Friday, June 24, 2011

The Story of Ruth...Well, Sort Of ( Part I)

I am here on Cape Cod writing today's blog entry, specifically South Yarmouth, MA. This is where Ed's maternal grandfather Uriah Crowell, and his family come from. The Crowells are one of the original families in Yarmouth. Ed's 5th great grandfather, Abner Crowell, died aboard a British Prison Ship in Newport Harbor during the Revolution. I have mentioned that story in an earlier Henrietta post.

During the Revolution, the British used ships as floating prisons. These ships were packed tightly with American patriots captured and held there in chains below decks in the worst conditions imaginable. When France allied with the Colonials, they positioned these ships directly in the mouth of Newport Harbor and sunk them, one after the other, blocking access to the harbor. On one ship, the Grand Duke, Ed's 5th great grandfather, Abner Crowell, was being held prisoner. He died at sea, just one of scores of others in these prison ships, on the 8th of February 1778.

Abner was 51 years old and the father of 8 children by his first wife Sara O'Kellia at the time of his death. Sara had died three years before, leaving Abner to care for the four or five of the youngest children still living at home. The youngest of all of them, Judah, was Ed's 4th great grandfather. He was just 9 when news of his father's death was received in Yarmouth. Abner's martyrdom on the prison ship is a captivating story, but that's not my focus today.

Judah, now an orphan, was at home living with his step mother, Ruth Nickerson Crowell. Abner had remarried less than a year before he was killed. His new wife was a widow and also a mother of four young children of her own when she married Abner. Her youngest was just  4 and her oldest 10. When Ruth became widowed for the second time, she was left destitute caring for her four and another four or five of Abner's children still at home. And Ruth was pregnant with Abner's child. She gave birth to her son Simeon Crowell 4 months after Abner was killed. Judah was 9 years old and an orphan living with a step mother he barely knew, sharing shelter, clothing and food with 9 others. His stepmother had all she could handle to raise her own children, not to mention all his older brothers and sisters, and soon another little baby would be born, too. One wonders was there any time at all for young Judah? The life he must have led would probably break most of us.

But today's story is not about Judah's survival, either. In fact, my original intent was to write about Simeon, Ruth and Abner's only child. His was quite a story, worthy of a blog, to be sure. I found out at the local library yesterday that Simeon Crowell, born months after the death of a father he never knew, was totally devoted to his mother and wanted to do what he could to make her life easier. As a little boy of just 10 years old, he did the only thing he could think of to lessen his mother's burden. He went to sea. As a mother, I am not sure how that would have eased my burden, but I suppose just one less mouth to feed would have made a difference for poor Ruth.

Simeon was 26 years at sea before he returned a well respected Captain in his own right. His mother was still married to her third husband,Gershom Phinney, whom she had married three years before Simeon left. Ruth was 61 and before Simeon left she and Gershom had a boy, Gershom III.

Simeon, married and started a saltworks business in Yarmouth. During his world travels as a ship captain, he had seen and heard many things, but something he heard at a church spoke directly to him. He brought that message back with him and in 1824 he started The Bass River Community Baptist Church, which was just around the corner from where we stay in South Yarmouth. He donated the land the church sat on and became their first minister. Sometimes called the "Lord's Barn" it was described by a local resident this way: "it was quite high in the walls; was shingled roof and sides; had no steeple or belfry of any sort and was innocent of paint, both within and without".

Bass River Community Baptist Church today
 It was a crude structure, but was a vast improvement over having the meetings in various homes of congregants. And, true to the Baptist tradition, the early members of the church, when the weather permitted, were immersed in Bass River. Simeon's mother would live until she was almost 80, outliving her third husband. She is buried in the cemetery behind Simeon's church.

Ruth Hinckley Nickerson Crowell Phinney's grave.

Like I said, the story today was supposed to be about Simeon, and he was an interesting guy who survived hard times and turned his life into a testament to the belief that life is what you make of it, no matter what you're handed. He was a survivor, something I see over and over in Ed's family tree. But something else came to light when I went to find out who Ruth Nickerson Crowell was before she was a Nickerson or a Crowell. Who was this woman who was left with all of these children, some of them her own and some belonging to a husband she lived with for only a few months before his sad demise? I was very curious about her.

