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.