HARTLAND IN THE CIVIL WAR
(Second Installment, Jan. 2013)
by Les Motschman
This is the second installment of my attempt to follow Hartland men serving in the Civil War 150 years ago. As I explained in the first installment, this effort is based largely on Howland Atwood’s 1963 “Hartland in the Civil War.” He assembled a roster of Hartland men who served and described where their units were during the war. I also use several other sources, including information sent in by newsletter subscribers. I welcome personal information about your ancestors who served, as I want to make the connection to modern-day people who are living here or maybe grew up here. As you will read, I’ve so far made connections with some of today’s Hartland families, including the Bowers, Davis, French, Hatch, Howland, Lobdell, Tessier, and White families.
My first installment was concerned with the five regiments that made up the 1st Vermont Brigade, also known as the Old Vermont Brigade, including 17 volunteers from Hartland. [A brigade typically consisted of five one-thousand-man regiments.] This issue is concerned primarily with the formation of the 2nd Vermont Brigade, made up of Regiments 12 through 17. There were no Hartland men in the 13th, 14th, or 15th Regiments so I’ll write mostly about the 12th and 16th.
In the second half of 1862, over 70 men from Hartland entered the Army. Hartland men weren’t involved in much fighting in the fall of 1862, but the recruiting and filling the ranks of the 2nd Vermont Brigade so quickly is an interesting story in itself. This issue concludes with the massive battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December 1862 between the Army of Northern Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee and the Army of the Potomac under new commander General Ambrose Burnside.
First, I want to recognize a few Hartland men who enlisted in Vermont regiments that were not part of the 1st or 2nd Brigades. Most, but not all, Hartland men served in Virginia. Henry H. Hastings enlisted in the 7th Regiment in February 1862 and served for five years. The 7th Vermont sailed from New York City to the Gulf of Mexico. New Orleans remained under Federal control throughout the war, but the Confederates controlled the fortifications on the bluffs at Vicksburg, Mississippi, which prevented the Union from using the river to move men and supplies to the Western Front of the war. The 7th participated in the Siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 1862, which was a series of failed attempts to take Vicksburg.
It was also at Baton Rouge when it was attacked by rebel forces trying to retake that part of the river. By the end of the year, the 7th removed to Pensacola, Florida. James Hutchinson also enlisted in the 7th in February 1862, but within a few weeks he died of disease. He is buried in the Plains Cemetery. Alonzo Martin joined the 7th in February 1862 from Woodstock and was discharged with a disability in June 1863. He represented the second of three generations to run a shop just across the Martinsville bridge.
On September 1, 1862, five Hartland men joined the 10th Vermont Regiment as three-year men. They were George Colby, Charles E. Colston, Charles D. Humphrey, Ira E. Hutchinson, and Seneca Young. On the same day, Edgar H. Leonard joined the 11th Vermont.
A few names were omitted in the first installment of September 2012. George C. Chase was with the 3rd Vermont Regiment during the Peninsula Campaign. Mr. Atwood did not mention Chase but includes him on the roster. Chase was discharged with a disability on July 29, 1862. David Wright was with the 6th Vermont Regiment during the Peninsula Campaign.
The First Regiment of Vermont Cavalry
In the first issue I mentioned that two members of the First Regiment of the Vermont Cavalry died in October 1862. This unit was organized in the fall of 1861 in Burlington. It set out for Washington on December 14, 1861, in 153 railroad cars. Mr. Atwood writes that such a grand cavalcade from Vermont was probably never seen before or since.
The first Hartland men in this unit were Oliver T. Cushman, Henry Holt, John Jelerson, Allen P. Messer, Benjamin F. Rogers, George Rumrill, and John H. Willard. Others joined in the ensuing years, including Clarence Cushman in September 1862. The twenty-year-old Oliver Cushman, a member of the Dartmouth class of 1863, enlisted as a sergeant (he would eventually be promoted to captain). His brother Clarence enlisted when he turned eighteen.
Early in the war, Union cavalry were mainly used for reconnaissance duty, checking the terrain and conditions ahead of the infantry. They were also employed as messengers as they had the only means of rapid transit. The Confederates used the cavalry as raiders from the start of the war. They would dash in through the Union picket lines, raid supplies, and be gone before anyone could stop them.
Bruce Catton, in his book Civil War, writes that “for the first half of the war Southern cavalry was far superior to the Federals. Jeb Stuart’s troopers could have taught circus riders tricks. Not until 1863 was the Union cavalry able to meet Stuart on anything like even terms. Most Southern recruits came from rural areas and were used to horses. The legends of chivalry were powerful, so it seemed much more knightly and gallant to go off to war on horseback than in the infantry. The Confederate trooper rode to war on his own horse often of blooded stock. There were plenty of farm boys in the Federal armies, but they did not come from horseback country; most horses on Northern farms were draft animals. Being well aware that it’s a lot of work to care for a horse, the Northern country boy generally enlisted in the infantry.”
