Monday, May 30, 2011

Time out from the Blog in Real Time

The next "Blog in Real Time" post may not come again until late June.  I was actually surprised at how much material I was able to post for April and May !  I must check my sources though, and this break allows me to make a couple observations and seek feedback.

I'm wondering for those of you following how well it plays.  The Civil War soldier was immersed in the great excitement and events of the day, whereas some readers of the blog need background information.  I'm wondering if the real time posts are as effective as I thought they might be.  The excitement level was high on both sides at this early period of the war.  I'm not sure the posts capture that reality.  Certainly there has been enough interesting material so far.  (I thought posting links to a site listing daily occurrences might be useful.) 

I was only late with a post one time so far, however I added material to the May 25th post after the fact.  I also have pictures to add to some of these posts - retroactively.

 So far, I haven't wanted to interrupt the flow of the posts with other subjects.  For instance, last week I posted a new page at my website, without announcing it here.  I'll write about that next.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 25, 1861 - Post #21

Fort Warren
On May 25, the "Tigers" left Fort Warren.  The governor declined the offer of the Tigers for Federal Service so those men interested in going to the war front had to seek out another organization to join.  For George Kimball, the author of this reminiscence, that organization was the 12th Regiment, Mass. Vols.  For James F. Ramsey, and Dr. Alston Whitney, members of the Tigers, that organization would be 13th Regiment, Mass. Vols. 

Brig. Gen. Ebenezer W. Pierce took command of the fort on May 15, and ten days after, the battalion, finding that the Government would not accept their services as an organization, returned to the city. The Eleventh and Twelfth got square with us by “toting" our luggage to the steamer, and Companies D and E of the Twelfth, under Captains Shurtleff and Saltmarsh respectively, accompanied us to the Hub.  Marching up State street, headed by Gilmore's superb organization*, the men sang the now famous song, which created great popular enthusiasm.

It now looked as if I must hustle if I intended to get at the enemy before he surrendered, so I ran about looking for a favorable opportunity to enlist.  I finally brought up in the camp of the First Regiment in Cambridge, and spent several days there, but that organization was full.
     Finally Henry Wilson advised Secretary Cameron to send for Col Webster's regiment, and, hearing that recruits were wanted, I returned to the fort and joined Company A.

*Gilmore's superb organization is a famous Boston area Band. 

Fort Independence
From Three Years in the Army;  The Story of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers, Charles E. Davis, jr. writes:

On the 25th of May the five companies, with knapsacks, blankets etc., marched down State Street to the wharf, where they took the steamer "Nelly Baker" for the fort, and where they arrived in due time.

It was a joyous day, though cloudy. We were puffed up with pride and importance at our new responsibility and the knowledge that we were to relieve the New England Guards, who had been garrisoning the fort for a fortnight.  The New England Guards was one of the crack organizations of Massachusetts, of which the citizens of Boston were justly proud.  It subsequently became the nucleus of the Twenty-fourth Regiment, that left Massachusetts for the seat of war December 9, 1861, and afterward made a glorious record.

As we marched into the fort, that battalion was drawn up in line to recieve us.  As we watched with admiration the precision and skill with which they performed their movements, we shed a big lot of conceit.

The duties of a soldier began immediately on their departure.  We were in possession of a fortification of the United States, and the responsibilities seemed immense. We were to guard it, and see that it was not stolen or captured by the enemy.

A detail was made from each company for guard duty, and the writer began at once the tremendous duties of a soldier.  Being placed on the extreme southern point of the island, nearest the enemy, he was cautioned to watch carefully, that he enemy might not come up the harbor without warning being given of his approach.  There seemed nothing ridiculous in all this; the caution was given and received in all earnestness.  These instruction were the first and, so far as can be recalled, the only ones he ever received, and they made a deep impression on his mind.  We often laughed afterwards as we reflected on the difference between this and the reality, though it was real enough to us then. Not a wink did some of us sleep that night.  The responsibility was too great for sleep.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 19, 1861 - Post #20

May 19, 1861.
(Apologies for posting one day late).

