He Died Of His Wounds Received In Battle, July 2, 1864; 17 Years Old.
If I’m correct, the overcoat being worn by young George H. Chesley looks to fresh, as if just been recently issued, and the rosy tinted checks in this 1/6 plate tintype on the 16 year old face has not yet seen the horrors of war.
Young George had enlisted on December 7th, 1863, as a private in Company “B” 11th New Hampshire Volunteers. He had received permission from his mother, Emeline D. Chesley to enlist under age being at the time in his 16th year of life, and had been assisting in the support of his mother, a widow, having lost her husband in 1861.
When George entered the service of the United States, his regiment was in the Mountains of East Tennessee in the pursuit of Confederate General Longstreet, and shorty there after would make the long march back to join the rest of the Ninth Corps in the east. George’s first engagement would be in May of 1864 at the Wilderness. The 11th New Hampshire would remain heavily engaged throughout the rest of the war.
The 11th NH, under their Division Commander, Ambrose Burnside, found themselves largely in a defensive position near Bethesda Church, Va on June 2nd, and it was here that George Chesley received a gunshot wound to the shoulder. In 1866, when Mrs Chesley began the pension process, George’s captain, Lowell D. Tilton, gave testimony to witnessing the wounding of young George, “that (Tilton; being deposed) had the command of the eleventh Regiment and happened to be near when the bullet struck him- that he, (Tilton) heard the bullet strike, when some person said, “George Chesley is hit” that he (T) immediately turned in that direction and saw said George H. Chesley lying on the ground within a few feet of (T) and examined the said George and found him badly wounded in the shoulder- (Tilton) ordered his men to carry him…and his blanket and equipments to the Hospital, which orders were obeyed. The next day this deponent saw said George… at the Hospital near Petersburg and upon examination thought his wound would prove fatal.”
Immediately after Captain Tilton’s visit, George was sent to the Hospital at Washington City. Sadly on July 2, 1864, Dr. R. Ingram, Ass’t Surgeon, Judiciary Square Hospital, Washington, reported that George had died that day from his wound.
There is a bitter-sweet aspect to gazing at an image of a seventeen year old kid, who died so young, so long ago, but not having this image to reflect upon might be worse, not to fully realize how despicable war truly is. The expression on George’s face seems to be one of ambivalence about his new life in the military, or more simply never having sat for a photographer before. The charm of this boyish face, should not overshadow the fact that he did his duty as a man while standing with other New Hampshire men of all ages, behind their flag in battle.
It is amazing the impact that photography can play in our lives, just as this one does. The photographer is not known, but he captured George wearing has overcoat with a four button fatigue blouse beneath it. The cheeks and buttons have been tinted. The image was contained in a leatherette case which is separated at the hinge. Below the tintype was placed an old family identification. Copies of Pension papers, enlistment data and history of the 11th NH come with the image.
Ex Henry Deeks Collection