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Battlefield find leads family to East Longmeadow

Date: 1/31/2011

Jan. 31, 2011

By Amanda Butcher

Special to The Reminder

EAST LONGMEADOW — When driving to South Carolina, one can take the highway through Washington, DC, or avoid the country's capital altogether and take lesser highways through smaller towns. My dad, who hates the traffic, does the latter. But sometimes, probably due to my nagging, my dad will drive near DC. In these cases, we see signs for Farifax County, Virginia.

But what does Virginia, which is upwards of 300 miles away, have to do with us unless we're traveling?

One August, a little less than 150 years ago, Edward Burt, a farmer's son from East Longmeadow, volunteered to join the 37th Regiment in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He was 23 years old and five-foot-five. His family owned the land that the present-day high school stands on. He wore a badge that said "Edward Burt, Co. D, 37th Regt. Mass Vol. War of 1861" but lost it a year and a half after signing up when his company was camped in Chantilly, Virginia, a town where some major Civil War battles were fought.

Fast forward to 1985, when Greg Cumming from Farifax County found the badge, with his new metal detector, under eight inches of dirt. A mall was being built, and he knew that the newly cleared out site was the site of much civil war action. Cumming hoped to find something interesting, though to find a badge such as this one seemed to be hardly a possibility.

It looked like a sheriff's badge made of silver; this type of badge wasn't government-issued, which means the owner of the badge, East Longmeadow's Edward Burt, had bought it privately. Those who bought these badges wore them so that if they died, they wouldn't be buried in mass graves.

Over the next ten years, Greg Cumming and his family intermittently searched for information about Burt in the National Archives in Washington, DC. It became a hobby of theirs, finding out who this Edward Burt was and his story.

They found out Burt was from East Longmeadow and he signed up in Pittsfield on Aug. 8, 1862, for the regiment that left for Washington on Sep. 7 of that same year.

Burt and his regiment became part of the 6th Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac and they were in some of the bloodiest battles of America's history, including Gettysburg. Tragically, on May 10, 1864, Burt received a bullet wound in his leg and his leg wouldn't stop bleeding even when he was sent home to get better medical attention.

He died on June 2.

In 1995, the Cumming family planned a trip to Maine and decided to drive through East Longmeadow, where they hoped to find some local history of Burt to fill in some of the gaps in the story and to tell someone from Burt's hometown about what they found. They called retired town clerk, Richard Clark, who immediately knew where to look for records of the Burt family and told them to come back in a week or so, after their visit in Maine, to hear about what he found.

In the end, the Cummings family came back to East Longmeadow and visited the birthplace and grave site of their soldier and East Longmeadow found a lost son's badge.

So, in a nutshell, the next time you're going on a long drive, take the back roads and visit the small towns. You may find something interesting when you take a closer look.

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