Monday, March 8, 2021

Corp. John Osborn and Late War Casualties


Soldiers who died late in the Civil War present particularly tragic stories. The battlefields and cemeteries around Petersburg offer many such cases. Walking the grounds of this area's national cemeteries show that soldiers from various states fell in combat the last week of the war. For example, Corp. John Osborn, Company F, 6th Maryland Infantry  rests in peace at City Point National Cemetery in Hopewell, Virginia. Engraved on Osborn’s headstone is the date of his death, April 4, 1865; just two days after he received his wound in the VI Corps Breakthrough.

Osborn’s story epitomizes that of the so-called “common soldier.” He enlisted as a private on August 13, 1862, in Baltimore. Although perhaps older than the average Civil War soldier, the 34-year old Osborn signed up to fight for three years. Captured on June 15, 1863, at Winchester, Virginia, Osborn fortunately only experienced life as a prisoner of war for a little over a month. A quick parole and exchange returned him to his regiment. A promotion to corporal came in September 1864, after his predecessor was killed fighting in the Shenandoah Valley. During the winter of 1864-65, Osborn received a furlough to get a break from the front lines. However, he was back in the VI Corps earthworks at Petersburg for the spring campaign.

On April 2, 1865, as part of Col. J. Warren Keifer’s Brigade, the 6th Maryland attacked along with the rest of Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour’s Division on the left end of the VI Corps assault. During the fighting, probably near the Hart House, Osborn received a severe gunshot wound. Taken to the VI Corps Depot Field Hospital at City Point, Osborn received treatment but died on April 4. Among his personal effects were a silk handkerchief, a “looking glass,” a wallet, a razor and brush, a knife, and one pair of shoes. These items were handed over to unnamed friends.

If you come to the Petersburg area to visit its battlefields, I encourage you make time to also include  visits to the national cemeteries. Show your appreciation for the sacrifices of soldiers like Corp. John Osborn, who gave their lives for our country.

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