Saturday, May 10, 2014

Albert E Studley: 1846-1864, our killer angel

“In the dark of the trees he could smell splintered wood and see white upturned faces like wide white dirty flowers.”
― Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels

After our second great grandfather George Studley and the 19th Maine buried the dead at Gettysburg, the pursuit of Lee began on foot back into Virginia, sometimes subsisting on half rations, men overcome by heat dying by the roadside, others thankful just to be alive, at one point 36 miles without rest or sleep.  Through the fall of 1863, they engaged the Confederates at Bristoe Station for a solid sixty hours and weathered the bitter cold of the December Battle of Mine Run.

Unlike other regiments, the 19th sustained few desertions.  They settled onto Cole’s Hill for the winter encampment and many of the men and officers were granted a fifteen day furlough that December.

Likely George, now an officer,  took advantage of the furlough to return to Camden, Maine, and the family he had been away from for sixteen months.  Harriet had been pregnant with our great grandfather, Sidney, when George enlisted in 1862.  While George was away at war, she cared for their six children ranging from age 8 months to teenager, as well as trying to make ends meet.  George was a carpenter so the family likely had only his service pay for support.  Her mother had died several years earlier, and her father was elderly.

Albert was the oldest of George and Harriet’s six children, three girls and three boys, in a family whose roots extended into the early 1600’s in Maine and Massachusetts.  He was 5’3” - not a big guy - with light complexion and grey eyes.  His great-grandfather had been one of the earliest settlers in the area and his mother’s side immigrants to the Plymouth, Massachusetts area, all sturdy stock to endure the privation of the times.

Albert E. Studley
Inscription on back of photo:  Albert E. Studley, born Camden, Maine
Mustered in at Belfast March 1st, 1864
Killed May 10th 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House
5 ft. 3 in, light complexion, grey eyes
6th Battery Light Artillery
At age 38 in 1862, father George was no spring chicken to be a soldier.  He enlisted in that early part of the war when men were volunteering to fight for the cause.  His 42 year old brother, Benjamin, enlisted in the 28th Maine Infantry, also in 1862, and brother, John III, in the 12th Maine Infantry in 1865 at age 42.  Their father, John Studley, Jr., fought in the War of 1812.

Such was the setting for George’s oldest son, Albert, turning 18 when his father returned home on furlough that December.  It is no surprise  then, that Albert enlisted in the First Battalion, 6th Maine Light  Artillery Regiment just a couple months later on February 29, 1864.

To give some background, “light artillery” are units whose cannoneers are individually horse mounted to allow the battery to travel faster.  They would operate with little organizational structure, assigned to go where needed.

With the standard six weeks of training, Albert would have joined the 6th Maine Light Infantry veterans of Gettysburg in mid-April 1864.  During Albert’s brief military career, the 6th Maine Light Infantry traveled with the 12th Corps, Army of the Potomac.  His father, George, was attached to the 19th Maine, 2nd Corps, but both Corps were engaged in the brutal and unrelenting Overland Campaign starting with the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864.

The Overland was a fight of two Titans, Generals Lee and Grant, opening with Grant electing to cross the Rapidan River downstream from the Confederate defenses, thinking perhaps Lee would not engage in the tangled thicket known as The Wilderness.

On May 5th, the first day in the Battle of The Wilderness, the 19th Maine had some action but on the 6th they hotly engaged superior numbers of Confederates while fires raged through the woods and at one point the breastworks of the 19th were on fire, “in some places Longstreet planted their colors on our works…the loss was severe.”  A Confederate offensive drove the Union Army back, and with this Grant responded by shifting 10 miles south to Spotsylvania Court House to place the Union Army between Lee and Richmond and find more favorable ground for battle.

The whereabouts of Albert and the 6th Maine Light Artillery during the Battle of the Wilderness are not known to this writer but the 19th Maine diarist at one point on the second day mentions the 6th Maine Battery.  The Wilderness, however, was an infantry battle and the 6th's battery of cannons of little use.

The 19th Maine’s commander, Seldon Connor, was wounded in the Wilderness and replaced by Major Welch.  The Second Corps moved south toward Spotsylvania on May 8th; the 19th Regiment's diarist writes,

“the experience of the last three days cast its shadow over the troops.  As they marched away, the men of the Regiment, unaccustomed to weeping, looked, with moistened eyes and quivering lips, into the burning woods behind them, where so many of their comrades lay, unburied, comrades who, in their dear old homes, had been their neighbors and schoolmates.”

Lee was able to maneuver his troops south of Grant, and on May 9th the 19th Maine engaged at the Po River.  Both sides built earthworks with some skirmishing going on in preparation for the confrontation at Spotsylvania Court House.  On the 10th, the 19th Maine took part in the charge on Laurel Hill held by the Confederates, the main obstacle to taking Spotsylvania Court House,

“the soldiers would cheerfully respond to any order General Hancock might give.  Our Division had more confidence because he was there.  So when the order was given to charge, Webb’s Brigade went forward with the rest of the line, with a wild rush toward the nearest point of the Confederate works.  On account of the trees and underbrush it was impossible to keep a regular line of battle.  The works to be captured were on higher ground, but the troops never reached the Confederate entrenchments.”

While George’s regiment was charging Laurel Hill on May 10, somewhere nearby young Albert was engaged in some of his first serious action when wounded by a shell.  He was moved to a field hospital and died the following day.

Private Albert E. Studley was originally buried at Laurel Hill, Spotsylvania, and later moved to Fredericksburg National Cemetery, Plot # 767.

Although we don’t know the exact location of the 6th Maine on the 10th, the fact he was first buried on Laurel Hill indicates this as the site of the field hospital and that Albert was wounded nearby.  His father’s 19th Maine Regiment was engaged in the assault on Laurel Hill on the same day.

Being in the vicinity, George probably learned of his son’s death the same day.  Lieutenant George Studley had another year of bloody fighting before the war ended in June 1865.

Lt. Studley and his two brothers all survived the war.

Sources:  The History of the Nineteenth Regiment of Maine Volunteer infantgry, 1862-1865, John Day Smith, 1909.

Thanks to Theresa Thrush, our cousin who found Albert's photo among her mother's collection last summer.

The Cousins have created a Living Legacy to Albert through the Hallowed Ground Living Legacy Tree Planting Project to Commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil Way by planting and designating one tree for each of the 620,000 soldiers who died, each life as valuable as Albert's.


Janie Nute-Thomas said...

Albert didn't die at the Wilderness Battle, as the photo suggested.

Katharine said...

Fixed it. Need you to be my editor.