Thursday, May 16, 2019

Westboro Town Records & Sgt. Austin Stearns Friends

Austin Stearns memoirs begin, “My native town failing to raise a company and hearing that Westboro wanted a few more men to make her company full, six of us Bear Hill boys came over and offered ourselves.   We were voted in and commenced to drill immediately.

…The Company was known as the “Westboro Company,” but men from Shrewsbury, Southboro, Hopkinton, and Upton were in its ranks.”

Sergeant Stearns does not go into more detail than that, about his hometown friends, but the town of Westboro kept impeccable records, and the Westboro Library has been digitizing many of their archival documents from the town’s 300 year history.  Among them are a few papers documenting the Westboro Rifle Company.

From these, we can learn Stearns companions from Bear Hill, were William H. Gassett, his brother Thomas R. Gassett, Jonathan Stearns, Austin’s brother, Willard Wheeler, & Daniel S. Warren.  This is because, the town of Westboro billed the town of Hopkinton for $128.27 to pay for the uniforms and equipments issued to these men, plus another recruit from that town.

Here’s what the men got:

7 Uniforms Coat, Pants, Caps  14.63      102.41
7 Fatigue Suits         2.25        15.75
  7 Haversacks     33 1/3         2.33
7 Bass? Sewing Materials &c      34 2.38
14 Towels       10              1.40
    Bill rendered June 20, 1861        $124.27

2.25     33 1/3     44
1 Fatigue Coat, Havelock. &c  for Remit               3.77
        $ 128.14
Rect Pay 128.14

The Town Selectmen of Westboro had voted at a meeting April 25, 1861, “that the Town appropriate Five Thousand Dollars, to be expended in the purchase of Uniforms — pay of men while Drilling — and for pay in addition to the amount paid by government.

The town of Southboro was billed $319.17 for 19 men on June 20.  The town of Upton was billed $189.02 for 6 men on June 20.  The Southboro bill included 5 weeks pay for drilling the men.   A tally shows the total monies furnished by Westboro and the surrounding towns for outfitting and training the men.

Southboro furnished 18 men and paid their proportion for Uniforms, $327.17

Upton furnished 9 men and paid for Uniforming and board while drilling $189.

Shrewsbury furnished 9 men and paid for Uniforming with fatigue dress $34.58

Total = $550.75


Much of this is documented in the wonderful book, “History of Westborough Massachusetts” by H.P. DeForest and E.C. Bates, 1891.  But the town history leaves out the names of the individual recruits and the amount of money paid from neighboring towns.

Getting back to Austin Stearns friends, they didn’t fare too well.  William [Henry] Gassett, age 18 was wounded at Antietam and was discharged for disability.  Austin Stearns carried his wounded friend off the battlefield.   His brother Thomas age 21, was killed in action at the same battle.  Jonathan Stearns, age 19,  made it through the 3 years service and mustered out August 1, 1864 with his brother. Jonathan settled in Philadelphia. He is rarely mentioned in Austin’s memoir.   Willard Wheeler, age 25, was killed at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.  Dan Warren did okay.  He made it through the 3 year term of enlistment, then re-enlisted into the 39th Regiment, and then the 32nd Regiment.  He mustered out of Federal service June 2, 1865.

Pictured are Dan Warren, left and John Flye, Company K Cooks,  in camp at Williamsport, MD; 1861-62.

The Westboro Library Digital Collections contain some remarkable documents going back to Colonial Days.  Local History Librarian Anthony Vaver has also done a great thing by digitizing the Ebenezer Parkman Diaries.  Parkman was the town’s minister 1724 - Dec. 1792 and he kept a faithful diary for most of the 79 years of his life.

I'll post more about Sergeant Stearns next.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Post War Articles from the Westboro Chronotype

      Last year I was able to search the digital newspaper database at the Westborough, MA Public Library.    I came up with all sorts of wonderful articles, most of them post-war, many of which I have now transcribed.

     The following is from 1884, and I believe it was written by Austin Stearns.  It is the history of Company K of that town.  The author wants people of the town to contribute an equal amount of money as the Boston companies, towards raising a monument to the 13th MA at Gettysburg.

     He is prescient in stating, that to give a history of Company K, is in fact, to give a history of the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac, in the first 3 years of the war.  As the modern-day historian of the regiment, I can attest to that.  The author does a pretty good job of it in this one column.  Perhaps I have been laboring in vain all these years !

      My favorite part of the article, is his list of the town families.  Its nice to see my family represented.  They were one of the first families in Westboro.  Although my G G Grandfather is not specifically mentioned in Austin Stearns memoir, he is listed in the roster, and I'd like to think they were friends after the war.  Although, by the time this article was written, William Henry Forbush had been gone three years.  He died in January, 1881.

     There are a lot more articles like this and perhaps I shall post some more, if they are popular.  Its an easy way to highlight the kind of research I do in addition to building the website.

WESTBORO CHRONOTYPE; February 23, 1884.

The Patriotism of Co. K in the War of the Rebellion.

     In the columns of this paper a few weeks ago was a communication entitled, “The 13th Regiment at Gettysburg,” setting forth the intentions of the regiment to erect a suitable monument which should serve as a memorial for the fallen dead and to mark the spot where the regiment — fought on that of all the hard fought battle-fields — the hardest, and stating what other companies of the regiment were doing, and what was expected of Co. K.

     As twenty-three years have rolled by, since its formation, and a new generation has come up that knew not “K,” perhaps a few words will be interesting for them to read in relation to the amount of labor performed, and hardships endured during its three years of service.

