Worthington and the Civil War

1860_Broadside_Republican_ticket

Broadside from Nov. 5, 1860, Boston Transcript listing electors for the Republican Ticket.

By Diane Brenner (with contributions by Pat Kennedy and Mark Clinton)

A previous version of the following exhibit was mounted at the Worthington Historical Society building in June 2015 to mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. The exhibit was accompanied by a presentation by David Pollard on Worthington’s hero at Gettysburg, Brigadier General James Clay Rice. (Pollard’s presentation is not yet online.)

This exhibit is divided into the following eight sections:
1. The Election of 1860
2. The Draft
3. The 27th Mass. Volunteer Infantry Regiment
4. The 46th Mass. Volunteer Infantry Regiment
5. The 2nd Regiment Mass. Volunteer Heavy Artillery
6. Letters Home
7. The Home Front
8. The True Story of Russell H. Conwell and John Quincy Ring

 

THE ELECTION OF 1860

 

The Republican ticket of Abraham Lincoln and running mate Hannibal Hamlin won overwhelmingly in Worthington, along with John A. Andrews, Republican candidate for Governor. John Bell and Edward Everett of the new Constitutional Union Party came in a distant second. Stephen Douglas, the Northern Democrat, got only two votes.

Before Lincoln was inaugurated, seven Southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy, sparking the Civil War.

Worthington_Town_Meeting_Nov_6_1860_election

Worthington Town Meeting record for the presidential election on November 6, 1860. People voted for electors, not candidates.

Record of Worthington Town Meeting from April 1854 opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which enabled slavery to spread westward. The Act was passed into law the following month.

Record of Worthington Town Meeting from April 1854 opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which enabled slavery to spread westward. The Act was passed into law the following month.

THE DRAFT

 

Conscription_Act_1

Details of the Conscription Act from The Springfield Republican, January 31, 1863.

Details of the Conscription Act from the Springfield Republican, continued.

Details of the Conscription Act from The Springfield Republican, continued.

 

 

 

 

The Conscription Act was debated throughout late 1862 and passed on March 3, 1863. The act called for registration of all males between the ages of 20 and 45 – including aliens with the intention of becoming citizens – by April 1. Exemptions from the draft could be bought for $300, or by finding a substitute draftee. This clause led to bloody draft riots in New York City, where protesters were outraged that exemptions were effectively granted only to the wealthiest U.S. citizens.

The draft was not implemented nationally until 1863, and Worthington consistently met its quota with volunteers. The two lists below are from the Worthington Town Report of June 30, 1864, and cover men drafted in 1863 and 1864.

 

Draft age men from Worthington exempted for disability, with age and occupations:

Bates, Graham E. (26, farmer) deaf (partially)
Crosier, Reuben (37, farmer) missing finger, right hand
Cole, Henry A. (38, physician) hernia
Coy, Erastus C. (32, physician) epilepsy
Drake, Edward B. (33, mechanic) lost 3 fingers of left hand
Drake, Martin A. (35, farmer) right eye sight nearly gone
Geer, Austin (42, farmer) hernia
Hatch, Fordyce (42, mechanic) insane pauper
Hewitt, Cyprian P. (40, farmer) deficient teeth
Ladd, Alfred E. (27, farmer) consumption of lungs
Miller, Ira (43, farmer) broken ankle
Mayhew, Leyman (42, farmer) bad leg
Pease, James M. (25, mechanic) bad leg
Robinson, Calvin C. (27, mechanic) right eye gone
Sanderson, William D. (21, postmaster) asthma
Smith, Charles 2nd (25, mechanic) asthma
Stone, Sumner W. (34, farmer) bad teeth
Thayer, George (27, farmer) bad leg, stiff knee
Thayer, Cephas (40, farmer) deficient height
Thrasher, Charles (36, farmer) hernia
Tower, Henry E. (31, basket maker) deficient everywhere
Weeks, John M. (36, mechanic) bad leg

Patriotic envelopes were one way to drum up some fervor.

Patriotic envelopes were one way to drum up some fervor.

Draftees from Worthington exempted or opted out, with age and occupation:

Allen, Walter F. (44, farmer)
Bartlett, Calvin (22, farmer)
Bosworth, Lorenzo (28, clergyman) exempted
Cole, John S. (32, farmer) paid $300
Drake, William W.(32, farmer) exempted
Drake, Henry A. (29, farmer) exempted
Gleason, Solomon (38, farmer) exempted
Granger, Abraham W. (28, farmer) exempted
Knapp, Fordyce M., Jr. (26, farmer) paid $300
Leonard, David M. (22, farmer) exempted
Porter, Edward (43, deputy sheriff)
furn’shd subst.
Porter, Levi P. age (27, farmer) paid $300
Perry, A. Dwight (37, farmer) paid $300
Sanderson, Franklin A. (20, farmer) exempted
Thayer, Alfred M.. (28, farmer) exempted
Tower, Russell (38, farmer) furn’shd substitute

Record of June 1961 Town Meeting authorizing funds to assist families of volunteers.

Record of June 1961 Town Meeting authorizing funds to assist families of volunteers.

 

THE 27th MASS. VOLUNTEER INFANTRY REGIMENT

Ladder badge for 27th Mass. Regiment.

Ladder badge for 27th Mass. Regiment.

