Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Association of the Thirteenth Regiment Mass. Vols. Dedicate their Monument at Gettysburg.

From Bivouac, October, 1885  [abridged]

     When the idea to have monuments erected to mark the places where the several Massachusetts regiments bore the brunt of the fight became a reality, the Association decided to have as its memorial a representation of color-bearer on the spot where Roland B. Morris was killed while carrying the Stars and Stripes on that day ; and the same was completed at an expense of $2,300 by the Westerly Granite Company.  On a pedestal of polished granite, upon the front of which is "13th Mass. Vols.," the figure is represented at parade rest, with the colors upon his left arm.  The figure "13" in front of his cap and the badge of the Old First Corps will forever tell to the visitors to that hallowed ground the story of the conflict, and it is without exception the most striking monument at Gettysburg.

On September 25, in the presence of about fifty surviving members of the regiment, and about thirty ladies and gentlemen friends from Massachusetts, and a large number of spectators, the procession being headed by the Gettysburg Band, after the regiment had been drawn up in a hollow square, Lieut. Augustus N. Sampson, (pictured below) chairman of the Monument Committee, spoke as follows :

Comrades of the Thirteenth, Ladies and Gentlemen :  It  becomes my peculiar privilege to bid you welcome to this historic and sacred spot.  A little more than a year ago, comrades, you placed in the hands of a committee of five of your number a most sacred trust, one which brought with it much of labor, careful consideration and not a little anxiety.  Since that time down to the very present moment, I may say they have not been idle.  But the laborious part of our work has been completed ; it stands before you ; we leave it for you and your friends to pronounce the judgment upon our work.  One of the lighter duties imposed by this trust was the forming and carrying out the necessary details of this most pleasant excursion, and of deciding upon the manner of the proper exercises of the day.  Believing in the good old New England custom, that the occasion was one worthy of an oration and a poem, your committee were most fortunate in finding, right at home, in the Thirteenth Regiment Association, a comrade who by his gallant services, his native eloquence, and the high civil positions he has occupied since the close of the war, one eminently fitted for the occasion, and I take great pleasure in presenting as orator Capt. James A. Fox of Company A, senior captain of the old regiment, and ex-mayor of Cambridge, Mass.

  Captain Fox, (pictured, right) after a vivid description of the battle of Gettysburg and its antecedents, related the part taken by the Thirteenth Massachusetts as follows :

     On the morning of the first of July, when the great conflict was precipitated, the First Corps ( to the Second Division and First Brigade of which the Thirteenth Massachusetts had been assigned ) was located at Marsh Creek, about six miles distant.  Our brigade, under General Paul, advanced from thence along the Emmetsburg road, and when near the town struck across the fields to the Seminary, where it assisted in throwing up the semi-circular intrenchment which was of so much service, especially at the close of the day.  The first day's contest is thus in part graphically described by one of our own regiment, Sergeant Warren H. Freeman of
Arlington, Mass., (pictured)  in an interesting series of letters written at the time, which have been published for private circulation.  He says that "We had been making forced marches for several days previously, with little sleep and a scant supply of food.  The regiment marched more than twenty-five miles in twelve hours on the day before the battle, most of the way in mud and rain.  On the next day, July 1, we marched to Gettysburg, arriving about 1 o'clock ; and our Corps ( the First ) was hardly drawn up in line of battle before an attack was made on us by the enemy.  Our regiment was posted on the extreme right of the corps, and the battle raged furiously for several hours.  During one charge that we made we captured 132 prisoners. Of the color-guard ( seven men ) four were killed and three taken prisoners, but the colors were saved.  Lieutenant Howe seized them and bore them off the field."

  This extract gives the facts in brief. You held your lines for five hours, the last hour without any ammunition, except such as was obtained from the cartridge-boxes of the dead and wounded lying around you.  One of the earliest killed was Corporal Roland B. Morris of Company C, who enlisted in Boston at the age of twenty-two.  He had but the day before pleaded for the post of danger, as bearer of the national color, and bravely did he fulfill his pledge, carrying it in the van until shot through the body, he fell dead among his comrades.  When the fatal moment came to him he sprang into the air with a wild shout as if to say,  "This banner shall not trail ; my last effort shall be to bear it aloft."

