November 12, 2019
A personal journey of sorts that began at Christmas 2014 came to a close on Veteran's Day weekend in Bristol, Connecticut. Andrew first met his 3 times great grandfather Aretas Culver "face to face" by chance when he stumbled over a six-month old Connecticut Public Radio web story about an exhibition at the CT State Library. The exhibition featured photographs of the state's Civil War veterans who'd had the misfortune of being imprisoned at Andersonville, the notorious Confederate POW camp in Georgia in 1864. The story's featured image was Aretas Culver.
Subsequent research led to a letter written by Aretas five days after the Battle of Antietam, where his regiment - the Connecticut 16th Volunteer Infantry - had been routed from the field in the critical last phase of the battle, ending the bloodiest day in American history in a stalemate. Their unit's unusual history and record of failure attracted the attention of Dr. Lesley Gordon, who published her book A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut's Civil War , a scant five weeks before Andrew's discovery.
In the years since, Andrew has connected with other descendants of Aretas Culver, walked his unit's footsteps at Antietam, and written a song about him for his family history-inspired album and book, Treasures in My Chest. During the last year, his young cousin found Aretas Culver's final resting place marked a broken stone, within sight of the majestic hilltop monument to Bristol's fallen Civil War veterans. Inspired by his cousin's passion to properly honor their ancestor, Andrew with the help of local Veterans Strong Community Center coordinator Donna Dognin applied for and received a proper memorial headstone from the Veteran's Administration.
On Sunday November 10, 2019 - Veteran's Day weekend - family, friends and veterans gathered at 1pm at West Cemetery in Bristol for a dedication ceremony with an honor guard and speakers to give historical context to Culver's life and sacrifice. Read the front page article from the next day's Bristol Press here.
Andrew's grandmother Madeleine, a lifelong Bristol resident and founding member of the city's Historical Society volunteer, would doubtless have been thrilled to see her great-grandfather's sacrifice recognized and properly acknowledged.