Sunday, April 20, 2014

The terror of reading the casualty list

Originally from Danbury, N.H., twins Selwin and Samuel Reed were 18 when they joined the 7th New Hampshire
Volunteers from Fisherville (modern-day Penacook) in 1861. Samuel was wounded during the initial assault on Fort
Wagner and later killed in the 7th's fight at Olustee, Fla. Selwin made corporal in 1863 but died of disease soon after.

Anyone who reads newspapers from the Civil War years can sense the terror with which loved ones at home regarded them. In northern towns and small cities most papers were weeklies, but in New Hampshire, for example, the big Boston dailies were delivered by train. People at home knew where their soldiers were and pored over reports of any battle that might involve them.

Casualty lists might appear soon after a battle, but experience taught readers to distrust them. Occasionally a happy story circulated after a soldier was reported killed that in fact he had survived. These stories cheered people because they were the exception, not the rule.

Then 7th's Pvt.  Dexter E. Prichard, 24, of
Boscawen, N.H. was killed at Fort Wagner.
The vast majority of mistakes in casualty lists ran the other way. A dead man had been left off the list or the somewhat hopeful notation that a man was only “slightly wounded” turned out to be false. Thousands of wounded men died slow deaths from dirty medical tools or wrongheaded procedures. The “missing” sometimes disappeared, buried by the enemy in common graves. Some withered away in military prisons.

Particularly in certain climates – Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana – lethal fevers became epidemic. To follow the deaths from these in the newspapers required careful reading. A death from disease might warrant a line or two, but the papers ran no long lists of men killed by sickness. When trains carried a regiment home, especially from Louisiana, wives, mothers and fathers often learned only after searching through train-car windows at the station that their loved ones were dead.

These thoughts occurred to me a couple of days ago when I came across a letter written in 1862 by Harvey H. Martin, a 22-year-old private in the 7th New Hampshire regiment. Wanting to know more about Martin, I Googled him and looked him up in Augustus Ayling’s invaluable register of New Hampshire Civil War soldiers.

I learned that Martin was from Weare, N.H., and had been killed in the 7th New Hampshire’s assault on Fort Wagner, S.C., on July 18, 1863 In Our War I tell the story of this battle through the eyes of a sergeant in the 7th. In near-darkness the men marched across a narrow strip of sand and attacked a fort that had survived a day-long artillery barrage with little human loss. Like the 54th Massachusetts before it, the 7th New Hampshire was slaughtered.

It was hard even to count the casualties, as many were left in the fort and initially reported missing. Wartime reports put the numbers at 41 killed, 119 and 55 missing, but Ayling’s register, published much later, lists 77 dead. The death of many of the missing probably accounts for the discrepancy.

Pvt. Warren E. Kimball of Salem was badly
wounded at Fort Wagner and taken prisoner. He
died in Charleston the day after the battle.
Eleven officers, including the regiment’s colonel, Haldimand S. Putnam, were killed. One has to be careful about accepting such claims, but after the war it was said that the 7th’s loss of officers was the greatest for any Union regiment in a single battle.

My search also turned up a contemporary casualty list for the battle. It ran in the New York Times on July 28, 10 days after the battle. The Times listed dead, wounded and missing from New York and New England regiments. The editor who prepared the list noted optimistically: “It must be remembered, however, that very many are included whose wounds will not incapacitate them for active duty for more than a few days.”

In the event, although some of the wounded did indeed recover, the true casualty list was far grimmer than the one in the Times. I compared the newspaper’s list for two companies – Harvey Martin’s Co. D and one chosen at random, Co. H – with the Ayling register.

In Co. D, only one wounded man died – 19-year-old Pvt. George W.F. Stevens of Somersworth, N.H., who was taken to Charleston by the rebels and died five days after the battle. At least six of the missing, including Martin, were already dead or soon would be. The other five were Gilbert F. Dustin, 27, the first sergeant from Hopkinton, and Pvts. Alonzo A. Busher, 20, of Chester, Jesse F. Cleaves, 22, and Benjamin W. Colby, 43, both of Somersworth, and Michael McKone, 23, of Dover. McKone died in a Richmond prison five months after the battle. Another missing man, 19-year-old Samuel A. Wood of Stoddard, was never heard from again.

Co. H fared even worse. Six of its wounded and seven of its missing died.

As you scan the list of 7th New Hampshire casualties, think what it must have been like for the families, friends and neighbors of soldiers from this regiment to read the list. The worry and dread these readers experienced spread across both North and South after every big battle.     

The Times headline on the list read:

THE REPULSE AT FORT WAGNER

Partial Lists of Killed and Wounded in the New-York and New-England Regiments

Under “SEVENTH NEW-HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT,” here’s the list:

Field and Staff.

Col. H.S. Putnam -- killed.
Adjt. H.G. Webber -- contusion.
Sergt.-Maj. G.F. McCabe -- wounded.

COMPANY A.

Wounded.

Sergt. B. Cummings.
Corp. L. Miller.
Corp. A.H. Fess.
Corp. C.P. Aldneson.
Corp. A. Bell.
C.F. Grinnell.
R. Greenwood.
O.P. Hanscomb.
T. Haren.
J. Hobin.
E. Poor.
Missing.
Corp. A.L. Foss.
W.P. Henry.
-- Ingerson.
J. Stone.
J.W. White.

COMPANY B.

Killed.

1st Lieut. Ezra Davis.

Wounded.

2d Lieut. George Taylor -- severely.
Corp. Hunt -- severely.
Thomas Morse -- slightly.
B.R. Pratt -- slightly.
Sergt. Lawrence -- slightly.
Sergt. Lymington -- slightly.
Corp. Dodge.
Henry Davis.
D. Nichols.
G.W. Page.

Missing.

D. Towle.
J.A. Stevens.
Charles Newell.
J.D. Meserve.
J. Hays.
J.B. Hall.
L. Gould.
D.A. Davis.
C.E. Bailey.
L.H. Cummings.
George Vincent.

COMPANY C.

Wounded.

