DEEP RIVER – On a grassy clearing in Fountain Hill Cemetery, near a place called Mount Hope, stands an ancient granite monument.
Its top is jagged, as though a large chunk had been knocked off.
This tombstone bears the name of Andrews. Three members of this Deep River family are buried here, but the stone is worn and the names are hard to read. As New England gravestones go, the Andrews family monument is rather plain and could be easily overlooked. But for some reason local historian Edith DeForest was drawn to it during a stroll through the cemetery this past spring.
"I just stopped and stared at it," DeForest said. "When I looked closer and made out the name ‘Edwin Andrews’ and the date he died, 1899, I thought, ‘You know, that name sounds very familiar.’"
It was good thing DeForest decided to stop, for her curiosity led her to solve a Civil War mystery.
After her trip to the cemetery, DeForest, who is curator of the Deep River Historical Society, decided to do a little research. She thought Edwin Andrews might have been a soldier in the Civil War, and at the very least, deserved a flag at his grave. Sure enough, at historical society headquarters in the Stone House, she came across the names of soldiers in Company K, 11th Regiment from Saybrook and there found Edwin Andrews listed as a musician.
But that wasn’t all. DeForest located Andrews’ obituary in the archives of the Deep River New Era and discovered that the Union soldier earned a coveted 30-day furlough for his special service. Over the course of a night, he had carefully painted on a flag the names of the battles in which his regiment had taken part – among them Antietam, where 26,134 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed.
The tattered battle flag, shot through with holes, had been presented to the Connecticut regiment by a group of Hartford ladies just before the men went off to war. It was a treasured memento.
Andrews’ obituary went on to explain that the flag could be found on display in Hartford at the state capitol. That was 100 years ago. Was it still there? DeForest wanted to find out.
"I decided I’d contact [State Representative] James Spallone to maybe get more information about this flag, if there was any."
Spallone, after doing a bit of research himself, told DeForest that the state office in charge of historical flags had this particular flag for over a century without any information to go along with it.
DeForest is happy she was able to bring this poignant Civil War story to a larger public.
"In August I received a letter from Mr. Spallone," DeForest explained, "and the first thing I noticed, under my name, were the words ‘Thank you.’
"I’m happy to have helped provide an explanation for this historic flag. I don’t know what possessed me to read that obituary, but I am sure glad I did."
©Pictorial Gazette 2004