Virginia man pushes preservation of Greenfield general’s Civil War monument
|Published: 10-01-2023 5:02 PM
GREENFIELD — A Virginia man has made it his mission to preserve in perpetuity a modest monument dedicated in his town to Lt. Col. Russell Hastings, a Greenfield native who was severely wounded in 1864 during the Third Battle of Winchester in the American Civil War.
Allan Tischler took it upon himself nearly 40 years ago to raise roughly $1,500 to install a fence around the small granite marker on the north side of town, but he acknowledges this is only a partial solution. He said he would love to permanently conserve Hastings’ monument with an easement or by recruiting an organization such as the National Park Service to buy the plot of land with a promise to care for it.
“It’s a peculiar monument because it is a ‘wounded’ monument. It’s really peculiar because it shows where a solider was wounded,” Tischler explained. “It looks like a headstone, it’s so small. You don’t hardly see Civil War monuments that small.”
Tischler is now on a quest to learn as much as possible about Hastings and garner support for better preservation of the monument, which is positioned near the parking lot of an industrial park. He has reached out to the Historical Society of Greenfield to enlist some help in learning more about Hastings.
“I’m excited to try to help him in whatever way we can. And I have looked at some of the records upstairs,” Historical Society President Carol Aleman said in the organization’s Church Street office last week. “It’s absolutely important to preserve it. I believe all stories are important.”
Aleman said she was unfamiliar with Russell Hastings until she got a phone call from Tischler, but the Hastings surname is quite common in Greenfield, Gill and Bernardston. She explained Greenfield’s Hastings Street, between High and Federal streets, first appears as a street name in town between 1898 and 1899. J.W. Riddell got the land (the original Hastings farm) and laid Riddell, Hastings and Haywood streets. A number of newspaper clippings refer to Col. Hastings Farm and Aleman believes Russell Hastings was that colonel’s son.
Russell Hastings was born in Greenfield in May 1835 and died in Petersham on Sept. 18, 1904. He is buried in Greenfield’s High Street Cemetery next to his second wife, Emily Platt, who died in 1919.
According to information cited in an article published by The Winchester Star newspaper on Jan. 25, 2006, Hastings was living in Willoughby, Ohio, when he joined the Union Army in April 1861. He was in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry within two months. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, who later became the 19th president of the United States, was the regiment commander and asked Hastings to join his brigade staff in April 1864.
Hastings was riding his horse, Old Whitey, in the Third Battle of Winchester — also known as the Battle of Opequon — on Sept. 19, 1864, when a Confederate bullet struck him near his right knee joint. Old Whitey was unhurt and later died of old age, buried with honors of war at Hayes’ home in Fremont, Ohio. His marker reads that he participated in 19 Civil War battles.
According to The Winchester Star, the company’s surgeon led Hastings out of harm’s way and then took Old Whitey to find an ambulance, which arrived about an hour later and took the wounded lieutenant colonel to a house in Winchester owned by Union supporters. The bullet was later found lodged in the bone and removed.
Hastings’ sister traveled to care for him and five months later, brought her brother back to their mother’s Ohio home. Hastings later married his first wife, Mary Humphrey, who died in 1874. They had one child. Hastings then married Platt, Hayes’ niece, at the White House in 1878, during Hayes’ presidency. They had three children.
President Andrew Jackson appointed Hastings as a federal marshal in northern Ohio, but the cold weather bothered his knee. Hastings and his wife moved to Bermuda, where they raised lilies and Bermuda onions for export. They were reportedly the first to grow the Bermuda Easter lily for commercial purposes before returning to the United States.
Tischler explained another curiosity of Hastings’ monument in that it names the soldier as a general — a rank he did not achieve until well after he was wounded. He got this promotion via brevet, meaning it did not come with a corresponding increase in pay.
Tischler, 70, said permanently protecting Hastings’ monument is a “bucket list” item for him.
“I want to finish this out,” he said. “History is always about people and that’s what this is about — people. ... Just because he’s not alive anymore doesn’t mean he wasn’t important. We’re all important, and he was important.”
Tischler said he has always been a Civil War history buff and grew up in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederate States of America. He has undertaken the cleaning or protection of six Civil War monuments, four Union and two Confederate. He suggests anyone who is interested in helping to preserve the Hastings monument, and others in his area, to consider donating to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation at bit.ly/467TVHQ.
Reach Domenic Poli at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4120.