The 1st Vermont Cavalry is credited with 75 engagements, mostly skirmishes, often with the opposing cavalry. Of the eight Hartland men in the 1st Vermont Cavalry in 1862, Messer was discharged with a disability May 22; Holt and Rogers died of disease on October 30, Rogers after release from a prisoner of war camp, and Rumrill was wounded August 29, presumably at the Battle of Second Bull Run and discharged with a disability on November 20. It must have been hard service, because without giving too much away, I will tell you that the other four men had very bad experiences before the war ended.
Two Hartland men from the 3rd Vermont Infantry Regiment transferred to the U.S. 5th Cavalry on October 30, 1862. George H. Barrows had just enlisted; Fred Blaisdell had joined in July 1861 and experienced the Peninsula Campaign and the Maryland Campaign.
Lincoln calls for 300,000 volunteers
After General George McClellan’s disastrous Peninsula Campaign with its high losses, and recognizing the need for more men in the Western Theater of the War, President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 asked the Union states for another 300,000 volunteers. Enthusiasm for the war had radically changed from a year earlier when men had flocked to enlist. Initially it was thought that the North with its larger population and far superior industrial base would be able to put down the rebellion of the mostly agrarian South rather quickly. Indeed, as is the case in any war, many young men rush to volunteer not wanting to miss out on what might be the adventure of their lives. After the first few months of fighting, it was clear that victory would come only at a great cost of men and matériel and might take years.
By mid-1862 the casualty lists published in local newspapers were growing, and crippled veterans had returned home with tales of the horrors of war. Coffins were arriving as well, mostly of soldiers who succumbed to disease. Those who died in a large battle were more apt to be buried where they fell or in a cemetery created on the battlefield. Of the four Hartland men who had died by this time 150 years ago, three-Holt, Hutchinson, and Vaughan-are buried in Hartland cemeteries. Benjamin Rogers is buried in Washington, D.C.
Just as enthusiasm for the war was waning, the need for more men was growing. Vermont had finished raising the 10th and 11th regiments with three-year enlistees, and the militias were depleted. Lincoln asked the states to raise the troops because the Federal government did not have authority to draft men into service. On July 17, 1862, Congress passed a “Militia Law” declaring that all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 were legally part of the militia. The law empowered the President to call the militia into Federal service for nine months. The War Department realized that most men with families and a farm or business were not eager to enlist for three years; thus, the creation of “Nine Months Men.”
Some of my information about the recruitment and deployment of Vermont’s 2nd Brigade comes from Howard Coffin’s book Nine Months to Gettysburg. Coffin calls his native Woodstock the “Pentagon of Vermont” in that Vermont’s war effort was run by Vermont’s Adjutant General, Peter Washburn, from a building on The Green. Washburn was a Woodstock native and a lawyer, and had led 500 Vermont troops of the 1st Regiment during the Peninsula Campaign. Vermont’s quota was 4,898 men, and the Adjutant General’s office worked day and night to get the quotas out to all town officers, as it was their responsibility to furnish the men requested.
The Vermont Humanities Council’s weekly Civil War newsletter of September 7, 2012, notes countless town recruiting meetings held across the North. It describes a meeting in Windsor as being large and enthusiastic, packing the Town Hall while a large crowd gathered outside, vainly trying to learn of the success within. The Windsor Coronet Band enlivened the meeting with patriotic music. Patriotic speeches were made, and a number of citizens encouraged enlistments by generous donations. The men came forward, the quota was filled, and the meeting adjourned amid enthusiastic cheers.
As almost all the men enlisting were volunteers, I had assumed they were marching off to war to do their patriotic duty to try to save the Union. The U.S. Army paid them $12 to $14 a month. It wasn’t until I started this project that I saw the term “bounties.” It seems that towns appropriated money at Town Meetings to pay the men who enlisted. I attended a talk Howard Coffin gave last Fall about “Nine Months Men.” He told me bounties ranged from $50 to $1,000. Towns competed for recruits; most men would sign up in the town they lived in, but some would enlist in neighboring towns, especially if that town was paying higher bounties. Coffin said $300 was a typical bounty, but as the war wore on and still more troops were needed, men could receive two or three times that if towns were having trouble meeting their quotas. To put these dollars into perspective, a laborer at that time made a dollar a day, and Coffin said one could buy a farm for a thousand dollars.
