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Obituary that appeared in Chicago Journal
September 14, 1917

Courtesy of Wilbert Brown
who with Chuck Estano formed the original
9th Massachusetts Battery Reenacting group.


Gettysburg hero's Death 20 minutes after arrival of Aged War Companion

Flag of Battery to be placed on coffin

Funeral, in Charge of Veteran Organizations, to take place Saturday.

Battling through 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.

When Major 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.

Keeps Up Military Interest
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 years ago.

"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 it.

Tells Story of Gettysburg
"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.

Carried by Wounded Horse
"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.

Captain Bigelow wounded.
"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."

Battery Plays Crucial Part.
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.

Praises Minnesota Batteries
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 battle.

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 Torrence.
"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.

"He was 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.

"With his passing goes one of the finest figures among the old soldiers and he will be sadly missed by them all."

To Place Flag on Coffin.
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.

The following appeared on Page 2, column 7:
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.

The honorary 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.

The active 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.