     Co. K was virtually a Westboro company. In its ranks were found the honored names that have been so familiar in the history of the town ever since its first formation — such names as Brigham, Bullard, Burnap, Fay, Fairbanks’, Forbush, Haskell, Robbins, Sibley, Stone, Turner, Walker, Warner and Warren; and of the adopted ones, Copeland, Lee, Lynch and Slattery; in fact almost every family in the town, twenty-three years ago, was represented in its ranks.  While the neighboring towns of Hopkinton, Shrewsbury, Southboro and Upton each sent a squad.

     To write a history of the 13th regiment would be almost to write a history of the first three years of the Army of the Potomac, or I might more truthfully say the 1st army corps.

     Going to the front in July, ’61, the regiment was ordered to the upper waters of the Potomac where it performed picket duty from Harper’s Ferry to Hancock and shared in all the hardships and privations incident to the soldier’s life, with an occasional brush with the enemy.

     Burnap was the first of K to answer to the roll call from the unseen beyond, followed closely by Harriden, both Westboro men, and dying in the winter of ’61-2.

     On the first of March the advance into Virginia was commenced, Martinsburg and Winchester were each in turn occupied, and then the march over the blue ridge to Centreville, Manassas, Warrenton Junction, and Fredericksburg with the “on to Richmond” ringing in their ears.

     There were disappointed hopes when the news of Banks’ disaster in the valley reached them, and they were hurried through Thoroughfare and Manassas Gaps into the valley as fast as weary feet could go to retrieve the loss; back then to Manassas, Warrenton and Culpepper, fighting with Banks at Cedar Mountain, then at the Rapidan from which they turned when Lee let loose his victorious legions upon the little army of Gen. Pope, the fierce shelling at Rappahannock station, the retreat, the holding of Longstreet at Thoroughfare Gap, and the circuitous march through Haymarket, Bristoe and Manassas to join the main army, the terrible disaster at the Second Bull Run, where the angel-reaper, death, gathered a rich harvest of Union slain is well known history.

     Copeland and Fairbanks were K’s offering to the insatiate God of war. Then came the retreat to Centerville, and the turnout at Chantilly, then to the defenses at Washington, across the Potomac and up through pleasant Maryland, “my Maryland,” to Frederick where the advance of Lee was met, and driven from the rugged slopes of South Mountain, and when they again measured their strength with them beside the sluggish Antietam, where its ranks were again thinned and Gassett, Holden, Trask and Wellington gave their lives, and many more were maimed for life. A month of rest and then again the sacred soil was overrun by northern soldiery. Old places were revisited, and on the 12th of December ’62 the Rappahannock river was crossed and the fearful slaughter of Fredericksburg occurred. The 13th, with rare good fortune they were on the skirmish line when after twenty four hours of skirmish work, with empty cartridge boxes they were relieved and ordered to the rear to re-form and re-fill their cartridge boxes, when the line of battle advanced and the action became general but they escaped with few casualties. The battle being lost, the river was recrossed and the regiment went into winter quarters. Then came Burnside’s mud march in mid winter, where more curses than prayers were said, again occupying old quarters, and quietly awaiting the next move in the great drama of war.

     It came at the second Fredericksburg, on the last days of April, ’63, when Cordwell’s head was blown completely off; the rapid march to Chancellorsville where, laboring all night with bayonet and plate, they threw up a line of works and helped to save the right of the army endangered by the breaking of the 11th corps. No vantage gained, only hard fighting; and Chancellorsville was abandoned; the two armies face to face watching each other, on either side of the Rappahannock. Again in motion, while Lee was making his movements behind the ridge, the Union army with rapid strides kept pace — the old first corps covering ninety miles in less than three days. The north was invaded and the two armies with terrific clash, quite unexpectedly to each other met on that quiet afternoon of July 1st at Gettysburg, where the old first corps with almost superhuman strength alone held at bay twice their numbers, till other portions of the army could arrive and occupy the hill — the home of the dead. The noble form of Wheeler, with a bullet through his brain was left upon the field, while Cutting, Flye, Gould, O’Laughlin, and Sprague, with mortal wounds, lingered a few days in pain and then were added to K’s dead.

     The regiment reduced to eighty guns, K to nine, bore an honorable part in the two succeeding days. Lee whipped and in full retreat was closely pursued by the now victorious army. Then the long marches and countermarches from the Potomac to the Rapidan, fording the Rappahannock waist deep in bleak November weather, and when winter was covering the earth with its white mantle, the two armies lay face to face at the well nigh fatal field of Mine Run.

     The elements, as if sickened with the sight of dead and mangled men, seemed to conspire together and after a drenching rain, sent a wintry blast that pierced to the bone, making men bow in meek submission to their wintry rule. They then retreated to winter quarters on the Rapidan where picketing in front of the enemy made it no easy task.

     Almost with the ushering in of the flowery month of May, the fierce struggle was again resumed — fiercer than ever; day followed night, and night day, and still the fight went on; march, fight, fight and march, till strength was almost gone. Through the Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spottsylvania C. H.; Bethesda Church, North anna river, Cold Harbor, White Oak Swamp, and Petersburg; they all bear testimony to the valor of the 13th. Company K bore her part on every field, in every time and place where hard work or harder fighting was required. The men of K were ready even if need be to give their lives for their country, and no citizen of Westboro to-day need blush at their record.

     The rank and file of the army was not composed of rich men and K was no exception.

     Of the dozen or more of the surviving members now living in town, but few can boast much of this world’s goods. Their early friends are gone, with few exceptions, and, as “Veteran” has stated in his communication, the amount that is required to place K on an equal footing with the other companies in the erection of the contemplated monument at Gettysburg should be forthcoming. This appeal is for all the citizens to turn out at the war songs concert that is soon to be given and thus to contribute their mite and listen to those soul stirring and grand old songs that cheered perhaps your comrades, sons, brothers and fathers in the camps, on the march, in the hospital, or may be to the prison pens of the South.

