Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Musical Post

     Research for the Website has taken precedence over the blog this year so there aren't too many posts.  I wanted to end the year with something fun.

     In January, 1862, the 13th Mass Glee Club gave a concert at the Hagerstown Lyceum Hall. 

At the time members of the regiment were doing Provost Duty in the town of Hagerstown, MD.  Pictured is the 13th Mass Glee Club, seated, Lt. Edwin Frost,  & Sergeant Walter H. Wentworth.  Standing left to right are John H. White, Private John Green, Corporal Michael Dagney, and Private Osgood W. Waite, all of Company E.

Author Stephen Bockmiller's book, "Hagerstown in the Civil War," published in 2011, reproduced the poster advertising the event.

In his book (which I contributed images to)  Mr. Bockmiller writes:
"The Hagerstown Lyceum was a performance and meeting hall located on West Washington Street, two doors east of the courthouse.

Built in 1844 it had two storefronts on the ground level to provide rents to support the operation, while the public hall was located on the second floor."
 A program of musical numbers  is included on the poster advertising the event for the townspeople. I'd like to reproduce some of the concert here, (as much as I can) using digital archives and youtube recordings as far as they exist for the songs that were performed.  I wish I could have found recordings of all the songs.  I did find sheet music to all but one.  It took a bit of searching to find them all.  I hope the experiment works - in that the musical links 'hold up' and that you enjoy this truncated concert of songs presented by the regiment to the people of Hagerstown!

     Admission, by the way, is 25 cents.  So here is the venue :

     Wednesday, January 15, 1862.


A quartette kicked things off with the song "Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming"

This was followed up with "Normandy Maid."  I discovered the longer title of Normandy Maid is, "I Once Knew A Normandy Maid," the song was sung by tenor O. W. Waite.

Next up was "Song and Chorus" "Fairy Dell" performed by the Glee Club.

Corporal Michael Dagney [alto] and private John Green sang a duet, "Sad Sea Waves."

 The Glee Club followed with "Song & Chorus," in a rendition of "Jennie Lane." I'm not sure if its the same song but there is a song "Bonnie Jennie Lee" from 1861.  This link will take you to a midi file of the song.  Scroll down until you find it.

The ballad,  "Faded Flowers" followed, sung by Corporal Michael Dagney, [alto].

The "Trio" of tenor Osgood Waite, alto Michael Dagney, and bass John White (hospital steward) sang "Ever Of Thee."  The full title of the song is "Ever of Thee I'm Fondly Dreaming."

The Song, "Mother Dear" was next, performed by tenor Osgood Waite.

The first part of the program ended with the Glee Club Quartette performing the [comic]  "Irishman's Shanty."  The link takes you to a gentleman in appropriate period garb playing this song on a banjo.  It is instrumental only, although the musical sheet at left shows that there are indeed words to this ditty. 

I'm guessing there was an intermission, as the concert was divided into two parts.


The quartette sang "Oft In The Stilly Night."

John H. White, [bass] and Osgood Waite, [tenor] sang a duet, "Labor and Watch."

The Glee Club performed the song and chorus, "Nellie Gray."

The [comic] song, "Old Irish Gentleman" was performed by Osgood Waite, [tenor].

The quartette followed with, "Dearest Spot."  That is how it is listed on the programme.  At first glance I thought this was about a beloved pet, probably a dog, but keeping with the sentiment of the era, I discovered the full title is actually, "Dearest Spot of Earth To Me is Home."  And although it says quartette, only three performers are listed, Waite, [tenor], Dagney [alto] and Greene, [alto].

Alto Michael Dagney sang the ballad "Near the Banks of that Lone River."

The Quartette ended the concert with "Jane O'Malley," the entire Glee Club listed as taking part.

Edwin Rice, (pictured) who played one of the horns in the 13th Mass Band attended the concert at the Lyceum.  He wrote to his sister January 16th, 1862,

"Last night Steve Howe, Jim Fuller, and myself went up to Hagerstown to a concert given by some of the boys in the regiment. The singing was not anything extra.  I did not go so much to hear the singing as to see the hall. The hall was not very large.  It was but a little larger than Forest Hall.  There  was some very fine fresco painting in the hall."
That is all the reviews I have.   In spite of Rice's review, I'm going to imagine the concert was 'Wonderful!'

Sadly the Lyceum Hall no longer stands and little is known about the building built in 1844.

As for the performers the rosters only give a little bit of information.  John W. Green mustered out March 14, 1863. Sergeant Michael Dagney mustered out as 1st Lieutenant March 7th, 1864.  Hospital Steward John H. White continued his service as a steward in the regular army after the 13th Mass disbanded.  He mustered out of Federal Service in 1866, and lived well into old age.  He was a frequent correspondent to the 13th Mass Circulars.  Osgood Waite took an officers commission, 1st Lieutenant in the 38th Mass. August 20 1862.  He resigned March 7, 1863.

And so ends this  concert post.  (There was another concert in February, at Williamsport, but that is another story).  "Merry Christmas!" to my readers.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Hooker in Command"

I have neglected the blog this summer and fall in order to concentrate on the latest new section of my website history of the 13th Mass.

Last week I posted the latest new pages.  These 3 pages cover the regimental history of the 13th Mass in detail from April 1, 1863 - June 11.  This includes the Chancellorsville Campaign.

In April, General Joseph Hooker was in command of the Army of the Potomac, carefully planning a new spring campaign and getting the army in good condition. 

Page 1 of the new section, contains accounts of the many reviews of the army by  Hooker and President Lincoln.  Colonel Leonard is commanding the brigade and the regiment receives a compliment from the commanding general, "They Are The Best Looking Regiment I Have Seen."

Highlights of this page include John S. Fay's description of the visiting First Family and John B. Noyes reporting from headquarters on enemy deserters, bush-wackers and Contraband brought before General Marsena Patrick's "Bureau of  Military Information."

