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This is the archive for August 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I was exploring the The Civil War Preservation Trust’s website and noticed that their Grand Review 2006 will be held September 22-24, 2006, in Charleston, South Carolina.

They have several group deals with local hotels but too bad they did not get it at the Embassy Hotel and Suites downtown. The building housed The Citadel until the early 1920’s and was also the Federal Army headquarters during the Reconstruction period.




If any of the readers are going to be in town for this event, please let me know. Although I won’t be going to the events (can’t afford the Color Bearer donation price), I would love to meet up with you. Just use the email button to the right to contact me.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Every time I think I have reached a state of writer’s block for the blog (which in itself will probably make a future blog post) something happens in my life that seems to give new ideas, thoughts and direction.

Thursday night was one of those occasions.

I had the privilege of dining with three fine gentlemen from the 18th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Reenactment group – Tom Keenan, Bill Sherburne and Doug Ozelius. As a group, they take annual battlefield vacations, following movements of specific Massachusetts regiments at battlefields in both theaters.

This year they visited Gettysburg and Vicksburg and made a slight detour to Charleston on their way back to Rhode Island and Massachusetts to have dinner with me.

I was amazed at their knowledge of the unit, something I have only experienced with two other people – Donald and Steve - and more importantly ecstatic to see there devotion to righting some wrongs done to the history of the 18th and its first commander, James Barnes.

We started the evening with a toast General Barnes, so it should not have surprised me that he would dominate our discussion. Although we were all over the place, from the letters of Joseph Collingwood, our perception of Joseph Hayes, what really happened at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, the inherent hardships of researching the 18th and my personal favorite, the 18th was the unit that made it closest to the wall at Fredricksburg – we kept coming back to Barnes and his actions at Gettysburg on July 2nd.



Donald has been researching this for sometime, with the goal to clear James’ name. Long ago he came up with what we feel is a sound theory and had found several sources that seem to back it up. At the same time, the 18th has been looking at it from a slightly different angle.

Thursday, it became clear that we needed to merge our efforts and finally clear General Barnes’ name. At one point Tom Keenan stated that the group had become General Barnes apologists – I countered we were about to become Apologetics.

Going forward, we will present posts on how history views Barnes and why it is seen this way; what we feel happened and the sources that help us reach this conclusion. We may fail miserable or triumphantly accomplish the impossible, either way we will give it our best shot.

I just hope you enjoy the ride!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I know I promised a review or two on some the books that I have been reading before picking up any others – but I have to say that I just got “Generals in Bronze” by James Kelly and edited by William Styple and I am can’t put it down.



Kelly was an artist (see this post about a bronze of General Joseph Hayes) who interviewed many leaders of the Civil War and then later captured their likeness.

Often I find myself picking up a book just for the paragraph or two that pertain to the 18th or one of her sister units, never to read the rest of the book. The interviews that I have read so far are amazing and could very well change the way we look at certain well known points in the war.

We’ve chosen not to provide a complete list, but there are interviews with Phillip Sheridan, William T. Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, Abner Doubleday, Judson Kilpatrick, Daniel Butterfield, Gouverneur K. Warren, Daniel E. Sickles, Alfred Pleasonton, Oliver O. Howard, Joshua L. Chamberlain, and, of course, Joseph Hayes. There are additional interviews with non-combatants such as Professor Thaddeus C. Lowe, Matthew Brady, and William J. Ferguson, who was performing onstage in Our American Cousin and had a close up view of John Wilkes Booth leaping to the stage at Ford’s Theater.

Normally, I provide a link to Amazon but I want to specifically point out that if you go to the publisher, you can get a signed copy by Styple AND $10 will go towards creating a marker for Kelly.

Although he gave the world so much art and beauty, his grave remains unmarked. You can make a difference by purchasing here.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Drew over at Civil War Books and Authors scored the table of contents for "The Earth Reeled and the Trees Trembled - Civil War Arkansas, 1863-1864". It gives great insight to what the book is all about.

Two chapters in particular really stand out because of their titles:
Tom Wing-- A Sink of Iniquity and Corruption: The Civil War in Fort Smith and Indian Territory
Mark K. Christ-- “The Queen City Was a Helpless Wreck”: J.O. Shelby’s Summer of ’64



Iniquity, corruption and a helpless wreck – sounds like a winning combination to me! Be sure to check out Civil War Books and Authors for the complete listing.



Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rantings of a Civil War Historian Eric Wittenberg has co-Authored a book with J. David Petruzzi that looks really interesting – “Plenty of Blame to Go Around: JEB Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg" which looks to be released on September 4th. Eric’s site is one that I visit on a daily basis and one that I would suggest that you go read right now. It is always interesting and very thoughtful and to be honest, something I aspire to be like.



If you act now, you may be able to get your hands on a limited edition copy that is signed by the authors (limited to 100) by preordering with the publisher, Savas Beatie. Since I already have my copy purchased, I have no problem telling others that they too can get a copy!

The authors have also launched a site for the book which you can view here.

If you are waiting for a review, once I get my copy, I will be sure to post one. Until then – here is the publisher’s summary –

June 1863. The Gettysburg Campaign is in its opening hours. Harness jingles and hoofs pound as Confederate cavalryman James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart leads his three brigades of veteran troopers on a ride that triggers one of the Civil War’s most bitter and enduring controversies. Instead of finding glory and victory—two objectives with which he was intimately familiar—Stuart reaped stinging criticism and substantial blame for one of the Confederacy’s most stunning and unexpected battlefield defeats. In Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, Eric J. Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi objectively investigate the role Stuart’s horsemen played in the disastrous campaign. It is the most comprehensive and thoughtful book ever written on this important and endlessly fascinating subject.

Stuart left Virginia under acting on General Robert E. Lee’s discretionary orders to advance into Maryland and Pennsylvania, where he was to screen Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell’s marching infantry corps and report on enemy activity. The mission jumped off its tracks from virtually the moment it began when one unexpected event after another unfolded across Stuart's path. For days, neither Lee nor Stuart had any idea where the other was, and the enemy blocked the horseman’s direct route back to the Confederate army, which was advancing nearly blind north into Pennsylvania. By the time Stuart reached Lee on the afternoon of July 2, the armies had unexpectedly collided at Gettysburg, the second day's fighting was underway, and one of the campaign’s greatest controversies was born.

Did the plumed cavalier disobey Lee’s orders by stripping the army of its “eyes and ears?” Was Stuart to blame for the unexpected combat the broke out at Gettysburg on July 1? Authors Wittenberg and Petruzzi, widely recognized for their study and expertise of Civil War cavalry operations, have drawn upon a massive array of primary sources, many heretofore untapped, to fully explore Stuart’s ride, its consequences, and the intense debate among participants shortly after the battle, through early post-war commentators, and among modern scholars.

The result is a richly detailed study jammed with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern cavalry, and fresh insights on every horse engagement, large and small, fought during the campaign.

About the Authors:
Ohio Attorney Eric J. Wittenberg is a noted Civil War cavalry historian and the author of some dozen books and two dozens articles on the Civil War. His first book, Gettysburg's Forgotten Cavalry Actions, won the 1998 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award. His most recent book is The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign (Savas Beatie LLC, 2005)

J. David Petruzzi
is the author of many magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular “Buford’s Boys” website at www.bufordsboys.com. Petruzzi lives in Brockway, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Attending The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, is rather a unique experience. As Assistant Commandant – Lt. Colonel Harvey Dick told the incoming class of 1991 in August of 1987 – “It is the only college that I know of where students sign their constitutional rights away, in order for the privilege to attend.”

The way I have always described my adventures at The Citadel is as follows. During the Thanksgiving Furlough (The Citadel does not have vacation – don’t ask me why, I could not tell you) – I went and had dinner with my best friend, Sean LeRoy, and his parents. Sean’s father attended The Citadel's arch enemy – VMI – and instead of encouraging him or me to attend a military school, he did everything he could to talk me out of it. While we were eating dinner, Sean and I caught up on being apart for four months. As he went into detail about the many parties he attended and the adventures he had had, I could only respond with – “I did push-ups”. He would then launch into more tales of drunkenness and I would reply with, “I did lots of push ups.” Don’t get me wrong, I did a lot of other things, like running, eating square meals, cleaning a room all night for an inspection – only to have my room ignored but I didn’t have the experience Sean had – but I did have The Citadel experience.

A major part of the experience is Knob year (most colleges call it freshman year). The goal is to strip you of all humanity, break you down a little more and then rebuild you in the image of the perfect Citadel Man. Pat Conroy described it best in “The Lords of Discipline” – knobs (freshman) were lower than whale dung in the bottom of the ocean. A big part of the experience is when incoming knobs receive The Guidon, a small book that holds all that is holy about the history and makeup of The Citadel. With The Guidon, came a letter that told me I should learn everything that was in it. I kept putting it off until the day I was traveling to Charleston – in the end I knew my name, id, company and company commander. I just happened to be missing about 223 other pages of information and I paid dearly for not knowing it.

