|Answer to Quiz #36 - November 18, 2005
What was Sergeant Humiston's wife's name?
Where did his family live?
|Submitted by Dale Neisen.
Click on thumbnails to see larger images.
Sergeant Amos Humiston's wife's name was Philinda.
His family lived in Portville, NY.
|Gettysburg: Profiles in Courage / Amos Humiston
Union sergeant died as the battle began, holding a picture of his children
Sunday, July 06, 2003
Amos Humiston is the only enlisted man at Gettysburg who has his own monument on
the battlefield. It wasn't because of his heroism in the battle. A Union sergeant in New
York's 154th "Hardtack" regiment, Humiston was killed on the first day of fighting in
Gettysburg, after Confederate troops overwhelmed his company at a spot known as
What earned him a permanent marker was his love for Frank, Freddie and Alice.
Humiston was just one of more than 3,000 Union soldiers who died in the monumental
three-day conflict. But when his body was found later that week, lying in a secluded
spot at York and Stratton streets in Gettysburg, he was holding an ambrotype -- an
early kind of photograph -- and on it were the serious, round faces of his three adored
children: 8-year-old Frank, 6-year-old Alice and 4-year-old Freddie. Somehow,
historians believe, Amos Humiston had managed to drag himself to this patch of ground
after he had been wounded, and was probably looking at his children's faces when he
Even then, Humiston might have faded into obscurity, because there was nothing on his
body to identify him and the few soldiers from his unit survived the battle had moved
on before he was found. Somehow, though, the image of his children ended up in the
possession of Dr. John Francis Bourns, a 49-year-old Philadelphia physician who
helped care for the wounded at Gettysburg. Months after wrapping up his volunteer
work there, he decided to try to find out the identity of the children's father.
His efforts produced a wave of publicity
that swept the North and became the
People magazine cover story of its day. It
began quietly enough, on Oct. 19, 1863,
when the Philadelphia Inquirer published
a story under the provocative headline:
"Whose Father Was He?"
After the battle of Gettysburg," the article read, "a Union soldier was found in a
secluded spot on the battlefield, where, wounded, he had laid himself down to die. In
his hands, tightly clasped, was an ambrotype containing the portraits of three small
children ... and as he silently gazed upon them his soul passed away. How touching!
How solemn! ..."
"It is earnestly desired that all papers in the country will draw attention to the discovery
of this picture and its attendant circumstances, so that, if possible, the family of the
dead hero may come into possession of it. Of what inestimable value will it be to these
children, proving, as it does, that the last thought of their dying father was for them,
and them only."
When the article appeared 140 years ago, newspapers were not able to publish
photographs, and so the story, subsequently reprinted in dozens of newspapers and
magazines throughout the North, had to rely on a detailed description of the children.
The eldest boy, it said, was wearing a shirt made of the same fabric as his sister's
dress. The younger boy in the middle was sitting on a chair, wearing a dark suit. It
estimated their ages at 9, 7, and 5, only a year off the mark.
One of the reprints appeared in the
American Presbyterian, a church
magazine. That is where Philinda
Humiston, living in Portville, N.Y., first
saw word of the ambrotype and the dead
soldier. She hadn't heard from Amos
since weeks before Gettysburg, and
when she saw the description of the
children, she feared the worst. But she
couldn't be sure. So she contacted
Bourns through a letter written by the
Bourns had printed copy upon copy of
the children's picture to respond to
|Amos Humiston's Grave at the
Gettysburg National Cemetery
inquiries, but so far, none of the people who had contacted him had turned out to be the
right family. He replied to Philinda's inquiry as he had to the others.
And so it was that one mid-November day, four months after the battle, she opened the
envelope from Philadelphia and knew for sure that she had been widowed for a second
time, and that her children were fatherless.
The story might have ended there if it weren't for another idea Bourns had. He believed
he could capitalize on the outpouring of sympathy toward the Humistons to raise funds
for an orphanage in Gettysburg, to house the children of fallen Union soldiers. And so a
second publicity campaign began, appealing for donations.
