Dr. Lincoln R. Stone, Civil War Surgeon

By Katherine Dannehl, Reader Services

Gallipolis, Ohio is a village of 3,462 people nestled on the banks of the Ohio River. It has a few claims to fame, including being the birthplace of artist Jenny Holzer and hometown of Bob Evans of “Bob Evans” restaurants. Unrelated to conceptual art or country-themed restaurants, the town also played a major role in the American Civil War as the site of an extensive U.S. Army General Hospital for Civil War soldiers.

From the society’s collections: a hand-drawn map of the hospital, which stood from April 1862 until July 1865

 

The (unknown) artist drew detailed representations of the multi-building hospital, numbering and labeling each structure at the bottom of the map.

“Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 are hospital ward buildings.”

 

The first four buildings are the dedicated hospital wards for the sick and injured. Building 5 is the two-in-one office and dispensary. The surgeon’s quarters and staff quarters are buildings 6 and 7, respectively. A dining hall and kitchen, house for the dead, bakery, laundry and linen room, stable, carpenter’s shop, and coal house round out the number of buildings at 14.

 

The hospital map is officially titled in our online catalog, ABIGAIL, as “Plan of U. S. A. Hospital at Gallipolis, Ohio, where Dr. and Mrs. Lincoln R. Stone spent the first seventeen months of their married life.” A military hospital doesn’t sound like an ideal place to honeymoon, but Dr. Lincoln R. Stone of Newton, Massachusetts was called to action to become the head surgeon of the hospital at Gallipolis immediately after his wedding in February 1864. He would reside there until the hospital’s closure in July 1865.

From the National Museum of African American History and Culture


A native of Maine, Dr. Stone graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1854 and worked at Massachusetts General Hospital for a year before opening his own medical practice. In 1861, duty called him to serve as assistant surgeon to the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry. At Winchester, Virginia, Stone was taken prisoner after refusing to abandon the hospital in his charge. He survived this ordeal and continued his military service, transferring to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment upon the direct invitation of his close friend Robert Gould Shaw.

Robert Gould Shaw’s name has been buzzing through the halls of the society following our recent acquisition of the sword he wielded at Fort Wagner just before his death. Due to Dr. Stone’s consistently shifting posts at military hospitals, Dr. Stone would come to learn of Shaw’s death secondhand.

“…we learned that Col. Shaw was shot dead through the heart and was buried in the fort.”

 

In this copy of a letter from our archives, which was sent to Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, Dr. Stone himself informs the governor of Shaw’s passing and of the total loss experienced at the battle.

“The whole loss in the attack of Fort Wagner was 1,510 – of these almost one half were killed.”


About seven months after the Fort Wagner attack, Stone married Ms. Harriet Hodges of Salem, Massachusetts and moved to Gallipolis to assume his post as resident surgeon. On October 1st, 1865, to honor his service, Stone was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Subsequently, he was mustered out on October 13th, 1865, and would return home to Newton to continue practicing medicine.

His wife Harriet Hodges Stone would become well-known to the community 30 years later as the founder of the Newton branch of the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women.

Dr. Stone would come to live well into his nineties. He is buried at Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts with his family.

To view these featured American Civil War materials in person, consider visiting the library at MHS. If you get here sometime this summer, you can view Robert Gould Shaw’s sword while you’re at it!

You can also find additional information about the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women within our collections, though you will find those specific to the Newton branch and Harriet Hodges Stone at Harvard’s Houghton Library.

In Gallipolis you can visit the historical marker where the U.S. Army General Hospital once stood, on the corner of Ohio and Buckeye Avenues.

