“The 400”: Investigating Veterans of the 5th New Hampshire through the Numbers

As I’ve indicated on several occasions, about a year ago, I used FamilySearch to start collecting biographical data on a random pool of 5th New Hampshire veterans (all of whom were original volunteers from when the regiment was first organized). I first started doing so because one of my students was interested in doing a statistical analysis of the life outcomes of these men. Although she did not proceed with the project, I continued because I thought collecting data would provide some important insights into the experiences of the soldiers who fought with the regiment. Moreover, as I kept going, I realized that my investigation was uncovering some interesting stories that I could pursue in the future. By the time I finished collecting data over a week ago, I had obtained information about 403 veterans. (I refer to them now as “400,” partially for convenience’s sake and partially as an allusion to the Spartan “300.”) That information is now transcribed in a 579-page, single-spaced document in 10-point Calibri font.

Just a couple of days ago, I finished transferring much of the data to an Excel spreadsheet so that I could sort and search the information in various ways. I am now ready to start looking at what the numbers reveal about these veterans.

How the “400” Were Selected

Several years ago, I got my hands on Augustus D. Ayling’s Revised Register of the Soldiers and Sailors of New Hampshire in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866. The Revised Register has a brief service record for every New Hampshire serviceman who fought in the Civil War. In the case of the 5th New Hampshire, Ayling’s book has the records of some 2500 men. A couple of student researchers and I (thank you Greg Valcourt ’19 and William Bearce ’19) spent a number of months transferring the information for these soldiers to an Excel spreadsheet.

When the student who was interested in doing a statistical analysis of the 5th New Hampshire’s veterans approached me, I thought it would make sense to limit the study to the original volunteers who enlisted in September and October 1861. First, they would be easier to find on FamilySearch since the vast majority were native-born and very few deserted. Second, I had to limit the project in some fashion, and the 1000-odd men who were the first members of the regiment seemed easier to deal with than the entire 2500 who passed through the unit’s ranks during the war.

I created an Excel spreadsheet with information exclusively associated with the original volunteers and, moving in alphabetical order, started collecting biographical information about every man on that spreadsheet who survived the war. After assembling about seven or eight biographies, I realized that I had undertaken an enormous task. I asked one of my colleagues in Sociology who has an affinity for statistics if I could take a shortcut. Would it be possible, I wondered, to collect information about a smaller pool of men (randomly selected from among the 1000) that would still yield statistically useful information? She thought the minimum size of the pool should be about 300. To get to that number, we agreed that I should proceed by alphabetical order, picking every other soldier on my Excel spreadsheet. If I landed on somebody who had not survived the war, I would have to go to the next person who had survived. And that’s what I did, except for one thing: I kept the information on my spreadsheet about the first seven or eight survivors in a row that I collected before I spoke to my colleague. The whole process, though, seems sufficiently random to me. And as we shall see, for a variety of reasons, we should keep in mind that the data are not exactly characterized by great exactitude.

What I Learned about the Data

So why are the data not characterized by great exactitude? Perhaps the most important reason is that most of the information was self-reported, and self-reported information is unreliable. For example, men often changed their names or misrepresented their occupations, and when you throw in careless (or overworked?) census-takers into the mix, matters become very complicated. Among other things, people in those days often seemed pretty cavalier about reporting their age with any accuracy. And if there’s one thing I discovered, throughout their lives, men lied about their age. They lied to the recruiting officer because they were either too young or too old to volunteer for the army. They lied when they got married, especially if their 16-year-old wife was less than half their age. They lied when they got old so that they would appear more venerable and respected. They lied for reasons known only to themselves.

For that reason, I often had to make educated guesses about when men were born (especially since I found so few birth records from this period). The documents I located were not always helpful because those compiling them often did not ask for a man’s birthday—rather, they asked for his age. That mode of proceeding led to certain problems. If a man was truthful when he told the recruiting officer that he was 21 in 1861, he could have been born in either 1839 or 1840.

