Script No. 74
It's 1898. The American Civil War has been over for 33 years. Those participants
who survived the slaughter are getting along in years. Each year now the
number is reduced. This year two officers, one soldier and a non-combatant
head off for the final muster.
William Starke Rosecrans is the first, passing away on March 11th, at the
age of 78. Born in Ohio, fifth in his class at West Point in 1842, Rosecrans
soon grew bored waiting for a peacetime promotion and resigned to operate
a kerosene plant in Cincinnati. An 1859 fire in the plant left him severely
burned; his business ventures failed. When the war began he enlisted and
joined George B. McClellan's staff, taking over for Little Mac when the
popular and ineffectual general was transferred to Washington. The hard-drinking
officer was also popular with his troops, who nicknamed him Old Rosey. Following
the capture of Chattanooga he set out in pursuit of the fleeing Confederates,
who turned around and whomped him at Chickamauga. Entering politics after
the war he turned down a number of nominations for congress, earning the
nickname the Great Decliner.
Six days later, on St. Patrick's Day, Blanche Kelso Bruce, died in Washington
at the the age of 57. Born in Virginia on a Prince Edward County plantation
to a slave mother and white planter father, the young man (despite the first
name) moved to Mississippi and became involved in Reconstruction, serving
as a supervisor of elections, sergeant at arms in the state senate, county
assessor, sheriff, and member of the Board of Levee Commissioners of the
Mississippi River. He evntually amassed enough wealth to purchase a plantation
in Floreyville, then win a seat in the U.S. Senate, where he served from
1875 to 1881. After Reconstruction he was appointed register of the Treasury,
and recorder of deeds in the District of Columbia, as well as serving as
a trustee of Howard University.
November 19th would bring the loss of Ohio-born general Don Carlos Buell,
70, a veteran of the Seminole, Mexican and Civil wars, who shared his friend
McClellan's proclivity to procrastinate. His career petered out after a
lack-luster showing at Perryville, Kentucky, and he turned to the iron and
coal industry after the war.
On September 5th, Canadian-born Franklin Thompson died. Thompson had attended
a veteran's reunion in 1884 and fellow members of the 2nd Michigan Infantry
got quite a surprise. He, was a she. Serving disquised as a man, Sarah Emma
Edmonds had served as an infantryman, spy and Christisan Commission worker
during the war. She would fight successfully to have the charge of desertion,
gained when a case of malaria threatened to reveal her identity, removed
from her record.