Friday, November 26, 2010

Charles Roundy Manuscript

     Whether you believe in spirits or not it sometimes seems that the soldiers of the 13th Mass periodically look in on me.
     The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center [AHEC] in Carlisle, Pennsylvania has in its collection of ‘13th Mass’ materials ‘Charles Roundy’s hand-written manuscript “Recollections of the Civil War.”  Roundy (Company F) illustrated his stories with charming color illustrations throughout this one of a kind book.  Ten years ago a friend provided me with black and white photocopies of the manuscript made on a visit to Carlisle.  The copies have too much contrast  and don’t do justice to the color illustrations, but it’s still a great resource to have.

     Several memorable scenes from the history of the regiment are vividly described, with a personal flair that captures the emotions of the time.  These include, “How I enlisted,”  “The 4th Battalion of Rifles of Boston,” “We Leave Fort Independence for the Front,” “The John Brown Bell,” and one of the funniest camp stories I’ve read, “A Secret for 16 Years.”    The secret for 16 years, was a secret for another 8 years with me, for alas, my copy of the manuscript was missing a page - the one with the end to this story.  Not until I was determined to include it on my website, did I contact Carlisle to see if anyone could provide me with the missing page.  They sent the missing page, and they included color scans of some of the prominent illustrations for use on my website! 

     Roundy’s writing is round-a-bout.  It’s folksy, plain spoken, and very entertaining!  “I kept as mum as a Hippopotamus,” he writes in one instance, and at another “This is a longer preliminary than I meant to make when I began this, and ‘tis like the story of the city boy telling his chum about a snake he saw while on a visit to the country.  “he said the snake was all tail but his head.”  My story thus far seems to be all head and but little tail.”

      The larger part of his “Retrospection,” is commentary on military leadership and his participation in General John Pope’s summer campaign of 1862.  “Pope’s retreat” comes up time and again in the manuscript.  General Pope’s blundering, no doubt, left a lasting impression on Charles Roundy.   In June of this year I began building the web page for that describes Pope’s Retreat, but I didn’t plan to use Roundy’s recollections. 

     I know his manuscript confuses some dates, (which I can verify from other sources), and his musings can ramble.  I discredited its value and found it too confusing to follow.  My planned web page ended with a brief account of the 2nd battle of Bull Run on August 30th 1862.  But I think Charles Roundy, Co., F, wherever he is, had other ideas. 

     My web page grew as I familiarized myself with the campaign.  Several stories were added, along with maps and descriptions of complicated military maneuvers.  At the last minute I decided to remove the account of the battle of 2nd Bull Run and save it for later.  The page would end with accounts of the engagement at Thoroughfare Gap on August 28, 1862. 

     In mid November, after six months of reading, research, study, writing and editing my new page, “Pope’s Retreat,” was ready to post on-line.  I had some technical tasks to finish - format the table of contents, check links, and add links to the site map page, but the content was finally finished - and Charles Roundy’s retrospection wasn’t included.  The week I planned to post the page I received this message:

     “Good Day, I've recently become interested in my boyfriend's family tree which contains members of the Roundy family.  I'm fairly certain that Charles Roundy mentioned numerous times on your website is a direct ancestor.

      I'd be interested in finding out if any of Charles' writings are either in print or if they are on display somewhere?” 

I received a similar request from another person a couple of days earlier.

     I’ve had a copy of Roundy’s manuscript for 10 years.  Some of Roundy’s stories have been posted on my website for the past 2 ½ years.  In all this time I have never had an inquiry about the man or his writings.  But the very week I was planning to post my new web page on Pope’s Retreat, after 6 months of research and writing, I received, not one, but two inquiries, for the Charles Roundy Manuscript.

    Two visitors to my website wanted to know more about Charles and his writings.  This piqued my curiosity, so I pulled out the manuscript, which I hadn’t read in a while, and revisited his accounts of Pope’s Campaign.

     By now, I was very familiar with the events of that two week period in 1862, when General John Pope retreated from the line of the Rapidan River to the line of the Rappahannock River, and then, to Bull Run.  Suddenly Roundy’s descriptions made sense to me.  I understood what he was describing.  I realized its value was in the summary of the campaign rather than as an introduction to the campaign, which is why I had discredited it as a source.  His account was a perfect ‘wrap-up’ of events; so I added it.

     It could just be a coincidence.  Or, was Roundy reaching out across the great divide to give me a nudge or two, to look his way?

     I still think the march he describes and attributes to August the 26th is more likely the withdrawal of August 18th, but why argue with him at this point?  After all, he was there, and it doesn’t make his account any less interesting or insightful.

For my readers I end this post with Roundy’s account of General George Lucas Hartsuff’s encounter with company F cook, George Atkinson.  You can find more of his stories at my website, including "A Secret for Sixteen Years."  Site Map -  Click on the link and scroll down the page to soldiers letters, and look for Roundy.

 General Hartsuff and the Baked Beans
     We had a fine camp – and when General Hartsuff arrived to take command of the Brigade it happened on a Sunday morning that he strolled down the Company Street of Company F.  Just then the air was filled with the fragrance of Yankee Baked Beans.  For our Cook – Atkinson – surnamed “Greasy Cook” was taking them up from the trench where they had been baking all night, and they did smell good.

     The General following his nose and the smell, found a man very busy lifting great Kettles from the trench where they had lain buried up in live coals, and wishing to make himself agreeable he remarked, “Well – but those beans do smell good” – “ Wonder if I could get a taste of them?”

     Atkinson, without looking up replied “not by a damned sight, I am not feeding every damned tramp that comes along.”

     This tickled the General immensely, and he slid away quickly to the Captains tent and doubling up with laughter he told the story.

     Pretty soon the Lieutenant came out and spoke to Atkinson saying, “he felt sorry to lose Atkinson, sorry too that he had done it – sorry for his family – sorry that he was going away and hoped it would be a lesson all his life” etc.

     Atkinson straightened up and said “What in thunder are you talking about? – I’m not going away – wish I was.”

     “Not going away says Morse – well I guess you are, and you are to be sent to the Dry Tortugas* for insulting the General.

     “What in thunder – I haven’t insulted any General”

     “Yes you have, you insulted General Hartsuff.”

     “General Hartsuff – I never saw General Hartsuff in my life.”

     “Never mind – when he asked you for a taste of your beans you told him that you was’nt feeding every damned tramp that came along did’nt you say so?”

     “Yes. – My God – yes, was that General Hartsuff?  What shall I do,” and down he flopped.

     After enjoying the situation awhile the Lieut. Spoke “Come, Atkinson, better be getting ready, the Dry Tortugas is an awful place, but -”

     “Say – Lieutenant, I did’nt intend to insult the General; and the boys bother me so!  Is’nt there some way that I can get out of this scrape?”

     “Well, I don’t know, – but I would suggest that you take your cleanest – prettiest plate and fill it with beans and some pork – some brown bread, if you have it – wash your face and hands – and go up to the Captains tent and make an humble apology to General Hartsuff and present him the plate of beans – who knows? It may keep you from the Tortugas.”

     Pleased enough – Atkinson set about it, and a more humble man never lived as he begged the General’s pardon, telling of his trials and troubles, etc.

     The General accepted the gift and enjoyed the joke like the good man we afterward found him to be – he shook hands with Atkinson – dispelled the Tortugas fear, and Atkinson went back to his work; - but often spoke of how near he came to a trip to Florida Keys.

*Dry Tortugas, a dreary desolate Convict Station among the Florida Keys.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pope's Retreat

The new webpage is finally up at  The page is long with lots of large pictures so it should scare off any of the few visitors that might be interested in checking it out.

The page covers the history of the "13th Mass" from Aug 9th 1862 - August 28th 1862; from the Battle of Cedar Mountain to the engagement at Thoroughfare Gap. Two days later on August 30th the regiment participated in the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, on Chinn Ridge. I will be devoting an entire page of the website to this subject.