   The dauntless courage of this youthful hero is now fitly recognized by his comrades in the portrait statue that surmounts this monument.  The list of dead on the field also includes the names of Sergeants Fiske and Wheeler, Corporals Sanborn and Russell, Privates Leland, Wise, Church, Atkinson, Brock, Hayes, Andrews, Gould, O'Laughlin, Sprague, and many others that are preserved in the archives of the regiment with honorable mention and in the memory of surviving comrades with tender affection.  Another incident of the day which deserves recall was the baptism of your State flag with the blood and brains of a beloved comrade, suddenly scattered over it as he was struck in the head by a fragment of a shell.  Toward evening the entire Confederate army was before our First and Eleventh Corps. The final charge advance from the south, west and north in double lines, sustained by strong reserves, and it was utterly impossible to resist such an overwhelming force.  General Robinsons right, where you stood was turned.    Your Brigadier-General, Paul (pictured) was shot through both his eyes, and but a mere handful of the Thirteenth was left.

   General Doubleday, in his excellent work on the subject f the battle, says : "The First Corps was broken and defeated, but not dismayed.  They showed the true spirit of soldiers.  They walked leisurely from the Seminary to the town, and did not run."  The daring escape of the Thirteenth along the embankment of yonder rail-road verifies the truthful description just given of the dauntless courage of the First Corps.  With bullets to right of them and bullets to left of them, they yet strode on with decimated ranks, following the flag borne onward by Captain Howe, on through the streets of yon village, despising any shelter, toward the commanding crests beyond.  (Captain Jacob A. Howe, Company A, pictured)

     My limit of time will not allow me to go on to further detail with the action of our regiment during the last days of the continued battle.  We served with our corps on the crest near the cemetery ;  we underwent the fearful danger of an exposed position, enforced upon us by the terrific duel or artillery, which was unprecedented in power with any such an ordeal on any previous war upon this continent.  One hundred and fifty canon on the Confederate side and one hundred upon our side made the very earth tremble, and produced such a hideous and discordant noise that the very hills and rocks seemed to reel as if about to totter and fall.  With our ranks decimated from three hundred on the first day to only ninety on the last day, we held our line against the fearful onset of the Confederate army.

     From an account given by a correspondent of the Boston Journal, himself a soldier of the Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment, I would further add that the Thirteenth struggled most heroically to beat back the men of Alabama under O'Neill, where they suffered the loss of so many of their brave comrades, and near to the positon where, a little later on, they charged the Confederates and captured the 132 men whom I have alluded to previously.  In that particular engagement the same correspondent states that our loss was 7 killed, 76 wounded, and 103 missing.  Sixteen of the men included among the wounded subsequently died of their wounds.  There were eleven of our boys buried in the National Cemetery, and their names are :  J.M. Brock, Prince A. Dunton, Edwin Field, Edgar A. Fiske, John Flye, F. A. Gould, Michael Laughlin, George F. Leonard, C.A. Trask, Charles H. Wellington and George S. Wise.

     And now, veteran comrades, after this brief and cursory review of the terrible conflict which here took place, we set up this monumental statue in perpetual memory of the brave, patriotic sons of old Massachusetts in her Thirteenth Regiment, who contended here for the cause of he Union and liberty - the union of the States, strong, undivided, and exemplary, and the liberty and equality of all mankind, of every color or condition, before the law.  Long may our countrymen, as the generations come and go, remember "what they did here," and their valor, sacrifices and sufferings, which produced the great result, and evermore hold in just esteem their sacred memory.

     Finally, comrades, while under this bright autumnal sun, with its lengthening shadows, with the picturesque landscape around us, these pleasant fields, yonder peaceful village, which might, excepting these military monuments, never suggest the terrific struggle in which you took so faithful a part, let us, I say, leave these scenes of painful interset, probably never again to met here among them, and this memento of the old Thirteenth, in the care of the God of nature and the hospitable and saved people of this town, now become as celebrated as that of Marathon, Waterloo, or Bunker Hill.

     All is quiet now upon the Potomac, and ever may it continue to be.  may our country, united by the precious blood shed here by the brave soldiers of both armies, stand forth evermore as the asylum of the oppressed among all the nations of theearth, as a bright example of self-government, of national justice, honor, and peace, like as a city that is set upon a hill, which cannot be hid.

     Ever may each morning sun kiss the semblance of our Bay State colore-bearer with his vivifying beams, and the constant stars "Keep watch and ward" over this "bivouac of the dead."


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