I asked Hartland Town Clerk Clyde Jenne if we have minutes for Town Meetings in the 1860s. He said no, but I should look at the Town Reports. The February 1863 Hartland Town Report is only eight pages; all the soldiers are listed by name, grouped by how much bounty they were paid. The Nine Months Men received $100. For some
reason, men who enlisted for three years got only $50. Total orders drawn by the Selectmen that year amounted to about $6,200, and nearly $5,000 of that was to pay bounties. $3,100 was borrowed to pay the bounties. Clyde said the town went deeply into debt during the Civil War and did not finish paying off the debt until decades later.
Following is a list of men who enlisted in the fall of 1862. Members of the 12th and 16th were mostly Nine Months Men. The men who enlisted in the 1st Brigade regiments were generally three-year men. Men whose names are marked by asterisks (*) enlisted in nearby towns but were born and/or buried in Hartland.
The men who enlisted in the 2nd Vermont Brigade were transported by trains to Brattleboro where they were marched to a high plateau a mile from the station that was becoming Camp Lincoln. The 4th and 8th Vermont Regiments had already camped at Brattleboro on their way to war. With the large influx of new recruits coming, the early arrivals, including the 12th, were put to work building more barracks. In Nine Months to Gettysburg, Howard Coffin says the men were drilled hard but adjusted to camp life and were able to relax some in the evening and on weekends.
Coffin makes great use of personal first-hand accounts from the soldiers’ letters home. He notes that our Private Benjamin Hatch of the 12th was troubled by soldier morality. The thirty-five-year-old Hatch was one of the older recruits. He wrote to his wife in Hartland: “Is as much as 20 playing cards and gambling every night….Last night I went along the line of camps, some were gambling, some were swearing, some were dancing and everything else you can think of.”
On October 7, 1862, the 12th Regiment was the first to leave Vermont for Washington. Since Coffin says most of the men had never been even to Massachusetts, it must have been interesting for them to see hundreds of miles of countryside and stop in the country’s major cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and then end up in sight of the Capitol. Like the soldiers in the 1st Brigade a year earlier, the 12th marched through Washington and camped at the fortifications near the Potomac. Within a few days they crossed the Potomac and marched to Camp Vermont where they would spend the winter.
Camp life consisted of drill, readying the shelters for winter and picket duty. Each day a portion of the men were marched out of camp to take up positions on the miles-long outer defense line of Washington. Coffin reports that when the soldiers had a day with no duty, many went to see the sights of Washington or visited Mount Vernon. Private Hatch wrote, “If we can go a little ways from our camp, we can look down into Alexandria and onto Washington and see the shipping on the Potomac. For miles it is quite a scenery.”
Reports are that some of the men suffered from the October heat in Virginia, but winter arrived early that year. Soon cold, rain, and snow were making life miserable in the camp. The many letters exchanged between the soldiers and their families back home confirm that more snow fell that winter on Camp Vermont than on the real Vermont. As usual for the camps, sickness among the soldiers was widespread.
Eighteen-year-old Charles Rodgers died of disease on November 3, 1862, just one month after mustering into the Army at Brattleboro. He was one of four young Rodgers from Cream Pot Road to enlist in the 12th Regiment that fall. I don’t claim descent from any of the Hartland Civil War veterans, but Charles seems like a neighbor. I visited his grave soon after moving to Weed Road over 35 years ago. For a long time, I didn’t know how long he had served or how he died. He is buried in Weed Cemetery next to his parents.
Reuben Lamphear died of disease on December 7, 1862. He is buried in the Plains Cemetery.
Howland Atwood’s notebook includes a collection of newspaper clippings from 1963 Rutland Heralds. It was running “100 years ago” columns. One states that, “The mortality rate in our armies in 1862 was 67.6 deaths per 1,000 men. Disease accounted for 50.4, wounds and injuries 17.2.”
Thanksgiving was celebrated heartily in the camps. President Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863, but celebrating on the last Thursday in November was already a well-established tradition. The Vermont Humanities Council newsletter describes that week in Camp Vermont through letters home from a member of the 12th Regiment who had been a machinist at the gun factory in Windsor. They were working on their “houses” built of stone, wood and canvas:
We have been very busy all day on our house. Two or three more days of good weather and we can move in. Thanksgiving has really begun here in this company. There arrived here tonight from West Windsor and other places one barrel and many boxes the size of boot boxes, you may guess there was something for everybody. The boys in this tent got a large quantity, so I guess I shall have something for Thanksgiving, as they are very generous. I will name a few things that came to friends. There was a half of cheese, four or five pounds of butter, about 2 gal. of applesauce, a baked chicken, a lot of cakes, about three pints of butternut meats, six pounds of maple sugar, a few chestnuts and a number of little things too numerous to mention. As far as I have heard, it all came through without hurting the least thing.