 

In late August of 1861, Governor Andrew asked Horace C. Lee, Springfield’s City Clerk, to form a new regiment. Lee recruited throughout the four western counties to form the 27th Mass, which began training in September at Camp Reed, about a mile from the armory in Springfield. It was the second Western Massachusetts regiment to form.

On November 2, 1861, the 27th left Springfield to join the Burnside Expedition in Annapolis, Maryland. As reported in the Republican of that date, “Baggage wagons snaked through the camp laden with tons of supplies, including hundreds of items ranging from blankets, pillows and bandages, to pin cushions, lemons and jars of pickles.” The newspaper verbosely thanked the local citizenry for donations to the regiment, including a “pot of preserved ginger” from a Mrs. Wasson. Nine hundred men traveled by train to Annapolis, where several died from measles. (For a sense of life there, see James Thayer’s letter from Annapolis in the Letters Home portion of the exhibit below.) In January 1862 the 27th Mass traveled by boat to North Carolina, and some of the men met with violent storms.

The Battle of New Bern.

The Battle of New Bern.

The 27th Mass spent much of the war in North Carolina, avoiding some of the major battles in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, but fighting in many smaller skirmishes and battles, including Roanoke Island, New Bern, and the Goldsboro and Gum Swamp expeditions. They faced their greatest trial at Drewry’s Bluff in May of 1864. Surrounded by Confederate soldiers in a dense fog, they were forced to surrender, and roughly 250 men were taken prisoner, including Horace C. Lee. Two of the regimental flags were also captured, a significant blow to morale. Lee and some other officers were eventually exchanged and returned to duty, but many of the men were taken to Andersonville Prison in Georgia. Fewer than half of them survived the prison’s notoriously inhuman conditions. In the four weeks ending June 3, the regiment suffered 488 casualties, 62 of them killed or mortally wounded. Additional casualties followed throughout August.

Illustration of Andersonville Prison.

Illustration of Andersonville Prison.

Photograph of Andersonville Prison.

Photograph of Andersonville Prison.

In September, 179 men whose term of service had expired were sent home to Massachusetts. The rest of the regiment was returned to North Carolina where, early in March, 1865, the regiment was surrounded by Confederate troops near Kinston. Seven were killed, forty wounded, and the remaining 200-plus were captured and taken to Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, and soon paroled and sent home. A fragment of the regiment still performed guard duty at New Bern until June 26, 1865, when it was mustered out and sent home. The survivors reached Readville, MA, on July 7, and on July 19 they were paid off and discharged. Of the members of this regiment who were taken prisoner, mostly at Drewry’s Bluff and Southwest Creek, 142 died in Confederate prisons.

Battle flag of the 27th Mass. Regiment.

Battle flag of the 27th Mass. Regiment.

In May of 1880, a veteran of the regiment visited Washington, D.C. and discovered, in a government building storing war relics, the regimental flags taken at Drewry’s Bluff. He reported the find to the 27th Mass Regimental Association officers, who were able to reclaim the flags with help from their congressman. The flags were received by Horace Lee at a celebration at Springfield’s Opera House on September 22, 1881 and given to the city’s library for safe keeping.

Note on sources: Much of the above information on the 27th Mass was taken from the website of the Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission of the American Civil War, http://ma150.org/day-by-day/1861-11-02/27th-massachusetts-regiment-leaves-springfield.

Men from Worthington, Massachusetts, who served in the 27th are listed below. Note that military records from the Civil War are often inaccurate. Most 19th-century death certificates list only death date and age. Birthdates were often approximated, or confused with baptismal dates. Also, some men lied about their age – or did not know their age.

COMPANY A

BREWSTER, Edgar C., Private (b. May 30, 1841, Worthington, MA – d. Sep. 1896, Nebraska). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 13, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, re-enlisted Mar. 29, 1864, captured May 16, 1864 at Drewry’s Bluff. When Brewster was captured he “had about eighty dollars in greenbacks with him, all of which he saved by dividing it amongst his company, some placing it in their mouths, while others uncapped their blouse buttons and put the money within.” (Source: William P. Derby, Bearing Arms in the Twenty-Seventh Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteer Infantry During the Civil War, 1861-1865 (Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Company, 1883), 383-4). Prisoner at Andersonville, released Apr 6, 1865 ; mustered out July 3, 1865.

CANFIELD, Robert V., Private (b. c. 1838, Worthington, MA – d. Oct 23, 1863, Washington, NC, age 24). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 14, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861. Died of disease, buried at New Bern National Cemetery.

CLAIR, Matthew, Private (b. 1835, County Kilkenny, Ireland – d. Dec. 16, 1884, Northampton, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 14, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, re-enlisted Nov. 25, 1863, mustered out June 26, 1865. Died of chronic enterocolitis, age 49.

DRAKE, Edmund Turner, Corporal, Second Lieutenant (b. Jan 23, 1830, Worthington, MA – d. Jan 2, 1914, Easthampton, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 13, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, appointed Corporal Apr. 1, 1862, re-enlisted Nov. 25, 1863, taken prisoner at Drewry’s Bluff May 16, 1864, exchanged Dec. 3, 1864, mustered out June 26, 1865. According to Derby, “Thomas Bolton, private, Company A, did not know his own name when exchanged, and was saved by Corp. Drake of his company, who responded for and presented him to the ‘exchange officer.’” (Derby, 403-4). Buried in Cummington.

