Historical Legacy of Memory: Four Teacher Workshops

by Elyssa Tardif, Director of Education

Thanks to the support of the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation, this summer the Center for the Teaching of History offered four workshops for teachers that used four essential themes to explore the intersection between history, memory and legacy: equality in education, immigration, post-Civil War Reconstruction, and LGBTQ+ rights.  Each of these topics allowed Center staff and participants to ground contemporary debates in their historical foundations and provided teachers with suggestions for fostering civic dialogue among their students.  As well, the workshops offered tools to teacher participants for supporting the new 2018 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework (adopted and required by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2018), particularly with an increased focus on civic education across all grade levels.

We were very pleased to have the opportunity to work with several of our partner institutions across Boston, including the Museum of African American History, the Boston Public Schools History and Social Sciences Department, History UnErased, Northeastern University’s Special Collections, GLAD, Facing History and Ourselves, and the International Institute of New England, as well as numerous scholars and experts.

After each of our programs, educators provided constructive feedback on the structure and content of our programs, while also expressing a need for more professional development resources tailored for history and social science educators. In fact, according to a 2018 survey, 75% of Massachusetts teachers report that they do not have professional development resources available to them. Teachers appreciate being treated like knowledgeable professionals, and many noted on their evaluation forms that they felt valued at the MHS, not just as educators but as history professionals. Teachers expressed an appreciation for teaching resources that help them approach challenging class topics that relate to current events and present issues. They also specifically referenced the helpfulness of class materials and workshops that focused on minority voices, diverse histories, and that connected to civics and democracy—all priorities in the new 2018 MA History and Social Science Curriculum Framework.  A number of teachers from these workshops reported that they are using workshop resources to develop new fall curriculum that better incorporates these elements into their teaching.

The Civil War Letters of Dwight Emerson Armstrong, Part VII

by Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

This is the seventh and final post in a series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI.

For the last few months, I’ve been telling you about the letters of Dwight Emerson Armstrong of Wendell, Mass., who served with the 10th Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War. Today we conclude his story.

Things were quiet for the 10th after the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, which was just fine by Dwight. He did take part in Ambrose Burnside’s Mud March of January 1863, in which troops, artillery, and pontoon trains were trapped in a days-long downpour and got so bogged down in the mud that they had to give up and turn back. But after that disastrous march, the regiment settled in for the rest of the winter at the Union camp near Falmouth, Va. on the north bank of the Rappahannock River. Dwight called the lull “very agreeable to a man whose constitution will bear as much rest, as mine will.”

In early February, ten-day furloughs were granted on a very limited basis, but Dwight didn’t bother to request one because the time would be too short and, as he wrote his sister Mary (Armstrong) Needham, “if I should get there I should’nt want to come back. […] Do you know that it has been almost 2 years since I saw you.”

Of course, by mid-February, Dwight was complaining of boredom. The soldiers entertained themselves as best they could. On 7 March, Dwight and others attended a local “negro meeting,” which he described in detail in a letter to Mary the following day. He found the experience novel and amusing, writing, “I guess I laughed as much as ever I did in the same length of time.”

Apparently, Mary took exception to his mocking tone. (Our collection unfortunately doesn’t include her letters). Dwight replied to her more seriously a month later.

As for what you say about your not laughing, if you had been at the negro meeting I dont believe it. No doubt it was wrong to do it; but I’ll bet, you would have laughed, down in your stomach, all the while. […] No doubt they are sincere in their worship. It is strange, after being kept under, and abused, as they have been for generations back, that they are half as intelligent as they are. They seem to understand what is going on pretty well, and are loyal, and earnestly wish, and pray, for the success of our arms. […] They evidently are impressed with the belief that the good time is coming; when they will all be free and I dont see how any sane person can doubt it. How soon it will be, we dont know but I for one think […] we are only in the beginning of the war.

Dwight admitted that he’d underestimated the resilience, resourcefulness, and determination of the South, although he still believed the North would win the war, if for no other reason than that its army was larger. As he put it, “we have a good chance to break them and have a few left to start again with.”

On 8 April 1863, the Union troops were reviewed at Falmouth by President Abraham Lincoln himself, accompanied by General Joseph Hooker. Dwight had been harshly critical of Lincoln in previous letters, had even referred to him as “mad,” but now found his heart going out to him.

The President looks as if he was almost worn out. Poor man! I pity him, and wonder he is alive, surrounded as he is by such a pack of traitors, and numb skulls, and he the only honest man in the lot. I have scolded, a good deal about him, since he removed McClellan, and wished him in the bottom of the ocean, but was ready to forgive him, when I saw how pale and sorrowful he looked.

The last letter in the collection was written on 27 April. In it, Dwight primarily discussed mundane matters, but he also had this to say about the Confederate army: “If we could only drive them, off from the hills, on the other side of the river, so as to meet on equal terms I should have no fears of the result and have’nt as it is, much.”

Dwight was killed six days later on 3 May 1863 in the Battle of Salem Heights (or Salem Church), Va. He was 23 years old.

Coincidentally, the MHS holds a diary written by another member of Dwight’s company, Private George Arms Whitmore. Here’s an excerpt from George’s diary entry for that day:

In the afternoon we drove the rebels about 3 miles when they made a stand and we had a very hard time. There were 2 killed and we think one wounded. Their names were Dwight Armstrong Wm Ryther killed. And Christopher Megrath supposed to be wounded.

