Saturday, July 13, 2019

Petersburg Forts

          My wife and I went to Petersburg on the 4th of July.  More than a year earlier, I went with my friend Brett, and we followed the route of the Army of the Potomac from Spotsylvania, to the North Ana river, and then, eventually down to Petersburg.  We stopped at each location and did some exploring on foot.  At Petersburg we found the field opposite what became known as Fort Crater, where the 13th MA with their Division rolled into a steep railroad cut under enemy fire on June 19, 1864.  They had 1 month left to serve before their 3 year enlistment expired.  Only about 80 of the original 1,000 men were present in the ranks at that time.

         At Petersburg, we took a walk down the Jerusalem Plank road, probably the very same road the happy soldiers traversed to begin their long yearned-for journey home to Massachusetts.  On this trip we also found Fort Warren, later changed to Fort Davis, the fort the 13th Mass helped construct, and the very location from which they departed for home.  It was their last position on the front lines.

       I returned this year to capture some of these places with photographs, something we forewent on that initial exploratory trip.  And, we returned nearly 155 years to the day that the regiment left the front for home.   The temperature hovered around 100 degrees on July 4th, so my wife and I didn’t walk around too much, but we got to experience the same weather the soldiers experienced. 

       What follows are some excerpts from the history of the regiment, "Three Years in the Army";  by Charles E. Davis, Jr., and a few pictures.

"Saturday, June 18, 1864.
     Advanced at daybreak and found the rebels had abandoned their line of last night ; our brigade, which was in the first line, passing over the dead bodies of both armies that laid in our path, driving the enemy’s skirmishers about a mile, when we came in sight of the rebel earthworks.  We then halted and threw up works for our own protection.

Pictured is Fort Morton, looking to what became known as Fort Crater in the distance.  From here the regiment/brigade made the charge described below:

     "We soon made another advance across a field toward the railroad.  A deep cut, dug out for the railroad, passed through the hill about one hundred and fifty yards in front of us, to gain which we had to run the gauntlet of musketry and artillery from the enemy intrenched on a hill the other side of the railroad.  

The Field that was passed through to the deep railroad cut.  The Confederate line was in front of "Fort Crater" in the distance.  They had a clear shot at the approaching Yankees.  I wanted to take a photo from the edge of the cut but the weeds and brush were too high to pass through comfortably.  Plus it was 100 degrees.

     "Word was passed along that a dash was to be made, under fire, directly into this cut, and it was done.  As the men in the front line reached the edge of the cut, fifteen feet high, they jumped over the edge into the soft yielding sand, followed by the men in the rear lines, who came tumbling on top of the first line, before the men could extricate themselves from their uncomfortable predicament, rolling over each other clear to the bottom.  A more ludicrous sight could hardly be imagined in spite of the seriousness of the occasion.   The lines were reformed in the cut.

     Pictured is the railroad cut where today's park road crosses the track.  The cut was deeper in 1864, but some idea can be grasped of the soldiers tumbling over one another as they jumped into the cut and rolled to the bottom.

     "The Thirteenth was then deployed as  skirmishers and marched out of the cut by the right flank partially protected by scattering woods and a ravine, then faced to the front and advanced up the side of the hill where the enemy was intrenched, and where we halted and worked all night throwing up breastworks.  The enemy could be distinctly heard doing the same thing on the top of the hill.

     "A gully made by heavy rains was soon found in this ploughed field extending from the bank of the river to the upper line of earthworks.  This we deepened and extended so as to form a sunken way that could be safely traversed.

     "This hill was afterwards known as “Fort Crater.”

     "We were expecting to make a charge at half-past seven O’clock on the works in front of us, but it was abandoned.

This is the reverse view of the field the Federal Troops charged over into the rr cut.  The picture was taken from the Confederate skirmish line in front of Fort Crater.  The chimney in the center background is the Taylor House ruins. Fort Morton is on the right edge of the field in the background.

     "We had six men wounded.  In building our works, we utilized the dead bodies of the rebels by burying them in the earth which we threw up from the trenches, serving the double purpose of burial and increasing the size of the breastworks.  

"Sunday, June 19. 
     At daylight we found ourselves within a hundred and fifty yards of a rebel fort, high above us on the crest of the hill, with guns staring us in the face.  The rebels were unable to depress their artillery sufficiently to trouble the skirmish line so near them, but the infantry made it lively for us.  Any portion of a human body exposed above the earthworks was sure to draw a perfect shower of bullets.

     "That they might waste as much ammunition as possible, we frequently tried that old gag, so often told, of raising a cap above the works by means of a ramrod to attract their fire.  Collecting the guns of the men who had been killed or wounded, we extracted the ramrods and fired them over into the enemy’s works.  The enemy soon discovered what made the peculiar noise and returned the compliment, until both sides became tired of the novelty.  We had five men wounded during the day." –– END QUOTE.


     After getting these pictures, we proceeded to the site of Fort Davis.  I wanted to go inside the fort, but a nasty moat surrounds it, which prevented climbing up the overgrown sides.  There are some good mentions of this fort from Charles Davis, Austin Stearns and Sam Webster, from which I quote below.

From "Three Years In The Army" by Charles E. Davis, Jr.

