On this date in 1892, Oliver Hardy, né Norvell Hardy, was born in Harlem, Ga. In 1910, age eighteen, he moved to Milledgeville, Ga., later the home of Flannery O’Connor. In 1952, on Hardy’s sixtieth birthday, another ample-figured comic actor, Curly Howard, né Jerome Lester “Jerry” Horwitz, died of a stroke in Los Angeles. Hardy died five years later, on Aug. 7, 1957.
Hardy’s father, Sgt. Oliver Hardy, enlisted at age nineteen in the 16th Georgia Infantry, took part in sixteen engagements and was wounded at the Battle of Antietam, on Sept. 17, 1862, the single bloodiest day in American military history. More than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or went missing.
Among the more conventionally rousing poems Melville included in Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866) is “The Victor of Antietam,” a celebration of Gen. George B. McClellan: “The one-armed lift the wine to you, McClellan, / And great Antietam's cheers renew.” President Lincoln was less enthusiastic. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation five days after the battle, and six weeks later removed McClellan, an emancipation opponent, from his command.
Sgt. Oliver Hardy died three days before Thanksgiving in 1892, ten months after the birth of his son, the future partner of Stan Laurel. History is a small, often intimate place.