Letter of James F. Ramsey

Fort Warren May 19th 1861

Dear Mother  I am very well. I have not got much time to write  If you come down the first of the week Tuesday would be the best day  I should like to have a box of crackers?  I was on guard last night  it was pretty cold.  There are a great many visitors here to day some that I know  we had a real pot pie for dinner and beans and brown bread for breakfast   I should like one or two pens my pens were in my pocket book and got a break.

     Good by
              from James

Letter of John B. Noyes

MS Am2332 (1) By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.  John B. Noyes enlisted in the 4th Battalion of Rifles.  He wrote the following letter to his brother Stephen in New York.  Noyes was a prolific letter writer.  He seems to be having a jolly time playing soldier at this time, but he would live to see hard service and prove a very capable officer with the 28th Mass. Vols., mustering out as Captain, Brevet Lt-Col. with that organization in Dec., 1864.

Cambridge, May 19, 1861

Dear Stephen,

Your letter to Martha reminded me that yours of hte 22d ult. was still unanswered.  I have thought several times of writng, but occasional duties have prevented at the moment.  The war progresses without the immediate results desired by some.  I take it that Gen'l Scott knows what he is about as well as another man, and that his plans are the best possible.  I did duty at the Arsenal for the week ending May 3d.  During this time I was on guard six to eight hours a day, sleeping at the arsenal. The Drill Club of which I was a member under Capt. Meacham had orders to protect the arsenal, and of course I obeyed.  While there we were the observed of all observers, and attracted much attention from the Citizens of Cambridge.  We lived while there, for a  time at least, on the fat of the land, sent to us in part by friendly citizens.  Cigars and drinkables were plentifully provided.  On the whole I passed a grand week there, albeit a somewhat rainy one.  What a proud thing it was to be guard at the gate, holding the keys of office, at an afternoon parade when the fair demoiselles of Cambridge flocked to behold the scene;  and to bellow forth with stentorian voice "Sergeant of the Guard, No. 1."  How jolly to join in patriotic and other songs after Supper before turning in to snatch a couple hours of sleep, if possible, before doing guard duty at dead of night!  How like a "sojer" to cry Halt!  Who goes there?  And porting arms, or at charge bayonet to order the Sergeant of the guard, or officer of the night to "advance and give the countersign."  Since the week we were there, we have not been stationed at the arsenal as we did not care to serve there except under our own officers.  The students now take turn in defending the state property.

Payson Tucker was not there as Captain, but served in the ranks as a private.  His eyes prevented him from quartering at the arsenal, and he accordingly slept at home.  I have not gone yet, as you might surmise from the reception of this letter.  I hold myself ready to go however, having joined the Fourth Battalion of Rifles, Major Leonard.  I hope we shall go to the wars, but whether we shall or not is a matter of uncertainty.  The Governor does not know, not as yet having determined whom to send.  I attend two Evening battalion drills, and one Company drill a week in Boston, and occasionally drill at other times during the week.  We have splendid accommodations at Nassau Hall on Common Street. 

Gen'l. Butler seems to be gaining a great reputation by his energy and direction.  I suppose Maryland is now safe for the Union.  I hope Gen'l. Harney will do as much for Missouri, though the obstacles against it are incomparably greater.  New England is doing nobly and hereafter may not be quite so much black guarded by partisan politicians.

Several students have gone into the army.  Some are at the Forts in the Harbor, and some are earning laurels farther South.  Two belong to the gallant Salem Zouaves, who helped convey the Constitution to New York.  Sam Bigelow, I believe is now a Lieut. in the 7th Regt of New York.  Sociables were broken off by the fall of Fort Sumpter. Up to that time there had been considerable gaiety in Cambridge Society.  Our old friends Alfie & Martha Brooks are now in Cambridge.  I told the former to night that you had not gone & probably wouldn't for some time to come,  I might have added till you could see an enemy before he would pistol you.  Charles is getting along very well, and that little girl of his. He is strong on the war question.  Business is at a stand still, as I suppose it is in Brooklyn.