Capt J.B. House, severely.
Corp. J.H. Harris.
Corp. M. Rowes.
S. Applebee.
J.L. Currier.
C. Hall.
D. Pettengill.
A.A. Smith.
F.W. Sleeper.

Missing.

1st Lieut. A.H. Cate, supposed dead
2d Lieut. A.J. Lane, supposed dead.
Sergt. C.E. Chase.
Sergt. E.A. Bruce.
Sergt. D.F. Hinksens.
C.A. Brown.
-- Clark.
H.J. Gile.
H.A. Healey.
S.D. Smith.
C. Nevins.
C.F. Lee.
J. Luoey.
J.L. Corliss.
S.D. Smith.
E.H. Stark.

COMPANY D.

Killed.

2d Lieut. A.N. Bennett.

Wounded.

1st Lieut. W.C. Knowlton, slightly.
Corp. J.H. Caldwell.
Corp. L. Emery.
Corp. Geo. W. Berry.
Corp. O G. Burtt.
C.L. Farmer.
P. Griffin.
H.D. Harris.
J.M. Kenneston.
J.G. Sargent.
George W.F. Stevens.
Jos. Stone.

Missing.

1st Sergt. J.F. Dustin.
Corp. Harvey W. Martin.
A.M. Hind.
A.A. Busher.
J. Cleavis.
B.W Colby.
C. Grant.
M. McKone.
S.A. Wood.

COMPANY E.

Wounded.

Corp. R. O. Farrand.
O.B. Abbott.
Geo. W. Elliott.
Charles Stevens.

Private Bradford H. Holmes, 20, of Concord, was listed as missing, but
he had been killed in the battle. 
Missing.

2d Lieut. H.W. Baker
Sergt. A.G. Stearns.
Sergt. Geo. W. Haven.
Sergt. Jos. W. Teal.
L.F. Conner.
E. Daggett.
Geo. Gilman.
John Glancy.
W.E. Kimball.
B.H. Holmes.
Samuel McElery.
R. Nolan.
D. Pritohard.
L.G. Raymond.

COMPANY F.

Wounded.

Corp. M.V.B. Perkins.
Corp. J.C. Bickford.
Corp. M. Hanson.
A.L. Litchfield.
Robert Alsop.
G. Dudley.
W. Wentworth.
A. Wentworth.
J. Welch.
F. Dunn.
G.W. Ripley.
G.E. Barrett.
P. Hangley.
J.A. Rand.
Samuel Downias
J. Perkins.
D.C. Brown.
J.A. Welch.
G.F. Smith.
P. Maguire.

Missing.

Sergt. F.F. Meeder.
Corp. J.M. Durgin.
F.J. Bradford.
A.H. Blake.
J.N Patterson.
E. Perking.
O. Peirson.
J.L. Sinclair.

COMPANY G.

Killed.

Capt. H.B. Leavitt.

Wounded.

1st Lt. P.C. Ham -- severely.
Sergt. J.W. West.
Sergt. J.A. Jacobs.
Corp. G.A. Bridger.
Corp. M.H. Tash.
J.T. Colbath.
J. Gooley.
J. White.

Missing.

W. Campbell.
J. Cotar.
L.E. Edgerly.
M. Riley.
L. Whidden.
H.W. Nilley.
T.C. Young.

COMPANY H.

Wounded.

Capt. W.W. Ames -- slightly.
1st Lieut. J.H. Worcester -- missing.
Sergts. W.F. Spaulding.
Sergt. F. Lovejoy.
Corp. W.J. Spaulding.
Corp. D.W. Hayden.
Corp. O. Robinson.
C.E. Arlin.
J.P. Bills.
A.E. Burrell.
M.H. Brown.
D.E. Caverley.
J.H. Chase.
W.B. Dow.
B.F. French.
J.L. Garland.
C.A. Hale.
Warren Lewis.
J.M. Ladd.
G.E. Marshal
C.H. Ordway.
Wm. Stevens.
Rufus Ward.

Missing.

Corp. J.N. Perkins.
O. Abbott.
A.J. Berry.
J.C. Howard.
F.P. Head.
F.K. Hoyt.
W.W. Mayo.
J.C. Morrell.
E.M. Nelson.
F.B. Robinson.
J.C Relation.

COMPANY I.

Wounded.

1st Lieut Charles Cain -- severely.

Missing.

Sergt. C.E. McPherson.
Corp. M. Mulligan.
W.P. Elliot.
W.H. Farmer.
J.H. Gregg.
E.B. Hodgman.
M.H. Hawkins.
J.H. Smith.
Samuel Thompson.
Albert W. Worcester.
Sergt. Bachder.
Sergt. Brown.
Corp. C.A. Rowell.
W.R. Bixby.
Pat Brown.

COMPANY K.

Killed.

Capt. W.E.F. Brown.

Wounded.

1st Lieut. L.W. Fogg slightly.
Sergt. Hadley.
Geo. Rainy.
Josiah Gage.
Albert Gammett.
Paul Whipple.
James York.
Levi Pitman.
Missing.
Hugh McDoyle.
Charles Clark.

Lorenzo Rodgers.

Friday, April 18, 2014

An immigrant goes to war on a South Carolina island (two)

Part one of Henry S. Hamilton's story is here.

The 3rd New Hampshire band. Henry Hamilton is the third cornet player from the right in front row. The picture is one
of many shot by Concord photographer Henry P. Moore at Port Royal, S.C. A chapter  in Our War tells Moore's story. 
 In the late spring of 1861, when Henry S. Hamilton arrived in Concord, N.H., war was all the talk. Southern secessionists had fired on Fort Sumter in April, and the young men of Concord were rushing to arms.

Closeup of Hamilton from
the photo above.
Hamilton was an immigrant from England and a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 10th Infantry Regiment. After duty in Minnesota and Utah, he came to Concord at the invitation of Joe Stark, an army buddy and a descendant of John Stark, New Hampshire’s Revolutionary War hero.