3 May 1863 diary entry
George Arms Whitmore diary, 3 May 1863

William Eaton Ryther was a 20-year-old from Greenfield, Mass. According to a history of the town, he and Dwight were buried on the field together. Dwight’s body was apparently later removed to Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague, Mass., where he’s buried with his parents.

Joseph K. Newell’s history of the 10th Regiment tells us that Christopher Megrath survived the battle and the war, but died in 1869 as a result of the wound he received that day.

Dwight’s sister Mary, to whom he wrote so faithfully, died in Springfield, Mass. in 1887.

This Week @MHS

Join us for a program at the MHS this week. If you haven’t had a chance to view our current exhibition, this week is your last chance.  “Can She Do It?” closes on Saturday, 21 September. Here is a look at what is planned:

On Wednesday, 18 September, at 6:00 PM: Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth with Kevin M. Levin. More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, scores of websites, articles, and organizations repeat claims that anywhere between 500 and 100,000 free and enslaved African Americans fought willingly as soldiers in the Confederate army. But as Kevin M. Levin argues, such claims would have shocked anyone who served in the army during the war itself. Levin explains that imprecise contemporary accounts, poorly understood primary source material, and rising backlash against African Americans’ gains in civil rights have helped fuel the rise of the black Confederate myth. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Thursday, 19 September, at 6:00 PM: The MHS hosts its 10th annual Graduate Student Reception. Calling all graduate students and faculty! Please join us at our annual Graduate Student Reception for students in history, American Studies, and related fields. Enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres as you meet colleagues from other universities working in your field. Take a behind-the-scenes tour and learn about the resources the MHS offers to support your scholarship, from research fellowships to our seminar series.

On Saturday, 21 September at 4:00 PM: Can They Do It? Divisions on the Road to the 19th Amendment with Allison K. Lange, Wentworth Institute of Technology; Corinne T. Field, University of Virginia; Manisha Sinha, University of Connecticut; and Barbara F. Berenson. The women’s suffrage movement was not always a cohesive or inclusive space for everyone who fought for the vote, nor did the Nineteenth Amendment bring about political enfranchisement for all women. Conflicts around political philosophy, campaign tactics, and most notably, issues of race, led to a movement that was deeply fractured. Our panel will further examine the divisions inherent in the movement and will look at how other social reform activists have historically struggled with coalition building and intersectionality. This program is made possible through the co-sponsorship of the Greater Boston Women’s Vote Centennial (presented by Mayor Walsh’s Office of Women’s Advancement). A pre-talk reception begins at 3:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 4:00 PM.

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Featuring dynamic imagery from the collection of the MHS, the exhibition illustrates the passion on each side of the suffrage question. For over a century, Americans debated whether women should vote. The materials on display demonstrate the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. While women at the polls may seem unremarkable today, these contentious campaigns formed the foundations for modern debates about gender and politics.

Please note that on Saturday, 21 September the MHS library will close at 3:00 PM.

The Human Element in War & Disease: The Emerson P. Dibble Papers

By Mary Millage, Reader Services Intern

Mary Millage completed her internship in the Reader Services department in Summer 2019. Her major project was compiling a subject guide for the history of infectious disease in Boston. This blog post came out of that research and highlights one of the collections Mary worked with as part of that project.

 – Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reference Librarian.

Photograph of Emerson Dibblie
Emerson P. Dibble, circa 1918

In July 1918, Emerson P. Dibble was 20 years old, and had just arrived at Parris Island, SC for training in the United States Marine Corps in the midst of the First World War. He was far from his hometown of Southwick, MA, and excited to embark on his new adventure. Ten months later, he was back in the United States after serving in Germany and France and surviving the influenza pandemic. In that time, he had matured a great deal, spent time in numerous military camps and hospitals, and contracted tuberculosis, which would eventually kill him. His letters home during this time are filled with personality, and by reading his words, it is easy to picture this lively young man as he relayed his experiences to his family.

Although his letters primarily cover just a few short years, they provide a human lens through which to examine important topics, such as the First World War and the influenza pandemic. Despite never seeing combat while in Europe, Dibble’s letters describe many aspects of soldiering, from drill to guard duty to the food. His letters shine light on the less glamorous day-to-day features of military life. He writes about many topics that most soldiers could speak to—food, care packages, camp conditions—but that do not fit the typical image of the First World War’s trenches and battles. Throughout his time in the military, Dibble retains his sense of humor and excitement about new experiences. He describes eating watermelon on the train ride to Parris Island, working in the kitchens at a military hospital in Bordeaux, and meeting French girls. He also describes the harsher realities of war: homesickness, worrying about his family, and the inconsistencies of the mail delivery. Across ten months, he matures a great deal without losing his sense of humor and liveliness.

Emerson P. Dibble letter written 27 March 1919,
Emerson P. Dibble to Millie Holcomb Dibble, 27 March 1919, discussing the food at the military hospital in Bordeaux, France

The portions of his letters that most clearly show his maturation are those that discuss the influenza pandemic. Dibble’s letters display the evolution of his feelings about the influenza and his fears for his family back home. At first, he is unconcerned with the outbreak and is convinced that it is simply the common flu. As time goes on and he begins to hear of the seriousness of the outbreak, and especially once he is in Europe and large passages of time go by without letters from home, he becomes increasingly concerned about his family and fearful of hearing that any of them are sick. Despite Dibble himself falling ill with influenza, he is still most concerned about his family and their health. Through these letters, the fear he was feeling and the uncertainty of the time are clear and moving. He even writes to his stepmother, Millie, that if it was not for his fiancé, Olive, he “wouldn’t care a d—n about coming back to the States if either” Millie or his father died of influenza (Emerson P. Dibble to Millie Holcomb Dibble, 18 January 1919).

