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.