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This is the archive for February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012



Absolutely nothing happened in the world on February 29, 1862, because, you guessed it, 1862 wasn't a leap year.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Movement! At long last! Brig. Gen. Fitz-John Porter issued orders for all those under his command to be ready to march at first light on March 1st with two days cooked rations and to be "prepared for an absence of 6 or 7 days."

Capt. Joseph Collingwood loaded up an envelope with pictures of men from the 18th Mass. for his wife Rebecca. Rumor has it that they'd eventually find their way onto eBay years later where they'd be advertised as unidentified soldiers.


Note: to see what David Crossley Meechan of Co. E was up to on this date visit his Facebook page.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Needless to say it rained. Not only did that result in cancellation of the march that had been planned for this morning, but the precipitation also put a damper on fiery hearts that had filled the camp the previous day. As a result the hum drum reality of camp life quickly settled back in and no one made an effort to stifle yawns.

But all love is not lost in war. James L. Westin, who had befriended the 18th's Austin Williams in a Washington hospital ward, where Westin was probably detailed as a nurse, tried once again to strike up a relationship with Austin's sister Mary. In a letter that begged sympathy and tried to manipulate heart strings, Westin urged Mary to answer quickly as he was facing the prospect of shipping out to North Carolina where he feared his fate would be sealed. If cold in the ground, his worst thoughts were that he would never again gaze upon the kindness of her words. Or something to that effect. It's unknown if Mary ever wrote back or if James heard muskets crackle.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Movement! At long last! Or at least the prospect of movement loomed for February 27th, provided the weather held. The camp literally buzzed with activity. Cooks hustled to prepare two days worth of rations, while 100 rounds of ammunition were issued to each man. Instructions rang out that those unable to carry a full load of equipment were to remain in camp as a Home Guard. Not wanting to miss out on the action and itching to get at it, some who had previously been under the weather suddenly felt their oats. For their part, surgeons readied the seriously ill for evacuation to Washington hospitals that was planned for the morning of the 27th.

Enthuiasm and bravado reigned. After six months of endless drills, guard mounts, and picket duty the 18th was finally going to plant their boots in rebel butts. Beginning at Centreville, which undoubtedly would be the first place to fall, the Regiment then planned to singlehandly kick Secesh all the way back to Richmond, provided, of course, the weather held.



Saturday, February 25, 2012


430 miles north of Camp Barnes Catherine Daly pleaded through a letter for her husband Timothy, a Private in Co. B, to come home, even if only for a week. Blind in her right eye and facing surgery to save the remaining sight in the left she feared she wouldn't be able to care for two small daughters by herself. She also informed Timothy that a letter he had sent containing $15 had evidently gone astray. Whatever feelings of helplessness she might have invoked in Timothy she tried to reassure him by closing her missive with "Your children Catherine [age 6] and Ellen [age 3] unites with me in sending you our love and united affections by accepting of. I will sign myself your loveing wife till death."

On a happier note the Regiment's Glee Club comprised of Sergt. William Alderman, baritone, Priv. Frederick McAvoy, soprano, Pvt. George Maintien, first tenor, Sergt. Ezra K. Bly, second tenor, and Corp. George W. Jones, bass, debuted "Comrades, Touch the Elbow;" lyrics by Brig. Gen. John H. Martindale, music by 18th Mass. bandleader Cyrus Vaughn.

When battle's music greets our ear,
Our guns are sighted on the foe;
Then nerve the arm and banish fear
And Comrades touch the elbow.

Chorus:

Touch the elbow now my boys,
Comrades touch the elbow!
Nerve the arm and banish fear,
And Comrades touch the elbow!

For Home and Country, Patriots, fire,
Kindle our souls with fervid glow,
The foe before us shall retire,
When Comrades touch the elbow!
- Chorus.

Though cannon ball may plow the rank,
And though it make the life-blood flow,
Fill up the space the ball made blank,
And Comrades touch the elbow!
- Chorus.

Now show the stuff of which you're made!
List to the signal "March" Hallo!
Double the quick-step! First Brigade, Charge!
Comrades touch the elbow!
- Chorus


Friday, February 24, 2012

After strong winds of hurricane like proportions had blown down tents the previous afternoon, the regiment worked toward restoring order by repitching tents and mending torn canvas. A quick survey of the damage found that not only were camps in shambles but "several houses and chimney tops were blown over during the gale."

The rabbit connoisseurs were at it again. Led by Isaac Shaw and the Atwood brothers of Co. C, six more Secesh bunnies were bagged, providing a gourmand respite from the usual salt junk and hard bread.

A healthy rivalry was surfacing between the 18th and 22nd Massachusetts. The 18th felt they had it all over the boys from Bristol, Norfolk, Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties by virtue of the fact the 18th was assigned the post of honor in the First Brigade, were better clothed, were as literate, and, more importantly to some, fewer "foreigners" in the ranks.

Note: Up through February 24th, the 682 Massachusetts natives, who comprised the bulk of the Regiment, were joined under arms by 118 Irishmen, 30 Canadians, 28 Englishmen, nine Scots, three Germans, two Frenchmen, and one man each from Chile, Holland, Norway, and Sweden.


Note: to see what David Crossley Meechan of Co. E was up to on this date visit his Facebook page.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Today's entry features an excerpt from a sermon delivered at the Old Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia on Sunday, February 23, 1862 by Bejamin F. De Costa, Chaplain of the 18th Massachusetts, to commemorate George Washington's birthday. His preambe provided the reader of his sermon, published one day later, context in which to frame not only the occasion but the historic setting from which his words echoed 150 years ago today.