"Monday July 11.
     The enemy taking advantage of the quiet which prevailed to-day, and the carelessness that occurs on such occasions, suddenly opened fire with artillery.  For a few minutes the scene was very lively.  Nobody of our regiment was hurt, thought the colonel of the Thirty-ninth Massachusetts was killed. (Col. P. Stearns Davis).

     "At night the regiment was moved back to assist in building Fort Warren, afterward Fort Davis, in honor of the colonel of the Thirty-ninth.

"Wednesday July 13. 
     Still at work on the fort, which was laid out so as to be, when completed four hundred feet square.  It was hard work and continued night and day, the men being relieved every two hours for rest.  It took eight men to get one shovelful of dirt from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the work, the men standing on little niches cut in the side and passing the earth from one to another." –– END QUOTE.

Austin Stearns told a good story about this fort.  He wrote:

     "July 13 “My birthday, and the fourth one since I have been in the service. Spent the day in looking at the works and watching the colored men work.

     "…We are quartered inside the Fort, which is a large five sided one, containing about 2 acres, with a traversee running through the middle.  We are behind the traversee, and as our time is about out we do not feel like work.  I was up on the ramparts watching the Colored men work when Gen’l Warren and Crawford came along.  I heard Warren tell Crawford that he must have some traversees put in on that side, for if the Rebs should shell it there would be nothing to protect the men.  A little while after I saw Rawson up there taking his ease, for it was a great deal cooler there then down in the centre where there was not a breath of air; and the sun pouring down his hottest rays.  Giving Sanborn the wink, and going up so Rawson could hear, I said to Al, “Did you hear what Gen’l Warren told Crawford.”

     “No,” said Al, “what is it?”  “Well,” said I, “Warren told Crawford that if the Rebs should open fire this would be a very unsafe place to be in.”  Rawson said nothing, but got up and went down into the Fort, and didn’t go a rod away from the traversee all day.  I really pitied him.  We boys stayed up, laying around where there was a shade while Rawson lay down, pretending to be asleep in the sun.

     "A brigade of Penn troops were sent to work chopping down the trees in front of the fort.  They went to work in a very systematic manner, cutting the trees part way down and then cutting one at the edge and having it fall on the others, would take down an acre or more.

     "July 14  “Received orders last night to pack up, and turn over our recruits and reenlisted men to the 39th Mass and go to the rear.  …At last, just before sunrise, all was arranged and we were permitted to depart…  We marched from the fort with eighty guns, but when we reached the rear and the teamsters, detailed men, and sick and wounded reported, we had a very respectful regiment."  –– END QUOTE.

I am standing in front of the historical marker for Fort Davis, Petersburg.  The high overgrown bank behind me is the south wall of the fort.  A moat runs around the outside walls.  I'm holding a copy of a map Sam Webster drew in one of his memoirs, with a diagram of the fort, that shows where the 13th MA lined up inside, before marching off to go home.  That spot as indicated on Sam's map, would be inside the fort, directly on the other side of the wall where I am standing.

Sam Webster wrote:

"Thursday, July 14th, 1864

     At sunrise this morning, as the 13th marched out of the Sallyport, I was being transferred to the 39th Mass.   …Lt Rollins, Acting Adjutant, whom I messed with when I joined Co. D, turned us over (some 25 or 30, mostly “substitutes,” but a few old recruits and re-enlisted men) to the Adjutant of the 39th, and then commencing at the left bade them all goodbye…..”

Friday, May 31, 2019

Memorial Day, Westboro, MA, 1879

I was going to follow up the last post with more about Austin Stearns, but seeing we just celebrated another Memorial Day, I thought it might be appropriate to re-visit a previous Memorial Day. The following comes from the Digital Archives of the Westboro Library, where they have digitized their historical newspapers.

Transcribed by Bradley M. Forbush, 2019. NOTE: I have tried to be totally accurate in this transcription by proofreading the names at least twice. Several typos & formatting errors were corrected. When transcribing these long articles, and proofing them invariably mistakes still slip in. I have done my best to fix them. — B.F. April 8, 2019.


Memorial Day.

Memorial day was observed in Westboro by exercises at the Town hall, a procession, and the decorating of soldiers graves. Flags were also floating from the Town Hall, National Straw Works, and at other points, and the stores were closed during the early afternoon hours.

The exercises began at the hall at 2 o’clock P.M. On the platform was the President of the Day and Marshal, J. W. Fairbanks, Esq.; the Orator of the Day, Rev. H. P. DeForest; [DeForest authored the soldiers’ war records for the book “History of Westboro, MA” — B.F.] the Chaplain, Rev. J. P. Forbes; and the Selectmen, Dr. Wm. Curtis, and Messrs. William M. Blake and Israel H. Bullard. Prayer was offered by the chaplain, after which there was singing by a quartette — Mrs. E. B. Harvey, Miss Sadie Arnold, and Messrs. Elijah Eddy and D. P. Brigham — with Miss S. E. Burnap as organist.

The Oration was next in order. The speaker’s theme was patriotism and the political lessons of the war.