I found out that she was baptised Ruth Hinckley in 1743. She would have been about 34 years old when she married Abner. Her first husband, Thomas Nickerson IV, had died when she had three sons of his, and one on the way, born months after he sea.

And that, my friends, is where the really interesting story was found.

But, you'll have to wait until next time for that story. So, stay tuned...  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Death List

When I was doing some of the research for my last story about my Civil War ancestor Uncle Salem Judson Tiffany who lost his life in Andersonville Prison, I happened upon another story. It's a story about a man who as far as I know had no connection to my family tree, but whose life story so intrigued me, I had to write about him. Although he was no relation, he and Uncle Salem did cross paths. 

I grew up being pretty savvy about the Revolutionary War, living in Massachusetts. But I know very little about the Civil War. So, please forgive me if you already heard this story. And from the number of blogs out there about this particular person, I have a feeling he is well-known to many. I first learned about this man's story when corresponding with a fellow named Kevin Frye who lives near Andersonville and is an expert on the subject. I wrote to him some months back when I first found out about Salem. Kevin will take anybody on a free, behind the scenes private tour of the Andersonville site, with his golf cart providing transportation for 5 people. He will bring you to the grave(s) of your ancestors and will do it all for the asking, plus any tips you might find appropriate, he added. Some day I may just take Mr. Frye up on his offer as I would really like to visit Andersonville and find Uncle Salem's grave.

First in Kevin's email to me, and then again when I was doing research for last week's blog, I came across this fellow's story. 

In Terryville, Connecticut, about 40 miles from Coventry where my Uncle Salem was born,  a family by the name of Atwater lived. The father, Henry,  made his living as a stone mason, but was also a school teacher and the local Justice of the Peace. He was a well-respected member of the little town and expected his children to earn their own respectable places in society. The third born of eight, his son Dorence, was a quick learner and as a young teenager of thirteen was already working as a clerk in a local store and in the post office.

But, war had broken out in the 1860s and Dor was eager to serve. At barely 16 years old he went off to war without consent of his parents. Lying about his age, he enlisted with the 2nd Connecticut. He became a regimental clerk for his unit, but while on horseback delivering a dispatch to his general, just a few days after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, Dorence was taken prisoner by the enemy. In his coat pocket he had the  letter he had just received advising him of his mother's death. How distraught he must have been, such a young boy, far from home, having just learned of his mother's passing and now in the hands of the enemy.

At first Dorence was held at Bell Isle Prison where he became quite ill with diarrhea and scurvy. After a short time, they moved him from that prison to Richmond where, at the recommendation of his Union adjutant, also a prisoner, he was assigned by his captors as clerk for various projects including keeping track of the funds taken from Union soldiers and keeping an account of the supplies purchased by the US Government for the Union Soldiers who were, like him, sick and suffering in rebel prisons.

In February of 1864 he was sent to Camp Sumter in Andersonville, Georgia to the newly opened prison there. He was one of the first batch of prisoners sent there to suffer. Still sick with scurvy and various life-threatening conditions prevalent in these prison camps, once again because of his experience as a clerk, Dorence was assigned the detail of assisting the prison surgeon in recording the deaths of the Union captives. In large numbers these soldiers died from scurvy, dysentery, starvation, exposure and wounds from battle and were buried in large trenches by the scores.

Although now just 19, Dorence had the experience as a clerk to know the value of records, especially in this situation. His assignment was to make the list for the prison officials. He was also to make one copy for Richmond, the Confederate Capital and one for the Union Army, which he suspected would never be delivered. So weakened by his suffering, at times he had to hold his right hand with his left in order to steady his pen. But Dor felt a compelling need to get this information to the families of these men and to Washington. He wanted to  honor them and make certain that the sacrifice he knew they made would be made known to all. So, Dor set out to make a fourth copy, a secret copy of these "death rolls". He carefully recorded their names, the date and cause of their deaths, making note of where they were buried, hiding his own pages among the official record.

