“For My Grandchildren”

Hidden Treasure in the Attic

Everyone has heard the stories, a lost Picasso, a hidden suitcase of cash, we think of them as urban legends but sometimes, just sometimes there is an interesting and almost unbelievable story behind the true tale of hidden treasures for in an attic and for local South Windsor Resident Robert ”Bob” Starr the story is one he can now share with the world.   Starr had moved into the family house in 1968 and in 1970 or 1971 he decided it was time to clean out his attic to make room for some of his things.  That is when he came upon a leather bound ledger and a rather unassuming wooden box which contained a lot of old letters and other historical documents. Little did Starr know that this was the beginning of an over 50 year journey to bring “For My Grandchildren” The Civil War Journey of Pierre Starr, Surgeon, 39th Ohio Infantry to life.  The completed book is a firsthand account of Starr’s great grandfather, Pierre Starr’s experiences as a surgeon for the Union Army during the Civil War.

But sometimes a truly priceless treasure takes some time to be understood and appreciated.  Written in old English and with a date at the end of the journal of 1912, Starr was struggling to find a publisher or even to muddle through some of the dense language when he decided it was simply not the right time and shelved the project.  Fast forward 50 years and through a series of serendipitous circumstances Pierre’s journal lands in the hands of Brad Quinlin, a noted Civil War scholar, researcher and transcriber with an impressive number of books about the Civil War under his belt.  Quinlin thought the story was amazing but also wondered about the credibility issue as the date of 1912 at the end of the journal would call in to question the accuracy of the stories.  Then Starr told him about the letters.

What letters? Over 100 handwritten letters found with the journal. Quinlin was sold.  After a little over a year collaborating on what they called the “Civil War Project” Quinlin, Starr, and Quinlin’s friend Jason Rusk have brought Pierre Starr’s story to his grandchildren out of the attic and into the light for everyone to enjoy.  The book is an amazingly detailed and accurate account of what Pierre Starr saw, heard and felt as he went from battle field to battle field and wrote back to his mother and brothers of what was happening all around him.  From simple everyday “luxuries” such as having a cow to provide fresh milk, to the horrors of decomposing bodies and missing limbs, and the frustration of losing not one, but two horses during his time of service, Pierre’s story and letters provides the reader with an intimate view of what it was like to be in the middle of the bloodiest conflict in US History. Bob Starr and Brad Quinlin will be at the East Windsor Historical Society on Saturday, August 11th from 12-4 pm to sign copies of the book and talk about their experience.  Many related artifacts including the letters, journal and wooden box will also be on display.  Books may also be purchased at Wood Memorial Library and Museum, 783 Main Street, South Windsor and from Bob Starr directly by e-mailing bobstarroffice@aol.com.

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