I soon after learned that book pretty quickly – although “The Cadet Prayer” gave me a hard time – you would be surprised at what a yelling upperclassman at the dinning table or the threat of never ending pushups can help you remember. Two things I learned quick, cadets from The Citadel fired the first shots of the Civil War when they kept the Star of the West from re-supplying Fort Sumter and that the Governor of South Carolina awarded the Corps of Cadets nine battle streamers for their participation in the Civil War – one of which – was for James Island in 1862, better known as the Battle of Secessionville – which occurred outside of Charleston.

I have to admit, I still don’t know much about the battle itself. Truthfully, all I do know is that there is a road on James Island named Secessionville Road – and I only know that because a classmate of mine had a house there – and that occasionally there is a reenactment in Mount Pleasant (yes not James Island) of the battle.

Saturday, I learned a bit more. I have mentioned one of my not so secret vices of reading comic books, specifically Marvel’s Civil War (I will not add the TM out of principle). And although it has been going on several months, it has not linked up to “our” Civil War – until now.

One of the titles, Front Line, always ends the same way. Showing a historical event via art and comparing it with what is happening in the Marvel Universe. It can be very striking – and up until now, my favorite was the one looking at Julius Caesar and his march into Italy. But issue number 5 had the Battle of Secessionville and although to my untrained eyes the weapons seemed off, it was well worth the $2.99 I paid. Although the following is taken from the narrative of the book, it comes nowhere near the impact with the 4 pages of art that accompanies it. Even so, I thought you might enjoy it, as I truly did.

The Battle of Secessionville was fought near Charleston, South Carolina on June 16, 1862. It was the north’s first major effort to take Charleston. During this battle, two brothers named James and Alexander Campbell fought on opposite sides – James as a Lieutenant in the Confederate army and Alexander as a Color Sergeant in the 79th Highlander Regiment. The brothers only later learned that they had fought directly against each other at Secessionville. The Charleston Courier called the two brothers “another illustration of the deplorable consequences of this fratricidal war.”

Alexander Campbell in a letter to his wife – June, 1862
“We are not far from each other now…. This was a War that there never was the like of before…
…Brother against Brother.

James Campbell to his Federal Brother—August, 1862:
“I was astonished to hear from the prisoners that you was the color bearer of the regiment that assaulted the Battery at this point the other day.

I was…During the whole engagement doing my best to beat you(.) But I hope you and I will never again meat face to face bitter enemies on the battlefield(.)

…But if such should be the case you have but to discharge your duty for your cause.

…For I can assure you I will strive to discharge my duty to my country and my cause.

Alexander Campbell to his wife – August, 1862

“I hope to God that he and I will get safe through it all…

…And he will have his story to tell about his side and I will have my story to tell about my side.”
-Front Line #5 – A Marvel Comics Event – Civil War


Friday, August 18, 2006

I just finished reading While in the hands of the enemy: Military Prisons of the Civil War by Charles W. Sanders Jr.

I’ve got to say it is a most powerful book that takes aim at some of the most ingrained ideas of what caused the breakdown of the Prisoner of War system in both the North and the South. Those looking for a book that shows how their “side” acted in the right will not be too happy with Mr. Sanders’ conclusions.

I am going to take a few days to digest it and hope to have a review up soon.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Last month I reviewed Tom Wing’s book "A Rough Introduction to This Sunny Land: The Civil War Diary of Private Henry A. Strong, Co. K, Twelfth Kansas Infantry” and then followed it up with an interview of him.

During the interview, Mr. Wing announced that his next project had him working with Mark Christ of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program on a book titled “The Earth Reeled and the Trees Trembled - Civil War Arkansas, 1863-1866.” Mr. Wing has a chapter in the book titled “The Sink of Iniquity and Corruption”: The Civil War in Fort Smith and Indian Territory.



Severally people followed up and asked if I could get some more information and I contacted Mr. Christ and got just that!

The book will be published in the November/December time frame by The Old State House Museum and is a compilation of papers presented at seminars at the Museum in 2003 and 2004. It will be available for purchase at the Museum’s bookstore.

As the book approaches press time, expect more news and a full review

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back when we first published the Civil War Research Guide, a friend of mine reviewed it for a local paper here in Charleston. He surprised me this morning by digging the review out of his files in posting it on his blog – Ashcanrantings.

