Sunday, November 24, 2013

The mystery of the Andersonville dove

Civil War grave number 12196 marks the final resting spot of Maine Sergeant Lewis S. Tuttle. 

His headstone would be nearly anonymous among the sea of almost 13000 headstones of those who died at Andersonville, if it weren't for the dove that is posed atop it.

Tuttle was captured in Virginia with his brother on May 19, 1864. Not much is known about him, other than what his service records say: he was six feet tall, fair-skinned, with light hair and gray eyes. He had a wife named Lydia Ann and two daughters, Clara Ella and Addie Cora. He died November 30, 1864 of diarrhea, a common cause of death. In fact, diarrhea, dysentery, and scurvy caused the most deaths at Andersonville. 

Lewis's brother David also died there; his grave is number 12322. The graves are numbered sequentially in order of death or in order of the death being recorded, in most cases generally coinciding. This means David died within a week or two of his brother. A third brother, Loren, was perhaps the luckiest of the three: he was shot in the shoulder and was discharged.

No one knows when or how the dove appeared there. It's one of the enduring mysteries, certainly a sweeter one than the mystery of the identities of the nearly 500 soldiers whose graves merely have the notation Unknown Soldier marked on them.


Thought of the day:

Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known? (Charles de Lint)