Three Years

The 12th Regt. Mass. Vol. Inf., known as the "Webster Regiment", was recruited in the latter part of April, 1861, through the personal efforts of Fletcher Webster, son of the statesman, Daniel Webster. During the first week in May, 1861, the regiment was transferred to Fort Warren, where its organization was completed. Five companies were raised in Boston and one each in Abington, North Bridgewater, Gloucester, Stoughton, and Weymouth. On June 26, Col. Webster and a large majority of the officers and men of the regiment were mustered into the service.

The regiment left Fort Warren for the seat of war July 23, and on the 27th it reached Sandy Hook, Md., near Harper's Ferry. The summer and fall of 1861 were spent in guarding the line of the upper Potomac near Darnestown, Seneca Creek, Muddy Branch, and other points between Washington, D. C, and Frederick, Md. Early in December, with the rest of Abercrombie's Brigade, it went into winter quarters at Camp Hicks on the Baltimore pike about four miles east of Frederick. In the latter part of February the regiment was sent into the Shenandoah Valley, Gen. N. P. Banks being in command of that district. As a part of Abercrombie's Brigade, Williams' Division, Banks' (5th) Corps, it was occupied during the spring and early summer reconnoitering in the neighborhood of Winchester, Aldie, Front Royal, Manassas, and other places. In May, 1862, it formed a part of Hartsuff's Brigade, Ricketts' Division, McDowell's (3d) Corps, Army of Virginia. With Ricketts' Division it reached the battlefield of Cedar Mountain, August 9, 1862, just at the close of the action and suffered several casualties by artillery fire.

At Second Bull Run, August 30, General Z. B. Tower being in command of the brigade in the absence of Gen. Hartsuff who was ill, the 12th Regt. was heavily engaged near Bald Hill on the Chinn farm, losing its commander, Col. Webster, and 25 officers and men killed or mortally wounded.

The reorganization of the army in early September, 1862, made Ricketts' Division a part of Hooker's (1st) Corps, and as a part of Hartsuff's Brigade the 12th Regt. joined in the operations which forced the Confederates out of Frederick, Md., and on toward South Mountain. The 12th was engaged in the battle of South Mountain, Sept. 14, suffering only slight loss. On the 17th, at Antietam, it fought in the Bloody Cornfield, losing 224 officers and men., of whom 74, including Major Elisha Burbank and Assistant Surgeon A. A. Kendall, were killed or mortally wounded. Here it came into conflict with the famous Texas Brigade and captured the colors of the 1st Texas Infantry.

At Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, under command of Col. James L. Bates, as a part of Lyle's Brigade, Gibbon's Division, Reynolds' (1st) Corps, it participated in the attack on. the Confederate right, losing heavily. Among the killed was First Lieutenant Arthur Dehon, who was serving on Gen. Meade's staff. The winter of 1862-63 was spent in camp near Belle Plain on the Potomac.

At Chancellorsville, May 1 to 4, 1863, the regiment as a part of Baxter's Brigade, Robinson's Division, Reynolds' (1st) Corps was engaged with small loss. At Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, the 12th was in action on the extreme right of the 1st Corps near Oak Hill, where it performed valuable service and suffered severe loss. In October it was active in the operations along the line of the Rappahannock, was in the advance to Mine Run in the latter part of November, and spent the winter of 1863-64 in the neighborhood of Culpepper, Va.

In the spring of 1864, Robinson's Division, now a part of Warren's (5th) Corps, was engaged on the Orange turnpike, May 5, and on the Plank road, May 6, in the battle of the Wilderness, suffering severely. At Spottsylvania, May 8 to 12, it fought on the Alsop, Jones, and Spindle farms on the Union right, again losing heavily. At North Anna, Cold Harbor, and in front of Petersburg it was in action with loss, remaining on duty until June 25, when it turned its recruits and re-enlisted men over to the 39th Regt., and started for home, reaching Boston, July 1, 1864. A week later the regiment was reassembled on Boston Common and was mustered out of the United States service.

Source: Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War. Compiled and Published the Adjutant General in accordance with Chapter 475, Acts of 1899 and Chapter 64, Resolves of 1930 (Norwood, Mass., The Norwood Press, 1931) vol. 2.


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