The military situation changed nearly every day during the two week period known as Pope's Retreat. I've added more narration to this page than usual to set the stage for any visitors. There is some repetition in the narration. Events are summarized in the introduction at the top of the page, but repeated in the various page 'sections' in case a visitor jumps around. This way they will still learn what is happening.

It was at times easy to loose sight of the 13th Mass while building the page. I branched out a bit to include bits on the Union Cavalry raid to Verdiersville, the Confederate raid to Catlett's Station, Herman Haupt and the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, and many other topics.

Initially the page went up to August 30th. But I cut out the last section and decided to put it onto the next page. It just seemed like too much.

The new page ends with Charles Roundy's, opinionated reminiscences of Pope's Retreat.  For those of you who believe in spirits,  I think Roundy himself gave me a gentle tap on the shoulder to use this resource - I hadn't planned to use it, except for a short bit, but how I changed my mind is the subject of another blog post.

Here is the link:

Hope you all enjoy it, and with this task at hand completed, I will have more time for regular blog posts !

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Update

This blog is not in full retreat. I still have lots of good stories to tell. I've spent all my spare time the past month, preparing the latest web page for my website, Consequently I haven't posted much here on the blog.

The new page will cover the history of the unit between August 11, 1862, through August 30, 1862; or, "General John Pope's Virginia Campaign." The campaign climaxed with the 2nd Battle of Bull Run which is a milestone event in the history of the regiment. It was the first major engagement in which the men played an active part, after more than a year of hard service. For many it was the last battle. The regiment did not participate in any heroic charges; but merely a delaying action; outnumbered 10 to 1 and surrounded on 3 sides by the enemy. The encounter bought time for General Pope to pull his lines back to high ground which prevented the capture and destruction of his little Army of Virginia.

The previous webpage ended with 13th Mass. accounts of the Battle of Cedar Mountain. The new page starts off the same way.

Because events changed rapidly from day to day during this campaign, the page requires more exposition than any previous page I've built for the site. The primary sources were quickly added and organized chronologically, last June. These include the usual letters, diary excerpts and articles from my collection. The three subjects the soldiers wrote about in general, were the Battle of Cedar Mountain, the three day artillery duel at the Rappahannock River Railroad Bridge, (Hartsuff's Brigade held a lodgement on the south side of the river) and the arrival of 90 new recruits to the regiment on August 18. This was also the day General Pope retreated from the Rapidan River to the Rappahannock River. The soldiers were mostly in the dark about other events; - and there is so much that happened.

During this time General Lee moved his army to Gordonsville and planned to attack and destroy General Pope's force while it was wedged between two rivers. Logistical matters postponed Lee's attack and Pope escaped. It isn't hard to guess what might have happened had Lee attacked as planned.

Colonel Thornton Brodhead's exciting raid to Verdiersville was a first class adventure worth including on the new page. It is mostly remembered as the raid in which Confederate Cavalier J.E.B. Stuart lost his hat. He was surprised by the large troop of Union Cavalry trotting up the road. Stuart fled so quickly he left behind his trademark plumed hat - which became a casualty of the raid. I particularly enjoyed the part of this tale in which General Robert Toombs recalled his Georgia infantry to camp, - moments before 1,000 Union Cavalrymen splashed across the Rapidan River at the very spot the Georgians were ordered to guard.

Also on this page: Pope's Retreat to the Rappahannock; the Artillery duels along the river; Stuart's Raid to Catlett's Station; (he avenged his hat by capturing Gen'l. Pope's dress uniform); General Sigel's ordeal on the 25th at Sulphur Springs; Stonewall Jackson's famous flank march, (50 miles around Pope's lines) and the sacking of Pope's supply base at Manassas Junction. There is the unraveling of the Union high command at this time; the clogged Orange and Alexandria railroad and Herman Haupt's gallant efforts to to keep the lines running. There is a lot more, you get the idea, and all of this is before the battle itself. My primary source for this narrative is John J. Hennessy's masterful book "Return To Bull Run." I wish I could just quote directly from the book, the story is so well told. I'm supplementing this narrative with other sources as always, but its really just a superb account of the campaign. (I discovered General Gordon's account from the 1860's too).

Consequently, it's taken a lot of time to carefully summarize these events within the context of the regiment's experience. I try very hard for accuracy. The military situation changed so much from day to day, I had to re-organize my source material to keep the story moving forward. The men were usually about a week behind in their news. The page page ends with just a short summary of the battle as described in Charles E. Davis' 1893 regimental history. I intend to devote another page entirely to 13th Mass. soldiers accounts of the battle. (That won't take as long).

In preparing this page, I've developed some more sympathy for General John Pope. I think he was a poor field commander for the most part, but he did a lot of things right, and he was under tremendous political pressure, like all the early Union Generals in the war. What if heavy rain had not forced him to call off his planned offensive on August 23rd? His plan was the same as Gen. Lee's; cross the Rappahannock and assault the enemy's right flank and rear. My dislike for him, and for General McClellan, is due to the large number of lives lost in this campaign, in large part because of ego, or professional jealousy. It was the poor foot soldier who paid the price in blood.

I'm almost done with the text of the new web page. A few pictures will be added next, and then I'll upload to the website, hopefully sooner rather than later. And then, perhaps I'll have more time for the blog ! A very tired adieu. Comments are appreciated.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The 13th Regiment Association Circulars

Part I

     I’d like to write a bit about the 13th Regiment Association and its annual Circular.  The association was formed to facilitate companionship among the veterans that served in the “13th Mass.  Officers were elected each year, but the secretary remained the same; Charles E. Davis, Jr. of Company B.  Between the years 1888 and 1922, the association published a pamphlet, or circular, for the membership, announcing the time and place of the annual re-union dinner in Boston.  There are 35 circulars in all.  They are rare, and hard to find, (but more on that later).   Soon, letters, articles and poems began to appear within its pages, - vivid tales of personal war-time adventures. In time the circulars became highly regarded for the history they contained.  Sets of them were requested by librarians at the Library of Congress, and the U.S. War Department. 

 Each Circular included:

  • A list of newly elected officers for the coming year;
  • Association treasury reports and dues assessments;
  • A list of former comrades who had passed away;
  • And, a list of attendees at the previous re-union dinner.  

     An article of general interest to the membership would follow the ‘business’ reports.  In number one, (1888) there was a reprint of General James Beaver’s address to the First Corps Survivors at Gettysburg, given the same year.  Number two contained a biography of General George Lucas Hartsuff, the popular commander who lead their brigade in the summer of 1862.   Secretary Davis’ “official history” of the 13th Regiment actually grew out of a series of narratives he began for the circulars.   

     In Circular #3 Davis re-printed period newspaper clippings that detailed the unit’s departure for the front on July 30th, 1861.   The narrative continued in the next two issues, appearing in Circulars  nos. 4 & 5.  Between these years the Association’s “History Committee” rejected another writer’s manuscript intended to be the official history, because it was incomplete and un-publishable.  The committee urged Davis to continue his narrative and this became Davis’s well regarded book, “Three Years in the Army; The History of the Thirteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers.”  Davis’s book did not contain any personal anecdotes of the war, but the Circulars did.

     Morton Tower’s memoir “Escape from Libby Prison” was the first, appearing in Circular #8; 1895.  Tower’s story was written for the Oregon Veteran Association.  When Davis learned of it he requested a copy for publication in the circulars.  In the forward to the article Davis wrote “I am prompted to say that for a long time I have hoped our circulars would be made a vehicle for the publication of similar papers from comrades who can recall incidents of their service worth reading and preserving.”  Tower’s memoir was followed up in Circular #9 with Charles Bingham’s reminiscence “The Story of a Raw Recruit.”  This cleared the path and one or more articles appeared in every circular for the next 25 years. Davis’s wish was fulfilled.   The Circulars are a valuable historical resource that personalizes the history of the war.  They give a glimpse into the lives and experiences of many of the men who comprised the “13th Mass. 