Mr. DeForest began by saying he would he were able to speak just the words fit for this hour. The sad and exacting duties of the past week had interfered, but knew that his audience would appreciate the circumstances. He referred to the fact that some would leave the decoration of soldiers’ graves to rain and sunshine, and deprecated such counsel, pleading an observance of the day that the heroic deeds of the fallen might not be forgotten and the lessons they taught lost. After speaking of the attack on the nation’s life and the uprising of the people in defense of the government, he alluded to the suffering of the four years of that terrible war and the suffering that followed, the full measure of which none but the recording angel could tell. He then dwelt at length on patriotism and the duty of American citizens. Never before had the world seen such an army as we had, because it was an army that thought and felt. The main spring of its great uprising was patriotism, and we to-day believe it more than when we witnessed it. It is patriotism that we honor; patriotism which the soldier helped us to see — for patriotism is sacrifice. Having seen the genuine patriotism we are not deceived by the counterfeit. Patriotism is an unselfish love of country. It begins in youth as a sentiment, but does not obtain its growth without education. Patriotism does not say my country right or wrong, but patriotism says my country must be right as far as I can make her right. The true love of patriotism, like all true love, seeks the highest things for her beloved and will not be satisfied with anything else.

Our weapons to-day are ballots and not bullets. The schools and the pulpits and the press are our weapons. The soldiers went forth for need of country and who dare say that the country does not to-day need the services of her loyal sons as when the guns of the rebellion opened fire upon her flag. While there is hope for a united country, with no North, no South, no East, no West, there are extremists in all sections who seek only personal ends. The call for pure patriotism to-day is incessant. The call comes to us from the graves we are about to decorate. “See that we have not died in vain.” The prize they sought may be lost unless we do our duty. The same enemy is seeking to make the ballot a farce, and Congress a political machine. They favor lessing the appropriations for schools, knowing that ignorance among the people is to the advantage of demogogues. The power is in the hands of the people by education and the ballot. The danger is that the people shall fail to exercise their privileges. The country demands education and the purity of the ballot. We should class place hunters and those who will not act as something of the same genus as the copperheads that existed during the war. Many doubt whether a republic like ours can be permanently successful, but it will succeed if the people are intelligent, upright and patriotic. The world looks on us with skeptical unbelief. It is not for us to be skeptical but to believe in our country; else we are not worthy of our brothers — the heroic dead who were not afraid to die for the republic. Days like this arouse latent patriotism and cause people to realize that the claims of patriotism and country are incessant. The same voice that called for troops to suppress the rebellion is calling for us to defend the country’s interests constantly and to the end. We owe it to our country to educate the people, prize righteousness, espouse only the true and honorable, and put no faith in dishonest measures to promote honest ends. By the carelessness and neglect of true citizens, more than from ignorance and corruption is our country in danger.

These are no dead issues which call us here to-day. Let it not pass by unobserved. It is a day sacred to the memory of the patriot dead and the patriot living.

 For want of space and time we give but the above imperfect sketch of Mr. DeForest’s excellent address. It held the undivided attention of the gratified audience during its delivery, and was frequently applauded by sympathizing hearers.

More singing by the quartette was then followed by the closing prayer.

The procession was then formed by the marshal. It consisted of 27 men in line, bearing flowers and wreaths, and two hacks, one occupied by disabled soldiers and the other by officers of the day. Preceded by fife and drum — O. Kimball playing the former and Festus Faulkner beating the latter — and with the national colors waving over its ranks, the procession moved to the several cemeteries, where, with appropriate exercises, they deposited their floral tributes and planted miniature flags. Returning to the soldiers monument, flowers were deposited in memory of the unreturned, after which all united in singing”America” previous to the pronouncement of the benediction by the chaplain.

The entire programme was impressively rendered and successfully carried out. J. W. Fairbanks, Chas. E. Long, M. H. Walker, S. O. Staples and D. S. Witherbee were the committee of arrangements.

The graves of the following persons were then decorated, those marked with an * having died since the war:

Lower Cemetery.
*J. W. Miller, *Samuel Wright, *Henry Ward, *F. A. Wiswall, W. H. Blake, John S. Burnap, *J. F. Robinson, *Alvah Kittredge, *J. H. Holland, D. B. Miller, Capt. G. Orne, Minot C. Adams, *Joseph Cushing, *N. B. Dodge, W. Ferguson, (1812), *S. N. Brigham (navy), *A. E. Harlow, (navy), *W. A. Smith (navy), *Henry H. Hall, *Charles Brigham, *Samuel Brown, *Isaac Gould.

Cemetery between South and School streets.
*Chas. H. Hardy, *J. H. Fairbanks, *Henry A. Harris, *John Harriden, Geo. C. Harriden.

Catholic Cemetery
*P. McCarty, * Wm. Dee, *Michael McCoy, *Martin Stinson.

The Unreturned.
H. W. Bond, John Copeland, Thomas Copeland, George Chickering, Chas. S. Carter, *Patrick Crowe, W. H. Denney, T. Driscoll, James Doherty, *Geo. R. Douglas, H. H. Fairbanks, John Flye, W. H. H. Greenwood, John A. Hart, A. W. Haskell, F. E. Hanley, Frank E. Kempt, *C. W. Kidder, Wm. C. Loker, J. W. Marsh, *H. C. Ross, J. H. Sullivan, H. O. Smith, *A. L. Sanborn, I. E. Walker, P. Casey.

