Feature Story

Thrice Buried

In Abby Maria Hemenway’s Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Volume III, Orleans and Rutland County, published in 1877, the Troy history contains a section entitled Soldiers of the War of 1861 by Col. O. N. Elkins. That title in itself is a story. The term Civil War only came into widespread American usage in the early 1900's. During and after the war, the terms War Between the States, War of the Rebellion, Great Rebellion, War for Southern Independence, War of Northern Aggression, War of Southern Aggression, Freedom War, War of Secession, even Battle between North and South side of the United States, and American (US) North-South War were used. In any case, the soldiers from Troy who served in the War of 1861 are listed, including one Oscar A. Hale, who carries this typical war record:

Name: Hale, Oscar A.*
Rank: Capt.
Company: D
Regiment: 6th
Date of enlistment: Oct. 8, ‘61
Date of muster: Oct. 15, ‘61
Mustered out: Oct. 28, ’64, Lt. Col.

The *footnote however becomes quite interesting:

Col. Oscar A. Hale, only son of Raymond and Sarah A Hale, was born in Troy, Orleans County, Vt. July 20, 1837. His mother died while he was yet an infant, and his father some time afterwards moved to the town of Chelsea, where he made his residence for several years. Oscar, meanwhile, was attending school, and ere he had attained his majority stepped forth an honored graduate from Dartmouth College. Soon after finishing his studies, he went to Washington, D.C., and for some time was employed in the post-office department, and was one of the first to enlist in defence of our national capital, when first threatened with danger from the rebel horde of the South. In the Fall of 1861, he returned to Troy, soon after enlisted in a company then being recruited to form a part of the 6th Regiment. He took a lively interest in the recruiting and organization of the company, and possessing a kind and amiable disposition, endearing him to all who made his acquaintance, his company very naturally selected him as their captain, and he was accordingly mustered in as Capt. Of Co. D, 6th Reg., Oct. 15, 1861. During his military career, he evinced much courage and personal bravery, and was several times wounded in combat with the enemy. At the close of the rebellion, he went with Gen. Dana, of Maine, and others, to engage in business in South America. He died of cholera at Arroya de Pavon, Province of Santa Fe, Buenos Ayres Dec. 28, 1867. His friend, Capt. P.D. McMillan, formerly of the 15th Reg., who was with him at the time of his death, in a letter to Col. Elkins, speaks of him as follows: “His last engagement was his hardest, and he met the monster Death, in the form of pestilence, without fear. He died after a sickness of five hours. Upon the Pampas of South America, near the banks of the Parana, beside other friends who had fallen with him, wrapt in his army blankets, the same that had covered him so many times on the tented field, he was buried as became a soldier; not with martial music and muffled drums, but with a terrible silence, with the footsteps of the destroying angel still around swiftly at work. With a heart bursting with grief, assisted by two surviving friends, whom chance had thrown together from different parts of the globe, we buried him who was worthy a better burial.” His remains have since been removed to the Protestant Cemetery at Rosario, and arrangements have been made for their transportation to the United States, to be placed among the green hills of his native land, beside loved friends.

Arroya de Pavon, Province of Santa Fe, Buenos Ayres
Correcting the Spanish spelling, Arroyo de Pavón is Peacock Creek. The Province of Santa Fe is next to the Province of Buenos Aires in Argentina. The headwaters of Arroyo de Pavón are just south of the town of Alcorta, and the creek flows about 90 km into the Paraná River, near the town of Villa Constitución. We have picked a point on the Arroyo de Pavón that is "near the banks of the Parana". Resting place #1.

Arroya de Pavon, Near Villa Constitución, Argentina
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Protestant Cemetery at Rosario
In October 1864, Reverend W. Goodfellow, a missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church related the following in his annual report on South American Missions: At Rosario we are offered ground in a most eligible part of the city, provided we begin to build this year. This we shall try to do. Rosario is in importance the second city of this confederation. Its population of twelve thousand or more, its rapidly increasing business by river and railroad, and the extensive emigration of Protestants from Europe and America, mark Rosario as a most important missionary field. During my visit I consecrated a handsome Protestant cemetery near the city. Finding it on the map took a couple of hours; translating a reference to the cemetery in Spanish (Antiguo Cementerio Protestante de Rosario) lead us to: By 1860, the original Protestant Cemetery was born in Dorrego Street, between Cochabamba and Pasco.... Scrolling down Dorrego Street in Rosario, Argentina on Google Earth we pinpointed it! Resting place #2.

Protestant Cemetery, Rosario, Argentina
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...transportation to the United States...
Colonel Elkins is writing in 1877, and knows that plans have been made to bring his compatriot back to his native land. One would assume Troy. The obvious first step is to go to Find A Grave and type in Oscar Hale, United States, Vermont, Orleans County. Nothing. All of Vermont? Nothing. He was in the Civil War. Let's go to Tom Ledoux's Vermont in the Civil War. Sure enough! Hale, Oscar Adrian. Burial: Highland Cemetery, Ypsilanti, MI. Ypsilanti? Back to Find A Grave, and a Michigan search yields Col. Oscar A. Hale, buried in Ypsilanti with his father, Raymond Hale, who died in 1874. Resting place #3.

Highland Cemetery, Ypsilanti, Michigan
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...and finally!
We learn even more about Hale in Linda Welch's bio at Vermont In The Civil War. Lt. Colonel Oscar Hale, Dartmouth College graduate, teacher, civil servant, Civil War veteran, adventurer in South America, all in a life of 31 years. Linda's bio also reveals that in the Hale family, "The flame that burns Thrice as bright burns one-third as long", with apologies to Lao Tzu. Oscar's great grandfather was Nathan Hale, hung at 21 years old by the British as a spy, and with last words, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Barry Trutor, VOCA member