      Come and let us citizens of this good old town that never refused any good and honest appeal of its defenders, turn out and fill the hall that a memorial may be raised to mark the spot that was dyed with the blood of the men of Westboro and her sister towns, who died in the defense of right the supremacy of the Union, and majesty of the law.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Along the Rapidan - Another Musical Post

     I'm currently building pages for my website, Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, detailing the months of September and October, 1863.  The regiment was camped near the Rapidan river in Culpeper County Virginia at this time.   I've had to look beyond the regiment's own writings, to the Brigade and Division to fill out some of the interesting details relating to this time period.

     Raccoon Ford, photo by John Hennessy.

     The histories of the 16th Maine, 83rd New York, and 39th Mass., all proved useful in this respect.  The 39th MA provides the following most interesting account of picket duty along the Rapidan, from the vicinity of  Raccoon Ford to Morton's Ford.  I'm adding links when possible, to add interest to the text, making this, another musical post.

     The "Bonnie Blue Flag" link takes you to a goofy rendition from the movie "Gods & Generals" on youtube, but with the troops singing along it captures the feeling of the real thing.  The next link for "Star Spangled Banner" goes to the Library of Congress American Jukebox site, one of my favorites for sampling these old tunes.  Its a brass band rendition.  Although American Jukebox does have a rendition of "Maryland My Maryland" it is the "Yankee" version of the song, so I've linked instead to a great site called Digital History, for the true "secesh" version.  "Red White & Blue" & "Home Sweet Home" takes you back to the Library of Congress.

      Regarding the reference to "Pennyroyal" I came up empty handed, although I'll bet its a well-known tune under a different title.  I did discover it probably refers in some way to a feeling of loss, and that it may have been written by William Billings, an early American composer of hymns.  Anyone who might know more about this is free to leave a comment below.

      "Old Hundred" or "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" is the popular tune of the Protestant Doxology.  The link goes to a youtube rendition.

     I hope you enjoy this post.
     Somerville Ford, photo by John Hennessy.

     From the 39th MA regimental history:

     In the stillness of the Sunday evening (September 27th) the Confederates in their camp indulged in a prayer-meeting and their hymns, the same that Northern Christians were singing at that very moment in the far away churches, were plainly heard by the hostile soldiery on our side of the stream.  Need there be any wonder that some listeners moralized on the absurdity of men who read the same Bible and sang the same songs, spending several years of their lives, none too long at the longest in shooting at each other?  Here took place the famous exchange of song, so often told in campfires and wherever it is desirable to prove that one touch of Nature makes the whole world kin.  
One night the Rebs. started off on the “Bonnie Blue Flag,” and when their strains had ceased, the Yanks got back at them with the “Star Spangled Banner”; next the Boys in Gray tuned up with “Maryland, My Maryland” and those in Blue naturally retorted with “The Red White and Blue”;  breaking the lull that ensued, our men started John Howard Payne’s immortal and universal “Home Sweet Home”; scarcely had the first note been struck before the sympathetic enemy chimed in, and Virginia woods and hillsides echoed with the tender strains clearly showing how Saxon blood remembers.  On another occasion a musical exchange, beginning with “Pennyroyal,” ran through the list of then popular melodies, though all sang in unison, and very naturally, too, for ending “Old Hundred.”  Will not coming generations wonder that men who could together sing the old songs should ever fight each other?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Tenth Anniversary

My website, Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, or is Ten Years Old today!  I have a little notebook in which I marked it being uploaded at 12:10 A.M., June 3rd 2008.  Preparation for the planned site started much earlier. 

 I remember checking out a couple of "how to build a website" books from the Burbank Library when the idea germinated.  The books were already a bit out of date,-- for blogs were the new thing at that time.  But I planned the site to be viewed on a desktop with a full screen monitor.  It would feature pictures and text.  Graphics were a big part of the scheme. (It seems it was old fashioned even from the start and I haven't tried to keep pace with changes in tech.)

In mid May, 2008,  I was ready to build it.  My wife Susan helped me create the banners in photoshop, in which she was far more skilled than I.  I was impatient to get something done, but she persistently came up with additional effects to make the graphics more interesting.  Simultaneously, I was writing the text and testing my knowledge with KOMPOZER, the WYSIWYG web building program I learned about over at  SITEWIZARD.

After two weeks the core pages of the site were built.  I paid for the web account at FUTUREQUEST, my host server on May 29 and the site went live midnight June 3rd.  But the site had existed before my incarnation and it is important to acknowledge the drive and enthusiasm of Greg Dowden in this project.

Greg’s ancestor is Sergeant James Augustus Smith of Company I.  Greg was way ahead of me in research skills when we met around 1999.  Our first contact was via email, and it was amusing to discover we lived in neighboring towns and both worked in the entertainment industry.  We arranged a meeting and immediately formed a strong friendship.  

I was amazed at Greg’s skill in tracking down historical documents.  He owned an original volume of one of the Circulars, #27 I think, and told me there were 34 more issues waiting to be found.  He found the document for sale on-line and purchased it.  In the pre-digital camera age,  he traveled to the Army Research Center in Carlisle, PA and plugged quarters into the photocopy machine to get images of Charles Rowndy’s Manuscript.  He discovered Colonel Leonard’s papers at the Gilder Lehman Institute in New York.  He traveled to Mattapoisett to see where his ancestor lived, and with his brother partially re-traced Sgt. Smith’s trip to Maryland from NY city.  He visited Harper’s Ferry and collected information from the park library about the John Brown bell. He found a digital copy of one of Lauriman Russell’s early maps.  I was curious how he generated so many leads.  He told me it was part intuition and hunches.  

We decided to share everything we found, and started by tracking down the most obvious resource available, the 13th Mass. Regt. Assoc. Circulars.  

I've posted about the Circulars before, here and here.

