“Very few men suffered so much for their country”: How Private Cornelius Stone Beat the Odds at Cold Harbor

Cornelius Stone later in life. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

Imagine being shot four times and wounded by artillery fire twice in an hour of ferocious combat. Imagine spending the next six days out in the open without even the most elementary medical attention. Imagine barely being able to crawl thirty feet with a broken arm and a shattered knee to safety. And then imagine spending a year recovering from this terrible collection of wounds. Cornelius Hathaway Stone of the 5th New Hampshire did not have to imagine these things; he lived them.

Stone was born in 1844 in Cornish, NH to a family of very modest means. After a stint in Weathersfield, VT, Stone’s father moved the family to Claremont, NH, where the Census of 1860 found him a “Laborer” with $800 in real estate and $100 in personal estate.[i]

Stone enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire in Manchester, NH, on February 12, 1862. Why he enlisted there instead of at home is puzzling; 1st Lieutenant Jacob Keller was then recruiting for the regiment in Claremont. Perhaps Stone, who was underage, sought to avoid detection by someone who knew him. Or maybe his father had tried to stop him from enlisting. Whatever the case, Stone was mustered in on February 28, 1862. A muster roll describes him as a “Laborer” with black eyes, black hair, and a dark complexion. He measured a mere 5’ 4”.[ii]

Stone’s first 18 months in the 5th New Hampshire proved uneventful. He passed through the fights at Fair Oaks, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg unscathed—something of a feat when so many of his fellow soldiers were killed or wounded in these battles. Stone’s odyssey only began when he was captured on July 26, 1863 at White Plains, Virginia.

Most of what follows comes from Otis Waite’s Claremont War History (1868).[iii] When the Civil War started, Waite, a wealthy local worthy involved in the insurance business, was designated Claremont’s semi-official “historiographer” to “keep a record of events” in town during the war. This task he faithfully pursued, writing a book that not only described what transpired in town but also included short biographies of every man from Claremont who served in the Union forces during the war. In a number of cases—including Stone’s—it’s clear that Waite spoke to the subjects of these biographies; the detail is such that one can almost hear these men talking.

Although Stone went into much detail about other events, he had nothing to say about the circumstances of his capture, and one wonders if these did not reflect well on him. He proved particularly unlucky in his timing; the 5th New Hampshire was shipped off to Concord, NH, to rest and recruit only a week after his capture. Stone was initially sent to Libby Prison before being taken to Belle Isle where he “was kept one hundred and fourteen days.” He was obviously proud of having survived this infamous camp, but he provided no details about his incarceration. Is it possible that he might not have been so proud of what he needed to do to survive? According to a number of accounts, starving, sick, ill-clad Union prisoners at Belle Isle frequently brawled over scarce food, blankets and clothing. The losers often perished. This experience must have been traumatic for young Stone.

Belle Isle (ca. 1863). This image was taken by photographer Charles R. Rees. (See Valentine Museum).

Although he may not have realized it, Stone was lucky in one regard. In February 1864, Confederate authorities sought to mitigate overcrowding at Belle Isle by sending Union POWs to Andersonville, Salisbury, and Danville—all of which were notorious for high mortality rates.[iv] Stone, however, was paroled and then exchanged on May 28, 1864—just in time to rejoin the 5th New Hampshire for the Overland Campaign.[v] Less than a week later, on June 3, 1864, he participated in the Army of the Potomac’s massive three-corps assault at Cold Harbor.

For the 5th New Hampshire, the early-morning attack began well. Although the regiments on either side of this unit had gone to ground seeking the shelter of the Dispatch Station Road, the 5th New Hampshire pressed on. Halfway through the assault, Colonel Charles Hapgood, then commander of the regiment, noticed that fire from the Confederate salient west of the McGhee House had slackened, largely because the 7th New York Heavy Artillery had overrun the Southern works in that area. Hapgood changed the axis of his attack by ordering the regiment to wheel right (northward) at the double-quick so that he, too, could push his men into the salient. The soldiers from New Hampshire punched right through a Virginia regiment, collected large numbers of prisoners, and without hesitation pressed westward till they had seized the McGhee House and its outbuildings. Here the 5th New Hampshire was met by the 2nd Maryland and Finnegan’s Florida Brigade who, by force of numbers, drove the Northerners back into the salient. A vicious melee ensued that included hand-to-hand fighting and the discharge of canister at extremely short range as the 5th New Hampshire along with the 7th New York Heavy Artillery clung to their dearly bought position inside Confederate lines.[vi] The outnumbered Northerners, “fired upon from front and both flanks, and failing of any support” (to quote Major James Larkin of the 5th New Hampshire), were eventually compelled to flee in disorder. In all, the 5th New Hampshire lost over 200 casualties.[vii]

Alfred Waud, “7th N.Y. Heavy Arty. in Barlows charge nr. Cold Harbor Friday June 3rd 1864” (1864): This sketch is often represented as depicting the 7th New York Heavy Artillery leaving its trenches to start its assault on the Confederate fortifications. The presence of Confederate prisoners in the foreground of the image, though, indicates that Waud sought to show the regiment fighting on or near the Confederate entrenchments. In attempting to maintain a toehold inside the rebel position, the New Yorkers were assisted by the 5th New Hampshire which was the only other Union regiment that breached the Confederate line. Both units suffered stiff losses from the intense close-quarters fighting that took place near the McGhee House. The 7th New York Heavy Artillery suffered 420 casualties while the soldiers from the Granite State lost over 200 men. (See Library of Congress.)

One of them was Stone. A bullet had broken his right arm. Two more bullets had struck him in the leg below the knee. A fourth bullet had pierced his side. He had taken some grapeshot in the knee while some shrapnel had struck him in the back. For the next six days, he lay in a Confederate-occupied rifle pit. During that time, according to Stone, the rebels took from him $50, his tobacco, and all his valuables (which is entirely believable). Also, during that time, Stone claimed he had “nothing to eat or drink” (which is less believable). Over those six days, he had plenty of time to contemplate what surely must have seemed like his impending death. On June 9, the rebels retreated, and Union forces had advanced to within “two rods” of Stone’s rifle pit. That night, Stone, who was “so weak from his sufferings and the loss of blood that he could hardly speak or move,” “crawled with the utmost difficulty” toward the Northern breastworks and fell into the hands of the 2nd Delaware Volunteer Infantry. His ordeal had just begun.

Gilbert Gaul, “Between the Lines during a Truce” from Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, volume 3 (1888): After the failure of Grant’s June 3, 1864 assault on Lee’s position at Cold Harbor, the two commanders bickered over the terms of a truce that would have permitted the two armies to collect their wounded and bury their dead. It was not until June 7 that Grant and Lee finally concluded an agreement. This delay spelled the doom of many Union soldiers who had been wounded in the June 3 attack and stuck between the two armies. It was nothing short of miraculous that Stone, who lay inside the Confederate position for six days, survived his ordeal.

Stone’s wounds were tended to on the morning of June 10, and he was taken to White House Landing, “riding fourteen miles over corduroy roads in an army wagon” (ugh!). From White House Landing, he traveled to Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, VA (by steamer, I presume), where his leg was amputated above the knee. Over five months later, the stump nearly healed, he was forwarded to Boston, MA, for a stay at Pemberton Square Hospital (now the site of Government Center). While hobbling to the hospital, his crutch slipped on the sidewalk, and he injured his leg badly. Gangrene set in, and four more inches of his leg had to be amputated. The surgeon “told Stone and his friends that he probably could not live through the operation, though he could not possibly live without it.” Stone survived the 90-minute procedure and, after six weeks, was sent on to a military hospital in Manchester, NH. Eventually, he traveled to Central Park Hospital in New York City to be fitted with an artificial leg, and it was here that he was eventually discharged from the army on June 8, 1865. Waite concluded this tale by rightfully stating “very few men suffered so much for their country as did young Stone.”

Stone now faced the rest of his life minus a leg. How did he fare?

At this great remove in time with only the barest of documentation, it’s hard to say. Stone took a step in the right direction when he obtained a much-deserved pension in July 1865.[viii] In September 1865, he was back in Claremont where he married 15-year-old Harriet N. Chase.[ix] That he was married so soon after returning to Claremont suggests that Stone had known Chase before his enlistment (he had not been back to Claremont since then)—that is, when she had been 11 or 12.[x] Although marrying a girl of this age was legal and not unheard of, it was also a bit unusual and somewhat skeevy. In 1866, the newlyweds had a son—their only child—named Charles.

We next find Stone in 1880, living in Goodwin Township in the Dakota Territory, not far from the Minnesota border. While his wife “kept house” and his 14-year-old son worked as a “farmhand,” Stone plied his occupation as a machinist [xi] The township had just been incorporated a couple of years before and numbered only about 600 souls (four times larger than its current population of 140). What could bring a machinist to this end of the world?

Stone, however, was not done traveling. The 1890 Veterans Census placed him in Shelton, WA. Even had the form not indicated his regiment, it would be impossible to mistake him. Under “Disability Incurred,” we find the following laconic comment: “Six wounds; one leg amputated.” Under “Remarks,” there appears, “Prisoner on Belle Isle.”[xii] One can almost imagine Stone telling the census-taker the same story he told Waite—with perhaps a few embellishments that had sprouted up over time. What brought Stone to Washington is unknown. Since all we have from that year is the Veterans Census, we know nothing of his family situation.

What we can surmise, though, is that by the early 1890s, Harriet was out of the picture—whether through death or divorce, it is impossible to say. The reason we can make this surmise is because Stone married Gertrude Slade in 1894.[xiii] This marriage did not take, for by the 1900 Census, Stone was divorced. By this point, he was still working as a machinist. He lived in Hadlock, WA, with Charles who was now married and had two daughters and a son.[xiv]

Cornelius Stone after the war sporting some sort of fraternal regalia. (See FindAGrave.) 

Stone died in March 1901 in Shelton, WA.[xv] What are we to make of Stone’s post-war experiences? If we so wished, we could stress the signs of a life where all was not well—the young teenage bride, a marriage that produced only one child, the restless movement westward, the divorce, and the early death. Literature about Civil War veterans often tends to emphasize the lingering effects of trauma on men who suffered much during the conflict. While I certainly do not wish to minimize his pain, I’d like to point to evidence of ways in which Stone may have compensated for this suffering by finding meaning in his life. His headstone, which appears on FindAGrave, bears two important symbols. One, located above his name, appears to be associated with a fraternal order. Indeed, in one of the few photos I’ve seen of Stone, he is outfitted in the regalia of such an order (which one, I cannot tell). The other symbol carved into the side of his stone represents a Grand Army of the Republic badge.[xvi] Perhaps I’m reading too much into Stone’s headstone, but it appears that he found comfort in masculine associations of likeminded men with similar experiences. These may have substituted for the camaraderie he had experienced in the 5th New Hampshire and helped support him psychologically during difficult times for the rest of his life.

Stone’s marker in Shelton Memorial Park in Shelton, WA. The fraternal symbol appears above his name. On the other face of the stone visible to viewer, one can detect a representation of the GAR badge. Click to enlarge. (See FindAGrave.)

[i] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WG-PF3 : 11 November 2020), Cornelius Stone in entry for Geo D Stone, 1860.

[ii] “New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q27M-MB52 : 16 March 2018), Cornelius H Stone, 12 Feb 1862; citing Manchester, Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States, New Hampshire Secretary of State, Division of Records Management & Archive; FHL microfilm 2,257,887.

[iii] Otis F. R. Waite, Claremont War History; April, 1861, to April 1865 (Concord, NH: McFarland & Jenks, Printers, 1868), 138-141.

[iv] https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/belle_isle_prison#start_entry

[v] Ayling’s Revised Register has Stone re-enlisting on March 29, 1864 while Waite has the date as April 1, 1864. How Stone could have re-enlisted while he was still in prison remains unclear to me.

[vi] Gordon C. Rhea, Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee May 26-June 3, 1864 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002), 324-327.

[vii] William Child, A History of the Fifth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers (Bristol, NH: R. W. Musgrove, Printer, 1893), 270.

[viii] “United States General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QJDP-JNNG : 13 March 2018), Cornelius H Stone, 1865.

[ix] “New Hampshire Marriage Records, 1637-1947,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FLFH-P2N : 2 April 2020), Cornelieus H. Stone and Harriett N. Chase, 09 Sep 1865; citing Claremont, Sullivan, New Hampshire, Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,307.

[x] The marriage record claims she was born in Claremont and resided there, but I have not been able to find her in the Census of 1860, when she was presumably ten years old.

[xi] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCVQ-QJ7 : 12 November 2020), Cornelius Stone, Goodwin, Deuel, Dakota Territory, United States; citing enumeration district ED 46, sheet 500A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,112.

[xii] “United States Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War, 1890,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8S4-F1V : 11 March 2018), Cornelius H Stone, 1890; citing NARA microfilm publication M123 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 338,267.

[xiii] “Washington, County Marriages, 1855-2008,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QPMK-B914 : 28 November 2018), Cornelius H Stone and Gertrude Slade, 1 Dec 1894, Shelton, Mason, Washington, United States, Washington State Archives, Olympia; FamilySearch digital folder 102115024.

[xiv] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMP6-6W9 : accessed 23 November 2020), Cornelius H Stone in household of Charles Stone, Chimacum and Hadlock Precincts, Jefferson, Washington, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 46, sheet 4B, family 108, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,743.