Yours Aff.
John B. Noyes

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 17, 1861 - Post #19

May 17, 1861

Letter of James F. Ramsey

Fort Warren May 17th 1861

Dear Mother,  I am very well  I should have written before but I have not received a letter  I expected one every day  I hope you will write some  The other night we had an oyster stew  to day we had fish chowder for dinner  some of the officers are getting so proud? that they dine with the men   the officer of the day who
is second in command of the fort for the time being dined with us to day  two of the captains dine at the head of the tables occupied by their men  It says in the paper that we will garrison the fort  I have seen George he is well  I cant see to write any more so good by

P.S  I layed the letter by last night because it was to dark to write  yesterday we were inspected our beds knapsacks and everything belonging to the government  They say we are to have the best uniform in the state.  I hope you will write soon  I cannot tell how soon I shall be home  probably not before a week.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 15, 1861 - Post #18

May 15, 1861

Roxbury City Gazette
The company mentioned, from Roxbury, would be mustered into Federal Service as Company E, of the 13th Mass.   The following newspaper transcription was originally published on the now defunct website "LETTERS OF THE CIVIL WAR"

MAY 15, 1861.
            Last Sabbath morning, Capt. Barlett's Company attended divine worship at the Dudley Street Baptist Church, Rev. Thomas D. Anderson,  D. D. Pastor, who preached from the 12th verse of the 60th Psalm: "Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies."
            After the service, as the Company passed out in single file before the pulpit, every soldier received a copy of the Testament and Psalm, together with a small 18mo of 64 pages, published by the American Track Society, entitled, "Welcome to Jesus," containing a chapter entitled, "Good advice to soldiers." In each Testament was inscribed the name of the soldier, and the words "From the Dudley Street Society, Roxbury," and the quotation, "A light onto my path." Previous to the close of services, the soldiers joined in singing the "doxology."

(Roxbury City Gazette, May 15, 1861, pg. 2, col. 6.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 12, 1861 - Post #17

From the Memoirs of George Kimball, 12th Mass. Vols.  
     At this time Kimball was a member of the 2nd Battalion, or "Tigers" serving at Fort Warren.  The 12th Mass. Vols. (The Webster Regiment) had arrived at the fort May 4 & 5.  Kimball describes the occasion.  Also, on May 12, the "John Brown Song" was performed for the very first time by a band visiting Fort Warren.

     A neat illustration of the fact that all men are brothers was given when Col. Webster's regiment came to the fort.  Some of the companies had been quartered in Faneuil Hall, and when orders came to proceed to Fort Warren all the stray companies were summoned to the "Cradle of Liberty" to prepare for the start.  A Captain, with neither discretion nor propriety, advised the men to prepare themselves for a cold reception at Fort Warren, saying that the stronghold was garrisoned by "kid-gloved soldiers." "A little bird " or some other messenger brought the tidings down. Think you the men of the battalion indulged in a towering rage? They didn't . We simply laughed, for we knew that the Captain was laboring under a misapprehension.

     Our officers suggested that we show them by a hearty reception that all men engaged in the suppression of the Rebellion occupied the same broad platform—that we were all Americans.  So, when the steamer bringing the regiment came, we began to cheer as soon as they could hear us, and kept it up until they landed. Then we escorted them to their quarters, and while they were wondering what we were up to, we stacked arms and broke ranks, and returning to the wharf on the run. seized mattresses and every bit of camp equipage we could lay hands upon, and started back, screaming with delight, as though the labor afforded us infinite pleasure. What little false impression the Captain's remark had created vanished into thin air, and the Captain himself took it all back with tears in his eyes. After that the men of the two organizations were fast friends.  When the Eleventh came we repeated the performance for fear that they, too, might think we were "stuck up.”

     Gilmore's and the Brigade Bands, which alternately visited the fort on Sundays, had learned to play the “John Brown Song,” and Sunday, May 12, was a great day.   Rev. Mr. Hepworth of the Church of the Unity, Chaplain of the battalion, preached an eloquent war sermon, after which we had a grand flag raising. Judge George D. Wells made a speech. Miss Louise B. Rogers raised the flag amid the cheers of the men, and we sang:

"Emblem of liberty,

Float thou o'er earth and sea.

By thee we stand.

Stay thou our enemies.

God of the earth and sky;

Under this flag we'll die,

 God bless our land." 

to the tune of "America."  Then Miss Rogers was made "Daughter of the Battalion."  At a dress parade that night all the troops were combined, and when Gilmore's Band, which played for us on this occasion, started up the long line from the left, they astonished  and delighted everybody by playing "John Brown." This was the first time the piece was performed publicly by a military band.