Following his lead I went to Westboro, Mass in May 2001 to see what I could turn up.  I traveled up to Marlboro, Mass to see the John Brown Bell, and I found the library had several of the original circulars in a rare bound volume.  The librarian there assisted me in searching the internet for a list of other libraries in the country that had original circulars in their collections.  From that point, the two of us made a determined effort to collect all of them.  I remember having to argue with a local university librarian, not a 1/2 hour from where I lived in CA, into making me copies of the several issues  in their collection.  Access to the rare book was limited to university students belonging to their consortium and it was off limits to me unless I shelled out a huge fee.  I belabored the clerk with the fact that probably no-one in 100 years was interested in seeing them, and here I was a few miles away, a descendant of a soldier in the regiment, and I couldn’t get access.  After about 40 minutes I convinced him to make copies for me.  And in this way, after 2 years we had copies of all of them, the last 3 came from the Library of Congress.  It was Greg’s idea to start a website to share what we had found. He registered the name because he wanted it to be an educational site, possibly a non-profit organization in the future.  His site was begun with one of those ‘proprietary’ internet website building kits, remember those?  Sign up for internet and get a free webspace !  But you used the host sites tools to do it and if you moved your account you lost your site…

Life intervened for Greg and although his passion for the regiment never died, the time to devote to it evaporated.  By then my research skills had caught up to his, and he handed the reins over to me.  And today’s site is the result.

I have lost touch with Greg.  I miss him.

The website has never strayed from its original format, which was to present an outline history of the regiment’s service with corresponding links to more detailed pages. 

My original purpose for the website was to generate interest in a book -  an anthology of stories I edited together in 2003, with the best materials from the circulars enhanced with soldiers’ letters and memoirs. The question was how much content to share?

I decided not to hold too much back and see what happens.  I believed these stories do not belong to me.   They belong to the veterans who lived them, and they would want as many people as possible to know what they did.

A quote from one of the last circulars:

Who will tell the world the story,When the “Boys in Blue” are gone?

And, what were the results of this policy?  My anthology was never published.  It garnered interest, but as one publisher put it, “We think that you have already found a wonderful way to make your work available to a wide audience at low cost.”  But there was a bigger reward unforeseen at the time.  

At the outset I created a list of photographs of soldiers and artifacts I hoped to find to accompany my proposed book.  I now have all of them and more.  I’ve met many helpful and devoted collectors who have gone out of their way to share materials with me.  Scott Hann was the first, he shared 80 images of company B men from his collection, and later gave me a notebook full of 8 x 10 b&w images of the same.  Joseph Maghe shared materials and information and even tipped me off when one of my own ancestor’s letters came up for sale on ebay.  If that wasn’t enough, I connected with descendants of the soldiers.  Many, like the family of John S. Fay, shared unpublished manuscripts and told me how John’s shattered rifle and other artifacts were still treasured and preserved among his many descendants.  A descendant of color bearer David Sloss, told me he still had a piece of the State Flag that Davy carried through many battles. There were many others, including the family of the author of the regimental history, Charles E. Davis, Jr.

 Then came the greatest rewards, and that was connecting with families of the soldiers and restoring their true historical legacy which had been lost or confused with the passage of time.  In one instance  a strong family bond between long lost cousins was re-established, both my contacts were descended from the same proud veteran James H. Lowell.  In return, these families shared what materials they had with me, and this makes the web history better.

Building the detail pages was fun at first, especially for the early war years when the regiment was posted in Western Maryland.   Their regimental history is virtually silent on that period  and I had so much material, that I had to edit what was posted to keep the pages from getting too long.  It was simply a matter of arranging and posting.   When the real campaigns began, more study was necessary, and the new pages required more work.  I spent a year and a half on 2nd Bull Run; three years on Gettysburg.  I learned to divide the pages into sections to include more material.  Its been a constant chore to keep moving forward with the chronology.  Ten years into it and I am only 2/3 done, and a little bit tired.

My original outline called for about 24 planned detail pages, to cover the entire 3 year history.  They were going to contain material from the circulars, but that is not the case now.  There are over 50 detail pages.  And my source material has grown so much that I could spend a long time updating older pages.  I have done this occasionally, but for the most part, I’ve decided the pages are still pretty good the way they stand.  There are two exceptions, I hope to add the story of George Bigelow’s tragic death to the Fredericksburg page and Bourne Spooner’s memoirs to both Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville pages - one day.

I’ll end this post now, and mention that 3 new pages were just added.  Naturally I think they are very good.  Its a Special Section, that doesn’t neatly fit into the chronology of the regiment’s history.  The theme of the section is “Around Washington” and it features the stories of 5 specific soldiers, Albert Liscom &  James Ramsey at Harewood Hospital,  George S. Cheney at Camp Convalescent, John B. Noyes travels through Washington in January and May, 1863 and William Rideout’s developing romance with a hometown girl while clerking for the Quartermaster Department in the city.  Incidentally, Mr. Rideout’s descendant has been a huge supporter of this project since its inception.

Here is the link.  I’m going to order a cake.  I’ll post a picture here later.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Gettysburg: The Last Moments of Frank Gould; Part 4, Martha Ehler's Memoir

This is the concluding part of 4 parts.  If you haven't read the other parts you can find them at the links provided.

Read Part 1 Here.

Read Part 2 Here.

Read Part 3 Here.


My immediate concern after deciding to use Capt. E. D. Roath’s letter of September 9, 1863, on my website, was to find appropriate pictures to accompany his long text. Searching for information on the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster County brought me to Vince Slaugh’s blog; “Lancaster At War.”

Vince collects primary source material on the 79th PA Vols. of Lancaster County and secondary subjects that support that topic. A post of July, 2013, titled “Donations Collected From Drumore For Patriot Daughters” provided me what I wanted; pictures and biographies of some real members of the Patriot Daughters, and a short description of their work.