[xv] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/28474828/_

[xvi] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/28474828/_

At the Intersection of Honor and Discipline: That Time 1st Lieutenant David Struck 2nd Lieutenant Butler

2nd Lieutenant Francis W. Butler, Company K, 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry: 1st Sergeant Thomas Livermore had this to say about Butler: “He was . . . a rather green and boyish fellow to my eyes, and in his six feet six or thereabouts, awkward as well.” This image is a detail of the one farther down the page. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

While looking for information about the 5th New Hampshire’s time at Camp California for an earlier post, I found the following passage in a letter written by 2nd Lieutenant Francis W. Butler to his family on December 22, 1861:

The case is this, viz. that 1st Lt J.B. David insulted me and in a fit of passion struck me on the face I preferred charges against him and with the advice of Col Cross & Capt. Hapgood plus the Genl arrested him and the Col. said he should be cashiered (dismissed shamefully from the service) well this put the entire Regt in a ferment. they all said I did right and still did not wish to Court Martial an officer of the 5th as it would bring shame upon its name the Adjt. & Maj. came to see me & then I told them I had no reason to/ to retract any thing said or done they begged and finally the Col. was so fair & good I agreed to leave it to the 3 Field officers they sent David a reprimand and I dropped the thing. I wish I had carried it out he’ll be cautious in future. the Col. says change Cos. and I am going to try to get on the Genls Staff. Breed was pleased enough to think I had got him. but now I have got to have a great care lest he snatches me Ill not write the particulars but could in a few minutes it arose from a photograph the Col. sent me. When I 1st spoke to the Col he said he expected it said he and other officers had noticed their ill treatment of myself and was glad I had pluck to defend myself—poor, miserable, wretched Heaven forsaken He’ll deserving shakk He wont strike me or any one else The Maj. told in the presence of myself & David Capt Hapgood & others that Mr. Butler was a nice young officer and he had all confidence in him he could believe every word I said.[i]

Undoubtedly, something had gone badly wrong in Company K to which both David and Butler belonged.

This story initially intrigued me because it does not appear in Mike Pride and Mark Travis’s My Brave Boys. But the more I thought about this passage, the more questions I had. Why had 1st Lieutenant James B. David insulted Butler and struck him in the face? Why did the field officers of the regiment arrest David but then seek to avoid a court martial? And if these field officers had noticed Butler’s ill-treatment in previous weeks, why had they done nothing before? Where was Captain Richard Welch, Butler’s company commander, in all of this? And if Butler was such a “nice young officer,” why did Colonel Edward Cross, the commander of the regiment, send the young man to a camp of instruction for the Signal Corps? In the end, what does this incident tell us about honor and discipline?

Thomas Livermore as a young 1st Sergeant. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

The only account I’ve been able to locate that provides some insight into this incident appears in Thomas Livermore’s Days and Events (1920). At the time, Livermore was the 1st Sergeant in Company K. He eventually rose to the rank of captain in the 5th New Hampshire before transferring out of the regiment. His narrative must be approached with some caution because he wrote it several years after the war (between 1867 and 1872) and revised it substantially before his death in 1918. There are inaccuracies in Days and Events, and the work is clearly influenced by Livermore’s predilections. But as we shall see, Livermore is fairly straightforward and honest about his biases.[ii]

In Days and Events, Livermore writes:

Captain [Welch] and Lieutenant [David] seemed to dislike Second Lieutenant [Butler], and finally treated him contemptuously and insultingly. I did not know him very well and had neither like nor dislike for him; he was, however, a rather green and boyish fellow to my eyes, and in his six feet six or thereabouts, awkward as well, and possibly the dislike of my superiors somewhat infected me. However Lieutenant [Butler] soon was selected, as an educated man, to join the Signal Corps of the Army, and we then saw little of him. I think that this treatment [by Welch and David] prejudiced the colonel against the two superiors, and finally, by trading watches with their men as ill became officers, they in my opinion confirmed his dislike and drew catastrophe upon them, though I think [Welch] was also marked because he was too ignorant and indolent for a good captain. One day an order came from somewhere above directing that the officers of the 5th should be examined as to their competency to hold commissions. A brigade board examined them, and in a few days an order from the War Department, dated February 15, 1862, directed the discharge of Captains [Welch] and [Edmund Brown] and First Lieutenants [James B. David] and [Elijah W. Johnson].[iii]

This account simultaneously leaves out a number of things while revealing many others. For now, I’d like to confine myself to two observations about Livermore as an observer. First, as a non-commissioned officer, his perspective was somewhat limited; he was not fully privy to the goings on among the company commanders and the field officers of the regiment.[iv] Second, there is a disarming, self-conscious honesty in this passage. Livermore admits that his indifferent opinion of Butler was probably influenced by Welch and David—while conceding, here and elsewhere, that Welch and David were probably in the wrong.

Captain Richard Welch of Company K, 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry: According to Livermore, he was “a man of medium height, with a decidedly Roman, perhaps Israelitish nose, black whiskers, owing part of their color to dye, a face wrinkled very much at the corner of his eyes, which twinkled in a manner half common to rogues and half to good-natured numskulls.”(Image courtesy of David Morin.)

Clearly, the trouble started with Welch, the commander of Company K, a lazy officer who never took his responsibilities seriously and sought to avoid exercising command so he wouldn’t alienate his men. It speaks volumes that he never bothered to master drill. It is also revealing that Butler’s account of the incident does not mention Welch doing anything to deal with the situation. Had Welch been more “present” and conscientious, matters would not have spiraled out of control.[v]

But spiral out of control they did, largely because Welch and David obviously disliked Butler. Getting at the root of this dislike is difficult at this great distance in time, but there are certainly some clues. Welch, who was a farmer of moderate means from Plaistow, NH, was old enough to be Butler’s father, and according to Livermore, was “a wicked old man” whose eyes twinkled “in a manner half common to rogues and half to good-natured numskulls.”[vi] David was accustomed to being the cock of the walk in his home town of Amherst, NH, where his father, Barnabas B. David, was the definition of a local worthy. The elder David was the wealthy co-owner of a whip factory that employed a number of townspeople. In addition to the whip factory, he engaged in other business ventures, including railroad speculation. Over the course of his life, he represented Amherst in the state legislature, served as a town selectman, and became a deacon in the Congregationalist Church. His house was so large and impressive that an image of it appeared in the History of the Town Amherst. The younger David, who worked as a clerk in his father’s business, was at the center of this empire, and it’s hard to avoid the impression that he felt somewhat entitled. It appears that when it came to his duties as an officer, David took his cue from Welch.[vii]

Butler’s background was very different. His father, John D. Butler, was a rich real estate broker who resided in Greenfield, NH. The elder Butler, who owned $5,000 in real estate and possessed a personal estate of $30,000, could have bought Barnabas B. David three times over (indeed, according to an inflation calculator I used, Butler’s estate was worth more than a million dollars in today’s money). I have not yet been able to obtain a history of Greenfield to see what role the elder Butler played in town. However, it is clear that he had great ambitions for his son who attended Francestown Academy (Francestown, NH) and Kimball Union Academy (Meridien, NH). Indeed, Francis Butler was preparing to take the entrance examination for Dartmouth College when he decided to enlist in the 5th New Hampshire.[viii]

How did Welch and Butler size up the tall and awkward, “green and boyish” Butler? It appears they saw an earnest fellow who was younger than his years and inexperienced in the ways of the world. That is, despite his great size (he was 6’ 6” and weighed 200 lbs.), the young Butler could be taken advantage of and treated with contumely. At the same time, Welch and David could not avoid feeling inferior as they contemplated Butler’s wealth, education and status. This is where I imagine the trouble could have started. Inspired by a desire to compensate for their feelings of inferiority and a resentment at the young man’s privileged station, Welch and David treated Butler “contemptuously and insultingly” because they could get away with it; the young 2nd lieutenant did not have the temperament or experience to deal with such behavior. This situation seems to have persisted for some time and was awkward for all who witnessed it. It appears that Colonel Edward Cross clearly understood what was going on, for as Butler wrote: “When I 1st spoke to the Col he said he expected it said he and other officers had noticed their ill treatment of myself and was glad I had pluck to defend myself.” In other words, Cross had seen Welch and David mistreating Butler, had expected that this mistreatment would culminate in some sort of incident, and was glad that Butler had pressed charges so that matters had come to a head.

1st Lieutenant James B. David, Company K, 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. Livermore believed David had treated Butler “contemptuously and insultingly.” However, Livermore owed his stripes to David and considered him “my good friend.” (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

But why had David precipitated this reckoning by hitting Butler? The sources are silent on this question, but in his letter, Butler wrote that he thought either David or Welch would soon “be sent home for we have an examination of officers next wk and I hope they’ll fail.” Presumably, Butler was referring to the brigade board of review that would test the officers to see if they were competent to hold their commissions. One wonders if the proximity of the examination led to a moment of self-awareness on David’s part. Did it suddenly dawn on him that his days as an officer in the 5th New Hampshire were numbered? Did David use some pretext to take out his stress or frustration on Butler who had become a convenient whipping boy? Whatever the case, I find it significant (or at least interesting) that this incident occurred so close in time to the officer examinations. It also seems worthy of note that both Livermore and Butler’s accounts mention the latter’s mistreatment in almost the same breath as the brigade board of review.

Butler’s charges presented Cross with both an opportunity and a problem. These charges gave Cross the chance to intervene decisively. But what exactly would this intervention look like? According to Butler’s account, the leaders of the regiment appeared to waver before reaching a decision. Brigadier General O. O. Howard (who commanded the brigade to which the 5th New Hampshire belonged) only arrested David after Butler had conferred with Cross and Captain Charles Hapgood (Company I). Of all the company commanders, it’s not clear why Hapgood was consulted. The only thing I can think of is that he hailed from Amherst—David’s home town. Did Cross look to Hapgood for information about David’s background? It’s impossible to say. At this point, according to Butler, David was finished; the colonel had it in mind to cashier him. But then, according to Butler’s narrative, the “entire” regiment fell into a “ferment” for fear that a court martial would dishonor the regiment. The expression is vague, but whatever it represented gave Cross pause. I take it that these words applied to the officers, not the entire regiment. Had the latter been the case, the enlisted men in Company K whose letters or diaries are extant—Livermore, George Gove, and Miles Peabody—would certainly have mentioned the incident. Did the officers really worry that David’s court martial would bring shame on the 5th New Hampshire? Or was this argument a cover for something else? It’s hard to know one way or the other. It appears, though, that several officers reasoned that if they did not court martial David, they could keep the incident a secret. Did Cross, who appears to have been aware of Butler’s ill-treatment for some time, start to think that a court martial would determine that the regiment’s officers had been negligent because they had not stooped Welch and David’s abuse sooner? At this point, Cross may have started thinking that he could rid himself of the useless and troublesome 1st lieutenant in a more discreet manner. Perhaps the brigade board of review could order David’s discharge for incompetence. In other words, it was better for the regiment to expose itself to charges that several of its officers were unfit rather than dishonorable.

This image of Francis Butler was probably taken during the winter of 1861-1862. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

Whatever the case, Adjutant Charles Dodd and Major William Cook were sent to convince Butler to drop charges against David. Their efforts proved unavailing until Cross was “so fair & good” that Butler agreed to leave the decision to the three field officers—Cross, Cook, and Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Langley. Butler does not explain how Cross was “fair & good.” It could be that at this point Cross suggested Butler change companies for a fresh start. Or maybe they discussed how Cross would support Butler’s desire for a staff position. Did Cross broach the idea of sending Butler to a camp of instruction for the Signals Corps? None of this is clear, but we will tackle this question anon. Whatever the case, by deferring to the field officers, Butler all but ensured that David would escape with a reprimand—and a brief reprieve until the brigade board of review showed up to examine various officers in the regiment.

When exactly these examinations took place is not clear. Neither Pride and Travis nor Robert Grandchamp give a precise date. In all likelihood, the examinations took place shortly before January 14, 1862 which is when the regiment set out for picket duty on Edsall’s Hill.[ix] On January 20, 1862, Cross wrote ominously to his close friend, Henry O. Kent, that with regard to the regiment, “I have yet made no changes. But there will be changes soon.”[x] It seems likely that Cross wrote the foregoing with such confidence because the brigade board of review had already done its work, and he had a good idea of what the results would be.

As Livermore reported in his passage, two captains (Edmund Brown of Company B and Welch) and two 1st lieutenants (Elijah Johnson of Company I and David) were discharged in mid-February for having failed their examinations.[xi] Welch and David were replaced by Richard Cross (Company H), the colonel’s brother, and Charles Ballou (Company G), respectively. Indeed, according to Sergeant George Gove, Cross and Ballou took over the company before Welch and David left camp.[xii] That Cross chose these men to take over the company is instructive. Richard Cross, who had served in the Corps of Engineers as an enlisted man before the war, brought regular army experience to the company and a determination to impose his will. Having lived in California for much of the 1850s and where he worked as a miner, bookkeeper, farmer, and translator there, Ballou was a man who had seen much of the world and knew how to navigate it. Company K, then, fell under a new regime that its members appear to have welcomed.

Captain Richard Cross, Company K, 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry: Captain Richard Cross, Colonel Edward Cross’s brother, took over Company K after Welch was discharged. Livermore wrote that Cross “had obtained very severe ideas of discipline; he was not illiterate, and although erratic, was a good officer, and could bring a company up as well as any officer in that regiment.” (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

Brown and Johnson left the regiment without a fuss, and in fact, it is likely that the latter anticipated his discharge by resigning in late January. The unfortunate Welch and David, however, decided to fight their discharges by using their political leverage with New Hampshire’s congressional delegation (all of whom were Republicans). In early March, they returned to Camp California, where the regiment was quartered, hoping that Cross would allow them to resume their commands. The encounter did not go well. Cross threatened to run David through with a sword, and when he realized that his former subordinate was unarmed, challenged him to fight. David, who had learned his lesson, albeit too late, told the colonel he had not come to brawl. Cross abused the two men “shamefully” before storming out of the room. In came Major Cook who grabbed David by the coat and threw him to the floor, scratching him in the face. Welch and David beat a hasty retreat. They complained of their treatment to their Republican friends, but their time with the 5th New Hampshire was over.[xiii]

As for Butler, he was already long gone by the time Welch and David were chased out of Camp California. In a December 28, 1861 letter to his sister, Sergeant George Gove wrote that Butler had been selected for training as a signals officer.[xiv] By mid-January, Butler was writing to his family from a camp of signal instruction.[xv] His parting from Cross was characterized by several ambiguities. It is clear from his letter that Butler wanted to leave the 5th New Hampshire. We also know that Butler did not accept Cross’s offer of a transfer to a different company. Not only that, but a command in another infantry regiment did not seem to interest Butler. He mentioned looking for a staff position, and he ended up in the Signals Corps. These preferences may have been a product of Butler’s education and ambition. Or maybe Butler’s experiences in Company K convinced him that he did not have the makings of an infantry officer. Cross promised to use his influence to advance Butler’s career, but what is interesting is that the colonel did not try to stop the young 2nd lieutenant from leaving. Throughout the war, Cross cultivated young, talented enlisted men to become officers; the 5th New Hampshire almost always promoted from within. However, Cross often proved extremely jealous of these officers and sought to prevent them from leaving the regiment. Livermore himself was a good example of this phenomenon.[xvi] And yet, Cross let Butler go. Did Cross perhaps understand that the rough-and-tumble world of company command was not a good fit for Butler?

