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

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 ( : 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 ( : 19 March 2020), Elijah Johnson, 1870.; “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 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 ( : 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( : 14 December 2017), Charles E Hapgood, 1860; “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch( 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( : 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 ( : 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( 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 ( : 14 January 2020), Eli Fernald, 1826; “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 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 ( : 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 ( 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 ( : 16 January 2020), Eli Fernald, 1869.

[xviii] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), Oliver P Newcomb in entry for Asahel Newcomb, 1860.

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

[xx] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 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.

How Old Were Volunteers in the 5th New Hampshire? Part 1

As I’ve explained elsewhere, one aspect of the 5th New Hampshire that I’ve been working on is what became of the veterans after the war. To what degree did the war experience affect their life outcomes? I started looking at this question about a year-and-a-half ago when one of my students who had an aptitude for statistics indicated an interest in investigating this issue. I thought that if we collected enough information on a large number of soldiers, we could subject this information to statistical analysis and detect some interesting patterns. After all, few regiments experienced as much combat trauma as the 5th New Hampshire; maybe, I thought, a close analysis would capture the impact of this trauma. I must admit that I am not a statistician, but I’m not too proud to ask my colleagues for help. I spoke to Tauna Sisco in the Sociology Department at Saint Anselm College, and she suggested that I assemble a randomly selected pool of at least 300 men. Several decisions followed from this suggestion. First, I resolved to focus on the original 1000 volunteers. I figured that it would be easier to track these men than the substitutes who joined the regiment starting in 1863 (many of whom were immigrants and many of whom deserted). Second, I determined to pick every other man who survived the war. And so slowly but steadily, I used FamilySearch to collect as much information as I could on my pool. By December 2019, I had found data and written biographies on 300 veterans. Since I’ve made my way through about three-fourths of the first thousand volunteers, it looks like by the time I’m done I will have eventually compiled information on 400 soldiers.

Arthur H. Perkins (1844-1936) was one of the many underaged recruits to join the 5th New Hampshire when it was first organized in the fall of 1861 (he claimed he was 19 on his enlistment form). Starting out as a private, he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in November 1863. A year later, he was discharged. Perkins returned to his hometown of Danbury, NH, where he farmed for a number of years before moving to Franklin, NH. He died there in 1936 at the age of 91 of a gastric ulcer. This image was apparently taken shortly before the 5th New Hampshire departed for Washington, DC in late October 1861; the unusual Whipple hat on the table was the original headgear issued to the regiment. (Image courtesy of David Morin.)

Having come this far, I thought I’d give a series of preliminary reports about what I’ve found with these first 300 men. Today, I’ll focus on the age of recruits upon enlistment (when I’ve looked through the entire pool and reach 400 men, I’ll probably report on this issue again—hence the “Part 1” in the title). I thought I’d start with this topic because, after all, my last post was about underage recruits.

I have to preface my findings by pointing out that some sources of information are much better than others. Ayling’s Revised Register lists ages for every man who enlisted. These numbers, however, are not always reliable because they are derived from enlistment forms where men reported their own ages. For a variety of reasons, volunteers frequently lied about how old they were. In as many cases as I could, I checked the ages indicated on enlistment forms against census records both before and after the war. Unfortunately, in some instances, I could not find much additional information and therefore had to rely on Ayling’s figures. In other words, while the ages I’ve assigned to most men are fairly accurate, there may be cases where I’ve erred.

According to my calculations, the average age for original volunteers was 25.4 years. The median age of enlistment was 23 on the dot. You can see a table and graph with the age distribution below.

Age 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33
# 2 10 19 24 29 24 20 12 19 14 12 13 13 5 11 10 4 5 4
Age 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52
# 5 5 7 4 2 5 3 1 2 2 1 2 2 1 2 1 1 1 2

There are several findings worth highlighting.

Under-aged Soldiers: 31 volunteers in the sample were underage when they enlisted (that is, under the age of 18). That amounts to just over 10% of the total sample, and I think that’s an undercount. It is likely that I was unable to catch all the boys who lied about their age.

Over-aged Soldiers: On the other end, 12 volunteers (4%) were legally too old to volunteer—that is, they were over the age of 44. Again, I think this is an undercount for the same reason as above.

The Youth of the Regiment: Much of the regiment was very young; indeed, 42% of the sample was 21 or younger. The reason that the average age in the sample was 25.4 was became there was a long “tail” of men who were in their 30s and 40s.