Emerson P. Dibble  letter discussing French girls
Emerson P. Dibble to Millie Holcomb Dibble, 27 March 1919, discussing French girls

Through his letters, you really get a sense of Dibble and feel connected to him. The happiness and hardships he faced blend together into a compellingly human story. He was bored by the regimentation of the military but felt it was good for him, he frequently used slang in his letters and enjoyed learning French and German phrases, and he worried about his family while urging them not to worry about him. By the time he returns to the United States in May of 1919, you feel connected to this young man, which is part of why the last years of his papers are so difficult to read. When he returned to the United States, he was already ill with tuberculosis, although he did not yet know this. In three years, he was dead. He returned stateside happy to be close to going home and convinced that the doctors would soon cure him. His fast decline is jarring and heartbreaking. He was of his time, a time that was deadly through war and disease. His letters are full of personality and provide us with an unflinchingly human look at the time in which he lived. Although Emerson P. Dibble did not live to be very old, his letters can teach us a great deal about him and the time in which he lived.

This Week @MHS

We have a couple of evening programs and a gallery talk scheduled at the MHS this week. Here is a look:

On Tuesday, 10 September, at 6:00 PM: Properties of Empire: Indians, Colonists, & Land Speculators on the New England with Ian Saxine. Properties of Empire challenges assumptions about the relationship between Indigenous and imperial property creation in early America. Many colonists came to believe their prosperity depended on acknowledging Indigenous land rights and Wabanaki Indians’ unity allowed them to forcefully project their own interpretations of poorly remembered land deeds and treaties. The ongoing struggle to construct a commonly agreed-upon culture of landownership shaped diplomacy, imperial administration, and matters of colonial law in powerful ways, and its legacy remains with us today. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Thursday, 12 September, at 6:00 PM: Benjamin Franklin’s Influence on Jewish Thought & Practice with Shai Afsai. In his 20s, Benjamin Franklin resolved to perfect his character, devising a self-improvement method to aid him in the challenging task of becoming virtuous and intending to complete a book on its use. This method was eventually incorporated into the Jewish ethical tradition through the publication, in 1808, of Rabbi Mendel Lefin’s Book of Spiritual Accounting, which made it available to Hebrew-reading audiences. Shai Afsai discusses this surprising historical development, which has often confused Judaic scholars, and of which Franklin specialists have been largely oblivious. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Friday, 13 September, at 2:00 PM: Abigail Adams: Independence & Ideals, pop-up display and talk. Join an Adams Papers editor for an in-depth look at the display. Never “an uninterested Spectator” when it came to the American political landscape, Abigail Adams leveraged a wide network of correspondents to discuss her vision of the emerging nation. The display will be on view through 21 September.

On Saturday, 14 September, at 10:00 AM: The History & Collections of the MHS. This is a 90-minute docent-led walk through of our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Featuring dynamic imagery from the collection of the MHS, the exhibition illustrates the passion on each side of the suffrage question. For over a century, Americans debated whether women should vote. The materials on display demonstrate the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. While women at the polls may seem unremarkable today, these contentious campaigns formed the foundations for modern debates about gender and politics.

Please note that on Tuesday, 10 September the MHS library and galleries will open at 12:00 PM.

Announcing 2020-2021 MHS Research Fellowships!

By Katy Morris, Research Coordinator and Book Review Editor

Have you ever wondered about conducting research at the MHS? If you are a local scholar, you can hop on the T, make your way to 1154 Boylston Street, and browse our unparalleled collections. You might even stay for a Brown-bag Lunch program or seminar session and network with other scholars. The robust MHS community is right in your backyard.

But if you aren’t local, you may know that traveling to an archive can be a financial burden. Research trips often translate to short stints, crammed in between a teaching load, writing, and endless commitments. Does this sound familiar?  This is where research fellowships can be a valuable resource. The precious funds fellowships provide can help you carve a few weeks out of your schedule to focus on research. As a grad student or early-career academic, you likely know the difference it makes to secure funding for these trips. As a scholar at any level, you know how generative that immersive research can be.

At the MHS we are proud to offer more than forty research fellowships for the academic year 2020-2021. These opportunities range from short-term funding (4-8 weeks) to long-term residency (4-12 months). We look for cutting-edge research that makes significant historiographical contributions and that effectively uses our unique collections. To learn more about our fellowship opportunities – including eligibility, application requirements, and past recipients – be sure to visit our website and review the FAQ.

Our new and improved submission portal is now open and accepting applications. We look forward to reviewing your proposals!

