On this day 150 years ago my second great-granduncle Oliver Stanton Bates of Company A of the 20th Massachusetts Regiment died at Slough Barracks Military Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. He was severely wounded while serving on picket duty along the Jerusalem Plank Road in Petersburg on June 24 and his leg required immediate amputation on the battlefield. After a two-month struggle at Slough Hospital he succumbed to his wounds. 1
His body was embalmed for transport to his home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He is buried next to his mother, Eliza (Stanton) Bates, in the Bates Family Plot at Pittsfield Cemetery.
Before the Civil War Oliver was a harness maker in Pittsfield. He was a man of modest means. At the time of Oliver's death embalming was an expensive procedure, and his family did not have the money to pay for preparing his body for the journey home. I have read about the kindness extended by officers of the 20th Massachusetts Regiment to their fallen enlisted men, and I am certain that one or more of the officers extended this kindness to Oliver and his family by paying for the burial ritual so his body could be sent home. Oliver was one of the few veteran volunteers still alive in his regiment at the time of his death. I am deeply grateful to the officers and enlisted men of the 20th Massachusetts for their generosity to Oliver and his family.3
Oliver had notable ancestry in his genealogical lines. He was a direct descendant of Thomas Stanton, an early Native American interpreter, of John Dwight, an early settler of Dedham, Massachusetts, and of Anne Marbury Hutchinson. To view Oliver's descent from Thomas Stanton please click here. To view Oliver's descent from John Dwight please click here. To view Oliver's descent from Anne Marbury Hutchinson please click here. In addition, Oliver's aunt Susan Bates, the sister of his father Josiah Dwight Bates, was married to Robert Melville, the first cousin of author Herman Melville.
For additional information about Oliver Bates and the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment please visit http://20thmassregt150.blogspot.com and his Find A Grave memorial.
1Compiled service record, Oliver S. Bates, Pvt., Co. A, 20th Massachusetts Infantry; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
2Pittsfield Cemetery (Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts), Oliver Stanton Bates marker, Hope Mount Section, Lot 41, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 4 August 2008.
3Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 280-81, 315-17.