Of the many tragedies of the War Between the States (April 12, 1861 – May 10, 1865), also known as the American Civil War, one of the greatest was the wracking of families with gut-wrenching grief over the fate of loved ones who were missing, presumed dead.
The closure of knowing was denied to them, as the number of bodies, bloated and disfigured, without discernible identification, piled up on battlefields and received hasty burials, or subsequent re-interments, with gravestone inscriptions of "Unknown." In the aftermath of the three-day, stench-filled maelstrom of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 - 3, 1863), decaying bodies littered the small borough in southeastern Pennsylvania. The dead, estimated at more than 7,000, outnumbered the borough's wispy population of 2,400.
Also blanketing the Gettysburg landscape were miles of detritus including military paraphernalia, such as knapsacks, muskets, and shoes, and personal possessions, such as Bibles, scraps of letters, and bloodied photographs. Oftentimes it was impossible to link scattered mementoes with their dead owners. Amos Humiston (April 26, 1830 - July 1, 1863) could have numbered among the war's unknown soldiers, but a great love rescued him from an anonymous grave on the Civil War's bloodiest battleground and gave closure to his widow and children.
Amos' solitary death occurred, not amid the seemingly endless sprawl of corpses that putrefied so much of Gettysburg's landscapes, but instead in a tree-shaded residential lot. Firmly held in his lifeless hands was an image, an ambrotype, of his three children.
The poignancy of Amos' last moments motivated a search that brought closure to his family and friends and that has captivated generations with the touching greatness of Amos' love as a father for his young children.
What happened to Amos' wife and children after the realization that they would have to learn to live without Amos?