MHS Research Fellowships:

The Society will offer at least two MHS-NEH Long-term Fellowships made possible by an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The stipend, governed by an NEH formula, is $5,000 per month (plus an additional stipend for housing and professional expenses) for a minimum of four months and a maximum of twelve months continuous tenure. These fellowships are for scholars conducting research in the Society’s collections who have completed the terminal degree in their field (typically a Ph.D.) by the application deadline. DEADLINE: JANUARY 15, 2020 

MHS Short-term Fellowships carry a stipend of $2,000 to support four or more weeks of research in the Society’s collections. In addition to general awards, short term fellowships include thematic awards, such as those in African American studies, New England history, American religious history, environmental history, military history, women’s history, and the histories of graphic and printed materials. One application automatically puts you into consideration for any applicable short-term fellowships. Graduate students, faculty, and independent researchers are welcome to apply. We will offer more than twenty short-term fellowships in the coming year. DEADLINE: MARCH 1, 2020

For those studying the U.S. Civil War, its causes, or its memory, the Boston Athenaeum and the MHS will offer one Suzanne and Caleb Loring Fellowship on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences. Fellows spend at least four weeks at each institution. This fellowship carries a stipend of $4,000. DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 15, 2020

The Society also participates in the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium. Thirty cultural institutions will offer a minimum of twenty fellowships in 2020-2021. These grants provide a stipend of $5,000 for minimum of eight weeks of research conducted at three or more participating institutions. With an NERFC (or “nerf-c” as it is affectionately known) you will enter the incredible network of New England archives and cultural institutions that will help you make new discoveries. DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 1, 2020

From the Papers of JQA’s Diary

by Doug Girardot, Adams Papers Intern

John Quincy Adams, after 1860
Carte de visite of daguerrotype by Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries, [Matthew B. Brady], after 1860
In June, I began my internship with the Adams Papers editorial project at the MHS and started working on the Diary of John Quincy Adams, led by the wonderful Neal Millikan.

There was just one problem: I didn’t care about John Quincy Adams. What’s more, I knew almost nothing about him, apart from the fact that he was John Adams’s son and served as president.

As it turns out, your perceptions of someone change a lot when you read dozens upon dozens of pages from their personal diary. After transcribing and proofreading several months’ worth of his writings and doing web encoding for over a year of entries, I ended up getting to know quite a bit about the ins and outs of John Quincy Adams. Three months or so later, I think JQA, as we affectionately abbreviate him in the Adams Papers, is one of the most fascinating figures in American history.

JQA kept a behemoth of a personal record: his diary comprises fifty-one volumes, which he wrote over the course of 68 years beginning when he was twelve years old. They provide an unparalleled window onto the period between the nation’s founding in the last quarter of the 1700s and the time when a distinct national identity of the United States began to coalesce by the mid-1800s.

Despite the Homeric scale of his diaries, their small details are even more interesting than the grand geopolitical narratives which they convey.

His writings about religion are fascinating, and it’s amazing to glance into what religion looked like in the adolescent years of an independent America. Every Sunday, JQA quoted the readings from church and summarized the preacher’s sermon. Then, he bluntly—and often ruthlessly—critiqued the homilist’s eloquence and speaking style before proceeding to give his judgement on the theological contents and coherence of the sermon itself. About Rev. William Newell, minister of the First Parish of Cambridge, JQA wrote:

“His discourses are sensible and moral, but neither brilliant nor profound. The theological school at Cambridge, is yearly producing several such clergymen, and they are introducing a uniformity of composition and delivery, superior to those of their predecessors of the last age, but which leaves a desire for more variety at least of manner—” (28 August 1836)

Good reviews from JQA—something like the Roger Ebert of his time for religious services—were few and far between.

And while it is intellectually interesting to read about his solemn take on religion, it is outright fun to read words crafted in his decidedly less pious side. Peppered throughout his diary are insults which only a well-traveled, bookish, Harvard-educated, diplomat-turned-president-turned-legislator could concoct. Take this passage from his time in Congress, in which he gracefully provided his thoughts on prospective presidential candidates for the election of 1844:

“Buchanan is the shadow of a shade and General Scott is a Daguerrotype likeness of a candidate—all sunshine, through a camera obscura. . . . M’Lean, is but a second edition of John Tyler—vitally democratic, double-dealing and hypocritical—” (3 April 1843)

While at first it can be challenging to connect with someone from around two hundred years ago, for whom daguerreotype was modern technology, a further look provides glimpses of timeless humanity that makes JQA resemble what he really was—a person.

This comes through in his reflections on the quotidian tasks of keeping up with his correspondence, diary, and speeches, all of which he spent countless hours composing in addition to his regular duties as a statesman. Though JQA may have been a prolific and erudite writer, it didn’t come easily. Many a student in the midst of a paper can relate to his comments regarding backlogged diary entries which he was working on:

“Had I spent upon any work of Science or Literature, the time employed upon this Diary, it might perhaps have been permanently useful to my Children and my Country— I have devoted too much time to it— My physical powers sink under it—” (20 March 1821)

Diary entry for 20 March 1821 by JQA
John Quincy Adams diary, 20 March 1821

More than simply an austere historical figure, JQA strikes me in his writing as a genuinely good person, striving to do what was right. Toward the end of his life, he undertook the writing of a speech to advocate for the abolition of slavery. While it was a daunting and exhausting project, JQA pressed on, determined

“to leave behind me something which may keep alive the flame of liberty and preserve it in that conflict between Slavery and freedom which is drawing to its crisis and which is to brighten, or to darken the condition of the human race upon earth—” (11 April 1843)

Keeping up with his writing might have been a constant source of pressure for JQA, but I am certainly grateful that he did it anyway. Without these invaluable records, he might well have remained just another name in a textbook for me. Fortunately, interning at the MHS has furnished me the opportunity to discover the vibrant, devoted, intelligent, sometimes curmudgeonly, but always loveable character that he was.