Stark had no desire to serve further in the military or to run the family farm. In 1860, a prospector named Elias Pierce had found gold in Idaho, then part of Washington Territory. With his new wife, Stark joined the rush for the gold fields on Nez Perce tribal land.

Had Stark not left, he might have faced the scorn of his fellow citizens. Hamilton described the atmosphere in New Hampshire’s war-obsessed capital in his memoir, Reminiscences of a Veteran: “As the stay-at-homes remarked, it required less courage to go than it did to remain at home.”

Hamilton had no home to stay in. A former bugler, he had joined a Concord band shortly after arriving to town. When he heard that the band-master, Gustavus W. Ingalls, was recruiting a 24-musician band for the 3rd New Hampshire Volunteers, he signed up. Like most of the 24, he played the back-firing cornet.

In August 1861, the regiment camped for training on a flat patch of the intervale just east of the Merrimack River in Concord. They did not have time to learn much, but camp life was eventful. A private from Laconia cut his throat with a razor for want of liquor, and another from Manchester nearly drowned bathing in the river. The men were issued gray uniforms and muskets with a promise of receiving Enfield rifles, which, as Hamilton noted, cost $23.50 each plus a shipping charge.

Col. Enoch Q. Fellows
Their colonel was Enoch Q. Fellows, a 36-year-old from Sandwich, N.H. He had gone to West Point (Class of 1848) but not graduated. Before the war he had served as doorkeeper of the state Senate and inspector at the Boston Customs House.

On Sept. 1, the regiment turned out for the first time in uniform and full gear. The sun was so hot that several men fainted and a few suffered sunstroke. Two days later, the regiment marched across the bridge and to the Concord train station to the music of its own band and the Concord Serenade Band.
Hamilton wrote of the regiment’s departure with bittersweet feelings:

“It was inspiring to witness the thousands of people, from all parts of the state, who had congregated in the streets and at the station – parents, wives, sisters, and sweethearts – crowding for a last kiss, a shake of the hand, and, with tears dimming many eyes, a last fond look at loved ones, whom they might never, (and in many cases did not) see again.

“I was much depressed at seeing such expressions of affection, for I knew that in that vast throng, not a pang and scarcely a thought was for me. Still, I was comforted by the assurance that across the ocean, in a little ivy-covered cottage by the sea, a fond mother daily prayed for the safety of her wandering boy.”

Just before the train pulled out, the Concord band played “Auld Lang Syne,” and well-wishers gave the regiment one more cheer. Hamilton was impressed with the flags waving in every city along the way until the 3rd reached Maryland. There “the American flag was conspicuous by its absence, and it was evident that disloyalty was rampant among most of the inhabitants.”

The regiment took a steamer to Port Royal, S.C., arriving on Nov. 7 after a voyage of 3½ weeks. Hamilton liked the look of the place. “It was only an island, but fertile and picturesque,” he wrote, “with its beautiful groves of Southern pine, magnificent live oaks, festooned with light green trailing moss, which is one of the pleasing features of a Southern forest, palmetto trees, more noted than beautiful, the stately magnolia, with its gorgeous and fragrant blossoms, groves of oleanders, orange and lemon trees, sea island cotton, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, peanuts, melons, and every kind of vegetable.” Amid all this lushness alligators, wood-ticks, fleas and mosquitoes also throve.

With a contraband cleaning boots to their right, three honchos of the 3rd New Hampshire band pose before the band-master's tent. The three are Gustavas W. Ingalls, the band-master, Samuel F. Brown, treasurer, and D. Arthur Brown, deputy band-master. The photo is by Henry P. Moore of Concord.
The men were marched to a 200-acre cotton field where the bolls were ready for picking. They destroyed the crop and pitched their tents. After making camp many men went out and foraged peanuts. The next morning they harvested oysters for breakfast from a nearby creek.

Hamilton and a few others took an excursion to investigate local plantations. The first three they visited had been looted, but they persisted. Six miles from camp, they found an abandoned plantation house still furnished. They took oranges from the trees in the yard. They dressed a sheep and lugged half of it back to camp. Hamilton carried off a few books and pictures.

This plantation house on Edisto Island served as Col. Enoch Q. Fellows's headquarters. (Henry P. Moore photo)
A short time later he went on a six-day reconnaissance mission headed by Lt. Col. John H. Jackson, a 46-year-old Mexican War veteran from Portsmouth, N.H. Hamilton acted as the party’s bugler.

The men went to several islands and to Bluffton, S.C., but encountered few enemy soldiers. They did bring back the usual haul of booty – a silk umbrella, a baby carriage filled with bedding and choice walking sticks. Henry Hill, the chaplain from Manchester, rode back to camp with a bag of curled hair. Hamilton, who took an ornament from the pulpit of a church, presumed Hill would use the hair to stuff a pillow.

In camp the men dug wells and hauled in palm fronts and branches for shade, but they could not ward off the diseases of a warm climate. Ingalls’s band played at many a funeral.

A back-firing cornet hanging from the tent pole, three members of Gus
Ingalls's band pose for Concord photographer Henry P. Moore.  
On some spring evenings the band played at the wharf on Edisto Island, where former slaves, now considered contrabands of war, were still working the plantations. The black workers gathered round, and on a signal from Col. Fellows, the band struck up “Dixie,” their favorite dance tune. It made “the contrabands fairly wild," Hamilton wrote. "For half an hour they would give vent to their feelings by the liveliest plantation breakdowns, contortions, and grimaces, to the delight of both officers and men.”

Hamilton knew the men in the ranks whispered about the musicians. “Sneering remarks are sometimes heard respecting regimental bands – how lazy and what a useless appendage they are – but let a regiment be deprived of music, if only for a short time, and their services are appreciated.”

Neither the infantrymen nor the horn-players knew that the ennui of camp life, looting raids and pleasant evenings of music were about to end for the 3rd New Hampshire. In mid-June of 1862, orders came for a major reconnaissance of James Island, near Charleston. The regiment’s war was about to begin.

