Saturday, October 19, 2013

In His Hands Tightly Clasped

A photo of three children which had been found in their dead father’s hand following the Battle of Gettysburg was published on October 19th 1863, in an attempt to identify the soldier.

Following the Battle of Gettysburg a dead soldier was found clutching a photo of his three children.  This photo made its way to a local tavern where it was viewed by Doctor John Francis Bournes, a Philadelphia physician who was caring for the battle’s wounded.  Bournes took it upon himself to try to find out who those three children belonged to.  He had published in “The Philadelphia Inquirer” on October 19th 1863 the story “Whose Father Was He?” it described the photo of the three children, their ages and what they were wearing, with, “After the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union soldier was found in a secluded spot on the battlefield, where,  wounded, he had laid himself down to die. In his hands tightly clasped, was an ambrotype containing the portraits of three small children…and as he silently gazed upon them his soul passed away.  It is earnestly desired that all papers in the country will draw attention [so] the family…may come into possession of it".

To the north in Portville, New York, Philinda Humiston read the description of the photo in “The American Presbyterian” a church magazine, on October 29th 1863, and since she had not heard from her husband since the Battle of Gettysburg, she responded.  Bournes sent her a carte-de-visite copy of the photo which confirmed that the dead soldier was Amos Humiston.  Bournes made the trip to the Humiston home in New York to return the original photo to her.

The publicity surrounding the photo of the three small children also help to raise the funds that open the Gettysburg orphan’s home, or the “National Homestead at Gettysburg”.  It was to be a home for the children of fallen Union soldiers.  It opened in 1866.


LoyaltyOfDogsDotCom said...

One of the most fascinating human interest stories of Gettysburg! It is good to see Sgt. Humiston and his family remembered in this anniversary year of the battle. On we found the following link to a detailed account of the Humistons' story by Errol Morris that was published in the New York Times in 2009. If your readers would like to read more, they can copy and paste the following link:

LivingInVermont said...

Thanks for sharing this. It is a very good story.

Rose Connolly said...

Thanks for the story. This is only a small spinet of the lost and identified.