George Hyland’s Diary, September 1919

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

Today, we return to the diary of George Hyland. If this is your first time encountering our 2019 diary series, catch up by reading the January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August 1919 installments first!

September finds George still settling into his tenement housing, returning to the James place several times to assist the James family with the moving of furniture and small repairs. His new home, which he rents at $12/month, is above a store run by J.H. Vinal across from the railroad station in North Scituate. “Cars go close by here,” Hyland observes in his Labor Day entry.

Map showing North Scituate railway station, 1930
A map detail showing the location of the North Scituate railway station, 1930. Map from Welcome to the Pilgrims of 1930 (Scituate, Mass.).

The late-summer, early-autumn crops are ready to be harvested and George spends much of his work days in September picking beans, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, and peaches, and tending to other crops. On the 12th he gets an irritant in his eye — he suspects lime — which becomes “swollen and painfull,” and on the 14th he treats it with a solution of water and boracic acid. On the 26th he eats his evening meal at the home of an acquaintance, Benjamin Briggs, where he approvingly notes that they serve “corned beef that the U.S. Gov. bought for the American troops in the late war in Europe — about 50 million pounds are being sold to the people in this country — it is very good meat.” He continues to play the guitar nearly every night for an hour or longer.

Join me in following George day-by-day through September 1919.

* * *

PAGE 340 (cont’d)

Sept 1. (Labor Day) fog and rain nearly all day. Moved some of my things in to my new home opp. the R.R. station, N. Scituate. Cars go close by here — only about 40 feet from the house. Eve. foggy light rain. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

2d. Light rain at times all day. Worked in Mr. James’s house all day — getting his furniture from the chambers and dusting it. Also washed the floors and cleaned the rooms. Moved nearly all my things early in eve. Eve. foggy. W.N.E. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Carried my things there in wheelbarrow.

3d. Worked in Mr. James’s house. Cleaned the stove, sink, and the rooms, set up bedstead, and did other work there. Mrs. Russell Wilder (nee Vera White) called there to engage me to do some work, also L. F. Hyland. Hyland called to get me to pick beans to-morrow. Rain nearly all day and eve. Moved the last of my things from the house early in eve. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Rain nearly all night — W.N.E.

4th. Picked beans 6 hours for L. F. Hyland (7 1/2 bus.) — 1.50. Had dinner there. Walked 1 1/4 miles — rode 1 1/4 miles with Ethel Merritt — in her automobile. Ret. walked 1 1/2 miles — rode 1 mile with Mrs. Fletcher in auto. Early in eve mowed grass and weeded back of and one side of the store — and house — ten. where I now live — also raked and piled it up. Also got some of my tools from a building on James place. Carried some bread and put it where the sparrows can get it to-morrow. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours late in eve. Fine weather. W.N.W. Clear. Warm. Fine eve. Very wet on low grounds now — meadows full of water. Called at Uncle Samuel’s. Sarah has gone back to Campello, and little Elizabeth is there — I gave her a large plum. Got Sarah’s milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Ethel got it.

5th. Worked 6 1/2 hours for Mrs. Russell Wilder X — mowing lawn, trimming rose bushes, weeding flower gardens, and other work — 2.00. Very fine weather, clear; W.S.E. called at Mrs. Mary Wilder’s (nee Bates) borrowed a lawn rake there. The river is bank [sic] full of water — some of it in her cellar. Mowed some grass and weeds back of this house early in eve. Played the guitar 1 hour in eve. Fine eve. W.N.W. (X nee Vera White)

6th. Worked 7 1/2 hours for H. Bruce Fletcher — cutting down trees and proping [sic] up branches of apple trees (they are very heavy with fruit) — 2.25. Mrs. F. and Mr. F. came over to the orchard — large orchard — walked up ret. rode 2 miles with Merton Burbank — in auto truck — he had a load of produce to deliver to their customers. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Hot weather. W.S.W. tem. about 62-88. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

7th. (Sun.) In aft. called at W.I. Lincoln’s — 1 1/2 hours. Martha gave me 7 cookies. Late in aft. went to Scituate Harbor — rode to Bay St., Egypt with W. I. Lincoln, Clinton, Merritt, and little Isaah Lincoln, Martha Lincoln, M. L. and I in back of front seat — in auto truck. We went to the Norwell farm. Then I walked to S. Har. Called at Scott Gannett’s place — (on Willow St.) owner of the house where I live now. Met Mary DeWire on Willow St. Called at Mrs. Talbot’s, Egypt. Had supper and spent eve. there. Walked home in eve. arr. 7.45 P.M.

PAGE 341

Sep. 7. [cont’d] A lady boarder at Mrs. Talbot’s gave me some candy. Hot weather to-day. Tem. 65-87 W.W.

8th. Picked beans (11 bus.) 7 1/2 hours for L. F. Hyland — 2.20. Hiram Litchfield also picked beans there — next to my home — the grey cat came there to see me. I had dinner at L.F. Hyland’s. Walked nearly up there. Rode 1/4 mile in school […] with Prescott Damon. Walked back. Got some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Called at Uncle Samuel’s — gave Elizabeth some of the candy the lady at Mrs. T’s gave. Elizabeth gave me 8 pears to carry home. I had 2 N.Y. Sun. papers to bring home — were sent to me by David Whiton, Groton, […]. Very hot weather — tem. 68-90; W.W. While on way home the wind suddenly changed to N.E. with strong breeze. Began to rain just before I arr. home. Thunder Tempest from 6 P.M. to 10:15 P.M. all around here very near at times. 10:30 P.M. another tempest began W. of here. Played on the guitar 1 ¼ hours in eve.