On the recurrence of the Anniversary of Washington’s Birthday, the Eighteenth Massachusetts Regiment was stationed at Camp Barnes, Hall’s Hill, Fairfax County, VA. The propriety of holding some commemorative service was suggested to the Regiment, and Falls Church, two miles distant from Camp, was selected as the most appropriate place for the celebration. The following discourse was prepared for the occasion, and though composed amid the tumults of a camp is now made public in accordance with an expressed wish, as a tribute of respect to the memory of Washington.

The Reader may perhaps be interested to learn that Falls Church was built at a very early date, of brick brought from England. Without tower or spire, the soldier as he approaches on the Leesburg Turnpike is unable to discern it at a distance, but comes upon it suddenly, and finds it embosomed among the lofty trees in the surrounding Churchyard. Within are no ecclesiastical adornments, no medieval tracery and painted windows, no dim religious light, and no Gothic arch rising grandly to the ceiling, chaunting its perpetual Sursum Corda. And yet this simple, unpretending structure, which has no architectural beauty to recommend it to the Artist, is an object of great interest. For several years Washington was a Vestryman of the Parish, and on Sundays he was accustomed to ride from Mount Vernon, to attend the services, which were conducted according to the Ritual of the Protestant Episcopal Church. This venerable edifice has been sadly neglected and profaned during the present war, and has fallen successively into the hands of the rebel and Union troops. Representatives of both parties, the victims of a wicked ambition, now peacefully slumber side by side in the Churchyard, mourned at desolate firesides from the Carolinas to the shores of the Michigan.

Benjamin F. De Costa

Camp Barnes, Hall’s Hill, VA. Feb. 24th, 1862
.

Old Falls Church - National Archives files



Excerpt from: "A Discourse in Commemoration of Washington's Birthday, Delivered in Falls Church, Fairfax Co., VA. on Sunday, February 23, 1862 by Rev. B.F. De Costa, Chaplain of the Eighteenth Massachusetts Regiment."


These are times which call, not for theories or speculations, or sounding platitudes, but for action. Every other consideration dwindles into insignificance compared with the one all-absorbing theme of present duty, and all discussion should therefore be confined simply to consider in what that duty consists and how it should be performed.

A few months ago we were quietly pursuing our avocations in our respective homes among the hills of New England. To-day we stand upon the soil of Virginia with arms in our hands, ready to engage in deadly conflict with those who but lately were uniting with us in offices of devotion and patriotism, and apparently rejoicing with us in the prosperity of our common country. A sad and strange spectacle indeed! Throughout the length and breadth of this vast Republic, the hosts are assembling and girding themselves for the fearful struggle. But why this terrible conflict, and why are we here to-day? Not assuredly for any personal advantage. We have come inspired by no dream of ambition and with no hopes of golden conquest. We are here not to devastate and pillage, not to outrage the unoffending, or to shed innocent blood; and if in one hand we bear the sword, in the other we bear the sacred olive branch.

The people of the South have risen in rebellion against the regularly constituted authorities of the land, and we are now engaged in a stupendous struggle for its suppression. Of the causes which led to this fearful outbreak it is unnecessary to say but a word. Disappointed to their schemes to rule the nation with a rod of iron; foiled in their efforts to transform the charter of our liberties into the patents of a slave propaganda; and humiliated and disgraced in the eyes of their constituents, the ambitious and unscrupulous leaders of the South resolved on one grand effort to win back their greatness. How far we may be deemed responsible, I will not undertake to say, nor will I inquire in what respect this great calamity may be considered a visitation of God, permitted as a chastisement for our sins as a nation.

That the people of both the North and the South had prepared the way for the operations of these wicked conspirators cannot be denied. By our forgetfulness of God, by our abuse of our freedom, and by the contempt for authority, which in past years has engendered many a scene of violence in the various sections of our country, we had been gradually verging towards a lax condition of public sentiment in every respect favorable to the growth of anarchy and rebellion. In our semi-barbarous eagerness to enjoy the fruits of liberty, we had well nigh lain the axe at the root of the fair and beautious tree which in the Providence of God was planted in this Western World for the healing of the nations. But that is past, and let the dead bury the dead – but happy will it be for us, as a people, if we learn a lesson of wisdom, and rise from the earth to which we are now bowed down, the better prepared to continue the struggle, having, like fabled Antaeus, renewed our strength by the blessed communication. We are now in the midst of rebellion; therefore, waiving all other considerations, it becomes us to study our duties in this great crisis with calmness and deliberation, to remember wither our course may tend, and the sacrifices to which it may lead us.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Part One of this blog post went up exactly two years ago to the day. When the original told of a July 1863 letter written by Edmund Churchill, as well as Civil War relics he had collected, being returned to his second great-grandson Tom, co-author of Touch the Elbow, 145 plus years later, little did we even begin to dream there'd be a sequel.

To fully understand the evolution of Part Two we have to go back in time to a house in Plympton, Massachusetts that was sold by members of the Churchill family to Mark Quinlan's grandfather. I'm not certain of the year, but we can probably date the sale to at least the 1940's. Somehow, in clearing out the contents of the house, two small items, probably kept in a box in the attic, were left behind when the Churchills vacated the premises. Those two items would then pass down through three generations of Quinlans.