The following is the list of those who died or were killed in the service:

Minot C. Adams, died at Florence, S. C., starvation and neglect, Nov. 1, 1864. William H. Blake, died at Harrisburg, Va., June 6, 1864, while prisoner of war, of wounds received in battle. John S. Burnap, died at Williamsport, Md., of exposure, Dec. 10, 1861. Herbert W. Bond, killed at the battle of the Wilderness, Va., May 6, 1864. Charles S. Carter, died Oct. 22, 1864, of starvation and neglect, at Florence, S. C., while prisoner of war. George S. Chickering, died Nov. 1, 1864, at Florence, S.C., while prisoner of war. John Copeland, died of starvation in Georgia, while prisoner of war. Thomas Copeland, killed at the battle of Centerville, [2nd Bull Run — B.F.] Va., Aug. 30, 1862. Abner W. Haskell, wounded in battle of Deep Run, Aug. 16, 1864, and died soon after. Francis E. Kempt, died at Andersonville, Ga., Oct. 24, 1864, of chronic diarrhoea. William C. Loker, died a Falls Church, Va., Jan. 9, 1865, of typhoid pneumonia. Jeremiah W. Marsh, died of wounds received May 6, 1864. Daniel B. Miller, killed June 15, 1861, at Groton, Ct., by being thrown under the cars while the regiment was on its way to Washington, D.C. Herbert O. Smith, died in Andersonville prison, Aug. 28, 1864, of chronic diarrhoea. James H. Sullivan, killed at the battle of Newborn, N.C., March 14, 1862. Irving E. Walker, died at Florence, S.C., Nov. 1, 1864, of starvation and exposure. William Denny, died in the hospital of typhoid fever. Timothy Driscoll, died of an accident which occurred on the field of battle. Hollis Fairbanks, killed at second battle of Bull Run, Aug. 30, 1862. John Flye, died July 27, 1863, from wounds received in battle of Gettysburg, after lying on the field three days after the battle. William H. H. Greenwood, instantly killed in the battle of the Wilderness, by a bullet through the head, May 6, 1864. Francis E. Hanley, died July 5, 1862, of wounds received in battle. George C. Harriden, died of heart disease at Williamsport, Md., Dec. 22, 1861. John A. Hart, wounded in the battle of the Wilderness from the effects of which he died at Heywood [Harewood? — B.F.] Hospital, Washington, D. C., May 26, 1864.

The following is a complete list of the solders and sailors in the naval service of the United States from the town of Westboro during the rebellion begun in 1861. Adams, Minot C.
Adams, John Q.
Aldrich, Wm. M.
Adrich, Geo. S.
Allen, Augustus
Arnold Abert A.
Bacon, Charles W.
Bailey, David M.
Bailey, Walter
Ballou, Geo. S.
Barker, Ira*
Barstow Sidney
Bartlett, Warren
Beals, Isaiah H.
Bellows, Geo. N.
Bemis, Hiram C.
Bennett, Dexter W.
Berryhill, William ***
Black, Robert
Blackmer, Wm. P.
Blake, William M.
Blake, William F.
Blake, Wm. H.
Blanchard, Chas. W.
Bond, John S.
Bond, Herbert W.
Boulie, Peter
Boutelle, Lewis H.
Bowman, John W.
Boynton, Alden L.
Braley, Ellison L.
Braley, Frank G.
Brigham, Charles E.
Brigham, Calvin L.
Brigham, Dexter P.
Brigham, Albert
Brigham, Charles R.
Brigham, Sam’l N.*
Brigham, Geo. C.
Brigham, Harrison M.
Brigham, Silas H.
Brigham, Francis A.
Brigham, Warren L.
Brown, William
Bullard, Emery
Bullard, Israel H.
Bullard, Martin
Bullard, Francis W.
Burgess, Charles B.
Burnap, John S.
Burnap, Henry A.
Burns, John
Burns, James
Burns, Patrick
Burns, Patrick (2 entries-BF)
Call, G. L. ***
Calverly, John
Card, William J.
Carter, Andrew P.
Carter, Chas. S.
Carter, James D.
Cary, Thomas
Casey, Patrick
Cavey, Michael
Chamberlain, Spencer
Chapin, David N. ++
Chapman, Lorenzo A.
Chase, Frederick D.
Chevalier, Napoleon
Chickering, Geo. S.
Child, Wm. M.
Churchill, Ezra
Clark,Charles E.
Clements, Edward
Clemons, Walter
Cole, Jefferson K.
Conroy, James
Coolidge, Victor
Copeland, John
Copeland, Thomas
Cross, Allan W.
Crowe, Patrick
Crowe, Patrick ++ (2 entries-BF)
Crowe, Michael
Crowe, James
Crowe, John
Crowley, John H.
Cummings, Gilbert, Jr.
Cushman, Wm. H.
Davis, Theodore L.
Davis, Geo. L.
Dee, William
Dee, John
Delano, Reuben
Delevenne, Godfried
Denny, William
Doherty, James
Dolan, Michael
Donovan, Ira L.
Donovan, Jackson
Donovan, Byron
Douglass, George R.
Drayton, Charles
Driscoll, Timothy
Drummond, William H.
Dudley, Edward A.
Dunn, Patrick
Durgin, James F.
Dyer, Thomas B.
Edwards, William H.
Emery, Geo. F.
Estey, Edward S.
Fairbanks, Joseph, H.
Fairbanks, John W.
Fairbanks, Freeman
Fairbanks, Hollis H.
Fairbanks, Henry A.
Fairbanks, Geo. W.
Fairbanks, Willard W.
Fairbanks, Almer A.
Fairbanks, Charles A.
Fairbanks, Benj. N.
Fanin, James
Fannon, Bernard
Fay, William W.
Fay, Charles M.
Fay, Waldo L.
Fayerweather, Geo. T.
Fayerweather, Geo. J.
Fayerweather, Henry E.
Faulkner, David B.
Faulkner, Festus, Jr.
Ferguson, Geo. A.
Ferguson, Henry C.
Fisher, Charles P.
Fisher, William
Flagg, Henry C.
Fletcher, William C.
Fletcher, Geo. W.
Flinn, Patrick
Fly, John
Forbes, Willis A.
Forbush, Alonzo G.
Forbush, William H.
Foster, Henry S.
Foster, John A.
Freeman, Henry A.
Gilmore, John A.
Glidden, John
Goss, Chas. A.
Graham, Roland ***
Green, Myron D.
Greenwood, Charles
Greenwood, Charles O.
Greenwood, Wm. H. H. ++
Greenwood, Abner R.
Hale, Geo. F.
Hanley, Francis E.
Hannon, Michael C.
Haraden, John W.
Haraden, Geo. C.
Hardy, Charles H.
Harlow, Albert E*
Harrenslayer, Fred’k
Harrington, Chas. A.
Harrington, Francis
Harrington Frank A.
Harrington, Edwin F.
Harrington, Charles L.
Harris, Henry A.