9th. Light rain all day and eve. W.N.E. tem. About 50-57. Did some work at home — repaired the door on the woodhouse. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

10th. Cloudy. Very damp and wet. W.E. Worked on the James place 5 hours — mowing with sickle, lawn mower, and shears. J.H. Vinal gave me 1 1/4 pounds of meat last eve. (Lamb.) to fry also gave 2 pails — peanut butter pails — pails with handles — good for water pails. Eve. clou. Played on the guitar 1 1/2 hours in eve.

11th. Worked on the James place 6 hours – I have mowed all over the place — with sickle, shears, and lawn mower and sythe, and worked on the walk — dug weeds out and raked it over. Very damp. W.E. Cloudy. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Eve foggy. Heavy rain late in night.

12th. Mowed front and around the house and picked pears 4 hours for Mrs. M.G. Seaverns — 1.20. Forenoon cloudy — light rain for a short time. Aft. clear, windy. N.W. Eve. clou. to par. Clou. W.N.N.N. Played on the guitar 1 h. 10 min. in eve. My left eye is hurt probably some lime got into [it] from a shelf in one of the rooms here. Picked some tomatoes in my garden late in aft. Also picked 4 good peaches from a tree there — all there was on the tree.

13th. In forenoon mowed lawn and around the house 3 1/2 hours for Mason Litchfield — 65. In aft. mowed lawn and bank 3 3/4 hours for Mrs. Eudora Bailey — 50. Fine weather. Clear. Warm. W.N.W. fine eve. Played on the guitar 1 h. 10 min. in eve.

14th. (Sun.) Fine weather; clear. W.N.W. Late in aft. went up to my old house, got some grapes (red) on the apple tree — W. side of the house. Called at Uncle Samuel’s. Ellen gave me some boracic acid — mixed with water (1 teaspoonfull [sic] to a glass of water) to wash my left eye which is swollen and painfull [sic]. Rode up with Ellery and S.E. Hyland — in auto. Walked back in eve. Called at Andrew Bates’ and bought some milk. Nellie G. Sharpe called here about 8:45 P.M. to see if I will pick beans for L.F. Hyland (her grandfather). She is a lovely girl — is my 3d cousin. Eve. cloudy. Very damp. W.M.W.

15th. Picked beans (6 bus.) 4 hours for L.F. Litchfield. Picked beans and had dinner there — he has let his house and moved into the house in Beechwood. Walked up and back. Began rain at 12:45 P.M. and rained all aft. Got wet. Stopped at Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Ethel got it. Eve. clou. Very damp. Called at Uncle Samuel’s gave Ellen and Elizabeth 2 peaches from the James place — tree in my garden.

16th. Worked 5 1/4 hours for Mrs. Russell Wilder — trimming edges of walks and digging them up and […] them. Also trimmed next to St. (State Road) — 1.60. Cloudy; W.E. Mr. James arr. At his home from Spokane, Wash. Late in aft. His wife, and his son’s wife came with him. I went there and helped to get their things where they wanted them. Charles also helped them. Fred T. Bailey helped me move the […] sofa bed from the S. front room (where I had put it last week) into the N. front room through very narrow doors — difficult job. The N. room was my music room when I lived there. Mr. James’ daughter-in-law is a very beautiful young woman. Rain all eve. Wind E. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mr. James brought a dog from Wash.

17th. Worked 6 hours for Mr. James. Made slats for bedstead, moved furniture and etc. Mrs. James and I got the furniture from the garret and set it up. Put up shelves for maps and etc., laid a new carpet on the parlor floor and got everything set up in all the rooms. Weather fair. Warm. W.N.W. Eve. clear. Played on the guitar 1 h. 10 min in eve. Mrs. James lives in Seattle, Wash. born in W. Va.

18th. Worked 6 hours for Russell Wilder splitting and housing wood, cutting up old board and etc. and picking dry beans — 1.80. Fine weather. Cool; W.S.E. Eve. cool. Cut my hair in eve. in an Italian barber his shop only about 20 ft. from here — belongs to same man who owns this house (and store). Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mrs. Vera Wilder pays me every night when I work for them.

Yesterday the 1st Division Regulars marched through Washington D.C. — they have just returned from Germany.

19th. Worked 7 hours for Russell Wilder mowing and trimming, digging potatoes — 2.10. Fine weather. Clear. Cool — max. Tem. 70. Mr. James called here late in aft. He thinks I have a good place (in the tenement over the store) he looked in all the rooms. His dog came up here with him. Mr. J is 96 years of age — so his daughter-in-law told me. I played on the guitar 1 ½ hours in eve.

20th. Worked 7 hours for Russell Wilder — diging [sic] potatoes, picking beans, sawing, splitting, and housing wood — 2.10. Warm weather.– tem. about 85. W.S.W. late in aft. Went up to Frank Clapp’s place and fed his horse, pig and chickens — he went away to-day — to stay 2 days. Eve. warm. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

21st. (Sun.) Very warm weather — W.S.W. tem. About 65-88. In morning went up to Frank Clapp’s and fed his horse, pig and chickens — F.C. arr. Home early in eve. I called there early in eve. He paid me 1.00 for doing the chores. Then I went on to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Eve. warm and muggy.