Next: The battle of James Island and the end of Henry S. Hamilton’s war.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The hit parade and scenes from the war

Print of New Hampshire's coastal port, where the 2nd New Hampshire mustered in 1861.  
Part two of Henry Hamilton’s story is coming soon, but first . . .

March was a record month for traffic on the Our War blog, with more than 3,200 hits. The total has surpassed 31,000. Thank you.

To illustrate this post I thought I’d put up a few recent New Hampshire items that have appeared on eBay. 

And, as I did last month, I’ll start by recommending a few posts that I like which are not on the most popular lists.

Sleepers

‘Oh this pen cannot describe my feelings’: A mother laments that her only son has gone off to war. 

‘The whole face of nature smiled at harvest time’: The 14th New Hampshire in battle at Winchester.

Remembering Lincoln: The thoughts of a New Hampshire U.S. senator who knew him well.

‘It would be a pleasure to linger here’: A New Hampshire reporter writes from Gettysburg.

Captain Gordon’s war: From the letters of a 2nd New Hampshire officer.

From Fredericksburg to war’s end: A pious private’s life at the front. 

A Confederate captain at Gettysburg: An articulate rebel tells the other side of the story

Making the Civil War relevant: A teacher’s thoughts about the Civil War and young people. 

Ambrotype of an unidentified 7th New Hampshire soldier. 
Busiest posts since Feb. 15

Recent posts about the circus impresario Yankee Robinson and Col. Edward E. Cross’s ride to Gettysburg shot quickly to the top in readership of posts from the last two months.











Leaf of a 1982 book purporting to show uniforms of original 7th New Hampshire Volunteers 
All-time Top 25

“A Gettysburg veteran who knew the battlefield by heart,” the story of Charles Hale’s postwar work as a guide at the battlefield, continues to climb on the list. Two relatively early posts have also moved into the rankings. Hits on the top 25 posts range from 174 to 548. The number in parentheses is last month’s ranking.


















18. History’s touch (16)



21. My friend Chester (20)




Saturday, April 12, 2014

Coming to America: An immigrant horn player takes the grand tour, courtesy of Uncle Sam (part one)

Had there been such a concept in the mid-19th century, Henry S. Hamilton would almost certainly have been declared an illegal alien. After all, he ran away from a 14-year commitment to the British Army, sneaked onto a steamer in Liverpool and boarded a ship for America.

From there Hamilton’s story took a hard turn, followed by an ironic turn. Much later, as a productive and esteemed private citizen, he married a descendent of New Hampshire’s preeminent Revolutionary War hero, John Stark.


An 1835 map of Lynn, the walled port town where Hamilton was born. 
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Hamilton left us his life story in an 1897 memoir called Reminiscences of a Veteran. Let’s start at the beginning.      

Hamilton was the third of 11 children born to a bricklayer and his wife in Lynn, also known as King’s Lynn, a walled borough town in Norfolk County on the east coast of England. After he finished the local academy at the age of 13, his father apprenticed him to a printer for seven years.

Hamilton hated the printer. The pay was meager (the equivalent of a quarter a week to start), but worse, the printer abused him. One day, when Hamilton was 19, the printer kicked him for taking a dinner hour that the printer considered too long. Hamilton lashed back.

He ran away from the apprenticeship on May 1, 1854. In Cambridge he enlisted in the 11th Hussars with the promise of going to the Crimean war. He traveled to London, where with a contingent of 50 recruits, he was lowered onto the straw-covered floor of a steamer’s hold. The men made their beds of the straw.

The South Gate of Lynn, a walled town (see map above).
Of his comrades, Hamilton expressed a feeling common to new soldiers. “Here were wealth and poverty, intelligence and ignorance side by side, but all were animated by the same purpose: all willing to share alike the dangers and privations of war.”

The lure of camaraderie faded during cavalry training in Ireland. “I began to think that the wearing of a gaudy regimental suit, with clanking sword and jingling spurs, was not all pleasure,” Hamilton wrote, “and that the printing office was not the hardest place after all.”

Sheepishly he asked his father for money to buy his discharge. His father sent 25 pounds, but Henry had trouble converting the note to cash. He went AWOL, came back and was sent to the guardhouse. When he finally got his cash, he ran again and took a boat across the Irish Sea from Dublin to Liverpool. There he boarded the Isaac Wright, one of 413 passengers setting sail for America.

“It would be impossible to describe my feelings at that instant,” he wrote. “I felt sad, and at the same time glad. My sadness was caused by the thought of leaving home and friends, without even the privilege of bidding them good-by – friends whom, in all probability, I would never see again, and going to a foreign land, among entire strangers. While I was glad to think I was escaping from cruel hardship, and going to a country whose government recognized no titles, where rich and poor, high and low, all shared alike.”
He added a couplet from a schoolboy song called “Cheer, Boys, Cheer”: 

Here we had toil and little to reward us,
But there shall plenty shine upon our pains.

The voyage took six weeks. Food was scarce, quarters cramped, and the ship hit a three-day storm in the mid-Atlantic. The tedium of the journey soon overtook Hamilton’s sense of adventure. By the time the storm hit, “all the romance of a sea voyage, which had been conjured up in my youth by a perusal of Robinson Crusoe and similar books, had well-nigh died out.” He rejoiced at the sight of tugboats heading out to guide the Isaac Wright into New York harbor.

A boarding-house shyster and others relieved Hamilton of all his money his first day ashore. Together with a shipboard friend, he walked to Albany, then Troy, and started for Buffalo, nearly 300 miles away, looking for work. Nowhere could Hamilton find a printing job. He gave up, trudged back to Albany and, on Oct. 14, 1854, enlisted for five years in the U.S. Army.

Jesse Gove of Concord, N.H., Hamilton's commanding officer.
He trained in the Northeast and made sergeant in the 10th U.S. Regulars. His company commander was Capt. Jesse Gove* of Concord, N.H., whom he saw as “a brilliant officer and a perfect gentleman” but also a tough disciplinarian. While some Southern officers treated their men as slaves, Hamilton wrote, Gove considered them human beings.

