Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Remembrance, by Susan Kinsella

Thanksgiving puts me in mind of how much I appreciate family: both those I am blessed to be with now as well as those whose stories create our foundation. I thought this reverie might be appropriate.

(Photo up top of the blog with this posting: Cousins Harold Taylor, Sylva Howland Emhof, Jack Kinsella, Lucille (CB) Taylor Kinsella, Leona Howland Maffei at the Baker Reunion, Center Lisle, August 2009)

I had meetings in Washington, DC in mid-November this year. A good chance, I thought, to meet up with my niece, Alison Herdeg, who lives north of the city. She most generously took off half a day from work so that we could spend the afternoon together before my flight home to California.

We parked by the National Mall and started with a monument I had not known about before: the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Part of the Constitution Gardens, it was on a lovely island in a small lake, accessed by a short wooden bridge. A blue heron welcomed us.

Fifty-six stone blocks formed a semi-circle, each inscribed with the name, occupation, and hometown of one of the signers, crowned with a facsimile of his signature in gold. 

John Hancock’s stone was as bold as ever. But I was also taken with Richard Stockton’s stone. Some of the signers, like Ben Franklin, went on to greatness in the service of the new country. But others paid dearly for their signature on the Declaration and Richard Stockton was one of those. 

Born into a wealthy family that had helped found Princeton University, Stockton was welcomed overseas by notable men, including King George III, in England, Ireland and Scotland, and was appointed to the New Jersey Provincial Council on his return. But when, in 1776, he took a very active role in the Second Continental Congress and was the first person from New Jersey to sign the Declaration of Independence, his fortunes soon took a different turn. 

Just five months later, he was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night, stripped of his property, marched to Perth Amboy and turned over to the British army. There he was imprisoned in irons, starved, and kept in freezing cold winter conditions. When he was released five weeks later, his health was ruined. He returned to find his home occupied by the British General Cornwallis. All his furniture, crops and livestock had been taken or destroyed and his eminent library had been burned.

I was particularly interested in Richard Stockton’s story because my brother Tom Kinsella is a Professor of English at Stockton University in southern New Jersey, named in honor of this beleaguered signer of the Declaration of Independence.

At this memorial, I thought about our Taylor and Baker ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War to bring the dream of a new nation into reality, including Josiah, Gamaliel and Thomas Taylor - grandfather, father and teenage son who fought together, and Solomon Baker and John Joe Backus, as well as several more (see Story here).

Washington Monument from Constitution Gardens

Ali and I moved on to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That was an incredibly heart-wrenching war to me and I spent a deeply chaotic freshman year in college protesting against it. One of my college friends was killed in Vietnam. I find the Wall always deeply moving. This time, we visited it the day after Veterans Day, so there were many more flowers, letters, and tokens left in tribute and mourning at the wall than usual.

Ali Herdeg at Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial, a tribute to the nurses who served in Vietnam, especially breaks my heart every time I see it.

Ali went to get the car while I went to see Abe. I decided that he would probably like the fact that people of all races and ethnic backgrounds revere and visit him. 

And of course that made me think about our ancestors who fought in the Civil War, all on the Union side: Arthur Borthwick, who left detailed diaries of the troops he marched with; Charles Noyes, Franklin Olmsted, Orlando Munsell Tillotson (stories here) and Dustan Walbridge, cousins of my great-great-grandfather Daniel Taylor (only Frank survived); and Daniel Mott, a young farmer from Cortland, NY and uncle to my great-grandmother Kate Youngs Baker. 

When Ali arrived back with the car, we decided to go visit Daniel Mott. We headed across the Potomac River to Arlington Cemetery and asked for directions to the Civil War Unknowns Monument.

Arlington Cemetery, Washington, DC

We walked down many peaceful, sorrowful lanes of plain white gravestones, heading towards Arlington House, which had been the Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s home until the war. 

Robert E. Lee House, Arlington, Cemetery
 Past the house, up the hill and around the corner, near what had been a flower garden and grove of oak and elm trees, we found an ornate burial vault. 