Besides going there to see the review, I highly suggest just taking a spin to hear some of the best up and coming music out there on free and legal downloads. To top it off, any revenue generated by the site goes directly to charity – a pretty neat idea for sure.
Kevin over at Civil War Memory did a post about cuts coming to the Museum of the Confederacy. Not only is the post interesting (and mentions that becoming a member is an easy and inexpensive way to help support the MOC) the resulting comments are worth a read too.



As I have mentioned in previous posts – here and here – losing the MOC and its expansive collections would be detrimental to the Civil War community and our American History.

We all can do something and do it easily and painlessly by spending a little less on our normal “fun” money and instead become a member or just plain donate directly to MOC. All of us can have a huge impact by working together.

To learn more about membership in The Museum of the Confederacy, click here
To learn more about donating to The Museum of the Confederacy, click here

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Once, I had a job that had me teaching clients of the company I worked for - the great part about it was that I got to travel at lest once a month. I often used this as an opportunity to visit places I needed to do research at. I remember spending a great weekend in Plympton, Massachusetts, first in the graveyard looking at the gravestones of my ancestors and later at the Historical Society copying all sorts of information down. Another week was spent at the Boston Library, copying newspaper articles that had anything to do with the 18th Massachusetts. Other times, I would use it as opportunity to go visit family – which would mean going to New York City for a week.

The first time I visited NYC, I was near 120th and Broadway. For those of you who are Seinfeld fans, it was near the restaurant that the cast was always at – except the TV took out the first part of the name – Tom’s Restaurant. When I went there, it had become it’s own sort of tourist trap, full of trinkets that you could take home to share of you visit. I got there at 11:30, well before the lunch rush and yet still had a 10 minute wait to be seated. By the time my lunch was finished, there were people staring at me, willing me to leave my spot so they could take it.

It was quite different from another destination, which used to be quite the tourist spot– which I discovered by accident. I have always liked the architecture of churches and especially stained glass windows – an art I think is severely underrated. So when I saw a tall steeple, I thought I would walk towards it. As I got to it, I noticed other things, like a maker for the Battle of Harlem Heights and more importantly – Grant’s Tomb.



I walked towards the tomb, entered it and was shocked at how empty it was – barely half a dozen people including myself were in there. I spent a few minutes as my lunch was ending but I came back the next day and on several other visits too. Each time, it had almost no visitors. To be truthful, it added to the feeling of quiet respect that the tomb deserved.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of Grant’s tomb, I would suggest reading this. It gives you a sense of how important President Grant was to the post war America – so much so that over 1 million people attended his funeral and the dedication ceremony of his tomb, led by President McKinley was almost as large. The tomb itself was paid for by the general public, using a subscription fund raiser.

Yet by the 1990’s it was falling apart and only an influx of $1.8 million of refurbishment money saved it. And when I visited it in 1999 -20001, hardly anybody visited it. For the most part, President Grant was replaced by fictional characters a mile away.

So, with such little regard to President Grant and his final resting place, should we be surprised that hardly anyone remembers Colonel Elmer Ellsworth? Recently there was an article that made the press rounds talking about him, yet there was barely a tremble in the blogosphere about it. Why should there have been, you ask? Well, decent question and one that deserves to be answered.

On May 23, 1861, the day after Virginia voters ratified the ordinance of secession, Lincoln ordered troops to seize Arlington Heights and occupy Alexandria. Colonel Elmer Ellsworth of the 11th NYV, a close personal friend of Lincoln, led a contingent of troops into Alexandria, where he spoted a rebel flag flying above the Marshall House hotel. Ellsworth charged up the stairs of the hotel and cut the banner down. On his way back down the stairs the hotel’s owner, James Jackson, killed him with a shotgun blast.

One of Ellsworth’s soldiers, Francis Brownell, in turn killed Jackson and would later receive the Medal of Honor. Considered the North’s first martyr, Ellsworth’s body lay in state at the White House and later at New York City Hall. The Smithsonian Institute currently owns a piece of the flag, Jackson's shotgun and Brownell's rifle and Medal of Honor – and has it shown in their Legacies exhibit along with such things as a piece of the Plymouth Rock, the Star Spangled Banner and the cup that President McKinley took his last drink from.



Although The Marshall House no longer exists (but luckily there is a Holiday Inn there and a plaque commemorating Ellsworth’s death) at one time it truly was a big attraction. The hotel became a shrine for Northerners, many who carved out pieces of the staircase for souvenirs. In our research we have found three incidents where soldiers mentioned Ellsworth, two of whom sent pieces home.