*****

Sources and Related Materials:

Marquis, Albert Nelson, ed. Who’s who in New England: A biographical dictionary of leading living men and women of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Chicago: A.N. Marquis & Company, 1916. https://books.google.com/books?id=RmUTAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false

“12-27 U.S. Army General Hospital,” Remarkable Ohio, accessed July 29, 2017, http://www.remarkableohio.org/index.php?/category/435

Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women. Newton Branch Committee. Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women Newton Branch Committee records, 1894-1902. http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/deepLink?_collection=oasis&uniqueId=hou02149

United States. Army. General Hospital, Gallipolis, Ohio. Army General Hospital of Gallipolis, Ohio: Correspondence, orders, rules, and regulations. 1864-1865. Located in: Modern Manuscripts Collection, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD; MS C 24. https://oculus.nlm.nih.gov/cgi/f/findaid/findaid-idx?c=nlmfindaid;idno=army024

“Carte-de-visite album of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment,” National Museum of African American History and Culture, accessed July 28, 2017, https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2014.115.8#

 

Winslow Homer’s Civil War reporting for Harper’s Weekly

By Alex Bush, Reader Services

While searching through the MHS’ library catalog, ABIGAIL, for records relating to Mr. Sidney Homer, an 1860s inventor, I stumbled upon a trove of graphics created by Winslow Homer. As a fan of Homer, I admonished myself for not being aware that we had any of his artworks here at the MHS. I did not, however, find any of Homer’s famous paintings in our stacks. Instead, I found evidence of an oft-overlooked part of Homer’s artistic career.

Known for his dramatic depictions of the ocean and idyllic images of country life, Homer’s career as a painter began to take off after his late-twenties. However, he showed artistic talent much earlier in his life in the form of sketches, prints, and other black-and-white media. This includes the MHS’ holdings, a selection of some of Homer’s lesser known work from this earlier period of his life, consisting in-part of prints he created for Harper’s Weekly as an artist-reporter during the Civil War.

Following an arduous apprenticeship at the Boston lithographer J.H. Bufford, 21 year-old Winslow Homer was eager to begin his career as an artist free from the shackles of any sort of contracted work. He became a freelance illustrator, submitting pieces to magazines such as Harper’s or Ballou’s Pictorial. When he was offered a contract as a staff artist for Harper’s in 1860, he turned it down. “The slavery at Bufford’s was too fresh in my recollection to let me care to bind myself again,” he later stated. “From the time I took my nose off that lithographic stone, I have had no master; and never shall have any.” However, after completing a commission from Harper’s to cover the presidential inauguration of Abraham Lincoln at the dawn of the Civil War, Homer began a stint with Harper’s that would end up becoming a formative part of his early career as an artist.

 

 “Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln entering the senate chamber before the inauguration. – (From a sketch by our Special Artist.)” Harper’s Weekly, March 16, 1861, p. 165

 

With photography still in its developmental period, some of the public’s best sources for images of current events were publications such as Harper’s Weekly. Based in New York City, Harper’s was a political magazine featuring news, stories, illustrations, and more. It was especially active during the Civil War, during which it had nearly 200,000 subscribers, and it worked to provide the public with images, news, and accounts from the front. Part of this endeavor included the hiring of around 30 artist-reporters, tasked with shadowing troops to the warfront and attempting to depict what they saw there. In a short but vivid description from their June 3, 1865 issue, Harper’s explained the project as follows:

They have made the weary marches and dangerous voyages. They have shared the soldiers’ fare; they have ridden and waded, climbed and floundered… The pictorial history of the war which they have written with their pencils in the field, upon their knees, upon a knapsack, upon a bulwark, upon a drum-head, upon a block, upon a canteen, upon a wet deck, in the grey dawn, in the dusk twilight, with freezing or fevered fingers…–this is a history quivering with life, faithful, terrible, romantic.

Winslow Homer was one such artist, although he was not assigned to a particular unit as were most of his colleagues. He made several trips to the front over the course of the war, but completed most of the actual depictions of what he saw there back at his studio in New York. His first trip to the front was likely around October of 1861, during which he focused on the Army of the Potomac. He did not witness any fighting as the army had recently returned from its defeat at Bull Run and was undergoing reorganization. The majority of Homer’s depictions of the war featured army life rather than actual fighting—soldiers setting up camp, eating, receiving medical care, or generally palling around. His images of camp are jovial and often humorous, highlighting the solders’ camaraderie and rowdiness. When compared with other artists’ depictions of soldiers from that time, Homer’s soldiers are distinctive in their quality of expressivity in contrast to other square-jawed, conventionally patriotic representations of “heroic” troops.  Though Homer did have a few pieces of a more patriotic nature, such as “Songs of the War” and “Our Women of the War.”

