Middletown, VA – A large gathering of residents and local officials paused to pay tribute to two of the city’s war heroes on Sunday, as the newly refurbished Gibbons-Huxham monument was unveiled during a ceremony at the Mortimer Cemetery.
There are probably many Middletown residents who don’t know the story of Capt. Elijah W. Gibbons and Samuel Huxham, who died fighting for Company B of the 14th Regiment of the Connecticut Volunteer Army in the Civil War. While their stories may be lost on some, there are still countless residents that cling to their memory and maintain their heroic story, ensuring that the story of their brave acts will be passed along to future generations and never forgotten.
Under the bright summer sun, many of those residents gathered in the cemetery to honor the two men and give thanks to their descendants. Civil War historian told stories of the men’s bravery on the battlefield, and a number of speakers urged everyone to honor not only Gibbons and Huxham, but all the men who fought and died in the Civil War. “One hundred and forty years ago today, 94 men from Middletown set sail down the Connecticut River to go to battle against the Confederacy.
Three years later, only 23 came back,” said a solemn Richard Gibbons, a great grandson of Capt. Gibbons. “I would like to think that this commemoration would be to honor not just those men, but all the men who gave their lives in the Civil War.” The much improved memorial sits over the graves of Huxham and Capt. Gibbons, as well as their families. Thanks to a $4,000 donation from the Gibbons family and the town’s Old Burying Ground Committee, the memorial recently get a facelift, which included an intensive cleaning, the sealing of cracks and breaks, and the removal of several mold spots.
August DeFrance, the president of the Burying Ground Committee, said he was pleased that the memorial was able to be refurbished, and was thankful that so many people turned out to pay tribute to two of Middletown’s “greatest soldiers.” “It’s great to see that people care so much. I hope we can fix up all the memorials of our veterans,” he said.
Mayor Domenique S. Thornton called Huxham and Capt. Gibbons “two of the town’s greatest heroes”, and made a plea that their acts should never be forgotten. “In every age, there are heroes. In these fallen Middletown soldiers, we find our deepest spirit. Men like Capt. Gibbons bore arms in response to a moral dilemma, and placed their ideals above the self. (Capt. Gibbons) laid down his life for the sake of liberty for others, and for that we should all be thankful,” Thornton said.
Historian Thomas E. La Lancette, dressed in full period military attire complete with sword, explained that Huxham was the only Civil War soldier from Middletown killed at the infamous Battle of Gettysburg, and gave a stirring and detailed account of Capt. Gibbons’ triumphs on, and off the battle field.
Prior to the war, Capt. Gibbons was a former officer in the Connecticut Malitia, and also one of the city’s leading abolitionists. He openly spoke out against the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery, and sent his two children to an Afro-American teacher instead of “established white schools,” said La Lancette. When Capt. Gibbons was called to battle at the onset of the Civil War, he was actually offered the rank of major by military brass if he would be willing to take command of a regiment from a different part of the state.
But, as La Lancette explained, Capt. Gibbons was determined to stick with his men. “(Capt. Gibbons) told (his commanding officers): ‘I have raised a company of good men from my home town, and I am their captain,'” said La Lancette. Capt. Gibbons was put in charge of Company B of the 14th Regiment of the Connecticut Volunteer Army. Of the 101 members, 94 were from Middletown. Capt. Gibbons was devoted to his men, La Lancette explained, and would shun spending time with higher ranking officers, preferring instead to stay out in “the cold, almost unbearable conditions” with the enlisted men. This close bond created an almost tenacious loyalty, and helped forge the company into one of the more successful units in a number of bloody battles, including the Harpers Ferry, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.
When Capt. Gibbons was mortally wounded in the battle of Fredericksburg, his last thoughts were of his men, and his courage served as an inspiration to his unit long after his death, La Lancette said. “We gather today to reflect on men like Capt. Gibbons, that they may sleep in valor because of their sacrifices that won freedom for out country,” said La Lancette.
Calvin Godard, a direct descendant of Civil War veteran Capt. Henry Perkins Godard, said that he traveled all the way from Washington D.C. to participate in Sunday’s ceremony. Dressed in a Union uniform, Godard explained that his great grandfather was from Norwich, but joined the Union army here in Middletown. Godard said he was “inspired” by Sunday’s turnout. “It’s very inspirational to see this. Its like all this just happened yesterday,” Godard said.