[I remember being amazed many years ago reading about a mother in Vermont roasting a turkey and the father boxing it up with some other things and taking it to the depot. The son in camp in Virginia received it two or three days later in good shape. The railroad didn't come to Hartland until 1849. The building boom continued through the 1850s, and by the time the war started in 1861 the railroad system was pretty well established, so people, goods, and mail could travel much faster than just a of couple decades earlier.]
Christmas seems to have been observed in a more somber manner. The men had the day off except for essential duty, but they weren’t feasting or celebrating.
First Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 13, 1862
According to the Vermont Humanities Council newsletter, President Lincoln waited until the day after the 1862 mid-term elections to relieve General McClellan as Commander of the Army of the Potomac, timing the removal so as to not alienate Democrats. General McClellan said, “They have made a great mistake,” and ran against Lincoln two years later. General Ambrose Burnside reluctantly accepted command of the Army from Lincoln. General Burnside promptly submitted a plan for a direct move on Fredericksburg, and then south to Richmond. It was important to occupy the heights above the town before General Lee’s army arrived. The bridge across the Rappahannock River had been destroyed, so pontoon equipment was immediately ordered to be brought from Harper’s Ferry where it was being used. The river could have been forded, but Burnside was afraid the water might rise and separate his 120,000 soldiers. By the time the bridge was ready, General Lee was waiting on the heights with 113,000 men. Fredericksburg was now nothing but a trap.
The Union army was divided into three divisions led by Generals Edwin “Bull” Sumner, Joseph Hooker, and William Franklin. The Vermonters in the 1st Vermont Brigade (Regiments 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6) were under the command of General Franklin, whose division was on the left of the battle line. Cold weather arrived long before the pontoons did, bringing rain, snow, and general discomfort. Burnside waited and Lee watched. The Confederates were on the western hills known as Marye’s Heights, where their guns commanded the flat land below as well as the town.
On December 11, 1862, the Union army started to cross the river. Franklin’s troops found little opposition, but General Sumner’s division on the right had a difficult crossing. Rebel sharpshooters mowed down the bridge builders.
In heavy fog on the morning of December 13th, Burnside’s assault commenced. The three divisions groped through the fog across the road and railroad tracks along the river. When the fog lifted, the Confederates saw waving flags and the gleam of tens of thousands of bayonets. J.E.B. Stuart’s artillery poured heavy fire into the Union left flank. The Union batteries across the river joined the battle, silencing the Confederate fire. Under cover of their own guns, Franklin’s army heaved forward into woods at their front, only to meet short-range small arms fire from Southern infantry embedded in the thicket. The whole Union force was pushed back onto the plain. All afternoon the fighting raged back and forth, and the day ended with the Union and Confederate positions the same as at the beginning.
General Sumner’s division on the right had it even worse. As those men moved up the open land below Marye’s Heights, the Confederate guns there opened fire. At 200 yards the Confederate infantry opened fire from the sunken road and stone wall, and three Federal brigades in succession melted away. The Confederates were four deep behind that wall. Still more men were sent up the hill. Hooker’s division was ordered into action. Burnside was adamant: “That height must be carried this evening.”
It never was. Fourteen gallant attacks were made that day. Thank God Franklin was beyond Burnside’s reach. Between the hostile lines, 12,500 fallen Union soldiers lay dead or wounded in a succession of ghastly windrows, 6,000 of them in front of Marye’s Hill. Lee’s losses were about 5,300 in all. One brigade left behind 545 men in the frozen mud. The wounded lay for up to 48 hours in the freezing cold. Some burned to death where cannons set fire to long grass.
[The description of the battle is from Atwood's notebook. He relies mainly on The Compact History of the Civil War to provide a narrative of the War where Vermonters were present.]
It was at Fredericksburg that General Lee, watching his troops wreak havoc on the Union Army, uttered this famous line: “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”
Fredericksburg may have been the worst Union defeat of the war, but apparently no Hartland men were seriously hurt. Of course by my estimate they represented only two dozen of the 120,000-strong army. William Petrie of the 4th Regiment was discharged with a disability January 31, 1863, so it’s possible he was wounded there. At least one
Hartland native was killed during the battle. Twenty-eight year-old Charles Ballou was living in Claremont when he joined the 5th NH Infantry in October 1861. Ballou was a 1st Lieutenant by the time of Fredericksburg, so he may very well have died leading his men up the slope in front of the sunken road. Hartland resident, Greg Chase, a re-enactor for the 5th NH, says the regiment was in one of the early attacks toward the road and came as close to reaching it as any unit, but took heavy casualties and was beaten back.
