Notes on the Suicide of Lt. C. E. Earle

17 09 2020
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Richmond’s Exchange Hotel and Ballard House (contributed by reader Tom Leupold)

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Contributed by reader Tom Leupold

My last post  was an article in the August 8, 1861 Richmond Dispatch on the suicide of Lt. C. E. Earle, of Co. B, 4th South Carolina Infantry. I like to leave the items in the Resources section of this site generally free of opinion and analysis, other than providing links to where the reader can learn more. The interest this post has been surprising, considering I debated whether or not to include it in the first place, and has impelled me to provide a little more information.

As stated in commentary at the bottom of the post, I suspect the C. E. Earle in question is Claudius Eugene Earle, based on this site,  which for some reason shows his death date as July 7, 1861 as opposed to Aug. 7, but does show a birth date of 1835. Fold3 tells me that C. E. (and that’s how all his available records show, “C. E.”) was one of four Earles in Co. B, the others being Alexander C., G. W., and James W., all privates. I located a FindAGrave entry for a Claudius Eugene Earle in Anderson County, S. C., where Co. B was raised, but it shows birth and death dates in 1835. Was this another C. E. Earle, or perhaps was it some convention to allow for the burial of a suicide within the churchyard? I don’t know.

As to whether or not whatever action Earle saw at Frist Bull Run impacted his decision to leap from the 6th floor of Richmond’s Ballard House to Franklin St. below, I have no idea. Earle is mentioned twice in the after action report of Col. J. B. E. Sloan. Basically, Earle as a lieutenant was in command of Co. B. on the 21st (why Capt. W. W. Humphreys was not, I don’t know). First, the company was held in reserve at the Stone Bridge, with companies E and J (yes, J) deployed as skirmishers there. The rest of the regiment was sent to Matthews Hill. After the Confederates fell back across the Warrenton Pike… I’ll let Sloan take it from here:

Lieutenant Earle, commanding Company B (Palmetto Riflemen), and Captain Dean’s company (C), both reserves, occupied the position first held by the regiment (on the left of the road near the bridge) until after the battery retired, when they also retreated toward Lewis’ house and were then formed into a battalion, with portions of Captain Shanklin’s company, under Lieutenant Cherry, and Captain Long’s company and the New Orleans Zouaves, Captain ——-, and some Alabamians, under Major Whither and Colonel Thomas, of Maryland, and by them led to the field of battle on our extreme left. They charged a battery of the enemy, and, after a severe conflict, repulsed him. Sergeant Maxwell planted the colors of the Fourth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers on the cannon of the enemy and maintained his position until after his comrades had been repulsed by a superior force, who had deceived our men and prevented their firing upon them by using our colors and sign of recognition. During this contest Major Whitner had his horse shot under him while endeavoring to rally the men led to the charge.

And there, as far as I can tell, Earle disappears from the record, until showing up in the Dispatch eighteen days later.

What drove him to the act? Was it heredity, as the article suggests, something he saw or did during the battle of the 21st, something that happened before or afterwards unrelated to the battle, or some combination? It seems unlikely that Lt. Earle would have been given such responsibility as command of the regiment’s reserve had he been exhibiting signs of mental instability (though later in the war we can certainly point to many such cases). Was it what we today call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? I’m not a fan of post-mortem psychoanalysis after 159 years (although plenty of folks have based entire books on such drivel), so I won’t conject. But perhaps some reader out there has C. E. Earle in their tree, and can help us fill in the blanks with facts.

UPDATE: This from reader Brad in the comments:

Richmond Whig 8/8/61

Extraordinary Suicide.—Yesterday afternoon, about 4 o’clock, Lieut. C. E. Earle, of the Palmetto Rifles, 4th Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, (Col. Sloan) committed suicide by throwing himself from the front window, nearest the Eastern end, of the sixth or top story of the Ballard House. He fell upon the granite pavement below, and was instantly killed. His head and body were dreadfully fractured and crushed by the fearful concussion. The deceased was a native of Greenville, S. C. He had been sick at his room, in the Ballard House, for several days, but made bis appearance at the office, yesterday, and paid his bill, intending, as he intimated, to leave for Manassas this morning. A note found in his room, addressed to Mr. Ballard, indicates that he was laboring under an aberration of mind when he committed the rash act. He refers to certain “slanders,” charging him with refusing to recognize a young lady, whose name he mentions, and gives directions for the disposition of a considerable sum of money which he had left in the custody of Mr. Ballard.

