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.
• His solitary death occurred, not amid the seemingly endless sprawl of corpses which 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 which brought closure to his family and friends and which 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?