     I will post more on the circulars soon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lt. William Greenough White, 12th Mass

In the bibliography of Robert K. Krick’s Stonewall at Cedar Mountain, I found reference to the memoirs of George Kimball of the 12th Mass. Vols.   The 12th Mass., was in Hartsuff’s brigade during Pope’s Virginia Campaign and at Antietam.  The 12th was  closely associated with the 13th Mass., and Kimball frequently references the 13th regiment in his memoirs.  (I’ll be using the memoirs on my website).

     Kimball’s writings mention several comrades, but the story of Lt. William Greenough White at Antietam is quite compelling.  White was a graduate of the Boston Latin School which still exists.  Here is Kimball’s abridged narrative of the battle of Antietam, focusing on the story of Lt. William Greenough White.

     "The company in which I was serving numbered at this time forty men. We had borne our full share of the hardships and losses of Pope's ill-starred campaign. Our Captain had been killed at Bull Run on the 30th of August. Our First Lieutenant, William Greenough White, a noble fellow, had been stricken down with slow fever early in Pope's campaign. We left him behind when the advance was made up to Cedar Mountain. He would gladly have gone with us, but was too sick, and reluctantly entered the brigade hospital tent. We bade him an affectionate good-by, for we all loved him. The nurses who had charge of him told us afterward what trouble they had to keep him in bed, so great was his desire to leave and to follow on after us. When Lee cut loose from Richmond and turned his whole army upon us we were forced to retire, but we fell back fighting inch by inch. The sound of the guns came nearer and nearer the tent where our Lieutenant lay. After a while he heard it, and his keepers could keep him no longer. He rose like a lion from his lair. Demanding his uniform and sword he left while the other sick ones were being hurriedly loaded into ambulances for transportation to Washington. He started in the direction from which the firing came.  Alone and unassisted he hurried forward. His desire to be with us, his love of country, his manly pride, and the heavy roar of the guns, every moment sounding louder and nearer, nerved him on and gave him unnatural strength. When he came up we gave him a cheer, and he wept like a child, so glad was he to be with us once more.

     We were being whipped, but were constantly ready to fight and to fight again, and the arrival of our Lieutenant gave us fresh courage. We did our best to hold Lee in check till McClellan could get up from the Peninsula to help us. We were sent upon a long march to Thoroughfare Gap to try to keep Longstreet from coming through. Our Lieutenant had been as active as any of us, and we all felt his influence and loved him more than ever. But the poor fellow's strength began to leave him in a few hours after we set out, and finally he fainted and fell in the road. The surgeon took him from us again and sent him to the rear in an ambulance. In a Washington hospital he had a relapse of the fever.
     Now that Bull Run and Chantilly and South Mountain had passed into history, and our brave Captain and many of our men were “sleeping the sleep that knows no waking,” we are face to face with the army of Lee upon the soil of Maryland. It is the night before the great ball at Antietam Creek is to open. The moon, which for a number of nights had been lighting our weary way over the mountains and through the forests of the land of the Calverts, has now withdrawn her face. Evidently the heavens have thought it more in keeping with the scene and the time to draw a curtain of clouds over our heads and to shut us up in blackness. Now and then a lurid flash and a screaming shell tell us we are very close to the enemy, while the crash of rifles in front shows that the pickets are already at it.

     We are just lying down for a little sleep, with our rifles beside us and our equipments on—for we are very tired—when an unusual stir and bustle, with hand-shakings and God bless yous, announce the presence of our Lieutenant. He has again broken away from his keepers, but is no more fit to endure the rigors of campaigning than before. His face is pale, his eyes are sunken, his limbs weak, but his soul is on fire. News of an impending battle has taken him from his bed and brought him to us again in spite of the protests of doctors and nurses. We share our rations with him, for he has none, and roll him up in blankets and overcoats, and he sleeps between two comrades as peacefully as a child."

     I skip ahead now in the narrative.  The next morning after watching the earliest of the fight Hartsuff’s brigade is called into battle :

     "…We are now in the famous cornfield. Before proceeding far we strike the enemy's skirmish line and brush it away. As we move forward our brave Lieutenant, tall and as erect as a statue, is a conspicuous figure in the line. He is as cool as he would have been had he been leading his company in review. To us he seems the very embodiment of an ideal soldier. We push our way through the tall corn, which reaches far above our heads and waves as if shaken by the wind. Shells are bursting all about us, and men are falling every moment.  My limbs tremble at every step, for fear has taken a strong hold upon me, and it is only by thinking of the requirements of duty and of the ridicule to which I would be subjected from my comrades should I fail that I am able to keep my place in the ranks. Some men never had this fear in going into battle. I confess I never entered one without it.

      At last we gain the open ground, and are here met by a perfect storm of bullets, while shells and canister fly about us furiously or go screaming over our heads to the rear. Our Lieutenant is struck in one of his feet by a bullet, it is a bad wound, as two of his toes are cut away, but he halts only a moment while we are pulling down a fence. Major Burbank advises him to go to the rear, but he only smiles and says he is “worth a dozen dead men yet” I am holding a rail above my head in both hands, in the act of throwing it behind me, when a piece of shell or a solid shot wrenches it from my grasp with such violence that my arms are benumbed.
We finish leveling the fence and move forward again. The fire has been increasing every moment until now it is indeed terrible. We start up a slight rise, and our Lieutenant follows, limping. Second Lieutenant Orne advises him to go to the rear. He raises himself to his full height and somewhat scornfully replies:  “I shall not leave the company.”

     We gain the crest of the little ridge. Our main line has not yet fired a shot. Being now upon open ground, high enough to afford a view of our surroundings, what a scene is that which opens up about us!  Directly in front, not more than one hundred yards away, is "Stonewall" Jackson's whole division moving toward us. With their saucy battle flags gayly floating above them, these gray-clad heroes present a magnificent spectacle . To their left, in more scattered order, behind fences and rocks and trees, are Hood's men. Farther still in the same direction are Stuart's batteries, pouring a heavy cross fire upon the little knoll upon which we are standing.
We comprehend the situation at a glance and open and receive a storm of leaden missiles. How terrible is the shock and how our men go down!  What screams and groans follow that first volley! Then we load and fire at will as rapidly as we can. Our officers cry, “Give it to them, boys!” and the men take up the cry, too. There is a pandemonium of voices as well as a perfect roar of musketry and a storm of bullets.  Shells are bursting among us, too, continually.  In the wild excitement of battle I forget my fear and think only of killing as many of the foe as I can.  The tall soldier at my side, who had told me on the march that he felt as though he was to be hit in this battle, has already fallen. He lies at my feet with a mortal hurt. His brother drags him back a few paces and then returns to his place in the ranks. A few moments more and my brother, too, is wounded, though not so badly. When I have assisted him to a stump a short distance in the rear he creeps up behind it and tells me to “go back and give it to them.”

       Our ranks are terribly broken now, but the line is kept up and we fight on. Our Second Lieutenant has gone to the rear, his right shoulder being torn from its socket by a piece of shell. Lieut. White remains still.  His eyes glow with the joy of battle, and he seems to be everywhere imparting courage and stimulating the efforts of his men. By-and-by he is struck again. A piece of shell has stripped the flesh from the upper part of one of his arms. The shock is severe enough to throw him to the ground, but he quickly rises again and his voice is heard as before above the din of battle. I look at his face to see if he shows evidences of pain and am met with a cheery smile. By this time our ranks have become fearfully decimated, and the Lieutenant begins moving those who are yet in line up nearer the colors. “Let us die under the flag, boys!” he cries.