There is also an article on the suicide in the 11/30/61 Daily Dispatch, page 2.

What caused the Dispatch to publish another article nearly 4 months later? Well, here it is (I apologize, some of image on Newspapers.com is too blurry to make out):

The Late Lieut. Earle. – The reader will remember the remarkable suicide of Lieut. Earle, at the Exchange Hotel, in August last. The reporter at that time employed in this office, noticed the event, in the local department, in a paragraph in which it was stated that the act was occasioned by insanity, which was hereditary in the deceased. – The [?] remark, so unnecessary and heedless, and in no view of the case justifiable, attraced the notice of Mr. Wm. E. Earle, a relative of Lieut. E, and he soon afterwards wrote to the editors denying the statement, and inquiring upon whose authority it was made. This letter, in the course of official business, was transferred to the local department, without reaching the editors, and was not properly answered, whilst the cause of [???] aggravated by a statement in the local column that Mr. Wm. E. Earle denied that insanity was inherited by his relative. That gentleman has recently brought [??] to the knowledge of the [???] never read the paragraph [???] or saw the letter of Mr. Earle. [??????] for the very objectionable statement is too vague to be entitled to notice.

This case is one of the wrongs of journalism growing out of inconsiderateness, without improper motive, which it must be confessed, occur too often, and which, in the nature of things, it is impossible fully to repair. We very much regret that this paper has been the medium of it, and make this explanation in justice to Mr. Wm. E. Earle and ourselves.

For now, that’s all I have. The family refuted the statement regarding the heredity of insanity. And the possibility that a woman was somehow associated with the act has been introduced. I’ll update here if I get any more, and if you find anything, please, be like Brad and leave a comment.





Suicide of Lt. C. E. Earle,* Co. B, 4th South Carolina Infantry

15 09 2020

LOCAL MATTERS.

Suicide. – Lieut. C. E. Earle, of the Palmetto Guard, of Col. Sloan’s 4th Regiment of South Carolina volunteers, killed himself instantly yesterday evening, about 4 o’clock, by jumping from the eastern 6th-story window of the Ballard House, fronting on Franklin Street. Lieut. Earl fell a distance of about 0ne hundred and ten feet to the pavement below, breaking his skull in several places, also his arm and legs. After the first alarm was over the body was removed to a room in the lower part of the building, and the Coroner (Dr. Peachy) notified to hold an inquest. There seems to be no doubt that the act was committed in a fit of temporary insanity. The reporter learned from Mr. Powers, clerk of the hotel, that he arrived there last Friday night, and, after a sojourn of a day or two, complained of indisposition, whereupon Dr. Pollard was called in to attend him. The latter yesterday left word for his patient to be watched, as he feared some attempt on his life from his appearance and bearing. No particular attention was paid to the doctor’s suggestion, it being, no doubt, deemed an evidence of sanity that he prior thereto had called and ordered both the tavern and medical bill to be drawn off, as he intended leaving on yesterday. Nothing more was thought of the matter till the suicide was an accomplished fact. It was rumored that a negro was in the room whom Earle jerked away from when he made the leap from the window. It was also said that insanity was a hereditary disease in his family. Prior to committing the rash act the deceased penned a letter directing what disposition he wished made of his property. This letter was read by Mr. Ballard. The relatives of the deceased, who are highly respectable people, were notified by telegraph of the unfortunate occurrence, and will, no doubt, soon be here to remove the body to its native soil.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/8/1861

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* Possibly Claudius Eugene Earle. Located a gravesite of Claudius Eugene Earle with birth and death date of 1835. and a reference to Claudius Eugene Earl born 1835 died July 7, 1861 in Richmond (date could be incorrect, as the article above indicates C. E. Earle died 8/7/1861)

Earle is mentioned in Col. Sloan’s after action report as being in command of Co. B during the battle.

C. E. Earle at Ancestry.com

C. E. Earle at Fold3





Pvt.* Edward Wallace, Co. C, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, ADC to Col. Joseph Kershaw, on the Death of Pvt.* William Henry Hardy, Co. C, 2nd South Carolina Infantry , ADC to Col Joseph Kershaw

7 08 2020

Death of Col.* William H. Hardy.

