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.





Image: Pvt. Edward P. Doherty, Co. A, 71st New York State Militia

15 06 2020
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Capt. E. P. Doherty, 16th NY Cavalry (Source)

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Capt. E. P. Doherty, 16th NY Cavalry (Source)

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Capt. E. P. Doherty, 16th NY Cavalry (Source)

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Capt. E. P. Doherty and Sgt. Boston Corbett, 16th NY Cavalry, After Pursuit and Capture of John Wilkes Booth (Source)

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Capt. E. P. Doherty, 16th NY Cavalry (Source)





Image: Pvt. Agustus E. Bronson, Co. I, 3rd Connecticut Infantry

1 06 2020
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Augustus E. Bronson, as a member of the 17th CT Infantry, right. Captured at First Bull Run, MWIA at Gettysburg. (Source)





Vivandiere, 7th Louisiana Infantry*, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle (2)

8 05 2020

Vivandiere, 7th Louisiana Infantry*, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle (2)

From the Seat of War in Virginia.
—————

Special to the New Orleans Crescent

Headquarters Seventh Regiment La. Vols.
2 ½ Miles from Centreville, VA, August 3.

Mr. Editor – My multitudinous duties of a military character have kept me so constantly employed for the past few days as to cause me, unwillingly, to delay the “continuation” of my letter of the 23rd ult., relative to the great battles of Bull Run and Stone Bridge, or “Manassas.” Of the full particulars of both these memorable battles, you are, ere this, fully informed through other correspondents, and the official returns published in the Richmond papers and the Northern press. Even the interesting episodes of which such tragic scenes are always so prolific have been ere this served upon the public platter, as food for the insatiable appetite, proceeding from the “animal which is in man,” and hashed and re-hashed until they have become insipid and tasteless.

A few incidents which either occurred under my own observation, or for the truthfulness whereof I will vouch, have thus far however escaped other argus-eyed correspondents for the press, and I will claim for the Crescent the honor of being fist in the field with them. Of one of these, the historian should make note, as a link forever binding the name of Beauregard to that of all that is truly great and honorable.

It was not until late in the afternoon of the eventful 21st that President Davis arrived on the battle-field, and Beauregard had from an elevated stand-point seen the last gallant horseman of our pursuing cavalry disappear in the distance after the retreating Federalists ere he was informed of the President’s coming. I was near him, as his staff and the field-officers of the day approached to congratulate him on his safety and his victory. He was thus occupied when one of his aids approached at the top of his horse’s speed and announced the fact of the President’s arrival and request to have the pleasure of seeing him immediately. The reply of Beauregard was firm and unimpassioned: “I cannot wait upon the President himself till I have first seen and attended to the wants of my wounded!” This saying he turned his horse in the direction of the most fatal portion of the bloody field. Such a man is our Beauregard.

In conversation with many apparently intelligent Yankee prisoners, and from letters picked up on the field of battle, we gain a much better idea of public sentiment at the North than is discoverable from the perusal of the hireling papers of that section. When asked why they had taken up arms against us and invaded our soil, many of the prisoners would reply that they had enlisted for three months with a view of protecting the “National Capital” against a “Southern mob,” and had been marched, against their wills and wishes, into Southern territory, and would prefer to remain prisoners at Richmond until the suspension of hostilities than to rejoin the “grand army” of Northern aggression and invasion. I was engaged, at Manassas Junction, a day or two after the battle of the 21st, in conversation with a prisoner, a Sergeant in a Connecticut regiment, when a large and good natured looking darkie, belonging to an officer from South Carolina, came in, having in charge two live Yankee prisoners, whom he had surprised, disarmed, and captured, unaided. The negro was much pleased with his exploit, and became the lion of the hour. My Connecticut sergeant appeared somewhat astonished that the negroes – the downtrodden, bechained, bestrapped, misused, maltreated and crushed – should thus turn upon their liberators and friends (?). Your correspondent “took occasion” to read Connecticut a homily, with the above mentioned circumstance for a text, and felt sufficiently repaid for my efforts, in my first lesson, in the assurance on the parted Nutmeg, that there had “no doubt been considerable fault on both sides.”

The regiment to which I am attached, the Seventh of Louisiana, under Col. Hays, is now encamped on the battle-field of Bull Run, abut two hundred yards from Blackburn’s Ford, across which the enemy attempted to force a passage – and did’nt. The Sixth, of Louisiana, (Col. Seymour’s,) is quartered to our left a few hundred yards, and the Washington Artillery about a mile farther up the Run. The Ninth is at Manassas Junction. All the Louisiana troops in this section have been formed into a Brigade, under command of Senior Colonel Seymour, which arrangement appears to be generally satisfactory to all.

I have just had placed in my hands the monthly reports of the several companies of the Seventh Regiment, from which I collate the following of the killed and wounded in the late battles:

Continental Guards, Capt. Geo. Clark – Killed, Wm. Maylau on the 18th ult., and Thos. R. Clay on the 21st. Wounded, Sergeant [?], and Privates Jno. Flynn and J. W. Kelly, all on the 21st.

Crescent Rifles, Company B, Capt H. T. Jett – Killed, Jno. S. Brooks, on the 18th ult. Wounded, Corporal Chas. V. Fisher, on the 21st, doing well.

American Rifles, Capt. Wm. D. Rickarby – Wounded, Wm. Stanton, slightly, in the battle of the 21st.

Irish volunteers, of Lafourche, Capt. W. B. Ratliff – Killed [?] Murphy, 21st; Wounded on the 21st. Corporal Fallan lost an arm, James Hammond, Jas. McCarty, Francis Manley and Timothy Noon.

Baton Rouge Fencibles – Wounded, 21st, J. T. [?] and W. H. Banks.

