A new tintype photograph is now on display at the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum. It is an image of 2nd Lt. John K. Knowles of Co. A in the 4th Rhode Island Volunteers. He enlisted on 14 August 1861 serving at New Bern, (possibly) Antietam, and Fredricksburg. He was killed in action at the Battle of the Crater (Petersburg) on July 30th, 1864. His body was never recovered as fighting continued for some days until a truce was finally called to bury the dead of both sides. From their regimental history, it reads:
Those bodies that were recognized and could be lifted on to stretchers without falling to pieces, were carried into our lines and buried. Pits were dug twenty or thirty feet long and about four feet deep for the rest. The poor fellows were then rolled, and in some cases, shovelled onto the stretchers, and dumped or laid in the holes, one on top the other, until within a foot of the top, and then covered with loose earth.
In course of time these bodies decayed. Subsequent storms washed the loose covering of earth down through, and for months after, until the end of the war, long rows of bleaching skeletons marked this field of awful slaughter.
John Knowles’ body still rests in one of these pits today. RIP and we should never forget his sacrifice to enable what Abraham Lincoln called, “a new birth of freedom”.
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