Two stand alone essays are on the page.  Dog lovers will not want to miss the story of Sallie, the famous mascot of the 11th PA Inf.  The article on Sallie is the original authorized write up supervised by Brevet-Brig. General Richard Coulter, commander of the unit, published in Bivouac Magazine, 1885.

Also on the page is a short article on dashing and daring, Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe and the Balloon Corps.  My wife and I believe Professor Lowe to be the original inspiration for the 'Wizard of Oz' character, but that is merely conjecture on our part.

Page 2 of this section covers the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the part played in it by the 13th Mass.  Don't miss Sergeant George Henry Hill's letter written from the trenches in mid-campaign, May 5.

Page 3 of the section has the not to be missed memoirs of Sergeant John S. Fay.  Fay was struck by a shell April 30, 1863, opposite Fredericksburg, at Fitzhugh Crossing.  The shell killed two others, Captain George N. Bush, and Lt. William Cordwell.   Fay's wounding is described by Austin Stearns and George Hill and Charles Leland on page 2.  Two alert comrades immediately tied tourniquets around Fay's arm and leg, and carried him up the hill to the Fitzhugh House Field Hospital, where Surgeon Allston W. Whitney, saved his life.  On Page 3, Fay himself describes his ordeal,  - when the Field Hospital was captured by Confederates in mid-June. Fay and several other unfortunate inmates where transported to Libby Prison in Richmond, Va. 

The narrative for the section ends June 11th, as the regiment received orders to march north in what was the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign.

There are also updates and slight corrections to the outline 1863 page.  Here is the link.  Hope you enjoy the new history.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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

From Bivouac, October, 1885  [abridged]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, July 12, 2013

Dr. Edgar Parker, Asst. Surgeon, 13th Mass

     Here is a story untold in the regimental histories. Dr. Edgar Parker of the 13th Mass was wounded on the steps of Christ Lutheran Church in Gettysburg.  The church was used as 1st Corps Hospital during the battle.

     In front of the church is a monument dedicated to Reverend Horatio S. Howell of the 90th PA, who was also shot down on the steps of the church.


   "On the evening of July 1, 1863, Mary McAllister, living across the street from Christ Church, saw the  following:

     "six or seven rebels came riding up the street firing and yelling.  Well, we did not know what we were doing.  They halted at the church to say something to the wounded men on the high church steps who had gathered themselves out of range of the firing, and in a few minutes a pistol went off and we saw they had shot a man.  He was down then and when we looked, he was lying with his head toward us on the pavement.  And those men on the steps said,  'Shame! Shame!  That was a Chaplain!'  Those on horseback said, 'He was going to shoot.'  But the wounded men said,  'He was not armed.'  They had a good many words and then they rode off again, shooting as they had come."1

See a great collection of videos about the church by Pastor Stephen Herr, Dr. Conrad Richter, and others at Gettysburg Daily. CLICK HERE

      I don't know if it happened earlier or later but 13th Mass Assistant Surgeon was also wounded on the steps of the church.  Town resident Jennie McCreary lived in a home just east of the church and recorded in a letter to her sister Julia,

     "When I went home I found two wounded men at our house.  Col. Leonard shot in the arm and Dr Parker slightly in the head.  They are both from Massachusetts.  Dr Parker was wounded whilst coming down the college church steps.  One of the rebel sharpshooters fired on him from Boyer's corner..." 2

     This information comes from a contemporary article written by Pastor Stephen Herr in a small published booklet by the church; "A Sanctuary For The Wounded; The Civil War Hospital At Christ Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania."

     Pastor Herr writes:

     Edgar Parker, son of Charles and Mary Parker, was born in Framingham MA on June 7, 1840.  He entered Norwich University in Vermont and graduated from there in 1859.  Later that year he took a position as an instructor at the Military Academy in Sing Sing, New York.  In 1860 Parker began studies at Harvard Medical School and graduated in 1863.  A week following graduation on March 13 he was commissioned as a first assistant surgeon with the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Field and Staff Company."

     "In the spring of 1863 Parker participated in the Second Battle of Fredericksburg and in the Battle of Chancellorsville.  Following these engagements, he and the 13th Massachusetts arrived at Gettysburg on July 1st and took up a position on Oak Ridge just north of the town.  In an 1892 pension application to the United States government, Parker testifies to having his horse shot from under him and being thrown violently on the ground. While this fall did not initially disable him, thirty years later he would claim that this injury left him unable to use his legs, leaving him in need of constant attention and care."

     Pastor Herr's article states Parker was discharged September 18, 1863 on account of his wounds. It continues:

     "Dr. Parker returned to Massachusetts where he practiced his medical profession in Saxonville and Weston.  When his health began to fail he began painting and became a well-known portrait painter in Boston, widley known for his recreations of portraits especially those of Gilbert Stuart.

     During the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), the President and his wife, Lucy, decided to complete the White House's set of presidential and First Lady portraits.  After attempts to secure original portrait paintings of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson failed because their families would not part with the artwork, President and Mrs. Hayes commissioned Dr. Parker to complete portraits of Adams, Jefferson and James Madison."3

     Pastor Herr's article lists a few more important commissions with a brief genealogy.  Dr. Parker died on April 9, 1892 at the age of 51.

     1.  Horatio S. Howell; authored by Karen Christian;  "A Sanctuary For the Wounded," published by Christ Lutheran Church, 2009.  (page 39)

     2.  Edgar Parker, Physician and Painter; authored by Pastor Stephen Herr;  "A Sanctuary For The Wounded",  (with end notes);  (page 65).