“We noticed particularly the house occupied by Jackson, brother of the murderer of Ellsworth” as they traveled from Washington to halls Hill, VA
- Middleboro Gazette and Old Colony Advertiser, November 9, 1861, p. 1, Column 5

“I also send a sliver from the flight of stairs on which Col. Ellsworth was shot in the Marshall House, Alexandria.
- Middleboro Gazette and Old Colony Advertiser, Saturday, February 15, 1862; p. 1, column 3

“I chipped off a little piece of wood from the Marshall house in Alexandria in which Ellsworth was killed which I enclose for Inman.”
- George M. Barnard, Jr. - Near Hampton, VA - March 25, 1862

So even though most of us have forgotten Colonel Ellsworth and his sacrifice, this posting will be for him and perhaps a few others will learn of him. And although you can not visit the Marshall House and get your own sliver of the staircase– here is one Sgt. Edmund Churchill took and sent home – it sure is a lot more valuable and interesting than a fictional restaurant that some fictional characters fictionally ate at.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

So the divorce between the city of North Charleston and the Noisette company is final. As I mentioned in the previous post, North Charleston will get land specifically for the proposed Hunley museum but Noisette will be allowed input into the design and construction of the building.

I can see where some jumped to the conclusion that there could be some crazy things happening due to this clause but I am not too sure if any will.

So far the only thing Noisette has been able to do in close to 5 years is almost build a riverfront park using taxpayer’s money. The original completion date was July, yet they are still not completely finished.

It was also reported that Noisette took out a nearly 30 million loan to help jumpstart the redevelopment process. Not sure how much this will help them as it has been estimated that they will need closer to 200 million to complete.

I did happen to take my children to the park this past week and while it was very pretty, it was overrun by mosquitoes – even in the bathrooms. My children had a blast as they hunted the dozen or so who followed us into the car.

If the bugs are still this bad when/if the Hunley museum opens up, I doubt there will ever be repeat visitors. People will be too scared of the dang things!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

For several years we have had the following on our website under the Lost History section.

Brigadier General Joseph Hayes Plaque - a bronze plaque, no one knows why it existed or where it went

This is one of the great unsolved mysteries that our group has come across. Over the years we have heard rumors of certain items and have been able to track them down or we would come across an item dealing with a member of the 18th and have no idea how it came into being, only later to discover the true origin. On this item we had never heard about it until it appeared on EBAY one day and still know nothing about its origin. The seller could not provide any historical information and refused to tell us where he got it from or who he sold it to.

Description from EBAY:

This is a SOLID BRONZE plaque, by GORHAM, of Brigadier General Joseph Hayes. The plaque is QUITE heavy (probably around 50-75 pounds) and measures 23 1/4" high and 15" wide and appx. 2" deep. There are 4 large bolts coming out of the back for mounting. On the bottom it is signed THE GORHAM CO. FOUNDERS. I will try my best to read to you the inscription on the front. I believe it says "JOSEPH HAYES BRIGADIER G. MAY GENERAL W.S.VOLS COMDG 1ST BRIGADE (REGULARS) & 5TH ARMY CORPS. NY MAY 29/06". The piece is on the dirty side, but...NO cracks...NO breaks... NO repairs.




During Donald's trip to Gettysburg he found a book that solved this great mystery and reports the following.

William E. Styples’ latest book, Generals in Bronze, has finally solved the mystery of the Joseph Hayes bronze relief. The relief was the work of American artist James E. Kelly (1855-1933), who, because of his interest in the Civil War, created a series of these bronze artworks featuring men who had served as generals during the war. Kelly conducted extensive interviews with each general prior to creating the work and those edited interviews form the basis of Styples’ book.

We’ve chosen not to provide a complete list, but there are interviews with Phillip Sheridan, William T. Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, Abner Doubleday, Judson Kilpatrick, Daniel Butterfield, Gouverneur K. Warren, Daniel E. Sickles, Alfred Pleasonton, Oliver O. Howard, Joshua L. Chamberlain, and, of course, Joseph Hayes. There are additional interviews with non-combatants such as Professor Thaddeus C. Lowe, Matthew Brady, and William J. Ferguson, who was performing onstage in Our American Cousin and had a close up view of John Wilkes Booth leaping to the stage at Ford’s Theater.