After considering a number of different options, Mark found us, the keepers of the 18th Massachusetts' flame, through our Web site and sent an email informing us that he had 1863 and 1864 diaries kept by Edmund in his possession and asked if we would be interested in purchasing them.

On January 21st, Mark, his wife Rosanna, and I met for coffee in Alexandria, Virginia, which is very close to the midway point between Plympton, MA and Charleston, SC. Being a part of the Army of the Potomac's Fifth Corps, every one of Edmund's entries in those diaries would have been written within a 140 miles radius of our table at the Firehook Bakery and Cafe on South Union Street and Edmund himself was within 100 to 200 yards of where we sat 150 years earlier, both when he visited the Marshall House, scene of Col. Elmer Ellsworth's murder, and when he embarked on a troop transport for the Peninsula Campaign in March of 1862.

The coffee, pastries, and conversation all proved to be equally good. The sharing of mutual facts, life experiences, and information on the 18th Mass. made our meeting seem more like a reunion than a business transaction and it was close to 45 minutes before the diaries actually made their appearance. That moment nearly stole my breath and certainly silenced me. When the top of a white box measuring six inches by four inches and one inch deep was removed and a layer of white tissue folded back I struggled to contain my emotions and had to signal Mark and Rosanna that a brief moment was needed to collect myself. Something that defied description seemed to grip me, because when I tried to touch the diaries I found that I couldn't. Even on two subsequent attempts. The act of actually holding each leather bound volume and slowly turning their pages wouldn't occur until three days later

Mark acknowledged that he could have easily sold the diaries to a dealer or placed them for bid on eBay to fetch a higher price than the amount we agreed on, or even donated them to a library or historical society, but he wanted them to go to someone for whom they would have meaning and worth far beyond any monetary valuation. I trust that through our exchange of emails and actual meeting that his objective in letting go of such treasures, after nearly fifty years of possession by his immediate family, had been achieved.

I didn't follow a beeline to the Charleston area to meet up with Tom. Instead when I left home on February 8th I headed for Yorktown, Virginia and over the next two days would make additional stops in Hampton, VA, Salisbury, NC, and Florence, SC, all of which places had some connection to men who served with the 18th Mass. And even after hooking up with Tom and his eldest son Tommy that Saturday morning on the Citadel campus the plan all along had been to present him with the diaries later that night at dinner.

The story behind the aforementioned stops and our Saturday morning excursion through Charleston, which we had dubbed "The Thomas Mann Escape Tour," will be covered in subsequent blog posts. What I can tell you is that rest of my afternoon was spent strolling through the Battery and surrounding neighborhood clicking away with my digital camera. This being my second visit to Charleston many of the homes were still etched in memory, but the photographs of that first trip, that had been printed from film, are stored somewhere in a shoebox. At least I think they're somewhere in a shoebox.

The drive to the Boulevard Diner in Mt. Pleasant allowed me to use the Arthur Ravenel Bridge for the first time. Incredibly beautiful in its design, it's a far cry from the white knuckle "God, I promise if you let me survive" oath inducing structure called the Grace Memorial Bridge that the Ravenel replaced in 2005.

After being introduced to the rest of the Churchill clan the adults settled down to blackened catfish and "smashed" potatoes, while Tom's other two kids, Stephen and Theresa, ate, well, what you sort of expect kids to eat when they dine out. Take me at my word, there are no adventuresome gourmets among the Churchill offspring. During dinner Tom's wife Serena, the only person alive who has played the correct melody to "Comrades Touch the Elbow" (Note to all: the words are not set to John Brown's Body) and who teaches high school chemistry, cracked me up when she attested to the explosive qualities of powered diary creamer, the result of a lab experiment gone awry. Sirens anyone?

I orchestrated a long drawn out presentation, teasing Tom with the flash drive and bound transcripts Mark had provided, before finally placing the small white box in front of him. Because I don't want to project, Tom will have to tell us sometime what he was actually thinking and feeling at the precise moment his eyes fixed on the diaries. I know he didn't say much beyond using words of gratitude repeatedly, but the picture I took of him and his daughter Theresa just minutes later does in fact add up to a thousand words.

And so from this observation point another small part of the universe has been set right again. The thoughts of one man committed to paper 148 and 149 years ago amidst a world rocked off its axis have at long last made the full circle journey back to kindred blood. Yet I'm left wondering if Edmund Churchill, while sitting on Little Round Top on July 3, 1863, pencil in hand, his eyes surveying the horrible aftermath of battle, realized then that his words could and would survive far into a future that even his wildest dreams could not have envisioned. I wonder, too, how many of us living in the here and now will have our written thoughts and observations survive as long as Edmund's. The odds are that oblivion awaits.


July 2, 1863

Showery day. Marched at 5 AM towards Gettysburg. Halted near the turnpike and supported Weeds battery till 3 PM when we went to the front with the brigade. Rebs tried a flank movement on our right and succeeded in forcing us back half a mile. Fought till 7 PM then rested for the night. Heavy losses in our division this afternoon.


July 3, 1863

Very hard fighting on our right all day. Showery. Laid at the front all day. Had several men wounded. Rebels lost ground all day. Lee said to be a prisoner and Longstreet killed Sickles lost a leg and Weeds killed. PA. reserve charged and drove the rebels at dark. Had a chance to see the charge at night and to see the rebs all day.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012


1st Lieutenant Cyrus M. Wheaton of Co. B, who had been granted leave on January 27th due to illness, returned to the Regiment on this date, but it was obvious to all he was in continued failing health. The diagnosis was grim for the 36-year-old former carpenter, "tuberculosis." He'd tough it out until March 20th when he tendered his resignation.