Our entire community was painfully excited on Saturday last, at the announcement of the death of the gallant and most estimable young man whose name stands at the head of this article. He was the son of our esteemed townsman, Dr. J. F. E. Hardy, and was acting as special Aid to Col. Kershaw, of South Carolina. Col. Hardy was in the battle of Bull’s Run on Thursday the 18th, and passed through it unharmed. But in the bloody battle of Sunday the 21st he sealed his devotion to his native land with his life. No particulars are known, further than that the was shot through the head and died instantly, while fearlessly performing his dangerous duty on the field.

A letter to his parents** has been received, written on the morning of the battle, in which he expresses his entire readiness to meet death, if it should be his fortune to do so in the discharge of the sacred duties he owed his county.

No event has over spread over this entire community a more profound feeling of sadues. Young in years – not above 21 – Col. Hardy was universally beloved, not only for his noble and manly qualities, but also for those less attractive but more endearing virtues which fitted him so eminently to adorn the home circle, and rendered him so dear to those who enjoyed an intimate acquaintance with him. He was born and reared at this place, and we believe it can be truthfully said, he never had an enemy.

The afflicted family have the warmest sympathy of the community; and while all are sad at the loss of one so young, so gifted, so full of promise, none can appreciate the affliction and bereavement of the parents and immediate family of the noble martyr to liberty. – Their grief is sacred – too deep for common place condolence – too holy to be obtruded upon. May God in his goodness temper the blast to the stricken ones.

It has been well said ‘the patriot soldier can never die.’ Bullets and bayonets may slay the body; the soul they cannot hurt. Pure as the overhanging firmament from which their spirits look down upon us, bright as the stars which illumine its immeasurable depths, immortal as the Being [???]…space, the spirits of the just can never die. Every generous heart feels a pang of agony as well as pride to see many a mother’s darling, the laughing dimples of youth yet upon his beardless cheek, rush gaily by to the scene of strife and blood, and hot tears rush to eyes unused to weep at the thought of that fair head pillowed on the bloody turf; and yet, where could mortal die as well? Pity the desolate ones at home; but for him, the death that must have come at the last and torn him reluctant from the earth, he had gone bravely forth to meet, and in the virtue and valor of self-sacrifice, has robbed it of its sting and despoiled the grave of its victory. – When Wolfe, on being told that the French retreated, exclaimed ‘I die happy,’ he expressed, no doubt, the feelings of every true hero as he looks his last upon the earth and feels that he has not died in vain. Happy in being a benefactor, at the cost of his own life, to his naïve land and to humanity; happy in knowing that he will be remembered with love and gratitude, and that he himself will be permitted to look down and see how from his blood will spring the life-giving plants of freedom, independence, and happiness to his country.

How sleep the brave, who sink to rest,
By all their country’s wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She then shall dress a sweeter sod,
Than Fancy’s feet have ever trod.

By fairy hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There honor comes, a pilgrim grey,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell a weeping hermit there.

Since the foregoing was written we have been permitted to read the following letter from Col. Edward Wallace*, of Kershaw’s Regiment. The anxiety of a wide circle of friends to learn the particulars attending to the death of Col. Hardy, will plead a sufficient excuse for the publication of a private letter.

Stone Bridge, July 23d, 1861,

Dear Sir: – I have been requested by Col. Kershaw, who is unable to write himself on account of the numerous duties which devolve upon him, to inform you of the melancholy death of your son William. The particulars of his death are as follows: When Col. Kershaw’s Regiment was in the heat of the engagement, he dispatched Willie to a Virginia Regiment, commanded by Col. Preston, in order to bring it to its proper position. As he was returning at the head of the Regiment, he was fired upon by one of the Federal soldiers, concealed in a clump of woods, through which they had to pass. He survived only a few moments after he was shot. – He was taken immediately to a place where his body could be recovered after the battle, which has since been done. His body has been temporarily interred, and will be sent, as soon as a burial-case can be procured, to your residence. He died discharging his duty nobly and manfully, but his death has thrown a gloom over all his numerous friends, detracting, in a great measure, from the pleasure we would otherwise feel in the glorious victory which our nation obtained.

Nobly he lived and nobly died, and it may be a mournful pleasure to you to know that so universally was he esteemed that his death is mourned by the whole Regiment, as if he were a near relative of each individual.

