the most painful uncertainty respecting Edward. The last letter we received from him was dated July 3rd. He was then, with a portion of his regiment, at Ft Sumner, and the probability was, that they would remain there till their term of service expired. We have heard that they were ordered to Harpers Ferry the next day, but can hear nothing from them, and know not what has become of them. 24th. This letter, as thee will perceive by the date, was commenced a week ago, but I was interrupted and could not finish it then. We have since received two letters from Edward, one written on the 8th at Maryland Heights, where they had been skirmishing several days with the rebels. None in their Reg’t were killed or wounded, though he says a ball grazed his sleeve, and another struck a tree just behind him, and ‘if it hadn’t been for the tree, his carcass would have stopped the ball’! The other was written on the 13th at the camp near Petersville. They were expecting to move every day. I have since heard that they have gone to Leesburg, where it is expected there will be more fighting. Several of the boys had a ‘sunstroke’ at Maryland Heights… [About July 18th] is the last we have heard from them, and are waiting in the most intense anxiety for what may come next, an anxiety that is shared by the whole neighborhood, as a husband, son or brother has gone from almost every family… There are but three weeks of the hundred days remaining, and I am beginning to hope, if the rebel bullets spare him, that we shall have him back with us before the summer is quite over, though generally my fears are stronger than my hopes. Do you hear from your Howard? And where is he? I am almost afraid to look over the lists of killed and wounded lest I should see his name among them. I rec’d a letter from Joan last week. She had seen a notice of Major Bruen’s death and requests me to say to you when I write, that they all sympathize deeply with you in your affliction…
That part gives me chills. Note the date: July 24. She asked about Howard, not yet knowing that Howard Forrer had been killed in the Battle of Atlanta two days earlier. For that matter, Sarah Forrer did not know about her son’s death yet either. The Forrer family learned of Howard’s death from the July 29 issue of the Cincinnati Gazette (see Part 10). July 24 was a day of great consequence for Mary’s son Edward, also, though she did not yet know it. A week or two previously, the 170th O.V.I. had been attached to the forces of Gen. George Crook’s Army of the Kanawha, which met Jubal Early’s Confederate Army of the Valley near Winchester, Virginia, on July 24, in what was later known as the Second Battle of Kernstown [Virginia].
Monday, 25th. We have just heard that the 170th were in the fight at Snickers Gap [Virginia] on the 18th. There were two killed and nineteen wounded in the regiment, but Edward’s name was not among them. It is reported here that Atlanta is taken by our forces, though it is doubted by some…
Indeed, Atlanta was taken. And Howard Forrer died in the effort. Mary learned this before she wrote her next letter to her sister on August 4:
A Dayton paper [probably the Aug. 2 Dayton Journal article] this morning with a few lines from brother John informed us of the irreparable loss you have sustained in the death of your only son. You all have my deepest sympathy, and I would…[say?] something to comfort you yet feel that any attempt at consolation would seem like mockery while my own heart is breaking for Oh! Sarah, we can learn nothing of the fate of our own precious one, and know not whether he is killed or captured. The last letter we received from him was written on the 21st. They were then a few miles from Snickers Gap, where they had been in a fight and were driven back. After that he was in the battle at Winchester [Second Battle of Kernstown] on the 24 or 25 and we can hear nothing of him since. There too they were driven back, and nearly all the 170th Reg’t succeeded in reaching Harpers Ferry. Several of them have written home, but can give no account of Edward. They all think he is either killed or captured. Capt. Robinson writes that he was with him on the field of battle, and that they did not hear the order to retire till nearly all the other regiments had gone, and the rebels were close upon them. In the confusion of the retreat he was separated from his men, and when he got to the train (a wagon train I presume) he saw two men riding Edward’s horse, that he put them in a wagon and took the horse himself on which he escaped. When I heard of it I felt almost certain he had been killed, for I thought if he had been captured, they would have taken his horse also, but yesterday one of our boys came home who says he was not on his horse during the battle[,] that he left it in the rear with one of the boys who was sick, and that he fought by his side till they were ordered to retreat, and that they were together till just as they were entering Winchester, when Edward who had complained of not feeling well, told them he was unable to keep up with them, but for them to save themselves, and that was the last they saw of him. This gave me a little hope, for I knew his father had a brother and two or three sisters living in Winchester, and I thought it probable when he found he could not keep up with the others that he had taken refuge with them. When I mentioned it, the man said he recollected hearing Edward say when they were at Snickers Gap that he wished they were going to Winchester, for he had some relations there that he would like to see. He said, moreover, that as they were passing through W. the day before the battle Edward had inquired of someone where somebody lived, and had called at a house in town. This is the only hope I have for him, if he is not with them, it is not probable we shall ever know his fate. His father would go on, and try to find some trace of him, but this morning’s papers say the rebels have their headquarters in Winchester, and all communication is cut off—so we can only wait, and hope—though it is a very faint hope at best, and this suspense is terrible. I sometimes think I cannot bear it much longer—but still try to struggle on for the sake of the few that are left…
The good news was that Edward Affleck was not killed. The bad news was that he did not escape to his relatives’ home in Winchester; he had indeed been taken prisoner by the Confederate army during the battle at Kernstown on July 24. (Incidentally, Edward does not seem to have even been counted in the official “Return of Casualties” for the battle, which tallied only 2 enlisted men—and 0 officers—from the 170th Ohio as “captured or missing.” Edward, as the regiment’s adjutant, should have been counted as an officer.) Eventually, it was realized that Edward Affleck had indeed been captured by enemy forces, and this news was relayed to his family. It’s not clear to me exactly how it was ascertained that Edward was in fact among those captured. Did the two sides exchanged lists of prisoners? Or were prisoners perhaps allowed to write letters? Because, from the sound of this letter written by Edward’s sister Harriet on August 28 1864 (a month after his capture), it sounds like they expected to hear from Edward personally:
We have been waiting for good news from Edward (before writing again), but as yet have heard nothing, except that he had been sent to Richmond, instead of Americus. Mother thinks she would rather he had gone to Georgia…
The Civil War prison at Richmond—the infamous Libby Prison—was infamous even then for the “overcrowded and harsh conditions under which officer prisoners from the Union Army were kept.” Remember, Edward was an officer: an adjutant, nothing too fancy, as far as officers go, but an officer nonetheless. Perhaps that is why his mother “would rather he had gone to Georgia.” I assume that by Americus, Georgia, they are referring to the Civil War prison better known as Andersonville, which was about 15 miles from the town of Americus. While Andersonville Prison was still obviously a horrible place, it does not seem to have had the reputation of officer abuse that Libby Prison did.(Actually, according to the Martins Ferry Historical Society, Edward was at Camp Asylum in Columbia, SC, and not brought to Richmond until months later. But then why would his mother believe he was at Richmond?) Harriet’s Aug. 28 letter continued:
The report is that the prisoners taken before the first of Aug are to be exchanged soon—if it was only true what a burden it would lift off our hearts. Still as you say—we know that he lives and that is so very much of a comfort. Our trouble would seem worse if we had not you and yours to think about…
Bad news about the prisoner exchange. Unfortunately, Edward had picked a bad time to get captured—a really bad time. Okay, so he didn’t pick the time, but it was a bad time, nonetheless. This was about the time that General Grant decided to halt all prisoner exchanges. Grant wrote on August 18, 1864:
It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught, they amount to no more than dead men. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners in the North would insure Sherman’s defeat and would compromise our safety here.
Edward would have to wait months before being considered for an exchange. The last part of Harriet’s Aug. 28 letter stated:
The 170th Regt will be home today—some of them came home yesterday and brought Edward’s trunk and sword. It gratifies us very much to see how much he is beloved by them all. In his trunk we found a short letter to cousin [Lida?] not sealed—containing his photograph. I do not know why he had not sent it. Mother says if he never comes home she will send it to her but will wait and see what he says if he does come…
Indeed, Edward only had about 17 days left on his 100 days of service when he was captured. If he had not been taken prisoner at Winchester, he, too, might have been coming home on August 28. (The majority of the regiment was mustered out on September 10.) Or, on the flip side, he might have been one of whose who died of heat exhaustion or skirmishing somewhere between Winchester and home. In February 1865, Edward was still imprisoned, and his mother wrote of her unsuccessful attempts to write to him, although apparently he was able to send letters out:
I have been waiting for news from Edward before writing to thee but have waited in vain. The latest was Dec. 9th though a week or two ago three or four letters came, written in November. He had rec’d none of ours but was confident many had been written, and asks us to send money and clothes to him. It is very disheartening to know that all our efforts to relieve him have hitherto proved ineffectual… I am anxiously watching the Exchanges, and think if he is still living that he will certainly be at home before long—but that terrible if still haunts me night and day, and the anxiety and suspense are almost insupportable… In Edward’s letter of Nov. 6th he says “Give my love to all our relatives in Dayton and tell them I am coming to pay them a visit some day—when this cruel war is over.” I wish some of you would write to him and send via Vicksburg, and perhaps among all our letters he may get one. He says he has never heard a word from any of us since the latter part of June, when he was in Washington…
(Edward’s use of the phrase “some day” makes me think maybe he never actually did go to Dayton for a visit, previously.) Edward Affleck was finally released from Confederate prison in March of 1865. He was paroled at Coxes Wharf, Virginia, on March 10, and honorably discharged shortly thereafter. Edward returned to his family in Bridgeport, Ohio. When Mary Affleck wrote to her sister Sarah again in June, it seemed that things were finally getting back to normal, with the war over, and her youngest son home safely:
[Edward] was gone ten or twelve days to Washington and Winchester, and is very busy just now, did not come up last night as I expected. He generally comes on Saturday evening, and stays till Monday morning, and then, with Harriet and the children here, it almost seems as though the ‘Old bright days had all come back again.’ Will they ever come again? Not to thee, or to me, yet we may do much to brighten the pathway of the dear ones that are still left to us, and thus in some measure, relieve the ‘blackness of darkness’ that overshadows our own… I have been looking over on the island, which is almost covered with tents of returning soldiers who are waiting to be discharged. A long train of army wagons passed through town a week or two ago, and another this morning. I feel thankful that so many of the poor fellows are permitted to return to their homes in peace but my heart aches to think of the thousands that never will return and of the one who was more to me than the whole army.
The last letter from Mary Affleck during this time period indicates that, as Edward settled back into his old life, he got busy working (probably in a position as a clerk at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the job he had held just before his military service):
Edward does not talk so much about a trip to Dayton as he did when he first came home. He has so much to do at the depot that he does not get up to see us very often, and when he does come, seldom stays more than an hour or two. It is a disappointment to [his younger sister] Mary, who had quite set her heart upon going…
I wonder if Edward ever did manage to make that trip to Dayton? In the years after the Civil War, Edward Affleck had several occupations, including railroad clerk, wholesale coal dealer, bank cashier, and vice president of a dairy. In 1871, Edward married Laura Walkup, and they had four children. They named their oldest son after Edward’s brother: Howard Gladstone Affleck, II. Edward Affleck died January 27, 1911, in Toledo, at the age of 67.