      Incidents of the fight are happening every moment. My ramrod is wrenched from my grasp as I am about to return it to its socket after loading. I look for it behind me, and the Lieutenant passes me another, pointing to my own, which lies bent and unfit for use across the face of a dead man. A bullet enters my knapsack just under my left arm while I am taking aim. Another passes through my haversack, which hangs upon my left hip."

  Again, I skip ahead in the narrative :

     "….Still we fight on. The Lieutenant moves what few are left of our company up to the colors. We have some distance to go, for the gaps are wide. The regimental line, such as it is, is reformed. Seven men have fallen while holding the flags. The groans of the dying seem louder and more dreadful every moment.
  A piercing shriek is heard behind us. We look, and find that our brave Lieutenant has been hit again. This time it is a mortal hurt. His hip is shattered and his abdomen torn open in a shocking manner, but his voice is heard high above the din: “Don't mind me; give it to them !”

  Kimball describes in detail his exit from the front-line.  The following two passages are about Lt. White :

       "…As we leave I look about for my brother, but find that he has gone. Of the 40 men of my company who entered the fight but seven remain. Four of us take up Lieutenant White. We place him on a blanket and start for the rear. We have to pick our way among the dead and dying. The groans of the wounded are terrible. It is hard to disregard the appeals for help that come from every quarter. The enemy have been reinforced, and it now seems as if they are bound to annihilate what remains of our brigade.  Shot and shell plow the ground about us and go crashing into the troops that are pressing forward to continue the work which we have so well begun.  It seems almost a miracle that we are not hit, for the air is full of flying fragments of iron and whistling bullets. But we hurry on with our precious burden, anxious to get our poor Lieutenant to a place of safety where the Surgeons can care for his wounds.

     …At last we reach Poffenberger's and lay our dying friend at Surgeon Hayward's feet. The doctor examines his wounds. The Lieutenant talks lightly of his hurts, and with his own hands replaces the torn flesh. This exhibition of heroism is too much even for professional self-control, and the Surgeon turns aside and bursts into tears. We take an affectionate leave of our dear friend, for we must return to the ranks.  He thanks us one by one for the service we have rendered him, and whispers a message to those who love him at home.
  Those who were with him when he died told us he was brave to the last. He died late in the afternoon. One of his lower limbs was very painful just before he breathed his last. An attendant was rubbing it.

   “Does this rubbing do you any good, Lieutenant?”

  “No,” said he, but that cheering does,” for just then our troops had gained an advantage.

     His body was sent home and buried in the family lot at Mount Auburn. The funeral, at St. Paul's Church, was attended by the Independent Corps of Cadets, to which organization he belonged when he joined the Webster Regiment. He was 22 years old and a son of Ferdinand White, a Boston merchant.  He was a Latin School boy, and resigned a desirable position in the office of a prominent State Street banking firm when the war came."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tipton Photo - Gettysburg

Who Are These Guys ?

     A collector shared with me a great photo of the veterans of the 13th Mass., taken at the dedication of their monument at Gettysburg, September 25th 1885.  The photo came from the Clements Library, University of Michigan, Tipton Collection.  None of the veterans in the photograph were identified.

     The image has a very good resolution, and I'm able to zoom in and get a good look at the faces. (click on the image and you should be able to also).   I began to wonder who these guys were.

     I had pictures of several of the soldiers; both war time and post-war images.  The gentleman who shared it with me pointed out Colonel Leonard standing in the back, on the left.  Leonard appeared very much like his war time image.  Others were easily identifiable; James Fox, A.N. Sampson, and John H. White to name a few.  I tried to identify some of the others by comparing images in my collection to the Tipton photograph.  To aid in this endeavor, I sent copies of the photograph to descendants of soldiers with whom I had contact.

Some of them were able to help me positively identify their ancestors, like David Sloss and George Henry Hill.  Others weren't as sure, such as James Ramsey and Sam Webster.  In a few cases a little logic helped.

     I figured Charles Davis, Sam Webster, John H. White, and William Warner would all be up front, center.  This factor helped pinpoint the identity of George Hill too.  Its funny how much these guys look like each other.  For instance, notice how many bald men with mutton chops (or mustaches) there are!  In the back row, I thought I could pick out Elliot C. Pierce, but the guy right next to him looks almost identical from this distance.  Same with Moses Palmer in the front row, on the right.  See how similar the guy next to him looks ? Moses needed a cane to walk, he was shot up in the knee at Gettysburg,  and the gentleman I identified has an umbrella to lean on. The hat he's holding is also a clue that this is Moses Palmer.

     Much later, another friend sent me a digital file of the Gettysburg Star & Sentinel, (pdf format) with a column describing the events at the dedication.  From the article I learned that David Sloss was one of the speakers as well as James Fox and Jacob A. Howe.

    Sloss carried the state colors for the regiment during the final months of their 3 year enlistment. I never could have identified him from his war time image.  But his descendant shared a post war image with me and he was suddenly identifiable.

Captain James Fox, was the initial captain of Company A, later Mayor of Cambridge and a successful politician/public figure.  He was easily identifiable from a post war image I found on the internet.

 Jacob A. Howe saved the colors from capture during the battle of Gettysburg.  As the regiment fell back, overwhelmed by the enemy, Howe took the colors and made a dash for Cemetery Ridge and safety.

"A corporal who had the colors was severely wounded here and I took the flag and carried it along to the main street of the town where I had to run the gauntlet of the rebels, who were now pouring in in large numbers.  In the doorways of the houses were many of our officers and men who offered to make room for us, but I felt that having command of the color company it was my duty to save the colors.  I finally reached Cemetery hill, where i found a small number of the regiment who , like myself, were worn out with the fatigue and excitement of the day."
     Unfortunately. I don't have a picture of Howe and I can't locate one.  But,  I know he's in this photo somewhere.

     Some of the identities are educated guesses, and I put question marks to note that.  This is an on-going project.   Meanwhile I've shared the identities with the people at the Clements Library, University of Michigan.  I also shared it with the re-enactors back east who portray Company F of the 13th Mass.  They laid a copy of the photograph at the base of the monument later that year when they made their annual November trip to Gettysburg a couple years ago.

   One interesting note about the Tipton photo and the monument; - at the dedication, many of the veterans were disappointed in the direction the monument faced (westward).  It should have faced more to the north, the direction the regiment faced during the battle.  A committee of the veterans was formed to look into the matter of re-orienting the statue, a quarter turn more to the north,  which was done successfully a couple of years later.

One last parting shot...It's the 13th Mass., Gettysburg Monument with the photograph laid at its base.  Click on any of these images to enlarge them.  And, if you can help with the identity of any of these men in the photo, I'd like to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Major Gould at Harper's Ferry

I’m always on the lookout for new information about the 13th Mass., Vols. and its soldiers.   I was very surprised lately to discover the congressional testimony of Major Jacob Parker Gould before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War on January 13, 1862.   Major Gould is one of my favorite personalities from the annals of the 13th and it is particularly gratifying to discover new things about him.   Gould was an outsider among the regular officers of the 13th Mass., and his election as Major was unpopular.   It is said he kept to himself.   Yet, he proved a brave leader in combat,  at 2nd Bull Run, where he was the ranking officer in the regiment at the battle, and again at Antietam, where he was commended in General Coulter’s official report of the engagement.   He died from a mortal wound received at the 1864 Battle of the Crater, while leading his regiment in combat as Colonel Gould of the 59th Mass., Vols.