Blog in Real Time - May 11 - 1861 - Post #16

May 11, 1861

Letter of James F. Ramsey
James letters were graciously shared with my by his descendants.

Fort Warren May 11th 1861

Dear Mother  I arrived safe at the fort.  The Governer was here in the afternoon and reviewed the troops.  There were four more companies at the fort when I arrived  There is about fourteen hundred men now at the fort.  I enjoy myself very much, we can go in bathing when we want to.  I shall not go in to the water untill it is warmer.

Dr Parker was here yesterday morning.  Hayley is better he was on guard yesterday.  I was complimented on my drilling yesterday by one of the Officers.  Please send me a penholder and some ink  I have got some pens.  I should like a blacking brush and some blacking.  send me some apples and maple sugar  leave the things on board teh May Queen at Union Wharf 9 Oclock A.M. and 1 and 4 P.M.  Mark them J. F. Ramsey
2d Bat.
Company C

PS.  Give my love to all yesterday we were clearing the parade ground
           from your Son
                     good by.

Marlboro, Mass.
In Marlboro, Mass., the town's new rifle company continues to organize.  (Transcription courtesy of Mr. R. Humphrey, from the original company field books).

                                                         May 11th 1861.

The company met at there room
and on motion voted to choose
a committee of one on the part of
the company to procure uniforms
for this company.
                     Capt Moses P. Palmer
                      said committee

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 10, 1861 - Post #15

May 10, 1861.

     Both sides were preparing for war, but what to expect neither side knew. The destruction of the railroad in Baltimore, April 19th, delayed the arrival of troops in Washington D.C. for several days.  Rumors of an attack from Virginia were persistent. President Lincoln despaired, "Why don't they come?" and "I don't believe there is any North."   But on the 25th of April the troops began pouring in.

     In Virginia, May 1st, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee, commanding state troops ordered a concentration of volunteers at Harper's Ferry under Col. T. J. Jackson.  Machinery at the rifle factory was to be sent south.  Lee, considered the best officer in the Federal Army by commanding general Winfield Scott, and an opponent of secession, had resigned his military commission on April 18th to return to Virginia.  

     President Lincoln extended the Federal blockade of southern ports south to Virginia and North Carolina.

  Meanwhile in Massachusetts the organization of militia continued with zeal.  The 2nd Marlboro Rifle Company drafts a constitution on May 10th.  The company will muster into the 13th Mass., as Company I.  (Document transcription from the original company field books, courtesy of Mr. R. Humphrey.)

            Marlborough   May 10th. 1861
The company met at there room
for drill.
The committee chosen to draught
the by-laws for the company reported
that they had attend to that duty
And ask leave to report
                                    Moses P. Palmer for the comtt

We who have enrolled our names upon
the volunteer militia enlistments roll
of Massachusetts and have organized
ourselves into a company of Riflemen
agreeable to the Laws of the State.
                  Say one and all
that whereas a certain portion of our
countrymen have rebelled and have
taken up arms against our constitutional
Government and have refused to obey its just
Laws under which they as well as we have
enjoyed so many blessings, that we have so acted
because we fully believe it to be our duty
which we owe to our country to humanity
and to God. And we further say that we do
pledge our lives our fortunes and our sacred
honor to help to maintain and defend the flag
of our glorious union from traitors at home or
foes from abroad, and we do agree to do and submit
to such orders rules and regulations as the Law
requires and such as shall be adopted by the
company under the following by Laws:

Art. 1st,   This company shall be called the Union
                 Rifle Guards, Marlborough.
Art. 2nd.   No person hereafter shall be considered a member
                 of  said company until he is voted in by a
                 majority of two thirds of said company and
                 signs the enlistment and By Laws of the company.
Art. 3rd.    All business of the company shall be
                  considered binding when a majority of the
                  company present shall designate at any
                  regularly called meeting.
Art. 4th.    The Commanding Officer shall preside
                  at all meetings of said company.
Art. 5th.    Penalty for nonappearance at the time
                  appointed for drill or otherwise  - for
                  commissioned officers – one dollar,
                  privates fifty cents. Fines for evening
                  drill excepted.
Art. 6th.    The roll shall be called precisely at the hour of meeting.