     3.  Same as note 2; (pages 64-66).

Friday, July 5, 2013

Battle of Gettysburg

      Private John Buttrick Noyes of the 13th Mass, earned his long sought after officer's commission in April, 1863.  He was assigned to the 28th Mass Vols, 2nd Army Corps, and joined that unit in the field May 4, 1863 during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

      Although his association with the 13th grew increasingly distant he still gives them mention in  a letter home to his father, July 5th, 1863.  As an officer, rather than a private, Noyes had a better vantage point in observing the actions around him.  Here is a fascinating,  up close look at the fighting July 2nd & 3rd.

Near Gettysburgh Pa. July 5, 1863
Dear Father
I wrote you June 30th from Uniontown June 24th from near Frederick Md.  July 1st we marched to within 3 miles of Gettysburgh Penn. About 20 miles, passing through Havanna, Tanytown, and Hornet.  There we encamped.  A fierce fight had been going on at Gettysburgh in which the First, and a part of the 11th Corps had been engaged.  Gen’l Reynolds was killed marching at the head of his corps it is said with no skirmishers ahead.  Gen’l Barlow is reported mortally wounded and Gen’l Boyd killed, both belonging to the 11th Corps.  At night the rebels undoubtedly had the advantage.  Still some splendid fighting was done on that day.  The next day we advanced in the afternoon, and for some time things went on well.  We went in at about 5 o’clock.  The ground was exceedingly uneven; we advanced upon a rocky ridge covered with huge boulders which made a regular line of battle impossible.  The men took cover behind the rocks, some to fire and some to lie down.  It was the duty of the officers to see that the men kept deployed to cover as much ground as possible and deliver their fire.  This they did. We repeatedly advanced & were on the ridge holding our ground splendidly, taking prisoners at every step.  Things looked well, never better when the brigade on our left, which was a rod or two in advance of us suddenly broke and retreated in confusion.  At that moment Gen’l Brooks’ brigade was coming up to our support, and was but two or three rods in our rear.  Instead of extending our right, or making a movement to check the rebels who were flanking our right, they precipitately retreated without firing a gun.  I suspect they fled under the flanking fire of the rebels.  Nothing was left but to retire and as men who were in better position than at any previous time, deserted by the troups on the left were compelled to fall back irregularly and in great haste.  Several men were taken prisoners who could not get back in time.  Others of my company were taken but escaped again, the Penn. Reserves charging on the pursuing rebels.  In retiring we were forced to go over a recently mowed wheat field, subject to a terrible flank fire from the rebels.  That plain as I came over it close to the colors of our regiment was rapidly becoming covered with the bodies of dead and wounded men.  A rebel prisoner beside me was shot in the foot, as he hurried by, falling with a deep groan.
About half a mile or so from the battle field, with Lt. Bailey I halted the colors so that the men might collect around it.  Several officers and men came up soon.  The Col. also with another color bearer.  We then moved into an adjacent field behind a hospital where the first Division was formed.  There we ascertained that our officers were safe with the exception of Capt. Magner, who was wounded in the finger.  This escape of the officers is astonishing, as several who fell under my observation, including the Colonel, and the Major, were conspicuous for gallant conduct.  I was agreeably disappointed in finding that though without a gun in my hand I had sufficient to do to divert my mind from the whizzing bullets in cheering on the men and selecting places for them to form.  I regret to say that I was obliged to order some men forward who were firing and yet could hardly have avoided hitting our men in front.  I took 18 men into the fight, of these men 3, all my sergeants, were wounded, two very badly, also one private.  Three men are missing making a loss of seven. We number 108 guns this P.M. and are now in readiness to march, our arms stacked.
July 3d we were shelled at 4 1/2 A.M., and immediately set to digging entrenchments.  But three men were with the Company then, the others came up during the day, and yesterday.  Two of them had been taken prisoners but escaped.  About 10 o clock the rebels commenced a tremendous cannonading of our position said to equal anything during the war.  About 12 % they advanced their infantry under our artillery fire.  Four batteries, 24 cannon, were on our Division line, and other batteries all along the extended line pouring in grape and canister & shell.  Their first charge was repelled, the carnage fearful.  Again they formed their lines in the woods & beyond the high land in front & charged in huge columns, advancing finely in beautiful lines.  They advanced a quarter of a mile under our tremendous fire and were almost up to our breastworks, the skirmishers slowly retiring in excellent order.
Our men had their pieces in their hands, capped, ready to fire at the command, when suddenly on our right a division of our men poured out from the entrenchments on their left flank.  The sight was splendid.  The rebels gave way in confusion before the artillery in front and infantry on the flank, and ran pell mell to their former position.  Prisoners in hords were driven in and the extended open space in our front was covered with their killed and wounded.  It was a Second Malvern Hill to them, and worse. The day was ours.  The three days fight was practically ended & the victory was ours.  Gen’l Meade rode full tilt along the front [of] our entrenchments amid tremendous cheers.
Last night the rebels retired from our immediate front.  They may be within a few miles of us however.  Of 260 men the 13th Mass carried into action but 74 now remain.  But four of Co. B. are left only.  Two known to be killed, many are prisoners.  Tom Welles is safe.  The 2d Mass lost 140 men & 10 officers.  The losses every where are heavy.  Gen’l Hancock, our Corps General was wounded July 3d.  Amid the tremendous shower of shell at about Eleven AM he rode at a slow canter.  He may have been wounded shortly after.  In Haste
Your Aff. Son
John B. Noyes
Please send $10.00 by next mail, and $5.00 by the succeeding mail.  The mail communications are now open.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Color-Bearer Speaks.

     At the dedication of the 13th Mass Monument at Gettysburg, in Sept., 1885, Lieutenant A. N. Samson, Chariman of the monument committee called upon Charles E. Davis, Jr., of Company B, to read the poem written expressly for the occasion by Rev. M. J. Savage.


