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This is the archive for October 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A lot of theories abound as to why some break the law, break the Ten Commandments, furniture, their lover's heart....We're all guilty to a certain degree of having committed real or imagined transgressions, major or minor, against property, life, limb, someone else's happiness, and our own selfish selves. Statistically we're more apt to wind up on a National Geographic special about life behind bars at San Quentin when we're in our late teens or early twenties than when gray hairs start crowding out the natural color on our heads. What we have to look forward to when we're wizened, draped with white locks, and blotched with age spots are the excuses we'll create to justify our past behaviors. Invariably that excuse will be "I was young, dumb, and stupid," or better still, "I have no recollection of that Senator."

James B. Snow, who served with his uncle who happened to be my third great-grandfather, in Company I of the 18th Massachusetts, is a prime example of what I'm talking about. Thomas Mann, a member of the same Company, whose memoirs were edited by National Park Service historian John Hennessey and titled "Fighting With the Eighteenth Massachusetts," wrote of Snow, "At the time he was turning his 18th year a change was becoming perceptible, and if had not been for the war no doubt he would have grown into a bad man...he floated through [his military service]...growling, grumbling, and the boss profane man of the company, though seldom shirking."

Snow, along with Mann, would see the elephant many times over, including at Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness, the latter place at which both were taken prisoner and ultimately shipped off with twenty-two other of their comrades to a hell hole called Andersonville. Whether Mann was correct in his assessment of Snow, that army life, the war, and reduction to a near skeletal state at the time of his release from captivity, were lifestyle altering experiences, Mann added this postscript: "It should be noted here, however, that at this [1890] writing {Snow] is a leading man in the town of his residence, and a prominent church worker."

While Snow toed the line and feared God as his time on earth grew ever shorter the opposite side of the spectrum can manifest itself among those who fall from grace and prey to latent desires. Are you with me brother Jimmy Swaggart? Are your lips moving while reading my words Jim Bakker? Verily I say unto thee Aimee Semple McPherson, put down that glass house before thou doest dare to chuck it in the direction of yonder rock!

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote of lust and the worm of guilt burrowing deep inside the wracked and ruined soul of the Reverend Arthur Dimsdale. Fictionalized though the story was, the stuff of its pages were rooted in the DNA of the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay colony, the truth of which could also be found in Lexington, Virginia as evidenced by pages 155 and 156 in Thomas Lowery's "The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell."

"Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson had a well-deserved reputation for piety and moral consevatism, but even he may have had weaknesses of the flesh, as shown in this note attributed to Gen. Ezra A. Carman:

"Stonewall Jackson was not a youthful saint; he was fond of horse races and has his full share of the hot blood and indiscretions of youth. It is known and not denied by those conversant with the facts that he was the father of an illegitmate child. Major [Jedediah] Hotchkiss (May 14, 1895) informed me that this was known to Jackson's military family among whom the matter was frequently discussed. When a cadet at West Point and on a visit to his home he seduced a young girl at or near Beverly and the result was a child, which Jackson acknowledged and to which he frequently made presents and sent money. The late Asher [Waterman] Harman also confirmed this and had knowledge of the fact before the war. Dr. [Robert Lewis] Dabney when hunting material for his life of Jackson was horrified to learn this fact and utterly refused to believe it."


Source for "Stonewall Jackson Praying:"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Over time those who knew died off, records became buried under blankets of archival dust, and ultimately the location of Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Frederick Charles Anderson's grave was lost to generations of the once were and the now living.

Anderson, a Private in Company H of the 18th Massachusetts, had been awarded the medal during a ceremony held on September 6, 1864 for his capture of the flag bearer and regimental colors of the 27th South Carolina Infantry on August 21st of that year during the Second Battle of Weldon Railroad. Many who had searched for the grave, myself included, had been thrown off track by an unfounded rumor that he was buried at the non-existent "Anderson Family Cemetery" in Somerset, Massachusetts.

There were numerous references on the Web to Anderson being awarded the Medal of Honor, most which included this brief citation:

"Rank and organization: Private, Company A, 18th Massachusetts Infantry. Place and date: At Weldon Railroad, Va., 21 August 1864. Entered service at:------Birth: Boston, Mass. Date of issue: 6 September 1864. Citation: Capture of battle flag of 27th South Carolina (C.S.A.) and the color bearer."

Largely forgotten, Anderson's life, which ended in its fortieth year when he dropped dead in a Providence, Rhode Island railroad freight yard, was seemingly resurrected through a two-part series written by reporter John Quattrucci, which appeared in the Raynham Call on July 20, 2009 and July 28, 2009.

Unbeknownst to Quattrucci the story would inspire Call reader and Korean War veteran Charles Mogayzel to begin what ultimately became a two-year quest to locate Frederick's grave. That quest would lead through unsuccessful searches of numerous burial grounds in Somerset until, playing a hunch, Mogayzel obtained a copy of Frederick's death certificate.

Four miles separated Anderson from the center of his adopted home town of Somerset and his final resting place. Little did anyone think to look in the neighboring town of Dighton where Anderson had absolutely no connections. On October 20, 2011 the Taunton Daily Gazette featured a story of a group of four men, including Charles Mogayzel, who came to pay their respects to a man who stood 5 feet three inches tall in life, but whose courage on August 21, 1864 belied his physical stature, at the Dighton Community Church Cemetery.

Note to readers:

To read about the ceremony in which Anderson was one of three soldiers honored with the Medal of Honor on September 6, 1864 click on Read more.

To view a memorial for Frederick Anderson placed on the Find A Grave Web site click on

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When last reported on June 24, 2010 the headstone marking the graves of 18th Massachusetts Infantry veterans Albert L. Jordan and George W. Thompson had been toppled by vandals. Although it's been 16 months, rather than simply leaving readers wondering what the outcome was, I'm pleased to announce that the headstone, with assistance from Stobbart's Nurseries of Franklin, MA, was once again placed in an upright position on its base. The accompanying pictures were taken on Memorial Day 2011 when I visited the graves for the first time since the restoration occurred. That occasion was marked with a singular ceremony in which two Civil War grave markers and flags were placed on both sides of the headstone.