This is the top portion of a page for the 1860 Census in Ward 2 of Worcester, MA. Freeman Hutchins (aka Moses Freeman Hutchins), who appears on this page, served only briefly with Company E of the 5th New Hampshire; he was discharged disabled on January 10, 1862 after having been with the regiment for less two and a half months. Later in 1862, Hutchins served with the 12th New Hampshire for just under three months before he was discharged disabled again.  Here we see the one of the biggest problems with census records; aside from the fact that all of the information was self-reported, the form only indicates the ages of the respondents on the date of the census (in this case, June 14, 1860). Hutchins claimed he was 23 on that day. Was he born in 1836 or 1837? Or was he lying about his age and born in some other year?

For that reason, my unit of measurement was years instead of anything more precise, and that meant ages often got rounded up. For example, a man born in December 1830 who died in February 1896 was only 65 years and 3 months at the end of his life, but since I was dealing in years, I had to enter his lifespan as 66. I suppose this phenomenon may have exerted some upward pressure on my calculations regarding lifespan, but I found accurate birthdays so infrequently that there was nothing I could do about it. At the same time, I rounded to the month for the soldiers’ length of service; it didn’t seem to make sense to me to use a more accurate unit of measurement.

There are other problems too. Much of the medical information in my records is suspect for a variety of reasons. For example, it’s unclear how determination of cause of death was made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And, of course, medical science was not what it is today. Moreover, it was not always clear how good country doctors in New Hampshire were at distinguishing one illness from another, let alone the veterans themselves or the census-takers in 1890. Moreover, the same terms were used differently over a 100 years ago. And yet, despite these problems, the medical information is still useful in some ways (but that’s for a future post).

This is the entry for Stephen L. Stearns in the records of the Eastern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Togus, ME. Stearns, who was admitted on September 5, 1889, had served in Company G, 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, from October 1861 to November 1863. According to this entry,  Stearns claimed he contracted diabetes at the Battle of Fair Oaks. While such a claim may seem odd, some research suggests that trauma or stress can trigger the onset of diabetes among those who are predisposed to the illness.

Finally, there are holes in the data. Some types of data were easier to collect than others, and some men proved easier to track than others (deserters, immigrants, and those moving far away from New England often proved most difficult to locate). But I did find enough information about enough men to make some generalizations.

This is Only the Beginning

My collection of information and my analysis of it are works in progress and will be so for quite some time. Yes, I’ve probably made some errors in transcription and similar such mistakes. I caught some of these in the as I transcribed information to the Excel spreadsheet that contains information about the “400.” But beyond that, in looking at what I’ve collected, I’ve made the obvious realization that data prompt as many questions as they answer. Data alone means little without interpretation, and interpretation either requires bringing different analytical tools to bear or the collection of even more data for the sake of contextualization. (For example, with the help of several more students [Steve Hanabergh ’21, Will Small ’21, and Connor O’Neill ’22] I’ve started collecting data about soldiers from the 5th New Hampshire who died from illness or combat to see if they differed in any noticeable way as a group from the men who survived.) As I wrestle with the data in the next series of posts, you’ll see me thinking “aloud” and thrashing about in one direction or another as a try to find the message in the noise.

When I completed the spreadsheet with the data for my 403 men, I exclaimed to my wife, “I’m finished!” But this is not an end; it is really a beginning. Over the coming weeks and months, I will play with the data on this blog and see what they reveal. So why not follow me on the journey?

Charles H. Corey, John Bracy, and Some Wild Thoughts on Goffstown Back Road

Amoskeag Cemetery with Charles H. Corey’s headstone in the foreground.

Today, I decided to check out Charles Harry Corey’s gravesite at Amoskeag Cemetery in Manchester, NH. After Joseph Carraway (who is interred in Goffstown’s Westlawn Cemetery, just a couple of block from my house), Corey is the 5th New Hampshire veteran buried closest to my home. Although my kids didn’t have anything to do and looked oppressed by the tedium of the stay-at-home order, nobody felt like joining my expedition. So I went alone to Amoskeag Cemetery.