This story interests me partly because it reveals something about the principals involved and how they related to one another. For example, Butler’s letter shows that Cross was perhaps not so headstrong and impetuous as he is sometimes made out to be. But I also find this tale intriguing because of what it indicates about honor—especially who had it and how it was upheld or protected. Welch and particularly David had dishonored themselves by treating Butler as they did—“contemptuously and insultingly” as Livermore put it. They had abused their positions of authority and shown a lack of restraint at a time when self-control was one of the hallmarks of a gentleman, that is, a man of honor. And yet, it is not entirely clear if Butler had met contemporary standards of honor either. In the Northern states during the Civil War, a strong man who showed forbearance in the face of offense was praiseworthy for his gentility—but most Northerners understood that even an honorable man was justified in retaliating once he had reached his limit. Meanwhile, a weak man who tolerated abuse because he was not willing to stand up for himself was contemptible. Where exactly did Butler fall in this spectrum between strong and weak men? To answer that question, we would have to know something about the nature and duration of the abuse that he received at the hands of Welch and David. In this context, it is worth remembering the way in which Butler and Cross parted. Although neither bore malice toward the other, they appear to have agreed that it was best if Butler left the regiment.

Then there are those officers who worried about the dishonor a court martial would inflict on the regiment. It would have been interesting to find out what precisely their arguments were. Was it the mere fact of an officer being court-martialed? Were they concerned that news of David’s behavior would become public with a court martial? In other words, did they fear that the regiment would have to bear the weight of David’s dishonor? Or did these officers worry that the details of Welch, David, and Butler’s relationship reflected badly on the 5th New Hampshire? I would be interested to know what these men thought was the connection between the honor of the regiment and the honor of its individual members.

The March 1862 encounter between Cross and Cook on the one hand, and Welch and David on the other, also gives us something to think about with regard to honor. At first glance, Cross’s behavior was hardly an expression of gentility and restraint, and there is reason to believe that he and Cook had been drinking (according to the account presented by Welch and David to their Republican allies). Furthermore, as Robert Grandchamp points out, Welch and David had some grounds for complaint. First, Cross had only placed officers he did not like before the board; he had not exposed his favorites to scrutiny. Second, he had a strong antipathy for Republicans (which Welch and David were). And, third, Cross had appointed his own brother to fill the vacancy caused by Welch’s departure.[xvii] While it is hard to defend Cross’s actions in this instance, there were some important mitigating circumstances. For one thing, there was no denying Welch and David’s incompetence; a legitimate brigade board of review had reached that determination. Whether other officers had not been subjected to examination or Republican officers had a more difficult time in the 5th New Hampshire (they did not) was beside the point; Welch and David had shown they were incapable. Undoubtedly, Cross resented the way in which the two former officers sought to use political connections, especially Republican ones, to reassume their positions, challenge his authority, and undermine the regiment’s combat effectiveness. For another, David had lost caste; he had dishonored himself with his behavior while serving in the 5th New Hampshire, and he had threatened to bring shame on the regiment. Through his general carelessness and laxity, as well as his abuse of Butler, Welch had almost abetted David’s actions. Welch, then, also had something to answer for in this matter of honor. Perhaps menacing them with a sword was not appropriate, but what was the correct way to deal with men such as these?[xviii]

Finally, this incident—or series of incidents—shows us how questions of honor and discipline overlapped during this period. In the Northern armies, questions of honor were increasingly becoming matters of discipline. That makes sense; the military was trying to replace the subjectivity that often characterized disputes about honor with a discipline that was characterized by objectivity. But the incident we’ve dissected in this post shows how officers often found it difficult to deal with disputes about honor through disciplinary measures.

All of the issues I’ve raised at the end of the post provide much food for thought. I realize that this post has been full of “maybes” and “perhapses,” but this blog is a place for educated surmises and informed speculation. With some luck, once I’ve had a chance to do more research in various archives, I can squeeze the uncertainty out of this story.

[i] Butler to family, December 22, 1861, Butler Papers, New Hampshire Historical Association.

[ii] https://www.library.unh.edu/find/archives/collections/thomas-l-livermore-diary-1860-1866. Days and Events, which was eventually published in 1920, differs from the original “diary” that was written between 1867 and 1872. Throughout this post, I quote from the book. The diary is in the Special Collections and Archives of the UNH Library, and I will study it closely once I become more familiar with the book and the regiment.

[iii] Thomas Livermore, Days and Events 1860-1866 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920), 37.

[iv] George Gove, who was then a Sergeant in Company K, makes no mention of this incident in his correspondence. In a December 28, 1861 letter to his sister, he merely mentions that Butler had been chosen to become a signals officer. Clearly, the non-commissioned officers in the company did not know the half of what had transpired. See Gove to Julia Parsons, December 28, 1861, Parsons Family Papers, UNH Special Collections.

[v] See Livermore, Days and Events, 34-35; Robert Grandchamp, Colonel Edward E. Cross, New Hampshire Fighting Fifth: A Civil War Biography (Jefferson, NH: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013), 84-85; Mike Pride and Mark Travis, My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001), 53.

[vi] Livermore, Days and Events, 36.

[vii] The Census of 1860 lists Barnabas B. David as possessing $8000 in real estate and $2500 in personal estate.

See also Daniel F. Secomb, History of Amherst (Concord, NH: Printed by Evans, Sleeper, and Woodbury, 1883), p. 152, 154, 155, 211, 246, 305, 308, 309, 455, 559, 560 ; “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WJ-YQY : 19 March 2020), B B David, 1860.

[viii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/104606554; “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WP-24S : 19 March 2020), J D Butler, 1860. See also William Child, A History of the Fifth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the American Civil War, 1861-1865 (Bristol, NH: R. W. Musgrove, Printer, 1893), 322.

[ix] On January 14, 1862, Butler wrote to his family that he had received letters from Cross that day and the day before. He enclosed one of the two letters which announced that the “the Captains have been examined, but the result has not transpired.” Thus the examinations took place before January 14. Butler to family, January 14, 1862, Butler Papers, New Hampshire Historical Association.

[x] Walter Holden, William E. Ross, and Elizabeth Slomba (eds.), Stand Firm and Fire Low: The Civil War Writings of Colonel Edward E. Cross (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2003), 102.

[xi] There is some question as to what happened because the discharges of these men all took place on different dates. According to Ayling’s Revised Register, Elijah W. Johnson was discharged on January 28, 1861 while Waite’s New Hampshire in the Rebellion has it that he resigned on January 24, 1861. Edmund Brown is listed in Ayling as having been discharged on February 15, 1862 (Waite has him discharged on February 2, 1862). Both sources have Richard Welch discharged on February 15, 1862 (Waite specifically mentions that this was the doing of the War Department). Finally, Ayling lists David as “discharged for incompetence” on February 15, 1862 while Wait accounts for him as being discharged by the War Department (same as Welch). It appears that Johnson knew what the results of his examination would be and didn’t waste any time leaving while the others were probably discharged on February 15 (which is when the orders from the War Department were dated). Presumably, none of the officers who failed their exams were still with the regiment when Cross announced the changes to his men on February 23.

[xii] Gove wrote to his sister on February 9, 1862 that Richard Cross had already taken over Company K and that Welch had not left yet. Awkward!

[xiii] Accounts of this incident appear in Grandchamp, Colonel Edward E. Cross, 85-86; Pride and Travis, My Brave Boys, 65-66.

[xiv] See the letter referred to in Note iv.

[xv] See the letter referred to in Note ix.

[xvi] See Chapters XXI and XXII in Days and Events. During the Gettysburg campaign, Cross was extremely reluctant to let Livermore leave the regiment and take a position with the ambulance corps.

[xvii] Grandchamp, Colonel Edward E. Cross, 85.

[xviii] For an extremely interesting investigation of honor, manhood, and gentility in the Northern army, see Lorien Foote, The Gentleman and the Roughs: Manhood, Honor, and Violence in the Union Army (New York: New York University Press, 2010).

Lifespans of the “400”

When I first started collecting data on veterans of the 5th New Hampshire, I thought that determining their lifespans would yield all sorts of revealing information. For example, lifespan is a proxy—albeit a crude one—for overall health. If I split the pool up into different groups, I reasoned, I’d be able to find important discrepancies that conveyed something about how the war experience had influenced these men’s lives. For the most part, such was not the case.

From the start, I knew that there were limits to what I could determine. For one thing, statistics often reveal correlations, not causes. For another, the sources I used vary in their reliability. I’m also conscious of the fact that I’m not a statistician, so there are probably problems that I’m not even aware of.

So without further ado, let us check the results.

The Pool as a Whole

Of the 403 men in the pool, I found lifespans for 361. The average lifespan was 64.1 years. The median lifespan was 66. According to my limited reading, historical demographers disagree on average life expectancy in 19th-century America, so it’s hard to say if these figures are high or low. At first, I thought that 64.1 years wasn’t bad considering that almost two-fifths of the sample had been wounded, but as we’ll see below, suffering wounds does not appear to have affected lifespan all that much.

If you want some contemporary perspective, an average lifespan of 64.1 is roughly the same as male life expectancy in Gabon, Yemen, Myanmar, or Ethiopia today.

Arthur H. Perkins (1844-1936) was born and raised in Danbury, NH. In the fall of 1861, he enlisted in Company I of the 5th New Hampshire as a private. Ayling’s Revised Register indicates Perkins was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in November 1863 but seems to have omitted the fact that he was a 1st Sergeant before then (as indicated by the chevrons and sash in this image). (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

Age upon Enlistment

I thought I’d divide the men into cohorts based on their age upon enlistment: men in their teens, twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. The results are as follows:

  • Teenagers (N=104): average lifespan: 64.2
  • Men in their twenties (N=168): average lifespan: 62.8
  • Men in their thirties (N=55): average lifespan: 64.5
  • Men in their forties (N=25): average lifespan: 67.7
  • Men in their fifties (N=9): average lifespan 74.6

The figures for the men who enlisted in their forties and fifties are remarkable. Indeed, this was one of biggest surprises I encountered. But I suspect that these men were generally a hale group for their age. Moreover, once a man reaches a certain age, his chances of living to be quite old are somewhat enhanced.

After the war, Perkins returned to Danbury, NH, and later moved to Franklin, NH, where he farmed. In 1936, Currier Studio in the latter town took this photograph, claiming that Perkins was the last survivor of the 5th New Hampshire. It so happened that when Perkins died the year this image was taken, there were three men in my pool who were still alive: Daniel E. Junkins (1844-1938), Charles N. Collins (1842-1939) (see below), and Oscar Collins (1842-1940) (no relation). (Image from the Library of Congress.)

Lifespan by Rank

Did rank make a difference with regard to lifespan among the veterans? In answering this question, I used the terminal rank of veterans.

  • Captains (N=8): average lifespan: 64.6 years
  • 1st Lieutenants (N=6): average lifespan: 61.0 years
  • 2nd Lieutenants (N=11): average lifespan: 66.3 years
  • Commissioned officers as a whole (N=25): average lifespan: 64.5 years

Not much to see there. I moved on to the non-commissioned officers, and this is what I found:

  • 1st Sergeants (N=4): average lifespan: 60.8 years
  • Sergeants (N=28): average lifespan: 63.6 years
  • Corporals (N=23): average lifespan: 73.6 years

The last figure was shocking. I checked and double-checked my calculations. I actually looked at the ages, and what I found was stunning. A total of 16 men who completed their service at the rank of corporal (70%) lived beyond 70 and half of those men lived into their 80s. What that signifies—or if it is indeed significant—is unclear.

Lifespans of the Wounded

I wondered if suffering a wound appreciably lowered life expectancy. I was able to establish lifespans for 143 men who had suffered wounds and found that these men, on average, died at age 64.5 years. This figure is actually higher than the group as a whole.

I must add one qualification to this finding, though. I used Ayling’s Revised Register to determine whether men had been wounded or not. I have reason to believe that the Revised Register actually undercounted the number of wounds suffered by the regiment; other sources seem to indicate the number was actually somewhat higher.

Disabled Discharges

Did men who earned a disabled discharge experience shorter lives than others? The answer seems to be, “Not by much.” I found the lifespans of 187 men who obtained such a discharge and found an average lifespan of 63.0 years.


Finally, I looked at deserters. I find this group very interesting because little research has been done on them. They are hard to track because they often do not leave much documentation (for obvious reasons). I was able to find the lifespans for 24 deserters (out of the 35 in my sample) and established the average as 63.8 years.

Charles N. Collins (1842-1939) lived longer than anybody else in the pool but one. Born in Concord, NH, the son of a farmer, he served in the 1st New Hampshire (a three-month regiment) before enlisting in the 5th New Hampshire as a private. He deserted at Point Lookout, MD, on December 29, 1863 (the regiment had just recruited a large number of substitutes in the late summer of 1863 and desertion spiked dramatically several months later). Collins surfaced in California in the late 1870s as a butcher and spent most of his remaining years in Santa Rosa. He eventually became a fruit farmer and served for a number of years as the town’s recorder. This newspaper article indicates that by the end of his life he’d become something of an institution. Interestingly enough, Collins obtained a pension in 1896. It was not until 1917 that the pension office realized that the Charles N. Collins who served with the 1st New Hampshire was the same Charles N. Collins who deserted from the 5th New Hampshire. His pension was revoked. Perhaps that’s why Collins never “waxed enthusiastic” over his Civil War service. (This clipping comes from the The Press Democrat [January 22, 1938], p. 3.)