Kelly is most noted for his public sculptures, including the Monmouth Battle Monument in Freehold, N.J., the John Buford Monument at Gettysburg, the Sixth New York Cavalry Monument at Gettysburg, the Battle of Harlem Heights at Columbia University, New York City, and the Soldier’s and Sailors Monument at Troy, N.Y.

Hayes and Kelly first met in 1887 and formed a close friendship which lasted for 25 years. Kelly described Hayes as “strikingly handsome” and “his gait and bearing were that of a cavalier…and his rather precise English proclaimed him a Harvard man of the Old School.” The interview with Hayes includes his comments on the Battle of Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, on Grant taking command of the Union Army, the Battle of the Wilderness, his promotion to Brigadier General, and the surrender at Appomattox.

Hayes on Pickett’s Charge:
“I was on the Little Round Top and saw Pickett’s charge. Our cannon opened on them. They broke in disorder and huddled round their colors and advanced in disorder and were easily repulsed. They came forward sticking to it up to our front and in no line-of-battle, but a mob. Then they fell back in a rush, running over the field. We sat on the rocks and laughed at them. General Meade said that never before until that time had he seen a division in line-of-battle, as they are apt to be obscured by woods or other natural formation.”

Styple’s book, published by Belle Grove Publishing Co. in 2005, can be purchased through any major online bookstore, however we would recommend purchasing directly from the publisher at http://www.bellegrovepublishing.com/ as you'll not only receive an autographed copy, but $10 of every purchase goes toward a fund to provide a memorial for James E. Kelly's currently unmarked grave at St. Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The following was written by Donald for our website but I felt it was even better as a post. I often get asked about why I research the 18th, the easy answer is to say because my great-great grandfather and two of his brothers were members of the unit - the following delves into the deeper answer.
____________
We’ll begin by stating that the three of us, Tom Churchill, Steve McManus, and Donald Thompson, are not professional historians, nor do we profess to be experts on the Civil War. Suffice it to say, however, we do know more than the average American about a war that was fought from April 12, 1861 to April 12, 1865. And it’s probably a safe bet to say that we know more about the 18th Massachusetts Infantry than anyone on the face of this planet.

A collective bond has held us together for the past nine years, a bond that stems from our mutual interest in the 18th Massachusetts. Steve had one great-great-grandfather, Stephen Thomas, who rose from Captain of Company D to Lt. Colonel of the Regiment. Tom’s great-great-grandfather Edmund Churchill served in Co. E and carried the colors at Fredericksburg, when the Regiment was engaged in the last wave of Union assaults on Marye’s Heights. Donald’s great-great-grandfather Samuel H. Jordan was 19 when he lost his left arm at Bethesda Church, while his third great-grandfather George Washington Thompson was, according to one Pension Examiner, “something of a pension guru” in lending counsel to other veterans on the filing of their claims.

During the past nine years we have literally chased the dead, from Maine to California and points in between, all in an effort to uncover information on our beloved 18th Mass. When we first began we had about ten pages of information on the Regiment. Now we have a working manuscript comprised of over 1700 pages of material. We’ve copied over 900 pension records from the National Archives, collected pictures, and visited cemeteries. Still, in all this, we’re always on the lookout for more information. We know there are surviving letters, diaries, and pictures of men who served with the 18th that we haven’t seen. We know there are descendants of men who served with the Regiment, we haven’t communicated with yet. If you’re a descendant or someone with information on the Regiment, we’re asking you to share it with us. Please keep in mind though, the three of us are average guys all dedicated to our day jobs. Which is another way of saying we can’t offer anything, except our deep gratitude, for any information or copies of material sent to us. We’re also glad to provide information and reciprocate, if possible.

Our goal for the past nine years has been very simple, i.e. to write a history of the Regiment. And to that end we have begun the process of writing the story of the 18th Massachusetts. A history was first visualized in the early 1900’s by veterans of Regiment. In fact, committees were formed for this purpose. But time worked against the veterans, reducing their numbers as each year passed, until on September 1, 1937 the last surviving member of the Regiment, George Wixon, passed away in New Bedford, MA.

We are not suggesting the 18th Massachusetts was unique as a Civil War regiment. The men were like most soldiers and their regiment served as so many others did. They were engaged in battles, battled the boredom and tedium of camp life, relished letters from home, endured long, forced marches through deep mud and blistering heat. They died in places not listed on a modern day map, without loved ones by their sides. Their limbs were piled outside a surgeons tent. They didn’t win the war single-handedly. They weren’t lauded as the bravest of the brave. They were shoemakers, farmers, laborers, jewelry workers, and iron workers, young, old, tall, short, native born and immigrant, all of whom left their homes between 1861 and 1864 and collectively did what they felt compelled to do, to try to keep a country indivisible.

