Thursday, February 9, 2012

Captain Thomas Leonard

I must admit that this blog entry was an easy one, because the research had already been done for me by Chris Warner, of Kansas who was the previous owner of this real photo postcard.  The image is of a handsome couple in front of their house on the fourth of July, 1911.   As you can see the old Civil War veteran is wearing his Grand Army of the Republic ribbon and his hat with the GAR emblem sits on his knee.  His wife stands beside him and the house is decorated with flags and banners.

The card was dated July 4, 1911, and has a message that reads, "We wish you a happy birthday and many returns of July 4th," and is signed, "Mr. & Mrs. Leonard."  The card was addressed to Miss Mattie J. Lang, Austin, Minnesota.

A later note is also written on the back, and it reads, "Mr. & Mrs. Leonard were next door neighbors in Austin to Grandma and Grandpa Lang, Aunt Mattie and Aunt Minnie Lang." 

With a manifying glass or the magic of the computer, you can make out the details of the ribbon that Mr. Leonard is wearing.  Here is a blow-up of that part of the photo:

The ribbon reads, "McIntyre Post 66, Austin, Minnesota," and above that is the symbol of the Grand Army of the Republic medal.

At the site below one can read the Military history of Captain Thomas F. Leonard, including a great photo of him  in his Civil War uniform:   

Captain Leonard was born in 1842, and died in 1916, five years after the above photo was taken.  He is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Minnesota, and there is a picture of his grave monument on this site:

Thomas Leonard enlisted in Vermont in 1861, as a private, into F Company, 3rd Infantry (Vermont) and was mustered out in 1865.  He was promoted to Sargent (date unknown), to 2nd. Lieutenant in 1864, 1st Lieutenant and later Captain in 1865.  

Leonard apparently saw considerable action during the war, because he is listed as having been wounded on July 10, 1863, at Funkstown, MD, and again at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864, and yet again only six days later at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, on May 12 1864.

The following three paragraphs, compliments of Wikipedia, give some brief details of these three Civil War engagements:

The Battle of Funkstown took place near Funkstown, Maryland, on July 10, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign. Union forces of the Army of the Potomac attacked the rear guard of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during its retreat from Pennsylvania following the Battle of Gettysburg.  Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry, posted at Funkstown, posed a serious risk to the Union army and Stuart was determined to wage a spirited defense to ensure Lee time to complete fortifications protecting his army and his avenue of retreat.  Gen. John Buford’s Union cavalry division encountered Stuart’s crescent-shaped, three-mile-long battle line.  By early evening, the Union Army began withdrawing and Stuart had kept the Federals at bay for yet another day.  The day-long battle resulted in 479 casualties. 

The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–7, 1864, was the first battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both armies suffered heavy casualties.

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign.  Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant's army disengaged from Confederate General Robert E. Lee's army and moved to the southeast, attempting to lure Lee into battle under more favorable conditions. Elements of Lee's army beat the Union army to the critical crossroads of Spotsylvania Court House and began entrenching. Fighting occurred on and off from May 8 through May 21, 1864, as Grant tried various schemes to break the Confederate line. In the end, the battle was tactically inconclusive, but with almost 32,000 casualties on both sides, it was the costliest battle of the Overland campaign.

Captain Leonard must have had some harrowing stories to tell, and, while those details have been lost to us, this wonderful real photo postcard and the notes on the back of it, connect us to his life in a very real way.

If you know any more about Captain Leonard's history or that of his neighbors, the Lang family, please add your comments to the blog or email me.

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.  ~José Narosky

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