Art. 7th.     It shall be the duty of the clerk of the
                  company to record all votes and proceedings
                  at each and every meeting in an orderly
                  book kept for that purpose. All fines shall
                  be collected by the clerk and paid in to the
                  Treasurer of the company and he shall keep a
                  fair record of all fines and for forfeitures in the
                  aforesaid orderly book all fines shall be
                  for the use of the company.
Art. 8th.     There shall be chosen annually a committee
                  of three whose duty it shall be to make
                  all assessments on the company and provide
                  when required and pay out all bills of the
                  company and if any surplus remains it shall
                  forthwith be paid into the Treasurer, and said
                  committee shall draw orders on the Treasurer for
                  any money not otherwise appropriated in his
Art. 9th.     There shall be chosen annually a Treasurer of
                  said company who shall give bonds for the
                  strict performance of his duty. He shall receive
                  all orders from the committee and pay the
                  same when there is money in Treasury.
Art.10th.   There shall be chosen annually a committee
                  to settle all differences between members of
                  the company.
Art.11th.   All assessments of the company shall be made
                 equal on all members of the company. Musicians excepted.
Art.12th.   We pledge ourselves that we will support and
                 obey our officers.
Art.13th.   Any by-Laws of said company may be altered,
                 amended, as abrogated by a vote of two thirds
                 of the members present at any regularly called
Art.14th.   Any member of said company who shall behave in a
                 disorderly manner while on duty shall be liable to
                 be voted out of said company (provided) that two
                 thirds of the company present shall vote for it.
Art.15th.   Any member may call a meeting of said company by a
                 petition to the commander accompanied by a
                 majority of members.
Art.16 th.  Each and every member shall be held
                 responsible for the damage his uniform, rifle, and
                 other equipments may sustain through carelessness
                 or neglect.
Art.17th.   All uniforms furnished by the town shall
                 be held as company property.
Art.18th.   Uniforms and equipments held as company property
                  shall be used only in the performance of military
                  duties except by permission of the officers of
                  said company, and all said uniforms and equipments
                  of any leaving said company for any cause shall
                  be left with the clerk of said company.
Art.19.    The annual meeting of the company shall be
                  holden on the last Wednesday of May in each year.

Moses P. Palmer
David H. Brown
Alfred G. Howe
Samuel D. Witt
Samuel W. Fay
Issac B. Crowell
Frank J. Wood
Edwin Diel
William Baker
M. L. Lucus
Algenon S. Smith
Lysander P. Parker
Amos C. Morrill
E. R. Emerson
Alexander M. Gilvary
Henry A. Holyoke 1st
John M. Russell
John S. Felton
Benjamin F. Russell
Francis W. Hastings
Charles W. Whitcomb
W. Frank Brigham
Ald B. Hastings
Rufus Howe 1st
Cranston Howe 2nd
John W. Kirby
George E. Dean
Warren I. Stetson
Sylvanus H. Parker
Eugene A. Albee
John F. Klenert
Joseph Hall
Franklin Stetson
James Gleason drummer
William W. Willis
Charles S. Parker
Francis H. Stowe
Otis Chose
Eugene J. Holyoke 2nd
Origin B. Williams
Samuel T. Shattuch
Millard S. Williams
William A. Alley
Harrison Chose
Gerhart Gentner
John P. Peebles
C. C. Weight
Charles H. Cotting
John L. Spencer
Benjamin J. Whittier

Albert Taylor
William Cossroy
John F. Rose
George F. Smith 1st
James C. Fox
John F. Wright
George T. Brigham 2nd
George O. Grady
Charles Scott
Lowell P. Parker
Owin Beane
Edward H. Mosher 2nd
Ariel Crosby
Edward E. Bond
Levi Taylor
William Barnes
George Brown
Lowell S. Wheeler
Theodore H. Goodnow
G. M. Brigham
Nathaniel B. Tryham
Benjamin Parker
Theodore L. Makan
George Minek
Michael Murphy
William H. Wight
Elery E. Goodwin
John M. Pierce
Moses P. Rice
George H. Tuckey
Henry A. Mowry
Thomas L. Bryant
William M. Weeks
Osceola V. Newton
Patrick Lavell
Davis P. Howard
Peter Flynn
Charles Stone
John McIntire
George H. Moore
Charles T. Love
Benjamin G. Hallet
Albert F. Holmes
Thomas Boyd Jr.
Charles M. Tales

                               Marlborough, May 10th 1861

The company met at there room and
on motion voted to choose a committee
of three to meet the town committee and
assertain if they intend anything and what they will do toward providing
for the familys of those who enlist to
serve as soldiers during the present war.