With almost all the figures remaining pretty much in the same ballpark, I don’t know what to say. I was hoping that there would be substantial differences between different groups that would tell me something about the war’s impact on veterans. Then again, in the gross, maybe a couple of years at war, no matter how traumatic, can’t outweigh all the other factors that influence lifespan. In other words, the men who fought in the Civil War and survived were resilient. And perhaps that’s the point.

How 1st Lieutenant James Larkin Saw Slaves with His Camera

It’s always a good time to talk about race, but the present is an especially apposite moment. Today, I’d like to examine a photo that shows how one member of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry saw African American slaves when most of his comrades did not. And in so doing, he started trying to understand a people who would change the course of the war. This examination might give us something important to think about in our own time; it’s not always easy to see others, let alone understand them, unless you make the effort. Unfortunately, people are not inclined to do so unless they feel a compelling reason.

The image above was taken during the Civil War at Volusia, a plantation near Alexandria, VA. Volusia was next to Camp California which is where the 5th New Hampshire was quartered between December 1861 and March 1862. It appears that James E. Larkin, then a 1st Lieutenant in Company A of the 5th New Hampshire, took this picture. A house, sign, and carriage painter from Concord, NH, who dabbled in photography as a hobby, Larkin somehow managed to lug his camera and photographic equipment with him to Virginia for the first winter of the war. In a diary that he kept briefly in January 1862 (he was a much more prolific correspondent, writing dozens and dozens of letters to his wife throughout the conflict), Larkin referred repeatedly to having made a fair bit of money by taking photos. I assume these images were mainly portraits since he charged for them. As evidenced by the pictures on Mike Pride’s Our War blog, however, Larkin was also interested in capturing interesting scenes. The photo above was one of these scenes.[i]

The subjects of this image were enslaved members of the Hughes family. The National Museum of African American History and Culture identifies them, from left to right, as William (b. 1856), Lucinda (b. ca. 1824), Fannie (b. 1860), Mary (b. 1860), Frances (b. 1834), Martha (b. 1857), Julia (b. 1859), Harriet (b. 1852), and Charles or Marshall (the former born in 1853, the latter, in 1854). The two adults in this image were sisters-in-law; Frances was married to Lucinda’s brother, David Hughes. Frances and her children belonged to Felix Richards, who owned Volusia at the time, while Lucinda and her children were the property of Richards’s wife, Amelia Macrae Richards.[ii]

Photographs of people still living in a state of slavery during the Civil War are apparently fairly rare. So why did Larkin take this image? This question is impossible to answer because he doesn’t mention it in his correspondence. But there is evidence that Volusia, whose owner was a Unionist, had extensive dealings with Colonel Edward E. Cross, the 5th New Hampshire’s commander. At one point in early 1862, Cross ordered 300 cords of wood from Felix Richards for use by the regiment. Perhaps most intriguingly, Cross also asked Amelia Richards if her “servant” would wash his clothes. Is this how Larkin came to know these slaves? Is it a coincidence that the women in this image appear to have been doing laundry? (In the photo, Frances seems to be ironing a blanket, and an image taken at the same time—but from a slightly different angle—shows laundry baskets and tubs nearby.)[iii]

This photo is not just interesting because it is one of few that show slaves at work during the Civil War. It is also interesting because Larkin obviously took some care in composing the image and instructing his subjects how to pose. I don’t want to get all Errol Morris on you (or at least the Errol Morris one reads in Believing is Seeing), but it is instructive to compare the two photographs that Larkin took of this group.

In the image above, Larkin was much closer and to the group’s right. Both Lucinda and Frances look straight at the camera, their heads slightly bowed. While the subjects are obviously posing, the result seems more naturalistic and candid than the image below. The photo has the character of an anthropological study in its attempt to capture the nature of slaves. Is there perhaps a whiff of the imperial gaze here? Maybe that’s reading too deeply into poor Larkin’s intentions.

There is more artistry involved in the image above. Larkin’s camera now met the family head-on. The composition presents a more balanced and symmetrical pyramid which was the standard of classical art. This arrangement unifies the group and draws attention to Frances, particularly her white kerchief. Also, the two women look in each other’s direction: Frances at Luncinda, and Lucinda at the blanket that Frances is ironing. It is difficult to understand the significance of this pose and one can produce several related interpretations. Did their averted eyes suggest that they were a mystery that could not be understood? Or did they gaze at one another to share a confidence or a knowledge—perhaps the experience of slavery—that excluded the viewer? Whatever the case, Frances emerges in both images as a woman of strength and dignity mainly because of her posture and her position in the pyramidal composition. It was a staple of the free labor ideology that prevailed in the North during the late antebellum period and the Civil War that slavery degraded labor. But in Larkin’s portrayal of Frances, do we see a statement that all labor is dignified, that the grandeur of work transcends the status of the person who does it? That slavery, then, was riven by contradictions impossible to reconcile? Maybe Larkin did not seek to convey this message—but we ourselves can see it.  From the foregoing, it appears as if Larkin was struggling—but attempting—to understand the people in these images.

The careful attention that Larkin devoted to this group contrasts with the regiment’s general lack of interest in slaves during this period. This lack of interest is surprising. According to the Census of 1860, just under 500 African Americans lived in New Hampshire (out of a population of 326,000) so they were something of a rarity.[iv] And since the vast majority of soldiers in the 5th New Hampshire were born and raised in the state, practically none of them had any direct experience with slavery. You would think that their letters and their correspondence with newspapers would be full of observations about African American slaves whom they had never seen before or the “peculiar institution” that they had never witnessed in practice. But even more important, Northerners were convinced that this institution was the root of secession. Why did they not show more interest in the institution and its victims?[v]

There are, no doubt, several reasons. The regiment was young. If my calculations are correct, about 45% of the 5th New Hampshire were too young to have voted in the presidential election of 1860 (the voting age was 21). It is always hazardous to make generalizations of the following sort, but it is possible that these teenagers and twenty-somethings were less articulate and politically aware than their elders. At the same time, the members of the regiment were still making the difficult psychological transition from civilian to soldier.[vi] In early December 1861, when the 5th New Hampshire arrived at Camp California, the soldiers had officially been in the army for only a month and a half, most of them having been mustered in around mid-October.[vii] There was plenty of hardship and danger. Some men were killed in accidents and others died of illness. But there was adventure, too, as the regiment sent patrols into close proximity to the enemy. Many letters during this period refer to the peculiarities of army life, the monotony of drill, incidents in the course of their small incursions, encounters with Southern civilians, and the welfare of various acquaintances in the regiment. It was the novelty of this life that soldiers often attempted to convey to readers back home. Under these new circumstances, it was easy to overlook slaves and slavery.

But there is another reason, perhaps, why soldiers generally neglected to mention slaves and slavery in their letters. In later 1861 and early 1862, they would still have seen the conflict as a white man’s war. At this point, although there may have been a few abolitionists among them, the soldiers of the 5th New Hampshire mainly fought for the preservation of the Union. That Union was dear to them because it guaranteed liberties that they as white men could fully enjoy. They may have found slavery distasteful, but their main complaint with the “slave power” was that it infringed on their liberties. In other words, they believed that white men—southerners and northerners—were the main players in this drama. Indeed, the men of the regiment understood themselves to have assumed a leading role by taking up arms for their cause. From this perspective, the interests of the slaves themselves were purely incidental to what was a white story.

By the fall of 1862, this attitude had changed dramatically. In December 1861, Colonel Cross had declared that the “attempt to make an abolition war is going to make trouble if not stopped. A little more attention to soldiers and less to Negroes is what is wanted.”[viii] But even as Cross wrote, slaves had just begun to free themselves and play such an important part in the American war that they could no longer be ignored. When matched with the Northern desire to preserve the Union and the course of events, the emergence of slaves as a significant force in the war inexorably drew the North (and the 5th New Hampshire along with it) toward the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862. Overlooking slaves and pretending that they were not an integral part of the national story was no longer possible. At some point, the people in the photograph—Frances, Lucinda, and their children—were swept up in this drama; Union soldiers came to Volusia and took them away.[ix]

James E. Larkin (ca. 1861-1862): The shoulder straps on his uniform indicate that Larkin was still a 1st Lieutenant when this image was taken. I’d like to think this photo was captured with Larkin’s own camera during the 5th New Hampshire’s first winter in Virginia. Throughout the war, Larkin was repeatedly promoted, becoming the regiment’s third commander after Charles Hapgood was wounded in June 1864. In September 1864, shortly before mustering out, Larkin was made a Lieutenant-Colonel  (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

During the winter of 1861-1862, these later events and the important role that slaves would play in them were difficult to foretell. It was not clear that slaves would have an interest in the war’s outcome, and many white Americans thought that the South’s human property would watch the war inertly from the margins. Yet James Larkin took the time and trouble to photograph a group of these people. The images he took may have been influenced by the privileged position from which he surveyed America. But the varied compositions and angles that he experimented with suggest that he was trying to “see” and understand his subjects in a way that his comrades did not. And, overall, his engagement with his subjects was sympathetic.

There might be a lesson in this story for all of us here and now. Regardless of where we stand in the world, we should make the effort to see others with both curiosity and empathy as a first step toward understanding them. That way, when the storm breaks, we might not be so surprised by the course of events and utterly unprepared to meet it.

[i] https://www.alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/oha/info/VolusiaFelix RichardsSlaves.pdf. See also James E. Larkin Papers, Diary, entries for January 21 and January 23, 1862, New Hampshire Historical Society, 1997.005. For Larkin’s occupation, see Merrill & Son’s Concord City Directory 1860-1861 (https://archive.org/details/merrillsonsconco1860merr/page/n157/mode/2up?q=Larkin).

[ii]  https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2014.174.8

[iii] https://www.alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/oha/info/VolusiaFelix RichardsSlaves.pdf

[iv] See this pdf pulled from the Census of 1860.

[v] It is true that we have a couple of letters that engage with slavery during this period. After the regiment marched to Upper and Lower Marlborough in early November 1861 to ensure that elections proceeded smoothly in the eastern Maryland, Private Miles Peabody of Company K wrote to his parents about his encounter with black slaves (“they are a good eal more intelegent than I had suposed”) and observed that they all wanted their freedom. As the regiment returned to camp, a young slave (a “very intelegent little fellow”) sought to join the regiment, and he was invited by Captain Richard Welch (Peabody’s company commander) to come along. When the slave’s owner came looking for the boy, the soldiers concealed him and brought him back to Bladensburg. The only other letter that dates from this period was written by “W.S.D.” (possibly Corporal Walter S. Drew of Company A) that appeared in a January 1862 issue of the Concord Independent Democrat. In this missive, he recorded a conversation with a Virginian slaveowner who related a story about his neighbor who had lost his wife and whose children had been brought up by female slave. The slaveowner stated: “Her master thought as much of her as he did of his own children and indulged her the same but,’ he added, bitterly, ‘no sooner did this war break out and the Union troops took possession of Alexandria than she deserted her master and went to washing to support herself.” Having related this tale, W.S.D. stated: “Here is a nut for our Northern Pro-Slavery men to crack who say the slaves are better off and better contented in bondage than when free. Here we see an old negro woman, who had been in bondage for sixty-three years, and according to Southern doctrine, kindly treated; yet the first opportunity that presented itself for escape she took advantage of. And where is the bondman that would not?” These are the only two letters that touch upon slavery or slaves, and when set against the volume of extant correspondence generated by the regiment during this period, it is not much. See Mike Pride and Mark Travis, My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001), 48 and the Concord Independent Democrat, January 9, 1862, 1.

[vi] Reid Mitchell, Civil War Soldiers: Their Expectations and Their Experiences (New York: Viking Press, 1988), pp. 56-58.

[vii] The first companies showed up at Camp Jackson outside of Concord, NH, in late September 1861.

[viii] Cross to Henry Kent, December 17, 1861 in Stand Firm and Fire Low: The Civil War Writings of Colonel Edward E. Cross, eds. Walter Holden, William E. Ross, and Elizabeth Slomba (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2003),  97.

[ix] https://www.alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/oha/info/VolusiaFelix RichardsSlaves.pdf

Remembering Charles Phelps on Memorial Day

On Saturday, my wife and I went hiking in the Joe English Reservation in Amherst, NH (which I highly recommend) and, afterwards, on the spur of the moment, we decided to take a look at Amherst Village. As we drove around, we saw an old cemetery where Courthouse Road joins Main Street. I recalled that a number of men from Amherst had fought in the 5th New Hampshire, and I hoped to see some of their tombstones. We got out and looked around, but it didn’t take long to realize that this cemetery was too old. Most of the headstones were those tall, thin, rectangular slabs one associates with late 18th and early 19th centuries.

To make a long story short, when I got home, I looked up some of the men from Amherst I was thinking of and realized they were buried in Meadow View Cemetery which was fairly close to where we’d been. And it was then that I decided that I’d visit Charles Phelps’s grave the next day—Memorial Day.

I often see memes on Facebook at this time of year declaring that we should “never forget” Americans who died in the armed services. What exactly we should never forget about them is not always clearly articulated. Part of the reason is that Facebook favors brevity. Another reasons is laziness; “never forget” is a throwaway phrase that doesn’t require much intellectual effort. What exactly are we supposed to avoid forgetting? People sometimes mention words like “sacrifice,” “nation,” and “freedom” without explaining their significance. That brings us to yet another reason why people stick to the simple “never forget.” A thorough explanation of the relationship between sacrifice, nation, and freedom is political. And unless one lives in a total social media echo chamber, a meaningful discussion of these terms is bound to cause heated debate. So people keep it vague, simple, bland—and also meaningless. And as they apply these words to all American servicemen who ever died, they reduce the dead to a gigantic abstraction.

That’s why I’d like to talk about somebody real like Charles Phelps, a young man who fought and died for a good cause in America’s greatest and costliest conflict. I can think of nothing and nobody more pertinent to Memorial Day which was created specifically to remember those Northerners who died in the Civil War.