"I stand here now, as once before,
All Granite to the battle's shock,
As on some billow-beaten shore
Fronts every storm the seaward rock.

"Is this the field that on that day
Hissed hot with shot, and heard the yell
How! northward through the smoky fray,
Where men were fiends, and earth was hell?

"And now the sun smiles, and the tread
Of marching years has left no trace
Of that day, save - where sleep the dead -
These mounds that love would not efface.

"But yet I see it all again -
The frenzied battle's formless form,
The reeling field alive with men,
The thunderous flashes through the storm!

"The rifles' crack, the hiss, the thud;
The sizz of the on-hurtling shell;
The dying cry; the trickling blood -
The sights, the sounds we know too well -

"They all come back!  I hear!  I see!
O God!  What is it that can make
Men mad with such fierce revelry?
We faced it for our country's sake.

"See, boys!  "Twas here our twin corps stood -
The Eleventh and the First - that day,
And what such brave men only could,
Held half the rebel force at bay.

"For six dread hours, with bated breath, 
Ten thousand forty thousand face!
And each had paid the price of death
To save a safe defeat's disgrace.

"Tis easy in the battle's wrath
To lead the charge when foemen run;
But, in the rifle's deadly path
With empty cartidge-box and gun,

"To stand a firm unyielding wall
Of bodies brave enough to bleed,
And close the gaps where dead men fall, -
This, this is heroes' work indeed!

"And such a deed our heroes wrought!
Theirs not a fleeting courage, born
Of battle-anger:  our boys fought
As they who life and love can scorn.

"How grandly fighting Reynolds fell!
How bravely Paul stood through the fight!
Which loss was greater, who can tell?
Paul lives, but walks the earth in night.*

"But grandest end of all find I!
My hand the shot-torn flag still holds!
'Tis easy, while it flies, to die!
'Tis my proud blood that stains its folds!

"And when our boys fall back at last,
Of all our regiment remain
To tell the story of the past
Scarce one brave hundred from the slain!

"Such is the price with which we bought
A country.   And our sons here see
How faithfully the fathers wrought
For manhood, peace, and liberty.

"And you, ye sons, as here you tread,
And on our graves your tributes lay,
That ye be worthy of such dead
Forget not till the latest day!"

         Last summer, a descendant of a 13th Mass soldier shared with me over 70 high resolution scans of photographs that had been labeled and saved in his ancestor's scrapbook.  Among them was a portrait of Roland B. Morris, the color bearer, killed July 1st 1863, on the spot of the regiment's monument at the Battle of Gettysburg.  The sculpture was done in his likeness - BF

*Brigade Commander Gabriel R. Paul was shot through both eyes but lived.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fitzhugh House

     John Hennessy recently posted about the Fitzhugh House near Fredericksburg on his blog Mysteries and Conundrums.   Sadly the house and grounds are in jeopardy.

      If there is a focal point for the 13th Mass in VA, this is it.       This house was a field hospital (with Dr. Whitney in charge) in the spring of 1863.      Whitney's tent was pitched  right in front of the house.      John S. Fay was operated on by Dr Whitney in the house, and every man and officer of the regiment visited Fay while he was recuperating.

      A shell struck Fay April 30, 1863.       The same shell that shattered his right knee and hand  struck and killed Captain George Bush of Co F, in the side and decapitated Lt. William Cordwell at Fitzhugh Crossing (or Pollocks Mill Crossing) down by the river.  Fay was bundled up and carried to the house on top of the hill by Sgt. Andrew J. Mann and Sgt. Enoch C. Pierce.     I wrote about the incident here.

Fay wrote:

     "Acting hospital Steward S. E. Fuller of my Co took care of me that night.    in the night Col. Leonard came in to see me.       The next day our regiment lay in line of battle in front of the house and nearly all the officers and men came in to see me."

     Also that day, May 1st,  young Sam Webster, the feisty drummer for the regiment, who was assigned to the ambulance train & hospitals  wrote in his diary,
      "Reported at Fitzhugh House, now used as First Corps Hospital.       Went out to the barn and husked corn to get filling for ticks. The boys have contributed about $250.00 to Fay."

   There are several fascinating characters and incidents associated with this event, and this house.

Dr. Allston Whitney, the surgeon of the 13th began service with a dubious reputation, at least in the opinion of some officers and men in the regt.    In slow times he drank, but after the battle of Cedar Mtn, Whitney went to work.

"The steadiness of his hand, the dexterity and precision and decisiveness of his cut and thrusts in the surgical line was the wonder and admiration of all the Doctors in Banks & McDowell's Divisions.       Surgeons turn from their cases to look at him while operating.       From morning until night and from night until morning in his shirt sleeves he worked in blood, volunteering his services, the hardest cases being given to him."      -(letter of priv. John B. Noyes to his father, Aug 25, 1862)

     Sgt. Andrew J. Mann, one of the men who helped save Fay,  was the nephew of Horace Mann, an early prominent advocate of free public education in the United States.   After the war, Andrew got into some serious trouble, (circumstances unknown) and was forced to go west and live under an assumed name.    He is buried at the veterans cemetery in San Fransisco.

   In addition to Dr. Whitney's attentive care, Fay wrote that he was greatly indebted to acting hospital steward S. E. Fuller of Co F, and Chandler Robbins of Co. K.       --   Robbins, (about age 42 at this time) was from Westboro.      He had been a California 49er in the gold rush.  His 1880 obituary in the Westboro Transcript states:

     "He was one of the "forty-niners," going out to California via the Straits of Magellan, on the first ship fitted at Boston for the then new gold regions.      He was connected with the Fremont surveying party there, which was led by the famous path-finder himself and guided by Kit Carson.      In the two years of his absence he had a varied experience, which included surveying, mining and exploring, and few hours captivity among the Indians.    On his return trip, via the Isthmus, the train which carried the proceeds of his labors was robbed, leaving Mr Robbins little but his experience.    His descriptions of what he saw in South America and California furnished many interesting stories for friends at home."