 The newly found report actually sheds much light on the affairs at Harper’s Ferry in the Fall of 1861, when Companies C, I, and K were doing detached duty there; particularly about the wheat harvest from Herr’s Mill, and the subsequent battle of Bolivar Heights which it triggered. Here’s the set up.
Major Gould, stationed at Sandy Hook, was in charge of the detached troops opposite Harper’s Ferry for a few miles up and down the river on the Maryland side.   The troops were guarding the C & O canal and picketing the river crossings.   As Austin Stearns of Company K writes in his memoirs : “All the boats, scows, skiffs, for miles up and down the river, we had destroyed or taken to our side.”

Unionist sympathizer Abraham Herr owned several businesses on Virginius Island adjacent to the town, among them a large mill with about 20,000 bushels of un-milled wheat.   His mill had been disabled by General Patterson’s Union forces during their occupation of the town earlier in the summer.   Mr. Herr or perhaps, Herr Herr, offered up the un-milled wheat to the government, to make bread for the soldiers.   Major Gould passed the offer along to his commander, General N.P. Banks, at Darnestown and the offer was accepted.   The wheat harvest began about October 11th.    The rebel forces in the area didn’t like the wheat harvest and decided to attack to put a stop to it. They showed up in force October 16th and the Battle of Bolivar Heights ensued. (Herr's Mill is the large building in the center of this lithograph showing Virginius Island in the 1850's).

 Major Gould’s testimony is interesting for its details.  It describes the ferry system he rigged together using several boats and a long rope cable. The ferry was used to transport troops, artillery and wheat. The actual amount of wheat saved was always in question, usually estimated at 20,000 bushels.   He gives the correct figure at 15,000 bushels.   Some rebels secretly returned to Virginius Island a couple days after the battle and burned Herr’s Mill to the ground. This fact is routinely mentioned in reports on the affair, but Gould states he shelled the miscreants with artillery, to hasten them away, alas too late.   The mill was destroyed. This document is a great resource and I offer it up to all interested.



Question.   What is your rank and position in the army ?

Answer.    That of major of the thirteenth Massachusetts volunteers.

Question.   How long have you been in the army ?

Answer.    It is little more than six months since I had that commission.   I had the commission of captain previous to that time.

Question.   Where have you been stationed ?

Answer.   Up on the Potomac, in General Banks's division.

Question.    Will you state to the committee, as concisely as you well can, what you know in relation to the army during that time ?

Answer.    I have been stationed upon the outposts guarding the canal and the Potomac river, and most of the time have had under my individual command a body of troops separate from the rest.    My regiment has been brigaded, but I have only been at times with the rest of the division.

Question.    How many men have you had under your own command ?

Answer.   From 200 to 600.

Question.    State concisely the most important events that have transpired in your own command.

Answer.     I can speak generally of the good order of the men that have come under my observation.    They have been exceedingly faithful in the performance of their duties, and very careful in carrying out their orders.     The first signal service they performed was the arrest of Mr. Boteler, of Virginia.     The orders I gave my men then were particularly carried out.

Question.    Have you men stationed at Harper's Ferry ?

Answer.    Yes, sir ;  since then, during the fall, I was stationed there.

Question.    Have you had anything to do with the seizure of any wheat there ?

Answer.    Yes, sir. By order of General Banks I seized nearly 15,000 bushels of wheat.

Question.  Where was the wheat ?

Answer.    In Mr. Herr's mill, across the river.

Question.    At what point was this mill?

Answer.    At Harper's Ferry, opposite Sandy Hook.

Question.   State what happened at that time.

Answer.   I was five days in taking the wheat, previous to the Bolivar fight; that interrupted it, for on the second day after the fight the rebels came there to attack me.   But I had no force on the other side, and they set the mill on fire and burned up the rest of the wheat.   In consequence of my shelling them they did not set any other buildings on fire, but retreated to Charlestown.   That was the last I saw of the rebels.   I remained there ten days after that.   Previous to that time we had had some skirmishes. Sometimes we were across the river, but most of the time the enemy fired over at us.  I can say for the troops that were under my command that they were ready to stand fire.

Question.   Give us the particulars of the seizure of the wheat, and your mode of transporting it across the river.

Answer.   I  reported that wheat to General Banks a fortnight or so before I commenced taking it.   He immediately sent me an order to take it, and asked what force I wanted.   I sent word that I would require 300 additional men and a battery by a certain time, which were promised me.   No one in my command, not even my own officers, knew that I was going to take the wheat.   I had made arrangements for boats, for it is a good principle to go upon to keep the means of retreat open in an enemy's country.   I found in the canal there what is called a repair-boat, a large deck-boat, that would hold forty or fifty men at a time.   There were two large scows there that would hold twenty men each, which I attached together, making, as it were, one boat of them.   There was some rope there at the railroad depot which was going up to Cumberland, but which I had stopped because I was not certain about the loyalty of the owners, and a little because I wanted to use it in this matter.   Out of that I got rope enough to make a good cable that would reach across the river, so that I could cross in three minutes. I also sent some men off who obtained some two-inch cable for another rope across the river.  I also got some tackle-blocks to tighten the rope across the river, which there was about 550 feet wide.   For about 60 miles, as far as I have seen, the river averages about 1,000 feet in width.   But there it is not quite 600 feet wide.

I had two cable lines across the river, and kept the boats coming and going all the time—one boat going over while the other was coming back.   I could take one piece of artillery and the horses and men attached to it in a boat at a time; so that, with two boat-loads, I could take over a section of artillery and the men and horses connected with it.   Previous to taking the wheat I ordered two companies over to form a signal line, so that no information should get out to Charlestown.   Upon the firing of a cannon they were to establish a close blockade, which they did. As soon as the additional troops I had sent for arrived, I established another line out a mile further, and we put the cannon on Camp Hill to command all the roads.   The next morning I was ready to commence taking across the wheat. I proceeded to take it over at the rate of about 400 bushels an hour, from 7 o'clock in the morning to 12 o'clock at night.   About 400 bushels an hour was as much as I could get across the river during that time.   I had received information on Sunday that a force of the enemy was approaching, but I did not suppose there was any force in that section.   But some came up from Leesburg and got on Loudon Heights; and on Wednesday morning they made an attack upon our pickets with a 32-pounder, and drove them.   By order of some superior officers, previous to that time, some of the cannon were removed in the night time and put on the Maryland Heights; but when they fired over the river the shot fell among our own men, and we repelled the enemy by infantry, except those on Loudon Heights, which were shelled out by our cannon. Before 4 o'clock we drove the enemy very nearly to Halltown, and took eight prisoners.   That night, by orders of the superior officer, the whole command was withdrawn from the Virginia shore.   I thought it was wrong, because it left exposed some five Union citizens who had been led to express themselves freely for the cause of the Union in consequence of our presence there, and who had assisted me in every possible manner.    The enemy came there, arrested the owners of the mill, and burned the mill and the remainder of the wheat, some 7,000 bushels.

Question.   How much wheat did you get over and save ?

Answer.   Not quite 15,000 bushels.   It made some 3,100 barrels of flour here at Georgetown, where it was sent.   I also took a large quantity of lead and copper and three cannon.   The rebels, since then, have taken all the tin pipes and the cook-stoves they could get.   I took about three tons of lead and copper there.

Question.   Had you force enough there, if your artillery had been retained on the Virginia side, to have held the place against the force that was opposed to you ?

Answer.   I would have needed two larger pieces of artillery on Maryland Heights.   Maryland Heights control Loudon Heights, and Loudon Heights control Camp Hill, Harper's Ferry, and Bolivar.   The enemy did not serve their guns well during that day.   They had two regiments on Loudon Heights, and had their cavalry up opposite Sandy Hook.   Their plan was, as I afterwards learned, to engage us at Bolivar, cross the Potomac east of Loudon Heights, and surround and bag us, as they termed it.   They had 4,000 men there, as I heard, while we had only about 900 men after we were re-enforced.

Question.   With the arrangements you had there for crossing, how many men could you have taken over the river in an hour ?