 

 Detail from “A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac,” Harper’s Weekly, Dec. 21, 1861, p. 808-809

 

Detail from “Our Women and the War,” Harper’s Weekly, Sept. 6, 1862, p. 568

 

In the spring of 1862 Homer visited the front again, and this time witnessed actual fighting. He was present in Washington to watch McClellan’s Army of the Potomac embark, and accompanied them on a transport ship to the York Peninsula in preparation for an advance on the Confederate capitol. Homer watched the month-long siege against Yorktown, but left not long after the siege ended. He completed most of his depictions of what he saw there after he returned to New York, and thus ended his stint as a “special artist” for Harper’s. He later complained to his friend John W. Beatty that Harper’s greatly reduced the size of his sketches upon printing them, sometimes squeezing 4 onto a single page and paying him only $25 for the entire page instead of $25 per artwork as was originally negotiated.

“The Army of the Potomac: a sharp-shooter on picket duty,” Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 15, 1862, p. 724

 

“Rebels outside their works at Yorktown reconnoitering with dark lanterns,” Harper’s Weekly, May 10, 1862, p. 305

 

Homer’s more famous images of the Civil War, “A Cavalry Charge” and “A Bayonet Charge,” were done after he returned to his home in New York and ended his work with Harper’s. Later drawings of army life suggest that he did make subsequent visits to the front later on in the war, but they were not part of Homer’s official work as a reporter. From here he shifted his focus to painting, although Harper’s did offer him another steady job at the end of his time at the front. Feeling intimidated by his obscurity as a painter, Homer heavily considered taking the job and vowed to his brother that he would accept the offer if his next two paintings did not sell. Unbeknownst to Homer, his brother purchased the paintings himself. Homer did not find out until years later, at which point he “swore roundly and refused to speak to his brother for weeks.” Still, this small encouragement helped to propel Homer into his career as a painter. In subsequent work he depicted scenes from war and soldiers, no doubt inspired by these early sketches.

 

All prints pictured in this post and more can be seen in their original forms in Harper’s Weekly at the MHS.

  1. Donald H. Karshan and Lloyd Goodrich, The Graphic Art of Winslow Homer, organized by the Museum of Graphic Art, New York, 1968
  2. Lloyd Goodrich, Winslow Homer, New York: Published for the Whitney Museum of American Art by Macmillan, 1944
  3. “Biography of Winslow Homer,” Winslow Homer, 2017, winslow-homer.com
  4. Amy Athey McDonald, “As embedded artist with the Union army, Winslow Homer captured life at the front,” Yale News, 20 April, 2015, http://news.yale.edu/2015/04/20/embedded-artist-union-army-winslow-homer-captured-life-front

 

 

 

A Treasure Rediscovered: The Civil War Sword of Robert Gould Shaw, 54th Regiment

By Daniel Tobias Hinchen, Reader Services

Today, the MHS is happy to unveil a recent acquisition to the collection. On 12 July the Society announced the acquisition of a significant collection of Shaw and Minturn family papers, photographs, art, and artifacts. The most remarkable item in the collection is the officer’s sword carried by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment – the first Northern regiment composed of free black volunteers. One hundred fifty-four years ago, Shaw carried the weapon during the failed assault on Fort Wagner, Morris Island, South Carolina. With sword in-hand, Shaw was shot in the chest while mounting the parapet and was killed. The sword and other personal effects were stolen from his body during the night and presumed lost.

However, the sword survives. Following acquisition of the sword from descendants of the Shaw family, the collections staff here at the MHS had the daunting task of tracing the provenance of this sword in order to ensure that it is the genuine article.