Gifts came from the wealthy and the
humble. Among the contributors was
financier Jay Gould, one of the richest men
in America. But Sunday school classes also
pitched in to raise money, and, if they
donated a sufficient amount, they could
receive copies of a popular song called
"Children of the Battlefield" by balladeer
James Gowdy Clark, whose first stanza
concluded with the lines, "and blame him
not, if in the strife, he breathed a soldier's
prayer: Father, shield the soldier's wife, and
for his children care."
The orphanage became a reality in October
1866 and began with 22 soldiers' children
ranging in age from 5 to 12. At its peak, the
Homestead, as it was known, had just
under 100 children. Bourns even asked
Philinda Humiston to move there with her
children and help supervise the home,
which gave her a means of support.
National Soldier's Orphan Home
Frank Humiston is on line 15 and
Fred is on line 23.
Click on thumbnail to view larger image.
She agreed to the arrangement but loathed living in Gettysburg, according to Humiston
biographer Mark H. Dunkelman. Possibly in order to escape, she accepted a marriage
proposal from a retired preacher she had met only briefly as he passed through the
town. She wed Asa Barnes in 1869 and moved to Massachusetts. Her children finished
their schooling in Gettysburg and then joined her.
The orphanage itself would have a short, unhappy history. It closed just 12 years after
it opened, crippled by two scandals. The matron of Homestead, Rosa Carmichael, was
accused of abusing the children and even shackling some of them in a dungeon she had
created in the basement. And Bourns, the man who had made the Humistons famous
and founded the orphanage, was accused of embezzling large sums of money from
Of the Humiston children, Frank was the only one to receive a higher education,
attending Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania medical school. He
became the honored town doctor of Jaffrey, N.H., had six children, and died at the age
of 57 from complications of gallstone surgery.
Philinda, brokenhearted, died a few months
Fred Humiston became a traveling salesman
and was the most carefree and peripatetic
of the children. His home was in the Boston
area, where he married and had two
daughters, but his sales work took him
from Canada to Florida. In his 50s, he
began to suffer from heart disease, and he
died in 1918, at age 59.
Alice lived with her mother for several
years, ran a chicken farm for a short while,
then began to move almost constantly.
Finally she settled in Southern California,
living near a namesake niece. In 1933, at
the age of 76, Alice was sweeping her
rooms in a Glendale home and talking with
a neighbor when her skirt caught fire from
an open heater. She was badly burned from
ankles to waist and died two days later.
For whatever reason, the Humiston children
almost never mentioned their childhood
Alice E. Humiston is listed in the 1910 US census
of Leominster, MA. She was then 53 years old.
She lived with her mother age 79 who evidently
remarried but in 1910 was again a widow. All
three of the Humiston children were still alive in
1910 since the census information shows the
former Mrs. Humiston had borne three children
and all were living. Her name [on the first line] in
the 1910 census is spelled as Filinday Barnes.
|Click on thumbnail to view larger image.
Many thanks to Stan Read for supplying these census
images from www.heritagequest.com
celebrity, and most of those who knew them had no idea they were once the "Children
of the Battlefield." Dunkelman thinks their moment in history may have been too tragic
for them to want to relive it with anyone. "They put this celebrity under a blanket
when they reached their adult years," he said.
Yet their story continues to be told because of a father's love that has survived the
centuries. In his last letter to Philinda, two months before his death, Amos expressed
those feelings with his own sense of spelling and punctuation. "... I got the likeness of
the children and it pleased me more than eney thing that you could have sent me how I
want to se them and their mother is more than I can tell I hope that we may all live to
see each other again if this war dose not last to long."
This story was based on research by historian Mark H. Dunkelman, author of
"Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier: the Life, Death and Celebrity of Amos Humiston."
Information specialist Steve Karlinchak also contributed.
