STOUGHTON'S WAR DOINGS OF 50 YEARS AGO
written by Civil War Veteran - George W. Pratt
Published in the Stoughton Sentinel April 15 and 22, 1911
The number of inhabitants of Stoughton in 1860, according to the United States census, was 4830.Besides the territory in the present Stoughton there was then a portion of land with several dwellings on the west side of Bay street, which was annexed to Sharon in 1864; and also the portion then known as East Stoughton, which was separated in 1888 making the town of Avon.
During the early months of the year 1861 Stoughton was enjoying peace and contentment and with no unusual event appearing of record. The annual town meeting had been held and Jedidiah Adams, Samuel Capen 2nd and Clifford Keith were elected selectmen; Charles Upham, town clerk and Jedidiah Adams, treasurer.
The circumstances which resulted in the War of the Rebellion require no recital at this time, they are matters of national history.
In 1852 a charter had been issued to a military company just formed in Canton. It was known as the "Union Light Guard" and was mostly composed of men from Canton, Sharon and Stoughton.
In 1856 the Canton company and one from Easton, with several other companies, were incorporated into the 4th regiment of the 2nd brigade, 1st division, Mass. Volunteer Militia, the Canton company being known as company A.
On Friday, April 12th. 1861 at 4:30 in the morning appeared the first flash from the Confederate mortar battery near old Fort Jackson, on the south side of Charleston harbor and an instant later a bomb-shell rose in a high curve through the air and fell upon Fort Sumter. It was the first gun in the Rebellion. During the 34 hours which followed there was incessant firing both day and night from the many Confederate forts and batteries in the vicinity, of Fort Sumter.
At noon, Sunday, April 14th, Major Anderson hauled down the flag of the United States and evacuated the fort. Before sunset the flag of the Confederate states floated over the ramparts.
The next morning, Monday, April 15th President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers for three months service to "maintain the honor, the integrity and existence of our National Union." The summons came to Boston on the same day by telegraph, through Senator Henry Wilson and sailing on Massachusetts to furnish two full regiments. Late that afternoon, Col. Abner B. Packard of the 4th infantry received an order for his regiment to muster on Boston Common at noon the following day.
An account published many years ago in the Canton Journal says:
The summoning of Co. A to the front was a sudden one. It came on the night of the 15th of April 1861, and although expected at any time found few of the company fully prepared for it There was a dance in the old Town Hall at Canton Corner that night and many of the boys were there "tripping the light fantastic toe" with the girls who were not to see some of them come back while others were scattered at their homes. Horace Seavey, who was clerk of the company at that time, worked until near midnight making out the warrants and later driving to Sharon by way of the old Bay road, picking up Lieut. Ira Drake on the way, and apprising the members of the company living in Sharon, while Henry Taylor of the company attended to notifying those of the company residing in Stoughton.
Many of the men had scant time to say good-bye to their families and sweethearts but under the imperative order assembled at the armory, donned equipments and in the pouring rain marched to the station. The way lay directly by the house of minister Jewell and here James Shankland stepped from the ranks and with the woman of his choice on his arm went into the house and the twain were made man and wife James kissed his newly made wife good-life and went off on the train with the rest of the boys, return-to her unhurt at the end of his tern of service.
The headquarters of Co. A. were in the Armory on church street, Canton, afterward known as G.A.R. Hall. The exact time the notice was received at the j company headquarters was 9 o'clock P.M. April 15th Commander Jedidiah M Bird of Post 72, G.A.R. is the only one now alive who served from Stoughton in this company. He has always lived in Stoughton being born there August 22nd 1841 and was employed by his father, as a house carpenter, at the time the war commenced. Not 20 years old then yet for some time he had been a member of this militia company. He will remember how the call came to him. He was aroused from his sleep at ten minutes before midnight April 15th and on going to the door found his visitor to be Henry Taylor who handed him the summons. This document he has kept to the present time and it reads as follows:
To Jedidiah M. Bird: You are hereby ordered to appear at the Armory or usual place of parade of Company A. Fourth Regiment. M.V.M.on the sixteenth day of April at nine o'clock in the forenoon armed, equipped and uniformed as the law directs, for military duty.
By order of the Commanding Officer. H. D. Seavey, Clerk. Dated at Canton this 15th day of April, 1861.
Commander Bird immediately went to work preparing himself for the duties that were before him and at 4 o'clock A. M. he bade his parents good-bye, and left his Stoughton home, walking to Canton, four miles away and was the first Stoughton member to report at the company headquarters ready for military service.
The following were the Stoughton men then in Co. A., John F. Atkinson, Jedidiah M. Bird, Ira Drake, Charles P. Farnsworth, Amandus E. Richardson, Prince P. Spooner, Charles Taylor. Stoughton men in Co. B. same regiment James Stanley Mears, Seth Reckards, George M. Warren.