What follows is a brief chronology of Robert Gould Shaw and his sword, as laid out by Curator of Art & Artifacts Anne Bentley, and Senior Cataloger Mary Yacovone, who combed through various sources published, primary, and otherwise. [N.B. – These events are arranged chronologically but, as with much historical research, the pieces fell together in anything but clear order.]

*****

Nov. 1860 – Robert Gould Shaw (RGS) enlists in the 7th NY Militia.

28 May 1861 – RGS commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, Company H, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry.

8 July 1861 – RGS commissioned 1st Lt. in same.

10 Aug 1861 – RGS commissioned Capt. in same.

31 Mar 1863 – RGS commissioned Major, newly-formed 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

17 Apr 1863 – RGS commissioned Colonel, 54th Mass. Regt.

[mid-late April 1863?] – RGS’ uncle, George R. Russell, orders an officer’s sword for Shaw from master English swordsmith Henry Wilkinson.

11 May 1863 – Wilkinson sword no. 12506 proofed on this date, per Henry Wilkinson records.

23 May 1863 – Wilkinson sword no. 12506 etched and mounted on this date. Sold to C. F. Dennett, Esq., per Henry Wilkinson records.

28 June 1863 – RGS wrote to his mother: “Uncle George has sent me an English sword, & a flask, knife, fork, spoon &c. They have not yet come.”1

29 June [1863] – “June 29 – Monday. “Arago” in and mail from the North.”2

1 July 1863 – RGS wrote to his father that “A box of Uncle George’s containing a beautiful English sword came all right.”1

4 July 1863 – RGS wrote to his father that “All the troops, excepting the coloured Regiments, are ordered to Folly Island. … P.S. I sent you a box with some clothes & my old sword. Enclosed is receipt.”1

16 July 1863 – Mass. 54th participated in the Battle of Grimball’s Landing, James Island. RGS probably used his new Wilkinson sword in this action. First experience under fire for the 54th, which stood strong and proved its mettle covering the retreating Union forces.

18 July 1863 – Assault on Fort Wagner. RGS shot in the chest as he stood on the parapet of Ft. Wagner, sword in hand. Overnight his body was robbed of personal effects and arms and stripped to underwear. Sources differ as to the culprits.

19 July 1863 – RGS buried. According to Brig. Gen. George P. Harrison, C.S.A. writing to Luis F. Emilio much later, RGS was placed in the rifle pits below the parapet and 20 of his dead soldiers placed on top of him. Sources here differ also.

Friday 24 [July 1863] – John Ritchie diary: “Packed up Col. Shaw’s effects & expressed them North.” Ritchie later noted that he also sold the colonel’s horse.

3 June 1865 – Letter from Brigadier General Charles Jackson Paine, district commander at New Berne, N. C., to family:

Goldsboro June 3, 1865. I heard the other day of the sword of the late Robt. G. Shaw killed at Fort Wagner, in the possession of a rebel officer about sixty miles from here. I sent out and got it; the scabbard was not with it. I am going to send it on as soon as I have an opportunity.3

28 Jan 1876 – Letter from Lydia Maria Child to John Greenleaf Whittier:

I spent last winter with the parents of Colonel Shaw…The flag of the 54th Regiment was in their hall, and the sword of Colonel Shaw. There is a history about that sword. It is very handsome, being richly damascened with the United States coat-of-arms, and the letters R. G. S. beneath. It was a present from a wealthy uncle in England, and he received it a few days before the attack on Fort Wagner […] When his mother showed me the weapon she said: “This is the sword that Robert waved over his followers, as he urged them to the attack. I am so glad it was never used in battle! Not a drop of blood was ever on it. He had received it but a few days before he died.”4

Detail of the sword, showing United States Coat-of-Arms and initials R.G.S.

(Photograph by Stuart E. Mowbray)

 

1900 – At a meeting of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Commandery of Massachusetts, Brev. Lt. Solon A. Carter, U.S.V., presented a paper titled “Fourteen Months’ Service with Colored Troops,” in which he stated:

In July [1865], upon leaving the service, the late Assistant Adjutant General* was charged by General Paine with the duty of restoring the sword to Colonel Shaw’s father, and upon arrival at this home, opened a correspondence with Mr. Francis George Shaw informing him of its recovery.