Harrison, John K.
Hart, John A.
Hartwell, Geo. E.
Haskell, Lyman
Haskell, Charles B.
Haskell, Abner W.
Hathaway, Bowers C.
Hayward, James
Hazzard, Thomas R.
Heaphy, Patrick
Heath, Carlos T.
Henry, Chas. L.
Hill, John M.
Hodgkins, Hiram G.
Holland, Jas. H.
Howe, Charles M.
Howe, Charles S.
Howe, John W.
Horton, Myron J.
Hudson, Edward
Janes, Elijah C. (not James-BF)

Joan, Antonio
Johnson, John W.
Johnson, William H.
Jones, John
Jones, Samuel R.
Keevan, Edward
Keevan, Thomas
Kelley, John
Kemp, Francis E.
Kidder, Chas. W.
Killkenny, Patrick
Kimball, William B.
Kimball, Frederick W.
Kinders, Samuel B*
Kirkup, Charles A.
Kittredge, Alvah B.
Lackey, Geo. A.
Lackey, Robert S.
Lackey, Charles T.
Lackey, John
Lakin, Geo. B.
Lamson, Charles H.
Laughlin, John
Lebean, Joseph
Lee, Edward
Lincoln, Erastus M.
Little, John
Loker, WIlliam C.
Long, Charles E.

Longley, Joseph G.
Longley, Charles O.
Longley, Geo. A.
Loughlin, Richard
Lovell, Alden
Lowd, Charles 2d
Loud, Albert L.*
Lowell, Edward
Lowheed, Robert H.***
Lucas, Elisha S.
Lynch Michael
Magner, William
Mahoney, James
Mann, Samuel W.
Marsh, Jeremiah W.
Martin, Thomas
McCarthy, Patrick
McCarthy, Daniel ++
McCarthy, John ***
McCoy, William
McCoy, Michael
McCue, Timothy
McHough, Thomas
McKendry, Geo. A.
McNulty, Richard ***
Miller, Josiah W.
Miller, Daniel B.
Miller, William A.
Mitchell, Lowell P.
Mockley, John
Moody, John W.
Morin, John
Morrissey, Andrew
Morse, Geo. B.
Mortimer, Wm. ***
Murphy, Thomas
Murphy, John
Newton, Frank A.
Nichols, Charles O.
Nichols, Augustus F.
Nourse, S. Whitney
O’Dea, Michael
Parker, Chas. O.
Pierce, Chas. H.
Pike, Marshall S.
Powers, Michael
Priest, Edmund H.
Quinn, Martin
Rice, Charles A.
Rice, John
Rice, Henry G.
Rice, Amos
Richards, Henry V.
Robbins, Chandler
Robbins, Arthur W.
Roberts, Edward
Roberts, John ***
Robinson, James F.
Robinson, John T.
Rogers, William E.
Ross, Harvey C.
Russell, Thomas
Sanborn, Alfred L.
Sanderson, John W.
Sandra, Francis H.
Sanger, John W.
Sargent, John G.
Searles, George B.
Searles, George W.
Shambeau, Foster
Shehan, Patrick J.
Sibley, WIlliam H.
Sibley, Prescott
Slattery, James
Slattery, Thomas
Smith, WIlliam A*
Smith, Herbert O.
Squier, Silas P.
Staples, Jeremiah
Staples, Samuel O.
Stevens, William H. ***
Stone, J. Henry
Stone, Frank L.
Stone, Geo. H.
Stone, Frank A.
Stone, Frank S.
Stone, Edgar V.
Sullivan, James H.
Sullivan, Timothy G.
Sullivan, Andrew
Sweeney, J. Frank
Taft, Solomon J.
Tarr, Caleb*
Tidd, Squier S.

