Erasmus never returned to the farm to graft those cherry trees, or plant the starts of Southern sweet potatoes he loved, or taste a big can of peaches. He never got to hug his wife Suzi and his two little boys.
Instead, on May 22, 1863, a Confederate sharp-shooter painted a target on his chest and he dropped on the muddy, bloody ground of the Vicksburg battlefield. Erasmus was carried to a field hopspital, but was declared dead on the same day–escaping the fate of so many who suffered long and angonizing deaths from chest wounds, or lay on the field for two days before their troops were able to retrieve them.
It seems appropriate, as we approach Memorial Day, that I talk about one of the very few of the many veterans in our family that gave his life in battle.
After the day of rest and refueling that I described in the last episode, the morning of the 22nd, a beautiful day, saw cannon fire and then soldiers advancing. An account by Private Frank Mason of the 42nd Ohio, tells the story that probably includes the last minutes of Erasmus Anderson.
The Southern soldiers had proved more resistant than General Grant had hoped, and he now set about to starve the city of VIcksburg after the attacks on 20th and 21st of May and this one on May 22, which would precede a 47-day period of “waiting them out”
The soldiers and citizens of Vicksburg were reduced to a diet of mule meat and rats before their final surrender on July 4, 1863.
The Vicksburg campaign is hailed as the turning point in the war, but also is known as the series of battles that cost the most lives. As in most wars, the majority of them were young. My great-grand uncle Erasmus Anderson, however was a mature thirty-three, married with two young children–two and four years old when he died.
His sister, Margaret, in her book of remembrances, kept a lock of E’s hair and his printed obituary when he died. Margaret was mentioned more than once in his letters, and apparently wrote to Erasmus while he was away. My cousin Bonnie who now owns the remembrance book, says the hair is a deep red color. (Red heads were common among our Scottish-derived Andersons.)
Four years after Erasmus died, his wife Susanna married George Reed, a neighbor who had four children. The lived in Millersburg until George died in 1891. She apparently lived in Florida for a time, but died in New Canton Illinois. They had three children together.
So far, I have been unable to trace the two children of Erasmus and Susannah, Frank and James, and therefore any possible cousins that might be descended from Erasmus. Frank Anderson became a medical doctor and when Susanna died in 1903, was living in Waycross Georgia. James Anderson lived in Russelville Illinois in 1903.
Erasmus is now buried in the National Cemetery at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Section G, Grave 5177.
I’m sorry about the canned peaches and the sweet potatoes, E.
Notes: This entire series on Erasmus Anderson in the Civil war would not have been possible if it were not for the generosity of a descendant of Erasmus’ widow and her second husband. He provided me with transcriptions of Civil War letters from “E” which I use with his permission. I am deeply grateful for permission to share the letters.
Other sources include:
- A site devoted to the 16th OVI that is a real treasure trove of information about Ohio’s soldiers in the Civil War. That site is the source for Cpl. Wolbach’s “Camp and Field” report which was published in the 1880s.
- Ancestry.com where I find birth, census death, military and other records of my ancestors and the people that Erasmus mentions.
- The painting comes from Michael K. Wood’s site on the 16th OVI, linked above.
- The photograph and information on burial come from a site devoted to the Vicksburg National Military Cemetery.
- The image of the obituary and lock of E’s hair were sent to me by a cousin who owns the remembrance book of Margaret Anderson Lisle, Erasmus’ sister.