Sunday afternoon found me driving on Goffstown Back Road wondering if this thoroughfare has more cemeteries than any other stretch of pavement of similar length. Driving eastward, one first encounters Hillside Cemetery in Grasmere where the original settlement of Goffstown took place back in the mid-18th century (and it is a hilly cemetery). A couple of miles farther down the road, there’s Holy Trinity Polish National Cemetery which appears on both sides of Goffstown Back Road, first on the right, then on the left. And after one clears the last big hill before Manchester, Mount Calvary Cemetery presents its sweeping vistas. This burial ground is enormous and not even close to being filled. Having passed this impressive spectacle on your left, you may be forgiven for failing to notice shortly thereafter an old, tall iron gate between two houses on your right. This is one of the entrances to Amoskeag Cemetery.

Amoskeag Cemetery is more commonly approached from its south side, on Fieldcrest Road. The word “commonly,” though, is perhaps misleading. Aside from the fact that the City of Manchester apparently sends somebody to mow the grass, this cemetery is otherwise forgotten. A flag never tops the flagpole. Several of the headstones have fallen down. No one leaves flowers or candles. One finds none of the old GAR or American Legion markers that are so prominent at Westlawn Cemetery in Goffstown. The waist-high iron fence around the cemetery is very old and very rusty. It is a small, sad place surrounded on three sides by a middle-class neighborhood.

The oldest headstones I found there date back to just before the mid-19th century (the Dow family’s memorials are especially prominent). The cemetery’s heyday appears to have been the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are several headstones that date from the 1980s or 1990s, but these seem really out of place.

I was surprised at how quickly I found Corey’s marker; it took only a couple of minutes. It helped that he had a government-issued headstone.

Chas. H. Corey, Co. C., 5 N.H. Inf.

The headstone does not look as clean as the image that appears on Find A Grave. Considering the general state of the cemetery, I wasn’t surprised.

Corey had an undistinguished Civil War career with the 5th New Hampshire. Born in Plainfield, NH, in 1837, he was still living there and working as a farm laborer when he enlisted in Company C. This company, led by James B. Perry, was recruited mainly in Grafton County (e.g. Lebanon, Orford, and Hanover) although Plainfield, NH, in Sullivan County, contributed 7 men. Corey spent less than 8 months with the regiment; he was discharged disabled on June 6, 1862 from Washington, DC, presumably after a stay in a hospital. Since there was no record of his being wounded, Corey was probably part of that huge efflux of soldiers who had fallen ill during the Peninsula campaign (malaria, fly-borne diseases, poor diet, and lack of clean drinking water proved a potent combination).[i]

Corey’s post-war career was hard for me to track. I could find no information about him before 1880. According to the census of that year, Corey was living in Manchester with his wife and son and working as a machinist.[ii] Towards the end of his life, he became a janitor at Amoskeag School.[iii] On November 23, 1911, while walking home from work, the elderly Corey was crossing Elm Street near the intersection with Penacook when he was struck by a car. The accident must have been gruesome; according to his death certificate, Corey suffered from a “rupture of [the] right lung & heart.” He was later laid to rest in Amoskeag Cemetery.[iv]

Amoskeag School, Corey’s last place of employment is only half a mile from Amoskeag Cemetery. After I visited Corey’s gravesite, I drove to the school and took this photo. Sitting as it does next to Amoskeag Circle, which handles a great deal of traffic, the school is a minor landmark due to the giant pencil that cuts through one corner of the building. For some years, the school housed an education consultancy and at some point during this period somebody got the bright idea of hanging the pencil on the building. The consultancy is gone and now an accounting agency occupies the old school.

As I walked around the cemetery, which was about 30 yards by 70 yards (at most), I saw a number of government-issued headstones for Civil War veterans. The headstone below caught my attention because it was leaning forward at a crazy angle.

It marks the grave of Corporal John E. Gerry of Company G, 4th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Gerry was a resident of Manchester, NH, who joined the 4th New Hampshire in August 1861. He re-enlisted in February 1864 and was afterwards appointed Corporal. His entry in Ayling’s Revised Register states that he was killed on January 16, 1865 in the “explosion of magazine, Ft. Fisher, N.C.”[v] This laconic comment piqued my interest. After a brief investigation on the internet, I discovered that the day after Federal troops famously captured Fort Fisher (which guarded Wilmington, NC, the Confederacy’s last major port), the main magazine blew up, killing several hundred Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners. How did this horrible accident come to pass? Wikipedia has helpfully posted the findings of the court of inquiry that ensued.