For a man descended from early Massachusetts stock (the progenitor being Robert Wheaton who arrived in 1636) and ancestors who had fought in the King Phillip and Revolutionary wars, the fact that he had not been afforded the opportunity to fire a shot in defense of his country must have weighed heavily on his heart. But death, being no respecter of patriotism or one's station in life, sought out Wheaton on June 26th when he died of a Pulmonary Hemorrhage at his home in Providence, RI. He'd be interred at the Rural Cemetery in Rehobeth, MA where generations of Wheatons had proceeded him. Years later Post No. 182 of the Grand Army of the Republic in Somerset, MA, which was active from Oct. 16, 1885 until 1929, would be named in his honor.

Widowed at age 36, Mary (Staples) Wheaton would spend the next two years battling the Pension Bureau for what she felt was rightfully hers after sacrificing her husband and the father of her children to a nation in its hour of peril. Approval of a $17 a month pension was finally granted on April 22, 1864, along with arrearage to the date of Cyrus' death. The next hurdle, support for her two dependent children, wasn't cleared until July 29, 1866 when she was issued an additional two dollars per child per month for her daughters Isabel, then age 14, and Carrie, then seven.

Seeking a new start, Mary and the children relocated to San Francisco where she took employment with the U.S. Mint as an Adjustor, a position she held until shortly before her death on June 7, 1879. Carrie followed her mother into the Mint, but all sight of her became lost after the 1880 Census, leading to one of two fates, marriage or her death before 1890.

Isabel would teach school for a time and eventually marry Lloyd Baldwin, a union that would produce Lloyd, who become an attorney, and Grace, who became Mrs. James Selfredge. Isabel must have loved Hawaii as she traveled to Honolulu twice in her lifetime, spending six months there with her daughter Grace in both 1921 and 1923. Death came to her in San Francisco on March 14, 1938 when she suffered a Cerebral Hemorrhage. Her family honored her wish to be cremated by entrusting her 5 foot one inch body and gray eyes to the Oakland Crematory.

A review of Mary Wheaton's pension file is enlightening as to the amount of caution the Pension Bureau exercised in cases where claims were made for soldiers who died of disease. For all those involved it was far, far better that the soldier's head had been blown off in battle.

Letter from Cyrus M. Wheaton, father of Cyrus M. Wheaton, to the Commissioner of Pensions (Pension Record of Mary Wheaton, National Archives, Washington, DC):

Rehobeth (MA) March 3, 1863
J.H. Barrett, Esq. Commissioner of Pensions

Dear Sir,

in the case of Mary A. Wheaton No. 305, widow of Cyrus M. Wheaton, your note of the 9th of Jany. you informed me "that it will be necessary to furnish a certificate of a commissioned officer of the company; or a surgeon of the regiment as to the cause, time and place of the death of the officer."

I wrote to Capt. Ruby of the Co. to which he belonged for information as to his arrears of pay. He sent me the enclosed letter which I wish after you have noticed its contents you would send to back to me. Capt. Ruby who commanded his company was slain in the Battle of Fredericksburgh (I think) in Dec. last. Lieut. Russel of same Co. was killed Aug. 30, at Antietam (I think).

I wrote to the Surgeon of the Regiment, and his answer was, that he the Surgeon joined the Reg. Jan. 16, 1862. He says, "My opinion of him the first time I saw him was that he had consumption, and that he could not live long. I think I recommended his discharge to Col. Barnes. Whether I certified on his certificate or not, I am unable to say, but think I did, and that certificate of disability is the only record that there is to my knowledge given by myself or any surgeon on which his discharge was granted from the service."

He, Lieut. Wheaton, enlisted the forepart of July 1861, went into camp the 15th commissioned 1st Lieut. Co. B, 18th Reg. Mass. Vols. August 20, 1861. Left camp for Washington Aug. 26, was stationed Halls Hill, Va., come home on furlough about the 25th Jany 1862 sick, went back about the middle of Feby and joined his Co. again, went down to Centreville, Manasses, and Fairfax, about the 10th March was at Alexandria the 20th sick, petitioned the same day for his discharge feeling that he could not perform the duty required of him, 26th March received a furlough under hand of Genl Marry until he received his health or resignation was excepted, come home to Providence, R.I. and died June 26, 1862. He sent his furlough to the Paymaster Genl at Washington before his death in order to get his pay not knowing whether or not his request for a discharge was granted. He did not know it at the time of his death. It is, we suppose meaning his leave of absence, at some of the offices at Washington now. You will certainly find his name and services on the Company rolls of the 18th Reg. Mass. Vols. at Washington. I am unable to give you any further statements than I have made knowing that the application of the Widow as to his death and the circumstances are truly correct.

With respect your obt servant
Cyrus M. Wheaton



Affidavit filed in Widow’s Pension claim of Mary A. Wheaton, dated Feb. 18, 1864 (Pension Record of Mary Wheaton, National Archives, Washington, DC):

I hereby certify that I examined the lungs of Cyrus M. Wheaton, on the 28th day of March 1862.
There was found in the upper portion of the right lung, decided evidence of tuberculous deposite, some of which seemed to be passing into the second stage, so called, or that of softening. Mr. Wheaton had at that time a bad cough, a quick pulse, and such other symptoms as usually exist in that condition of the lung.

Respectfully submitted
Geo. P. Baker, M.D.