     Mrs. Rebecca Large, of Philadelphia is another memorable character who figures in this story.     Her son, (90th PA) was badly wounded the same day as Fay, and shared a room with him on the lower floor in the front of the house.     When the boy was told the night of May 1st his leg had to be amputated to save his life, he begged the surgeons to await his mother's arrival.

     "The surgeon told him his mother could not come to him, for the War Department had issued strict orders to allow no one not connected with the army to go south of Washington.     The boy replied, "Doctor, you don't know my mother.    She has telegraphed me that she was coming, and she will come."

     Fay continued:
  "In the morning soon after daylight I noticed an ambulance coming up the road.    It drove up to the house and stopped, and to my surprise a woman alighted from it.      She was met at the door by the assistant surgeon, who was on duty at that hour."

     It was Mrs. Large, come to nurse her son.    Dr. Whitney told Fay it was her skilful nursing that saved the boy.

     When the Union army moved north, abandoning Fredericksburg, the Fitzhugh house still had about 35 wounded.     These were men who had not been well enough to be evacuated to Washington.

     The army moved north from Fredericksburg June 14th.  Fay wrote,

    "When the first corps left their camp near our hospital an officer with an ambulance train was sent down to remove us.    There was a heavy thunder-storm that night.  In the darkness and rain he got lost.    When daylight appeared he could see, from the bluffs where he was, the rebel army crossing the river down in front of our hospital about a mile distant.

     The officer became frightened.      He turned his train of empty ambulances northward and started to catch up with the Union army, leaving us to be captured without making any attempt remove us."

     When the staff and patients of the captured hospital were sent to Richmond, Mrs. Large staid with them.      She convinced  Confederate guards to allow her to be interned  at the Libby Prison hospital  with her son, rather than at Castle Thunder, the civilian prison in Richmond.    She continued to care for him and others while she was prisoner.

      John S. Fay and the other patients who survived captivity (several died) were paroled from Libby in mid- July.      Dr. Whitney was not paroled until November.  Fay parted company with the Mrs. Large and her son at Annapolis, Md. July 19.

     Fay recovered from his wounds and was appointed post master of Marlboro, Mass., his home town, by President Andrew Johnson in June, 1865.     He was reappointed by every sitting President from Johnson to Teddy Roosevelt in 1903.      He served as postmaster of Marlboro until his death 1914.     His family has a slip of paper with all the Presidents signatures renewing  the appointment through the years.       Pictured is the Marlboro Post Office at the turn of the last century, a new building then.      I believe the man in front with two canes is Post Master John S. Fay.

      I find it intriguing to attach so many stories to this one place, all documented, in such a brief period of its long history.        I hope the Fitzhugh property is preserved but it seems unlikely at present.  Considering these stories, and its long significant Virginia history, you would think there would be enough interest  from people in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, for someone, or some group of interested parties, to step forward to help save it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Papers of Major Elliot Clark Pierce

The Massachusetts Historical Society has in its collections the personal papers of Major Elliot Clark Pierce of the 13th Mass  The finding aid for the collection (Thayer Family Papers) states the papers include correspondence, commissions, journals and military papers relating to his service in the 13th M.V.M. 1861-1864.  Also, muster rolls, special orders, ordinance and equipment returns, officers' reports, vouchers, passes, discharge papers and post-war correspondence.

      In 2006 I visited the library and transcribed his diary entries for May - July 1864.  In December of last year I received copies of some of his personal war time letters, most of these, from the first year of service.  Pierce was an especial friend of Col. Leonard.  Both Leonard & Pierce were in the express business in Massachusetts.

     As Leonard's friend, it would seem Sergeant-Major Pierce joined the regiment with the promise that he would quickly receive an officer's commission as soon as an opening became available.  Probably all the officers were elected at the time Pierce decided to join the organization. (He states he enlisted July 1st, 1861).

     Favoritism was suspected when Pierce  received his 1st Lieutenant commission in January, 1862.  2nd Lt. Charles B. Fox wrote home to his father in June, 1862 that "two sergeants good men, but no better than others, were jumped over the whole line of 2nd Lieuts.and made 1st Lieutenants."  To his credit, Pierce would prove a brave and capable officer.

    The early letters home to his fiance Mary Ellen Baker, and his sister Fanny, are written in the style of an 'illustrated paper' like Frank Leslie's or Harper's Weekly, popular at that time.   Artist Henry Bacon, (a corporal in Co. D) sketched Pierce a couple of times, and so did Capt. Eben Fiske of Co. G.  Pierce would send the drawings home with a description of the scene.  Pierce has a pleasant writing style. Here is an excerpt from the first letter:

My Dear Patriotic Sister                       

        I am sitting in my own tent, in blue fatigue suit, white shirt, and my hair brushed nicely, whiskers growing and Moustache curling, waiting anxiously the arrival of Genl Geo. B. McClellan who report says visits us to day he is visiting his whole Army they say, and if he finds any such Camp as the 13th I am greatly Mistaken. I wish you could see it. Hamilton + Banks call it a model in point of order and cleanliness. We have been here nearly a fortnight (wonderfull) and really begin to feel at home We are encamped upon a hill From which we have a fine view of the country dotted with white tents for Miles with now and then a brass battery gleaming in the sun “truly guns” ready to be put in position no stove pipes The “boys” have cut down fir trees from the grove just back of us put them in the ground, two in front of each tent, that makes a nice street between each row of tents.