FINDINGS.

After mature deliberation upon the foregoing evidence the court finds that the following are the main facts, viz:

Immediately after the capture of the fort General Ames gave orders to Lieut. Samuel M. Zent, Thirteenth Indiana Volunteers, through Capt. George W. Huckins, Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general, Third Brigade, Second Division, to place guards on all the magazines and bombproofs. Lieutenant-Colonel Zent commenced on the northwest corner of the fort next [to] the river, following the traverses round, and placed guards on thirty-one entrances under the traverses. The main magazine which afterward exploded, being in the rear of the traverses, escaped his notice, and consequently had no guards from his regiment or any other. That soldiers, sailors and marines were running about with lights in the fort, entering bombproofs with these lights, intoxicated and discharging firearms. That personas were seen with lights searching for plunder in the main magazine some ten of fifteen minutes previous to the explosion. The court do not [sic] attach any importance to the report that a magnetic wire connected this work [fort] with some work on the opposite side of the Cape Fear River.

OPINION.

The opinion of the court, therefore, is that the explosion was the result of carelessness on the part of persons to them unknown. The court then adjourned sine die

— JOSEPH C. ABBOTT,
Brevet Brigadier-General, U.S. Volunteers, President of Court.

— GEORGE F. TOWLE,
Captain Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers, Acting Assistant Inspector-General and Recorder.[vi]

In other words, it was a bunch of drunken, careless men who blew their comrades (and possibly themselves) sky-high.

I also found the barely legible headstone of Quartermaster Sergeant James A. Hills (above). Born in Antrim, NH, Hills was working as a farm laborer in Manchester, NH, when he volunteered for the 7th New Hampshire (October 1861) and was mustered in as a private.[vii] He re-enlisted in February 1864 and in December of that year was appointed Quartermaster Sergeant—the second-highest non-commissioned rank in the regiment. I have no idea what accounted for this dramatic elevation. The official history of the regiment simply states that once the men who had not re-enlisted had mustered out at the end of their three years’ service, “arrangements regarding promotions began at once to be made, in order to fill the vacancies which had been caused by muster-out.” And thus was Hills promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant. He must have done something very special.[viii]

Hills returned to Manchester after the war to become a clerk in a hotel owned by Daniel O. Webster.[ix] It appears that the war had transformed the young farm laborer into a man of business. In 1875, he married Ellen J. Blood, and on paper, it certainly seemed as if things were looking up for Hills. Unfortunately, the end was nigh; in 1877, Hills died of consumption. He was only 35 year old.[x] Just over a year later, his young widow died of the same illness.[xi]

The order for James A. Hills’ headstone—the self-same one I saw in Amoskeag Cemetery.

I spotted a several other government-issued headstones for Civil War veterans, but these were so badly eroded that I could not read them.

Ironically, the best-preserved government-issued headstone in the cemetery belonged to a man who had not fought in a New Hampshire regiment and had not even been born in the United States. John Bracy first saw the light of day in Stanstead, Canada in 1835. An English-speaking Canadian, he moved to Malone, NY (which is about as far upstate as one can get). It was here that he enlisted in the 16th New York Volunteer Infantry on September 6, 1862. He didn’t last long in the army since he was discharged disabled on February 5, 1863.[xii]

Bracy moved back to Malone after the war.[xiii] According to one website, Bracy was still living in Malone at the time of the 1890 Veterans Census.[xiv] For whatever reason, though, he and his family appear to have moved to Manchester at some point in the early 1890s; in 1892, Bracy’s daughter, Annie, married John H. Miller (an English-speaking Canadian who had emigrated to the United States in 1881) in the Queen City.[xv] Miller perhaps got more than he bargained for—along with Annie, he also took in his new in-laws. The 1900 Census has all of them living together in the same rented house on Walnut Street, only a few blocks away from Corey’s last residence.[xvi] Miller did well for himself, becoming an overseer in one of the city’s many cotton mills. He took his extended family out of the city center and moved to a property on Goffstown Back Road that currently abuts the eastern edge of Mount Calvary Cemetery.[xvii] In all likelihood, the Millers’ oldest children—John and Marion (13 and 6, respectively, in 1910)—attended Amoskeag School while Corey worked there.[xviii] On November 27, 1912, a year and four days after Corey was killed by an automobile, Bracy died in the Miller household of a stroke.[xix]

