150 years ago today a young woman from Canandaigua, New York attended the funeral of a soldier killed at Gettysburg. Captain Wheeler of the 126th New York Infantry had been killed by a sharpshooter on the morning of July 3rd.
From Village Life in America 1852-1872 by Caroline Cowles Richards (152-155):
July 4.—The terrible battle of Gettysburg brings to Canandaigua sad news of our soldier boys of the 126th Regiment. Colonel Sherrill was instantly killed, also Captains Wheeler and Herendeen, Henry Willson and Henry P. Cook. Captain Richardson was wounded.
July 26.—Charlie Wheeler was buried with military honors from the Congregational church to-day. Two companies of the 54th New York State National Guard attended the funeral, and the church was packed, galleries and all. It was the saddest funeral and the only one of a soldier that I ever attended. I hope it will be the last. He was killed at Gettysburg, July 3, by a sharpshooter’s bullet. He was a very bright young man, graduate of Yale college and was practising law. He was captain of Company K, 126th N. Y. Volunteers. I have copied an extract from Mr. Morse’s lecture, “You and I”: “And who has forgotten that gifted youth, who fell on the memorable field of Gettysburg? To win a noble name, to save a beloved country, he took his place beneath the dear old flag, and while cannon thundered and sabers clashed and the stars of the old Union shone above his head he went down in the shock of battle and left us desolate, a name to love and a glory to endure. And as we solemnly know, as by the old charter of liberty we most sacredly swear, he was truly and faithfully and religiously
Of all our friends the noblest,
The choicest and the purest,
The nearest and the dearest,
In the field at Gettysburg.
Of all the heroes bravest,
Of soul the brightest, whitest,
Of all the warriors greatest,
Shot dead at Gettysburg.
And where the fight was thickest,
And where the smoke was blackest,
And where the fire was hottest,
On the fields of Gettysburg,
There flashed his steel the brightest,
There blazed his eyes the fiercest,
There flowed his blood the reddest
On the field of Gettysburg.
O wailing winds of heaven!
O weeping dew of evening!
O music of the waters
That flow at Gettysburg,
Mourn tenderly the hero,
The rare and glorious hero,
The loved and peerless hero,
Who died at Gettysburg.
His turf shall be the greenest,
His roses bloom the sweetest,
His willow droop the saddest
Of all at Gettysburg.
His memory live the freshest,
His fame be cherished longest,
Of all the holy warriors,
Who fell at Gettysburg.
These were patriots, these were our jewels. When shall we see their like again? And of every soldier who has fallen in this war his friends may write just as lovingly as you and I may do of those to whom I pay my feeble tribute.”
From Disaster, struggle, triumph: the adventures of 1000 ‘boys in blue’, from 1862 to 1865
by Arabella Mary Willson:
The Congregational Church in Canandaigua still stands