22d. Worked 7 1/4 hours for Frank Clapp — picking tomatoes and tieing [sic] up cauliflowers. F.C. and Mrs. [blank space for name] also worked there. We rode there in his auto-truck. Mrs. [blank space for name] runs it. We came back at noon and went there again in aft. (to his farm in Norwell). Began to rain at 4:20 P.M. Very warm (87) and muggy. Played on the guitar 1 ¼ hours in eve. Ellery Hyland here 1/2 hour in eve. Stopped at Waldo Litchfield’s and bought some milk. Made 2.17 to-day. Had my dinner here to-day.

23d. Light rain at times W.N.W. Cool. In aft. worked 3 hours for Mr. James — setting up furniture and clearing out his storehouse — very dirty place — about 20 wheelbarrow loads of coal ashes and rubbish in

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it. Cleared it to be used as a wood house — also made a platform to put his large oil can on and place to put a lamp — or a small can when getting oil out of it. Rain late in aft. and in eve. Paid the rent for Sept. to-day — $12.00. Paid it to J. H. Vinal — Mr. Scott Gannett told me I could pay it to him, as I am seldom here except in eve. and prob. would not be here when he called to collect the rent for his houses and other places.

24th. Worked 6 3/4 hours for Russell and Mrs. Vera Wilder — mowing lawn and trimming grass around lawn. Made a circular flower garden, chopped up boxes and barrels, and housed the wood, and did other work — 2.00. Fine weather, W.E. Clear, eve. Clear. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mrs. Wilder called here about 9:15 P.M. and said they would like to have me come to their place to-morrow morning and get a load of coal into the cellar — 1 1/4 tons it was brought there in a large auto-truck and the trucked got mired in the soft ground — and I will have to unload it where it is. 9:25 P.M. rained about 30 minutes […].

25th. In forenoon worked 4 hours X for Russell Wilder unloading and housing coal and filling up […] with bricks and coal ashes. Mrs. Mary Wilder — his mother, gave me 2 nice doughnuts. In aft. Went grapeing — picked 10 qts. of very fine wild grapes. Called at Uncle Samuel’s and E. Hyland’s — Ellery Hyland brought my grapes here in eve. I walked up and back — walked 6 miles — 3 miles through rough, wet and briers and tall grass and bushes. Called at Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk — she put in an extra pint — in my pail — fine weather. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. — X 1.20 work for R Wilder.

26th. Worked 8 hours for E. Frank Clapp — picking tomatoes and tieing cauliflowers — his Norwell farm. Carried a lunch — but had dinner at Benjamin Briggs’: they had some of the caned [sic] corned beef that the U.S. Gov. bought for the American troops in the late war in Europe — about 50 million pounds are being sold to the people in this country — it is very good meat. Rode to the farm in E.F. Clapp’s market wagon — I went there alone with the horse and wagon — brought back the tomatoes that I picked. Fine weather — clear — W.N.W. in forenoon. S.E. in aft. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve.

27th. Worked 8 hours for E. Frank Clapp. — picking tomatoes and tieing up cauliflowers. Fine weather. Clear; W.N.E. to S.E. rode up to the farm and back — with the horse — in wagon. Had dinner at B. Briggs; bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Eve. clear. Cold. Played on the guitar 1 1/4 hours in eve. Mrs. [blank space for name] gave me a pint jar of tomatoes to take home — she comes up to the farm every day — and works there part of the time — She is E.F. Clapp’s […] and housekeeper.

28th. (Sun.) Fine weather, W.N.E. to S.E. Called at W. F. Lincoln’s in aft. (2 h.) he gave me some grapes. Fine eve.

29th. Picked beans and tied up cauliflowers — 8 hours for E. Frank Clapp — rode up and back with his horse and wagon. Had dinner at B. Briggs’ part of which I carried there. Very fine weather W.N.W in forenoon — S.E. in aft. Clear and warm. W.S.S.W. in eve. Cloudy late in eve.

30th. Worked 8 hours for E. Frank Clapp – [space left blank] Hot weather W.S.W. tem. about 85. W.N.W. and cloudy after 4 P.M. picked beans, carried cauliflowers out of the field — to a place near the gate (35 bus.) E.F.C. and Mrs. [space left blank for name] worked on the cauliflowers — after 3 P.M. I picked and loaded 10 bus. of tomatoes. Went with the horse and wagon — they went in the auto! — They went to Boston with a load. Emma Fletcher — in auto. I arr. house at 7:30 P.M. Played on the guitar 1 h. 5 min. in eve. Had lunch at B. Briggs. Got a […] to-day.

* * *

If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

*Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The catalog record for the George Hyland’s diary may be found here. Hyland’s diary came to us as part of a collection of records related to Hingham, Massachusetts, the catalog record for this larger collection may be found here.

This Week @MHS

Here is a look at what is going on this week:

On Saturday, 7 September, at 4:00 PM: Legacies of 1619: Recognition & Resilience with Kerri Greenidge, Tufts University; David Krugler, University of Wisconsin—Platteville; and Peter Wirzbicki, Princeton University; and moderator Robert Bellinger, Suffolk University. The institution of slavery in English North America began in 1619 with the arrival of roughly 20 Africans in the settlement of Jamestown. What has followed has been 400 years of exploitation and discrimination in many different forms. However, telling this story is not complete without an exploration of how African American communities have created culture and institutions that have survived despite these challenges. This program will explore both structures of exploitation and forms of resistance. This program is part one of a four program series titled Legacies of 1619. The series is co-sponsored by the Museum of African American History and the Roxbury Community College. A pre-talk reception begins at 3:30; the speaking program begins at 4:00 PM. This program will held at the Museum of African American History, 46 Joy Street, Boston.

