“Lowell Prepares for Civil War” by Jim Peters
Here is another article on Lowell in the American Civil War by Jim Peters:
There is a book, called the “Illustrated History of Lowell, Mass.” which was published two centuries ago. In it are stories of Lowell’s efforts to become what Niki Tsongas once called “the Center of the Universe.” It is a voluminous read, and will take you months to get through. I have chosen one topic for today’s blog, that being “Lowell in the War of the Rebellion.” Lowell responded to the pleas for men and material by accepting a $3,000.00 gift from John Jacob Astor, Jr. to facilitate the clothing and feeding of the Massachusetts Volunteers. That was a great sum of money in 1861. It seems like a pittance now.
The book cites the efforts of Colonel Benjamin Butler, who responded immediately to the call for volunteers. “Benjamin Butler, another honored son of Lowell, became one of the great military chiefs, and rendered the Nation inestimable services in a civil as well as military capacity during this trying period.” (Page 674) Benjamin Butler responded so quickly and with such fervor that he became a General very quickly. He is the same Benjamin Butler buried on Hildreth Street in the Centralville section of the city.
The President called for 75,000 troops and Massachusetts cities and towns gave many up to die for the cause. Each man had to be healthy, and free of physical defect. Those that were not in this category would not be accepted by the early volunteers. The “Advance Guard” consisted of men who volunteered from Lowell, Groton, Acton, Lawrence, A great many ;people went to the train station to say goodbye to loved ones. Of the many who volunteered Lowell, by far, sent the most soldiers to Boston that day. The President was worried that Washington, D.C. would be over-run by the men of the Confederacy and there was a tension in the air. The remaining towns in the Advance Guard contributed two hundred nine men. Lowell’s contribution that day was two hundred fourteen men.
Worcester contributed 100 men; Boston contributed 62 men; Stoneham contributed 67 men. The regiment had a total of six hundred ninety nine men.
“They were received with enthusiasm, all along the way until they were near Baltimore.”
As they started to mount street cars to get across the city, mobs began to gather. The Baltimore group was disconcerted by the early arrival of the U.S. Army. “A delay at the start had given the mob time to plan and execute.” (P. 678) Street railway tracks were torn up, forcing the U.S. Army to walk through downtown Baltimore. Near the Pratt Street Canal Bridge they had to jump over to continue on their way. A scattering shower of firearms resulted in four deaths, and thirty-six wounded US. Army soldiers. Of the killed, three were Lowell Guards, Addison O. Whitney, Luther C. Ladd, and Charles A. Taylor. Mr. Taylor had not been thoroughly booked, and little was known about him. But the first two dead, both from Lowell, were Addison O. Whitney and Luther Ladd. Mr. Whitney had been employed by the Middlesex Company, and Mr. Ladd was employed “as a mechanic,” in Lowell.
The “Gallant Sixth” did Relay Duty in and around Baltimore for a few months. Then they went to protect the Capitol and on to war. The three killed that first day were members of the Lowell City Guards. At this early point in the conflict, the luxury of having bodies shipped home, and not buried in some Civil War Burial Ground, was in place.
The Second Massachusetts Infantry left camp on Juy 8, 1861 under the tutelage of Colonel George H. Gordon, who was later to become a general in the Army. They fought at the Battle of winchester, Virginia in May 1862, and in the fight at Cedar Mountain, on August 9, 1862. In one battle under the new General Gordon, we fought with 7500 men against Stonewall Jackson’s 25,000. We enveloped the right but were forced to retreat. Lowell losses were great that day, including over 344 casualties. Of those, 74 were dead Lowell “boys.” The total Union losses was “Killed 241, Wounded 1445, and Missing 4. Total casualties were 1,365.
Captain Abbot, who fought in this battle and was killed, was the founder of the “Abbot Greys,” (Pg. 680) and he was shipped to Lowell and given a very honorable funeral in his adopted city. In the Battle of Chancellorsvile, on May 1, 1863, Captain Salem S. Marsh was killed while acting as a Colonel in the battle. One of his men said of him,
“The army has lost one of its best leaders. Every officer and man deplores his loss.”
There were as many battles, it seems, as there were men to fight them. The Civil War Presentation Trust is trying to save battlefields in the Civil War. The leader of the movement in Jim Lighthizer. If you would like to contribute to saving a battlefield, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. More on Lowell’s efforts in the future. Remember that, at Memorial Hall, the engraved names of the Civil War dead can be found carved into granite monuments. They hang on the wall.