Saturday, February 14, 2015

Four more faces of the Fighting Fifth

Francis W. Butler of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers, winter 1861-62
It has been 13 years since the publication of My Brave Boys, the book Mark Travis and I wrote about the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers under Col. Edward E. Cross. It was our first book, and the memory of seeing it for the first time still makes me smile.

When we started our research eight years earlier, more than one person knowledgeable about the regiment warned us that we wouldn’t find enough about the 5th to write a book. On the contrary, we discovered a wealth of letters, diaries, memoirs and newspaper accounts to bring the men and their experience to life.

Captain Richard R. David, 39, of Wolfeborough
But little did we know how much more was out there. The internet age has created a bonanza of new primary source material. Not least are dozens of CDVs – wartime studio (or “salon,” the word used at the time) photos of the men. The soldiers distributed these to friends and family. The portraits were cherished, especially when their subjects happened to die, which, of course, was a common outcome.

Nowadays there are collectors galore of CDVs, and identified soldiers are especially coveted. My friend Dave Morin and I check regularly online, especially on eBay, for new faces of New Hampshire soldiers. The other day Dave found a run of four photos of 5th officers on eBay and shared them with me. I had never seen any of them, although three of the four men had star turns in My Brave Boys and one an even larger role in Our War, my 2012 book about New Hampshire’s Civil War experienced.

I’ve reproduced the four pictures in this post. They are Frank Butler, Richard R. Davis, Jacob Keller and James B. David. The eBay seller told Dave they came from the photo album of a daughter of Capt. Richard Welch, another 5th officer.

All four of the CDVs are signed, and all were taken at the Mathew Brady studio in Washington, D.C. They were taken during the winter of 1861-62, before the regiment had fought its first battle. Maybe the four officers went together to the studio while the 5th was stationed at Bladensburg, Md., where Col. Cross was preparing his men for war.

Lt., later Capt., Jacob Keller of the 5th was an immigrant from Germany
Butler is the soldier I know best. His descendant, Tom Jameson, a Texan, lent me a large notebook of Butler’s wartime letters for Our War. In the book I tell Butler’s story through the letters, which are descriptive and candid.

Butler was a bright, articulate man who left the 5th to go to signal school. He later returned to the regiment as a captain. He rode with Cross to Gettysburg. Still later, while serving as a staff officer for Gen. “Baldy” Smith before Petersburg, Butler was wounded in the leg. He made it home to New Hampshire, where he underwent an amputation and died.

Richard R. Davis of Wolfborough, N.H., joined the 5th as captain of Company H at the age of 39. He served under Cross at the Battle of Fair Oaks but resigned and went home in late July 1862, after the Seven Days.

Jacob Keller was German by birth and a stalwart officer. He immigrated to the United States in 1855 at the age of 28. When the war broke out, he joined the 6th Massachusetts, the three-month regiment attacked by a mob in Baltimore on April 19, 1861. Keller returned home to Claremont, N.H., where he enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire and was commissioned as Davis’s first lieutenant in Co. H.

Lt. James B. David ran afoul of  Col. Cross and was sent packing.
Later, he became a captain and transferred to command of the ill-fated Claremont company, Co. G. Of the battle of Fair Oaks on June 1, 1862: Keller wrote: “We fought so close that if a little nearer the powder of the one would have burned the faces of the other.” At Fredericksburg, where his company was nearly destroyed, a ball shattered his right arm.

Lt. James B. David of Company K was from Amherst, N.H. When I showed his picture to Mark Travis, he responded: “Can’t you just see Cross hating this guy? On looks alone, all politics aside.”

David and his captain, Richard Welch, whose daughter apparently collected these CDVs in her album, shared the ignominy of being booted out of the 5th by Col. Cross on Feb. 15, 1862. Their records read: “Disch. incompetency.” Company K’s first sergeant, Thomas L. Livermore, had borne the brunt of Welch’s and David’s callous and babbling leadership. Of their ouster, he wrote in his memoir: “The consternation of our two officers was exceeding, and their calamity must have weighed very heavily.”

[More faces of the Fighting Fifth here, here, here and here.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gotham greets Granite Staters

A New York stopover on the way to war:

More on the 7th New Hampshire here.