Chose                      A. S. Smith
                                S. D. Witt
                                Geo. F. Smith
                            Said committee

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 7, 1861 - Post #14

May 7, 1861

The 2nd Militia company in Marlboro continues to organize.      (Document from the original company Field Books, courtesy of Mr. R. Humphrey).                            

       Marlborough, May. 7th, 1861      

    The company met at there room in the
Exchange building.
    on motion voted to choose a committee
of three to see the committee chosen
 by the town to assist volunteers
and see if the company can have
uniforms at the expense of the town.
     Chose.   Captain.  Moses P. Palmer
                    Lieut.     David L. Brown
                        “         Alfred G. Howe.
            Said Committee.

on motion voted to choose a committee
of three to draught some by-laws for
this company.
      Chose.     Lieu   Alfred G. Howe
                       Capt   Moses P. Palmer
                                  Wm. Barnes
            Said committee  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 6, 1861 - Post #13

May 6, 1861

Marlboro, Massachusetts

     The town of Marlboro Massachusetts had a rifle company, "Marlboro Rifles" which tendered their services to the Federal Government, and which was mustered into the 13th Mass. as Company F.  

From "Three Years in the Army" by Charles E. Davis, Jr.

Company F
     Company F had the honor of being the oldest chartered company in the regiment.  It was organized in 1819 as the Marlboro' Rifles, and continued its organization without interruption until it became a part of the Thirteenth Regiment.  During all this time its armory was located in the town of Marlboro'.

     For several years  prior to 1861 it was known as Company A, First Battalion of Rifles, the other companies being Company B from Sudbury and Company C from Natick;  the latter being assigned to the Thirteenth and known as Company H.  The battalion was commanded by Major Ephraim Moore, of Sudbury.  Major Moore died in March, 1861, and was succeeded by Captain Henry Whitcomb, of the Marlboro' Rifles, who was elected major of the battalion.

     On the 25th of June the First Battalion of Rifles was ordered to Fort Independence.  The Sudbury Company was disbanded.  The officers of the Marlboro' Company, which became Company F, were:

Captain......Abel H. Pope.
First Lieutenant.....John T. Whittier.
Second Lieutenant....... Charles F. Morse.
Fourth Lieutenant..... Donald Ross.

note:  This rifle company has continuous lineage dating back to December 3, 1660.  Today the unit is still in existence, known as the 125th Quarter Master Company, Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Formation of a second Marlboro' Company
     There was interest in raising a second rifle company in Marlboro.   A record of the organizational meetings is provided from the original books which were carried by this company in the field during its 3 years service.  Mr. R. Humphrey shared the transcript with me.

                                      Marlborough May 6th 1861                                                             
In compliance to General Orders
from Headquarters the company
met at the town hall for the choice
of officers.
     Major Jonathon Ladd Presiding.
After the roll was called: the company made
choice of the following officers.

          Moses P. Palmer.       Captain.
          David L. Brown         First Lieutenant.
          Alfred G. Howe         Second   “
          Samuel D. Witt          Third      “
          Samuel W. Fay           Fourth    “

                              Wm. Barnes, Clerk.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 5, 1861 - Post #12

Fort Warren - Early May, 1861.

The origin of "The John Brown Song."

It will be remembered the 2nd Battalion of Rifles, or "The Tigers" occupied Fort Warren, Boston Harbor on April 29.  It was from this time that the famous "John Brown Song" developed.  George Kimball of the "Tigers" explains. 