Yours, in deep sympathy,
EDWARD WALLACE,
Aid-de-Camp of Col. Kershaw.

P. S. – My dear sir: – I fully endorse all that Wallace has said of your noble boy. God bless you and Mrs. H., and soften this terrible blow.

Your Friend,
J. B. KERSHAW.

To Dr. J. F. E. Hardy, Asheville, N. C.

The Spirit of the Age (Raleigh, NC), 8/10/1861

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Edward Wallace at Ancestry

Edward Wallace at Fold3

* Notwithstanding the reference to Hardy as a Colonel here and as a Lieutenant on this marker in Asheville, NC where he was born, Hardy appears to have died with the rank of Private. Wallace also appears to have been on the rolls of Co. C as a Private.

Co. C, 2nd S.C. Infantry roster

William Henry Hardy at Ancestry

William Henry Hardy at Fold3

**William Henry Hardy at FindAGrave





Major James Burdge Walton, Washington Artillery of New Orleans, At the Battle

29 04 2020

The Washington Artillery
—————

A letter from Richmond, Virginia, to a gentleman of this office, says:

The Washington Artillery, under Major Walton, are highly spoken of by every person I have seen who was on the battle-field. After the victory was won, Beauregard called on the Artillery and passed from man to man through the ranks, shaking hands with them and thanking them for their services. That little incident speaks louder for them than a thousand newspaper letters.

We have also been shown a letter from a member of one of our Louisiana companies in Virginia, in which he says:

At the battle of Stone Bridge, Major J. B. Walton, of the Washington Artillery, dismounted from his horse, and walked up and down the lines, to the several batteries under his command, speaking words of praise and encouragement to his men, often times halting to sight, and several times even firing the guns himself. He had the immediate command of the guns and detachments in the center of the battlefield, and acted like a hero. At one time the battalion were surrounded on three sides by the Federal troops, but none of the W. A. boys or officers seemed to carte for it; they continued to pour their rifled shot and cannister into the enemy regardless of consequences, all being as cool and calm as though firing a salute on Lafayette Square.

After the battle, President Davis and Gen. Beauregard rode over to Major Walton requesting him to form his company into line. Gen. Davis made them a speech, complimenting them highly, and said “words were inadequate to express them his thanks for the part they had taken in the engagement.” He considered they had gained for their country the battle of Bull Run, and had greatly assisted in the battle of Manassas, (Stone Bridge) and all he could say was that they were a little band of heroes.

Two boys gave him three cheers and three for Gen. Beauregard and three for the Southern Confederacy.

In the evening, Major Walton visited headquarters at the invitation of Gen. Beauregard and Davis, and remained several hours. The particulars of their conversation have not been made known.

The commander of Sherman’s battery said the day before the battle that he would silence the Washington Artillery battery in three minutes, but the boys turned the tables on the Yankees and silenced their famous Sherman’s battery in forty minutes, capturing eight pieces themselves.

New Orleans (LA) Daily Crescent, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

James Burdge Walton bio 

James Burdge Walton at Ancestry.com 

James Burdge Walton at Fold3 

James Burdge Walton at FindAGrave 





Yet More Handcuffs

23 04 2020

Here’s another example of reports of vast quantities of handcuffs taken by the Confederates from the debris of the Federal army after First Bull Run. Again, it’s second-hand, and perhaps an example of a recruiting gimmick.

Thirty Thousand Handcuffs.

It is stated that among the spoils taken from the enemy in the late glorious victory, were thirty thousand handcuffs! Gentlemen of respectability say they have themselves seen these novel and extraordinary appendages of an invading army.

Thirty thousand handcuffs! And for whom and for what? It is easy to guess. To treat as guilty felons, to enslave and secure for a felon’s death, the patriotic sons of the South, whose only crime is the defence of constitutional liberty, and resistance to the tyrant and usurper at Washington. If this does not rouse the whole South to rise as one man against this hideous adversary, we know nothing of the character of her people. – Richmond Examiner

Athens (GA) Southern Banner, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Those Lying Liars and the Lies They Tell

2 11 2016

I’ve written before of the mis-identification of Sherman’s Battery in accounts of the battle, be it of the Sherman to whom the moniker pertains, or to the location of said battery during the battle. Like the Black Horse Cavalry, in the eyes of many participants every battery they saw on the field was the famous, rock-star Sherman’s Battery. Shortly after the battle, when faced with the reality of the safe return of the battery to the Washington vicinity, some Confederates were still in denial. From the New Orleans Daily Crescent, 8/5/1861:

A Bogus Sherman Battery.

