that appeared in Chicago Journal
September 14, 1917
of Wilbert Brown
who with Chuck Estano formed the original
9th Massachusetts Battery Reenacting group.
LIEUTENANT SPEEDS TO BEDSIDE BEFORE LEADER DIES
hero's Death 20 minutes after arrival of Aged War Companion
of Battery to be placed on coffin
in Charge of Veteran Organizations, to take place Saturday.
the long night, determined to be alive when old comrades who were hastening to
his bedside would arrive. Major John Bigelow, famous civil war solider won the
last great fight of life, but died at 9:30 a.m. today. He died in his apartment
in the Leamington, 29 minutes after his brother, Charles, and his old comrade
Lieutenant William Park of the famous Bigelow battery, who had raced from Boston
to be with him entered his room and sat by his bedside.
Bigelow's death seemed inevitable, Judge Ell Torrance, his intimate friend, sent
work back east. Charles Bigelow and Lieutenant Parks, who was with major Bigelow
in the great fight at Gettysburg, and who is 84 years and 5 months of age,
started west at once. They learned last night, in Chicago, that Major Bigelow
still held on and when they go out of the incoming train in Minneapolis today
their first question was if he still lived. An automobile rushed them to the
Leamington, Other members of Major Bigelow's family were with him when he died,
20 minutes after the arrival of the two men from the east.
A man reserved in manner, soldierly in bearing, puncailion on honor and of old
fashioned courtesy, Major Bigelow was considered the most knightly character of
the veterans of the great civil war. Never relinquishing his membership in the
loyal Legion of Pennsylvania, he was affiliated with the organizations of
veterans in Minneapolis and the boys of the national guard, who went into the
federal service after the United States entered the world war, owed much of good
counsel to him and he was a patron of the First Minnesota artillery that soon
will be in France.
Books of civil war
history give accounts of the fight Bigelow's battery made at Gettysburg, but
today, in Minneapolis, at a time when Minnesota artillerymen may soon be in
battle in Europe. Lieutenant Park told of the fight on the famous field, 54
"We did not
know that we were making history at the time." Said Lieutenant Park, who
despite his advanced age, is active and vigorous. "We did realize the
safety of the whole Union depended for a time upon holding our ground. We held
Tells Story of
"Major Bigelow then was captain of the Ninth Massachusetts battery. I was a
corporal, but acting sergeant, the battery losing eight sergeants in the fight.
At about 4 pm the afternoon of July 2, 1863, we found ourselves far out on the
Gettysburg field, the withdrawal of the troops of General Daniel Sickles leaving
us exposed. Captain Bigelow, who was an officer of great resourcefulness always
calm and collected, aligned us by setting back one platoon. The enemy we were
facing Longstreet--began to cut us up with shells. We replied. When we had to
get back having checked the confederate advance for a time, we retired, firing
by prolonge, fixing long ropes to the guns, stopping and firing, then moving
slowly to the rear.
"In that backward movement, of perhaps 600 yards, the horse I rode was hit
by infantry fire through the nostrils in the breast, and again in the flank,
blood streaming from the three wounds. Yet the faithful animal carried me while
I maintained my section in action. We went in with the gun limber chests, filled
with ammunition, the six caissons filled, and we shot it all away. Sixty horses
were killed in a short time, but under the calm, steady guidance of Captain
Bigelow, who was everywhere, we kept order and kept on fighting. I got off my
horse when it began to stagger, and killed it with my revolver that it might not
suffer. We got back to the main line, or rather, to where the main line should
have been, badly cut up.
"Then Colonel McGilvrey
of this artillery reserve told us we would have to hold that position until the
reserve was lined up in the rear and we stayed there and held it.
"I did not see Captain Bigelow when he was shot. He was at the other end of
the line. But, Charles Reed, our bugler, helped him off the field, and a the
reserve artillery of 20 pieces, gotten into position while we held back the
advancing enemy, and now ready to open up, held fire of some of its guns for the
moment while Captain Bigelow was taken away.
"I wanted to
get here to see my old commander before he died and am thankful to think that I
reached here in time."