The sword in question proved to be the one carried by the gallant colonel and was identified by the initials R.G.S. delicately etched upon the blade. In a postscript to one of his letters, Mr. Shaw wrote, “The sword was a present to my son from his uncle, Mr. George R. Russell, who purchased it in England and caused the etchings to be made there.”

In a subsequent letter acknowledging its receipt he says “I thank you most heartily for all the care and trouble you have taken. So far as such words may be applied to an inanimate thing it is the weapon which has done most for our colored people in this war, and it is to me likewise as well as to you a source of great satisfaction that is was recovered and restored by officers of colored troops.”

*Captain Solon A. Carter, of Leominster, Mass., served as C.J. Paine’s Assistant Adjutant General. Appointed 15 July 1864 and resigned 3 July 1865.

Mar 2017 – The sword was found in the attic of the home of Mary (McCawley) Minturn Haskins.

6 Apr 2017 – In an e-mail to MHS Curator of Art & Artifacts Anne Bentley, one of the donors stated:

Susanna Shaw Minturn is my great-grandmother and apparently was very close to her brother, RGS. Her oldest son, Robert Shaw Minturn, had no children; there were four girls and my grandfather, Hugh Minturn (who died in 1915, before his mother). I can only guess, but presumably my great-grandmother passed the sword on to my father, Robert Bowne Minturn, not her oldest grandson, but the senior by male primogeniture. My father was 15 when his grandmother died in 1926. The sword may have hung on his childhood bedroom wall.

17 Apr 2017 – Shaw sword is given to the Massachusetts Historical Society as part of a larger gift including papers and portraits.

*****

1. Shaw, Robert Gould, Blue-eyed child of fortune: the Civil War letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw / edited by Russell Duncan, (Athens : University of Georgia Press, c1992.)

2. Lt. John Ritchie’s diary, Quartermaster of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose diary was used by Luis F. Emilio in A Brave Black Regiment.

3. Paine, Sarah Cushing, Paine ancestry : the family of Robert Treat Paine, signer of the Declaration of Independence, including maternal lines / compiled by Sarah Cushing Paine ; edited by Charles Henry Page, )Boston : Printed for the family [Press of D. Clapp & Son], 1912.

4. Child, Lydia Maria Francis, Letters of Lydia Maria Child / with a biogrpahical introduction by John G. Whittier and an appendix by Wendell Phillips, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1883).

Bringing Willa Home: A Child Displaced by Civil War

By Susan Martin, Collection Services

I’ve written a few times here at the Beehive about manuscripts from the Fay-Mixter family papers, and I’d like to dive into that collection again this week. I was intrigued by four letters from December 1861, so I dug a little deeper and uncovered the story of a family separated by war and a Southern child taken in by Northern friends.

The four letters were written by Edwin Parsons to Joseph Story Fay. Fay, originally from Cambridge, Mass., moved to Savannah, Ga. in 1838 and became a prosperous cotton merchant. He was a slave-owner, but opposed secession, and before the Civil War broke out he returned to his home state of Massachusetts. When these letters were written he lived in Boston with his wife, their three children, and a child unrelated to them, the young daughter of a Mr. Sims.

 

This passage in Parsons’ first letter to Fay, dated 10 December 1861, was the first thing that caught my eye: “I will advise you in time so that you can send Mr Sims little daughter on.” Parsons continued:

It seems to me however to be a heartless piece of business on Sims part to send for her in such times. With her mother dead & father in Fort Pulaski where he may soon reap the folly of his disloyalty, it will be a sad day for the little girl to exchange the kind care of Mrs Fay, for such a home as awaits her in Georgia.