Civil War Unknowns Monument, Arlington Cemetery
Carved into it are the words:

Beneath this stone repose the bones of two thousand one hundred and eleven unknown soldiers gathered after the War from the fields of Bull Run and the route to the Rappahannock. Their remains could not be identified, but their names and deaths are recorded in the archives of their country, and its grateful citizens honor them as of their noble army of martyrs. May they rest in peace. 
September, A.D. 1866

Pat Herdeg, our blog curator and magnificent ancestry researcher, believes that Daniel Mott is buried here. Her chilling story of his death at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run/Manassas is HERE

We have a letter that Daniel wrote to his older brother, Samuel, transcribed by hand by Aunt CB:

Camp opposite Fredericksburg, Va.
Sunday, July 13, 1862
Dear Brother,

I seat myself on my knapsack with pen in hand to inform you that I am well hoping this will find you all enjoying the same blessing. We are under marching orders and have got our knapsacks all ready packed so as to start at 15 minutes warning yet we may not start before tomorrow morning. I expect we will go to Warrenton, Va. about 35 miles northwest of this place and near the blue ridge mountains. There is quite a great many sick in the regiment. Nearly all that are not able to march have been taken to hospitals at Alexandria and Washington. 

There was 6 out of our Co. carried to a hospital in Washington last Sunday. Rufus and Charles Hutchings were among the number. This climate agrees with me very well but I dread the march. We have to carry so much on our backs that I often wish I had the strength of Sampson of old but I can get along as well as most of the Reg. then we are all toiling together and if needs be will fight till our last drop of blood is spilled in defense of our country. 

I hope the President’s call for 300,000 additional volunteers will be promptly responded to and I think New York will fill us her quota of 50,000 men without drafting but to do this each town and County ought to bear a share and I think Virgil [town in Cortland County] should spare of few more of her sons. My advice to any young man that can possibly leave home and whose health will admit to enlist by all means.

“What,” says some young man, “leave at such a busy time of year as this?” YES, I say, leave now when you are called for and so much needed to help crush out this accursed rebellion for the preservation of the Union is of greater importance than haying or harvesting and if the new volunteers in large numbers will come on and hold the places that we older and better drilled ones now hold so as to let us go on to Richmond and Charleston we could go on in such large numbers as to break the backbone of rebeldom in a short time. . . . 

I send my love to you all, this from your friend and Brother, Daniel Mott

Then Daniel adds a note to Samuel about the return mail he hopes to receive. 

Direct as follows and it will follow us where we will: 

Doubledays Brigade 76 Regt.
Co. A. N.Y.S.V. Washington, DC

Daniel spilled his last drop of blood a month and a half later, on August 28, 1862 at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run. He was just 27 and had been in the Army less than a year. In the chaos and terror of war, his body was left on the battlefield. The war would continue for another three years. We hope that his bones were among those eventually gathered and brought to this Tomb of the Unknown. 

But, wherever you are, Daniel Mott, your family remembers and honors you. Blessings.

Ali Herdeg and Sue Kinsella at
Civil War Unknowns Monument, Arlington Cemetery, Washington, DC


Pat Herdeg said...


So well written, and filled with the gratitude and pride we carry for our ancestors who fought in previous wars. Thanks for this story! Happy Thanksgiving!

Mom/CB said...

As I have gotten older and wend my own path towards "Glory" I think more of those who have traveled this road before me! Some I remember so well, some I have only heard stories about and some are just names but ALL have played a part in my life! Yes, it gets harder BUT I am aware that they also came this way and I try to follow my Mentors ! How lucky we are to know so much about them!
Thank you, Sue and Ali for this visit with you! Mom/CB

Kathryn said...

Sue, I loved this.
You always do such a great job.
I had to be amused at how different we are tho.
While you were in college protesting the Vietnam war, I was in the Navy.
On my civilian jacket I had a patch that said 'war is not healthy for children and other living things' though, so we aren't that different.
I love you!