Veteran’s honors delayed, but not forgotten
One of six children born to Samuel and Nancy Littler, Nathan Connel Littler was born March 26, 1830 in Lancaster Ohio – the same quiet Southeastern Ohio town in which William Tecumseh Sherman, under whose overall command Littler would fight in the Battle of Atlanta, had been born barely a decade earlier. One wonders if he and Sherman ever met in their earlier, happier days. And did young “Con”, as he was known, ever play in Old Man’s Cave and the other nearby natural formations that have since been turned into beautiful parks? Surely he did.
On Christmas Day, 1851, Con married Susan F. Satchell of Clarksburg in Ross County. The couple had seven children, three boys and four girls. Prior to the War, he worked as a tailor.
On October 31, 1861 – the first year of the Civil War – Littler joined I Company of the 73rd Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at Camp Logan, Ohio. After a period of training, the regiment (and, hence Con) went on to serve in sixteen battles:
- 1862: McDowell, VA; Cross Keys, VA; Cedar Mountain, VA; Freeman’s Ford, VA; Bull Run, VA.
- 1863: Chancellorsville, VA; Lookout Mountain, TN; Gettysburg, PA (all three days); Mission Ridge, TN.
- 1864: Resaca, GA; New Hope Church, GA; Kenesaw Mountain, GA; Peach Tree Creek, GA; Atlanta, GA.
- 1865: Averysboro, NC; Bentonville, NC.
During the War, Littler was promoted from Private to Full Sergeant to First Sergeant and, finally, to Sergeant Major. On July 20th, 1865, Con was honorably discharged with the rest of his regiment at Louisville, Kentucky.
After the War, Littler and his family lived for a while in Chillicothe, OH where he worked as a brakeman and then as a conductor on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. That job probably involved work on the new Marietta-Chillicothe spur which would have taken him frequently through Athens County – where he would ultimately be hospitalized and buried. Later he moved his family to a farm in Ross County where he earned a living as a farmer and a tailor.
We may never know for sure what caused Con Littler to be admitted on August 8, 1884, at the age of 54, to the Athens Lunatic Asylum. However, a pretty reliable guess would be that, ever since his discharge from military service, he had suffered from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He went through many major battles – battles which resulted in up to fifty percent casualties. He surely witnessed many horrors, he had a prolonged exposure to the war, and he was an older soldier suffering the additional stress of worrying about his family. Indeed, during the long, bloody Battle for Atlanta, Con received the horrible news that his two-year-old son, Jimmy, had died. (See his letter to his wife, written after receiving the news.) These factors may have converged to cause serious damage to his brain – the type of damage which, in the 21st Century is reversible but which, then, simply went untreated.
If he was affected by PTSD, the Con Littler who came home from war was probably a terribly haunted, extremely depressed, angry, and occasionally explosive person. His family loved him and stood by him, the B&O employed him for a number of years, but eventually stress must have built on stress, until something caused him to become Patient #1519.
Little over a year later, he would be buried without a name under stone #120, most likely another casualty of this country’s most costly war.
It was through the persistent efforts of Nathan Connel Littler’s great grandson John A. Houston of Kansas, that a government-regulation stone for a veteran replaced #120, with special honors at the 2009 Memorial Day Ceremony (see more about the ceremony and Mr. Houston’s efforts, here).