Fort Pulaski was the vital clue. Among the soldiers stationed at this Savannah garrison in December 1861 was one Capt. (later Col.) Frederick William Sims of the 1st Georgia Infantry. Other details of his biography lined up: his wife Catherine (Sullivan) Sims had died in 1858, followed by one of their two children in 1859, leaving Sims and his nine-year-old daughter Willa. Willa must have been taken in by the Fays in Boston while her father fought for the Confederacy—the disloyalty Parsons alluded to.

Sims wanted his daughter brought back to the South, presumably to live with extended family while he finished out his military service. But Parsons, who apparently acted as a kind of agent for Sims, thought it was a terrible idea. Savannah was like a ghost town after the Battle of Port Royal, and many felt the war would continue for some time. And the possibility of “some hard fighting” in Kentucky after its admission to the Confederacy would make travel difficult, if not impossible. However, on 26 December 1861, when Parsons wrote his fourth and last letter on the subject, the matter was still unresolved.

The last piece of the puzzle was a letter I’d originally passed over, not recognizing the signature. On 14 November 1861, Frederick W. Sims scrawled this short note to Joseph Story Fay on fragile onion-skin paper:

 

The bearer of this note Mr Briggs will bring Willa home with him. Will you add one more to the many favors already vouchsafed me by fitting her out for the journey. Mr B. has funds[?] to bring her out.

As this may be the last communication which will pass for some time between us I beg you to accept my heartfelt thanks for the Kindness of yourself and Mrs Fay and believe me when I wish you a long life and prosperity.

Fort Pulaski was captured by Union forces in April 1862, and Sims became a POW, later paroled. After the war, he worked as a merchant and insurance executive in Savannah and served as one of the city’s alderman from 1867-1869. He had at least six more children with his second wife, Sarah (Munroe) Sims, but most of them died young. According to newspapers, in 1875, suffering under severe financial difficulties, Sims committed suicide with a morphine overdose. The coroner’s report lists the belongings he left behind: $20.90 in coin, a gold watch and chain, clothing, and a revolver.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out what happened to Willa after 1861. No other papers in the Fay-Mixter collection refer to her. The obituary of Sarah (Munroe) Sims, who died in 1904, identifies only two surviving children, Emily and Elizabeth.

 

Selections from MHS in the New “Remembering Lincoln” Digital Collection

By Nancy Heywood, Collection Services

On 14 April 1865, while attending a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.  The event was tragic and shocking. Lincoln died the next morning, 15 April, and people all over the country struggled to comprehend what had happened.

Ford’s Theatre, a National Historic Site and a working theatre, has recently launched a new digital collection, Remembering Lincoln.  Two dozen institutions, including the Massachusetts Historical Society, have contributed digital images, metadata, and transcriptions of materials about the assassination of President Lincoln to this online collection. Researchers can read first-person accounts of the startling event, examine newspaper articles, explore printed documents and broadsides, and look at artifacts.

Several remarkable manuscripts from the collections of the MHS are included in the Remembering Lincoln collection.  Two letters were written by Augustus Clark, a War Department employee, who was one of the men who moved Lincoln after he was shot from Ford’s Theatre to Petersen’s boarding house.  One of Clark’s letters (addressed to S. M. Allen) fully describes his impressions of the evening and the tragic event.  In the other letter, written to Massachusetts Governor John A.  Andrew, Clark mentions enclosing a piece of cloth with Lincoln’s blood with the correspondence.  Both letters (letter to S. M. Allen and letter to Gov. Andrew) and also the towel fragment are viewable on the website. 

Another item featured in the digital collection is an excerpt from the young Boston diarist, Sarah Gooll Putnam.  Only 14 years old in April of 1865, her reaction was poignant.  She drew a shocked face on her diary page along with the following words:   

Now guess my feelings, when coming down to breakfast, at mother’s saying “The president is killed!” I stared so [handwritten mark pointing to illustration] for a few minutes without speaking. I cannot realize it yet.  Poor, dear, old, Abe.