As I drove home, I ruminated on the fact that the thousands of people buried alongside Goffstown Back Road were tied together by family, work, and friendship. This web of relationships has left the barest of traces, and now we can form only the haziest sense of their substance through the documents they left behind. Did Bracy’s grandchildren, John and Marion Miller, know Corey, the old janitor at their school? Did Bracy himself know Corey? Who knows? What is interesting is that this great tangled knot of people is not so distant from out time as we might think. Marion died in Manchester in the 1980s. In other words, had I lived in the Queen City while attending high school, I could have spoken to someone who knew a Civil War veteran intimately.

Something tells me that Bracy’s descendants are still living in the Manchester area. Clearly, somebody has remembered John Bracy and tried to maintain that link between our time and his. When I was at his plot, I noticed that his marker was very clean and well preserved. And a small but brand-new flag was placed next to his stone—the only sign that anybody had visited Amoskeag Cemetery in weeks.


[i] Ayling’s Revised Register, 225.

[ii] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHRN-ZH5 : 12 August 2017), Charles H Corey, 1880; citing enumeration district ED 122, sheet 25A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d), roll 0763; FHL microfilm 1,254,763.

[iii] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLZ7-195 : accessed 13 February 2019), Charles H Corey in household of Eliza M Hoskings, Manchester Ward 2, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 125, sheet 5A, family 76, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 862; FHL microfilm 1,374,875.

[iv] “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSVZ-MPR : 10 March 2018), Charles H. Corey, 23 Nov 1911; citing Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 2,078,970.

[v] Ayling’s Revised Register, 173.

[vi] According to Wikipedia, this is the citation for the findings: United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901. (Series I, Vol. 46, Reports, pp. 430–431).

[vii] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WY-RG1 : 19 March 2020), James A Hills in entry for James Emerson, 1860.

[viii] The regiment had originally mustered in December 1861 for three years, so these arrangements took place in December 1864. Henry F. W. Little, The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers of the War of the Rebellion (Concord, NH: Ira C. Evans, 1896), 351-352.

[ix] “United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH5N-DDW : 19 March 2020), James A Hills in entry for David O Webster, 1870.

[x] “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FS2H-G42 : 10 March 2018), James A Hill, 19 Feb 1877; citing , Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,083.

[xi] “New Hampshire Deaths and Burials, 1784-1949”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FDV8-LPR : 18 January 2020), James A. Hills in entry for Ellen J. Hills, 1878.

[xii] https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/Infantry/16th_
Infantry_CW_Roster.pdf

[xiii] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZ87-Q6X : 17 August 2017), John Bracey, Malone, Franklin, New York, United States; citing enumeration district ED 91, sheet 665B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,834. According to his wife’s death certificate, Bracy was a fireman on a locomotive. “New Hampshire Deaths and Burials, 1784-1949”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FD24-HPD : 18 January 2020), John Bracy in entry for Annie Elizabeth Miller, 1939. However, the 1870 Census, the 1875 New York Census and the 1880 Census all refer to him as a “laborer.” See “United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M8X6-NTG : 18 March 2020), John Bracey, 1870; “New York State Census, 1875,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VT8R-K5G : 3 April 2020), John Bracy, Malone, Franklin, New York, United States; citing p. 17, line 21, State Library, Albany; FHL microfilm 878,021; “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZ87-Q6X : 17 August 2017), John Bracey, Malone, Franklin, New York, United States; citing enumeration district ED 91, sheet 665B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,834.

[xiv] http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ny/county/franklin1/civilwar/1890.html

[xv] “New Hampshire, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1636-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L99K-H4MG?cc=1987741&wc=M6CK-J68%3A265835901%2C265948201%2C266070201 : 29 November 2018), Hillsborough > Manchester > Marriages 1892 > image 687 of 691; New Hampshire Bureau of Vital Records and Statistics, Concord.