Gove’s wife, “one of Concord’s fair daughters, accompanied her husband in all his early campaigns, and proved herself in this, as in all other things, the captain’s brave and noble helpmeet.” At Fort Ridgely in Minnesota, the Goves had a daughter, whom they named Jessie Ridgely Gove. She became “the daughter of the regiment,” Hamilton wrote.

He never forgot an order early in his service to flog a man who had been caught running away. Of course, he himself had fled the British army twice. Reluctantly, and as quickly as he could, he delivered 50 lashes with a knotted rope. “Throughout this punishment my sufferings, mentally, were equal to those of the culprit,” Hamilton wrote. “It was a great shock to me, and I felt ashamed, disgusted and sad at the spectacle before me.”

The man was drummed out of service. When Hamilton saw him downtown, the man thanked him for his speedy lashes. “I never felt so mean in the presence of anyone before,” Hamilton wrote.

A later stereoscopic view of Old Bets, a woman who comforted Sioux prisoners at Fort Ridgely  in 1862.
A bugler early in his service, he accepted the bandmaster’s invitation to join the band. In October 1855, he discarded books, clothing and other possessions for the trip to Fort Snelling, Minn. Out of that fort and Fort Ridgely, 150 miles north, the regiment’s mission was to keep the Sioux in check. When the 10th relieved the garrison at Ridgely, the Sioux came in to meet them. Hamilton described the encounter:

“They formed in one mass, old and young, and with droning voices, in unison, with orchestral accompaniment – the latter consisting of two small kegs with a skin drawn tightly over one end, which was pounded with sticks – commenced a dance, which was nothing more than clumsy springs about two inches from the ground. At intervals of a few minutes they would stop and give a war-whoop, consisting of ear-splitting shrieks and yells; then one of the chiefs would step into the centre and deliver a short oration, which must have been quite interesting, from the applause given, which, by the way, was not by clapping of hands or stamping of feet, but by grunts, as ‘ough, ough’; then another war whoop, when dancing was again resumed.

“As it was so warm, their clothing was rather scant, consisting only of breech cloth, and their faces and bodies were painted in every conceivable color, no two being alike. The dance continued for about two hours, in a very hot sun, causing the perspiration to run in streams down their bodies, and badly mixing the colors.” 

Fort Ridgely. This drawing was made after the Sioux Uprising of 1862.
The post’s colonel gave the visitors an old ox. They killed the animal and cooked it by throwing chunks on the embers just long enough to singe off hair and scorch the meat. Then they “ravenously devoured it as might be expected from a pack of wolves.”

The soldiers often saw the Sioux hanging around army cookhouses. “I never saw an Indian, no matter how much he had eaten, who could not always eat as much more as you chose to give him,” wrote Hamilton. “It has been said, and I believe with some truth, that they can eat enough at one meal to last them an entire week.”

He saw Sioux women as “drudges” who did nothing but work. “How wonderfully the Indian woman differs from the white, in regard to dress! Her whole thought is in the appearance of her husband, while with her pale-faced sisters the idea is reversed.” 

Brigham Young, leader of the Mormons.
In May 1857, the regiment left Sioux country for Fort Leavenworth, Kans., to prepare for the long march to Salt Lake City. They were to escort newly appointed judges and Alfred Cumming, the Georgian whom President James Buchanan had chosen as governor of the Utah Territory. Cumming was to replace Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, who did not wish to be replaced. The government sent along 2,500 troops under Col. Albert Sydney Johnston because, based on recent history, it expected trouble from the Mormons.

The troops started west on July 18. On the trail Hamilton befriend Josephus Stark, a descendant of John Stark, the Revolutionary War general who won the battle of Bennington and gave New Hampshire its motto, “Live Free or Die.” Young Stark was a big man – 6 feet, 200-plus pounds – who played the drum and constantly bragged about Concord, his hometown. Whatever scene of pleasure the army encountered, Stark insisted that Concord had something newer, better or more beautiful. His friends nicknamed him “Concord, New Hampshire.”

It took months for the six-mile train to come near Utah. When it did, Young was ready. Mormons harassed the expedition, burning the grass to rob the livestock of food. They rode into camp and drove off horses and mules. They attacked corrals, destroyed 75 wagons and sent threatening letters to the caravan’s leaders.

As winter approached, the weather became the Mormons’ ally. Five hundred animals died in the cold. At Fort Bridger, the soldiers went hungry. Mormons hung around outside so that whenever men went to search for supplies, they had to go in large groups. Young taunted the garrison, sending a party to say he had heard it was out of salt and to offer some. Johnston refused, but a few soldiers followed the Mormons out of the fort and brought back salt.

Cumming, meanwhile, had been making nice with Young. Escorted by Mormons, he left his military entourage behind and went to Salt Lake City on June 1, 1858. Young had finagled a way to retain power while Cumming served as the territory’s nominal governor.

Hamilton and his fellow soldiers followed these events from outside the city and pondered the bellicose and even apocalyptic rhetoric of Mormon leaders.

Harper's Weekly cartoon depicts Young and other men arming their many wives for battle with the U.S. Army.
The Deseret News, the Mormon newspaper, wrote of “the cord that bound the Saints to the World,” suggesting: “When a military force was sent to Utah to kill (Young) and his people, then would be the time to cut it.” Brother Heber Kimball’s benediction to his flock went like this: “Send 2,500 troops here, my brethren, to make a desolation of this people! God Almighty helping me, I will fight until there is not a drop of blood left in my veins. Good God! I have wives enough to whip out the United States! Amen!”

On June 26, nearly a year after leaving Fort Leavenworth, Gen. Johnston’s 2,500 men finally marched into Salt Lake City. They found the houses deserted, windows boarded up. The silence was eerie.Hamilton wrote of an incident that sealed the troops’ distrust of Gov. Cumming. It began on Aug. 10, after Johnston’s men had left Salt Lake City and settled into Camp Floyd in the Rush Valley. Howard Spencer, the son of a Mormon Bishop, argued with Sgt. Ralph Pike, of Hebron, N.H., a man in Hamilton’s company. Pike later said Spencer threatened him with a pitchfork. Pike swung his rifle and struck Spencer in the head with the butt.

