Thursday, August 29, 2013

One school's proud Civil War heritage

Jane Carver Fielder is the archivist at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. Many alumni of the academy served during the Civil War, and several also serve star turns in Our War, my book about New Hampshire in the war.

A group of them joined the 9th New Hampshire in 1862 and appear as both greenhorns and battle-hardened veterans in the book. Our War also depicts the congressmen who became colonels of both the 1st and 2nd New Hampshire regiments. It tells stories about a chaplain from Concord at First Bull Run, a man who rode to Gettysburg at Col. Edward E. Cross's side and was mortally wounded at Petersburg, an officer who escaped a rebel prison camp and a captain from Chesterfield who became the local war correspondent for the Sentinel in Keene. All were KUA alums.

In her job as archivist, Jane Fielder has been researching these men and spreading the word about them within the school community. Recently she wrote me a letter and shared some of her research.

Oscar D. Robinson at about the time
of his graduation from Kimball Union.
One of the soldiers she mentioned was my inspiration while writing Our War. His name was Oscar D. Robinson. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may remember an officer who discarded his food and blanket on the way to battle at South Mountain but kept his pen, ink and paper. That was Robinson.

By email, Fielder shared these words from Robinson's address as valedictorian of the Kimball Union class of 1862:

"Classmates, the parting hour has come! The old chapel bell has summoned us for the last time! Already perchance our thoughts have wandered far beyond the distant hills where quiet homes and loving friends would bid us speak the sacred parting word. . . . . We realize we are called to serve no other bonds of friendship than those formed by engaging in a common pursuit striving for a common goal and reaping a common reward."

Three months later, Robinson and many of his classmates found themselves fighting on South Mountain and at Antietam.

Here is Jane Fielder’s letter, slightly edited, for which I am grateful: 

Your book, Our War, was recommended to a number of us by Michael Schafer, the Head of School at Kimball Union Academy, who had read a review of it in the Valley News. As the archivist at the Academy and having just helped compile a history of Kimball Union for our bicentennial celebrations this last year, I wanted to send a response to your book.

Gilman Marston, colonel of the 2nd NH
and a congressman.
Mason Tappan, colonel of the 1st NH
and a congressman.

I went through your index and made a list of the men who also appear in our directories and lists of the 200-plus Kimball Union Civil War veterans. Our librarian also bought a copy of your book for the history department and I thought it would be interesting to the teachers and any students who read it to know which men attended KUA.

This information is from KUA’s General Catalogue 1815-1880:

Gilman Marston, class of 1833; b. Orford, NH; KUA 1832-33; Col., 2d N.H. Vols., 1861-64; Brig. Gen. U.S. Vols., 1864-65.

Mason Weare Tappan non-graduate 1833; b. Newport, N.H.; KUA 1831-33; Col., 1st N.H. Vols., 1861.

Chaplain Henry E. Parker, 2nd NH.
Henry Elijah Parker 1837; b. Keene, N.H.; KUA 1836-37; Chap., 2d N.H. Vols., 1861-62.

George Smith n.1844; b. Bradford, N.H.; KUA 1843-44; Ass’t Surg., 53d Ill. Vols., 1861-65.

George H. Chandler 1851; b. Danville, Vt.; KUA 1849-51; First Lt., 88th Ill. Vols., 2 years.

Charles Peter Clark 1851, b. 1836; KUA 1851; Acting Ensign, Master and Vol. Lieut., U.S.N., 1862-65.

Samuel Augustus Duncan 1851; b. Meriden, N.H.; KUA 1848-51; Maj., 14th N.H. Vols., 1862-63’ Col., 4th U.S.C.T.; Bvt. Brig. Gen., Bvt., Maj. Gen. U.S. Vols., 1863-66.

Thomas Haley 1854, b. Saco, Maine; KUA 1851-54; Pri., 27th Maine Vols.

As lieutenant colonel of the 9th NH, Herbert
B. Titus borrowed a rifle and shot at
rebel soldiers at Burnside's Bridge at
 Antietam. He was wounded for his trouble.
Herbert B. Titus 1854; b. Chesterfield, NH; KUA 1852-54; Lieut. 2d N.H. Vols., 1861-62; Col. 9th N.H. Vols., 1862-65.

Francis Wayland Butler 1861; b. Greenfield, N.H.; KUA 1860-61; 2d Lt. – Capt., 5th N.H. Vols., ’61 till died of wounds, Bennington, July 30, 1864.

Orlando Wales Dimick 1861; b. Braintree, Mass.; KUA 1859-61; Lt. – Capt., 11th N.H. Vols.

William Reynolds 1861; b. W. Milton, Vt.; KUA 1860-61; 1st Lt-Capt., 6th Vt. Vols., Maj., 17th Vt. Vols., till killed before Petersburg, Va., July 30, 1864.

George Warren Barber, 1862; b. Warwick, Mass.; KUA 1860-62; Pri. 9th N.H. Vols. 1862-63 – (lost left arm, at shoulder joint, Fredericksburg, Va., Dec. ’62)

Franklin James Burnham 1862; b. Norwich, Vt., KUA 1860-62; Pri. – 1st Lt., 9th N.H. Vols.