Gravestone of Abel C. Kenney.

Gravestone of Abel C. Kenney, “DIED in Rebel Prison.”

DUNNING, Samuel J., Private (b. 1843, Worthington, MA – d. Mar. 14, 1862, New Bern, NC). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 13, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, killed in action. “Comrade Dunning of Company A, was a member of Lieut. Spaulding’s boat crew, and after a hard day’s work in landing the troops, was told he could remain with the fleet. He replied, ‘I shall not leave you, lieutenant. If there is to be a battle, I shall be there!’ About ten minutes after the engagement opened, a ball pierced his forehead, and he fell without a struggle. He was a faithful, noble-hearted young man, of eighteen years, ‘the only son of his mother, and she a widow.'” (Derby, 92).

KENNEY, Abel C., Sergeant (b. Oct. 31, 1842, Worthington, MA – d. Dec. 15, 1864, Blackshear, GA, prison camp). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 13, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, appointed corporal, Oct. 1, 1862, re-enlisted Nov. 25, 1863, appointed sergeant, Mar. 11, 1864, taken prisoner May 16, 1864 at Drewry’s Bluff. Known by his comrades as “Noble Kinney.” He was helpless during the entire fall, but being a favorite with the men, was retained with them, which no doubt saved his life for a time. He suffered his accumulating ills without repining, and cheerfully conversed of his approaching death. He died at Blackshear, Ga., Dec. 11, 1864, and was buried in the woods north of the village, the most westerly of a group of graves. They laid him tenderly on a bed of grass and covered him with the same before filling the grave.” (S. S. Hooper’s account, in Derby, 404).

Blackshear prison camp.

Blackshear prison camp.

POMEROY, Orange Scott, Corporal (b. Aug. 8, 1842, Worthington, MA – d. Apr. 7, 1937, West Springfield, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 12, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, discharged Feb. 2, 1863 at New Bern, NC. Buried at Ringville Cemetery, Worthington, MA.

QUINN, Frank, Private (b. 1838 – d. June 3, 1862, New Bern, NC). Mechanic, enlisted Sep. 12, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, appointed corporal Sep. 20, 1861, drowned June 1, 1862 in Neuse River and died two days later at age 23.

TAYLOR, Brainard E., Private (b. Jan. 3, 1838, Peru, MA – d. Apr. 17, 1865, Danville, VA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 10, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, re-enlisted Nov. 25, 1863, wounded in left leg and taken prisoner, Mar. 8, 1865 at Battle of Wyse Fork, Southwest Creek, NC. Died of wounds at Confederate prison in Danville, Virginia, and buried in Danville National Cemetery.

THAYER, James F., Private (b. Sep. 13, 1821, Chesterfield, MA – d. July 23, 1864, Andersonville Prison, Macon County, GA). Farmer, enlisted at age 39 on Sep. 10, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, captured at Drewry’s Bluff and taken to Andersonville Prisoner of War Camp. Died within the stockade without medical care of starvation and chronic diarrhea. Buried in Andersonville National Cemetery. Letters from Thayer to his wife are in the Letters Home section of this exhibit, below.

WARD, William W., Sergeant (b. 1839, Worthington, MA – d. Jan. 1, 1890, Springfield, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 9, 1861, mustered Sep. 20, 1861, mustered out Sep. 6, 1862 at New Bern, NC. Re-enlisted Apr. 20, 1863 in 52nd Regiment, Co. C., mustered out Aug. 14, 1863 at Camp Miller, Greenfield, MA. Ward, a traveling salesman, died of pneumonia at age 51.

William Basto Watts.

William Basto Watts.

WATTS, William Basto, Private (June 4, 1844, Worthington, MA – Apr. 1, 1900, Springfield, MA). Farmer, enlisted at age 18, Sep. 9, 1861, mustered on Sep. 20, 1861, mustered out Sep. 24, 1864. Watts was hit by lightning on July 15, 1864 and survived: “The course of the electric current was marked on their persons by serpentine lines of red, and upon the guns and bayonets, by a furrow of molten steel, while the powder of all the cartridges within their cartridge-boxes was flashed.” (Derby, 118) In 1900, Watts committed suicide by cutting his throat.

COMPANY C

BURROUGHS, Jonathan C., Private (b. 1840, Worthington, MA – d. Chesterfield, MA, Oct. 24, 1878). Also Co. G. C. Possibly wounded through left lung at Battle of Wyse Fork, Mar. 8, 1865. Burroughs, a painter, died of consumption at age 38 and is buried in Center Cemetery in Worthington.

Gravestone of Clarence P. Hewitt, Center Cemetery, Worthington.

Gravestone of Clarence P. Hewitt, Center Cemetery, Worthington.

COMPANY H

COON, Charles Wesley, Private (b. Worthington, MA, June 18, 1836 – d. Cummington, MA, Aug. 3, 1906). Baker, enlisted and mustered Aug. 18, 1862, wounded, mustered out Sep. 27, 1864. Coon died of a cerebral hemorrhage and is buried in Worthington’s North Cemetery.

HEWITT, Clarence P., Private (b. 1840, Worthington, MA – d. July 22, 1865, Worthington MA). Farmer, enlisted and mustered Oct. 1, 1861, discharged disabled, Sep. 27, 1864. Hewitt, died from a disease contracted during the war and is buried in Worthington’s Center Cemetery.