[xvi] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3Y4-KXK : accessed 20 April 2020), John Bracey in household of John H Miller, Manchester city Ward 2, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 93, sheet 24B, family 576, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.).

[xvii] FHL microfilm 1,240,947; “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLZ7-TPL : accessed 20 April 2020), John Bracey in household of John H Miller, Manchester Ward 2, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 124, sheet 18A, family 41, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 862; FHL microfilm 1,374,875. When Bracy died, he was living at 309 Goffstown Road, Manchester, NH. See “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSK9-5D3 : 11 March 2018), John Bracey, 27 Nov 1912; citing Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 2,070,934.

[xviii] Amoskeag School served those students who lived in that area on the west side of the Merrimack River. It was about three-quarters of a mile away from the Millers lived.

[xix] “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FSK9-5D3 : 11 March 2018), John Bracey, 27 Nov 1912; citing Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 2,070,934.

A Little Bit of 5th New Hampshire History in Goffstown–Plus Something I Didn’t Know

In New Hampshire, we’re subject to a stay-at-home order which limits the kinds of things we can do. It seems clear that if we don’t behave ourselves and the pandemic gets worse, we will move to shelter in place (although the governor seems reluctant to move in that direction). With that in mind, it’s hard to think about what to do with your kids—if, that is, your kids want anything to do with you. But I did find something.

I recently remembered that in the pool of 5th New Hampshire veterans I was studying, there was one man who was buried in Goffstown, NH: Joseph Caraway. Indeed, he’s the only figure among the veterans I’ve studied (almost 400) who had any connection to Goffstown whatsoever. And, I thought, why not find his headstone? I looked him up in the data I’d collected and found to my delight that he was buried in Westlawn Cemetery which is only about a 10-minute walk from my house. So, I told my daughter that we were going on a big adventure to the local cemetery. She’s a freshman in high school, but she still falls for that kind of thing, although she did ask, “How long is this going to take?” I have to give her credit for being a good sport.

Vivien was a good sport.

We walked to the cemetery together, armed with the proper spelling of Caraway’s name, his birth and death dates, and a photo of his headstone that I found on Find A Grave. I had some trepidations because Westlawn is an old cemetery (although not as old as Hillside Cemetery in Grasmere which is where the original settlement of Goffstown took place). I feared that the system by which graves were organized would have changed repeatedly over the years and that it would be impossible to locate Caraway’s burial place. I have to say, though, that I had very little trouble. We found the cemetery directory in a small cabinet on the wall of the large shed that sits at the Church Street entrance and started thumbing through the pages.

First we found the index with all the names of those buried at Westlawn. Caraway was buried in Range #3, Lot #9.

We then located a map of Ranges #1 through #6 with Caraway’s grave clearly marked.

And then we established where Ranges #1 through #6 were in the cemetery.

It took all of five minutes.

We walked about two-thirds the length of the cemetery and espied Caraway’s headstone without any difficulty. It appears that since the Find A Grave image was taken, someone had cleaned Caraway’s marker. It’s in very good shape.

What do I know about Joseph Caraway? (His name is spelled “Carraway” in Ayling’s Revised Register.) Caraway was the son of Jean-Baptiste Danis (1812-1863) and Sophia Blome (1816-1903).[i] Both of Caraway’s parents were Quebecois, although accounts differ about where exactly they were born.[ii] They appear to have been married in 1837 in Baie-du-Febvre on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River halfway between Sorel and Trois-Rivières.[iii] Not long afterwards, they moved just a couple of miles across the American border to Franklin, VT. Shortly after relocating to the United States, Danis changed his surname to Caraway. It was in Franklin that Joseph Caraway— our Caraway—was born in 1843, on the older end of a very large brood.[iv] By 1860, 17-year-old Caraway was still living in Franklin where he worked as a laborer on Benjamin Wilson’s farm. Wilson, who had been born in Canada East (or “Lower Canada”) was extremely wealthy by the standards of the time, with real estate valued at $10,000.[v]