Oscar Robinson 1862; b. Cornish, N.H.; KUA 1859-62; Pri. – Capt., 9th N.H. Vols

Elmer Bragg wrote stirring letters home about
the exploits of the 9th NH. He was wounded
and captured at Spotsylvania Court House
in May 1864 and died shortly after his
release from Libby Prison. 
Elmer Bragg, n. 1862; born Plainfield, N.H.; KUA 1860-62; Pri., 9th N.H. Vols. 1862 till he died Annapolis, MD, Aug. 20, 1864, just from Libby Prison.

Alonzo Allen, non-graduate 1863; born Croydon, N.H.; KUA 1857, 58 and 63; Pri. 5th N.H. Vols. 1861, 62 – “carries a confederate bullet in his body.” – KUA General Catalogue

Henry P. Wilson n. 1865; Springfield, Vt., KUA 1865; Pri., 15th Vt., Vols., 1863-64.

Last school year I wrote brief stories of graduates, founders of KUA, early principals, histories of buildings or different events mostly of the 19th century and sent one out each week by email to the school and then they were put on our web site for alumni, parents and friends to read.

Two of the men you wrote about I had included: Oscar Robinson, class of 1862, and Gilman Marston, class of 1833. I haven’t written about Samuel A. Duncan, class of 1851, but as you didn’t mention he was an alumnus, I thought you might like to know that the family is well-known in Meriden and were involved with KUA for many years.

Samuel Duncan left the 14th NH regiment to command
African-American soldiers. He and his sweetheart, Julia Jones
of East Washington, N.H., fell in love by mail. In Our War
they tell their story through their letters. 
Samuel Augustus’s father, Samuel Bell Duncan, was treasurer and a trustee here from 1830-1870 and his mother Ruth Ticknor Duncan was one of the first women to attend Kimball Union, class of 1819, although women didn’t actually graduate until the female department was officially added in 1839. Samuel Bell’s sister Hannah was also in the class of 1819.

Their children all graduated from here: John Ticknor, class of 1851, followed his father as trustee and treasurer in 1870 until 1902; Samuel Augustus, 1851; Robert Henry, 1853. Robert married Abbie Vining, class of 1858, and their eldest son, Harry Lee became a trustee in 1911-1917. 

Harry’s sister Annie, a 1901 graduate of Smith College, moved back to the family home on the KUA Hilltop after a few years of teaching and lived there until her death in 1961. She was a prominent member of the community and Congregational Church for all those years. The Duncan Family home is now owned by Kimball Union.

Here are a few other Kimball Union alumni that might interest you:

Cyrus Smith Richards, class of 1831, was born in Hartford, Vt., and was hired as principal here on the day he graduated from Dartmouth in 1835 and served until he retired in 1871. He was well-known as the “abolitionist principal.” During his tenure we know of four African Americans who were enrolled here. After retiring, he became a professor of Latin and Greek and Dean of the Preparatory Department at Howard University for over ten years.

Augustus Washington, class of 1843, became an African American daguerreotyper who took the well-known photograph of John Brown, the abolitionist. He wrote of Principal Richards and his acceptance at KUA: “He also expressed the opinion, that if there was a difference of treatment, it would probably be in my favor. This proved to be true, for I couldn’t have been better treated in London or Paris, than I was during the two years spent at that institution.”

Jonathan Gibbs, class of 1848, who was the third African American to graduate from Dartmouth College. Eighteen other colleges had refused him admission. He was also an abolitionist minister, writer and orator.

James D. Lynch, class of 1855, was sent to KUA “one of the few Northern schools accepting Negro students prior to 1860.” He was a chaplain for a colored regiment during the Civil War. His brother John also attended for one year.

I also wrote about Daniel Foster, class of 1836, from Hanover, N.H., who enlisted as a chaplain in the 33rd Massachusetts Volunteers Regiment but resigned a year later to become a captain in the 37th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops.

And I included one of the few Confederate soldiers who attended Kimball Union, Major A. Sebastian Van de Graff, class of 1850, of Gainesville, Ala., of the 5th Alabama Volunteers, C.S.A., 1861-65. When he died in 1902, a Kimball Union classmate who had fought for the North wrote to his son, “I know he made an ideal soldier. . . . There was no one in my class to whom I was so much attached as to him & that began when I first met him at school in Meriden in 1848.”

I very much enjoyed reading your book, one that brought the personal lives of these men to life, many of whom, as Ken Burns said, could have been our great-grandfathers. I recommended your book to my brother who is the inheritor of our great-grandfather’s rifle, one that he carried in the war, and the daguerreotype of him in his Civil War uniform. Although he was from Maine, I’m sure his experiences were similar. (I inherited the desk and chairs he made in his carpentry shop in Portland, Maine, after the war!)

Thank you for your book,


1 comment:

  1. I've enjoyed all the posts but this one has to be one of my favorites. Another example of what is still out there and how it all comes together piece by piece. A great read!