The new troops of the 2nd Vermont Brigade were not at Fredericksburg, but they could hear the battle forty miles away. Soon they were starting to get reports of the terrible slaughter and defeat. This was met with a sense of dismay and disgust at the handling of the battle. As word spread, this was the reaction throughout the army and the North. General Burnside became known as “The Butcher of Fredericksburg.”
Incredibly, Burnside wanted to attack the next day, but his shocked and almost mutinous corps commanders talked him out of it. He was halted by President Lincoln’s firm order to take no action without informing him. Burnside blamed his generals for the failure. Franklin was replaced by General John Sedgwick after the battle. On January 25, 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker relieved Burnside as Commander of the Army of the Potomac.
The term “sideburns” comes from his last name.
On a political note, after our long electioneering year of 2012, when some have said the country is more divided than at any time since the Civil War, and the President and Congress seem unable to accomplish anything, it was interesting to read political writer George Will’s last column of the year.
In 1862, the grim year of Shiloh [Antietam] and Fredericksburg, Congress would have been forgiven for concentrating only on preventing national dismemberment. Instead, while defiantly continuing construction of the Capitol dome, Congress continued nation building. It passed the Pacific Railroad Act [which led to the completion of the Trans-continental Railroad in 1869]. It passed the Morrill Act [named for Vermont Senator Justin Morrill] to build land-grant colleges emphasizing agriculture.
Most important, Congress passed the Homestead Act, which Will describes as the “first comprehensive immigration law.” The act was intended to attract immigrants from abroad who would put down roots. For this purpose it provided all the requirements for citizenship. For $18 in fees, a homesteader was entitled to 160 acres in the Great
Plains [then known as the Great American Desert]. After they farmed the land for five years, it would become theirs, and they could become citizens. The land was sparsely inhabited, mainly by Native Americans; and with so many citizens fighting, an Illinois congressman proclaimed that “noncitizens were needed to go upon these wild lands to increase the nation’s wealth.”
I surmise that the hundred men on the rosters must have hundreds of descendants born in Hartland. I will note some of the connections to families living in town now or within the last couple of decades. Mr. Atwood mentions several descendants of veterans, but his list ends a couple of generations ago. Some of you have provided me with your family connections to Civil War veterans and I hope you continue to do so.
- First note that Horace Bradley, who was the first to go to the war from Hartland and served three months with the 1st Vermont Regiment as part of the militia call-up, re-enlisted in the 12th Vermont Regiment.
- James H. Bowers enlisted from West Windsor. He was in Company A 12th Regiment with many of the Hartland men. His son Albert Bowers moved to Hartland. James H. Bowers’ grandson, Jimmy Bowers, Jimmy’s son Eric, and grandson Scott all live in Hartland.
- John Colston was Company B musician, and in later years a well-known fiddler at dances. He was Hial Lobdell’s and Marion Lobdell White’s grandfather, so many of the Whites living in town are descendants (Tom, Dick, Bob, and Paul White, and Jean White Rugg and Nancy White Dow, and their families), plus Jan Lobdell Hewes.
- Ozro and Oscar Davis were twins; great-granddaughter Connie Tessier is probably their best-known descendant still living in town. The Crowells and Stillsons trace their lineage to Oscar.
- Ferdinand Fallon is an ancestor of the Frenches who lived in town when I was young. Mike French is a current resident.
- Benjamin Hatch was Lillian (Hatch) Marcotte’s and Arthur Hatch’s grandfather. Marjorie (Hatch) Royce is also related.
- The Marcy brothers were great uncles of Russ Perry who had a large family living in town.
- Augustine and Daniel Rodgers were brothers, and Brad Hadley (Hartland Historical Society Webmaster) has a family connection to them.
- George Spear was great-grandfather to Emily (Spear) Devlin and Elizabeth (Spear) Graham, who still own the family farm. Judy Howland is also a Spear descendant.
Thanks to my wife Susan for her contributions in the typing, layout and finished product of this project.
We are fortunate that Pat Richardson is editing my work. Her expertise in this field greatly improves the readability of the final version.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A Note From Carol
A big thank you to Les for doing the research and to Les and Susan for putting together this newsletter. The work that they are doing is of huge value in understanding Hartland’s role in the Civil War.
Reprinted from the January 2013 Hartland Historical Society Newsletter. Page breaks and numbers were preserved to assist in references to specific pages of this document.