Someone once said that a writer should avoid using the word “interesting,” because ultimately it was up to the reader to decide whether something was or wasn’t interesting. With that in mind, here are some incontrovertible facts we’ve uncovered about the 18th Massachusetts Infantry.

1,421 men were assigned for duty with the Regiment from 1861 to 1864. While Zebah Thayer, at age 63 and a member of the Regimental Band, holds the distinction of being the oldest man to be mustered, all due has to be given to Samuel Morrill, who at 58 years of age was a Private in Co. A. The youngest to serve was 13 year old Thomas S. Dunham. Dunham, who claimed to be 16 at the time he and his father Benjamin were mustered into Co. C on Jan. 14, 1862, was born Feb. 24, 1848 and served until October 2, 1863, when he was discharged due to disability. The tallest was Watson N. Smith, Co. C, who at 6 ft. 6-1/2 inches towered over little George P. Hooper, Co. H, who was measured at 4 feet exactly. 658 men are confirmed to have had blue eyes. 815 are confirmed to have been born in Massachusetts, while Maine contributed 62 men to the ranks. 163 are confirmed to have been born in Ireland, 38 in Canada, 26 in Germany, and 1 in Switzerland. 229 men are confirmed to have been employed as Shoemakers at the time of their muster, while 177 men earned their living by farming. Other skills and professions were represented as evidenced by the fact that there were 21 mechanics, 109 laborers, 29 painters, 43 bootmakers, 5 bookkeepers, 24 teamsters, 16 tailors, 4 cigar makers, and an organ maker.

85 men were killed in action, including at least 28 who were married. 42 died of their wounds, including at least 13 who left widows. The oldest man to die as a result of hostile action was Capt. George Ruby, then age 46, who was killed at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862, while the youngest was Solon B. Smith, who was 17 when he died of his wounds on October 7, 1864. The first man from the Regiment to be killed in action was Joseph M. Jordan, Co. H, on June 27, 1862 at Gaines Mill. Jordan was one of a number of men who had been left behind in camp when the 18th was assigned to an expedition led by Gen. George Stoneman. When Porter's Fifth Corps was attacked at Gaines Mills, Jordan joined with the 9th Mass. Infantry and was killed while this regiment was engaged in a bayonet charge.

Henry Harlow of Co. G, a 20 year old Farmer from Hanover, MA was the first of 126 to die of disease, when he passed at Halls Hill, VA on October 9, 1861 due to Typhoid Fever. There were 34 confirmed deaths from Typhoid Fever and another 25 confirmed to have died of Chronic Diarrhea. Oscar Guild’s life ended in its 15th year, snuffed out by Typhoid Fever, the same disease that felled Thomas Churchill, then age 54. One of the more poignant stories involves Jesse Lewis Swift, Co. E, who was 16 when he was mustered on August 13, 1862. Swift, who was wounded at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862, was one of 11 men from his Company cited for bravery during the battle. A year and a half later he was taken prisoner at the battle of the Wilderness and survived five months in captivity before dying of Scurvy and Chronic Diarrhea at the Florence Stockade in South Carolina on November 5, 1864.

316 men were discharged due to physical disability and another 88 due to wounds. Of the men discharged for disability, 65 would enlist for further military service, not including those who were transferred to the Veterans Reserved Corps. 31 of those discharged on account of their wounds would likewise enlist after their stint with the 18th Mass. One story that stands out is that of Charles W. Simpson. Born Nov. 10, 1844 in Roxbury, MA, Simpson was a 17 year old Farmer when he enlisted at Readville, MA on August 17, 1861. 5 ft. 4 in. tall with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes, and light brown hair, he was engaged with the regiment in 1862 battles fought at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Shepardstown, and Fredericksburg. Wounded in the left arm at the battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862, he was discharged due to his wounds at Boston, MA on Feb. 27, 1863. After securing an Invalid Pension, Simpson enlisted for a second time with the Regiment on Dec. 31, 1863. He was wounded again at the Chickahominay River on June 7, 1864, while on picket duty. When the majority of three year enlistments expired and most members of the regiment were mustered out, he, along with the remnants of the 18th Mass. were transferred to the 32nd Massachusetts, Simpson being assigned to Co. B. Simpson was wounded for a third time and taken prisoner at Hatcher's Run, VA on February 6, 1865. He was paroled on Feb. 19, 1865, but succumbed to his wounds, dying at Annapolis, Maryland on February 22, 1865. He is interred at Annapolis National Cemetery, Grave #: 546, Section L, Grave number 70.