  From what I've deduced from other soldiers' letters, Col. Leonard had an unflappable, good-natured personality. As Leonard's particular friend Pierce's writings give us a glimpse of the Colonel's humor.  Here's another very early letter of Sept. 22, 1861:

       "Thursday morning we were routed out of bed at 2, and ordered to make hot coffee, and  and be in readiness to March in light order.  That is without any baggage but blanket + overcoat, at the earliest moment, in ten min't” hot fires were snapping in ten mins more hot coffee was ready, and we drank and waited  Watching the signals for the one which was to start us.  I gave up and turned in with Arms and boots on, by 3 and slept untill six
I told the Col next morning I wished he would not wake me next time unless he saw the white in the enemys eyes, he smiles and says, we can’t get along without the Sergt-Major."

     I also learned in this early letter that:

Capt Kurtz of Co C. stationed at Frederick is the one that broke up the Maryland Legislature taking 18 prisoners you see the 13th is at work

Here's another account I like from taken from a letter dated March 13, 1862.  It tells of the advance of the army to Winchester, with more personality insights into Col. Leonard and Chaplain Noah Gaylord. (pictured)

      "Our course led us at one time for some distance upon the Ohio + Baltimore  R. R. and we had culverts and cow-catchers any quantity to leap our horses

Being lame – I was not oblidged to do duty with my Co. (H). but rode with the Col. Our Chaplain who makes any amount of fun rode along with us some time – but could not get his horse Billy over the fences and ditches – so had to go round kept us in good spirits – the Col would ride at the worst looking Culvert on purpose to trouble the Chaplin – there there Billy, wont leap that I’m saving him to leap into the enemys ranks. &c. Within two miles of Winchester we found their breast works fortifications & Rifle Pits some of them were left in great hurry. Pick axes shovels and such things were left just as the workers dropped them"

      Unfortunately only a few of these entertaining letters exist in the collection. As the summer campaigns progressed the work got harder.   By July 25, 1862, Pierce was Captain of Co. H.  This was no easy assignment.  Co. H was raised in Natick.  But at Fort Independence, when the regt. was organized, Boston officers were put in command of most all the companies.  There was a good deal of friction between the 'country companies' and the 'Boston' companies at the time.    Pierce experienced this first-hand when he was commissioned 1st Lieutenant and assigned to Company H in January.  Pierce writes his sister, Aug. 3rd, 1862 in another of my favorite letters:

     "You have no idea what a feeling exists in the country companies toward the four City Cos. All the country Cos are jealous, and do not like it if an Officer from the City Company is assigned to their Co. Consequently, Capt Clark had a deal of trouble when he took command of Co H. Supposing me to be a City snob, they were very indignant when I was assigned to the Co. and even wrote to influential friends at home about it. they spoke to Gov. Andrew who wrote to Col Le. Who showed me the letter. This last week Gov. Andrew writes again to Col L. “Can’t you Make some promotions from Co. H ? The people of Natick are clamorous. The Co. want Lt. Pierce now in command for Capt. and a Lt. appointed to the Co. The Col. read this also to me and seemed pleased that the Co. should alter their minds so quick."

  Captain Pierce was wounded "just above the left hip bone", Aug. 30th 1862 at 2nd Bull Run.  The wound was left untreated until the 31st.  Surgeon Clymer of the regiment operated on him.  His friend, William Clark, former Captain of Co. H. (now a civilian), took the train from Boston to Washington, D.C. to check up on Elliot and report to the family.  Clark found Elliot in good spirits, but the end of his note was foreboding.

     "I arrived here this morning (Sept 4)  at 8 o’clock. Eliot is quite comfortable, being without fever since last evening – and having good quarters and attendance. His wound is in an uncomfortable place on the left side where every motion of his body hurts him. ...He is in excellent spirits and I shall use my best efforts to obtain a pass from the Provost Marshall to enable him to get home. I learn with much regret that among the missing is the name of your brother, he is not wounded or killed, as all of both are accounted for. He will probably come in either as a straggler or paroled prisoner"

Clark (pictured) was writing to Mary Ellen Baker, of Weymouth, Elliot's fiancee.  Mary Ellen's brother William Henry Baker, recently turned down acceptance into Harvard University to enroll in the 13th Mass. as a recruit.  He joined Company H, Elliot's company.  Baker arrived with about 90 others August 18, 1862 near Mitchell's Station, Virginia.  He was killed a at Manassas a couple of weeks later.

    Elliot got a furlough from the hospital, (something that was easier for officers to do) returned home to Weymouth, & married Mary Ellen on October 29.

   He was back with the regiment by the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, 1862.  A copy of Col. Leonard's report on the battle was among the papers in the Pierce collection.  Only a few short notes home are among his papers from this time forward.  There is a humorous letter regarding the 'Mud March" in January, 1863, which shows he kept his sense of humor, and a very short note after Gettysburg.  On January 31, 1863, Surgeon John Theodore Heard, (former 13th Mass. Assistant-Surgeon), appointed Pierce Captain with the ambulance corps.  Heard was Medical Director at 1st Corps Head-quarters at this time.  A long note from his friend Clark congratulates him on his good fortune and comments on the military careers of some of the other officers and men in the regiment.

     In  early 1864, his wife, Mary Ellen, visited Elliot at Culpeper,  headquarters of the Ambulance Corps.  She kept a detailed record of her visit in a journal. Pierce noted in his diary,  March 14, she had just left after a visit of 7 weeks.  I have not accessed her journal, but it is supposed to contain descriptions of Army personalities and social events.

     Capt. Pierce was re-called to the regiment, May 1, 1864,  in preparation for Grant's Overland Campaign.  When Major Jacob Parker Gould of the 13th, received his  commission as Colonel of the 59th Mass., Pierce was promoted Major.  His diary of the campaign is all business.  Advancing, fighting, moving, digging, fighting, etc. with out a break until June, when the regiment was before Petersburg. In the interval, Pierce got sick, Col. Leonard got sick, Lt.-Col. Charles Hovey, got sick, each taking turns in command of the regiment. 