COMPANY K

SMITH, Miles G., Private (b. 1833, Worthington, MA – d. Dec. 7, 1899, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted and mustered Oct. 1, 1861, discharged for disability May 3, 1862, New Bern, NC. Smith died of pneumonia at age 66 and is buried in Worthington’s Ringville Cemetery.

Entry for Miles G. Smith, October 1861.

Entry for Miles G. Smith in the Worthington Selectmen ledger, October 1861.

 

THE 46th MASS. VOLUNTEER INFANTRY REGIMENT

 

Patch from the 46th Mass.

Patch from the 46th Mass.

The 46th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was raised mainly in Hampden County in response to the President’s call of August 4, 1862. It was recruited largely through the efforts of Rev. George Bowler of Westfield, who became its first colonel. At Camp Banks in Springfield the different companies assembled during September and October, 1862, and were mustered in on various dates from September 24 to October 22. Company F was organized by Russell H. Conwell.

The regiment left camp November 5 and proceeded to Boston, where it took transports for North Carolina. New Bern was reached November 15, and here the regiment was assigned to Col. H. C. Lee’s Brigade. The regimental camp was established on the banks of the Neuse River near the city. Companies A and K were assigned the duty of guarding the railroad station at Newport Barracks on the railroad from New Bern to Beaufort.

Newspaper clipping on new levies of troops.

The Springfield Republican, September 5, 1862, page 2.

The first active duty of the regiment came during the Goldsboro expedition. From December 11 to 17, 1862, the 46th was present at the battles of Kinston, Whitehall, and Goldsboro, but was only slightly engaged and suffered little loss. Returning to New Bern on December 20, the regiment was soon established in a new camp near the confluence of the Neuse and the Trent. Colonel Bowler, while ill, had accompanied the regiment to Kinston. He resigned and Lieut. Col. Shurtleff was promoted to Colonel. Company A returned from detached duty, and Company F under Capt. Russell H. Conwell took its place.

On March 13 and 14, 1863, the regiment took part in a defense against a Confederate force under General Pettigrew, which sought to recapture New Bern on the first anniversary of its occupation by Union forces. Ten days later, the six companies which comprised the main part of the regiment were sent to Plymouth, where from March 26 to May 8 they formed part of the garrison. During this time, Companies F and K were absent on “detached” duty, and Companies A and I were left behind at New Bern. Soon after May 8, the six companies returned to New Bern, where the regiment was now quartered in barracks.

Massachusetts troops in New Bern, NC.

Massachusetts troops in New Bern, NC.

On May 21 the regiment took part in an expedition to Gum Swamp, returning to New Bern the following day without loss. Early in June, as the term of the 46th was drawing to a close, over 100 members re-enlisted in the 2d Mass. Vol. Heavy Artillery, which was then being organized (see the following section of this exhibit, below). The remainder of the regiment embarked June 24 for Fort Monroe.

Bounty notice for the 46th.

Bounty notice in The Springfield Republican, August 19, 1862, page 2.

On their way home, members of the 46th volunteered for service with the Army of the Potomac during the emergency caused by Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. They provided patrol and guard duty in the Baltimore area during early July and then moved to Maryland Heights, near Harper’s Ferry, from July 7 to 12, joining the 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac, at Funkstown, MD, ahead of the Confederate position at Falling Waters. After Lee’s retreat into Virginia the regiment was ordered to continue to Massachusetts, reaching Springfield on July 21. Here they were furloughed for one week, reassembling at Hampden Park, July 29, at which point they were mustered out of the service.

Russell H. Conwell, c. 1863.

Russell H. Conwell, c. 1863.

Men from Worthington who served in the 46th:

COMPANY F

COLE, Daniel N., Private (b. c. 1820 – d. July 30, 1865, Smithfield, NC). Farmer, enlisted at age 42. See 2nd Mass Heavy Artillery Regiment, below. Re-enlisted Aug. 22, 1863, at age 43, in Co. D, 2nd Mass Heavy Artillery, died July 19, 1865, at Smithfield, NC, after Appomattox surrender.

COLE, Seth, Private (b. c. 1822 – d. Jan 30, 1895, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 8, 1862, at age 40; mustered in Sep. 25, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, Springfield MA. Died from La Grippe and buried in Ringville Cemetery, Worthington.

CONWELL, Russell Herman, Captain (b. Worthington, MA, Feb. 15, 1843 – d. Philadelphia, PA, Dec. 6, 1925). Student, enlisted Sep. 9, 1862, at age 19. Commissioned an officer on Sep. 25, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, in Springfield, MA. Re-enlisted; see 2nd Mass Heavy Artillery Regiment, below. Buried in Philadelphia.

DODGE, Edwin, Private (b. Oct. 6, 1847, Montpelier, VT – d. Jan 30, 1910, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 3, 1862, at age 30, mustered Sep. 25, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, Springfield, MA. Died of cerebral hemorrhage, buried in Springfield, MA.

Jotham and Mary Drake, 1862.

Jotham and Mary Sanderson Drake, 1862.

Jotham Drake gravestone.

Jotham Drake gravestone at Ireland Street Cemetery, Chesterfield, MA.