During the war time, or immediately afterward, the following who served in the 4th infantry, on the quota of other towns, removed to Stoughton and for many years were well known citizens here. Moses Griggs, Howard M. Kimball, George W. Parker, Henry Taylor. All the above are now dead excepting Jedidiah M. Bird of Stoughton and Seth Reckards of East Weymouth.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 16th, the members of company, A. marched from their armory to the Canton depot and took the 3 o'clock train for Boston and at 4:30 the company reported for duty at Faneuil Hall, Boston, the order to report on Boston Common having been changed on ac count of a severe rain storm Company A with the other companies of the regiment quartered in Faneuil Hall that night having received notice to be in readiness to march at 3 o'clock the next afternoon. At that hour the regiment stood in Merchants Row, nine companies, with 462 men all told, and then amid the greatest enthusiasm of the multitude, which thronged the streets, proceeded to the State House where they were addressed by Governor Andrew, who bade them a "God speed and an affectionate farewell" Colonel
Packard replied in brief and fitting terms and then the regiment took up its line of march for the Old Colony depot while the intense excitement of the time showed it-self in the loud and hearty cheers and in many a moistened eye. Quickly embarking on board train ready to receive it, the regiment was soon on its way to Fall River, where on arrived at 10 P.M. went aboard the steamer State of Maine, for New York, but owing to the steamer being crowded and badly ballasted did not arrive, there until 5 P.M. the next day Thursday.
Stopping only to coal and have her ballast re-arranged she started at 4 the next morning for Fortress Monroe.
While in New York the officers of the 4th regiment took supper at the Astor House by invitation of Anson Burlingame, a member of Congress from Massachusetts. The lamented Colonel Ellsworth who had hastened to New York to form his famous Zouave regiment was present. On passing out of New York harbor, the steamer Baltic was met coming in, bearing the noble hand of soldiers who had so gallantly defended Fort Sumter to the last and they received a hearty cheering from the regiment. At day break, April 20th the walls of Fortress Monroe were visible is the distance. Anxiously the men watched until at sunrise they saw the stars and stripes un-folding from the flag-staff and on landing marched amid the cheers of the regulars, into the fortress.
It was a joyful day for the little garrison of 300 men who day and night during the preceding week had waited for reinforcements and had been carefully guarding at their guns to be ready at a moments notice for an attack from the Confederate soldiers, who were not far away.
On the 22nd of April the men of the nine companies of the 4th regiment were mustered into the service of the United States for three months, at Fortress Monroe by 1st Lieut. Charles C. Churchill of the 3d Artillery, United States Army. Of the 452 men of the regiment 35 of them were in Co. A. and their place of residence was as follows: Canton 25, Stoughton 7, Sharon 2, Dedham 1, total 35.
There were 46 recruits for Co. A. arriving at the Fortress May 19, and were mustered into the service May 22nd as follows: from Sharon 25, Canton 13, Easton 4, Ashburnham 3, Stoughton 1, total 46. This number thus increased the membership of Co. A to 81 men. The Stoughton recruit was Edward Mellen.
When Co. A. received the call to leave the state, Captain John Hall who was commander of the company, accompanied the troops only as far as the Old Colony station in Boston. At the time of muster-in of Co. A. the following were the commissioned officers: Captain, Ira. Drake of Stoughton; 1st Lieut., Henry U. Morse of Canton; 2nd Lieut. John McKay Jr. of Canton. The regiment regained at Fortress Monroe until May 27th and Major
Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, having assumed of the department of Virginia , the regiment was ordered to Newport News, Va. In the battle of Big Bethel, June 10,1861, five companies of the regiment participated with a loss of one man of Co. H. killed.
On July 4th the regiment was ordered to Hampton, Va. and remained there until July 11th when it remained to Fortress Monroe and from there, at 3 P. M. July 15th embarked on board the steamer S. R. Spaulding bound for Boston harbor where it arrived after a pleasant passage of 56 hours. The regiment landed at Long Island and remained there until Tuesday July 22nd, when it came to Boston and marched to the Common where it was dis-missed. On the following day-July 23d, the citizens of Canton gave the members of Co. A. a glorious reception at the Massapoag house in Canton.
The men of the 4th Mass. infantry having honorably served their term of enlistment returned to their homes and loved ones bearing with them this proud record. First to leave Massachusetts at the nation's call, and they, first of all, stood on Virginia soil ready to battle to keep this nation one.
REUNION OF MINUTE MEN - Co. A. 4th Mass. Infantry
Published in the Stoughton Sentinel April 22, 1911
On Monday evening, April 17, 1911 the survivors of Co. A,, who were in the three month's service, assembled in Memorial Hall, Canton, as guests of Revere Post 94 G.A.R. This occasion was the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the departure of Co. A. from Canton at the first call for troops from President Lincoln The Relief Corps and also many public school children of Canton were present all lending their services to make the occasion of interest. Many G.A.R. Comrades from Stoughton were also in attendance,
Of Co. A. the following were present: Jedediah M. Bird, Levi J. Bibbins, William Ansel Hunt, Geo E. Jackson, Friend Z. Leonard, Charles E. Palmer, Patrick Slattery. Of the 635 men of the 4th Regiment in 1861 only 155 can be located at this time and only 25 out of the 81 of Co. A.
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