116 men are designated as deserters, most of the desertions occurring after September 1863. Seven of those men are reported to have “deserted to the enemy,” including four who joined the 10th Tennessee Infantry. What those four men have in common is the fact that they were recruited for Confederate service while being held as Prisoners of War at Andersonville, GA. It’s easy to surmise that their decision was based solely on their desire to escape the terrible conditions at the prison. The instinct to survive is no more telling than in the saga of Thomas Richmond of Company A. Born at Ware, MA, Richmond was an 18-year-old Farmer from Russell, MA when he enlisted at Boston on August 30, 1861. He was engaged with the Regiment in 1862 at the Second Battle of Bull Run and then absent sick from Nov. 19, 1862 to April 30, 1863 due to chronic diarrhea and rheumatism. Rejoining the Regiment, Richmond was wounded on May 8, 1863 at the battle of Chancellorsville and also saw action at Rappahannock Station in November of that year. He was wounded for a second time on June 3, 1864 at Bethesda Church, VA, where he was taken prisoner. Held as a POW at Richmond, he was transferred to Andersonville on June 5, 1864. On or about Nov. 10, 1864, while still a prisoner at Andersonville, he took the oath of allegiance and enlisted in the 10th Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate Army. This regiment was engaged in battle with Union forces at Egypt, Mississippi on Dec. 28, 1864 and Richmond, after being taken prisoner, was confined at Alton, Illinois. Again, probably to secure his freedom, he enlisted in Company B of the 5th U.S. Volunteers on March 17, 1865, but subsequently deserted on August 27, 1865. His wife Harriett was later rejected in her claim for a Widow’s pension due to her husband’s listed status as a deserter.

120 men who enlisted at the start of the war were mustered out of service on September 2, 1864 when their three-year enlistment expired. Another 87, mustered into service on August 24, 1861, accepted the inducement of a re-enlistment bonus in January and February 1864 and were transferred to the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry, when the 18th Massachusetts ceased to exit. Of those men, 58 were present at Appomattox Court House and witnessed the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The story of the 18th Massachusetts didn’t end with the conclusion of hostilities, however. Most veterans, 634 by our count, permanently returned to their homes in Massachusetts and picked up their lives. Others scattered to the wind, settling in towns in Nebraska, Kansas, California, Illinois, and Oregon, while nine took up residency in former Confederate States. Joseph Merriam, an Assistant Surgeon, traveled the furthest, establishing himself in Iquique, Peru, where he married, fathered three children, served as U.S. Consul, and is buried. Melvin Leach ran a clothing store in Hebron, NE and still has descendants residing in the town. Three men, George Dean, Ernest Jennings, and Edward Onion all resided in Salt Lake City, where they were a machinist for a railroad company, carpenter, and antique dealer respectively. Others lived shadowy and nomadic existences, like William H. Holmes. In early July 1901 Holmes, then 62 years of age, wandered into the town of Amherst, N.H. and was dead three weeks later of Tuberculosis. His wallet empty and with no family members able to contribute to the cost of his burial, he was interred as a stranger to that town, the cost being borne by the local G.A.R. Post. In reference to the Grand Army of the Republic, 307 are confimed to have been members and four posts in Massachusetts were named in honor of 18th Massachusetts veterans, the Joseph W. Collingwood Post No. 76 in Plymouth, the Charles W. Carroll Post No. 144 in Dedham, the Timothy Ingraham Post No. 121 in Hyde Park, and the George H. Maintien Post No. 133 in Wrentham. Ingraham was the only one of the four to survive the war. Two of Collingwood’s daughters became teachers, while his middle son became an agricultural writer of some note. Carroll lay mortally wounded on the field at Second Bull Run for three days before drawing his final breath, while Maintien lies buried at Andersonville.

Our research efforts and this Web site are but small tokens of our respect for the 18th Massachusetts. They are representations to history and the world that the men and the colors they marched with so proudly are not forgotten. Each year, on the Sunday closest to December 13th, we honor the 18th Massachusetts by presenting a wreath at ceremonies marking the anniversary of the battle of Fredericksburg. Most recently we began extending the same honor to the 110 men of the regiment who fought at Gettysburg’s Wheatfield by placing a wreath at 18th’s monument on Ayers Avenue.