     When finally, after 3 years of hard service, it was time for the regiment to go home, its term of enlistment being ended, Pierce was assigned the duty of Division Field Officer in command of the Division Picket line.   He had to stay at the front one day more, making him the last soldier of the 13th Mass. to leave the extreme front lines of the war, (then at Petersburg, Va.).

     Major Pierce took an active part in the 13th Mass veterans post war activities.   He authored two entertaining reminiscences for the 13th Mass. Association Circulars.  One of them, A MIDNIGHT RIDE, can be read at my website.  The other details his time as a Wide Awake in the town of Weymouth, before the start of the war, and his run ins with a boisterous Irishman of a different political persuasion.  When the two accidentally met up during Grant's Va. Campaign, the Irishman, now serving with the 9th Mass.,  quipped,

"Arrah, there, major, I've great rispict for yer and that's the holy trute, for yee's the furst and only damned 'Wide Awake' I've seen since I left Weymouth."

     Although there are few personal letters, there are other valuable snippets of information to be mined from the papers in the collection at the Mass. Historical Society.  These include lists of men detailed for special duty, monthly  lists of officers in command of various companies, obituaries of comrades, and lots of post-war correspondence.  The more knowledgeable you are about the 13th Mass.,  the more useful the papers.

     Pierce died May 21, 1915, and was noted in the 13th Regiment Association Circulars.  His death was keenly felt by his surviving comrades.

       The papers were donated to the Historical Society in 1971.

      They are a valuable resource with interesting bits of colorful and useful insights about the 13th Mass., from one of the organizations leading personalities, a brave, likable and capable leader.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Letters of Albert Liscom - Part 2

I finished transcribing the letters of Albert Liscom, Company C, 13th Mass Vols.  I took digital pictures of the original letters held in the collection of the Carlisle PA Army Archive, when I visited there in July 2012.

I've numbered 73 letters.  (Albert's son claimed there were 91 letters in the collection, so some appear to be missing).  There are about 3 or 4  more letters in the collection that are not written by Albert. Two are written by his Aunt Eliza, one by an Uncle William, one by a soldier named Frank, also in Co. C, (which describes the battle of Bolivar Heights) and an unknown note to 'father' dated 1857, signed Jacob.

One or two of the letters are incomplete, letters and a couple of letter scraps still need to be placed.

I have learned a great deal more about Albert and his family since my previous post about the letters.

His father, Levi was a piano maker who had years of experience making quality instruments with a New Hampshire firm called Dearborn Bros.  Mr Liscom was considering going on his own during the early war period, and Albert occasionally comments on his prospects.  The firm of Dearborn and Liscom was eventually formed.  I found a few items relating to the company along with a picture of one piano bearing the company name.  Albert's father was successful in his business venture and continued making fine pianos for many years.

Surprisingly, the letters with the most important information were the most difficult to transcribe. 

Consider this one.  He wrote over the top of the first page, but once I got to know Albert's hand, and his writing style, I was able to transcribe the faded words underneath, although it took persistence (& photoshop to adjust the contrast).  Of course it turns out to be one of the better letters in the collection.  He is writing from Front Royal about the failed Union  attempt to corner Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862.  Here's what it says underneath the cross writing:

Front Royal
Dear Parents & Sister
          I now take the first opportunity since we left Manassas to write to you for I suppose you are  beginning/starting  to wonder why you did not hear from me.  We left Manassas the next day after I wrote you from there and since that time we have been on the march continually not stopping more than one night [?] in  a place, we have been on[?] some[?] of the roughest  roads I ever saw.  part of the time we marched on the rail road (Saturday) [?] and part of the time on the dirt road and on what
might perhaps be called roads if the bottoms of them in some places had not fallen through.  When we left Manassas, we started on an expedition to try and cut-off Jacksons force and we have been pulled and hauled round among these mountains ever since but as yet our division have not had a chance at him yet...
This letter continues to describe some of the hardships of the campaign and to express contempt for the leadership of General McDowell the division commander.

I have also learned that Albert, had some serious health conditions. I stated in the first post on his letters that he was trying to get an honorable discharge from the service in the fall and winter of 1862, and that he would have done anything short of desert to get it.  I have since discovered a long letter to his father, written from Waterloo, VA, July 19, in which he describes some of his ailments:

" For a long time my teeth have troubled me a great deal.  I find it impossible to live on army rations.  I have to live on such light stuff as I can buy or cobble up myself and it is rather surprising to me how I live on what little I eat, about all we have for rations is hard bread & coffeee for breakfast & supper, for dinner we have salt junk boiled fresh beef or fried beef and once in a great while baked or stewed beans, very often there is no dinner at all, this is the way we live day after day.  I have long ago given up trying to eat salt junk, boiled beef I cannot
eat, and the beef steak I do the best I can with to get the juice and You may ask what I live on, well I hardly know myself.  Corn starch, rice molasses cakes, crackers & cheese, stuff that does not amount to much except to take away the money very fast without warranting good health to follow.  I have got about discouraged trying to live in such a way, my teeth are so far gone that I can hardly bite off a piece of soft bread.  There is not two teeth in my head that I can use, that come square together.  the only tooth that is of any service to me in biting, I expect every day will break off, it is more than half gone now, it is the one next to the eye tooth on the right side.  I cannot chew at all on the left side, my teeth are all broken off even with my
gums from the left side including the eye tooth and following round to the one next the eye tooth - (which has a large cavity in it) on the right side, there is nothing but the hollow stump)  The two teeth running back from the eye tooth on my left side are more than half decayed in fact I have not a whole tooth on my upper jaw.  I have not had any drawn out, all that I have lost - have broken off.  Do you wonder at my feeling hungry?"
In spite of all this, at the time Albert was insisting he wished to do his part honorably in the army.  His big complaint was that his division was kept out of the fighting.