Trowbridge, Alfred L.
Turner, Melzar G.
Walker, Lyman S.
Walker, Cephas W.
Walker, Irvin E.
Walker, Melvin H.
Walker, Geo. A.
Wallace, Austin
Ware, Charles A.
Warner, William R.
Warren, Stephen
Warren, Geo. W.
Warren, Harris C.
Weld, Salem T.

Wheeler, John C.
Williams, Charles H.
Winslow, Charles P.
Wiswall, Frederick A.
Witherbee, Daniel T.
WItherbee, Harlan F.
Wood, Edwin D.
Woodman, Robert
Woodside, Samuel
Wright, Joseph W.

Names marked with an * served in the navy; ++ both army and navy; *** secured from other towns for quota by Selectmen.

 Whole number 338 — a patriotic exhibit for a town which had a population of 2,913 souls in 1860, and 3,141 in 1865.

Transcribed by Bradley M. Forbush, 2018. Reviewed and corrected April 8, 2019. Names were double checked each review. Errors were found and corrected. — BF

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Westboro Town Records & Sgt. Austin Stearns Friends

Austin Stearns memoirs begin, “My native town failing to raise a company and hearing that Westboro wanted a few more men to make her company full, six of us Bear Hill boys came over and offered ourselves.   We were voted in and commenced to drill immediately.

…The Company was known as the “Westboro Company,” but men from Shrewsbury, Southboro, Hopkinton, and Upton were in its ranks.”

Sergeant Stearns does not go into more detail than that, about his hometown friends, but the town of Westboro kept impeccable records, and the Westboro Library has been digitizing many of their archival documents from the town’s 300 year history.  Among them are a few papers documenting the Westboro Rifle Company.

From these, we can learn Stearns companions from Bear Hill, were William H. Gassett, his brother Thomas R. Gassett, Jonathan Stearns, Austin’s brother, Willard Wheeler, & Daniel S. Warren.  This is because, the town of Westboro billed the town of Hopkinton for $128.27 to pay for the uniforms and equipments issued to these men, plus another recruit from that town.

Here’s what the men got:

7 Uniforms Coat, Pants, Caps  14.63      102.41
7 Fatigue Suits         2.25        15.75
  7 Haversacks     33 1/3         2.33
7 Bass? Sewing Materials &c      34 2.38
14 Towels       10              1.40
    Bill rendered June 20, 1861        $124.27

2.25     33 1/3     44
1 Fatigue Coat, Havelock. &c  for Remit               3.77
        $ 128.14
Rect Pay 128.14

The Town Selectmen of Westboro had voted at a meeting April 25, 1861, “that the Town appropriate Five Thousand Dollars, to be expended in the purchase of Uniforms — pay of men while Drilling — and for pay in addition to the amount paid by government.

The town of Southboro was billed $319.17 for 19 men on June 20.  The town of Upton was billed $189.02 for 6 men on June 20.  The Southboro bill included 5 weeks pay for drilling the men.   A tally shows the total monies furnished by Westboro and the surrounding towns for outfitting and training the men.

Southboro furnished 18 men and paid their proportion for Uniforms, $327.17

Upton furnished 9 men and paid for Uniforming and board while drilling $189.

Shrewsbury furnished 9 men and paid for Uniforming with fatigue dress $34.58

Total = $550.75


Much of this is documented in the wonderful book, “History of Westborough Massachusetts” by H.P. DeForest and E.C. Bates, 1891.  But the town history leaves out the names of the individual recruits and the amount of money paid from neighboring towns.

Getting back to Austin Stearns friends, they didn’t fare too well.  William [Henry] Gassett, age 18 was wounded at Antietam and was discharged for disability.  Austin Stearns carried his wounded friend off the battlefield.   His brother Thomas age 21, was killed in action at the same battle.  Jonathan Stearns, age 19,  made it through the 3 years service and mustered out August 1, 1864 with his brother. Jonathan settled in Philadelphia. He is rarely mentioned in Austin’s memoir.   Willard Wheeler, age 25, was killed at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.  Dan Warren did okay.  He made it through the 3 year term of enlistment, then re-enlisted into the 39th Regiment, and then the 32nd Regiment.  He mustered out of Federal service June 2, 1865.

Pictured are Dan Warren, left and John Flye, Company K Cooks,  in camp at Williamsport, MD; 1861-62.

The Westboro Library Digital Collections contain some remarkable documents going back to Colonial Days.  Local History Librarian Anthony Vaver has also done a great thing by digitizing the Ebenezer Parkman Diaries.  Parkman was the town’s minister 1724 - Dec. 1792 and he kept a faithful diary for most of the 79 years of his life.

I'll post more about Sergeant Stearns next.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Post War Articles from the Westboro Chronotype

      Last year I was able to search the digital newspaper database at the Westborough, MA Public Library.    I came up with all sorts of wonderful articles, most of them post-war, many of which I have now transcribed.

     The following is from 1884, and I believe it was written by Austin Stearns.  It is the history of Company K of that town.  The author wants people of the town to contribute an equal amount of money as the Boston companies, towards raising a monument to the 13th MA at Gettysburg.

     He is prescient in stating, that to give a history of Company K, is in fact, to give a history of the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac, in the first 3 years of the war.  As the modern-day historian of the regiment, I can attest to that.  The author does a pretty good job of it in this one column.  Perhaps I have been laboring in vain all these years !

