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.