"Last Spring when we crossed the river we expected ...that we were soon to meet the enemy and take our part in the struggle.  But how has it been ?  If that old sesesh Gen Abercrombie had not disobeyed orders, we should have been in that battle at Winchester. And then again if we had been with Gen Banks, where we belong, when he retreated from Winchester, we should have met the enemy there, for Gen Banks said in his speech the other evening that if our brigade had been with him, he would have stood Jackson until reinforcements had arrived.  But for all this we should have met Jackson at Front Royal if McDowell had not avoided it.  And thus it has been, marching from place to place, with nothing but the monotony of camp life."

(The reference to Abercrombie and Banks refer to March, 1862 when several regiments were remomved from Gen. N. P. Banks army, and placed  under command of Gen. John Abercrombie.  Gen. Hartsuff took command of the brigade in May)

These excerpts describe his health condition and discouraged morale. He seems to have had some kind of malnutrition or immune problems.   A few weeks later getting water for the company, he banged a canteen on his knee.  The knee bothered him so much he went lame.  He couldn't keep up during the hard marches of Gen. Pope's retreat..  He eventually fell out of the ranks in mid - August and went to a hospital in Washington.  His teeth continued to deteriorate, and his 'rheumatism' never healed completely.  Knowing he couldn't stand the harsh conditions of a winter campaign or camp he pressed for a discharge.  He eventually got it in mid 1863.

I'll post a bit more on the letters again.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April 30th 1863, 150 Years Ago

     April 30th 1863 was a memorable day, not in a good way, for the 13th Mass.   General Joseph Hooker's army made a flanking march around the Confederate Army entrenched at Fredericksburg.  With 3 Corps, Hooker went north, west, then south, crossing the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers to get a good position to strike at the Confederate line.

     The 1st Corps and 6th Corps were left behind, opposite Fredericksburg, to divert the enemy's attention while the flank march was underway.  The 13th were in the 1st Corps.  John S. Fay recorded in his memoirs:

"The Rebels had artillery in position on the hills about a mile and a quarter back from the river, from which they was trying to shell us but they did not succeed in getting range of us.  It commenced raining in the afternoon and continued to rain at intervals during the night and most of the next day.  The rebels would try to shell us every hour or two, but without effect until about three o’clock in the afternoon, when they succeeded in getting range upon us with a battery of twenty pound guns. About two o’clock a dispatch was read to us from Gen. Hooker stating that he had succeeded in crossing the river at United States Ford…We now knew that our movement was only a feign to draw the rebels down the river from the fords above us.  Gen. Hooker’s dispatch was received with great cheering which so provoked the rebels that they opened a vigorous artillery fire upon us, and advanced their infantry and commenced to skirmish with the first division [across the river]. Our division was en mass, so if a shell fell among us it must hit somebody."

Then it happened, at about 15 minutes past 5 p.m.  George Henry Hill of Company B, recorded it in a letter  to his parents:

"My last letter was written opposite Fredericksburg.  About an hour after it was written the Rebels opened upon us with shell and after firing about a dozen which went over our heads one burst in our regiment killing Capt. Bush & Lieut Cordwell and wounding Corpl Fay of Co F.  They were all sitting just in front of [me] when two of us were playing chess and the brains of Lieut Cordwell scattered all over us.  his head was taken off.   A hairs bredth more elevation and we would have received the benefit of it"

Captain George Bush, Company F, pictured right, had just returned to the regiment from Boston and was giving the men some news when he was struck by the shell in the side.  He died a few moments later.

   Sgt. Enoch C. Pierce who was standing nearby used handkerchiefs to tie a tight tourniquet around Fay's arm using a stick from the shattered rifle to twist it tight until the bleeding stopped.  He did the same for Fay's leg.  Then Pierce and private Andrew J. Mann, carried Fay up a hill behind their lines to the division field hospital.   (Enoch C. Pierce, Pictured).

Fay wrote:

 "When they was carrying me to the hospital, I was satisfied that my leg and arm would have to be amputated, after they got me there and the doctors told me so I requested that Dr. A.W. Whitney of my Regiment should perform the operation. After waiting a few minutes for him to get through with another patient that he was at work upon when they carried me in.  They gave me chloroform and that was the last  that I knew until about half past  eight when I came out of the effects of it and found my right hand and right leg amputated."

Pictured is the Fitzhugh House, formerly Sherwood Forest, the estate of a prominent local resident used as a Field Hospital opposite Fredericksburg in 1863.  Surgeon Allston Whitney of the 13th Mass. had charge of the hospital.  It was here that Fay's two limbs were amputated in one of the front rooms.  Pictured below is the center hall of the mansion.  Photo was copied from the .Spotsylvania Civil War Blog

Fay would survive the trauma, with the dubious distinction of being the most seriously maimed man from the regiment, but his ordeal was not over.  The hospital was captured when the Union Army moved north during the Gettysburg Campaign.  Those that could be evacuated to safety in Washington were moved, but those still recovering  from serious wounds were not.   While still recovering from 2 amputations, Fay would have to endure several weeks captivity at infamous Libby Prison in Richmond.  Dr. Whitney would not abandon his patients and was also incarcerated at Libby - for 4 months.

 The 13th Mass. were again lucky, during the week that followed the shelling.  They were not heavily engaged in the Chancellorsville battles, which were even bloodier than Fredericksburg.  Samuel S. Carleton was killed May 4, and 6 others were wounded during an afternoon reconaissance.

The men  suffered from the usual exposure and had a fatiguing 22 mile march to the front, but in this way it was not unlike some of their other experiences in other campaigns.  One might wonder if April 30th was not the most  memorable event of the campaign for the veterans of the 13th Mass.  Especially since Fay lived a long life and was active in post war regimental activities.