Answer.   I think I could have taken over 300 men an hour easily; perhaps more.

Question.   With the boats you had?

Answer.  Yes, sir.

Question.   Could you have got that wheat across the river without great difficulty if it had not been for the cables you had ?

Answer.   No, sir.   The water was pretty high then.   It varies in the river very much.   A freshet in the Potomac lasts about three days, as I have noticed.

Question.   So far as you know, what is the condition of the troops in General Banks's division ?

Answer.   I think they are in very good condition indeed; ambitious to distinguish themselves, I think, when they get an opportunity to try their strength.

Question.   Are the men, in your judgment, ready to go into battle ?

Answer.   Yes, sir.   I know that from the experience I have had of them.   They express themselves as desirous of doing so whenever it is necessary.

Question.   Is there anything further, in connexion with these matters, which you would desire to state, and which you would consider it important for the committee to know?

Answer.   I do not know as there is.   Harper's Ferry has not been occupied since I left there.   I had orders, when I took the grain, to rearrest Mr. Boteler, and I came very near doing it, though he did not know it.   He was then returning from Richmond; but he kept himself behind a little force of the enemy there all the time.   I do not think we could cross the river well without cables.   At least, I should not want to try it. In the canal, once in every twenty or thirty miles, I think they have what is called a repair-boat.   It is a deck-boat, and the men can walk on and off it very readily.

Question.   How many men would such a boat carry across the river ?

Answer.   I put on forty men. I think one boat-load I put on more, but they said the boat was not a new one, and it might strain it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Memorial Day at Mountain View Cemetery

I attended Memorial Day services at Mountain View Cemetery, located in the foothills that straddle Pasadena and Altadena, California.  Nick Smith has almost single-handedly revived a Memorial Day tradition which existed until 1946 when  the last local Union veteran was buried there.  Nick has discovered more than 600 Civil War veteran soldiers buried at Mountain View.  This year, the ceremony included some special presentations in addition to traditional services.

I arrived a bit late.  Loran Bures, Commander of the Department of California’s   Rosecrans Camp #2 of the Sons of Union Veterans was explaining to attendees the origins of the Grand Army of the Republic and its successor organization the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.  Brother Phil Caines followed up with the reading of General John A. Logan’s 1868 orders establishing Decoration Day, the forerunner of Memorial Day.  Logan was the first commander in chief of the G.A.R.  This was followed by a reading of the poem “The Flag They Loved So Well,” and the 2010 General Orders from today’s S.U.V.C.W. Commander in Chief Leo Kennedy.   A prayer was offered for our country’s soldiers and the president, after which, a wreath was presented by two members of the Ladies Auxiliary to Rosecran’s Camp #2.  This concluded the brief official service by the Sons.  Flags and flowers had been placed before the graves of many veterans two hours prior to the start of services.

Nick then introduced Ms. Margaret Alley of the United Daughters of the Confederacy [U.D.C].  In his introduction it was noted that all who fell in the Civil War were Americans, so this year the graves of the fifteen Confederate dead at Mountain View were decorated with the first national flag of the Confederacy.  One Mountain View veteran, Arnold Bertonneau, actually served on both sides during the conflict, as 1st Lieutenant in the1st Native Guards Louisiana Militia, and in Company H, 74th U.S. Colored Troops. After the war he settled in Pasadena.  His son worked to include football as part of the annual New Year’s Celebration in Pasadena.  Ms. Alley gave a brief talk about local Confederate Heritage, including Fair Oaks Blvd. in Pasadena which is named for the home of  A.S. Johnston’s widow, who lived there briefly after her husband had left to fight for the Confederacy.   Among the Confederate dead at Mountain View is William Blackwell of the 18th Texas Cavalry who was awarded the Southern Cross in 1931.

After Ms. Alley’s brief talk U.D.C. member Kathy Ralston gave the crowd an interesting presentation on Victorian “mourning” customs.  She brought a collection of several authentic artifacts to accompany her talk.  Among them many pieces of  'hair jewelry' which was much in vogue in Victorian times.

In June, 2004 Kathy hosted a ceremony at Mountain View to dedicate a headstone for her ancestor, Emanuel Basore, who served in the Stonewall Brigade until after the battle of Gettysburg.  Emanuel made his post-war home out here and was buried without a headstone when he died in 1907.  It was attendance at this ceremony that started Nick’s research into the number of Civil War veterans buried at Mountain View, and the subsequent revival of Memorial Day services there.    Emanuel Basore’s brother-in-law, George Sperow is buried a short walk away; both men served in Company E, 2nd Virginia Infantry.

I’ve been reading a lot about the Stonewall Brigade lately as I follow the fortunes of the 13th Mass. Vols., in 1862, and I remarked to Kathy, after her talk, that my ancestor spent an awful lot of time chasing her ancestor around Virginia.  I don’t think the rival regiments ever directly faced each other in combat.  Kathy related many interesting stories handed down by family.  After the battle of Gettysburg, when apparently they had enough of war, the two men deserted and hid out, possibly at their family home near Harper’s Ferry.  There is a story that while Emanuel’s mom invited the Union High Command to dinner the two boys were hiding under a bed in an adjacent room.  It was also told that the boy’s sisters flirted with Union pickets in order to bring food concealed under their hoopskirts to the boys hiding in nearby woods.

After speaking with Kathy I trekked off down the road to photograph the graves of her two relatives.  Consequently I missed Steven and Patrice Demory’s presentation on Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, the Civil War Balloonist, and his wife Leontine, who are buried a few steps from where the ceremony was held. ( I had seen the fascinating presentation before).  Judging from the size of the crowd they were also enjoying it.

I rounded out the day taking a tour with Nick, and listening to some of the fascinating stories he’s discovered.  There are two Medal of Honor recipients buried at Mountain View, Milton Haney and Thomas Ellsworth.

Haney was Chaplain of the 55th Illinois, a regiment that saw much fighting with Sherman during the 1864 Atlanta campaign.  Rev. Haney led his regiment in a countercharge against Confederates in one of the engagements before Atlanta. Haney turned down a subsequent promotion in rank because he wanted to remain Chaplain.  He settled in Pasadena after the war and served as a Methodist minister.  In fact, he was a minister for 76 years of his 97 years of life.  He retired from the pulpit for ‘medical reasons.’  Not a word of his military service or the Medal of Honor is on his headstone.  He wanted to be remembered for his ministerial work.

I was very interested in the other recipient, Thomas Ellsworth, because he was a Captain in the 55th Mass. Colored Regiment.    Charles B. Fox, formerly 2nd Lt. Fox, of Co. K, 13th Mass. was the Lt. Colonel of the 55th.  Fox’s journal was actually used as the basis for the post-war regimental history of the 55th.  Nick told us that when Massachusetts Governor John Andrew called for volunteers to enlist in the new Colored Regiment, the famous 54th Mass., he got so many applicants, (some who had come from as far away as Ohio to join), that he decided to muster the extra 1,000 recruits and form a second regiment; the 55th Mass.  Since the new regiment was not planned, officers had to be found.  Nick said Governor Andrew had very strict requirements for the officer applicants; they had to be experienced in the field, very patriotic, and have abolitionist leanings.  At Honey Hill, the 55th Mass. participated in a lethal charge on a Confederate Fort.  The troops were badly shot up.  Ellsworth carried the regimental commander off the field.  Another man, Andrew Jackson Smith, of the Color Guard, helped rally the troops and get them safely off the field.  In the 1890’s, rules for the Medal of Honor were changed, and he military commander of the 55th Mass., who was still serving in the army, recommended Ellsworth and Smith receive the Medal of Honor.  Ellsworth’s paperwork went through quickly, and he received the medal in 1895.  Smith’s took a little longer; his posthumous medal was accepted by descendants in the last days of the Clinton administration.