Charles H. Phelps was born in Amherst, NH, in 1842. His parents, Horace and Betsey (née Ober), were people of moderate means whose families had been long resident in the town.[i] The Census of 1860 reveals that Horace Phelps (51) was a farmer with $1600 in real estate and $300 in his personal estate. The rest of the household consisted of Betsey (47), her widowed mother Sally (78), her spinster sister Martha (37) who worked as a teacher, Sophia E. Phelps (22) (also a teacher), Frank Phelps (10), and Charles Phelps (18) who was a “Painter’s Apprentice.”[ii] One obtains the impression from these facts of a sober, well-educated family that was neither rich nor poor.

Charles H. Phelps

On April 22 or 23, 1861 (accounts vary), with Barnabus B. David in the chair, Amherst held a town meeting in response to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 men to put down the rebellion (the call had been issued a week before in response to the bombardment of Fort Sumter). Patriotic speeches were given, and a Finance Committee appointed “to secure and disburse contributions for the support of the families of those who volunteered to fight the battles of the country.” In addition, the committee “voted to raise the pay of the volunteers from Amherst to eighteen dollars per month, and furnish each one with a Colt’s revolver.” Fourteen men came forward to offer their services, including young Charles H. Phelps who spent the next three months in the Milford Volunteers.[iii]

“Our First Volunteers”: An image of 11 of the 14 men from Amherst who volunteered for service in April 1861. Phelps is seated second from right in the front row. From the frontispiece of Edward D. Boylston, Amherst in the Great Civil Conflict of 1861-1865 (Amherst, NH: E. D. Boylston, 1893). 

An image of 11 of the original 14 volunteers was taken at the time. The men, most of whom were young, appear jaunty and proud. Would they have been so cheerful had they know what lay before them? Of the 14 , six later went on to serve in the 5th New Hampshire: James B. David, George W. George, Daniel A. Peabody, George W. Russell, George Vose, and Phelps. It is instructive to learn what became of them.

  • David was a hapless 1st Lieutenant discharged for incompetence in February 1862 after a lamentable performance before a brigade board of review (more on that in a later post). In 1863, he found a captaincy in the 7th Iowa Cavalry which was organized to fight Native Americans in the Dakota Territory. Although he was appointed major of the regiment, controversy dogged him even here; he received a dishonorable discharge in May 1866 before wrangling an honorable one a couple of months later.
  • George was mustered in as a 1st Sergeant and appointed 2nd Lieutenant in August 1862. His career as a commissioned officer lasted but a short time; he lost his leg at Antietam.
  • Peabody was mustered in as a Corporal but obtained a disabled discharge in October 1862.
  • Russell was mustered in as a private but was promoted to Sergeant in October 1862 and then 1st Sergeant after he re-enlisted in February 1864. He was killed in action during fighting outside of Petersburg in June 1864.
  • Vose was mustered in as a Corporal and was wounded at Antietam and Fredericksburg before obtaining a promotion to Sergeant and then 2nd Lieutenant in October 1863. He was mustered out in October 1864 after completing his three years of service.

In other words, war would mean hardship and suffering for these men.

Discharged at the end of his three-months’ service in mid-July, Phelps must have spent a couple of months kicking around Amherst before enlisting in a company of the 5th New Hampshire that his neighbor, Charles Hapgood, was beginning to recruit and would eventually lead as captain.

As you can see from the enlistment form (signed by Hapgood), Phelps was 19 and described himself as a carpenter by occupation. We shouldn’t be surprised that this occupation doesn’t jibe with the one he gave on the census the year before; farmer’s sons often worked at different jobs to earn money for their families. Phelps was described as having blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. At 5’ 8 ¾”, he was just above average height. Perhaps because of his experience with the Milford Volunteers, Phelps was mustered in as a sergeant.

Phelps’s war was eventful. He fought in all the major actions of the 5th New Hampshire from the Peninsula campaign to Gettysburg. Eventually, he was wounded in the side at Fredericksburg and spent four months in the hospital recovering before rejoining the regiment in time for Chancellorsville. It is for his actions at Gettysburg that Phelps is remembered.

By the time of this battle, Hapgood was now the regiment’s commander, and Colonel Edward Cross (the regiment’s original leader) headed the brigade to which the 5th New Hampshire belonged. On July 2, 1863, the second day of the battle, as part of John C. Caldwell’s division, the regiment was rushed to the southern part of the battlefield to halt Longstreet’s massive assault that threatened to crumple the Army of the Potomac’s left flank. While Cross’s brigade headed into the Wheatfield, the 5th New Hampshire and three companies of the 148th Pennsylvania advanced into the Rose Woods to cover the brigade’s left flank. With the brigade coming under fire from the Confederates who sat behind a stone wall at the southern end of the Wheatfield, Cross decided to launch an attack to clear them out. By this point, the 5th New Hampshire had encountered the 1st Texas and 15th Georgia which had advanced from Devil’s Den into the southern part of the woods. The Confederates, who were only a “stone’s throw” away, started taking potshots at their foes. As he walked toward Hapgood to explain that the brigade would soon be attacking, Cross was struck by a bullet in the stomach; a Confederate sharpshooter behind a boulder only 50 yards away had found his mark. Cross was knocked to the ground, and experienced soldier that he was, Hapgood must have realized the wound was mortal. He ordered several soldiers to carry Cross to an ambulance at the edge of the Wheatfield. Hapgood then turned to Phelps, his neighbor and a member of his old company, and ordered the young sergeant to kill the sharpshooter. When the Confederate next poked his head from behind the boulder, Phelps was ready and shot him.

Cross’s planned attack never occurred; by the time Boyd McKeen, the senior colonel in the brigade, found out that Cross was incapacitated, the Federals had taken heavy losses and were in no position to charge the Confederates before them. Cross’s brigade withdrew just as Caldwell threw Colonel John Brooke’s brigade forward in an attempt to dislodge the Confederates from the southern edge of the Wheatfield. The 5th New Hampshire and the three companies of the 148th Pennsylvania were not withdrawn because they were needed to protect the left flank of Brooke’s assault. As the 5th New Hampshire kept abreast of it to the east, Brooke’s brigade moved quickly through the Wheatfield and almost pushed the Confederates entirely out of the woods beyond. The attack was a victim of its own dramatic success. The brigade, along with the 5th New Hampshire, had advanced so far to the southwest that they were outflanked to the east. And when Daniel Sickles’ III Corps collapsed in the Peach Orchard to the northwest, Brooke’s position—indeed, that of Caldwell’s entire division—became untenable. Caldwell’s command—first slowly, and then with greater and greater rapidity—began falling to pieces. His soldiers started withdrawing pell-mell to avoid envelopment. A number of men in the 5th New Hampshire because casualties as they sought to extricate themselves from the disaster. One of them was Charles Phelps who was shot in the back and mortally wounded.[iv] I can only assume that some of his friends brought him off the battlefield and got him to a field hospital; the bodies of those in the 5th New Hampshire who were killed outright in the Rose Woods were buried on the spot and never sent home. Phelps died on July 4, 1863; he was 21.

Somebody in Amherst, probably his father, made arrangements to have Phelps’s body embalmed and shipped back home. Embalmers did a roaring business during the Civil War, and this practice was quite common. Phelps was buried on July 23, 1863 in what is now referred to in Amherst as the Meadow View Cemetery but was then called the West Cemetery. According to the Farmer’s Cabinet, the local newspaper, which gave a full report of the proceedings, Phelps’s service was a big event:

The remains of Sergt. Charles H. Phelps, who fell in the battle of Gettysburg, July 3d, were interred in this place, on Thursday last [July 23, 1863], with military honors. The Milford Band were in attendance, and a detail of the Nashua Cadets did escort duty on the occasion. The Lawrence Engine Co. of which the deceased was a member were present, in uniform, and also four members of his own regimental Company. The exercises at the Congregational Church were of very impressive character, consisting of Chant; Reading of Scriptures, Quartette, “Bear them home tenderly”; Address by Rev. J. G. Davis; Prayer by Rev. Wm. Clark; and appropriate closing hymn.

The church was appropriately drapped [sic], and the galleries displayed the names of those whom Amherst has given up as sacrifices to her country’s cause—viz: SAWTELLE, HOLT, OBER, PARKHURST, SLOAN, VOSE, McCLURE, MACE, GUTTERSON, JOHNSON, DAMON, and PHELPS.

The exercises throughout were of the most impressive character, and the remains were followed to the grave by a larger numbers [sic] of true mourners than we have every witnessed at a burial here—an honor that all felt was due to the deceased alike for his devoted patriotism, and as a representative of these devoted and worth young men who have fallen in their country’s service.[v]

In December, the same newspaper reported on the erection of Phelps’s headstone:

A beautiful tablet, from the manufactory of David Nichols [in] Lowell, [MA,] has been recently erected in our burying ground by Mr. Horace Phelps, over the grave and to the memory of his son, Sergeant Charles H. Phelps, Co. I, 5th N. H. V. It is of Italian marble, bearing at its head as a motto, the expressive words uttered by the pastor at his funeral, ‘A young man but an old soldier’, an allusion to the number of battles in which he had engaged. Beneath it and above the inscription is a figure of a soldier in uniform. On the sides of the tablet are the names of eleven battle in which the deceased participated, as follows: Yorktown, Fair Oaks, Savage’s Station, Peach Orchard, White Oak Swamp, Charles City, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. The deceased received his death wound in the last named battle. His parents have reason to be proud of their dead son, who has left them in inestimable legacy in the record of his brief life and briefer services in the defence of his country.[vi]

When I walked through the cemetery on Memorial Day, Phelps’s memorial was easy to spot. It was whiter than just about every other stone, and it sat alongside the main path through the cemetery. It looks like the stone was broken in half at some point and repaired (see the two bolts in the center).

At the top of the memorial is the quote from Reverend J. G. Davis’s address that I have always found touching when I contemplate Phelps’s photograph.

Below is a small soldier in bas relief with chevrons on his sleeves that represents the young sergeant himself.

On either side of the main inscription are written the battles in which Phelps fought. To the right of the stone was a flag, and to the left was a GAR marker that looked brand new.

The headstone is an impressive testimony to Phelps, and his sacrifice was not soon forgotten among his neighbors. When Amherst obtained a Grand Army of the Republic post in 1879, it was named after Phelps.

Reading about Phelps makes one realize that our wars have been waged by fragile human beings who carry the memories of their highs and lows as they expose themselves to lead and iron. I think about how much Phelps must have been loved by his parents and neighbors. I think about how elated he would have felt in the heady days of April 1861 when Amherst, like the rest of the North, was effervescent with excitement and patriotism. I think about how his letters to his older sister Sophia reveal the extent of his homesickness during the war.[vii] I think about the good cause for which he was ready to sacrifice himself in 1863: a restoration of the Union based on extending the promise of 1776 to all men. I think about the steadiness and concentration required to pick off that Confederate sharpshooter. I think about that terrible moment when he and his comrades realized their position in the Rose Woods had been outflanked. I think about how he was surrounded by pain and agony on an enormous scale as he himself suffered for two days—knowing full well the entire time that he was going to die. Most of all, I think about his youth and how much of his life was unlived. It is concrete things like these that we ought to remember on Memorial Day.

[i] Daniel F. Secomb, History of the Town of Amherst (Concord, NH: Evans, Sleeper & Woodbury, 1883), 711, 728-729.

[ii] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WJ-T1Y : 14 December 2017), Charles Phelps in entry for Horace Phelps, 1860.

[iii] Secomb, 415.

[iv] Mike Pride and Mark Travis, My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001), 239-241.

[v] Farmer’s Cabinet, July 30, 1862, 2.

[vi] Farmer’s Cabinet, December 10, 1863, 2.

[vii] These letters are part of the Mike Pride Civil War Collection at the New Hampshire Historical Society, Accession Number 2015.001.

How Old Were the “400” When They Enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire?

How old were the volunteers who signed up for the 5th New Hampshire? As this image of an unidentified solider in the regiment indicates, many were extremely young. One imagines that this young man—or boy, rather—had his image taken shortly before the regiment left for Washington, DC, in late October 1861. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

In today’s post, I’ll discuss how old the members of the “400” in the 5th New Hampshire were when they enlisted. Keep in mind that the data are not exact and that they pertain to men who survived the war. As I have mentioned earlier, there are many limitations in my source material. For one thing, much of the information I gathered in various documents was self-reported, and throughout their lives, men lied frequently about their age for various reasons. For another, I often do not have birthdates for these men; most of my information has come from census records which recorded how old subjects were on a given date. That can lead to some uncertainty. For example, if a man said he was 20 in the 1860 Census, that means he could have been born in either 1839 or 1840.

Only men between the ages of 18 and 44 were eligible to volunteer, so anybody younger or older than that range who wanted to join up had plenty of reasons to lie. Even men within this range lied for many reasons. I tended to mistrust enlistment papers. Instead, I looked at census records to establish true ages because folks had less incentive to give false information on these forms. Nonetheless, I’m positive I did not catch everybody who gave a false age. In some cases, a dearth of information compelled me to accept the age on the enlistment forms.

The graph below represents what I found.

If you want an exact breakdown by age, I’ve reproduced it in the tables below.

Age 15 16 17 18 19 TOTAL
Number 3 15 24 32 38 112


Age 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 TOTAL
Number 29 25 20 28 16 16 16 16 9 12 187


Age 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 TOTAL
Number 11 6 7 8 5 6 10 6 3 5 67


Age 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 TOTAL
Number 5 1 4 2 2 3 3 4 3 1 28


Age 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 TOTAL
Number 1 1 1 3 0 2 1 9

What I can say about this topic will be somewhat limited because age does not reveal much unless it’s combined with others variables. In later posts, then, I will have occasion to bring up the way age intersects with various topics. For now, it suffices to point out that the average age upon enlistment of men in this pool (remember, these were men who survived the war) was 25.8. The median age was 23 (meaning half the regiment was 23 or younger).