Affidavit filed in Widow’s Pension claim of Mary A. Wheaton, dated March 9, 1864 (Pension Record of Mary Wheaton, National Archives, Washington, DC):

I hereby certify that I attended Lieut. Cyrus M. Wheaton as a physician in the City of Washington a few days in the month of March 1862 previous to leaving for home which was on the 27th. His disease was of the lungs and getting daily worse. I advised him to go home immediately. He went as soon as his papers were obtained. I accompanied him as far as Baltimore on his way home.

S. Woods, M.D.



Affidavit filed in Widow’s Pension claim of Mary A. Wheaton, dated March 9, 1864 (Pension Record of Mary Wheaton, National Archives, Washington, DC):

Camp Meade Jamestown, RI
March 9th 1864

I hereby certify that Cyrus M. Wheaton late 1st Lieut. in the 18th Regt. Mass. Vols. was examined by me in the town of Somerset, State of Mass. as a soldier in the U.S. Service. When examined he was perfectly sound, in good health, and had no signs of hemorage [at the time of his enlistment].

J.W. Coaray. M.D.


Monday, February 20, 2012



Nathan Perkins of Co. D, who had been sent home in January to convalesce for 30 days when he showed consumptive symptoms, as evidenced by a persistent cough and wasting away of flesh, forwarded a letter from his doctor which certified he needed more time to recover. According to his sister, Mrs. Juliette Tucker, consumption had claimed many in the Perkins family. Nathan would return to Hall's Hill in time to join the Regiment for the beginning of the Peninsula Campaign. Even then he continued to be plagued by poor health, which would result in two additional hospitalizations before he finally transferred to the U.S. Signal Corps in December 1863.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


An "old fashioned Easterly storm" struck leaving roads in as bad a condition as they had been all winter. The soft yellow clay that had churned into mud was as much as a foot deep in some places.

On a side note, I can personally attest to the quality of Virginia mud. A few years back, after a day of rain, cars that were parked in an open field at the Nissan Pavilion were sinking into the mud up to the middle of their hub caps following a Carlos Santana concert.


Note: to see what David Crossley Meechan of Co. E was up to on this date visit his Facebook page.



Saturday, February 18, 2012



One of the 18th Massachusetts' own, Capt. John Lewis Spalding, was recently featured by author Ron Coddington in the New York Times Civil War related "Disunion" series. To read Ron's profile of Spalding, which one reader commented was "Not a story of heroism, just a tale of fallible men muddling through sometime more and sometimes less honestly in extraordinary times," click on this link.

If you'd like to follow along, the entire New York Times Disunion series can be found on its very own Facebook page.

If you'd like to read more by Ron Coddington, please visit his absolutely terrific Faces of War Web site and Blog.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Capt. Frederick D. Forrest, Co. I, requested a two week leave of absence due to his wife Abby having to undergo a surgical procedure in Maine. In the meantime a Boston Surgeon wrote that Seth King of Co. K, who had suffered a fractured left arm at Hall's Hill on Dec. 24th when he tripped over a tent rope while hurrying to drill, would require an extension of his furlough until mid-March in order to ensure he was fully healed and capable of performing his duties.

At 24 Frederick Dunbar Forrest was 11 months older than John L. Spalding, making him the second youngest Captain in the 18th Massachusetts Infantry. Married and the father of a two year old daughter, he had earned his way by making shoes in Wrentham, MA before the war. Enlisting in mid-May 1861, Forrest lacked the pre-requisite political connections, but was able to secure a commission based on previous experience with a militia company. It didn't hurt that he was tall, energetic, adept at drills and able to present himself with the appropriate military bearing. He was pretty much, as one of his men said, the perfect representation of the "Sunday soldier." And Forrest would fit that bill admirably as the rigors of the Peninsula Campaign took their toll on him physically. Or at least that's what Forrest wanted others to believe. Supplied with statements from doctors stating his kidneys were ailing him, he'd pack it in and go home on July 22, 1862 to sit out the rest of the war. In his wake an unsympathetic imprint was etched in the minds of those he had commanded and their voices trailed Forrest on his train ride north, hissing that he had simply "shown the white feather."

Thursday, February 16, 2012



After supper the Regiment was drawn up into formation for an official announcement. The overwhelming majority half expected to receive orders to march, but instead heard the news of Fort Donaldson's fall. After dismissal, but before anyone could return to their tents, another order followed in quick succession directing the entire First Bridgade to form on the parade ground. There they listened to a rousing speech made by Brigadier General John H. Martindale and then news of the war's progress. Both met with resounding cheers that washed through the adjoining camps until no one could muster the strength to continue any longer. When Martindale ordered Regimental Quartermasters to issue "a gentle ration of whiskey" to those assembled another chorus of deafening cheers rang out for the General.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Normally an additional four inch snowfall might have caused some testiness, but instead everyone was on their best behavior and acted the part of gentlemen, all caused by the presence of Acting Adjustant Joseph Ayer's wife Caroline, who became the first woman to spend the night in the 18th's camp.

Isaac Shaw and John Atwood of Co. C borrowed plantation owner Basil Hall's dog and went rabbit hunting in his woods. It took two shots, one by Shaw in the hind leg, followed by Atwood's shot to the foreleg, before the rabbit finally surrendered. Both concluded that "Secesh" rabbits were tougher than their Union brethren.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012




Corps Commander Fitz-John Porter continued his hard line approach regarding furloughs by denying Corp. George W. Jones's request for eight days leave to visit his wife and three children who were "dangerously ill of fever & diphtheria at my home in Middleborough, Massachusetts."