We also visited the graves of John Brown’s daughter Ruth, and her husband, Henry Thompson. Henry and his brother William were followers of John Brown.  Henry was wounded at one of Brown’s actions in Kansas and couldn’t participate in the famous raid at Harper’s Ferry.  Will Thompson did participate and was killed during the raid.  The couple operated a health camp in Pasadena after the war.

I'm not sure if this means anything, but two very prominent names in the annals of the 13th Mass., are John S. Fay, who lost an arm and a leg from a shell that killed two others on April 30th 1863; and Charles E. Davis, jr. who was the regimental historian, and the one man who kept the 13th Regiment Association going for years and years.  Davis and Fay are buried thousands of miles away, but I was struck by the view from where I was standing, watching the services a few moments after I arrived at Mountain View.  These markers were directly in front of me.  Is this a coincidence ?

Monday, May 17, 2010

General Pope Takes Command

It's time to announce a new web page is up at my website   This page covers the period in the regiments' history from June, 1862, through August 9, and the battle of Cedar Mountain.

Here is the link:

President Lincoln created the Army of Virginia in late June, and placed Major- General John Pope in command.   The 13th Mass. Vols., served in Hartsuff's Brigade, Rickett's Division, McDowell's Corps, within the structure of this new force.

It is interesting that I found the following quote in one of the first letters I posted, given by a contraband, (taken in by members of the 13th Mass Band):

"Taint always de man that makes the most talk dat gots da most sense."
It seemed a fitting description of General Pope himself, although given in answer to a question on a totally un-related subject. I placed the quote at the top of the page.

To set the stage for these 'history' pages I write brief introductions outlining the political climate in Washington, or other significant events happening in the war effort.   To do this I turn to books and informational websites. I've also had to learn about engagements I previously knew little about, such as Port Republic, Cross Keys, and Cedar Mtn.   I try to write brief accurate summaries of these events to add a little depth to what went on around the 13th Mass. For this page, I'm re-reading John J. Hennessy's "Return To Bull Run."   For information about the Battle of Cedar Mountain, I turned to Robert K. Krick's "Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain."   I also frequently look to James I. Robertson, jr.'s "Stonewall Jackson." All of these are excellent resources and its a pleasure to read them.

Beginning with Cedar Mountain, things really began to get hot for the regiment, in terms of seeing some real action. Its a challenge to summarize it briefly and accurately. Hopefully I got it right. 

There is a long article by Charles E. Davis, Jr. on the page, which I have titled, "Shelter Tents."    It's one of my favorites.  In the article Davis describes some of his tent-mates in detail, and the various fates they met. It culminates with an incident involving General George L. Hartsuff, and one of his staff officers, "Brown," that the boys didn't care for too much.   Its a great look into the character of the soldiers in the regiment.    I am also fortunate to have photos of all the boys mentioned in the reminiscence.

As usual, I've added a few somewhat humorous graphics to illustrate the text.   The technical aspects of building this site are a challenge to me at times.   Browsers don't act alike, and pages or images become distorted, as much as I try to prevent it.   Currently, I'm building the pages to have a somewhat 'fluid' layout, which will expand or contract with the visitors browser window size.   My screen resolution is set to 1280 x 1024 and the pages look beautiful, although they are designed to hold up with smaller screen sizes.    I've heard they hold up well in IE-8. I prefer viewing the pages on a full screen monitor at max-width, or with a sidebar opened on the left side of the screen. I may switch to a fixed width page layout to prevent the distortions I occasionally experience.   I appreciate feedback on the website, whether technical in nature, or regarding content.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fair Use

I just received a digital image from the Boston Athenaeum for use on the 13th Mass web site. I had to pay a digitizing fee and a one time only ‘use fee’ but it was reasonable and worth it to me. It will be the most costly item on my web site. It’s a lithograph by artist Henry Bacon, [Co. D, 13th Mass.], depicting two important events in the annals of the regiment; 4th of July, 1861 & 4th of July, 1862. It’s titled “Ye Two Galorious Fourths.” My philosophy for the website is to let the soldiers in the regiment tell its history as much as possible. Bacon’s semi-comic visual remembrance contains personal details that another artist might miss. I’ve been pretty fortunate in finding materials for the website, but there have been a few times when I’ve run into obstacles, and I think this is a topic that’s worth a little discussion.

A library recently denied permission to post some letter transcriptions from their collection on my site. Some of this soldier’s letters have been floating around at auction houses, and I own one of the originals. The soldier was killed at Gettysburg, so in a way, I’m exploiting his death for poignancy sake. But the real reason I wanted to post selective transcriptions, is because the soldiers’ voice is one more piece of the huge tapestry that tells the story of the 13th Mass. This brings up a question of ownership & ‘free use.’

I can understand the library’s position; they don’t want the letter transcriptions plastered across the internet. My position is that the context of the letters would be more easily understood if they appeared on a webpage featuring contemporary letters of his comrades. Plus the letters were written almost 150 years ago…but the library owns the letters, and they get some small revenues selling transcriptions and attracting visitors to their collection.

Many descendants of 13th Mass men have shared soldier’s letters or images with me, and I always ask if it is alright to post them on the website. These add to the voices of the regiment. Many descendants are pleased to do so, some are indifferent, and a few are reluctant for family considerations or for publishing considerations. Most are very generous. But it is still their decision to make, which I respect. I get materials from other places – books, and from private collectors. I used to think it was better for artifacts to reside in museums or libraries rather than with private collectors, because access would be easier but I have changed my mind on this point.

All the private collectors I have contacted and met, have been extremely generous, beyond belief, in sharing their collections with me. They are enthusiastic about their collections, and they take great pains to care for them and share them. Plus they have the means to keep up their collections. One gentleman let me hold the sword of Col. Corcoran, 69th NY Vols. I went to see the uniform of a 13th Mass officer that he keeps carefully preserved in his home. His wife has become an expert seamstress in mending collectible garments that have deteriorated. The collector assured me that I could get a photograph of the item should I ever want it. Another private collector shared with me about 100 digital images of 13th Mass soldiers from his own collection. There have been a lot more. In contrast, many valuable artifacts that belong to libraries or private institutions are never seen. Limited funds and prohibitive costs keep artifacts locked away in basements. I’ve been told that General Rosecran’s personal memorabilia is locked away in storage at UCLA because no one has the time or money to properly care for them.

I’ve had positive experiences with almost all the libraries and institutions I’ve contacted for permission to use materials on my website. Usually transcriptions can be used for free, provided credit is given the organization as holder of the document. Digital images, like scans of letters or pictures, are more likely to have nominal fees attached to their use. But a couple of prominent institutions have un-reasonable fees. Twice I’ve been prevented from using materials due to excessive fees. In addition, distracting watermarks were required by one institution in order to display an image. I wanted to use several drawings of a war correspondent, who sketched several locations and buildings where the 13th Mass traveled and bivouacked. The institution wanted all the images to have watermarks, and charged an annual use fee of $50 per image. I really don’t think they wanted to grant permission at all, so they put the high fees in place. I have limited funds to devote to this hobby, so I found substitutes to use in place of those images, but a few of the sketches were one of a kind - and I couldn’t find replacements. I admit, I prefer to use good quality images on my site; and perhaps they are sometimes too large, but I’m trying to recreate what the soldiers experienced as much as possible. Contemporary images provide that to visitors.

Like-wise, another large prestigious institution has Cdv’s of many 13th Mass men in their collection; and I can order digital copies of them, - at $50 ea. I settled for photocopies.

Believe it or not, I am selective about what I choose to post. If I were not the pages would be even loooooooooonger. I can’t use everything I find (or have) on my website. I have some lengthy web pages but that is because I like to have as broad a selection of materials as possible that depict life in the 13th Mass.