The Mormons immediately arrested Pike and charged him with assault with intent to kill. He appeared court, pleaded not guilty and headed for the Salt Lake House, the leading hotel in Salt Lake City. Spencer approached him from behind, asked if he was Pike and shot him in the side with a pistol. He rode away with several well-known “Danites,” members of a Mormon fraternal group.

Pike died after two days in pain. The Deseret News praised Spencer for his courage. But what angered Pike’s comrades most was that Spencer escaped justice, and Cumming did not protest. The soldiers of Co. I nearly mutinied, Hamilton wrote, and threatened to destroy Salt Lake City. Spencer arrested – and acquitted – in 1889, 31 years after the killing.

Hamilton, who had fled the English army to seek a new life in America, had now seen the country the hard way. He had lived among the Sioux in Minnesota, trekked to the Far West, survived the cold and hunger of a winter in hostile territory and seen the Mormons defy federal efforts to control them.

He left the army and traveled east to the Plains with Stark, his friend from Concord. Stark eventually went home, but he wrote regularly to Hamilton. When the secession crisis broke out, he invited Hamilton to New Hampshire.

“I was advised by friends in Nebraska not to go there,’ Hamilton wrote, for they said the state was all rocks: but the glowing accounts Stark gave of it, and the way he had always spoken of the old Granite States, had considerable weight with me.”

In May 1861, Hamilton hopped a train in Missouri and began the three-day trip to Concord. It was raining when he reached the station. He met a man who knew the Stark family and started for the Stark farmhouse two miles away.

Joe Stark welcomed him with open arms. Hamilton noted that as much as Stark loved his violin, he had little interest in farming his 70 acres. But Concord would soon become the staging ground for Hamilton’s next adventure – more soldiering – and in time the Stark household would provide him with a wife.

Next: Making music in the Civil War.

(Go directly to part two of Henry S. Hamilton's story.)

*Gove, a native of Dunbarton, N.H., was later colonel of the 22nd Massachusetts. He was killed on June 22, 1862, leading the regiment at Gaines’ Mills, Va.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Together again: They rode with Cross to Gettysburg

The artifacts assembled recently in Texas include an ambrotype of Charles Hale and Hale's sword and the
binoculars and spurs of Frank Butler. The two officers flanked Col. Edward E. Cross to Gettysburg. 
 In the lore of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers, it was the Paul Revere ride of the Civil War. Astride his horse Jack, Col. Edward E. Cross, the commander of the 5th, was leading a brigade of 780 men north toward battle in Pennsylvania. On his right rode Capt. Frank Butler, a captain in the 5th, on his left Charles Hale, a bright-eyed lieutenant whom he had chosen from the 5th for his brigade staff.

Col. Edward E. Cross
What a sight it must have been. Cross was a lean man of 31, 6 feet, 3 inches tall, awkward on foot but graceful on horseback. Hale wrote that Cross sat “tall in the saddle, straight as an arrow, lithe like an Indian, with a head on his shoulders that noted everything in the range of vision.” Hale, a smooth-faced man of average height, studious in his wire-rimmed glasses, was 22. He worshipped the colonel, with whom he had fought on the Virginia Peninsula, in the Seven Days battles and at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Butler, the third of the trio, was taller than Cross at 6-foot-6. Like Hale, he was 22 and had risen in the ranks as a Cross protégé.     

The three men did not know where their journey led, but with his thespian’s touch, Cross assured them it was a fateful ride. “It will be my last battle,” he said more than once. He told Hale where his papers were stored and asked that Hale give them to Richard Cross, the colonel’s brother and the 5th’s major, after the battle.

The ride into the late dusk of summer was long enough for Cross to tell Butler the story of his life. Setting aside his premonition of death, he asked Butler to be his adjutant once he won the brigadier general’s star he had been lobbying for. He also spoke of going west again after the war.

Charles A. Hale, who came from Lebanon,
N.H., became one of the first tour guides
at Gettysburg after the war.
Of course, the three men were riding toward Gettysburg, where, on July 2, Cross was fatally wounded in the woods just east of the Wheatfield. Mark Travis told the story of their ride and the battle in our book My Brave Boys, and I retold it in Our War. We both had Hale’s wonderful account, “With Colonel Cross in the Gettysburg Campaign,” but I had the advantage of a later find: the letters of Frank Butler.

In his letter of July 5, Butler wrote the only firsthand account I know of the colonel’s moment of death. Other officers described the colonel’s gut wound as painful, but Butler gave the details. Cross begged for chloroform, he wrote. “Blow my brains out,” he screamed. “Shoot me. How long must I live in such pain?”

I give this brief version of the ride to Gettysburg for a special reason. The other day I received an email about an unusual meeting of two Texans with ties to Butler and Hale – and, in a symbolic sense, a reunion of Butler and Hale themselves.

The keeper of Butler’s letters is Tom Jameson, a descendant.. Jameson contacted me a few years ago and lent me the Butler letters for use in Our War. His father was born in Concord, but he is a Texan through and through. He lives in Houston and spends many weekends on his farm just northeast of Huntsville. Tom manages a family timber, agriculture and oil and gas business.

Andrew Harris, a real estate appraiser, makes his home in Palestine, Texas, 75 miles north of Huntsville. At 15, Harris began collecting Civil War artifacts – uniforms, headgear, firearms, swords, photos, both Union and Confederate.

He considers Charles Hale’s sword the most historically significant piece in the collection. He bought it from a dealer about 10 years ago – roughly around the time Jameson acquired the Butler letters. The sword was his introduction to the 5th New Hampshire, and he has since become an expert on Hale and the regiment.

Capt. Frank Butler was mortally
wounded at Petersburg in June 1864.
Harris contacted me after reading My Brave Boys, and I alerted him to an ambrotype of Hale that was for sale on eBay. He bought it. Harris has made contact with Hale’s great-grandson, Ed Hale, and his wife Kathi, who live near Seattle. He and the Hales plan to meet in Gettysburg next month and walk the battlefield, where Hale served as a guide after the war.

