US Marine Corps Second Lieutenant Robert C. Hitchchock, NU Class of 1859, is believed to be the first Norwich alumnus and the first Vermonter to die in the Civil War. He was killed in action on July 21, 1861, while leading his company in a charge at the first Battle of Bull Run. He and nine enlisted Marines were buried in mass graves dug by the Confederates near Sudley Church in Manassas, Va.
On 14 July, 1861, 2nd lieutenant Robert E. Hitchcock, NU Class of 1859, was notified that Marines would take part in an offensive against the Confederates in Virginia. After a wave of excitement passed through the command, the difficulties of the assignment were reflected in a letter Hitchcock wrote that night: “Last night after I passed down the line to receive the reports of the companies, I was met by Capt [James Hemphill] Jones, who said to me, `Mr. Hitchcock, prepare to take the field on Monday morning.’ So tomorrow morning will see me and five other lieutenants with 300 Marines on our way to Fairfax Court House to take part in a bloody battle which is to take place, it is thought, about Wednesday…We have no camp equipage of any kind, not even tents, and after all this, we are expected to take the brunt of the battle. We shall do as well as we can under the circumstances.”
On 21 July, it is believed that Lt. Hitchcock was the first Norwich alumnus to die in the Civil War while leading his company in a charge at the first Battle of Bull Run. He and nine enlisted Marines were killed in action and buried in the mass graves dug by the Confederates near Sudley Church in Manassas, VA.
Learn more about the role of the US Marines in the first Battle of Bull Run.