Virginia Blues, Capt. D. A Wilson, Jr. – Killed, Miles Smythe, July 18; Wounded, Patrick Cane and Jno. McMahan. Total killed, 5; wounded, 14.

Of the loss of the Eighth Regiment, I see you are already informed, and also relative to the cutting up of Wheat’s Battalion.

Our boys are in the best of spirits, and eager for more fighting.

I enclose you a discourse delivered by our Chaplain, Rev. Dr. Howard of New Orleans, on the Sunday succeeding the great battle of Stone Bridge, on the very spot where the battle raged the hottest on the ever memorable 21st of July. It was entirely extemporaneous, and written out afterwards from recollection. I send it to you by urgent request of nearly all our officers, and very many others who were present on the occasion of its delivery. It will well repay perusal. More anon.

Vivandiere

New Orleans (LA) Daily Crescent, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*The writer’s enlistment in the 7th Louisiana is assumed, but not certain.





Image: Maj. James Burdge Walton, Washington Artillery of New Orleans

30 04 2020
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Maj. James B. Walton (Source)

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Maj. James B. Walton (Source)

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Maj. James B. Walton (Source)

Walton, wartime standing cdv

Maj. James B. Walton (Source)





71st New York Infantry Returns to the Field 27 Years Later

24 04 2020

SOLDIER’S BONES
——————–
A Grave at Bull Run Desecrated by Veterans.
——————–
THEY WANTED SOUVENIRS
——————–
Members of the Seventy-first Regiment Unearth a Skeleton on a Relic Hunting Expedition – It May Have Been a Comrade.
——————–

New York, July 26 – The Evening World Says: Apparently there’s trouble ahead for the Seventy-first regiment. The bones of a soldier have been removed from their resting place in the battle ground at Bull Run by members of this regiment, and what the consequences will be no one knows just now.

The regiment went to Bull Run last Friday night to celebrate the twenty-seventh anniversary of that famous battle. The members reached Fredericksburg on Saturday and Bull Run on Sunday. They were handsomely entertained by their hosts and enjoyed themselves immensely.

They roamed over the battlefield and discussed the positions and engagements of their regiment on that memorable occasion, and compared notes with their Confederate hosts until Sunday night, when they started home, stopping at Washington on the way. They arrived in New York Tuesday morning. The boys searched over the battlefield for souvenirs, and finding a skeleton of a soldier, sever thought a few of its bones would be more desirable as reminders of that occasion than battered bullets and rusty sabers, so they brought them home.

Surgeon E. T. T. Marsh told a reported about it as follows: About eighteen or twenty members of Company B were walking over the battlefield in search of souvenirs. They came to a little gully about six feet deep which had been washed out by water. On the side of this gully was a little mound which attracted the attention of one of the company. It looked like a grave, and when one of the boys stirred up its surface a skeleton was revealed. The men and knives they opened the grave as best they could.

“The soil is clay and pretty hard, so the men soon gave up trying to take the skeleton out whole. They discovered a piece of blue cloth and a button which proved that the dead man was a Union soldier.

“The men told about their discovery when they joined the rest of the regiment and it was talked over freely. Some thought the poor soldier was one of those of our regiment who was never accounted for.

“Private M. C. O’Brien, a physician, was one of the party that unearthed the skeleton, but I do not know any others. I am certain that the whole skeleton was not taken, but I should not wonder if some of the long bones – those of the arm and the thigh – were carried away. I suppose if I had been there I would have taken a bone, too. I did not see any of the bones, but I heard the boys talk about them.”

Sergt. Bonestiel, of Company K, who is at present on duty at the armory, professed to know nothing about the matter.

When he was told about it he laughed and thought it was a grand joke if the boys secured the bones for trophies.

It was rumored that Governor Lee, of Virginia, had communicated with Governor Hill on the subject, but reporters were unable to see either Governor Hill or his secretary at Albany.

Wilkes-Barre (PA) News, 7/27/1888

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Contributed by John Banks





Photo: Members of 69th NYSM

16 04 2020

Reader Matt Regan has provided this image of members of the 69th New York State Militia, post battle, as officers in the later-formed Irish Brigade. Photo IDs are per Mr. Regan.

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L to R, Pvt. Peter Kelly (Co. I), Pvt. James McKay Rorty (Co. G), and Sgt. William O’Donohue (Co. K), as officers of units in the Irish Brigade, post Bull Run and 69th NYSM

These three were captured at First Bull Run, and subsequently escaped and returned north together, as recounted by Rorty here.

The photograph is in the possession of Mr. Regan’s family. Kelly is Mr. Regan’s “great-uncle.” He was commissioned in Co. K, 69th NYVI. Rorty, as discussed here, was commissioned in the 14th NY Independent Battery, as was O’Donohue. Rorty was KIA at Gettysburg, O’Donohue KIA at Chancellorsville (with Battery C, 4th US Artillery) and Kelly resigned in 1862.

Peter Kelly at Ancestry.com

Peter Kelly at Fold 3

Peter Kelly Bio

James Rorty at Ancestry.com

James Rorty at Fold 3

James Rorty at FindAGrave

James Rorty Bio

William O’Donohue (as William O. Donohue) at Ancestry.com

William O’Donohue (as William O. Donohue) at Fold 3





Image: Lieut. Col. Stephen A. Miller, 1st Minnesota Infantry

11 04 2020
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Lieut. Col. Stephen A. Miller, 1st Minnesota Infantry (from Wikipedia)





Image: Chaplain Edward Duffield Neill, 1st Minnesota Infantry

19 03 2020

 

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Chaplain Edward Duffield Neill, 1st MN. From this site.

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Neil later in life. From this site.





Image: Pvt. Ezra C. Goodwin, Co. D, 2nd New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry

22 01 2020
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From FindAGrave.com. Publication source not known.