According to Ayling’s Revised Register, Caraway was living in Orford, NH, when he joined the 5th New Hampshire in September 1861.[vi] Why exactly he left Franklin, VT, is unclear, but the Census of 1860 reveals that Caraway’s parents now lived with many of their children (nine of them, in fact) in Lyme, NH, which was only a few miles from Orford.[vii]

Caraway was mustered into Company C as a private. This company was commanded (and partially recruited) by Captain James Perry. The great majority of men in this company came from Grafton County. The towns that contributed the most volunteers to this unit were Lebanon, Orford, and Hanover—all of which made sense since Perry and Nathan H. Randlett, his 1st Lieutenant (who also helped recruit the company), lived in Lebanon. The only unusual feature of this company was the large number of Canadian-born recruits. Where 5% of the regiment’s original volunteers were born in Canada (around 50 men), 12 of Company C’s 100 recruits were. In other words, a quarter of all the Canadians in the regiment were in Company C. Of these, though, only four (to judge from their last names) might have been French speakers: Stephen Bodo, Henry Daniel, Octave Labarre, and Isaac Loungeverns. (There was also a true-blue Frenchman enrolled in the company named Peter Thebeaux.).[viii]

Not having been to Washington, DC, to do archival work yet, I know little of Caraway’s service. However, Ayling’s Revised Register reveals that he was wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks (June 1, 1862)—the regiment’s first major fight. The surgeon’s report for that battle, which was published in the New Hampshire Statesman on June 21, 1862, shows that Caraway had a “finger amputated.” He was discharged disabled on February 14, 1863. Whether the discharge bore any relation to his wound is unclear.[ix]

This discharge was not the end of Caraway’s military service. The Revised Roster of Vermont Volunteers indicates that in June 1863, while living in Hartford, VT (just across the Connecticut River from Lebanon, NH), Caraway joined Company L of the 11th Vermont Volunteer Infantry. The regiment garrisoned a number of forts in the Washington, DC, area before being redesignated the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery in December 1863. In the spring of 1864, the unit was ordered to operate as infantry during the Overland Campaign in Virginia. The 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery saw hard fighting throughout 1864 and 1865. Caraway was apparently wounded on March 27, 1865 in fighting near Petersburg, VA (at what appears to have been the engagement at Mcllwaine’s Mill).[x] He was mustered out on May 13, 1865.[xi]

In the meantime, Caraway’s overaged father volunteered for the 15th New Hampshire on September 8, 1862 and was mustered in exactly a month later. The regiment was engaged in the Siege of Port Hudson in Louisiana before it was mustered out on August 13, 1863 (it was a nine-month regiment).[xii] Danis died just over three months later in Orford. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that at his age (he was almost 50), army service may have proved too much for him.[xiii]

At some point shortly after the war, Caraway married Nora Basha (b. 1851) who appears to have emigrated to the United States from Canada in 1855. I have not been able to find where they were married.[xiv] In fact, I haven’t been able to establish Caraway’s whereabouts after the war until 1877, when a son of his was born in Goffstown. The only other important information I could glean from the birth certificate was that Caraway was a simple “laborer.” [xv] It appears that for the rest of his working life, he remained one. The Census of 1900 indicates that Caraway’s “mother tongue” was French and that he could neither read nor write. [xvi]  The Census of 1920, however, records that he could read and write.[xvii] Despite his humble occupation and his possible struggles with literacy, Caraway owned his own house free and clear in 1900. It also appears that he had at least six children.[xviii]

This image of Joseph Caroway appears on his Find A Grave page

At some point, for reasons unknown, Caraway moved to Epping, NH, before 1920 and died there on December 9, 1925.[xix] It’s clear, though, that he considered Goffstown his home because both he and Nora (d. 1929) chose to be buried there.

If you thought this story was over, it isn’t. Because buried right next to Caraway, for no apparent reason, is Wesley Wyman. His government-issued headstone caught my eye with the following inscription:

WESLEY WYMAN
NEW HAMPSHIRE
DROWNED OFF
COAST OF IRELAND
SINKING OF
U. S. COAST GUARD
CUTTER TAMPA
SEPTEMBER 26, 1918

This is exactly the reason I love walking through graveyards or reading old newspapers. It’s so easy to get distracted by the different stories that both offer. I wondered—was this cutter sunk by a U-boat during World War I?