DRAKE, Isaac C., Private (b. Feb. 6, 1837 – d. June 27, 1863, New Bern, NC, Stanley Hospital). Farmer, enlisted Aug. 1862 at age 28, mustered Sep. 25, 1862. See the exhibit section on Letters Home, below. Died of hemorrhage of the bowels from injuries received at New Bern, NC; buried at New Bern National Cemetery.

DRAKE, Jotham, Private (b. Jan 3, 1820, Worthington, MA – d. June 10, 1863, New Bern, NC). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 3, 1862, mustered Sep. 25, 1862, died at New Bern, NC, from injuries received in battle.

HIGGINS, Jonathan S., Private (b. Dec. 24, 1832, Chesterfield, MA – d. Aug. 5, 1869, Worthington, MA). Mechanic, enlisted Sep. 26, 1862, at age 28; mustered in Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, Springfield MA. Buried in Ringville Cemetery.

HIGGINS, William C., Private (d. May 17, 1884, Blandford, MA). Mechanic, enlisted Sep. 5, 1862, at age 38. Mustered in Sep. 25, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, Springfield MA. Pension records show he received an invalid’s pension on October 16,1883, for his service in Company F. Died at age 59 of Addison’s disease.

SMITH, George W., Private (b. c. 1841 – d. ?). Farmer, enlisted Aug. 20, 1862 at age 21, mustered Sep. 25, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, Springfield, MA.

COMPANY K

ADAMS, Ansel, Private (b. 1814, Chesterfield, MA – d. Feb. 3, 1869, Worthington, MA). Farmer, mustered in Sep. 20, 1861 (originally in 27th Mass Rgt, Co. K), discharged for disability, April 5, 1862, New Bern, NC. Re-enlisted in 46 Infantry Regiment, Co. K on Oct. 30, 1862; mustered out July 29, 1863 at Springfield, MA. Killed by a falling tree, and buried at North Cemetery in Worthington.

BARTLETT, Davis, Private (born Dec. 25, 1837, baptized Sep. 16, 1840, Worthington, MA – d. Apr. 18, 1885, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted Oct 1, 1862; mustered out July 29, 1863 at Springfield, MA. Died of rheumatism and buried in North Cemetery, Worthington.

BENTON, Henry, Private (b. Nov. 9, 1828, Worthington, MA – d. Nov. 20, 1915). Farmer, enlisted Oct. 1, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863 at Springfield, MA. Died of chronic valvular heart disease, buried in Center Cemetery, Worthington.

BLACKMAN, Levi, Private (b. Mar. 20, 1837, Peru, MA – d. ?) Farmer, enlisted Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863 at Springfield, MA.

BRACKETT, Ezra M., Private (b. May 9, 1839 – d. Apr. 2, 1916). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 26, 1862, mustered out July 29, Springfield, MA.. Possibly re-enlisted. Buried in Florence, MA.

46th Mass. marked Mississippi rifle.

46th Mass. marked Mississippi rifle.

BROWN, Castanus, Corporal (b. June 6, 1835, Worthington, MA – d. July 19, 1907, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted Oct 4, 1862, promoted to Full Corporal June 11, 1863, mustered out July 29, 1863, at Springfield, MA. Died of chronic interstitial nephritis, buried in North Cemetery, Worthington.

BROWN, Uriah P., Private (b. July 15, 1845, Becket, MA – d. Jan 16, 1908, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted Oct. 4, 1862; mustered in, Oct. 22, 1862; mustered out July 29,1863, Springfield, MA. Died of senile degeneration, buried in Chicopee.

CARR, Edwin N., Corporal (b. Jan. 5, 1836, Worthington, MA – d. June 10, 1866, Worthington, MA). Mechanic and painter, enlisted Oct. 22, 1862, promoted to corporal, mustered out May 30, 1863, at New Bern, NC. Re-enlisted in Mass. 2nd Artillery Regiment, Co. A, July 28, 1863, mustered out July 6, 1865. Died of consumption, buried in North Cemetery.

Article from the American Agriculturalist, 1863.

Article from the American Agriculturalist, 1863.

CODY, William, Private (b. 1845, Worthington, MA – d. Oct. 29, 1917, Middlefield, MA, age 71). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 22, 1862; mustered in Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863. Died from a cerebral hemorrhage.

CONWELL, Charles H., Private (b. c. 1839, Worthington, MA – d. June 26, 1869, Worthington, MA) Student, enlisted Sep. 14, 1862, at age 22; mustered in Oct. 15, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, Springfield MA.

CUSHMAN, Emerson Baxter, Private (b. Dec. 24, 1844, Worthington, MA — d. Aug 1, 1926, Chester, MA), farmer. Enlisted Sep. 1, 1861, mustered out June 23, 1863 for disability.

DONOHUE, Timothy, Private (b. c. 1819). Bootmaker, enlisted Oct. 1, 1862; mustered Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, Springfield, MA.

KELLEY, John M., Private (b. 1842, Worthington, MA – d. Sep. 29, 1886, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 17, 1862, at age 19; mustered in Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out May 30, 1863, for disability. Died of heart disease at age 43, buried in Center Cemetery, Worthington.

