Tuesday, January 28, 2014

'His march is done, his camp is here'

The older I get, the more I read obituaries. I suppose this is a natural inclination. In my journal I sometimes record anecdotes and quotations from New York Times obituaries. These are usually thorough and well-written, and I admire the perspective, imagination and importance the Times brings to chronicling important lives.

Jesse E. Dewey, Co. E, 2nd NH Volunteers.
Unfortunately, most newspaper obituaries say too little about the dead. They define life by associations: churches, clubs, relatives. They strive to tell, but seldom show, that the deceased lived a worthy life. They omit life's human idiosyncrasies and inevitable rough spots.

This was also true during the early 20th century, when Civil War veterans began to die in droves, a phenomenon akin to our loss of much of the World War II generation early in this century.

Here is the obituary written by the senior editor of the Granite State Free Press in Lebanon, N.H., about an old soldier named Jesse E. Dewey, a veteran of the 2nd New Hampshire during the Civil War. The writer is probably Elias Hutchins Cheney, a longtime New Hampshire journalist who had once edited the paper and remained a regular contributor into his 80s. In spite of its elegiac tone, the obituary is better than most in conveying what kind of person Dewey was. He died on July 3, 1915, at the age of 72:

Jesse E. Dewey was born in Hanover, October 2, 1842, and was the son of Jesse Edson and Sarah A. (Porter) Dewey. The father, who for a time was in business in Lebanon, died when young Jesse was but two weeks old. The mother remarried, and Jesse was largely brought up by relatives. Besides the common school he attended a few terms at Kimball Union Academy.

Subsequently he went to Manchester, into a machine shop. He was there when the civil war broke out, and he was there, at the age of 18, the twentieth man who enlisted from New Hampshire, April 22, 1861, only one week after President Lincoln's first call for 75,000 men for three months, issued April 15. Only one regiment was assigned to New Hampshire; but nearly enough for two enlisted. On the 3d of May the president called for three-years men, and, as we recall it, most of those who had enlisted for the three months and were not included in the First Regiment, re-enlisted for three years and constituted the Second Regiment. Mr. Dewey was among the latter.

Few regiments saw more or heavier fighting than the New Hampshire Second, under Gen. Gilman Marston, who, like Col. Mason W. Tappan of the First Regiment, was a member of congress at the time. The regiment was later in command of Col. Edward L. Bailey. Young Dewey went thru that terrible struggle, was in nineteen battles, and was one of the few who came out whole.

Hardtack from Sgt. Dewey's haversack.
Mrs. Dewey still has his army blanket, thru thirteen thicknesses of which, folded and on
his person, a bullet went and lodged against a piece of hardtack in his haversack. He was never heard to complain of the hardness of that bread. A piece of it is still preserved. This was at the battle of Fredericksburg. His haversack containing a bullet hole is also preserved. For gallantry in action he was promoted to sergeant, young as he was. Returned to civil life, he lived with his mother here, now Mrs. Ellis, and worked in one of our shops. He served several years as captain, promoted from a lieutenancy, in the Shaw Rifles, a company of the National Guard organized in 1878. The company disbanded about twenty-five years later, when the two regiments of the N.H.N.G. were consolidated into one, and the number of companies was reduced.

Modest and unassuming, with only moderate education, exemplary in life, it was soon seen that he was above the average of his fellows in natural ability. He wielded a ready pen, in a handsome and legible hand, was lucid in thought expression, with tongue or pen.

He was often drafted into the service of the Free Press in hunting up and writing locals, and especially in keeping the editor posted in what was going on in Grand Army circles. Needless to say his copy was popular with compositors, especially above that of the editor. He took a lively interest in whatever pertained to the welfare of the community and the state.

Sgt. Dewey's haversack
He was elected clerk of the Lebanon Fire Precinct in 1877, and clerk of the Lebanon
Police Court on its establishment, in 1878. In 1886 he was chosen to represent the town
in the legislature. In 1893 he was appointed by the Governor trial justice of the police
court. He was the agent of the American Express Company twenty-five years, and thirty
year member of the insurance firm of Dewey, Peck & Co. He was a director in the
Manufacturers and Merchants Insurance Company at Concord.

He married Emeline A. Chase at Manchester in 1864, who died January, 1866. In November 1871, he married Sarah Louise Currie, daughter of Thomas Currie, M.D., long a leading physician of Lebanon, and Sarah A. Currie. The ceremony was at Hanover, by the chaplain of the Second Regiment, the then Prof. Henry E. Parker, previous to the war pastor of the South Congregational church in Concord. The fruits of his union are Arthur Nelson Dewey, who has lately been in business with his father, and who it is now understood succeeds to the business, and Alice Belle Dewey, who remains with the now invalid mother.