A few months ago, when I realized Jameson and Harris lived near each other – small world – I introduced them by email. Jameson invited Harris for a visit, and Harris drove to the farm for lunch and a tour of the Frank Butler archive.

Jameson’s family treasures include Butler’s spurs and binoculars. The binoculars were especially important equipment for him, as he served in the Signal Corps during the war. I wonder if these are the binoculars he peered through in 1862 to see Confederate soldiers stripping the bodies of dead Yankees in the streets of Fredericksburg. I describe this scene in a chapter on Butler’s service in Our War.

Harris brought Hale’s sword to his visit with Jameson, and the two men talked about the history of the two officers. Butler was mortally wounded in the summer of 1864, and Jameson and Harris wondered if their meeting was the first Butler-Hale reunion since the two officers flanked Cross on the ride to Gettysburg. To celebrate the occasion, they arranged Butler’s and Hale’s artifacts, including their pictures, and photographed them.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have played a role in their meeting. History can bring people together, but seldom does it happen with a twist like this one. In different ways the two men – Jameson as a proud descendant of a Civil War soldier and Harris as a collector – are stewards of history, and a common history at that.

Jameson and Harris on Jameson's farm with the binoculars, spurs and sword.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

'Oh this pen cannot describe my feelings'

Sarah Ann Adams missed her son. Months after she saw him leave for the front, the moment remained fresh in her mind. In her nightmares he sickened and died in the Louisiana bayous. When she darned his socks, she could almost see him. She counted the days till his homecoming and feared the worst when the battle of Port Hudson extended his service. He lived in her dreams, but when she awoke, most days her only company was her cats, Phyllis and Sambo, the black one.

The envelope of one of Sarah Ann Adams's letters to her son Charles. 
Eleven of Adams’s letters to Charles H. Adams, a private in the 15th New Hampshire Volunteers, sold on eBay in January for $307.76. The lot also included letters from his friends and neighbors.

The letters are now being resold one by one, scattering them to collectors around the country. This is a standard practice on eBay, as selling letters individually brings more than selling them as lots. Two of Sarah Adams’s letters that I followed in recent auctions brought $83 and $78.

The attraction of these letters to collectors – and historians – is threefold.

First, letters to soldiers from loved ones at home are scarcer than soldier letters. Soldier letters became prized family relics. Wives’ and mothers’ letters to the front were coveted and cherished but often destroyed. That is why a large majority of archival collections contain only the soldiers’ letters home.

Sarah Ann Adams’s letters convey an unvarnished honesty. How discomforting must it have been for her son to read again and again of her anguish over his absence and fears about his possible death? Probably his politics, to the extent a teenager is political, mirrored her staunch Democratic views. Perhaps he shared her joy over the defeat of the “black” or “niggar” (meaning Republican) politicians in their hometown of Hollis at town meeting in March 1863.

The letters depict life on the home front. Sarah was keen to inform Charles of how the ducks and chickens were surviving the winter. In spring she wanted him to know the fish were biting. She told him about the marriage of Thomas Brown and Hatty Lovejoy, the birth of a son in the Proctor household, the levee at the town hall, a drenching January rain. “It would please you to see the duckys play in it,” she wrote. “They could not stop to eat.”

Charles was a nine-month soldier. He received a bounty for joining the 15th New Hampshire, one of two nine-month regiments formed in the state in the fall of 1862. The 15th consisted of 919 officers and men. Charles enlisted on Sept. 27 at the age of 18 and mustered in 12 days later. Sarah Ann Adams was a widow, her husband William having died at 42 in 1856. Charles was her only son. She gave her written permission for him to join, a decision she soon regretted.

In most respects, New Hampshire's two nine-month regiments were similar. Both the 15th and the 16th were sent to Louisiana. Disease ravaged both. The 16th lost more to sickness – 300 to the 15th’s 108 – but the 16th never fought a battle. Between May 27 and July 4, a period of dread for Sarah Ann Adams, the 15th lost 30 men killed and many more wounded at Port Hudson.

The top of the first page of Sarah Ann Adams's letter of March 8, 1863.
Charles’s mother wrote him on Jan. 11, 1863, introducing the themes of future letters. “The ground is as bare as summer,” she wrote. She passed on advice from a friend about taking care of his health: “Be careful of the dew and put on your over coat and let them laugh that wants to for thay can’t die for you.” The ducks were “fat as pigs,” and she had the cats and 13 chickens to keep her company. “O how I want to see you and talk with you,” she wrote. “Tears almost blind me.” Her only comfort was the thought that her Charley might survive because he could “shute better than the rebels.”

Later that month, she recalled his departure: “Oh how fresh it is in my mind – that sean never will be forgotten by me while I live. . . . The folks say I am all alone but I have a nough to eat and drink and a good fire to keep me warm. . . . I often see you in my imagination mending your close and stockings. I dream of you and a good talk with you about things, but when I awake I am all alone and it makes me sad but I count the days when you will come home. If your life is spared, your time is half out the first day of next month.”

She worried in a February letter that drinking Louisiana river water would make him sick and that the government intended to force him to re-enlist. “O how I wish that Sunday was as it used to be –  that you was at home with me,” she wrote. “How much comfort I should enjoy, but alas I am alone except the cats. . . .  It will be a happy day if God spares our lifes to mete again on earth.”

Her advice about his possible re-enlistment hinted at the reason she had allowed him to enlist in the first place: money. “Don’t you do no shush thing for if you do you will kill your Mother,” she wrote. “I should rather live on bread and watter all the days off my life.”

Probably Charles was a fisherman, as his mother often shared fish stories in her letters. John, a family friend or relative, went fishing on a February day. He caught six pike, all four-pounders, including one with “fore holes through his body made with a spear last fall. John says if the rebels are half as tough you had better come home for you can’t kill them devels.”