The death of Major Bigelow will be of nation wide interest, civil war veterans
said today. Because his gallant fight on the Gettysburg field relates to the
doubtless will reopen the long standing discussion of whether General Daniel
Sickles, who himself was shot and lost a leg at Gettysburg, erred in advancing
his line too far when he arrived on the field. This, one of the bitterest
controversies of the whole war, concerned Major Bigelow, veterans said today,
because it was as a result of later retirement that the major's battery was left
exposed and was viciously attacked by the Confederates. It has been said of
Bigelow's Battery that it played a more crucial part in the great battle than
did any like unit in any battle of the whole war, and that had it not held back
the enemy's line by the great fight that it put up, the whole course of the
battle might have been changed.
One of the last
acts of Major Bigelow's life was the extending by him of an invitation to the
surviving comrades of his battery to attend a dinner at Young's in Boston.
Although unable himself to undertake the fatigue of traveling east for the
dinner, Major Bigelow, from his apartment in the Leamington, directed the plans.
The dinner was given Aug. 20.
Major Bigelow, whose interest in the preparatory work for the war following the
entry of the United States into the conflict in April was intense, visited Fort
Snelling July 17 in company of Judge Ell Torrence, and was the guest of the
Colonels Earle D. Luce of the First Minnesota Infantry and George D. Leach of
the First Minnesota artillery. At the time he expressed his admiration for the
personnel of both organizations, giving special attention, as was natural for an
old artilleryman to the equipment of the batteries. He spoke of the splendid
physique and bearing of the men and predicted that Minnesota would be proud of
the organization, once it were give a chance to show what it could do in actual
At that time Major
Bigelow expected that he would be able to go east, but when he found he could
not, he directed that the dinner the expense of which he bore in full, be given
anyway. There were present 11 survivors of the Ninth Massachusetts battery, the
major's old command. 7 of their sons and 2 grandsons, or 20 in all.
Tribute of Judge
"Major Bigelow had the knightly qualities of old," said Judge Ell
Torrence, and was his most intimate friend. "His manner was calm and very
reserved. He had the exterior appearance of coldness and something of a
reputation for aloofness. By some of the old soldiers he was thought of as an
aristocrat, which, in fact, he was, by birth and breeding, education and
character. Beneath this manner of reserve, which was his natural manner, there
was a depth of warm-heartedness and deep sentiment.
honorable in the highest conception of the word, was incapable of anything
untrue or hypocritical and he scorned shams. He had a deep sense of duty and
could never be at ease if there was anything undone and it was his duty to do.
passing goes one of the finest figures among the old soldiers and he will be
sadly missed by them all."
To Place Flag on
The battle flag of the Ninth Massachusetts battery, which Major Bigelow
commanded at Gettysburg and which he has kept for 54 years, will be placed on
his coffin when he is buried. It was the request of Major Bigelow that this be
done and that no flowers be put upon the casket.
The service will be
Saturday at 2:30 pm at Lakewood chapel. Other than that it will be under the
auspices of John A. Rawlins Post, G.A.R., and the Loyal Legion, the funeral
plans are not yet complete.
Mrs. Bigelow died
several years ago. Surviving are a brother, William L. Bigelow, Lake Minnetonka;
a brother, Charles Bigelow of Boston; a daughter, Mrs. Walter R. Quick of New
York, and a grandson Wells Gardner Hodgson who lives at the Leamington.
appeared on Page 2, column 7:
MAJOR BIGELOW TO BE BURIED SATURDAY
Major John Bigelow, who died yesterday, will be buried Saturday at 2:30 pm from Lakewood
chapel. A detail from the First Minnesota Infantry will attend the funeral and
fire a salute over the grave.
pallbearers will be Ell Torrence, and Samuel R. Van Sant, past
commanders-in-chief of the Minnesota G.A.R., Colonel R. R. Henderson, Captain W.
H. Harries, Colonel George O. Eddy, lieutenant William Park, George A. Brackett,
George W. Buffington, William L. Wolford and George M. Keith.
pallbearers, each of whom is a graduate of Harvard, which was Major Bigelow's
university, will be Karl De Laittre, Bergmann Richardson, Arthur Smith and C.
Bard, Minneapolis and E. B. Young and Sanford Freund. St. Paul.