Please explore the whole Remembering Lincoln website:  http://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/

 

A browse display of the items that MHS contributed to Remembering Lincoln is also available:  http://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/contributor?uid=40

 

 

Newly Digitized Photograph Collection

By Peter K. Steinberg, Collection Services

Collection Services at the Massachusetts Historical Society has recently created a collection guide for, and fully digitized, the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment carte de visite album, ca. 1864-1865 (Photograph Collection 228).

The 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment was a “colored volunteer” regiment active from 9 January 1864-31 October 1965. Formed at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, was commanded by some notable sons of Massachusetts including Charles Francis Adams Jr., Henry S. Russell, Charles Pickering Bowditch, and Henry Pickering Bowditch. The regiment saw some action in the war, notably in a battles which took place at Baylor’s Farm and the Siege of Petersburg in Virginia.

This collection consists of a photograph album containing 46 carte de visite photographs of officers from the regiment. In addition to those named above, the regiment included Edward Jarvis Bartlett, Daniel Henry Chamberlain, Patrick Tracy Jackson, and others. The album includes a two-page handwritten index which identifies all but one of the photographs. Each image appears on a page beautifully bordered, as can be seen in the examples presented here.

The cover of the album, also stunning, is embossed: “Col. H. S. Russell. 5th Mass Cavalry” and features the original, still-functioning brass clasps to keep the album closed. Henry S. Russell (1838-1905), an 1860 graduate of Harvard University, served several ranked positions in the Union Army reaching Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry and Brigadier-General of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. In 1864, Russell married Mary Hathaway Forbes, the daughter of the influential Boston businesman, railroad magnate, and abolitionist John Murray Forbes, and was a cousin of Robert Gould Shaw, Colonel of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Another family connection, but this time within the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, were the brothers Henry Pickering Bowditch (1840-1911) and his younger brother Charles Pickering Bowditch (1842-1921). Both were Harvard educated; Henry being a physician and physiologist as well as dean of Harvard Medical School, and Charles becoming a financier, archaeologist and linguistics scholar.

This is the seventh fully digitized Civil War photograph album at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The MHS has additional fully digitized Civil War materials available, as well. Further Reading: Morse, John T., Jr. “Henry Sturgis Russell.” In Sons of the Puritans: A Group of Brief Biographies. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1908:153-162.

Memories of the Civil War

By Susan Martin, Collection Services

John Hill White (1835-1920) served as a hospital steward in the 13th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War. His collection at the MHS  contains a lot of fascinating material, including four diaries he kept from 1862 to 1865. But I was particularly interested in his personal copy of the book Three Years in the Army: The Story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers by Charles E. Davis, Jr. When White’s collection was acquired, the MHS already held a copy of this regimental history as part of its reference collection. But White’s copy is unique because he annotated many of the pages, adding valuable and sometimes hilarious running commentary in the margins.

Title page autographed by veterans of other regiments

Many of White’s notes, probably written about 1903, identify individuals Davis had left anonymous. White also underlined and bracketed passages and added some specific dates, presumably by consulting his own diaries. But it’s his longer annotations that make for the most entertaining reading. Take, for example, this anecdote he scribbled at the bottom of page 40:

Capt Joe Coburn [Colburn], Ned Frost, John Saxton, & myself went to the hotel in town. The landlady asked Coburn if he was General Abercrombie & staff. Joe said yes, and she informed him that supper was all ready. The General had ordered the supper. We ate it, you bet, and as the general appeared at the front door we made a masterly retreat out the back door, & the general never found out who ate his supper, and did not pay for it.

And another a few pages later:

It was at Middleburg that Bryer, John King, & “Polly” Waitt got 24 good fat chickens for me. I had to present a revolver at the head of the man who owned them who politely informed me he would smash the head of the first man who took one, but the cocked revolver that he was looking into quieted him and he dropped his axe.

White had often been present at the events described in the book and used his notes to elaborate or add context. For example, a story on page 57 involves Gen. George L. Hartsuff, a kettle of beans, an irascible cook, and a case of mistaken identity. Here’s White’s version:

I saw the whole transaction. When Henry [the cook] turned around & saw the Gen’l, he straightened himself up, & saluting the Genl with the long iron spoon he held, said to him, “was that you general who wanted some of those beans?” I was the man said the general, & you can bet he got enough for a feast. The general married a Mass’t lady and there learned to love his beans.