26 men from Co. D volunteered for gunboat service on the Mississippi River when recruiters arrived, but only eight from the entire Regiment, including five from Co. B and three from Co. K, were accepted. Rumor had it that 200 from the 2nd Maine Infantry were accepted for transfer.


Monday, February 13, 2012




The Regiment busied itself cutting down young pine trees to corduroy a road extending about six miles from Georgetown toward the Leesburg Pike by working in mud that was six to eight inches deep. Sprits were buoyed, though, by word that Roanoke Island had fallen to Burnside's expedition, in which an estimated "2000 prisoners" were taken.

Word had also spread that on Friday U.S. officers would be looking for volunteers to man gunboats on the Mississippi.


Sunday, February 12, 2012


Even though a snow storm had hit the day before, Wednesday's weather was fine and the sunset "glorious." Good news from Union armies in the South and West filtered into camp and it was hoped that once the mud dried the Army of the Potomac would have their chance at glorious victory as well.

Capt. Joseph Collingwood urged his wife Rebecca to leave the children behind in Plymouth, MA and visit him, remarking that other officers' wives had visited Camp Barnes. "I know this will look big to you, but think it over. To me it would be nothing but a pleasure excursion. "


Note: to see what David Crossley Meechan of Co. E was up to on this date visit his Facebook page.



Saturday, February 11, 2012



While one enlisted man wrote that Colonel James Barnes was a good officer, who "takes great pride in the regiment, and is ambitious to have it excel every other," and Lt. Col. Timothy Ingraham "does all in his power to keep up a high tone of morals in the camp," it was Major Joseph Hayes of South Berwick, ME for whom the greatest adulation was directed.

"He is the idol of the men. He is young, energetic, ready to go at every call. I will tell you of a little incident that will illustrate his views on the great question of giving up fugitives. A poor colored woman came into our camp, bringing a baby a few months old. Her clothing was very insufficient for comfort, and she had the unmistakable look of a slave, who had run from her master, without daring to stop till she was inside the line of our pickets.

"The Major asked her what was her master’s name. She seemed frightened, and unwilling to answer. The question being repeated, she said she didn’t want to tell, for fear she would be sent back. “Don’t be afraid!” replied the Major, “you shall never be sent back.” Oh, how glad the men were to hear those words! and they seemed to receive the poor forlorn creature, who had run the risk of so much suffering, with the hope of obtaining freedom!"


Friday, February 10, 2012



125 men were detailed from the Regiment to build and corduroy a road with timber.

The Regiment began holding daily target practice with their smooth bore muskets. At 150 yards Company H decidedly had the best marksmen, hitting the target 19 out of 105 times, which, by the standards of those present, was considered "good shooting."

21 men from the Regiment, after review by the Board of Surgeons, were declared unfit for further military service and were slated for discharge.


Thursday, February 09, 2012



The weather wass cool in the morning with a wind from the Northwest. The distant thunder of cannons could be heard off in the direction of Aquia Creek and it was supposed blockade runners were being fired upon.

Four foot tall Georgie Hooper, the 16-year-old drummer for Co. H, who only seemed to care about his rations and cheap novels, continued to draw criticism from those around him due to his slovenly appearance and lack of attention to hygiene. This, of course, didn't bode well for him during a rigid inspection of the 18th Mass. conducted by Field Officers from the Regiment.

In the meantime the word from home was that the snow on the ground meant good sleighing.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Private John L. Emerson of Co. D was denied his request for a ten day furlough to visit his ailing wife by Gen. Fitz-John Porter who wrote there were too many men from the 18th Mass. absent on leave.

Chaplain Benjamin F. De Costa tried to bring comfort to the men surrounding the deaths of so many from disease. "They have left us not as they would have wished in the shock of battle but by the slow lingering hand of desease [sic] laid upon them. But we must school our feelings and look out for the living, that is the main thing after all."


Note: to see what David Crossley Meechan of Co. E was up to on this date visit his Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


Today's post features an email Donald recently sent to PBS's History Detectives. We'll keep you posted if anything becomes of it.


To the History Detectives,

I have a story that may be of interest to the History Detectives and its viewers. The historical artifact I'm writing about is not in my possession but part of the collection owned by the Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg, VA and is on display in their National Museum of the Civil War Soldier (www.pamplinpark.org/).

The object in question is a Confederate battle flag which was carried by the 27th South Carolina Infantry, a regiment that was part of Brig. Gen. Johnson Hagood's Brigade. The flag and its bearer were captured at the Second Battle of Weldon Railroad on August 21, 1864 by Frederick C. Anderson, a Private in Co. H, of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry. Two weeks later, on September 6th, Anderson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in capturing the flag.

The flag remained in the possession of the U.S. War Department until 1905 when President Theodore Roosevelt put forward a bill to return the Confederate Battle Flags, which unanimously passed both houses and was signed into law. William H. Taft, Secretary of War, returned the captured flags to the former Confederate states. Any unidentified colors went to the Confederate Memorial Literary Society in Richmond, Virginia.

According to J. Adam Craig, Archivist at Pamplin Park, the 27th South Carolina flag was returned by Secretary Taft to the Governor of South Carolina on March 5, 1905 under War Department number "159" and housed at the South Carolina Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia.