He was from its organization a prominent and active member of James B. Perry Post, G.A.R., and one of the wisest and most trusted counselors in that body. Several members have said since the decease, to the writer, “I do not know how his place is to be filled.” He rendered service in every station in the gift of that organization, including, of course, that of commander. He was a leading spirit in promoting the erection of Memorial Hall, and one of the first eight veterans to pledge twenty dollars each for that purpose.

Dewey later in life. Born in Hanover, N.H., he lived in
Manchester at the start of the war, in Lebanon afterward.
Joined Star-Spangled-Banner Army Lodge, F. & A. M., chartered by Grand Lodge of New Hampshire, 1864, at Point Lookout, Md. Affiliated with Franklin Lodge, No. 6, Lebanon. Was a member of Kimball Chapter O.E.S., Lebanon.

He is understood to have met with some losses in early business life; they only served to make more manifest to those familiar therewith his sterling business integrity. “His word is as good as his bond” is the language in which one who knew reported the facts to the writer. He rose triumphantly out of his embarrassment; acquired a comfortable estate. Besides the comfortable home in Green street, Lebanon, he leaves a cottage at Mascoma Lake, where he and his family spent twenty-three summers, and where he will be also greatly missed. Right here may be the place to say that Jesse E. Dewey was a relative, only a few removes, from the man who, at Manila, is said to have told the German admiral that he could have war if he meant that, and said to Gridley, “You can fire, Mr. Gridley, when you are ready.”

Mr. Dewey had been in feeble health recently, but was thought to be convalescing, and only an hour before the end came all so unexpected on the afternoon of July 3, he was saying that he must go to the office the 5th. Mrs. Dewey left him in bed comfortable and in good spirits, to return shortly and find the silver cord had broken and the gentle, loving spirit had taken its flight. The heart had stopped beating; a painless demise. The community was shocked as news spread over the village. It threw a shadow over the Fourth of July festivities, in which he had taken a great interest.

Dewey's grave in School Street Cemetery in Lebanon
A little while before the end he noticed that all was still outside, where the boys had been giving noisy vent to the prevailing spirit of the day. He hoped they had not stopped on his account; he liked to hear it. His country in his heart till the latest breath, and with that heart's latest beat. A life with such a beginning and so sweet an ending has its lesson for us all. To us, personally, it is a delight tinged with whatever of sadness to commend that lesson to the Free Press circle of readers.

The funeral was from the family home in Green street, Tuesday, July 6, Rev. Grant L. Shaeffer of the Congregational church officiating. The attendance was large, especially of business men, stores being generally closed for the hour. The casket was literally banked in floral tributes. Pastor Shaeffer paid tender and befitting tribute to the character of the deceased. His message to the surviving veterans of the civil war, about twenty, who attended in a body and performed escort duty, was timely and beautiful, and appreciated by all who heard it. Burial was in School street cemetery, nearby to many near and distant relatives, all of the same stock as Admiral Dewey.

The pall bearers were C.S. Ford, C.E. Cooper, C.S. Davis and C.E. Hildreth. Honorary bearers, George C. Perkins, W.S. Carter, C.B. Comings, E.S. Haskell – Past Commanders of the Post.

Brevet  Brig. Gen. Joab Patterson on his horse, Black Dave, with his dog,
Dixi, in 1904. Patterson, of Hopkinton, N.H., was wounded at Gettysburg.
Until  his death at 88 in 1923, he was a regular in parades and GAR events.  
Among those present from out of town was Gen. J.N. Patterson of Concord. A large number of letters of condolence have been received by Mrs. Dewey, including Edward L. Bailey, Colonel of the Second Regiment, Hon. M. L. Morrison of Peterborough, and the offices of the Granite State Insurance Company of Portsmouth and the New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company of Manchester. Captain Dewey had represented both companies a long term of years.

We append the following extract from Col. Bailey's letter:

“I would be glad to find words fitting to express my deep sympathy for you in the dire bereavement you have sustained, but I have learned from my own sad experience that mere words are inadequate. It may however be a consolation to feel that others suffer with you in the loss of a tried and true friend. My friendship and esteem for your husband was formed upon a basis of unusual trials and hardships such as refine and determine character as naught else can. As a soldier he was always at his post of duty, reliable, trustworthy and brave. As a man he was notable for his modesty, his retiring disposition, and upright character. We of his comrades who are left will miss him. Yet I know how little this must be in comparison to the measure of your own loss. Time alone can soften and assuage the grief that overwhelms. I trust that a merciful Providence may come to your aid."

The following beautiful sentiment was sent by Major David E. Proctor of Wilton:

His march is done, his camp is here,
His tent among the blest.
The bugle’s wild and warlike blast
Is simply sounding ‘Rest.’
We place the flag upon his breast.
That flag he fought to save;
May it now guard his final rest
As it waves above his grave. 

[My thanks to my resourceful friend Dave Morin for supplying the material for this post.]

1 comment:

  1. These stories are timeless. I'm glad to play a small part in sharing them. DM.