A TOUCHING MEMENTO OF A FALLEN UNION SOLDIER IN THE 24th NEW YORK: “He was too brave a soldier to suffer alone but it so happened to him.”

$4,500.00 ON HOLD

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 846-373

This framed Civil War soldier’s handkerchief bears a poignant handwritten note pinned to it: “This Handkerchief was found on the body of S.M. Olmstead after the Battle of Second Bull Run. His mother had sent it to him and he received it the night before Battle.” The kerchief measures about 16 x 21 inches and has been preserved in a frame measuring about 20 x 24.5. The condition is excellent, with just minor stains, folds, and some minor runs on the lower right edges. The design is repeated black outlined red trefoils with three dots around each, looking somewhat berry-like, with a broad red border with narrower black stripes. The note measures about 5 inches across and is in period pen.

Samuel Mervin Olmstead, born 14 February 1844, wanted to serve his county. It took him two tries to make it into the army. He enlisted first 5/7/61 at Orwell, NY, and was mustered in 5/17/61 as a private in Co. G of the 24th New York Infantry to serve two years. (The state’s first 38 volunteer regiments were two-year units.) He was listed as a farmer by occupation, but also acted as a clerk in his father’s store. He was described as standing 5’10” with brown hair, blue eyes and a light complexion. His photograph, in civilian clothes, is held by the NY State Military Museum.

Olmstead was discharged just six week later, 7/1/61, at Elmira, a point of rendezvous for New York regiments heading south. The reason is not stated, but his parents may have objected on account of age. He is listed as 18 on the rolls, but this is usually a matter of bookkeeping. He was actually 17 and his parents may have refused consent. The muster roll abstracts indicate he was discharged by “substitution,” with private Ezra Balch enlisting in his place. This may well have been a personal gesture for the family. Balch shows up in the 1850 census in the Olmstead household. Olmstead, however, enlisted in the same company again on 12/28/61, perhaps his parents relented since he was then close to his eighteenth birthday. By that time, the regiment was in winter quarters at Upton’s Hill and later was posted to Centreville, Alexandria, Bristoe Station, Fredericksburg, and Falmouth. In June 1862 it became part of the 3rd Corps in Pope’s Army of Virginia.

As part of Sullivan’s Brigade, Hatch’s Division, the regiment took part in the two-day battle of Second Bull Run, August 29-30, 1862. It suffered 13 men killed or mortally wounded in the first day’s fighting. On the second day it took part in assault on the railroad embankment as Pope attacked the left of Jackson’s line, unaware of Longstreet’s forces were massed just to his left. In a statement to NY authorities Olmstead’s father said he was wounded between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., precisely the time when Longstreet struck. A corporal in the regiment described the fighting: “Those of us on the embankment were too few to even attempt to drive out the Confederates on the other side, and accordingly lay as flat to the slope as we could, crawling occasionally to the top, and discharging our muskets, held horizontally over our heads. Bullets were pouring in from the infantry beyond us. Our second line gave way and ran back to the cover of the woods, leaving us on the embankment to our fate.”

The regiment lost 67 officers and men just in killed or mortally wounded in that day’s fighting, plus more wounded, captured or missing, with a total loss of 237 in the campaign. The mortally wounded included both Olmstead and Ezra Balch, both serving in Company G. Balch survived long enough to make it to Kalorama Hospital in Washington, where he died September 19. Olmstead lay on the field until September 2, when he was discovered, barely alive, by a hospital attendant. Olmstead’s father, at age 56, had received a commission as captain in the 110th New York and was then posted at Baltimore. He made his way to the battlefield and retrieved his son’s body, which he sent home for burial. The tragedy was compounded not long after. Mrs. Olmstead journeyed to Baltimore to take care of her sick husband. He survived to be discharged in December. She died in Baltimore on November 17.

In September 1863 the elder Olmstead responded to a questionnaire about his son from NY Bureau of Military Statistics:

One year ago tomorrow that he died almost alone after laying three days in the cold rain on the battlefield[.] he was too brave a soldier to suffer alone but it so happened to him[.] . . . Samuel M. Olmstead was wounded in the last Bull run Battle on the 30th day of August 1862 between 4 and 5 o’clock PM and remained on the battlefield until Tuesday afternoon the 2nd day of September when Mr. Shramm [?] a nurse came in sight of him, he was past speaking to him but motioned to him, he gave him some nourishment but he died that afternoon. Mr. Shramm [?] (the nurse) buried him, I was then at Camp Patterson Park and went and got his remains and brought him to Orwell.

The G.A.R. Post in Orwell was named the S.M. Olmstead Post in his honor. As is typical of army record keeping, he shows up also as Mervin S. Olmstead, Samuel Merwin Olmstead, Samuel S. Olmstead, etc. The handkerchief may well have been one of the post’s valued relics. The detail of when he received it must have come from one his fellow soldiers in Company G and the handkerchief itself must have been given to his father by the nurse who buried him. It is a telling reminder of the war’s cost.

Accompanied by a brief amount of research material.  [sr] [ph:L]

Extra shipping required.






Inquire About A TOUCHING MEMENTO OF A FALLEN UNION SOLDIER IN THE 24th NEW YORK: “He was too brave a soldier to suffer alone but it so happened to him.”

should be empty