Another link on Vince’s site led to a digitized edition of the 1863 memoir titled “Hospital Scenes After The Battle of Gettysburg.” The short booklet was authored by Patriot Daughter Martha Ehler. It was published in August, 1863, as a fund-raiser for the Daughters. In the book, Martha relates some of her experiences as volunteer nurse for 5 weeks, at a Gettysburg Field Hospital.

I was in no hurry to read the booklet, as Captain Roath’s letter caused me to believe the Patriot Daughters serviced several of the many hospital complexes around Gettysburg. Chaplain F. D. Ward, 104th NY, was posted at White Church Hospital in Mount Joy Township. And, it was Ward’s hospital that received supplies from the Patriot Daughters, as mentioned in Capt. Roath’s letter. But I was mistaken. It turned out that the Daughters shared their supplies with all who applied for assistance, but Martha did her 5 week stint as a nurse at Christ Church hospital on Chambersburg Street, where several wounded soldiers of the 13th Mass were sheltered.

In her memoirs Martha wrote:

“We had until now, no systematic plan of action. All of us agreed that it would be better, if possible, to take the entire charge of one Hospital, and as all the Church Hospitals were sadly in want of care, our only difficulty was to decide which should fall to our lot. — Providence decided the point for us, for the only rooms we could obtain, were directly opposite Christ Church, the College Church, which had been occupied since the first day’s battle, by the 1st corps, 2nd division, (Gen. Reynolds’ men) designated by the white lozenge on a red flag.”

“…We had by tacit agreement arranged that some of us should cook, and prepare delicacies for the sick, while the rest should undertake the nursing. I was one of those upon whom the latter duty devolved. With what trepidation I crossed the street, for the first time, to enter the scene of so much sorrow and anguish, may be more easily imagined than described. Had I stopped one moment to think, my courage would have failed, I would have turned back, but I did not. I walked up to the Hospital steward and told him that it was probable that we should be associated together in our duties for some weeks, and asked him what his patients most needed; his reply, was “everything.” “These men are now lying with the exception of having their wounds dressed, as they were brought in from the battle-field.” Some were on a little straw, while most of them had nothing between them and the hard boards, but their old thin, war-worn blankets; the more fortunate ones with their knapsacks under their heads. And when you think that they were almost without exception, serious amputation cases, what must have been their sufferings. I went back to the rooms, and we all commenced assorting the pillows, shirts, sheets, &c. sending at the same time to the Commissary for some bed sacks, which the men attendants filled with straw.

When our patients were washed and dressed, and placed in their new beds, with a fresh white pillow under their heads, and a sheet thrown over them, they looked their gratitude, which was more eloquent than words. One of us handed them each a handkerchief wet with cologne, and we left them to make arrangements for their supper. Already was it in progress; the tea was already made, and the butter toast making on the stove, and with some nice jelly, kindly sent by those at home, the supper was complete; we took it over and gave it to each. Many having lost their right arm, had to be fed; while some, tempting though the meal was, were too sick to partake of it; all however, even those suffering worst, thanked us over and over again, and could scarcely be made to believe that we were to remain some weeks here, and that they were to be our special care. They all said that they had never met with such kindness, and that that meal had been the first glimpse of home life they had enjoyed since they entered the service two years ago. Thus ended our first day’s experience in our new and trying vocation; it was, however simply a beginning; we had only cared for those in the basement of the Church, (forty in number) while above, were a hundred more waiting for our services on the morrow.”

I have in my library a booklet published by Christ Lutheran Church titled “A Sanctuary For The Wounded.” The church is very active in remembering its history. On weekends the church presents a program titled “Songs and Stories of a Civil War Hospital, Candlelight at Christ Church”

Nurse Martha Ehler is quoted heavily in both the booklet of remembrance and the musical program. Reading Martha’s memoirs of August, 1863, I suddenly made the connection, between the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster County, and the nurses narrative I had read about in the Church booklet.  I also have a recording of the Candlelight at Christ program.  But I had never been able to place a name to any “specific” soldiers in these accounts. The stories were usually generalized. But in her memoirs, Martha does get around to mentioning a few specific cases. Something struck me in particular in one of these passages.

Martha mentions the date July 16. That is the muster in date of the 13th Mass. Vols. at Fort Independence, in 1861.

Keep in mind, when reading the following narrative, that Frank A. Gould, Co. K, 13th Mass. was wounded in the hip and back. His mother lived in Southboro, Mass. and family lore claims it was she who brought her son’s body home to be buried there.

Also, that George E. Sprague, of the same regiment and company, was wounded in the chest, or lungs. Sprague had a wife and son back home.

And, that the two comrades died one day after the other, Frank going first.

Martha wrote:

“I recollect particularly being called about this time to minister to the wants of a young New England soldier; I had taken care of him in a general way with the others, but did not know of his dangerous condition until one of his friends called my attention to him. I saw that he was very low, and he must have noticed by the expression of my face, that I regarded his case as hopeless. As soon as I came to him he said, “write your name on this piece of paper for me, and if I live I want it, if I die, send it to my mother, and tell her that though far away in Pennsylvania, I have found those who have been as kind to me as sister or mother.” “And, now,” said he, in the most solemn and searching manner, “must I die?”