Richmond, August 3. – It is reliably stated by undoubted authority, that when the news reached Washington of the capture of Sherman’s Battery, Gen. Scott privately ordered six cannon to be taken from the Navy-Yard and sent to the neighborhood of Alexandria, with horses, which were brought back with the announcement that Sherman’s Battery had not fallen into the hands of the enemy.

 





Handcuffs “For Officers”

2 09 2015

Handcuffs “For Officers.” – The Dispatch says:

A gentleman who has been over the battlefield where the abolition forces were recently routed, says that one of the captured wagons containing boxes holding 500 pairs of handcuffs, the cases being labled “for officers.” The enemy sought to relieve themselves of the infamy of carrying such impliments of war, but the above fixes the fact upon them. Noting would make the creaturs opposed to us ashamed of any one of their measures, but the above is one as entirely new and novel in the annals of war as it is infamous to those who sought to use it. Truly the bitter chalice is held to their own lips with a vengeance.

Newbern [NC] Weekly Progress, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

For more on Handcuffs and Bull Run, click here.





[Raleigh] North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861: Death of Col. Fisher, 6th North Carolina Infantry

12 08 2015

Death of Col. Fisher.

The rumor we gave in our last of the death of Col. Charles F. Fisher, in the battle of Manassas, is confirmed. He fell at the head of his regiment, gloriously fighting for his native land. We have various accounts of the manner of his death; but our correspondent at Manassas, Capt. York, states that he fell at the head of a ravine, near Sherman’s Battery, while leading, it is presumed, the two right flank companies into the hottest of the fire. He is said to have given his watch and sword to his servant before entering the ravine. He was instantly killed, the ball entering his forehead and coming out at the back of his head. His hat shows the mark of the ball, the rim having been split in front, and the band cut behind. His remains reached this place on Wednesday morning last, via Goldsborough, on their way to Salisbury, his native town. The cars were draped in mourning, and his body was attended by some of the officers of the regiment, and several officers of the Road, who were much attached to him. Capt. Cole’s company, of Col Pettigrew’s regiment, by order of the Governor, accompanied the remains from this place to Salisbury.

Col. Fisher, we suppose, was about 48 years of age. We believe he was for a year or two at West Point, and that he afterwards prepared himself for the practice of the law. He edited for a year or so a paper in Salisbury. He was an able and accomplished writer, and a good speaker. He was a member of the State’s Senate in 1854-’55, and distinguished himself by his earnest advocacy of a liberal system of internal improvements. Soon after, he was called to the Presidency of the North Carolina Railroad, in which capacity he evinced great energy of character and business talents of high order. He resigned this position but a few weeks since to take command of the splendid regiment, which was raised mainly by his own exertions.

His regard for his men, and his efforts to render them comfortable, knew no bounds. Our correspondent – one of his own officers, who writes from Winchester under date of the 18th – speaks in the warmest terms of his devotion to the service, and of his unwearied efforts to provide for his men. Col. Fisher was of ardent temperament, frank in his intercourse with others, unaffected in his manners, modest, and brave. It was natural, therefore, that he should have many friends. He has fallen gloriously in a noble cause. It is believed that he was slain before the victory was fully won, while engaged in sustaining the heavy pressure on the left wing of our army. Cold and still, he was conveyed from the field, and heard not the exulting shouts of his comrades as they pursued the flying foe; but he died at the post of duty, at the head of the men who loved him like a brother, and his sensitive spirit was spared the pain of witnessing the suffering and the wounds of such of them as were stricken in battle. Very dear is his memory to all our people.

” ‘Tis come – his hour of martyrdom
In freedom’s sacred cause has come;
And though his life hath passed away
Like lightning on a stormy day,
Yet shall his death-hour leave a track
Of glory, permanent and bright,
To which the brave of after-times,
The suffering brave, shall long look back
With proud regret, – and by its light,
Watch through the hour of slavery’s night,
For vengeance on the oppressor’s crimes.”

(Raleigh) North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy