The pencil inscriptions above the portraits of these Union officers leave no question about the point of view of the unnamed writers. The major pictured on the left is branded “A Dyspeptic Chronic Grumbler.” His identity is currently unknown. The other man, a captain, is labeled “A Miserable Coward.” He is William Preston of the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. A review of his record reveals no evidence to support the accusation.
Preston joined the Union army in the autumn of 1861 and suffered a career-ending wound in the left thigh at the Battle of Harris Farm, near Spotsylvania, on May 19, 1864. He died in 1881 at a boarding house in Hoboken, N.J. Preston was 42, single, and left behind no will. His parents, Betsey and William, had their son’s remains buried in a cemetery in his hometown of South Strafford, Vt.
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