     In time of peace garrison duty is doubtless very dull music, but with a great war opening and events daily transpiring which excited their enthusiasm to the highest pitch, the 250 men of the Second Battalion of Infantry found life at Fort Warren exceedingly pleasant. The fort was comparatively new and had never before been occupied by troops. Piles of rubbish of every kind incumbered not only the spacious parade ground, but every casemate and every nook and corner was filled with it.  So we set to work with a will to put our house in order and had manual labor galore.  Twas interesting to see professional men, merchants, clerks and others as busy as bees with shovel and wheelbarrow and broom, while song and jest and heartiest laughter rose continually as an accompaniment.

It was out of these conditions that the famous "John Brown Song" sprang, and If the "Tigers' had done nothing else to help the cause of the Union, this song alone would have been sufficient to entitle them to gratitude, for it is impossible to overestimate the effect it had all through the war as an inspirational force upon the armies in the field. It was pre-eminently the song of the war, and was sung in camp and on the march with a heartiness and dash that I never saw equaled in the case of any other.  It even invaded England after performing its mission in this country, and was almost as popular there as it had been here.  Mr Richard Grant White, in 1886, said that the song had "a certain rhythm, or lilt, which seizes upon the memory and bewitches without always pleasing the ear," and that "the alternate jig and swing of the air caused it to stick in the uneducated ear as burs stick to a blackberry girl." As I said in my previous letter in The Journal, we had a soldier in the battalion named John Brown.  We were ready to seize upon everything that promised fun, and so guyed Brown unmercifully because of his name. He was a jolly Scotchman and entered heartily into the nonsense.

     There were many good singers among us, Brown himself being one.  Then there were Newton J. Pernette, James H. Jenkins, Charles E. B. Edgerle,. James E Greenleaf, Gordon S. Brown, Louis N. Tucker, Caleb E. Niebuhr, Henry J. Hallgreen Brooks and many others that I do not now recall.   We sang all the popular songs of the day and many favorite hymns.

I belonged to the Boston Young Men's Christian Association before my enlistment and boarded with L. P. Rowland, the Librarian, Rowland one day brought down fifty copies of The Melodeon, a collection of hymns compiled by the late Rev. J. W. Dadmun.  I distributed these.  One of the hymns in the book then very popular was – “Say. Brothers, Will You Meet Us.”  The first verse was as follows: 

“Say. brothers will you meet us,
Say, brothers, will you meet us,
Say, brothers, will you meet us,
On Canaan's happy shore.
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
For ever evermore.”

 We sang this hymn a great deal, both while at work cleaning up rubbish and during the long evenings in barracks. As I have said, we often guyed our Scotch comrade on account of his suggestive name, and some of the wags finally hit upon the idea of making parodies in his honor (?) upon the above hymn, thinking, probably, that this might "rattle" him, but it didn't —he took it good-naturedly, as he did everything else, and even helped us along.

I cannot say whether any lines used at the fort eventually became parts of the song as sung by the army beyond "John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave," "He's gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord," and "We'll hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree," but am certain that these three did. We had to quicken the music of the hymn a bit to make it conform to our doggerel rhymes, but the grand old chorus was unchanged.

I have no copy now of "The Melodeon," but have "The Revivalist," a collection of hymns arranged and published by Mr. Joseph Hillman of Troy, N. Y., in 1872, and this contains "Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us."

It may seem odd that such prominence should be given to the statement that the old martyr had "joined the silent majority" and that his body was "moldering in the grave," but this came from frequent emphatic denials, playfully made, that our Scotch laddie was actually with us. We would say. "Why. you're dead,"  “Your body is moldering in the grave," etc., and from this kind of nonsense finally sprang the beginning of the song. Then it grew.

     There was a germ of inspiration in the idea that John Brown "had gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord," and this, with the glorious chorus, together with the fact that the music was just right for a marching air, made it immensely popular.  Major Newton and others thought that it would be better to commemorate the services of some distinguished soldier, and "Ellsworth's body" was tried, but it would not go.

     Greenleaf was organist of a church in Charlestown, and he naturally had much to do with the early arrangement of the notes of the song.  Mr. C. S. Hall, an acquaintance of Mr. Greenleaf, often visited the fort, and becoming interested in the song, he took hold with his friend to see what could be done with it.  Mr. C. B. Marsh also helped, and the result was the composition of additional lines and the issue of the production as a penny ballad, on common printing paper, surrounded by a pretentious but inartistic border.   It bore this imprint: "Published at 256 Main street, Charlestown, Mass."

