Friday, May 1, 2015

Summer of 1862: In a green regiment on Capitol Hill, it was all confusion for the boys from Sutton

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army chased George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac across the Virginia Peninsula in late June of 1862. Union forces suffered thousands of casualties and departed altogether in August. A casualty of a different sort mattered most. McClellan’s defeat canceled the expectation of a quick and decisive capture of Richmond, the Confederate capital.

As discouraging as this was, McClellan’s defeat and retreat came early enough in the war that northern cities and towns still had men to send. Hundreds of New Hampshire men joined new regiments that summer. 

The town of Sutton, with a population of 1,431 in the 1860 census, was a case in point. Men from Sutton had been volunteering since April 1861. A new call for troops came in mid-1862 accompanied by recruiting meetings all over the state. Walter Harriman, a well-known officer from neighboring Warner, was appointed colonel of the 11th New Hampshire Volunteers, Sutton men flocked to its ranks. Thirty-four men from the town entered the regiment’s 100-man Company F. A few joined other companies. Their ages ranged from 13 to 68.

These men arrived in Washington, D.C., and camped on East Capitol Hill just as the battles of South Mountain and Antietam were being fought. Among the regiments on that campaign were the 6th and 9th New Hampshire, whom the 11th would join much later in a New England brigade in Grant’s army.

Hiram G. Little
The letter below, written by Pvt. George Morgan of Sutton, described the chaos of a green regiment marching off to war. “It is all confusion,” he wrote.

Hiram K. Little of Sutton joined Company F as its second lieutenant and was later promoted to first lieutenant. He fought in all the 11th’s battles until a bullet cut him down.

Little had been born in Newbury, N.H., (formerly Fishersfield) in 1830. His father, William, was a farmer known to friends as “the best man to hew timber in town.” After William died in around 1840, Hiram’s mother, Eveline, took her four sons to Manchester. Educated there, Hiram moved to Sutton in around 1850 and joined his brother in manufacturing clothespins. Hiram married in 1856 and he and his wife, Susan, had a son in 1859.

During the war he led his men in Company F at Fredericksburg and in the siege of Vicksburg, the capture of Jackson, Miss., and the siege of Knoxville, Tenn.

On June 20, 1864, in the trenches before Petersburg, Little was shot in the neck. He never said another word.

With hundreds of other wounded, he was taken on the hospital ship New World to a hospital on Davids’ Island, off Connecticut in Long Island Sound. There he died on the Fourth of July. Six days later, he was buried in Sutton.

The Little family gravestone in Sutton Mills Cemetery. Note that Little's widow, Susan, died two months after he did.
She was just 28 years old.  [Thanks to David Morin for this photo and the picture of Hiram K. Little.]
The fortunes of war had their way with Little, Morgan and the rest of the 34 Sutton men who had joined the 11th. Eleven served till war’s end. Two deserted. One was transferred and one captured. Thirteen were wounded, three of them multiple times. In addition to Little, two were killed or died of wounds, Three were discharged disabled, and three died of disease.

Pvt. Morgan was 28 when he wrote the letter below to his brother-in-law, Wyman A, Kimball, in Sutton. Morgan fell ill in 1864 and died of disease on July 23 at Alexandria, Va.

                                                                                         Washington D. C.
                                                                                         September 16th 1862

Brother Kimball,

We got here to the City of Washington on last Sunday morning about eight o’clock. Then we went into camp on East Capitol Hill, about one mile and a half from the city. Our company has been on guard two hours this morning. We have just been relieved and I thought I would write you a letter now. We have just got orders to march. We have got to go over across the Potomac River into Camp Chase.

Wednesday, September 17th.

We got to the campground about dark last night and we laid right down on the ground — our tents had not got along. About midnight it began to rain and rained till morning. When I would stick my head out from under the old coat cape and blanket, it would spat right on my face. I stood it as long as I could, then I crawled out and got into one of the big wagons and had a good nap.

I am well and never felt better. I can carry my load without any help. The most of our company hired a man to carry their knapsack and paid him 50 cts. apiece. I told them that I would carry mine as long as I could and then they would have to carry my load and me too. I carried it all night.

Walter Harriman, colonel of the 11th New Hampshire
This morning we struck up our tents and about 11 o’clock we pulled down our tents and went a half a mile further. We have got on to a nice campground now but just like as not we shall have to move again tomorrow. I expect they will put us to fighting before long.

Little Charley Hart had a revolver to work on this morning and he fired it off and the ball went through his hand and come out through the tent and went close by me and through another tent and it went within inches of [Robert] McConnell’s head. Then they called the company together and took the revolvers all away from them.

I wish you and Austin were out here. There is enough to see but I can’t describe it to you so that you will know anything atall about it. I could tell you more in one hour than I could write in a whole day. It is all confusion.

I wish you could be on what they call East Capitol Hill and see the army horses that they have got there. I should think they had a thousand horses and mules. A good many of them have been old in the service and are wore out. I wish you could see them. There was two men found dead on the campground. They said they died by eating pies that were poisoned and there was another that got kicked by a horse and they say he must die. The rest are all pretty well.

I should like to know what you are all about to home but I ain’t a going to bother my brains about writing letters. It is news you won’t know any more after I write.

Newell J. Nye has just come in and says that George Putney is a going right home and he is a going to send his money home and I thought I would send you eight dollars. I have got about six dollars now. If I am out in the rain and get as wet as we did driving the cattle up, I should [send] the whole of it. If it should rain as hard as it did when we was a going from New Jersey to Philadelphia, it would wet through in a few minutes. I never see it rain so hard in my life. I have got as much as I want to look of it.

When George Jewett was a coming through Baltimore, someone cut his pocketbook open and took out wallet. It had five dollars in it.

I don’t know as you can read this nor I don’t care much. I hain’t no chance to write. I can’t tell where I shall be when I write the next one. I want you to write me a letter but I can’t tell you where to send it.

Austin, I will send this to you. — George Morgan

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