KILBOURN, Alfred Bates, Corporal (b. 1831, Hartford, CT – d. Feb 27, 1886, age 55). Bootmaker, enlisted Oct. 1, 1862, at age 31; mustered in Oct. 22, 1863, promoted to full corporal on June 11, 1863, mustered out July 28, 1863, in Springfield, MA. Died of heart disease, buried in North Cemetery, Worthington.

PARSONS, Cyrus M., Sergeant (b. Sep. 3, 1825, Worthington, MA – d. May 13, 1877, Somerville, MA). Farmer, enlisted Oct. 1, 1862, mustered in Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 28, 1863, in Springfield, MA. Buried in North Cemetery, Worthington.

PEASE, John D., Private (b. July 4, 1844, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 13, 1862, mustered in Oct. 22, 1863, promoted to full corporal on June 11, 1863, mustered out July 28, 1863, in Springfield, MA

PRENTISS (PRENTICE), Dwight L., Private (b. c. 1841 – d. Oct. 8, 1927, Worthington, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 22, 1862, at age 20; mustered in Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 28, 1863, in Springfield, MA. Died of cerebral hemorrhage, buried in Ringville Cemetery, Worthington.

RANDALL, Charles L., Private (b. c. 1841 – d. June 23, 1863, New Bern, NC). Teacher, enlisted Sep. 26, 1862, at age 21; mustered Oct. 22, 1861, died in the Battle of Kinston.

Elisha Tower in uniform.

Elisha Tower in uniform.

RUSSELL, Hiram, Private (b. c. 1820 – d. June 30, 1863, Beaufort, NC). Painter, enlisted Oct. 1, 1862, mustered Oct. 22, 1862, died June 30, 1863, at New Bern, NC, following the Battle of Kinston. Buried in New Bern National Cemetery.

STARKWEATHER F., James, Private (b. Oct. 31, 1843, Worthington, MA – d. 1922, Westfield, MA). Farmer, enlisted Sep. 3, 1862, mustered Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 29, 1863, Springfield, MA.

STEVENS, Anson F. (b. c. 1843 – d. Feb. 16, 1908, Winnebago City, Illinois). Mechanic, enlisted Oct. 5, 1862, at age 19; mustered Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 28, 1863.

Newspaper clipping on Elisha Tower.

Newspaper clipping on Elisha Tower.

TOWER, Elisha C., 1st lieutenant, Captain (b. Dec. 10, 1834, Worthington, MA – d. Aug. 7, 1886, Worthington, MA). Basket maker, enlisted Sep. 24, 1862, mustered and commissioned as an officer on Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 28, 1863, in Springfield, MA. Died of chronic diarrhea.

TOWER, Lyman J., Private (b. c. 1813, Worthington, MA – d. Apr. 14, 1885, Northampton, MA). Mechanic, enlisted Sep. 15, 1862, mustered Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out June 1, 1863, at New Bern, NC, re-enlisted. See 2nd Mass Volunteer Heavy Artillery, below. Died of pleurisy.

WRIGHT, John, Private (b. Feb. 8, 1830, Clyde, NY – d. June 16, 1904). Farmer, enlisted Oct. 1, 1862, mustered Oct. 22, 1862, mustered out July 28, 1863, in Springfield, MA. Died of dropsy from heart disease, buried in Center Cemetery, Worthington.

THE 2nd REGIMENT MASS. VOLUNTEER HEAVY ARTILLERY

 

The 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Heavy Artillery was a regimental unit that fought in the American Civil War from 1863 to 1865. Initially formed on July 28, 1863, in Readville, Massachusetts with Company A, it was supported with 11 other companies ending with Company M on December 24, 1863 (there was no Company J). Company D formed August 22, 1863, and left for New Bern, NC, on September 5, 1863. The 2nd served in the states of Virginia and North Carolina during operations in Plymouth, North Carolina, Kinston, and Virginia.

This photography shows members of the 3rd Mass. Heavy Artillery, which would have looked similar to the 2nd.

This photograph shows the 3rd Mass. Heavy Artillery, which would have looked similar to the 2nd.

Camp of the 2nd Mass. HA, Petersburg, VA, 1864.

Camp of the 2nd Mass. HA, Petersburg, VA, 1864.

Damage to the 2nd Mass. Heavy Artillery from a Confederate attack.

Damage to the 2nd Mass. Heavy Artillery from a Confederate attack.

Dog tag from the 2nd Mass. HA.

Dog tag from the 2nd Mass. HA.

Men from Worthington who served in the 2nd Mass Heavy Artillery:

CARR, Edwin N., Corporal (b. Jan. 5, 1836, Worthington, MA – d. June 10, 1866, Worthington, MA). Originally in the 46th Infantry Regiment, re-enlisted July 28, 1863, mustered out July 6, 1865. Died of consumption, buried in Worthington’s North Cemetery.

COLE, Daniel N., Private (b. c. 1820 – d. July 30, 1865, Smithfield, NC). Farmer, originally in the 46th Infantry Regiment, re-enlisted Aug. 22, 1863, at age 43 in Company D; died July 19, 1865, at Smithfield, NC, from disease after Appomattox surrender.

CONWELL, Russell Herman, Captain (b. Feb 15, 1843, Worthington, MA – d. Dec. 6, 1925, Philadelphia, PA). Originally in the 46th Infantry Regiment, re-enlisted with Company D on Sep. 9, 1863. Absent from post on February 2, 1964. Court-martialed and discharged from Army on May 20, 1864. Buried in Philadelphia.