      My favorite part of the article, is his list of the town families.  Its nice to see my family represented.  They were one of the first families in Westboro.  Although my G G Grandfather is not specifically mentioned in Austin Stearns memoir, he is listed in the roster, and I'd like to think they were friends after the war.  Although, by the time this article was written, William Henry Forbush had been gone three years.  He died in January, 1881.

     There are a lot more articles like this and perhaps I shall post some more, if they are popular.  Its an easy way to highlight the kind of research I do in addition to building the website.

WESTBORO CHRONOTYPE; February 23, 1884.

The Patriotism of Co. K in the War of the Rebellion.

     In the columns of this paper a few weeks ago was a communication entitled, “The 13th Regiment at Gettysburg,” setting forth the intentions of the regiment to erect a suitable monument which should serve as a memorial for the fallen dead and to mark the spot where the regiment — fought on that of all the hard fought battle-fields — the hardest, and stating what other companies of the regiment were doing, and what was expected of Co. K.

     As twenty-three years have rolled by, since its formation, and a new generation has come up that knew not “K,” perhaps a few words will be interesting for them to read in relation to the amount of labor performed, and hardships endured during its three years of service.

     Co. K was virtually a Westboro company. In its ranks were found the honored names that have been so familiar in the history of the town ever since its first formation — such names as Brigham, Bullard, Burnap, Fay, Fairbanks’, Forbush, Haskell, Robbins, Sibley, Stone, Turner, Walker, Warner and Warren; and of the adopted ones, Copeland, Lee, Lynch and Slattery; in fact almost every family in the town, twenty-three years ago, was represented in its ranks.  While the neighboring towns of Hopkinton, Shrewsbury, Southboro and Upton each sent a squad.

     To write a history of the 13th regiment would be almost to write a history of the first three years of the Army of the Potomac, or I might more truthfully say the 1st army corps.

     Going to the front in July, ’61, the regiment was ordered to the upper waters of the Potomac where it performed picket duty from Harper’s Ferry to Hancock and shared in all the hardships and privations incident to the soldier’s life, with an occasional brush with the enemy.

     Burnap was the first of K to answer to the roll call from the unseen beyond, followed closely by Harriden, both Westboro men, and dying in the winter of ’61-2.

     On the first of March the advance into Virginia was commenced, Martinsburg and Winchester were each in turn occupied, and then the march over the blue ridge to Centreville, Manassas, Warrenton Junction, and Fredericksburg with the “on to Richmond” ringing in their ears.

     There were disappointed hopes when the news of Banks’ disaster in the valley reached them, and they were hurried through Thoroughfare and Manassas Gaps into the valley as fast as weary feet could go to retrieve the loss; back then to Manassas, Warrenton and Culpepper, fighting with Banks at Cedar Mountain, then at the Rapidan from which they turned when Lee let loose his victorious legions upon the little army of Gen. Pope, the fierce shelling at Rappahannock station, the retreat, the holding of Longstreet at Thoroughfare Gap, and the circuitous march through Haymarket, Bristoe and Manassas to join the main army, the terrible disaster at the Second Bull Run, where the angel-reaper, death, gathered a rich harvest of Union slain is well known history.

     Copeland and Fairbanks were K’s offering to the insatiate God of war. Then came the retreat to Centerville, and the turnout at Chantilly, then to the defenses at Washington, across the Potomac and up through pleasant Maryland, “my Maryland,” to Frederick where the advance of Lee was met, and driven from the rugged slopes of South Mountain, and when they again measured their strength with them beside the sluggish Antietam, where its ranks were again thinned and Gassett, Holden, Trask and Wellington gave their lives, and many more were maimed for life. A month of rest and then again the sacred soil was overrun by northern soldiery. Old places were revisited, and on the 12th of December ’62 the Rappahannock river was crossed and the fearful slaughter of Fredericksburg occurred. The 13th, with rare good fortune they were on the skirmish line when after twenty four hours of skirmish work, with empty cartridge boxes they were relieved and ordered to the rear to re-form and re-fill their cartridge boxes, when the line of battle advanced and the action became general but they escaped with few casualties. The battle being lost, the river was recrossed and the regiment went into winter quarters. Then came Burnside’s mud march in mid winter, where more curses than prayers were said, again occupying old quarters, and quietly awaiting the next move in the great drama of war.

     It came at the second Fredericksburg, on the last days of April, ’63, when Cordwell’s head was blown completely off; the rapid march to Chancellorsville where, laboring all night with bayonet and plate, they threw up a line of works and helped to save the right of the army endangered by the breaking of the 11th corps. No vantage gained, only hard fighting; and Chancellorsville was abandoned; the two armies face to face watching each other, on either side of the Rappahannock. Again in motion, while Lee was making his movements behind the ridge, the Union army with rapid strides kept pace — the old first corps covering ninety miles in less than three days. The north was invaded and the two armies with terrific clash, quite unexpectedly to each other met on that quiet afternoon of July 1st at Gettysburg, where the old first corps with almost superhuman strength alone held at bay twice their numbers, till other portions of the army could arrive and occupy the hill — the home of the dead. The noble form of Wheeler, with a bullet through his brain was left upon the field, while Cutting, Flye, Gould, O’Laughlin, and Sprague, with mortal wounds, lingered a few days in pain and then were added to K’s dead.