I immediately headed to the internet to find out. Apparently the USCGC Tampa had just finished escorting convoy HG-107 from Gibraltar to the Irish Sea (where the convoy was bound for Wales) when the cutter was torpedoed by UB-91 at a range of just over 500 meters. All 147 hands went down with the ship—mainly Coast Guardsmen with some US Navy personnel, sailors from the Royal Navy, and several civilians. It was the greatest loss the United States suffered at sea due to enemy action during World War I. Only three bodies were ever recovered which leads me to believe that Wyman’s tombstone is a memorial and not a marker.[xx] Until I saw this inscription, I’d never heard the story of the USCGC Tampa. But I’m glad I stopped to take a look. Now I know.

The USCGC Tampa (ca. 1916) (from Wikipedia)

[i] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/101680769

[ii] Find A Grave has Jean-Baptiste born in Saint-Donat-de-Montcalm (a wild area about 75 miles northwest of Montreal) and Sophia in Yamaska (about 50 miles northeast of Montreal). A family tree I located on FamilySearch claims that Jean-Baptiste was born in Saint-Michel-d’Yamaska and that Sophia was born in Trois-Rivières. See https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/83862589/jean_baptiste-danis; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/89504285/sophia-caraway; and https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/LDQW-QWJ

[iii] See https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/83862589/jean_baptiste-danis; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/89504285/sophia-caraway; and https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/LDQW-QWJ

[iv] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/101680769; see also Ayling’s Revised Register, 221 (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?q1=Carraway;id=mdp.39015011525055;view=1up;seq=243;start=1;sz=10;page=search;num=221).

[v] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFD4-4VM : 12 December 2017), Joseph Caraway in entry for Benjamin Wilson, 1860.

[vi] Ayling’s Revised Register, 221 (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?q1=Carraway;id=mdp.39015011525055;view=1up;seq=243;start=1;sz=10;page=search;num=221).

[vii] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WR-NTT : 19 March 2020), John Caraway, 1860.

[viii] Most of this information comes from an Excel spreadsheet that compiled data from Ayling’s Revised Register.

[ix] Ayling’s Revised Register, 221 (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?q1=Carraway;id=mdp.39015011525055;view=1up;seq=243;start=1;sz=10;page=search;num=221).

[x] The 1890 Veterans Census does not indicate where Carraway was wounded. See “United States Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War, 1890,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K837-1F8 : 11 March 2018), Joseph Caraway, 1890; citing NARA microfilm publication M123 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 338,199. For the action at McIIlwaine’s Mill, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appomattox_campaign

[xi] See Revised Roster of Vermont Volunteers, 449 (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo1.ark:/13960/t9p27g94k&view=1up&seq=467)

[xii] Ayling’s Revised Register, 741 (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015011525055&view=1up&seq=763).

[xiii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/83862589/jean_baptiste-danis

[xiv] They were definitely married at some point between 1865 and 1868. A family tree on FamilySearch has the date falling in August 1867; https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/GMV2-JWT.

[xv] “New Hampshire Birth Records, Early to 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FLLZ-5BN : 10 March 2018), Joseph Carraway in entry for Joseph Carraway, 07 Feb 1877; citing Goffstown, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States, Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,000,490.

[xvi] See the Census of 1900: “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3YW-8GG : accessed 24 January 2019), Joseph Caraway, Goffstown town, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 81, sheet 18A, family 325, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,947.

[xvii] “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH8T-CH2 : accessed 24 January 2019), Joseph Caraway, Epping, Rockingham, New Hampshire, United States; citing ED 119, sheet 3A, line 26, family 54, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1013; FHL microfilm 1,821,013.

[xviii] https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/GMV2-JWT

[xix] “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH8T-CH2 : accessed 24 January 2019), Joseph Caraway, Epping, Rockingham, New Hampshire, United States; citing ED 119, sheet 3A, line 26, family 54, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1013; FHL microfilm; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/101680769

[xx] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USCGC_Tampa_(1912)