(by Mark Roth, Post-Gazette Assistant Managing Editor)
Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier: The Life, Death, and
Celebrity of Amos Humiston (Westport, Conn.:
Praeger, 1999). Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier tells the
tale of nineteenth-century war, sentiment, and popular
culture in greater detail than ever before. "Mark
Dunkelman has told [Amos] Humiston's story with a
verve and sensitivity that will leave no reader
unmoved." James M. McPherson. "A compelling
narrative that should fascinate all who are interested in
the broader, human implications of the tragic events
that occurred at Gettysburg in 1863." William A.
Frassanito. "The definitive account of one of
Gettysburg's best human interest stories." Harry W.
Pfanz. For more information or to order a copy of the
book, visit the Greenwood Publishing Group Web site.
Mr. Dunkelman has written several books, pamphlets, and many articles on the 154th
NY volunteer infantry.
I was very interested because my Gg Grandfather (remember my web site?) was in the
157th NY Volunteer Infantry, but was wounded at Chancellorsville and was carried
from the field by Roswell Bourne! I have no idea whether he was related to the Dr.
Bourne in the article and on the rear of the photo.
Bourne, R. Walworth [Lawyer]; Co C 157th NY V Inf; Lieut. Served three yrs. Was
taken prisoner at Gettysburg. Was in all the battles the Regiment was engaged in. At the
Battle of Chancellorsville May 3rd 1865, under a heavy shower of shot and shell he
helped remove his comrade and former schoolmate, W. W. Chapel, who was severely
wounded. Was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in Co. C. Discharged at Charleston S.C. July
Note: We found out later that there was no relation. The man who founded the
orphanage was Dr. Bourns, and Bill is related to Roswell Bourne. Also, Bill's gg
grandfather servied in the 157th, not the 154th volunteer infantry.
To read about
- How the photo came into the hands of Dr. Bourns through a lucky turn of events
- Amos' Humiston's early life as a crew members on a whaling ship in the N. Pacific
- Amos' and Philinda's courtship and marriage
- The details of Amos' military service with the 154th "Hardtack Regiment"
see the following article. Click on link to see full text. Very interesting!!
|Key to a Mystery: The Death of Amos Humiston
Article from America's Civil War
Mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, Union soldier Amos Humiston died
clutching the only clue to his identity: an ambrotype of his three small children.
By Mark H. Dunkelman
Of all the fallen heroes of the epic, three-day Civil War Battle of Gettysburg in July
1863, this Union soldier was unique. He had not led a charge, nor captured an enemy
flag, nor rescued a comrade under fire. Instead, his fame rested on his dying act of
devotion and love; his death pose made his story special.
(Continued at http://historynet.com/acw/blmysterydeathhumiston/index.html
The town of Portville was formed from
Olean, April 27, 1837. It lies on the
southeast corner of the county. The
surface is a hilly upland, with the summits
being 500-600 feet above the valleys. The
Village of Portville is approximately 1,566
ft in elevation. The Allegany River enters
the town upon the southern border, flows
north to near the center, and then
northwest to the west border. It receives
as tributaries the Oswayo, Dodges and
Haskel Creeks. Lumbering is the chief
Portville is on the Allegany. In 1863, it
contained 2 churches, 2 sawmills, and a
gristmill. It had a population of 287. Mill
Grove, south of Portville, is also on the
Allegany. In 1863, it contained 2 sawmills,
and a gristmill and 18 dwellings. The first
settlement was made in 1805, by James
Green, on Haskell Creek in the north part
of town. The first child born was Hannah
Green, daughter of James Green on April
28, 1807. The first marriage was between Jonathon Dodge and Eunice Atherton, in
1809. David Heusten was the first person to die, killed by the spring of a tree while
getting out spars, in early 1807. The first school was taught by Anna Carpenter, near
Portville Village. Lyman Rice kept the first inn, in 1822 and Allen Rice the first store in
1823. The first gristmill was located on Dodges Creek, started by Samuel King. The
first sawmill, on Haskell Creek, was erected by James Green and Alpheus Dodge in
1807. The first church was formed in 1824.
The Village of Portville is 0.81 square miles in area and had 1,136 residents in 1980,
1,040 residents in 1990, and 1,024 residents in 2000. The Town of Portville is 36.05
square miles in area and had 3,952 residents in 2000.
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