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Featuring dynamic imagery from the collection of the MHS, the exhibition illustrates the passion on each side of the suffrage question. For over a century, Americans debated whether women should vote. The materials on display demonstrate the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. While women at the polls may seem unremarkable today, these contentious campaigns formed the foundations for modern debates about gender and politics.

Across the Rappahannock: The Civil War Letters of Dwight Emerson Armstrong, Part VI

By Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

This is the sixth post in a series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

We return today to the story of Dwight Emerson Armstrong of the 10th Massachusetts Infantry. About two weeks after we left him, Dwight’s regiment fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., 11-15 December 1862.

Map of the Field of Fredericksburg, December 1862
“The Field of Fredericksburg,” from The Antietam and Fredericksburg by F. W. Palfrey (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1882)

Dwight described the battle to his older sister Mary (Armstrong) Needham in a detailed eight-page letter, dated 21 December. He’d survived “without a scratch,” but there was no denying that Fredericksburg was a devastating loss for the Union. Dwight told Mary about the perilous crossing over the Rappahannock River via pontoon bridge, under fire, in the bitter cold, as well as the uncanny proximity of the enemy in the dark (“we could hear them cough”).

After the battle, writing from the relative safety of the Union camp at Falmouth on the other side of the river, Dwight was still shaken: “It makes me almost tremble now, when I think what a hole we were in. […] Some one is to blame for all this loss of life; and who it is time will show.” However, he reassured Mary, as he usually did, and with his characteristic humor.

You need not give yourself any trouble about my sufferings; it is not so bad as you imagine it to be. I have got toughened to it, so that heat, and cold, storm, and sunshine, have as little effect on me, as it does on that old bundle of cloaks, and hoods that used to travel around in Wendell [Mass.] with Aunt Sally Taft inside of them.

Dwight may have been “toughened,” but he was also very discouraged. He asked, “What have we gained? I know something of what we lost.” And he wasn’t alone. On 4 December 1862, an article appeared in a Massachusetts paper, the Springfield Republican, written by Springfield’s own William Birnie. Birnie was just back from a good-will visit to Union troops in Virginia. In his article, he described the men of the 10th Regiment as “demoralized,” “disaffected,” and “disheartened.”

His words received some backlash, but judging from Dwight’s letters, they were true. In fact, Dwight was probably quoting Birnie when he called his own regiment “the demoralized 10th.” Dwight was especially angry at politicians in Washington who sent men to fight but took “good care to keep beyond the range of the bullets.” He told Mary that he hoped no more men would be drafted.

I hope there wont a man come as long as things go on at this rate. As long as there is such a set of numbskulls in Washington it is throwing away lives for nothing. […] All he [General-in-Chief Henry Halleck] ever was put in command for, was because he was such a short-sighted old blunderbuss.

It was during this time that Dwight wrote what I think are some of his most compelling letters. First there’s this passage:

I do hope, though, that something will be done to stop this miserable buisness, before many weeks. I beleive if the privates of both armies, could get together, they could settle it pretty easy. The day before we recrossed the Rappahannock, there was’nt any fighting in the part of the field where I was; and our skirmishers, and theirs […] got up a treaty of peace among themselves; each side agreeing not to fire on the other unless obliged to do so. They had a fine time, and appeared to be great friends, for such enemies. It did look odd enough, to see the same men, who the day before were doing their best to kill each other talking together, and swapping whiskey and tobacco, for coffee and salt, and such like.

The day Dwight is describing is 14 December 1862, right in the middle of the Battle of Fredericksburg. The two sides had been firing at each other the day before, but on the 14th there was a lull in the fighting as both Union and Confederate troops waited in reserve on the field. The battle resumed the following day, and the South successfully drove the North back across the Rappahannock.

Now on separate sides of the river—and in spite of orders to the contrary—the soldiers continued their fraternization. Here’s what happened on 10 January 1863:

Our pickets are on one bank, and theirs on the other. Both sides are very peaceable, and I am not particularly anxious to have them go to fighting again. The river is so narrow, where I was, that we could talk with them very easily. When I went on guard down there, I stuck my gun up in the ground, and let it be there. My neighbors on the opposite bank did the same, and we walked back and forth, as pleasantly as though no such thing as war ever cursed the earth. Each side had strict orders not to talk with the other, so we had to keep mum most of the time. I couldn’t turn my back to them without a sort of crawling sensation, as though a bullet might possibly be coming after me, but I dont suppose they would have shot me any more than I would them.

Letter from Dwight Armstrong to his sister Mary
Letter from Dwight Armstrong to Mary (Armstrong) Needham, 17 Jan. 1863

These illicit meetings are confirmed in Joseph K. Newell’s 1875 history of the regiment, “Ours”: Annals of the 10th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers in the Rebellion. (Newell was himself a member of the 10th.) The soldiers even used a small sailboat to exchange newspapers, coffee, tobacco, and personal messages.

Join me in a few weeks here at the Beehive for the next installment of Dwight’s story.