     Later, Mr. Hall issued a more elaborate copy, giving both words and music, and headed it with a cut of the national bird. It bore the words, "Origin. Fort Warren," and "Music arranged by C. B. Marsh."  At the bottom was the imprint, as before, and a statement that it had been "Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1861, by C. S. Hall, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts." I have ascertained by inquiry of the Librarian of Congress that the date of this copyright was July 16. 1861.

Mr. Abram E. Cutter of Charlestown has well-preserved copies of each issue, the first of which he thinks he purchased directly from Mr. Hall.

     When the song was growing fast, the Twelfth Regiment, raised by Fletcher Webster, came to the fort, and it took the men of that organization by storm, as indeed, it did every body of soldiers that ran up against it.  Pernette, Edgerely, Brown, Jenkins and myself finally joined the Twelfth.

     The Eleventh came to the fort, and later the Fourteenth (afterward First Heavy Artillery), and the song became popular with both these organizations.  Everybody knows how later it spread throughout the army.

     Poor John Brown, who bore our pleasantry so good naturedly, possessed the love and esteem of all his comrades.   He found a watery grave in the Shenandoah River on the 6th of June, 1862, at Front Royal, Va. While on picket across the river, opposite the camp, the bridge was carried away by a sudden rise of the stream, and to save themselves from capture the detail tried to cross on a raft. The raft went to pieces, and Brown was drowned, the rest being rescued.

I have given the origin of this famous song somewhat in detail, because there has been so much needless discussion about it. Everybody who was in Fort Warren in 1861 and every Bostonian who remembers the opening of the war knows that it originated substantially as I have stated.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 4, 1861 - Post #11

May 4, 1861

Letter of James F. Ramsey

Fort Warren  May 4, 1861.
Dear Mother  I received the bag after I had sent you the letter   I thank you for the cake and apples  I do not
care much about the cake because we have very good meals.  I am getting along very well and think soldiers life agrees with me.  Two companies of the Webster regiment arrived yesterday.  Alonzo Haley belongs to one of the Companies and is here,  the men in our battalion do not like to go with the men in the Webster regiment they hold them at arms length there are some Irish among them.

I have not much time to write now  Give my love to all  kiss Hugh for me  Good by
      from your son,
             J.F. Ramsey

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blog in Real Time - May 2, 1861 - Post #10

May 2, 1861

Letter of James F. Ramsey
James F. Ramsey was serving with the 2nd Battalion at Fort Warren. 

Fort Warren  May 2d 1861

Dear Mother   I received your letter and was glad to hear from you and I hope you will write often  I will write every day if I have the materials.  Please send father's bag with my rubber coat, two towels, a pair of stockings, a comb, a lead pencil, and a revolver case.  Carry my things to the Eastern rail road wharf the boat leaves at 10 O'clock AM and 2 1/4 PM the name of the steam tug is the May Queen.  mark the things Fort Warren  2d Battallion V I company C.   J.F. Ramsey.  send some Apples and Maple Sugar some times  I like here very much and I think it agrees with me  I never felt better when we arrived the fort we stacked our arms and went to work  a carrying our beds up to the barracks  most of hte soldiers sleep in one long room directly over our dining hall  there are three long tables one for each company  we have as much coffee as we can drink  we have cold corn beef & cold bacon hot bisquit and bread for dinner  rost beef and soup.  6 O'clock is Reveille signal for the men to rise, all the lights are put out at 10PM  we parade 3 times a day 2 hours at each parade all the rest of the time to ourselves  they mount a guard at 8 Oclock AM each man is relieved every 2 hours  there are three relief guards each man has 16  hours to him self out of 24 hours and all of the next day except 1 hour.  Give my love to all  I served on guard last night.  it was very cold there is nothing to break the wind  be sure and send me some maple sugar   good buy
     your son James.

p.s  Walter Hinds sends his love to the Harts  he would like to have one of the boys come down they are enlisting new recruits every day for another company at the armory.