I told him I feared it must be so. “Do not fear,” he exclaimed, ‘ ‘ to tell me the truth, for when I entered the army, I made up my mind that a man was not worthy to live, who for fear of death, shuns his country’s cause. I am willing to die, and join the ranks of those who have already gone, for it is glorious to die for one’s country.” He said he knew in whom he trusted; that religion was no new thing to him; he had a good, praying mother, and though the temptations were great in the army, yet for her sake, he had tried to do right. He then uttered a prayer for the loved ones at home, for his comrades, who stood around, and invoked God’s blessing on those who ministered to him. For some time he was quiet, and after having taken some nourishment, he asked me what day of the month it was? I told him the 16th of July. “Then,” said he, “it is two years since I enlisted, and one year from to-day my term of service will expire;” adding in the most submissive manner, “and sooner, if it the Lord’s will.” After a short interval he said, “see that I am decently buried, and may God for Christ’s sake have mercy on us all.” The light fled from his eye, the color from his cheeks, and then his parched lips only uttered confused sounds.

Around him, bathed in tears, stood the companions of many long marches, and hard fought battles, and by his side his nearest friend, who had shared his test since the commencement of the war. He was shot through the lungs, and lay but a short distance from him; he had scarcely been able to move since he was brought in from the battle-field, yet hearing his friend was dying, he insisted on going to him. I remonstrated, but to no purpose, and I was not surprised, when, after performing the last sad offices for his friend, I was sent for to attend to him. On returning to his bed he had immediately had a hemorrhage, and in about two hours he too was a corpse. Calmly he fell asleep, leaving kind messages for his wife and children at home.

Thus in life, these two noble men had been devoted friends, and in death they were not divided. I kept my promise, and saw them properly buried. Hitherto those who died, had been wrapped in their war-worn blankets, but their companions made them each rude coffins, and a sad and serious gathering followed them to their last home. The relentless grave has closed over them, and the grass waves silently over their resting place; and when in after days we visited the spot, we placed on each a few summer flowers.” *

Francis A. Gould is reported to have died, July 14. George E. Sprague, is reported to have died on July 15. Both are listed as having been buried, in the Presbyterian Church Graveyard on their records of death.

Although the recorded dates of death are off a bit, I believe Martha was describing the last moments of these two comrades, (both mustered into service July 16, 1861),  who died a day apart.  In checking a list of known soldiers who died at Christ Church, provided to me by one of the participants in the Candlelight service, I find only Frank, and George, who belong to the same Regiment and Company, who died a day apart, during the time nurse Ehler was working at the church.

The significance of July 16, to the story, re-enforces this idea, but it is by no means conclusive. This list of soldier who died at the church is incomplete at best. But the coincidental evidence is strong. And, so far, I have not found another unit known to have been at the hospital with a July 16, 1861 muster in date.

For the record, here is a list of other 13th Mass soldiers known to have died at the Church Hospital. Records are from the 13th Mass roster, with notes from Christ Church.

Edward Church; age, 28; born, Derby, Conn.; carpenter; mustered in as private, Company E, July 16, 1861; killed July 3, 1863. Wounded in the left shoulder and chest. Died at Christ Church, (roster says July 3rd) 28 years old.

Horatio A. Cutting; age 44; born, Attleboro, Mass.; bootmaker; muster in as private, Company K, August 1, 1862; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, July 22, 1863. Shot in head, Died at Fort Schuyler, NY July 22d.

Prince A. Dunton; age 20, born, Hope, Maine; farmer; mustered in as private, Company H, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received July 1, 1863. Shot in the right hip and foot. Died July 1st or July 8.

Edwin Field; age, 20; born, Chelsea, Mass. clerk; mustered in as private, Company B, July 16, 1861; killed, July 1, 1863. Shot in left lung on July 1st Died at Christ Church July 2nd or 3.

John Flye; age, 29; born, New Portland, Maine; blacksmith; mustered in as private, Company K, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, July 26, 1863. Wounded severely in the leg and captured. The Confederate who captured him exchanged his own worn out gray pants for Flye’s blue pair.

Frank A. Gould; age, 20; born, Clinton, Mass; mechanic; mustered in as private, Company K, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. Wounded in hip. Died at Christ Church July 14th.

Michael O’laughlin; age, 21; born, Ireland; shoemaker; mustered in as private, Company K, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, October 8, 1863. Left leg fractured. Pleaded not to have the leg amputated because of his aged mother who was dependent upon him. The leg was removed but he died Nov. 8, at camp Letterman. Single, shoemaker.

George E. Sprague; age 27; born, Grafton, Mass.; shoemaker; mustered in as private, Company K, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, July 15, 1863. Shot in the right lung and forearm.

Martha Ehler recorded the dying moments of several brave soldiers in her memoirs. I believe this particular case is that of 13th Mass soldier Francis A. Gould, and his comrade in arms, George E. Sprague.

*This passage begins on page 20 of Martha's book.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Gettysburg, The Last Moments of Frank Gould - Part 3

This post is part 3 of 4 parts.  If you have not read the other parts you can access them at the links below.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 4, the conclusion, here.

Part 3.

Company K of the 13th Mass was hit pretty hard at Gettysburg on Oak Ridge July 1, 1863.

Sgt. Austin Stearns of Company K wrote:

“The skirmishers in our front commenced a brisk fire when we were ordered to advance into a piece of woods; this we did, and the firing became general in our front.

"In advancing up, being near the turn in the line, the farther we advanced the greater would be the gap between the two regiments until there was quite a space, the other regiment partially facing the other way. On our left but a little ways off was a little hill, or knoll; this was occupied by the rebels, [who] seeing our exposed position fired directly down our line. This was a most fatal fire for us. Many of our brave boys fell at this time; we being so briskly engaged with those in front we had not noticed them till we received their fire. My place being near the right of the company, I turned to see what had been the effect on old K. The first thing I saw was Sergeant Wheeler laying on the ground but a short distance away. There being so much noise and din, I could not tell by looking at him how bad he was hurt, for I could hear no sound. I went up and spoke to him, but received no answer. I saw that he was shot through the head, the bullet striking him in the left temple, and the blood and brains were oozeing out.”