These nostalgic “Humor in Uniform” style accounts are interspersed with others of the more heartbreaking variety. On page 78, next to the description of a particularly grueling march (at times through knee-deep water), White added:

I lost 20 lbs on this march, and was nearly starved during our 10 days marching. I was wet to the hide, for I did not have a blanket or my overcoat and the nights were cold as the devil.[…] Not a bit of fun being hungry & wet.

White’s notes reveal a lot about him and transform this printed volume into a kind of personalized history or mini-memoir. For example, he proudly starred and underlined a reference to the regimental glee club, of which he was a member. He also marked his birthday and commented on fellow soldiers. George M. Cuthbert was apparently a “great cribbage player” (p. 410), and the young drummers Ike and Sam Webster were “2 brothers who lived in Martinsburg Va. Little freckeled face boys, but good soldiers, true to the old Flag” (p. 465). Col. Richard Coulter of the 11th Pennsylvania is praised fulsomely in Davis’s text: “a better fighting man never lived” (p. 63). White agreed in the margin: “That is so.”

Unsurprisingly, White was not a fan of Gen. Jeb Stuart, who captured him with nearly 100 others on 30 Aug. 1862. According to White (p. 119), Stuart “was a damn coward, for the first shell that came from our side sent him down the hill as if the devil was after him.” But another Confederate general, Roger A. Pryor, “was a perfect gentleman and did all he could to make our wounded as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances.”

When I compared White’s annotations to the corresponding entries in his diaries, I appreciated this volume even more. In most cases, what he wrote here is much richer in detail. However, one fascinating fact is revealed in his diaries: he was present at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. on 14 Apr. 1865 and witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln! Here’s his description of that event:

Went to Fords Theatre. Miss Laura Keenes Benefit. Mary C. with me. At 25 minutes past 10, heard a pistol shot and immediately J Wilkes Booth jumped from the box in which the President and wife were, exclaiming, “Sic Semper Tyrannus, Virginia is avenged.[”] He had shot the President in the head, and stab[b]ed Major Rathborn [Rathbone] with a dirk. He escaped by the stage door. All was excited. Men & women shed tears. Got home at 11 p.m. No sleep all night. Secretary Seward and sons stab[b]ed by an accomplice of Booth. A general slaughter of the whole Cabinet attempted.

 The next day, he wrote:

The President died at 20 past 7 am. Went to town saw the body of the President being conveyed to the White House. Went to town in the afternoon. All business suspended and all the public buildings stores and houses dressed in mourning. Sad, sad day, for our Country.[…] Report of Booth having been captured. Andrew Johnson took the oath of office as President at 11 am this day at the Kirkwood House.

Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 40

By Elaine Grublin

The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.

Sunday, Jan. 1st

In public affairs, the success at Savannah is rendered more decided by the acquiescence of the people; and our northern people are doing what is right by contributions for the suffering population there. There is, on the other hand, to be recorded, the failure at Wilmington.

Sunday Jan. 15th, 1865

The only marked public news is the superseding of Gen. Butler. What is earthly greatness or popularity!

Jan. 23d 1865

My P.M. sermon had reference to the recent death (Sunday morning previous) of the illustrious Edward Everett.

Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 39

By Elaine Grublin

The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.

Monday, Dec. 19th, 1864

In public affairs, victory after victory crowns our arms, & we trust this terrible war is nearly ended. The battle near Nashville, – the successful march of Sherman from Atlanta to Savannah, & taking of Fort McAllister, – the unexpected released of the “St Albans’ Raiders” in Canada, & the stir thereupon on both sides the line, are the chief recent events. Congress has met, – received a manly message from the President, – and S.P. Chase is appointed Chief Justice, to general satisfaction.

Monday, Dec. 26th 1864

This morning I hear news of the, nearly bloodless, – occupation of Savannah; – for which God be praised!