Posted by: Democratic Thinker | November 21, 2010

Gettysburg—The Humiston Children



The Humiston Children.


After the close of the Battle of Gettysburg, on Straton Street, near York street, in Gettysburg, was found the corpse of a Federal soldier. Tightly grasped in the dead soldier’s hand was an ambrotype likeness of three children, and on them his last gaze had been fastened as his soul had departed to its God. He was buried on a lot of Judge Russell’s, near where he was found. The incident awoke the tenderest sympathies of Dr. J. Francis Bournes, of Philadelphia, who borrowed the picture and had thousands of copies struck and widely circulated. A copy reaching Cattaraugus County, N. Y., was recognized as the children of Orderly Sergeant Humiston, of the 154th N. Y. Regiment of Costar’s Brigade, 11th Corps. The remains of Sergt. Humiston were buried in grave No. 14, row B, of the N. Y. Section of graves in the National Cemetery. The fund created by the sale of the photographs formed the nucleus for the Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, for some years at Gettysburg, and the children were brought there and educated, the mother for a time being Matron of the Institution. The Philadelphia branch of the Sanitary Commission offered a prize for the best poem upon this touching incident. The award was made to James G. Clark, of Dansville, N Y., for the following thrilling stanzas (‘Gettysburg: What They Did There’):

UPON the field of Gettysburg
The summer sun was high,
When freedom met her traitorous foe
Beneath a Northern sky;
Among the heroes of the North,
Who swelled her grand array—
Who rushed, like mountain eagles forth
From happy homes away,
There stood a man of humble fame,
A sire of children three,
And gazed, within a little frame,
Their pictured forms to see;
And blame him not if, in the strife,
He breathed a soldier’s prayer—
“Oh! Father, guard the soldier’s wife.
And for his children care.”

Upon the field of Gettysburg
When morning shone again,
The crimson cloud of battle burst
In streams of fiery rain;
Our legions quelled the awful flood
Of shot, and steel, and shell,
While banners, mark’d with ball and blood,
Around them rose and fell;
And none more nobly won the name
Of Champion of the Free,
Than he who pressed the little frame
That held his children three;
And none were braver in the strife
Than he who breathed the prayer:
“O! Father, guard the soldier’s wife,
And for his children care.”

Upon the field of Gettysburg
The full moon slowly rose.
She looked, and saw ten thousand brows
All pale in death’s repose;
And down beside a sliver stream,
From other forms away.
Calm as a warrior in a dream,
Our fallen comrade lay;
His limbs were cold, his sightless eyes
Were fixed upon the three,
Sweet stars that rose in memory’s skies
To light him o’er death’s sea.
Then honored be the soldier’s life,
And hallowed be his prayer:
“O! Father, guard the soldier’s wife,
And for his orphans care.”

—James G. Clark.