William R. Warner of Company K, was promoted 2nd Lieutenant the night before the engagement, and attached to Company G. Regarding the battle July 1, he recorded the following in his journal:

“Passing through the woods, we attempted to form a line at a stone wall – possibly we were halted there a few moments to allow stragglers to get up – then across an open field to another piece of woods, and hardly before we could realize it we were in the midst of a battle.

"I had thought very little about it, I mean in the matter of dwelling upon it, & dreading it, and when once engaged, had no time to think. My first impulse, was to pick up gun & some cartridges, and I loaded & fired several times. Sergeant Wheeler of Co. K. was almost the first man I saw struck. - He fell over backwards, a ball having ploughed his forehead – About the same moment, six or seven of the tallest men of Co. K, on the right were wounded, Harvey Ross, H. Cutter, John Flye, M. O. Laughlin, Melville Walker.”

Melvin Walker wrote:

“My position in the ranks was on the right of my Company K, which was on the left of the regiment.  Of the first eight men four were mortally and three severely wounded.  I was so fortunate as to be carried off the field by two comrades of the Twelfth Massachusetts, which regiment had just been relieved and was moving to the rear.”

Melvin Walker, Pictured right.

Doubtless, Frank Gould, was one of these wounded men and he was probably carried to the Christ Church Hospital, on Chambersburg Street where Austin Stearns found him the next morning.

It is stated that Frank was wounded in the back and hip, which is important to this story, and that he died July 14; the date also being important to this story.

I duly noted the ambiguity of Frank’s final resting place, when I built the ‘Gettysburg Casualties’ page of my website. The tale would have ended there if I had not stumbled upon a reference to the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster County.

To continue with my research of the 13th Mass Vols after the battle, I had to consider that their division and brigade were nearly destroyed in the first day’s fight at Gettysburg.

The 13th Massachusetts Volunteers took 260 men into the conflict on July 1st 1863, and reported only 79 men and 15 officers present the next morning. Primary source material in the regiment was getting scarce. So, going forward with my web history, following the battle, I decided to look to other regiments of their brigade, to fill out the story. For instance, Chaplain F. D. Ward of the 104th NY wrote home to a New York Newspaper, in a letter dated August 12:

“The 950 who passed through Washington sixteen months ago, are reduced to less than 90 !  And where are the absent ones ?  At Gettysburg 25 officers and privates were killed;  86 wounded;  94 prisoners and missing.  Total, 205.  At Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg this “cruel war” found victims from among us.  A letter just in from Capt. Geo. Starr, of your city, now a prisoner at Libby Prison, Richmond, informs us that nine of the 104th are confined there — the prospect of an exchange at present not being favorable.

“The regiment is at present in command of Col. Prey, Captain and Acting Adjutant Van Dresser, Lieuts. McConnell, Trembley and Richardson, who, with Quartermaster Colt and Dr. Rugg and the Chaplain, constitute the entire field, staff and line force.  Nor is this an isolate case.  The 16th Maine and 13th Massachusetts, in our brigade, are in no better condition.“

Another source I took for a reference was a letter written by Captain E. D. Roath of the 107th PA Vols.

Roath’s long letter to the “Weekly Mariettian” newspaper, touched on a variety of subjects, but of particular significance to this story, is this passage regarding the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster county.

“The 104th N.Y. Volunteers is attached to our brigade; they received their initiative with us at Cedar Mountain ; they have participated with us at Rappahannock, Thoroughfare Gap, Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg; as soon as they crossed the Pennsylvania line, up went cheer after cheer for the Old Keystone, with a determination that the rebels must be driven from its soil;  and their conduct on the 1st, 2d, 3d and 4th days of July, in battle, confirmed their determination; the regiment suffered;  their wounded were placed in a hospital about four miles from the town ;  they were in want of the necessaries of life and comfort; fortunately that hospital and the wants of the suffering was suppled by the Patriot Daughters.  When the wounded and sick were informed that these comforts had been furnished by the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster county, tears of gratitude could be seen standing in the eyes of these bronzed veterans. Three cheers were given of God bless the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster county, for their act of kindness and help.  Dr. Ward, their Chaplain, then offered up a prayer, in which he kindly remembered the Daughters;  asking God’s blessing for them, and for Him to crown their efforts in the good work they have undertaken for the comforts of the soldier, and as a reward for their services in the righteous cause of humanity, they might enjoy a blessed immortality hereafter.  I felt that I was from Lancaster county, and such heart-felt expressions from strangers in praise of the ladies of my county, made me feel doubly proud.  The daughters’ work is developing itself; many suffering soldiers are made comfortable and buoyant with the oil and food of kindness sent by those ministering angels among them.  It is the soldier that can duly appreciate their works — and may they never be found wanting.”

This passage was just one short part of Capt. Roath’s letter. My immediate concern in positing the lengthy letter on my website, was to find pictures to go with it. The Patriot Daughters seemed like an interesting subject to learn more about, — and hopefully I could find a picture or two related to them to accompany the letter.

My interest was only very general at this point. I had no idea that looking into the Patriot Daughters would lead me back to Christ Church Hospital, and what I think is a detailed description of the last moments of Frank Gould and George Sprague, both of Company K; 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.

To be concluded tomorrow.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gettysburg: The Last Moments of Frank Gould, Part 2

This story is divided into 4 parts.   This is part 2 of 4.  You can access the rest of the story at the links below.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4, the conclusion, here.

PART 2 - A Letter from Frank is Discovered

Seven years after my initial contact with Frank Gould's descendant "Nate," a letter written by Frank surfaced.  A collector friend of mine came upon it while corresponding with a colleague, who previously owned the item, then sold his collection to a Gettysburg Civil War artifacts dealer.  The former owner,  Mr. McHugh, really did his research and wrote up a profile of all the principal people mentioned in the letter, including Frank.