Of the 403 men in the sample, 42 (10.4%) were 17 years old or younger (underaged). Another 23 (5.7%) were over the age of 44 (that is, too old to enlist). In other words, about one-sixth of the regiment was not legally eligible to volunteer. If I had to guess, I’d say that the number of underaged men (or boys) was even higher; I’m sure I didn’t catch all the youngsters (a number of whom were abetted by their parents) who added a couple of years to their age to make themselves 18.

Nonetheless, the figures I have indicate that the regiment consisted mainly of young men; just under three quarters of the regiment was 29 or under. The reason that the average age was on the high side is because of the long “tail” of men in their 40s and 50s.

Several things follow from the fact that so many men were young. Most were unmarried. Of the 242 for whom I have a date of first marriage, only 98 (40%) were married in 1861 or earlier. Not surprisingly, according to the Census of 1860, over 60% of the sample was living in the households of parents, an uncle, or an older male employer. According to records from the Census of 1860, the vast majority of the young men in this sample possessed only small amounts of money or property of their own (as opposed to what belonged to, say, their fathers).

The graph indicates that enlistment fell off as men reached their mid-20s. I think these figures indicate that married men were much less inclined to volunteer than others (the average age of marriage during this period hovered around the early to mid-20s).

Augustus J. Hoyt (or Hoitt) (1845-1920) is the youngest soldier in the “400” for whom I have a photo. Hoyt was born in Northwood, NH, the son of a cordwainer. In the fall of 1861, he found his way to Concord, NH, and enlisted in Company A of the 5th New Hampshire. He re-enlisted on January 1, 1864 and was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor (June 3, 1864). In October 1864, he was promoted to Captain of Company I. The Revised Register neglects to mention that somewhere along the way between private and captain, Hoyt was a sergeant—which is the rank he holds in this image (a promotion straight from private to captain would have been unlikely). Whatever the case, Hoyt was lucky; he made it to the end of the war in one piece and mustered out in June 1865. After the war, Hoyt moved to Lynn, MA (then on its way to becoming the shoe capital of America), and held a position as foreman in a shoe factory. He later worked, interestingly enough, as a pension agent and eventually moved into real estate. I have seen claims that he was city marshal and post master in Lynn, as well as the commander of the local GAR post (I haven’t been able to substantiate these claims yet). His death certificate declares that he died at Weirs Beach in Laconia, NH, even though his residence was still Lynn, MA. This last fact leads me to wonder if he died at the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association’s complex while vacationing there. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

Just for fun, I thought I’d compare the smooth chins against the grey beards in a variety of categories. All of the overaged men were discharged disabled with two exceptions—one man deserted and another transferred to another unit (the Invalid Corps, not surprisingly). Among the underaged men (n=42), only 16 were discharged disabled. What is truly impressive is that 15 of these young men were mustered out. Ten of these men left at the conclusion of their three-year term and another five, who had re-enlisted in 1864, lasted until war’s end. Another three were discharged disabled after 43 months of service (that is, they left the regiment just one month shy of the war’s end). That record is a true mark of endurance; only a small proportion of men in the 5th New Hampshire lasted that long in the ranks.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the average length of service for the old men was shorter (11 months) than it was for the young ones (25.5 months). Such was the resilience of youth.

Interestingly enough, the older men tended to be wounded with less frequency: only 26%. Among the younger group, the figure was a great deal higher: 44%. This discrepancy might have to do with the fact that the younger men, on average, served for a much longer period of time. The average for the pool as a whole was 39% (and the average length of service was 19.5 months).

There is one category, however, where the overaged had the underaged beat: lifespan. The old men, on average, lived to be 69.8 years old. The young died at 63.4. I have entertained all sorts of theories about why that was, but I don’t want to try my readers’ patience, so I will leave well enough alone.

All I will add is that I remember years ago reading accounts of anxious underaged teenagers enlisting in volunteer regiments at the beginning of the war. There was always “a nod and a wink” air about these vignettes in which the worldly wise recruiter who knew the score guided an awkward hobbledehoy toward the “correct” responses during the enlistment process. When I think about how these recruiters helped throw boys into the carnage at Fair Oaks, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor, it makes me feel a bit queasy. It also distresses me that parents  sometimes lied to recruiters to get their children into the army.

Maybe these adults—recruiters and parents alike—would have acted differently if they’d known what was in store for the 5th New Hampshire. Maybe they were wicked or callous people. Maybe they were driven by difficult circumstances or inspired by motives that we cannot fully grasp from the perspective of our own time. Maybe—and this is quite possible—their notions concerning childhood and adulthood were quite different from ours.

Another very young recruit from the 5th New Hampshire poses for the camera. Like the image at the top of the post, this photograph must have been taken very early in the war, possibly before the regiment left New Hampshire. This boy wears the Whipple hat that was the original (and unpopular) headgear of the regiment. One wonders what book he holds in his hand. One also wonders if he understood what soldiering would really be like. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

How Was the 5th New Hampshire Recruited and Officered?

As I’ve researched the 5th New Hampshire, one question has bothered me for quite some time: how exactly was the regiment raised and officered in 1861? And what might the way in which officers were chosen tell us about Colonel Edward E. Cross’s relationship with his company commanders?

To my knowledge, nobody has written a dedicated work on the raising of the Federal armies in 1861. In all likelihood, that’s probably because the way regiments were enlisted and organized varied from place to place. At the same time, existing works on the 5th New Hampshire are not entirely clear on how the recruiters were chosen or why some and not others became officers in the regiment.

It was for this reason that when I compiled my spreadsheet on the “400,” I created a field that listed the recruiter who enlisted each volunteer (an officer’s name appeared on the enlistment form for every recruit). I noted that in the case of some companies a large number of men had participated in their recruitment but many of them had not become officers. Indeed, quite a few had not even served in the regiment. Why were some men chosen and others not?

Let’s start with the macro question: how were Northern regiments “typically” raised in 1861? In his classic, The Life of Billy Yank, Bell I. Wiley wrote:

The lead in forming units was usually taken by men who aspired to officers. Often governors promised colonelcies to prominent citizens who would raise regiments, and the prospective colonels in turn offered captaincies to friends on condition that they recruit the minimum number required for a company. In some cases the impetus came from the other direction, with would-be officers signing up men and then using the lists as claims for commissions.[i]

Andrew S. Bledsoe’s Citizen Officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Office Corps in the American Civil War, a much more recent work, emphasizes the degree to which “the overwhelming majority of company-grade officers on both sides, whether elected, promoted, or appointed, were selected from within their own company’s ranks.”[ii] Bledsoe, however, tends to stress the election of junior officers by their companies.[iii] The War for the Common Soldier, by Peter S. Carmichael, now the Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, highlights the extent to which “enlisted men served under familiar and respected figures of authority.” These included the “lawyer in town, the neighboring planter, and the local businessman” who “usually organized companies.”[iv] These observations all provide some purchase on the question in general, but no real details on how a regiment was actually raised.

The foregoing brings us to how the 5th New Hampshire was recruited. In My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth, Mike Pride and Mark Travis write that the “Fifth was recruited from across New Hampshire, its ten companies roughly corresponding to the state’s ten counties.” The next sentence states that “the Fifth’s company captains were prominent men in their communities” before providing biographical details about some of these company commanders.[v] But who did the recruiting, how were the captains selected, and what was the relationship between the two? On the next page the reader learns that due to the political pull of his father, Ira Barton recruited part of a company for the 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry and became a captain in that three-month regiment. Barton did the same thing with regard to the 5th New Hampshire. However, the language is somewhat elliptical in this passage, and the use of the passive voice makes it unclear how events transpired. How exactly did Barton’s father get permission for Barton to raise a company? Did Barton undertake to recruit a company on the understanding that he would be made a company commander? Did he become a company commander because he recruited the men? Who exactly made these decisions? In what order did all of this happen?

In the next paragraph, Pride and Travis discuss the man who eventually became Captain of Company G: “State authorities named Charles Long as captain to recruit for the Fifth in Claremont.” Again, the language is a little unclear. Was he made a company commander before he started recruiting for the 5th New Hampshire or after? Or was “captain” a rank he held solely as a recruiting officer? And who were the state authorities referred to? Was it the executive council? The state adjutant general’s office? Pride and Travis do point out that Cross picked his captains, but how or when this selection occurred (or on what basis) remains unclear.

Nathaniel S. Berry, a staunch supporter of the Lincoln administration, was the Governor of New Hampshire from 1861 to 1863. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

Robert Grandchamp’s Colonel Edward E. Cross, New Hampshire Fighting Fifth goes into somewhat more detail, but it doesn’t entirely spell everything out. Grandchamp states that “in each of the state’s ten counties, men who were interested in becoming officers in the new regiment began the process of recruiting their neighbors and enlisting them to serve three years in the army.” Grandchamp does not specify who empowered these men to recruit or how they were chosen. He goes on to point out, however, that “not all the men who recruited soldiers for the Fifth received commissions.” According to Grandchamp, Colonel Cross ultimately selected those who received a commission in regiment, but, again, how or when this happened is not clear. However, Grandchamp adds that Governor Nathaniel Berry “saddled” Cross with officers like Elijah W. Johnson and Ira Barton “who proved to be incompetent and worthless.” At the same time, Cross did not obtain Lieutenant Edward J. Conner (an 1857 graduate from West Point who hailed from Exeter, NH) then serving on the frontier with the regular army, as his lieutenant colonel: “the appointment instead went to Samuel Langley, the sickly adjutant of the Second New Hampshire.” (It appears that the Commanding General of the U.S. Army, Winfield Scott, was extremely reluctant to release officers from the regular army to lead volunteer regiments.) Grandchamp’s observations suggest that decisions about field and company officers were not the colonel’s alone.[vi]

I’m sure I’ll get to the bottom of this story once I have a chance to go to the New Hampshire Division of Archives and Records Management, but for now this is what I’ve figured out. On July 22, 1861, Congress passed an act calling for 300,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion. The 5th New Hampshire was the first regiment in the state that was recruited to answer this call. Although it appears that some men were enlisted at the end of July and beginning of August, volunteering did not really take off until the middle of the latter month. On August 5, Cross conferred with Berry about obtaining a commission. On August 14, the executive council voted to give make Cross the commander of the 5th New Hampshire. It was not until he met the governor and the executive council eight days later, however, that Cross was offered the position. He accepted on two conditions: “if could organize and fit out the Regiment to suit myself, and appoint all the officers.” Cross’s terms were accepted, and he later wrote that “I cheerfully bear testimony to the fair & honorable style in which the authorities kept their faith.”[vii] Cross received his colonel’s commission on August 27.

An image of Cross taken shortly before the war. Cross served as the regiment’s colonel until May 1863 when he took command of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, II Corps (the 5th New Hampshire’s brigade) shortly after the Battle of Chancellorsville. He was mortally wounded on July 2, 1863 while directing this brigade in the Rose Woods near the Wheatfield at the Battle of Gettysburg. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

By this date, enlistments were well under way which means that the state had already appointed recruiters to raise the regiment (I still don’t know how, when, or by whom they were selected). In other words, it seems likely that these men had started their work before they knew for certain that Cross would be the colonel of the regiment, and Cross had no say as to who these men were.

It was at some point over the next two and a half weeks that Cross decided who his company commanders would be. In a September 15, 1861 letter to his close friend Henry O. Kent, assistant adjutant general for the state, Cross claimed the regiment had 650 recruits (the number was actually closer to just over 300) and that he had chosen his company commanders.[viii] The provisional nature of his decisions is indicated by the fact that he still thought Conner would be his lieutenant colonel and that Barton, though mentioned in the letter as raising an artillery battery, was not then contemplated as a company commander in the 5th New Hampshire. Still, most of the men who became company commanders are listed in his missive: Richard Welch, Charles E. Hapgood, John Murray, Charles H. Long, H. T. H. Pierce, Richard R. Davis, Edmund Brown, and James Perry.[ix] By September 20 at the latest, Cross’s decisions had become final and public. The Farmer’s Cabinet (Amherst, NH) announced that day that Charles Hapgood “had been selected by the authorities of the State, as Captain of the Company to be formed in this County [Hillsborough] for the Fifth N. H. Regiment.”[x]

Exactly how and when Cross picked these men remains unclear. One thing is certain; there was no election. The decision about company commanders appears to have been finalized well after recruitment had started but before even a third of the regiment had been enlisted. It seems likely that Cross did not know many of his captains personally. Although he had visited the family home in Lancaster throughout the 1850s, Cross had not lived in New Hampshire since 1849. Pride and Travis, along with Grandchamp, claim that Cross was a notoriety when he returned to New Hampshire, but some evidence suggests that his connections in the state were limited.[xi] There is also no evidence that Cross traveled across New Hampshire interviewing potential candidates for captaincies. Cross may have corresponded with his recruiters (how else would he have known how many men had enlisted by September 15?). But this correspondence is not extant, and we don’t know for sure if it occurred let alone when it started. We are left, then, with the speculation that Cross’s choices were based on recommendations given to him by Kent, others holding state offices, and various acquaintances.

Clearly, the most important quality that Cross looked for in a captain was military experience whether it be service in the 1st New Hampshire (Edward E. Sturtevant, H.T.H. Pierce, and Ira Barton had all been officers in this three-month regiment), a Mexican War record (John Murray), or graduation from Norwich Military Academy (Charles H. Long). Not surprisingly, Cross desired military experience among his field officers as well: as we have seen, he had hoped to get Conner as a lieutenant colonel, and William Cook, his major, had played a prominent role in the Massachusetts state militia. Indeed, Cross’s September 15 missive to Kent described his future company commanders exclusively in terms of their military attainments.