Andersonville's dead were buried in trenches, one after the other.
They closed Andersonville Prison in a little less than a year after it received its first prisoners. Dorence was transfered to a South Carolina prison. He concealed his secret record and took it with him when he left. He was one of the first prisoners to be exchanged and he found himself in March of 1865, after being captive for 22 months, in Annapolis. His sad list, a 24 page document on which he had recorded the deaths of over 13,000 men had successfully been smuggled out with him.

Dorence went home to Terrytown, CT, sick and dying of Diphtheria. He was still just a boy of 20 when his widowed father nursed him back to health in the family home. All he could think about was how was he going to get the information he had recorded to these families who had no way of knowing the fate of these brave souls, nor of their final resting place. Perhaps that's what kept him going and gave him the strength to survive when so many others had not.

And so it was there at Andersonville where Dorence and my great grand uncle Salem's paths crossed. It was this record that made it possible for Kevin Frye, the Andersonville expert,  to identify his grave for me when I wrote to him. As Salem was taken to the prison hospital and later pronounced dead on September 1, 1864, Dorence was there to record the event on the list. Perhaps he knew Salem, having also been born in Connecticut. Maybe they exchanged stories of home and Dorence may have comforted Salem as he drew his last miserable breath in the hellish place.

This young hero who took it on his own to honor these men and provide some answers to those who waited at home did not have an easy time of it, however. I am not really a believer in the "no good deed goes unpunished" theory, but in this case it really was the way things went.

After reading the story of the "death list" in a newspaper, someone in the War Department in Washington, requested that Dorence send them the list. He refused, wanting to personally fulfill the promise he had made to himself and these men, which was to let these thousands of families know what became of their loved ones. Not yet fully recovered from diphtheria, Dorence was ordered to Washington, and to bring his list with him. He was forced to sell his list to them for the purpose of copying it for $300. Dorence understood the price was for the right to copy it, not for the list itself, which would be returned to him when the War Department had completed its project. Dorence was also given a position as a clerk to assist in the project.
Unfortunately, his superiors and the Secretary of War was not of the same mind as Dorence had believed them to be and they refused to return the list to Dorence after the copy had been completed. Ignoring his repeated requests, Dorence was then ordered by the Secretary of War to go to Andersonville with 40 or so others to mark the graves, using the copy they had made and his own list, not to mention his personal knowledge of the whereabouts of the over 13,000 graves. Clara Barton was among those who were there and would become a lifelong friend and supporter of Dorence. Dorence was invaluable to the group, pinpointing the exact locations of the trenches and matching up the men with the wooden markers they were preparing. However, Dorence, with the sole purpose of ending the suspense and anguish of the families and friends of the Andersonville dead, took his list while he was there and refused to return it. He admitted to taking it, saying that a man can take what is his wherever he finds it, and that the law allows for it.

A court martial followed charging him with two counts: 'conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline' and 'larceny'. The procedure must have felt like such betrayal to young Dorence. The frustration and anguish he must have felt as one witness after the other testified and hearing that he was accused of stealing something that he felt belonged to him must have been overwhelming for such a young patriot. And the sentence that was handed down was a dishonorable discharge, a fine of $300 and 18 months of hard labor in Auburn prison in New York until the list was returned. He was taken from Washington to Auburn in irons. I am still not sure of the Government's motive in not wanting Dorence to publish his list. In testimony one of the reasons was that they felt Dorence would profit by publishing it. But, it is unclear to me whether this was the real reason for the refusal of the Government to return his list or if it was just some sort of character flaw in the Captain in charge. 

He served there two months of hard labor before he was released, reportedly because the Secretary of War was worried about an investigation that various newspapers around the country had threatened. Among these newspapers was the New York Tribune. Dorence promptly went to work and alphabetized and organized his list and had 25,000 copies printed. The Tribune published it and put it on newsstands before the government knew what was happening. Dorence was able to finally do what he had set out to do and he shared the information with the families and the entire country. In an introduction, written by Dorence, he explained to the families why it took so long for him to get this to them and recounts the events that took place surrounding the recovery of what he felt was his property. I have just copied an excerpt here. While you read this, try to picture that Dorence Atwater was just 21 years old when he wrote this, still sick and weak from his captivity and mistreatment by both the South and the North. 

 Introduction by Dorence Atwater
To the Surviving Relatives and Friends of the Martyred Dead at Andersonville Ga

THIS record was originally copied for you because I feared that neither you nor the Government of the United States would ever otherwise learn the fate of your loved ones whom I saw daily dying before me. I could do nothing for them but I resolved that I would at least try and let you sometime know when and how they died. This at least I am now able to do. So many conflicting rumors have been in circulation in regard to these rolls and myself that I deem it prudent to give a brief statement of my entire connection with this DEATH REGISTER and to show how and why it was so long withheld from you...

...The appalling mortality was such that I suspected that it was the design of the Rebel Government to kill and maim our prisoners by exposure and starvation so that they would forever be totally unfit for military service and that they withheld these facts. Accordingly the latter part of August 1864 I began to secretly copy the entire list of our dead which I succeeded in doing and brought it safely through the lines with me in 1865.

Arriving at Camp Parole at Md I learned that I could not get a furlough on account my term of service having expired some seven months before. I wrote to the Secretary of War asking for a furlough of days for the purpose of having my DEATH REGISTER for the relief of the many thousand anxious in regard to fate of their dead. Before an answer could have returned I received a furlough from the commandant of the camp. I then went my home in Terryville Conn where I was taken sick the next day after my arrival which confined me for three weeks.

On the 12th of April I received a telegram from the War Department requesting to come immediately to Washington and bring my rolls and if were found acceptable I should be suitably rewarded...

...I was convicted and sentenced as follows To be dishonorably discharged from the United States service with loss of all pay and allowances now due; to pay a fine of three hundred dollars to be confined at hard labor for the period of eighteen months at such place as the Secretary of War may direct; to furnish to the War Department the property specified in the second specification as the property stolen from Captain JM Moore; and stand committed at hard labor until the said fine is paid and the said stolen property is furnished to the War Department.

On the 26th day of September I arrived at Auburn State prison New York where I remained over two months at hard labor when I was released under a general pardon of the President of the United States.

I reached New Haven Conn on the following day and learned that the record had not been furnished you. I immediately set about preparing it for publication and have arranged to have it printed and placed within your reach at the cost of the labor of printing and material, having no means by which to defray these expenses myself. I regret that you have waited so long for information of so much interest to you.

Young Dorence Atwater

The government never restored his pension, but at the age of 23, he was given a consulship in the Seychelles Islands, which was chosen because it was thought to be good for his health. But, the climate was not good for Dorence, still suffering residual effects from his prison days. So he was given a consulship in Tahiti where the climate was indeed healing for him.

He married a Tahitian princess named Moetia (Moe) Salmon, who was educated in Europe. 

He prospered as a businessman with a shipping line and a pearl business. He worked with lepers and the impoverished and was well-loved by the Tahitians. Known by some in the State as the Angel of Andersonville, the Tahitians called himTupuuataroa, or "Wise Man". Dor and Moe also had a home on Market Street in San Francisco. However, in the great earthquake of 1906, the home was destroyed, along with it the original "death list". They lived in the hotel Normandie in San Francisco after that, his health making it impossible for him to withstand the voyage back to his beloved Tahiti.

Dorence died in San Francisco in 1910 at the age of 65. Moe accompanied his body back to Tahiti two years later after funds to transport it there were raised. There to greet the funeral procession was every person on the Island.

He was the first non-royal to be given a royal funeral in Tahiti. His wife died in 1935. She was 87. Dorence is buried beneath a 7,000 lb stone. On one side is carved “Tupuuataroa” (Wise Man). On the other, “He builded better than he knew that one day he might awake in surprise to found he had wrought a monument more enduring than brass.”

Of the more than 13,000 men who died and were buried at Andersonville, there are but 400 not identified. All of us who have ancestors buried there owe some gratitude to the Angel of Andersonville, Wise Man Dorence Atwater. Without the remarkable foresight of a Connecticut teenager a century and a half ago, we may never have known what happened to Salem Judson Tiffany and so many others. Thank you, Dor.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Uncle Salem's Story

This past week we remembered those killed while in service to our country. Memorial Day to so many is just a long weekend, thanks to legislation in 1971 that changed the day we observe it from May 30 to the last Monday in May. But the first observance of Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was in 1868, when an order was issued, setting aside the 30th of May to honor those lost in the War of the Rebellion, both north and south.