The Mystery of the Men in Their Late Twenties: Enlistment crested at the age of 19, popped back up at the age of 23, and then inevitably slid downward. Where were all the able-bodied men in the second half of their twenties? If you look at the figures closely, you’ll see that there were more 17-year-olds in the regiment than in any cohort between the ages of 24 and 29. In this context, it makes sense to remember that at least nominally, 17-year-olds were forbidden to volunteer. In other words, the legal bar to entry for this group was higher than for men in the latter part of their twenties. So we must ask again: where were all the men between the ages of 25 and 29?

I think marriage may explain this pattern. The men in my sample who married before 1861 did so, on average, at the age of 23.7 years (n=65). If this was the average age of marriage in general, is it not possible that the drop in volunteering associated with men in their late twenties was due to matrimony? Marriage was a huge step in mid-nineteenth-century America because it meant, almost invariably, starting a new family in a new home and launching oneself on a trajectory that led to the economic independence that was the goal of most young men (e.g. working for wages as a laborer until one could accumulate enough cash to buy a farm). It would appear, then, that during this important transition, men were understandably reluctant to volunteer.

To pursue this hunch, I studied the numbers in the following way. I looked at different age groups to see what proportion of volunteers were heads of household (according to the Census of 1860), and the figures seem revealing to me.

  • Volunteers between the ages of 20 and 24 (n= 57): 12 were heads of household (21.1%)
  • Volunteers between the ages of 25 and 29 (n=44): 23 were heads of household (52.2%)
  • Volunteers between the age of 30 and 39 (n=40): 35 were heads of household (87.5%)

Note that the numbers in each age group above are equal to the number of men for whom I could find information; that’s why they don’t match the figures in the table farther up the page.

It is entirely possible that other factors explained why men in their late twenties and their thirties did not volunteer in the same numbers as younger folks, but the influence of marriage on men in the second half of their twenties is interesting to contemplate.

In the future, I will not only finish compiling information about veterans in my pool, but compare their age of enlistment to soldiers who were less fortunate—those who died in the service from combat or disease.

“I hereby freely give my consent”: Obtaining Permission to Enlist

It’s my understanding that any able-bodied man between the ages of 18 and 45 could enlist in the Union army during the Civil War. Volunteers between the ages of 18 and 20, however, needed the permission of a guardian, and that permission was typically conveyed on a ready-made form such as the one below.

In this particular example, Benjamin B. Nudd certified that he was Warren B. Nudd’s father. The elder Nudd not only stated that Warren was 18 but also gave Warren permission to enlist in the army.[i] These forms are usually not terribly interesting. With some frequency, though, I do see parents (fathers and mothers) lie about their sons’ ages. Warren B. Nudd, for example, was born on June 7, 1844, which meant that on the day he enlisted (September 9, 1861), he was only 17 years old. This kind of cheating was not uncommon; by my reckoning, about 10% of the original volunteers in the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry were underage. But that’s a story for another time.

Every once in a while, however, I do run into an enlistment form for a young or underaged recruit that opens an interesting window onto somebody’s personality. The first one I ever encountered concerned Albert G. Cummings who sought to enlist in the 1st New Hampshire, a three-month regiment. Cummings was 18 at the time which meant that he needed the permission of his father, Daniel Cummings. Daniel, who was a prosperous 51-year-old iron machinist, wrote a letter to the recruiter, Edward Sturtevant, infused with the Unionism that had practically become a religion with that generation in the North.[ii]

The note reads as follows:

Enfield, N. H. April 22nd 1861

Captain Sturtevant

Dear Sir Mr Houston informed me that you wished my consent for my son Albert G. to enlist in your Company of Volunteers for the defence of our country’s rights to maintain the constitution and laws against the rebellion gotten ^up^ by disunion despots arrayed against freedom. to your request Sir I give my unqualified consent, & to him say go to your Country’s defence, remembering that your noble ancestors ever stood ready when their country called, to obey its mandates, from the commencement of the Old French war of 1755 to the close of the glorious war of the revolution they were ready and did noble service both at our colonial combats and in the invasion of Canada, go be steady be loyal, be brave, do your duty forthfully and and [sic] may prosperity ever attend you in your perilous way

              Ever yours         

                             D. M. Cummings[iii]

How could Sturtevant turn Albert away after that performance?

Albert G. Cummings as a commissioned officer at some point between 1862 and 1864 (image courtesy of Dave Morin).

