Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day: 'Your Dear Son is Dead'

Union private Oliver Stebbins
     The Civil War was nearly over when John and Charlotte Stebbins of Three Rivers, Michigan, sent their oldest son Oliver to join the Union Army.
     He enlisted Feb. 17, 1865, in the 11th Michigan Cavalry, which was one of the eight brigades assigned to Stoneman's Raid. They rode out of Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 21, 1865—Oliver's 18th birthday.
     For the next four weeks, Stoneman's troops were beyond the reach of mail or telegraph, so we can assume that Stebbins' family heard nothing from him. They must have rejoiced to hear of the fall of Richmond April 2 and the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee April 9—certain signs that the war was ending and that their son would soon be coming home.
      Then came the following heartbreaking letters, the first two from a fellow Michigan soldier named John Schroder. [The crude spelling and wording is preserved from the original letters. I have inserted a few explanatory notes in brackets.]

Chattanooga, Tenn. April the 23 1865

Mrs. Stebbins,
I will let you know about your Oliver he is sick in the Hospital here. he was brought here with the Measles he has got over the Measles and has got Nuemonia in his side and the Bronchetis in the other side it is a hard case I have been here sick with the Measles and am just getting over them I am doing all that I can for your Dear Son he is very thirsty and wants watter every little while I watched him all last night and if he was in his right mind I assure you he will get well my bed is right beside his if he wants any thing he cals on me but I dont know whether he is in his right mind or not I see that he has something to eat every meal for I giv it to him myself I belong to the same regiment that he does. I will write you again in two or three days No more at present
John Schroder Co J 11th Michigan Inf Chattanooga, Tennessee
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Chattanooga, Tenn.
April 27th 186
Mrs. Stebinss
Dear Madam I sorry to lett you now that your Dear Son is Dead he Deady [died] At 12 oClock at noon the 27 day of April I had sent for boys that he new but they did nott come I fill so if it is mens Duttey [duty] to write you and let you no that your Dear Son he has gon whar we all will haf to go up. Dan and I feel for him he was in good spirits for he deay I geaf him a drinck of watter about 10 minnits for he deady and he said to me John I will remember you but he call for me most all the time he never said anney thing about his father wial [while] he was sick he gott one letter from you I read the letter to him and he was glad to hear from you I haf written one letter befor to you But I don no if you haf got it or not I will go and see his garve [grave] wen I can gett thar I am som weak yet I will let you no about his garve and wet kind of plays [place] he is buryed
from your friend John Schroder
Co J the 11th Mich Infantry
Your Dear Son Close [clothes] will be sent bey express to you to Michigan he had no money wen he cam to hospitil only 75 cents and it was spent for him he had a Silver ring I hop you will gett his nam is on the ring I was going to sent it to you in a letter but it had to go with his close if God burys men live I will putt som flowers on his garve I was very sick with you Dear Son in the hospitil hear my home is in Butler Branch County Mich
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Headquarters 11 Regiment
Michigan Vol Infty
Chattanooga, Tenn
April 28, 1865

Mrs. Stebbins
Maddam
It is my painful dutty to inform you of the Death of your son. He died in the Hospital in this place yesterday (April 27th 1865) of Rubeola (Measles) He was sent to the Hospital about (3) weeks ago he received as good care as one can get in the Hospl-he was visited by some of the men every day and all was done that surgeons and nurses could do under the circumstances Henry Parker of my Company has visited him together with others
He made one of the best Soldiers in the Regt-always doing his duty when called uppon and was verry much respected by all who knew him especially in his own company
He was steady honest and upright-and everything that makes a Gentleman and soldier and his lost is verry deeply felt by all his comrades and his officers.
He died a good Christian and a good soldier to his country and will be remembered as such by all who knew him. He will be burried in the National Cemetary with Military honors.
The cemetery is beautifully located all are soldiers in this-Department receive as good a burrial as he would north although it is done in a soldiers way
The dispatch which I received read as follows from the doctor in charge


Office USA Genl Hospit
Chattanooga Tenn Apl 28 65
Comdg officer Co. B 11th Mich Infty
Sir
I have to inform you that private Oliver Stebbins of your Co. died April 27th 65 of Rubeola (Measles)
Effects
 Knapsack. Great coat, Trousers, Shirt, 2 pr drawers, Chest, loaf shoes
Very Respectfully your Obt Sevat
John H Phillipes Surgeon
USA Volenteers in charge
Anything which I can do heard from you will be done by letting me know His effects and pay will be sent to you through the Surgeon in charge or from Washington D.C.
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     Stebbins is mentioned in a book about Union Capt. John Edwards, "Last Full Measure of Devotion," written by Edwards' great-great nephew. They are listed among five men from Hudson, Mich., who lost their lives in the April 12 Battle of Salisbury.
     I think it is safe to assume that Stebbins was wounded at Salisbury, evacuated to Chattanooga, and subsequently developed measles and other complications. During the Civil War, twice as many soldiers died from disease as from wounds.


Oliver Stebbins' grave in the Chattanooga National Cemetery
      There were probably close to 100 deaths in five states associated with Stoneman's Raid. I've documented as many as I can on our Union Memorial and Confederate Memorial pages. The Stoneman Gazette honors those who served and died on both sides.

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