John Murray was a 37-year-old teamster living in Newcastle, NH, when the war broke out. To my knowledge, he was the only soldier in the 5th New Hampshire who had seen substantial combat with the regular army before the war. Joining the 3rd US Artillery in 1846, he had been cited for bravery during the assault on Chapultepec during the Mexican War. By the time he left the regular army in 1853, he had made sergeant. Cross was so impressed with Murray’s performance as the Captain of Company D in the 5th New Hampshire that by November 1862 the colonel started exerting political influence to have Murray appointed major of the regiment. Unfortunately, Murray was killed in action at Fredericksburg. After that battle, Cross wrote to Murray’s widow, Phila Murray, “He had no superior in my regiment. Captain Murray was one of my best friends. I loved him for his sterling honesty, his frankness and the dependence which could always be placed in him; for his brave and soldierly character.” (Courtesy of Library of Congress.)

It is important to note that several of these men did good work as recruiters, particularly Sturtevant and Barton. Recruiting was important—or, rather, the potential to recruit since the captains were selected before a third of the regiment had volunteered. But the ability to attract volunteers was clearly not as important as military experience. For example, in Company D, George A. Balloch and John H. Locke recruited more men than Murray, but Murray had a lock on the captaincy because of his Mexican War record (Balloch, however, became the company’s 1st Lieutenant while Locke earned the rank of 1st Sergeant in Company B for his pains). This valuing of military experience extended from the captains to the other junior offices and the non-commissioned ranks. As the 5th New Hampshire was being recruited, Sturtevant and Barton filled key positions in their companies with men who had served under them in the 1st New Hampshire. Sturtevant recruited 16 veterans of the 1st New Hampshire to his new company (13 of whom came from his old company); seven of them were mustered in as non-commissioned officers (one 1st sergeant, three sergeants, and three corporals). The same story occurred in Barton’s company. He recruited 13 men from the 1st New Hampshire (11 of whom came from his old company) out of which he found one 2nd lieutenant, one 1st sergeant, one sergeant, and three corporals.

On some occasions, however, military experience and recruiting success were not enough. In Company I, Elijah W. Johnson had graduated from Norwich and recruited more men than Charles Hapgood, but the latter became the company commander. Why? The documents suggest that Hapgood possessed much greater social weight and ability; Johnson was a carpenter and Hapgood a wealthy merchant. After the war, Johnson remained a carpenter (dabbling in farming) while Hapgood would go on to become an extraordinarily successful businessman.[xii] In other words, Hapgood’s potential as an officer seemed greater. A knack for making money is not the same thing as military ability, but in this particular case, Cross (or whomever recommended Hapgood to Cross) made the right decision. Johnson, who managed to obtain the rank of 1st Lieutenant, was forced to resign his commission in January 1862 after a brigade board of review found him wanting. Meanwhile, Hapgood eventually went on to become the colonel of the regiment. Clearly, Hapgood was a more able figure. When the Farmer’s Cabinet (located in Amherst, NH, where Hapgood lived) found out that he had been named captain in the 5th New Hampshire, it gushed that he “is a soldier per se, with all the qualities inborn and acquired to fit him for the station he is to occupy.” “Of commanding form, stentorian voice, excellent judgment, and thoroughly skilled in military tactics, and withal, one of those good hearts,” he was sure to “win the love of his men.”[xiii] It would appear that Hapgood’s success in business, his overall ability, and something about his manner won him the job. As Mr. Waternoose said in Monster’s, Inc., “It’s all about presence. About how you enter the room.”

Our survey of why some men received a higher rank than others in the 5th New Hampshire has been instructive. An investigation of a few men who did a fair amount of recruiting for the regiment but failed to obtain a commission is also instructive. It reveals the importance of social status and that “je ne sais quoi” that gave others confidence in one’s ability to command.

For example, when the war broke out, Eli Fernald was a moderately prosperous 35-year-old whitesmith from Milton, NH.[xiv]  When recruitment began for the 5th New Hampshire, he enlisted a substantial number of volunteers for Company A from that town. Nonetheless, he was not selected to serve as an officer, and he did not enter the ranks of the regiment. It is not surprising that he did not obtain the captaincy because Sturtevant, who possessed military experience, recruited most of the company himself and enjoyed widespread popularity in Concord where a plurality of the company was raised. What really must have hurt Fernald, though, was that one of the men he recruited from Milton, Stephen E. Twombly, a young shoemaker, was picked as second lieutenant for Company A.[xv] This turn of events is interesting because Twombly appears to have been something of a dud; he resigned his commission in May 1862. If Sturtevant considered Twombly better officer material than Fernald, that does not say much for Fernald. Coincidentally, in 1864, Twombly eventually secured a position as 1st Lieutenant of Company L in the 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery—the same company where Fernald was the Quartermaster Sergeant.[xvi] Neither man appears to have possessed much leadership potential; the 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery provided commissions to a number of people who could not obtain them elsewhere (and refuge for men who wished to avoid combat). In any event, during the war, Twombly, who does not appear to have been an impressive figure, beat out Fernald for a commission in two different companies. Fernald died of consumption in 1869, so it’s possible that health problems may have limited his ability to lead in an infantry regiment.[xvii]

If Fernald obviously did not possess the temperament for command, Oliver P. Newcomb’s story appears to confirm the significance of social status. A 24-year-old apprentice jeweler from Orford, NH, who still lived in his father’s household, Newcomb recruited a number of men for Company C.[xviii] For someone so young, he seemed to have a gift for recruitment, and he was obviously interested in a commission. He also became quite proficient at his occupation (sources describe him variously as a jeweler or watchmaker), accumulating an estate of $3000 by 1870.[xix]  But in 1861, his youth, his lack of means, and the fact that he was not yet independent must have told against him. Although James B. Perry, who became the company commander, was only a couple of years older, he probably seemed a more accomplished figure. Perry was already a wealthy farmer from Hanover, NH, with $4,000 in real estate.[xx] Perry is perhaps best known as the officer who, along with James Larkin, was court-martialed by Cross for mutiny in November 1862 (more of which anon). Despite this incident, which resulted in part from Cross’s irascibility, Perry was a dependable soldier who died facing the infamous stone wall at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Newcomb eventually did obtain a coveted commission: he became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th New Hampshire in August 1862 and was quickly promoted to 1st Lieutenant a couple of months later. He resigned his commission, however, in January 1863.[xxi]

Oliver P. Newcomb during his short stint with the 9th New Hampshire. See https://picclick.com/Civil-War-Cdv-Of-Lieutenant-Oliver-Newcomb-9Th-323165079801.html

Joseph Q. Roles, who enlisted a group of men for Company H, is an interesting figure because he was a dedicated recruiter with no interest in a commission. A hotel keeper in Ossipee, NH, he was the definition of a local worthy who had just started to build a small business empire. In 1860, he possessed $2000 in real estate and $1844 in personal estate. By 1870, those figures had grown to $5000 and $12,700 respectively, extraordinary sums for the period. The History of Carroll County (1889) reports that in addition to a hotel, Roles ran a grocery store while dealing in cattle, real estate, and lumber. Roles also served as “a selectman, justice of the peace, county commissioner, recruiting officer . . ., county treasurer, and as a member of the legislature for many terms.”[xxii] Clearly, Roles saw recruitment as another civic duty and was happy to stay at home while other men became junior officers.

What does the foregoing teach us? For one thing, it shows us one model of how a regiment could be raised in 1861. The 5th New Hampshire’s experience in this respect seems to have been different from that of many other regiments. There were no elections for officers, and if we can take Cross at his word, Berry did not hand out commissions to political friends. While Berry formally retained the power to appoint officers, he seems to have made selections based on Cross’s recommendations.

Only a willful colonel in a strong position could make the kinds of demands that Cross did and obtain the consent of the governor and the executive council. These men must have wanted Cross badly if they were willing to give him what he wanted. Was it because he possessed military ability in a state that had so little of it? Was it because Cross was a Democrat and the Republican governor was anxious to avoid charges that he was handing out colonelcies solely to Republicans?[xxiii] Was it both? Whatever it was, Cross, who knew knew his mind, took full advantage of this opportunity.

While Cross was something of an authoritarian who wanted things the way he wanted them, the manner in which the regiment was raised indicates there were limits to what he could control. For one thing, while he secured the services of his brother, Richard, a regular soldier who was a member of the Corps of Engineers, Cross could obtain neither Edward Connor as his lieutenant-colonel nor Henry O. Kent as his adjutant. And while he considered military experience as extremely important, this commodity was in short supply in his new regiment. Service in the 1st New Hampshire, which had seen no action during the Bull Run campaign (and was a notoriously rowdy unit), and matriculation at Norwich Military Academy were no substitutes for real military experience. At the same time, it seems likely that Cross was not personally acquainted with many of the field or junior officers he asked Berry to appoint. Most of these recommendations must have been based on references provided to Cross by others. So while Cross “appointed” all the officers, he probably didn’t know a number of the men he was appointing. In all likelihood, Cross first laid eyes on many of his captains when they started arriving at Camp Jackson just outside Concord, NH, on September 28, 1861. Three days later, he left for Washington, DC, for a week to take care of regimental business. That means he only saw his company commanders for all of three weeks total before the regiment entrained for the federal capital on October 28.

This manner in which Cross obtained captains would have unhappy consequences for the regiment. Before long, Cross grew dissatisfied with the men he had chosen for company command. In February 1862, he used a brigade board of review to discharge Brown and Welch who had not mastered even the fundamentals of drill and committed a variety of unsoldierly infractions.[xxiv] Davis, who appears to have been something of a non-entity (he is not mentioned once by either Pride and Travis or Grandchamp), resigned in July 1862. Cross also harbored suspicions about Barton’s competence that were confirmed at the Battle of Fair Oaks. Barton was pressured to resign in September 1862, and Cross made it clear that he would not write Barton a letter of reference to obtain a commission elsewhere. Cross had Perry (along with James Larkin, who was then the Captain of Company A) brought up on charges of mutiny before a court martial in November 1862, but since the affair resulted as much from Cross’s intemperance as anything else, the affair was dropped. Cross asked Pierce to resign in January 1863 over a dispute regarding guard duty. Of the original ten captains, it looks like five had been forced out of the regiment in one way or another because Cross had become disenchanted with them, and a sixth had narrowly avoided the same fate.

And what of those who managed to get on with Cross? By the time Pierce resigned, Long had left the regiment due to ill health. Murray, Perry, and Sturtevant (who had been promoted to major) had all been killed at Fredericksburg. Of the original ten captains, then, Hapgood was the only one who remained with the regiment. His ability to stay alive and remain in Cross’s good graces partially explains how he became commander of the regiment shortly after the Battle of Chancellorsville (he was appointed colonel on July 3, 1863, the last day of Battle of Gettysburg, shortly after Cross’s death).

The way in which company commanders (and their subordinates) were initially chosen undoubtedly contributed to the turbulence and drama that persisted among the regiment’s officers for most of the 5th New Hampshire’s existence. Cross’s experiences with his first set of junior officers probably accounts for his predilection ever after of promoting from within. This was the way in which young enlisted men like Thomas Livermore, George Gove, and others became commissioned officers in the 5th New Hampshire. Cross wanted soldiers who had proven themselves before his own eyes. Men left to accept commissions in other regiments (including units of United States Colored Troops or of galvanized Yankees), but hardly anybody came from outside the 5th New Hampshire to accept a commission in that regiment. But all of that can be the topic of another blogpost on another day.

[i] Bell I. Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971), 20-21.

[ii] Andrew S. Bledsoe, Citizen Officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015), 26.

[iii] Ibid., 26, 28-29.

[iv] Peter S. Carmichael, The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018), 21.

[v] Mike Pride and Mark Travis, My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth (Hanover, NH: New England University Press, 2001), 31.

[vi] Robert Grandchamp, Colonel Edward E. Cross, New Hampshire Fighting Fifth (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013), 74-76.

[vii] Walter Holden, William E. Ross, and Elizabeth Slomba (eds.), Stand Firm and Fire Low: The Civil War Writings of Colonel Edward E. Cross (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2003), 7.

[viii] The figure of just over 300 comes from Ayling’s Revised Register.

[ix] Elijah W. Johnson is listed as a captain, but he ended up serving as a 1st Lieutenant under Charles E. Hapgood. See Holden, Ross, and Slomba (eds.) Stand Firm and Fire Low, 91-93.

[x] Farmer’s Cabinet, September 20, 1861, 2. The article goes on to mention that Hapgood “has opened a recruiting office at Union Hall, and his company is fast filling up.”

[xi] For example, in late September 1861, when the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, the Democratic Party’s newspaper of record in the state, introduced Cross in a column to its readers, it was clear the staff at the journal had little information about the colonel and “no personal acquaintance” with him. New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, September 25, 1861, 2. This statement is especially interesting since Grandchamp argues that Berry gave the colonelcy to Cross as a means of appeasing New Hampshire Democrats who wanted one of their own to lead a regiment. Grandchamp, Colonel Edward E. Cross, 74. Other newspapers did not seem particularly familiar with Cross when they described him to their readers either.

[xii] For Johnson, see his enlistment papers, the Census of 1870, the Census of 1880, and his death record from 1899:  “New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9Z5-N845?cc=2127318&wc=QDLL-1RQ%3A1589942734 : 16 August 2016), 007499097 > image 937 of 1625; New Hampshire Secretary of State, Division of Records Management & Archive.; “United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH56-T39 : 19 March 2020), Elijah Johnson, 1870.; “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHRV-R42 : 12 August 2017), Elijah H Johnson, Canaan, Grafton, New Hampshire, United States; citing enumeration district ED 78, sheet 101C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,764; “New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FS2X-DP2 : 10 March 2018), Elijah W Johnson, 03 Oct 1899; citing Rumney, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,087. So far as Hapgood is concerned, see the Census of 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 along with his death certificate of 1909: “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WJ-YSN : 14 December 2017), Charles E Hapgood, 1860; “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/ 61903/1:1:MD35-3CN : 12 April 2016), Chas E Hapgood, Massachusetts, United States; citing p. 35, family 234, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,146; “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHXH-JQS : 26 August 2017), Charles Hapgood, 1880; citing enumeration district ED 509, sheet 373B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d), roll 0548; FHL microfilm 1,254,548; “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M9TJ-N2Q : accessed 31 May 2019), Charles Hapgood, Brookline town (west of St. Paul St. & Between Longwood, Beacon, & Summit St. on north & Aspin, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 1019, sheet 6B, family 114, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,669; “Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/ 61903/1:1:N49S-7RX : 22 May 2019), Charles E Hapgood, 24 Sep 1909; citing Chelsea,,Massachusetts, 158, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 2,313,115.