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit...

...Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
-From General Order No. 11 by General John A. Logan, Commander In Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic.

General and Senator John A Logan

Although decorating the graves of their fallen loved ones was something the 'ladies of the south' had been doing on their own since the war broke out, this declaration was an act of reconciliation between the north and the south, recognizing the loss on both sides of the cause when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

This is something my grandparents' and parents' generations did unfailingly when I was growing up. The Memorial Day Committee in my home town always had the local Boy and Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Girls place a geranium on every Veteran's grave, marked with a small American Flag. But I never knew until just now that decorating the graves was anything more than a nice tradition or just making sure that the graves look nice for the Memorial Day services that take place in the cemeteries every year. I had no idea that to decorate a grave, to garland it with the "choicest flowers of spring time"  was written into the order that designated the holiday.
The first state to recognize it as a holiday was New York and by 1890, all the northern states had adopted it. But the southern states refused to recognize this date and held their own Decoration Days to honor their fallen Confederate soldiers. The south finally joined the rest of the nation after World War I when the holiday was changed to honor all Americans killed in any war rather than just the Civil War dead.

Decoration Day 1899 Illinois
However, today there are still southern states that commemorate Decoration Day for the Confederate war dead, on other dates in January, April and May, in addition to recognizing Memorial Day. Tennessee and Louisiana honor their Confederate casualties on June 3, the birth date of Jefferson Davis.

One of my ancestors, Salem Judson Tiffany, the brother of my great great grandfather Harlan Tiffany, was a private in the 34th Massachusetts Infantry. Salem was born in Connecticut but grew up in Southbridge, Massachusetts. The 34th was made up of men and boys from the western part of the state where Southbridge is located.

In August of 1862, at 25 years old, Salem who made a living as a weaver, still lived with his parents in Southbridge. He was the oldest of five children. Salem enlisted when the call went out along with about 1,000 other young men from the area who were assigned to the 34th Massachusetts Infantry. They left immediately for Virginia. The 34th stayed in Virginia and Washington DC for some months before they set out for various campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley during the spring of 1864.

In New Market VA, a battle was brewing. The Union Army had arrived there early on Sunday morning, May 15, 1864 to face the enemy. About 5,000 other troops joined the 670 men from the 34th who were there that fateful day.

Meanwhile, the south, with similar numbers present, had conscripted young cadets from the nearby Virginia Military Institute (VMI) knowing they may need the additional men. It was common to empty the colleges and universities in the south of their able-bodied young men when battles were waged nearby. The young cadets from 14 -18, numbering more than 200, were divided into 4 different battalions, all of them eager to engage in battle. Little did they know how celebrated they would be when it was over. 

Virginia Military Institute (VMI)

Heavy rain poured down on New Market,Virginia, leaving deep, thick mud everywhere on the field of the farm where the battle took place. It would come to be known as the "Field of Lost Shoes". As the south and the north advanced toward each other, clearly the Union soldiers were confused by what ensued and from what some say were vague and confusing orders given by  Major General Franz Sigel.

Field of Lost Shoes

In Sigel's own words:

"Our skirmishers began to fall back, and fire was opened by Snow's battery on our right. I ordered the 34th Massachusetts to kneel down and deliver their fire by file as soon as the enemy came near enough to make it effective. A very severe conflict now followed at short range, the enemy charging repeatedly and with great determination against our line of infantry and the batteries, and being repulsed by the coolness and bravery of the 34th Massachusetts, 1st West Virginia, and 54th Pennsylvania, and the batteries.
The smoke from the infantry fire on the left and the batteries on the right became so dense that I could not distinguish friend from foe.
There was an interruption of a few minutes, when the enemy's lines recoiled, and our men cheered; then the fire began again and lasted about thirty minutes; the enemy again charged, this time especially against our batteries; he came so near that Lieutenant Ephraim Chalfant of Carlin's battery rode up to me and said that he could not hold his position. I immediately ordered two companies of the 12th West Virginia to advance and protect the pieces, but to my surprise there was no disposition to advance; in fact, in spite of entreaties and reproaches, the men could not be moved an inch.  At this moment Major Meysenburg of my staff came up to me, and, to save the guns, I determined to make a countercharge of the whole right wing, and requested him to transmit the order to Colonel Thoburn, who was not far from me toward the left. Bayonets were fixed and the charge was made in splendid style, but the enemy rallied, received our line with a destructive fire, and forced it back to its position. Before the charge was made, our extreme left wing had given way; two pieces of Von Kleiser's battery fell into the enemy's hands, and a part of his forces moved against the left and rear of Thoburn's brigade. When Thoburn's regiments came back, strewing the ground with their killed and wounded, the enemy, close on their heels, now again turned against the batteries on the right, filling the air with their high-pitched yells. I saw that the battery would be lost, as men and horses were falling."

The 34th Massachusetts were the first to face the enemy and engage in battle of gunfire and bayonets in that battle. When the order was given for them to retreat, they were bringing up the rear and would not be able to get out of harm's way. The 4 battalions of cadets were right there in the thick of it, positioned closest to the 34th. In their youthful fervor they became a mighty foe. These young cadets did major damage to the 34th, and many Massachusetts sons were killed or wounded and then taken captive by the cadets and the Confederate Veterans they fought beside. Ten of the cadets died that day. They are remembered each year in a reenactment at New Market and at VMI.

And, among the wounded Union Soldiers that day was 27 year old Private Salem Judson Marsh. Wounded in his left shoulder, he was taken prisoner and brought to Andersonville Prison in Georgia. There, with quite a few others from his little town in Massachusetts, he lived in horrendous conditions of starvation, infection, and no shelter from the elements. This prison had just opened a few months before Salem was captured. It was designed to hold 10,000 men. It held 45,000. There was one small stream that ran through the middle of the open stockade which was called Sweetwater Branch. It was used for drinking, bathing and sewage. Men were dying of infection and dysentery at the rate of 100 per day. By the time the prison was closed in 1865, 13,000 men had died while imprisoned there.

Monument at Andersonville for Massachusetts Soldiers

Salem succumbed to his suffering on September 1, 1864. He is buried in grave #7468 at Andersonville National Cemetery.

Salem Judson Tiffany's Grave #7468 next row, far left, outside of photo.

When Salem's parents back in Massachusetts were told about his death, I can only imagine their heartbreak. His younger brother Edwin, had reenlisted, perhaps to avenge his brother's death, leaving his parents to worry that Salem wouldn't be the only son they would lose before it was over. I am sure the fact that so many of their neighbors and friends had also lost their sons and loved ones was little consolation.

In one report I read, of the 400 men that little Southbridge, Massachusetts sent to this war, 39 were killed. At least 10 of them died at Andersonville. The losses in Massachusetts alone totaled nearly 14,000 men during the War of the Rebellion. 100 years later during the Viet Nam war, my town, probably 3 times the size of 1860s Southbridge by then, lost just one man to that war. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts lost 1,323 soldiers in Viet Nam. It puts those numbers into perspective.

It must have been a very sad and somber Memorial Day, that first one observed in Southbridge. Younger brother Edwin was there to commemmorate it with his parents, much to their great relief. He survived multiple enlistments and lived a long life, marrying and having children of his own. His son, Carroll, was a favorite cousin of my great grandmother's. I have correspondence between them and I met Carroll on a couple of occasions, funerals I believe. But at the time I had no idea that his father had gone through so much anguish over losing his older and much adored brother.

My Paternal gggGrandfather Solomon Davis Grave
Wadsworth Cemetery in Sudbury, MA
I had ancestors from several branches of my tree who served in the Civil War. Salem is the only one I know of who did not survive it, although several were injured. It was an horrific war and the more I learn about it, the more horrific it seems.

Now when I see someone lovingly tending to a grave, brushing away the dirt from the stone, leaving a potted geranium or planting flowers near the flag marking any Veteran's grave, I will remember that there is so much more to the gesture than I once thought.