RING, John Quincy, Corporal (b. June 15, 1843, Worthington, MA – d. Mar. 13, 1864, Beaufort City, NC). Salesman, enlisted July 30, 1863, mustered Aug 22, 1863, promoted to Full Corporal. Died of tuberculosis at age 20 at Hammond Hospital, buried in Worthington’s Ringville Cemetery ). The Boston Advertiser of Mar. 24, 1864, p. 2, reads: “In the Hammond Hospital, Beaufort, N.C., 13th inst, John Quincy Ring, 20 yrs 9 mos, a member of Co D. 2d Regt. Mass. Heavy Artillery, oldest son of Ethan C. Ring of this city, formerly of Ringville, Worthington.”

TOWER, Lyman J., Private (b. c. 1813, Worthington, MA – d. Apr. 14, 1885, Northampton, MA). Mechanic, originally in the 46th Infantry Regiment. Re-enlisted in the 2nd Mass Heavy Artillery on May 30, 1863. Discharged without pay May 2, 1864 following finding of “mental incapacity and general unfitness for the duty of a soldier,” with the disability existing prior to enlistment. Died of pleurisy.

Hammond Hospital, where John Quincy Ring died, was created by commandeer- ing the Atlantic Hotel, in Beaufort, N.C. It had been a popular resort prior to the war. Though Hammond Hospital was offi- cially classified as a “general hospital” by the Union government, it cared for patients very differently. While the majority of the military’s general hos- pitals were trauma centers focused on physical wounds, primary documenta- tion reveals that Hammond Hospital was a center of convalescence, fill- ing the need for soldiers’ spiritual and mental recuperation amidst the chaos of war. Union physicians decided that Beaufort was well-situated to serve as a location for rehabilitation due to its “fine sea breeze, in contrast to the “bad air” created by the “dead water” surround- ing nearby New Bern, referring to the still wa- ter that allowed bacteria and mosquito larvae to thrive. New Bern, forty miles from Beaufort, was better connected to the state’s transportation infrastructure and had a pre-existing trauma hospital; however, when the decision of where to establish a recovery hospital was made, the ability to facilitate long-term recuperation was prioritized over ease of access.

The Union government’s Hammond Hospital, where John Quincy Ring died, was created by commandeering the Atlantic Hotel in Beaufort, NC, a popular resort before the war. Hammond Hospital was officially a “general hospital” but it cared for
patients very differently. Most of the military’s general hospitals were trauma centers focused on physical wounds, while Hammond was a center of convalescence for mental and spiritual recuperation. Beaufort was chosen for its “fine sea breeze,” in contrast to New Bern’s “bad air” created by “dead water” harboring bacteria and mosquito larvae. New Bern, forty miles from Beaufort, had better transportation links and a preexisting trauma hospital.

 

LETTERS HOME

James Thayer, 27th Mass. Infantry Regiment, to his wife Lydia

In the fall of 1861, around sixteen Worthington men enlisted in the Massachusetts 27th Volunteer Infantry at Springfield, including James Francis Thayer, Private, Company A. (For more on the 27th, see “The 27th Mass. Volunteer Infantry Regiment” section of this exhibit, above.) By November they were in Annapolis, Maryland, where they spent two months drilling and training. The regiment then joined Foster’s First Brigade in North Carolina. On May 17, 1864, the 27th was engaged at the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, where they were surrounded in the fog. Of the 252 soldiers taken captive, approximately 120 died at the infamous Andersonville Prison, including Thayer. According to W. P. Derby’s 1883 book on the 27th, Thayer “died within the stockade, without medical care, July 23d [1864], of starvation and chronic diarrhea.” He was 39 years old and left behind a wife and children. The Worthington Historical Society owns two letters written to his wife, Lydia, before his capture. The spelling has been retained, but the capitalization and punctuation have been modernized.

First page of James Thayer's 1861 letter to his wife.

First page of James Thayer’s 1861 letter to his wife.

Headquarters 27th Reg’t, Co. A, Annapolis Nov 17th Camp Springfield 1861

Dear Wife

It is with pleasure that I now take my pen in hand to answer your letter. I am well now but have had the tooth ache for a week or so but I had one pulled this morning and feel very well now. We came in from pickett guard last night we have bin out one week. We fare very well now have to drill about five hours a day now and on gard once a week.

We are encamped two miles from the city of Annapolis and about 48 miles from Washington.

There is 8 regiments here now and there is one or two comes in every day they say that 11,000 will leave here next week our Regt among the rest. Some say that we shall go Saturday or Monday shure. But we don’t know when we shall go certain. If we go we shall go on the watter down to South Carolina to reinforce the other Expedition. Give my love to Eddie and Charlie tell them to be good boys. Also give my best respects to Lew Corwin (?) and his wife and all the rest of the folks up that way who may enquire after me.

Give my love to mother and Miner (?) and Polly also to Genette Culver. tell them all to write to me and you must write to me as soon as you get this so that I shall get it before I leave here if possible for we shall not get it for one or two weeks if you don’t. We have bin trying our rifles and they will shoot one hundred rod they are tip top I shall bring my rifle home with me when I come. We have herd heavy cannonading off in the direction of Washington all day and I think you will hear of a heavy Battle by the time you receive this.