After the 1st New Hampshire was mustered out in August 1861, Albert enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire where he was appointed 1st Sergeant in Company A which was commanded by Sturtevant. In May 1862, Cummings was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. A month later, he was severely wounded in the left hand and thigh at the Battle of Fair Oaks (June 1, 1862). Appointed 1st Lieutenant of Company F in November 1862, Cummings was wounded again at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862). On May 1, 1863, Cummings was promoted to Captain and wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville only a couple of days later. He was eventually discharged in October 1864. After the war, he moved to Chicago to work as a machinist in the Bessemer Works but returned to New Hampshire to marry Ellen Currier in 1871. He later relocated to Pennsylvania where he was employed in the Baldwin Locomotive works. He eventually died in 1911 in Upper Paxton Township, PA.[iv]

My favorite note, though, is associated with Jesse B. Nurse who was born in Bethlehem, NH. According to the Census of 1860, Nurse lived in Bethlehem with the family of Orange E. Annis, a moderately wealthy farmer. I suspect that by this point Nurse was an orphan. It says something about this 15-year-old that he is enumerated on the census not as a farm laborer but as an “Asst. Farmer” (having looked at thousands of census records, I have never seen anyone else’s occupation described that way). By the time he enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire in September 1861, Nurse was probably only 16 (he appears to have been born in January 1845). Still, all 5’ 4” of him had the nerve to walk up to the recruiter (Edward Sturtevant again), claim he was 18, fill out his own enlistment form, and append the following declaration:

I Jesse B. Nurse, hereby certify that I am eighteen years of age, that I have no father, guardian or master; that I make my own bargains, & have my own wages, & and in all respects control of my own person; that I have no lameness, breakes [sic], rheumatism, sore-eyes or any bodily defect to my knowledge that disqualifies me from serving in the army.

Sept. 24, 1861

                                                                        Jesse B. Nurse[v]

Nurse was later wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks on June 1, 1862 (“Scalp, not severe”) and eventually transferred to the Invalid Corps in June 1863.[vi] In April 1864, he re-enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire before being discharged in November 1865 (the late date may be due to the fact he was recovering from wounds—the Veterans Census of 1890 mentions that Nurse had been shot in the hand).[vii] After the war, he moved to Littleton, NH, where he married Addie M. Smith in 1869. Not long afterward, Nurse and his wife ended up in Manchester, NH, where he first worked as a teamster and then as a carpenter. His only child, Roland, was born there in 1888. Nurse died on December 2, 1908 in the Queen City, only a block away from where one of my department colleagues currently lives. In the 40 years left to him after the war, I wonder if Nurse ever reconsidered the “bargain” he had made with the army with such self-assurance back in 1861.

CORRECTION (April 15, 2020): I originally wrote that the recruiting officer who handled Jesse B. Nurse’s enlistment was Edward Sturtevant. I was mistaken. Sturtevant recruited Company A in Concord. As Nurse’s form clearly indicates, H. W. Rowell was the recruiting officer. Nurse, who was then living in Bethlehem, NH, some 80 miles due north of Concord, joined Company C.  

[i] “New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 March 2018), Warren B Nudd, 1861-1866; citing New Hampshire, United States, New Hampshire Secretary of State, Division of Records Management & Archive; FHL microfilm 2,217,640.

[ii] “United States Census, 1860”, database with images, FamilySearch( : 14 December 2017), Albert G Comings in entry for Daniel M Comings, 1860.

[iii] “New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 February 2019), Albert G Cummings, 22 Apr 1861; citing New Hampshire, United States, New Hampshire State Archives, Concord; FHL microfilm 2,257,638.

[iv] Information about Cummings comes from the following sources. Ayling’s Revised Register, 7 and 226; New Hampshire Statesman (Concord, NH), June 21, 1862, 2; census data from various years.

[v] “New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 March 2018), Jesse B Nurse, 24 Sep 1861; citing Grafton, Grafton, Grafton, New Hampshire, United States, New Hampshire Secretary of State, Division of Records Management & Archive; FHL microfilm 2,217,641.

[vi] New Hampshire Statesman (Concord, NH), June 21, 1862, 2.

[vii] Ayling’s Revised Register, 257; “United States Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War, 1890,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 March 2018), Jesse B Nourse, 1890; citing NARA microfilm publication M123 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 338,199; census data from various years.