     The regiment reduced to eighty guns, K to nine, bore an honorable part in the two succeeding days. Lee whipped and in full retreat was closely pursued by the now victorious army. Then the long marches and countermarches from the Potomac to the Rapidan, fording the Rappahannock waist deep in bleak November weather, and when winter was covering the earth with its white mantle, the two armies lay face to face at the well nigh fatal field of Mine Run.

     The elements, as if sickened with the sight of dead and mangled men, seemed to conspire together and after a drenching rain, sent a wintry blast that pierced to the bone, making men bow in meek submission to their wintry rule. They then retreated to winter quarters on the Rapidan where picketing in front of the enemy made it no easy task.

     Almost with the ushering in of the flowery month of May, the fierce struggle was again resumed — fiercer than ever; day followed night, and night day, and still the fight went on; march, fight, fight and march, till strength was almost gone. Through the Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spottsylvania C. H.; Bethesda Church, North anna river, Cold Harbor, White Oak Swamp, and Petersburg; they all bear testimony to the valor of the 13th. Company K bore her part on every field, in every time and place where hard work or harder fighting was required. The men of K were ready even if need be to give their lives for their country, and no citizen of Westboro to-day need blush at their record.

     The rank and file of the army was not composed of rich men and K was no exception.

     Of the dozen or more of the surviving members now living in town, but few can boast much of this world’s goods. Their early friends are gone, with few exceptions, and, as “Veteran” has stated in his communication, the amount that is required to place K on an equal footing with the other companies in the erection of the contemplated monument at Gettysburg should be forthcoming. This appeal is for all the citizens to turn out at the war songs concert that is soon to be given and thus to contribute their mite and listen to those soul stirring and grand old songs that cheered perhaps your comrades, sons, brothers and fathers in the camps, on the march, in the hospital, or may be to the prison pens of the South.

      Come and let us citizens of this good old town that never refused any good and honest appeal of its defenders, turn out and fill the hall that a memorial may be raised to mark the spot that was dyed with the blood of the men of Westboro and her sister towns, who died in the defense of right the supremacy of the Union, and majesty of the law.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Along the Rapidan - Another Musical Post

     I'm currently building pages for my website, Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, detailing the months of September and October, 1863.  The regiment was camped near the Rapidan river in Culpeper County Virginia at this time.   I've had to look beyond the regiment's own writings, to the Brigade and Division to fill out some of the interesting details relating to this time period.

     Raccoon Ford, photo by John Hennessy.

     The histories of the 16th Maine, 83rd New York, and 39th Mass., all proved useful in this respect.  The 39th MA provides the following most interesting account of picket duty along the Rapidan, from the vicinity of  Raccoon Ford to Morton's Ford.  I'm adding links when possible, to add interest to the text, making this, another musical post.

     The "Bonnie Blue Flag" link takes you to a goofy rendition from the movie "Gods & Generals" on youtube, but with the troops singing along it captures the feeling of the real thing.  The next link for "Star Spangled Banner" goes to the Library of Congress American Jukebox site, one of my favorites for sampling these old tunes.  Its a brass band rendition.  Although American Jukebox does have a rendition of "Maryland My Maryland" it is the "Yankee" version of the song, so I've linked instead to a great site called Digital History, for the true "secesh" version.  "Red White & Blue" & "Home Sweet Home" takes you back to the Library of Congress.

      Regarding the reference to "Pennyroyal" I came up empty handed, although I'll bet its a well-known tune under a different title.  I did discover it probably refers in some way to a feeling of loss, and that it may have been written by William Billings, an early American composer of hymns.  Anyone who might know more about this is free to leave a comment below.

      "Old Hundred" or "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" is the popular tune of the Protestant Doxology.  The link goes to a youtube rendition.

     I hope you enjoy this post.
     Somerville Ford, photo by John Hennessy.

     From the 39th MA regimental history:

     In the stillness of the Sunday evening (September 27th) the Confederates in their camp indulged in a prayer-meeting and their hymns, the same that Northern Christians were singing at that very moment in the far away churches, were plainly heard by the hostile soldiery on our side of the stream.  Need there be any wonder that some listeners moralized on the absurdity of men who read the same Bible and sang the same songs, spending several years of their lives, none too long at the longest in shooting at each other?  Here took place the famous exchange of song, so often told in campfires and wherever it is desirable to prove that one touch of Nature makes the whole world kin.  
One night the Rebs. started off on the “Bonnie Blue Flag,” and when their strains had ceased, the Yanks got back at them with the “Star Spangled Banner”; next the Boys in Gray tuned up with “Maryland, My Maryland” and those in Blue naturally retorted with “The Red White and Blue”;  breaking the lull that ensued, our men started John Howard Payne’s immortal and universal “Home Sweet Home”; scarcely had the first note been struck before the sympathetic enemy chimed in, and Virginia woods and hillsides echoed with the tender strains clearly showing how Saxon blood remembers.  On another occasion a musical exchange, beginning with “Pennyroyal,” ran through the list of then popular melodies, though all sang in unison, and very naturally, too, for ending “Old Hundred.”  Will not coming generations wonder that men who could together sing the old songs should ever fight each other?