Lieutenant Nathaniel Wales’ story at Antietam may be unique. It is certainly startling: he was saved from a fatal wound by wearing armor at the battle.

I’ve not previously found anything else like this associated with Antietam. Having little experience with the subject, then, I went off to find out something about body armor of the Civil War. As a bonus along the way, I also came upon a number of interesting characters and connections in Wales’ family.

Our man was probably named for his 5x great-grandfather Nathaniel Wales (1586-1681), weaver, who arrived in Massachusetts from Yorkshire, England in 1635. He made the passage in the ship James out of Bristol with other pilgrims including the Reverend Richard Mather (1596-1669), father to Increase, grandfather of Cotton. Wales was later brother-in-law, by the second of his three wives, to Major General Humphrey Atherton. Wales’ descendants were generally successful business people in Boston and nearby towns.

Our Nathaniel’s father Thomas Crane Wales (1805-1880), 7 generations down the line, was prominent in the boot and shoe business, particularly in rubber overshoes and boots. He seems to have been a major player in that market for much of the 1840s and 50s. He had invented and patented a lined, waterproof cold weather boot he called the “Arctic”, which was hugely popular and widely imitated. As a result, I expect young Nathaniel had the benefit of a well-to-do Boston upbringing and education.

He was a salesman in Dorchester when the Civil War began, and also belonged to a Boston militia company called the New England Guard. He was 18 years old when he enlisted as First Sergeant, Company G, 24th Massachusetts Infantry in September 1861. He looks to be a very self-possessed young man.

The fine folks at the Western Maryland Historical Library (WHILBR), on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the War, scanned and transcribed a large number of local newspaper pieces for the period 1861-65.  I’ve just picked up on four of these specific to soldiers who died in Hagerstown after Antietam in October, November, and December 1862.

Here’s a sample, a clipping from the Hagerstown Herald of Freedom & Torch Light of 19 November 1862:

 

For some of these men, I only had known that they had died, but not where or when.  I’ve got some updating to do!

[last update 1 September 2018]
Attached to this post is my first feeble attempt at a list of individual soldiers who died on the Maryland Campaign of 1862 – those killed or mortally wounded in action, or otherwise died as a result of their presence there. As far as I know there is no single, comprehensive list anywhere. This one is a start.

click to see larger image

I have been motivated in part by the upcoming memorial reading of the names of the Dead of Antietam at the Antietam National Cemetery on Sunday, September 16.  ANB Ranger Alann Schmidt  is leading the effort, and put out a call for names to add to the lists of local burials he already has available (National Cemetery, Rose Hill,  Mt Olivet, and Elmwood).  I hope to be able to contribute some others.

The following nicely summarizes what we’re up against here, though. It’s from the folks at the Western Maryland Regional Library:

According to the Antietam National Battlefield website 2,100 Union solders were killed, 9,550 were wounded, and 750 were listed as missing or captured. Of the Confederate soldiers, 1,550 were killed, 7,750 were wounded and 1,020 missing or captured. The number of men who died of their wounds or the number of missing who had been killed is not known. A conservative estimate of 20% of the wounded dying of their wounds and 30% of the missing killed gives an approximate number of soldiers who died as a result of this battle at 7,640.

This doesn’t even consider the hundreds who died in other action and of other causes during the Campaign – on South Mountain, at Harpers Ferry, at Shepherdstown, and in all the skirmishes in between.

The initial list contained a little over 2,700 names – less than 1/3 of those who died.  I’m adding names to my database all the time, though, so the list will grow, and I will post new editions here periodically.   As of September 2018 it contains 5,362 names.

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The Current List

  [PDF 1.5M] Cover

  [PDF 52K] Introduction/Guide

  [PDF 1.4 MB] The Dead List (5362 names, alphabetical by State)  v8.0  1 September 2018

  [PDF 1.4 MB] The Dead List (5362 names, alphabetical by last name)  v8.0  1 September 2018

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Older Files

  [PDF 1.4 MB] The Dead List (5231 names, alphabetical by State)  v7.0 12 January 2018

  [PDF 1.4 MB] The Dead List (5231 names, alphabetical by last name)  v7.0 12 January 2018

  [PDF 1 MB] The Dead List (4872 names)  v6.0 8 March 2015

  [PDF 713K] The Dead List (4386 names)  v5.0 24 March 2013

[PDF 536K] The Dead List (3688 names) v4.0 6 January 2013

[PDF 484K] The Dead List (3316 names) v3.0 21 October 2012

[PDF 472K] The Dead List (3016 names) v2.0 9 September 2012

[PDF 472K] The Dead List (2722 names) v1.0 24 August 2012

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Notes

The iconic photograph here is by Alexander Gardner. He took it on September 19th or 20th, 1862 on the battlefield at Antietam, and titled it “A Lonely Grave“. Bill Frassanito did some masterful research for his book and identified the grave in question as that of Private John Marshall of the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry. I got my copy of the photograph from the Library of Congress.

The quote above from the Western Maryland Regional Library is on their fine WHILBR site in a page about Confederate burials on the campaign.