In the early 1960's the flag somehow came into the possession of William A. "Bill" Bond of Vernon, Texas, President of the Waggoner National Bank and a member of the Dallas Safari Club. After Bond's death on June 11, 1992, the flag was auctioned off as part of his estate by the Conestoga Auction Company in 1994 at Lancaster, PA and purchased by Pamplin Historical Park for $73,300.

My question is how did the flag come into private hands in the early 1960's? It seems strange that the South Carolina Military Museum would have deacquisitioned such a valuable Civil War relic from their collections. Craig also wrote that Pamplin Historical Park did, after purchasing the flag, "inform them (South Carolina Military Museum) of the status of the flag, as well as where and how it was displayed."

Thanks for your consideration,
Donald Thompson

Monday, February 06, 2012



The long term effects of the weather had made travel to and from Hall's Hill extraordinarily difficult. Not only was it nearly impossible for civilian carriages, but even the most determined government teamers were abandoning their wagons in the mud. It didn't stop George F. Hodges' father from reaching camp, however. At this midpoint of a journey of the most sorrowful sort he expressed his heartfelt thanks for the kindness shown by all to his child. Anger, though, still rankled some, even eight days after the Adjutant's death. A few officers even went so far as to mention the possibility of a transfer to the Regulars. Ultimately nothing came of that except the opportunity to blow off steam. Imagine though heads nodding in agreement when it was inferred by one among them that the apparent disregard for the welfare of the men rested squarely on the shoulders of Col. James Barnes. It was, after all, his regiment. Barnes didn't hear the rumblings of discontent, though. He had left that morning, headed for a visit with his wife in Springfield, Mass.

Marcus Soule, who hailed from Middleboro, wasn't privy to the officer's private meeting either, but busied himself writing a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper. Company E was reported to be "remarkably healthy. Much more so than most of the companies on the field." Like all good souvenir hunters Soule had cut a sliver of wood from the staircase at the Marshall House in Alexandria where Col. Elmer Ellsworth's life had been cut short by James W. Jackson's shotgun on May 24, 1861 and expressed his opinion that the people at home, who he thought of often, would appreciate the "presents" he was sliding into the envelope.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


The weather, which had brought drilling to a virtual standstill for close to a month, finally cleared and by mid-afternoon four inches of standing snow had all melted away. To make up for lost time the entire First Brigade was put through their paces for four hours before settling down to lunch, commonly called "roast beef," at 2 p.m.

Of note to all the music fans was the fact the Regiment's band was improving as a unit. Performing in concert later in the day they played a medley of favorites from home including "[Moon] Behind the Hill."


On a sidenote: Go Pats!!!!!

Saturday, February 04, 2012


The February 1st edition of the weekly Middleboro Gazette reached camp and all feasted their eyes on a story featuring Second Lieutenant George M. Barnard, Jr. of Co. C. Members of his Company were more than delighted with the gift of stockings that had flown off the knitting needles of Massachusetts women and were distributed equally among their numbers.

Friday, February 03, 2012


In the midst of a "Noreaster" that swept through the area Captain Joseph Collingwood regretfully explained in a letter to his wife Rebecca that, after settling his camp and Plymouth, MA debts, he could only send her ten dollars from his pay. As if to ease his guilt he also included a gold dollar for each of his four children. For his part, 2nd Lt. Stephen Minot Weld, Jr. of Co. B, whose father had used his political connections to arrange a commission for his son, was taking leave of the 18th Massachusetts for good, having been detailed for duty as a member of Fitz-John Porter's staff.

A priviledged child from one of Boston's elite Brahman families and conversely a Harvard graduate, Weld would go on to command the 56th Massachusetts Infantry, serve a stint as a prisoner of war, and then launch into a successful post-war career as a banker and railway owner. As with so many others the war left its indelible mark. In 1904, six years after the death of his first wife, Weld and his new bride, Susan Waterbury, a former governess to his children, toured Civil War battlefields on their honeymoon, while letters and diaries written and kept during his military service were published in 1912.

Stephen Minot Weld, Jr.


For more information on Weld check out this article on Wikipedia and his very own Facebook page.



Thursday, February 02, 2012

Location: Hall's Hill, Arlington, VA


While the mud outside tents grew ever deeper, officers met as a group and voted resolutions and written condolences to the Hodges family, in which they lamented the passing of the late Adjutant.

During the reading of General Order No. 57 Colonel James Barnes reminded everyone assembled that George F. Hodges (died Jan. 30th), Michael Vaughn (died Jan. 3rd), George F. Booth (died Jan. 4th), Samuel Mellon (died Jan. 10th), Gustavus Jacobs (died Jan. 12th), Thomas Hatch (died Jan. 21st), and George Campbell (died Jan. 29th) were:

"No less entitled to the grateful acknowledgements of his country than he who more fortunately perhaps, encounters the dangers of the field of Battle. Let due respect therefore be always rendered to his memory."


After being dismissed and returning to their tents, Austin Williams promised his mother a "dygarotype," while Private Martin Flinn enclosed fifteen dollars of his pay in a letter to his father Patrick and also requested he thank Ellen Terry of Taunton, MA for the knit stockings.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Sometimes you come across an idea, have one of those V-8 moments, and say to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that." Although Touch the Elbow in its three incarnations has very occasionally done something along the lines of "A Day in the Life..." this new series found its impetus in Duxbury in the Civil War's launching of a Facebook page featuring daily diary entries of the 18th Massachusetts' own David Crossley Meacham, a Private in Co. E. While my friend Steve commented that the Meechan page was the best utilization of Facebook he had ever seen, our "Down With the Traitors" series, not to be redunant, will provide a mixed bag roundup of the excitement, drudgery, boredom, and yippie yi yeahs the Regiment faced as a whole in those thrilling days of yesteryear. Hi ho, Silver! Away!