She also relayed news of other soldiers he knew. Charles A. Kemp had been wounded on Aug. 12, 1862. “The ball struck him in the right eye, went through his nose into his mouth, took out all his teath on the left jaw. He is in the hospital in Maryland.

Three Hollis men in the 7th New Hampshire had died of disease. The body of only one, 38-year-old Pvt. Nathaniel Wright, dead on Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, had made it home when she wrote. Another 7th private, Nathaniel Truel, wrote to his mother 11 weeks after Wright's death that his body had been dug up on Feb. 6.  and sent north via the steamer Delaware the next day. Truel did not believe their captain, Nathan Ames, when he said he had paid for the shipment out of his own pocket.“He is as mean as ever and we hate him so bad as we do the itch.” he wrote.

In her next letter to her son, Sarah Adams reported that the bodies of the other two 7th men from Hollis, Norman Howe and Charles Fletcher, had been buried in town on March 7, more than six months after their deaths.

The Civil War memorial honor roll on Hollis's monument.
March was town meeting time, and state elections were held then, too. Republicans had been sponsoring abolition speakers all around the state, but Sarah Adams was having none of that. Although as a woman she could not vote, she considered the local results in Hollis a triumph of common sense. “The democrats carried every thing,” she wrote on March 11, the day after the meeting. Voters elected Democrats to be town moderator, first selectman and state representative. 

John, the pike fisherman Sarah had mentioned in an earlier letter, had told her he was going “to voat against the negro men.” He wanted Charles “to wright how you like the negro girls.” After the meeting John confirmed that he had “voated write” and “the blacks felt bad” – so much so that “Old Paul eat all the tobacco he could get hold of.” Sarah sent Charles a lock of John’s hair and passed along his orders for Charles to “kill all the damed Rebels and cursed negroes. Kill them all and come home.”

Rumors conveyed by the wife of Frank Pond, another 15th private from Hollis, drove Sarah to distraction.  “It is with a aching hart and a trembling hand that I set down to write theas few lines,” she began one letter. “. . . My hart bleads while my tears flow. I hear that you attempted to run away but they caught you and brought you back [and] that for your punishment you have got to carry fifty pounds off iron on your back while on duty.” John was skeptical of this story. “John says he don’t believe it,” Sarah wrote. “He says it is done to torment me.”

The rumor about a mass re-enlistment of the regiment incensed her. Her view was that “them that made the war may fight it.” The idea of his re-upping moved her to begin with a rhyme: “My pen is poor my ink is pale but my love to you will never fail. . . . I understand your regiment is to reinlist again but don’t you for god sake. If you do it will kil me. . . . You had better beleve that thay never get my consent for you to go to war again the devel comes. They cant draft you because Old Abe has exempted a poor widow’s only son.”

She told him he could make a good wage at home. Spring had come, and farm laborers were being paid $18 to $20 per month, she wrote.

The next rumor was even worse. “I hear dredful news just now that half of the fifteenth regiment was taken prisoners when I was riting to you. God onley knows my feelings if my poor boy is a prisoner my harte will brake. Al hope is gonn of seeing your dear face again. . . . I won’t send you enny money for if you are a prisoner it will never reach you. . . . I know what you sed when you bought your revolvers that you never would be taken a prisoner so I think you are dedd but if you are living anser this soon.”

It was days before she learned he had not been captured. “I should have sent you the letter I roat last week but I thought if you was taken you never would git it,” she wrote. “But I hear that it is not so and I feel better. This pen cannot tell how I felt and I am so glad to hear that you have your liberty.”

On May 12, heartened by her belief that Charles had only 34 days left before he started home for Hollis, Sarah wrote her son a cheerful letter. “If you have enny money look out for them Manchester fellows for you know what sort of chaps they bee,” she began. “They would steal enny ones eyes if they could get a chance for a dollar. Keep a good look for them and say nothing to no one.”

Spring weather had improved her days.  “The ducks do not trouble me enny,” she wrote. “Thay go to thare work in the morning [and] don’t return until night, Ketching frogs is their employment.” Sarah had gone “spearing” with John and another woman. “We got twelve pike eleven suckers one eel two pouts,” she wrote.

The one discordant note in her letter concerned Charles Kemp, the Hollis soldier wounded the previous August. He had finally come home “very weak and low, what is left of him, so folks say he never will be good for nothing again.” But Charles’s imminent discharge from the army gave her courage. “I was very much pleas to think that you sed you wasnt a going to reinlist,” she told Charles. "You are a good boy.” She passed on John’s requested that he “bring home a little negro girl to keep off the mussquitoes for thay are very thick.”

On May 27 the news turned. That day, Pvt. Adams’s regiment joined the battle for Port Hudson, a Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. Gen. Nathaniel Banks’s troops, including the 15th, were first repulsed there and then mounted a siege like Gen. Ulysses Grant’s at Vicksburg. It lasted for 48 days, and 30 officers and men from Charles’s regiment were killed during that time.

During the siege, the 15th New Hampshire served in Brig. Gen. Neal S. Dow's First Brigade of
Thomas W. Sherman's division of Nathaniel Banks's 19th Corps. Sherman's division manned
the southern end of the siege line nearest the river, at bottom right in this map.
“Alas,” Sarah wrote him on June 9, “I am doomed to disappointment. Instead of your coming to your Mothers arms I hear that you was called to the field of battle. I heard yesterday that the 15 regiment was at port Hudson. Oh this pen can not describe my feelings. . . . I don’t know but that you are wounded writhing on a bed with pain and no Mothers hand to administer to your wants.  Oh had I the wings of a dove.” She dreaded what might come next. “I dare not look in the news papers for fear I shal see your name there.”

On Aug. 14, 1863, with the rest of his regiment, Charles H. Adams came home. True to his word, he did not re-enlist. He became a carpenter and in November of 1876 married Sarah Maria Pierce (1851-1934). Sarah Ann Adams, born in 1808, the year before her nemesis, Abraham Lincoln, lived until 1897. Charles seems to have inherited her longevity gene. He died in 1930 at the age of 85 or 86.