[xiii] Farmer’s Cabinet, September 20, 1861, 2

[xiv] “Maine Births and Christenings, 1739-1900”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F4HR-XN5 : 14 January 2020), Eli Fernald, 1826; “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WT-6KS : 19 March 2020), Eli Fernald, 1860.

[xv] For Twombly’s enlistment papers that bear Fernald’s signature, go here: “New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2Q1-YXN1 : 16 March 2018), Stephen E Twombly, 03 Sep 1861; citing Strafford, Strafford, Strafford, New Hampshire, United States, New Hampshire Secretary of State, Division of Records Management & Archive; FHL microfilm 2,217,641. For Twombly in the Census of 1860, go here: “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/ 1:1:M7WT-6PX : 19 March 2020), Stephen Twombly, 1860.

[xvi] Ayling’s Revised Register, 934, 959

[xvii] “Maine Deaths and Burials, 1841-1910”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F482-R8J : 16 January 2020), Eli Fernald, 1869.

[xviii] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WR-LN9 : 19 March 2020), Oliver P Newcomb in entry for Asahel Newcomb, 1860.

[xix] “Massachusetts State Census, 1865”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQCL-KD9 : 1 June 2018), Oliver P Newcomb in entry for Fanny Proctor, 1865; “United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/ 1:1:MH5X-8KC : 19 March 2020), Oliver P Newcomb, 1870.

[xx] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M7WT-HJ1 : 19 March 2020), James B Perry, 1860.

[xxi] Ayling’s Revised Register, 493. Newcomb may have suffered from ill health since he died in 1871 at a relatively young age.

[xxii] History of Carroll County, New Hampshire, ed. Georgia Drew Merrill (Boston, MA: W. A. Fergusson & Co., 1889),  631

[xxiii] Grandchamp, 74.

[xxiv] Grandchamp, 84-85. 1st Lieutenants Elijah W. Johnson and James B. David were also swept away in this housecleaning.

The “400”: Is This Sample Representative?

“Au travail!” as they say in France. Or, as they say in America, this is where the rubber hits the road. I thought I’d start analyzing the “400” by establishing if some companies were better represented than others in the sample. My motive consisted of ensuring that the “400” I had selected randomly were more or less representative of the 5th New Hampshire. As you’ll see, though, you never know where a question like this will take you. And this question took me far afield.

I started out by surveying a spreadsheet that contained information for all the original volunteers in the regiment and determined how many men were in each company. This was the spreadsheet from which I had randomly selected the “400” in the first place. I found the following:

Table 1

Co. A
Co. B
Co. C
Co. D
Co. E
Co. F
Co. G
Co. H
Co. I
Co. K
*F&S stands for “Field and Staff” (i.e. the colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, adjutant, quartermaster, surgeons, and chaplain.)
**NCS stands for “Noncommissioned staff” (i.e. the regimental sergeant major, commissary sergeant, quartermaster sergeant, hospital steward, and principal musicians).

The total adds up to 1,001 men. That figure is a little smaller than the numbers that are commonly attributed to the regiment upon its formation, but that’s how many original volunteers I found in Ayling’s Revised Register. If I’ve made a mistake, it’s of the order of about 0.1%–no joke (Edward Cross, the regiment’s colonel, claimed he left Concord, NH, at the end of October 1861 with 1,012 men). I think I can live with that.

In any event, the total number of men in my “400” Excel spreadsheet is 403. So my “400” represent 40.3% of the original 1,001 volunteers. That being the case, I multiplied the figures in Table 1 by .403 to see what my sample of “400” would look like if it was perfectly representative of the regiment (and I did round to the nearest whole number):

Table 2

Co. A
Co. B
Co. C
Co. D
Co. E
Co. F
Co. G
Co. H
Co. I
Co. K

But this is what my sample of the “400” actually looks like:

Table 3

Co. A
Co. B
Co. C
Co. D
Co. E
Co. F
Co. G
Co. H
Co. I
Co. K

In some cases, the numbers match up very nicely. Look at Companies A, B, E, and G. The Band, the Field & Staff, and the non-commissioned staff are also in the right ballpark. But Companies C, H, and K are underrepresented while Companies D, F, and I are overrepresented. You might think that the discrepancies are not great, but we are talking errors of well over 10%. What happened?

My first thought was that this issue was due to the luck of the draw. I picked men randomly, so my thinking went, and random selections sometimes lead to these kinds of disparities. Maybe. But my second thought was this: what if some of the companies are underrepresented among my “400” veterans because these units disproportionately suffered from death due to combat or illness? I decided to try that hypothesis out. Among the original volunteers, 114 were killed in action, 62 died of their wounds, and 100 succumbed to illness. Surely death was not evenly distributed throughout the regiment.

This is what I found:

Table 4

A B C D E F G H I K Band F&S NCS
KIA 11 5 16 12 14 7 15 9 12 12 0 1 0
MW 6 6 6 2 7 7 9 5 5 9 0 0 0
KIA+MW 17 11 22 14 21 14 24 14 17 21 0 1 0
Disease 7 11 12 8 9 10 6 9 11 15 2 0 0
TOTAL 24 22 34 22 30 24 30 23 28 36 2 2 0

If you remember, Companies C, H, and K are underrepresented in my sample of the “400.” It certainly looks as if Companies C and K suffered a disproportionate number of deaths (they were the two companies that lost the most men). But the number of deaths suffered by Company H was disproportionately small. Something else must explain why there are fewer members of that company among the “400” than there ought to be.

Companies D, F, and I are overrepresented in my sample, and it looks like D and F suffered fewer deaths than most companies. But five companies suffered fewer deaths than I, so I’m not sure how to explain why so many men from that company ended up among the “400.”

There are some factors that could have corrupted my findings somewhat. For example, some men were transferred from one company to another or promoted to the Field & Staff before being killed; as I’ve set it up, their deaths would have been credited to their original company. And some men, while still belonging to their company, could have formed part of the color guard where they were much more likely to get killed. If some companies were overrepresented in the color guard, that could have influenced the findings somewhat. The number of men transferred or promoted, as well as the number of soldiers assigned to the color guard (nine at any given moment), was small, but cumulatively, these issues could have warped my figures.

It seems I have found only a partial answer to my question of why some companies were overrepresented and others were underrepresented in the sample. Maybe part of the answer really is just chance.

The foregoing calculations, however, led me to another line of inquiry: why had some companies suffered many more deaths than others?

I started thinking about combat deaths and surmised that the companies closest to the color guard (which always drew a great deal of fire) during a battle suffered disproportionate casualties (to be honest, looking at who served in the color guard itself would be helpful, but that information is not available to me right now). Testing this hypothesis by figuring out the deployment of companies in line of battle was something of a task. In General Order No. 6, Colonel Edward Cross assigned the position of companies according to the seniority of the captains who commanded them.

1st Company: Company A: Captain. Edward E. Sturtevant
2nd Company: Company B: Captain Edmund Brown
3rd Company: Company C: Captain James B. Perry
4th Company: Company D: Captain John Murray
5th Company: Company E: Captain Ira McL. Barton
6th Company: Company F: Captain H.T.H. Pierce
7th Company: Company G: Captain Charles H. Long
8th Company: Company H: Captain Richard R. Davis
9th Company: Company I: Captain Charles E. Hapgood
10th Company: Company K: Captain Richard Welch[i]

“Formation in Order of Battle” (1861): This image from Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics shows who went where when a regiment was drawn up in line of battle. In this particular illustration, eight companies are in line of battle and two are detached for skirmish duty.

So far so good. However, matters get a bit complicated when one starts discussing the actual deployment of the regiment in combat. According to William J. Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, U.S. Infantry Tactics, and Silas Casey’s Infantry Tactics, a regiment arranged its companies in the following manner when it was arrayed in line of battle:[ii]





8th 3rd 9th 4th 6th





Company A, which had the most senior captain (Sturtevant), occupied the post of honor which was the right flank of the regiment. This arrangement seems to indicate that Companies H and C were on either side of the color guard which was in the middle of the formation. While Company C suffered the second-highest number of combat deaths (21), Company H was definitely on the low end of the scale (14). Ok, scratch my theory about the color guard. Again, maybe I should try to figure out who was in the color guard and from what companies they were selected.

Edward E. Sturtevant (1826-1862), then living in Concord, NH, recruited and commanded Company I of the 1st New Hampshire, a three-month regiment. Shortly after that regiment was mustered out, he went on to recruit and command Company A of the 5th New Hampshire. It was this company that earned the post of honor on the right flank of the regiment when it went into battle. Sturtevant eventually attained the rank of major before he was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

I then thought that maybe some companies were more frequently used for picket duty and skirmishing than others. The problem is that I didn’t know if Cross leaned on particular companies in this way let alone which ones they would be.[iii] In any event, my impression is that in a number of major battles (Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor), the 5th New Hampshire went straight into action without deploying skirmishers.

And so I was left falling back on the last recourse of a scoundrel; perhaps this was all a matter of chance and circumstance. In the battles for which I have detailed records of casualties, I have noticed striking discrepancies in the number of dead and wounded suffered by each company. Take for example the Battle of Fair Oaks (June 1, 1862):

Company A: 3 killed, 2 mortally wounded, 20 other wounded
Company B: 2 killed, 2 mortally wounded, 19 other wounded
Company C: 4 killed, 3 mortally wounded, 17 other wounded
Company D: 4 killed, 6 wounded
Company E: 5 killed, 1 mortally wounded, 22 other wounded
Company F: 3 mortally wounded, 10 other wounded
Company G: 3 killed, 2 mortally wounded, 6 other wounded
Company H: 1 killed, 3 mortally wounded, 17 other wounded
Company I: 7 wounded
Company K: 3 killed, 13 wounded[iv]

To take the two extremes, Company E (Barton) suffered a total of 6 dead and 22 wounded for a total of 28 casualties while Company I (Hapgood) suffered a mere 7 wounded. It is worth noting that this battle (among other things) helped convince Cross that Barton was a drunken incompetent.[v] It is also probably worth noting that Hapgood later became the colonel of the regiment. So maybe the quality of company commanders had something to do with the distribution of casualties. Still, we should not disregard bad luck. A single shell burst could literally double a company’s casualties in a battle. For example, according to William Child’s History of the Fifth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers (1893) a one charge of canister killed or wounded 8 men from Company G at the Battle of Antietam.[vi]

Ira McL. Barton (1840-1876) raised much of Company D in the 1st New Hampshire and led that company during it three months of service. He later recruited and led Company E in the 5th New Hampshire until he resigned his commission in September 1862. Surprisingly, Barton landed on his feet as Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery and served in the regular army after the war. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

We’ve covered combat, so what about disease? Why did some companies suffer so much more than others, especially when the sanitary arrangements laid down by the regiment’s commander applied equally to all companies? I think the answer has to do with the men and not the conditions to which they were subjected.

It turns out that the companies that suffered the fewest deaths from disease (A, D, and G) were also those that happened to be most heavily recruited from urban areas in the state. (When I use the word “urban,” I employ it in the same sense as the Census Bureau: a settlement of more than 2,500 people.) [vii] In all likelihood these recruits had been more heavily exposed to communicable diseases throughout their lives and proved less susceptible to various illnesses than men from small rural settlements. Over 40% of Company A was recruited from Concord, NH (10,867), the second-largest town in the state and the 86th biggest settlement in the United States. Well over half of Company D’s men came from three major towns that were right next door to each other: Dover (8,487), Somersworth (4,785), and Rochester (3,833). And Company G was the only one in the regiment where the majority of men (70% in fact) came from one urban settlement: Claremont (4,009). No other companies had such high concentrations of urban dwellers.[viii] I like this hypothesis, but I have no means of testing it.

Map of Claremont in 1860

So are some companies overrepresented in the sample? Yes! Do I know why? Maybe, but not with any certainty. Did I figure out why some companies suffered more deaths than others? Partially.

Did I learn something by asking a bunch of different questions? I think so.

[i] I have several copies of General Order No. 6 at my disposal, but the one I referred to in this instance was in William Andrew Moore’s papers at the New Hampshire Historical Society.

[ii] Hardee’s book was published in 1855 and became the bible for field and junior officers during the Civil War. See http://www.cs-cavalry.de/Hardees%201862.pdf (p. 8). U.S. Infantry Tactics was put out by the War Department in 1861 and appears to plagiarize Hardee’s work extensively. See https://www.google.com/books/edition/U_S_Infantry_Tactics/ 3kAWAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Hardee+light+infantry+tactics+ school+of+the+company&pg=RA1-PT3&printsec=frontcover. Finally, Casey’s work also draws heavily from Hardee. See http://64thill.org/drillmanuals/

[iii] I know that at Fair Oaks, Companies A and C were used in this fashion, but I don’t know if Cross always used them this way. See https://archive.org/

[iv] This information was assembled by consulting Ayling’s Revised Register and the surgeon’s report for the 5th New Hampshire that appeared in the New Hampshire Statesman, June 21, 1862, p. 2.

[v] Mike Pride and Mark Travis, My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001), p. 158. Interestingly enough, after Barton resigned from the regiment, he and Hapgood remained on good terms and continued to correspond.

[vi] See https://archive.org/details/historyoffifthre00chil/page/n163/mode/2up However, if one amalgamates information from Ayling’s Revised Register and the Surgeon’s Report that appeared in the New Hampshire Statesman, October 4, 1862, p. 2, it appears that while Company G suffered 15 casualties at Antietam, only one soldier died as a result of that battle.

[vii] https://www2.census.gov/geo/pdfs/reference/GARM/Ch12GARM.pdf

[viii] All information in this paragraph comes from the Census of 1860 and Ayling’s Revised Register.

“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.


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.


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

Brevet Brigadier-General, U.S. Volunteers, President of Court.

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_

[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.