Friday, February 1, 1862

The 18th Mass. began its fourth month encamped at Camp Barnes on Halls Hill in Arlington, Virginia. Whereas the regiment had previously been fortunate in escaping serious and widespread outbreaks of disease, losing only three from September to December, seven men had died in January alone, almost all from Typhoid Fever, including its Adjutant, George Foster Hodges on the 30th. While his unexpected death sent ripples of shock throughout the camp and 1st Lieutenant George M. Barnard, Jr. railed against the Regiment's surgeons, whose "incompetence" he felt certain was entirely to blame for Hodge's death, four of John Graham's tent mates in Company C were carted off to the hospital tent on this day suffering from a variety of ailments including mumps, fever, and pleurisy. Too, after nearly three weeks of inclement weather filled with snow, rain, hail and wind, there were few who didn't have at least a case of the sniffles. In spite of nearly everyone feeling under the weather they all queued up to the Paymaster's table to receive two months pay.




After arriving in Washington, DC in the early evening on August 29, 1861, the 18th Massachusetts would make camp the following day about a mile and a quarter from the U.S. Capitol building and remain there for four days when they crossed over by bridge into Virginia and pitched their tents within wind aided spitting distance of Ft. Corcoran and Robert E. Lee's Arlington estate. A week later, on September 10th, they were moved to Hall's Hill, a place that would become just like home for the next six months, or until Gen. George B. McClellan put his Peninsula campaign into motion; a master plan of the grandest porportions designed to bring Varina Davis and the rest of those Southern belles, the very heart and soul of the rebellion, to their knees.

Bazil Hall was the originator of Hall's Hill in what is now Arlington, Virginia. According to the 1850 Census he was born circa 1813 in Massachusetts. However, there's information contradicting that which states he was born ca. 1806 in Washington, DC, the son of Ignatius and Elizabeth (Harp) Hall. Regardless of his origin, Hall married Elizabeth Winner in San Francisco, California in August 1846. The daughter of George K. and Hannah Winner, she was born September 24, 1828 in Dover, New Jersey,. Bazil and Elizabeth were the parents of Ignatius, born in San Francisco in 1848, and the following children born in Alexandria, including Bazil in July 1850, Elvira in May 1854, and Celina in July 1855.

Hall, reputed to have been a whaling Captain, purchased 327 acres, in what was then Alexandria, Virginia, from the estate of John Peter Van Ness in 1852. Hall's plantation, maintained by a small number of slaves, featured orchards, livestock, timber, and crops such as corn. He built a house, estimated to have cost $3,000, atop the 400 foot summit of his property. In 1857 his wife Elizabeth was attacked and killed by one of their slaves. Three years later Hall married for a second time to 23-year-old Frances Ann Harrison, a relation to President William Henry Harrison. Children born to the second marriage included Walter, Edward, Lavinia, and Louise.

The 1860 Slave Schedule recorded on July 29th, lists Hall as owning a 47-year-old male, a 22-year-old female, four males ages 8,6, 5, and 3, and a 6-month-old mulatto female. One could assume the slaves may have comprised a family and that Bazil Hall may have been the father of the youngest. In 1860 Hall's farm was valued at $10,000 and his personal effects at $15,000, or the equivalent of $235,000 and $354,000 respectively.

Hall was by politics a staunch Unionist and former Whig. At the outbreak of the Civil War his property became of mutual interest to both Confederate and Union forces, but for entirely different reasons. Confederate troops moved into what is now Arlington County in August 1861 and set fire to Hall's home on August 31st in an attack launched from neighboring Upton's Hill. A subsequent push by Union troops into the county led to their occupation of not only Halls Hill but the adjacent hills. Camps stretched for miles and Hall's Hill, in particular, presented Union troops with an almost unimpeded view of Washington and the surrounding geographical area.

Union occupation of Hall's Hill continued throughout 1861 and 1862. During that time the plantation was virtually stripped of all timber and fencing and troops early on confiscated Hall's livestock, most of which became food to feed troops. His property was considered an ideal campsite due to the abundance of timber and availability of water from a stream and wells.

A year after the final guns of war fell silent Hall began dividing his land among relatives, but also sold one acre lots to freed slaves at below market prices. In 1870 the value of his estate was appraised at $6,400, while his personal effects were valued at $30.00. He filed a $42,000 claim with the Southern Claims Commission for losses incurred during the war and was eventually awarded a settlement of $10,700 in June 1872.

Both Hall and his wife Frances died in 1888 and were interred in the family cemetery, where his first wife Elizabeth was also buried. The cemetery was believed to have been located behind Trinity Presbyterian Church. In 1939 the Hall family members buried there were relocated to Oakwood Cemetery in Falls Church. Curiosity took me to Oakwood Cemetery one very hot summer afternoon a couple of years ago, but unfortunately I couldn't find the graves.

The modern day Hall's Hill neighborhood in Arlington is bounded on the north by Lee Highway, to the east by North Glebe Road, 17th Street on the south, and North George Mason Drive on the west.

A number of sources were utilized to compile information on Bazil Hall, including: The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, Virginia; Genealogy.com; Ancestry.com; and the Tara-Leeway Heights Neighborhood Conservation Plan. Lastly we leave you with the sights, but not necessarily the sounds on the summit of Hall's Hill