Here are Mr. McHugh’s notes followed by Frank’s letter:

Francis A. Gould, private, Company K, 13th Massachusetts Infantry, enlisted 7/16/61 and mustered 7/19/61, residence Southborough, age 20, mechanic, wounded in hip, 7/1/63 Gettysburg, PA and died of wounds 7/14/63 in hospital at Gettysburg, PA, born Clinton, MA, buried A-36 Massachusetts Plot, Gettysburg National Cemetery. (note: This is disputed and Frank is said to be interred at Southboro, MA —B.F.).

Joseph H. Hapgood, private, Company A, 15th Massachusetts Infantry, enlisted and mustered 7/24/61, residence Sterling, age 22, farmer, wounded 10/21/61, Ball’s Bluff, VA, transferred out 10/9/63 into 28th Company, Veteran Reserve Corps, 2nd Battalion, mustered out 7/19/64.

Luther M. Hapgood (this is the Uncle Luther who is the “replacement” for Joseph), private, Company A, 15th Massachusetts Infantry, enlisted and mustered 12/15/61, residence Leominster, age 42, farmer, discharged for disability 11/10/62.

Luther S. Hapgood (my guess is that the “S” stands for Sawyer as mentioned in the letter), private, Company A, 15th Massachusetts Infantry, enlisted and mustered 7/12/61, residence, Sterling, MA, age 24, farmer, POW 10/21/61 Ball’s Bluff, VA (gained), discharged for disability 10/30/62.

Luther S. Hapgood, private, Company K, 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, mustered out 6/17/65 Washington, DC, born Sterling, MA, member GAR Post #53 in Leominster, MA, died 11/17/1923.

The letter was written in December, 1861, after six months service in the field picketing the Potomac River from Harper’s Ferry to Sharpsburg.  Company K had seen a little action by then, and Frank sums up his six months with the regiment pretty accurately.

Head Quarters 13th regt Mass Vol
Williamsport Md

Camp Jackson, Dec.29 1861

Dear Uncle and Aunt
As I have an optunity to wright a few lines I will improve it by writing to you. I have been thinking of righting to you for a long time but have not seen eny good chance before now. I left West Boylston the first of last April and went down home to Southboro. I staid at home Just a week. When I enlisted into the Company at Westboro, We drilled every day for 7 or 8 weeks when we was attached to the 13 regt. Col. Leonard at Fort - Independence The 29 of June we went to the Fort in Boston Harbor. We staid their first one month when we started for the seat of war. We [went] to Worcester by rail from their to New York from their to Philadelphia from their to Haggerstown Md Where we put up our tents and staid over night We started from their and went to Sharpsburg the distance being 15 miles we walked. it was our first march and we thought that we had a pretty hard time of it We staid at Sharpsburg a bout four weeks guarding the Potomac river to keep the Rebels from crossing the river. We left Sharpsburg and went to Middletown We staid their over night when we started for Harpers Ferry We staid their 10 weeks guarding the river as before H-Ferry is situated on the banks of the Potomac, but it is almost entirely distroyed by fire by Gen, Johnson it was government property so the rebels destroyed most of it when we left their we came to Williamsport where we still remain it is 27 miles from here to harpers Ferry to Williamsport We have been here nine weeks We are still quartered in our tents We have been in four or five skirmishes We have lost 7 or 8 men from our regt We had a brisk skirmish at the Ferry with a lot of rebel Cavalry We had six riffled cannons with us We drove the rebels of and come of Victorious We had four of our men killed in that battle.*

Williamsport is a large and beautiful town situated on the banks of the river the town is a secesh town and it is under a martial law our Col. is actin a Brigadere General now We have here in this camp at the present time the Maryland first regt the Indiana 12 the Ilinois Second the Mass, 13 regt eight Hundred Cavalry the Philadelphia batery of riffled cannons Bess's batery of Regulars is here. We are all in one camp and all are under our Col. his name is S.H. Leonard, We all like him very much. I have a letter from home quite often the folks are all well now but the two youngest have had the whooping Cough Hattie is still in Northboro running a Stiching machien in the same place where She has been for onne year and a half She is doing pretty well their  Addie is in Southboro doing house work She is well last Tuesday I received a letter from Charlotte Hapgood She said the folks wer all well at home except Joseph You have of course herd of his case. he was wounded at Balls Bluff uncle Luther Hapgood has gone to take his place I should not of thought he would of gone. Sawyer was taken prisoner and is at richmond Va I am sorry for him.

The fleet ther has gone down South does not seem to be doing much at the present time but it has been a terrible blow for the South. our forces have done a good thing in Missouri it is the greatest Victory we have had What do you think of the Mason and Slidell affair - Uncle. We do not think that England will interfear with the case What do you think a bout I do not think that the government will let them go. I hope that they will not for I think that they had better hang them then to let them go dont you think so. I think if England keeps still we will give these rebels all they want next Summer if not before I think by the way things look now that next Summer will tell the story Well as it is getting late I shall have to close

Please Except this from your Nephew
Francis A. Gould

I should be very much pleased to have you
answer This for I would like to hear
from you
Direct To
Frank A. Gould
Co. K 13th Mass Vol
Williamsport Md
Camp Jackson

*Battle of Bolivar Heights, October 16, 1861.  The killed were men from the 3rd Wisconsin.

The letter above gave a little insight into Frank Gould the person.  He wasn’t just a name any more.  I passed the letter on to Nate, Frank’s descendant, who told me it informed him of several other ‘relatives,’ the Hapgoods, he hadn’t  known about.  It was a bit more family history to look into.

I figure if there is one letter out there, there are surely more, and hope someday more of Frank Gould’s letters come to light.

To be continued.