All this brings up the question or debate of what constitutes ‘ownership’ & ‘fair use.’ Personally, I think document transcriptions should be free to use. I don’t mind paying nominal fees for that privilege. For images, I don’t mind small un-obtrusive watermarks, but I’d prefer not to have any. I think scanning fees should be cheaper than $50 an image and use fees nominal (definitely not $50 dollars a year). I don’t mind paying a small amount if I have to, but fees give pause to using documents. I can sympathize with private institutions that need to pay staff and meet overhead costs to maintain collections. I just wish that some of these lesser known materials were available for use. These are my thoughts anyway. If any of you have more insight on the subject I’d like to hear your comments.

To those collector friends and families that have shared information with me, MANY THANKS! I think you’ve helped make unique.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Who is Fred M. West ? A Mystery

     The Southern California Genealogy Society is transcribing the register of the 1886 Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) encampment in San Francisco.  They hope to have the project finished by June.  The G.A.R. was a post-war fraternal organization for honorably discharged Union Veterans.  The organization was a strong political force in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  My friend and fellow Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War comrade, Nick Smith is helping with the project and has compiled the records of about 20 G.A.R. posts himself.

     An appendix to the encampment book, lists members by the regiment they were affiliated with during the war.  Nick came across several former members of the 13th Mass listed in the department and sent me their names.  These are members that settled in California and the west.

     I recognized one of the names, Levi L. Dorr, a prominent post-war physician in San Francisco, who wrote several letters to the 13th Regiment Association in Boston.  Some of these letters were published in the annual circular; (a newsletter sent out once a year to association members).   I know of others who settled out west who were not on this list, but there is one ‘mystery’ name, that does not appear in any of the rosters of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.  That name is “F.M. West.”

     Here is Nick’s list which includes the name of the G.A.R. post the veteran belonged to, and its location.  I’ve added the soldier’s record from the rosters to each name:

  • Alonzo P. Bacon, Post 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco; 
    From the Roster:  age 21; born, Winchester, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. D, July 16, ’61; mustered out, March 9, ’63, for promotion; detailed as clerk at headquarters, June, ’62; appointed capt., Ulman’s brigade Colored Troops, March 9, ’63; resigned, July, ’63;  residence, San Francisco.
  • Bartlett M. Bramhall, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 19; born, Boston, clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. D, July 16, 1861; mustered out, Feb. 16, ’63; detailed for duty at War Department, Nov. 20, ’63.
  • Frank Coolidge, Post # 118, Riverside Post, Riverside, Cal.;
    From the Roster:   age 25; born, Sherborne, Mass; farmer; mustered in as priv. Co. H, July 16, 1861; mustered out as Corporal,  August 1, 1864, promoted to Corporal March 18, 1863.  Residence, Riverside, Cal.
  • John H. Crocker, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 20; born, Charlestown, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, July 16, ’61; mustered out, Dec. 30, ’62; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • J. Curtis, Post # 1, Lincoln Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:  John B. Curtis; age, 19; born, St. Johnsbury, Vt.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 16, '61; mustered out as corp., Aug. 1, '64.
  • Levi L. Dorr, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 21; born, No. Bridgewater, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 6, ’61; transferred, May 5, to V.R.C.; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • George Fred Ford, Post # 5, Custer Post, Carson, Nevada;
    From the Roster:   age, 19; born, Boston; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, Aug. 16, ’62; mustered out, Aug. 1, ’64; was detailed as clerk at headquarters; residence, Carson City, Nevada.
  • Samuel S. Hinckley, Post # 2, Thomas Post, San Francisco;
    From the Roster:   age 19; born, E. Bridgewater, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. A, July 16, ’61; transferred to V.R.C. as sergt.-major, July 1, ’63; residence, San Francisco, Cal.
  • Robert F. Johnson, Post # 63, Antietam Post, Petaluma, Cal.;
    From the Roster:   age, 27; born, Roxbury, Mass; painter; mustered in as priv., Co. E, July 20, ’61; mustered out Dec. 26, ’62.
  • F.M. West, Post # 23, Rawlins Post, Stockton
    No record in the rosters
     F.M. West who is listed as a member of Co. K in the G.A.R. register does not appear in any of the regimental rosters which I have been able to search.  This includes the Massachusetts Adjutant Generals report, & the roster printed in the official history of the regiment. Nor does the name appear in the corrections to the roster which appeared in the 13th Massachusetts association circulars.  He does not appear in the roster of Sergeant Austin C. Stearns book, which is a memoir of Company K.  Most Co. K men were from the town of Westborough, Mass.  An 1891 history of the town contains a detailed record of all the men from town that served in the military during the war.  F.M. West does not appear in the book.   Nick said the Stockton G.A.R. post listed him very specifically as having been in Co. K of the 13th Mass.  Nick was also unsuccessful in digging up information on West.  He wrote me, “I’m not finding anything in S&S that’s even and easy transposition of his name or his regiment, and he doesn’t’ show up in their roster of the 13th”  (S&S is an on-line database that lists the rosters of soldiers and sailors in the civil war).

    Authorities on the G.A.R. told me membership was very strict.  Applicants had to prove their service; their honorable discharge, and have comrades vouch for their good character and service record.  At first I thought perhaps this was a mis-spelling or an alias. I know of another 13th Mass soldier who settled in San Francisco under an assumed name. But the G.A.R. register appears to be correct.  I found two references to West in the 13th Regiment Association Circular #16, dated December 1, 1909. 

     The first mention of West is among the list of letters rec'd from comrades to the association secretary.  It is stated a letter was received from Fred M. West, Stockton, Cal.  So Fred M. West is apparently someone known to his comrades in the 13th Mass. 

     Levi L. Dorr, who is on Nick’s list, was very active in the GAR  At one time he served as the commander of his post, General Thomas, Post #2, San Francisco. Several of his letters are printed in the 13th Regiment Association Circulars.  Here is an excerpt of a letter that mentions West:
Crocker Building, San Francisco, Cal., Sept. 3, 1903.
     My Dear Comrade:  Our occasion of the G.A.R. has come and gone, and they adjourned to meet in Boston next year.  I wish I could anticipate being there with you, but at the present time that seems improbably.  We had a very glorious and satisfactory encampment, besides the many entertainments of various Posts and other organizations here.
     The Thirteenth Massachusetts turned up rather numerously.  Shepard, of company A, from New York; W. H. H. Howe, company B, from Boston; E. R. Jenness, Post No. 26 in Boston;  Fisk, of company H,  from near Boston; Morton Tower, of company B from Oregon; H. J. A. Hebbard, of Alameda, Cal., and F.M. West, of  Stockton, Cal.  Then there was B. T. Norris, of Sonoma, Cal.  All of these, but W. E. Shepard, who was not particularly well, joined me, and I gave them a lunch at the Olympic Club in this city.  There are two others of our regiment in San Francisco; John A. Neill, of company G, living 208 1/2 Leavenworth street, and S. D. Thurston, of company C, of  906 Geary street.  I invited these last comrades to join us, but I had no response from them, and I am not aware that they were seen by others visiting here.

    There were some inquiries for Sam Hinkley of company A, who formerly lived here, but I have not heard of him for years.  George Kimball, of company B, lives in Los Angeles but made no response to my initiation.  We were all so glad to meet and pass a couple of hours nicely, and all seemed to enjoy themselves in talking over old times and of old comrades.
     The identity and service of Fred M. West still remains a mystery.  His case is more perplexing than 1st Lieut. Francis H. Stowe, whose name was misprinted as 'Stone' in the rosters.  If anyone has any ideas of how he might have been affiliated with the regiment, and missed being on the rosters please let me know.   As far as I know he was not a sutler.  The sutlers to the regiment during the war were Mssrs. Chase. Robinson & Brown.