The slaves here are told by their masters that we came down here to kill them and they are as much frightened at a soldier as you can imagine. I saw Tim Warren and Scott Sampson and Edwin Bates they are here in the 21st Regt. here in Annapolis. This is the most desolate looking city that I ever saw there is scarcly a white person here and the negroes by the hundred.

James Thayer's 1864 letter to his wife, first page.

James Thayer’s 1864 letter to his wife, first page.

The steamer Connecticut that we sailed down the Hudson River in was 150 ft long we was on the boat 15 hours. I have not bin homesick but once and that was the first night in Camp Read and have bin homesick ever since. But it is almost over now in a short time I shall return to you and enjoy the freedom for which I am now trying to gain. It is getting late and I must close with a kind good night from your affectionate husband.

Direct your letter James F Thayer Co A 27th Regt. Annapolis, Md

March 28, 1864

Dear kind and affectionate wife,

I now take the time to answer your kind and welcome letter which I received in due time. I am well and hope that when this reaches you it will find you all the same. We have moved from the city of Norfolk now and are camped about three mile from the city on the Deep Creek Road. We moved last Tuesday. It snowed and blowed all day and when we got here we did not have no place to stop in to get out of the way of the storm. There was the New Hampshire camp close by where we did stop and they was off on a scout and so we occupied their camp to get out of the storm. It was the severest storm that we have seen since we have been out.

Document of Lydia Thayer's widow pension.

Document of Lydia Thayer’s widow pension.

You spoke about thinking that I was going to reenlist again. No I am not going to do no such thing it will take a great deal of money to hire me again two thousand dollars would not tempt me to enlist again.

Father wants to know if Charley has hired a horse and team and carried his mother to ride yet if so please write and let me now how the cow and Charley’s calf get along. Please write and let me know all about it.

I received a letter from you evry week. I see by your letter that you thought I had a sweetheart out here. I am very sorry you do think that of me. Please when you wright wright a long letter for that is all the comfort I get is reading your letters, for as soon as I get one read I want another. If Charley does obey his mother in everything and doesn’t swear I shall bring him the present just as I said I would. I wonder Dear Wife if you only knew how much I thought of you you would not think that I would get a sweetheart down here.

Please write and let me know those rings suit you and if they fit your finger. Please do not send anything unless I send for it. Please make them think
that you are pretty poor, not let them now what the right hand doeth. You spoke of buying a new clock. You had better let Chranchon(?) Thayer bring you one for he will bring it and it will be a good deal cheaper than I can buy it myself.

I have the rumatism so much in my back they would not take me if I wanted to enlist. That hugging and kissing that I promised you if I was there would not I do it. If the officers did not drink as you say it would be a great deal better for the privates. One of our company was married this last Thursday night and I think that he got a good woman. He is from the town of Northampton. Please excuse this short letter and this poor writing for I have written this in a hurry. Please excuse all mistakes. My love to my wife and children and no one else. This is from your true husband.

James F. Thayer

Isaac C. Drake, 46th Mass. Infantry Regiment, to his wife, Lydia

Isaac Drake's letter to his wife, Lydia, first page.

Isaac Drake’s letter to his wife, Lydia, first page.

The 46th Mass. was the second infantry regiment formed in Western Massachusetts. (For more on the 46th, see the “46th Mass. Volunteer Infantry Regiment” section of this exhibit, above.) Compared with the 27th, volunteers for the 46th were older men, more established in the community, often married with families. The 46th was mostly assigned guard duty in the New Bern, NC, area, and saw only limited action. Most were mustered out on July 28 and 29th, 1863 at Hampden Park in Springfield, MA, and a few reenlisted in the 2nd Mass. Heavy Artillery. An unlucky few died from disease before their tour was over, including Isaac C. Drake and his brother Jotham. 

Isaac was 26 when he enlisted. He and his wife, also named Lydia, had three young children. He wrote home regularly. Forty of his letters are held by the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, which shared copies of two letters with us, below. Isaac died in June, 1863, and Lydia remarried on April 4, 1865. Again, the transcriptions retain the original spelling but have modernized punctuation and capitalization.

Isaac Drake, 1862.

Isaac Drake, 1862.

Plymouth, N.C. Apr 8, 1863

Dear Wife

I received your letter to day. I was very sory that you are so unwell. I have herd too or 3 times that you was sick. But you did not want me should no it. I want you should write first how you be and if you are sick write what is the matter for I want to know all about you.

I am well as I could expect. We have to work rather hard, but don’t drill mutch. There is a number of our Co. sick now with the measels. We had one die this morning. His name was Henry Dickson from Middlefield. He was a first rate fellow and will be grately missed here in this Company.

Letter from Russell H. Conwell attesting to Isaac Drake's service.

Letter from Russell H. Conwell attesting to Isaac Drake’s service.

It has been 2 weks since we have had any mail til we got this. We don’t have a chance to send mail very often and I want you should write just as often as you can.

It is 10 o clock and the boys are all gone to bed. And so I must close.

By wishing you good night. My love to you all. Kiss the children for me. Write soon.

Ever your husband,

I.C. Drake

The following letter was written to Lydia by Austin T. Hancock (b. 1832), with the sad duty of announcing her husband’s death. Hancock was a mechanic born in Worthington but living in Norwich (now Huntington) and serving as a Corporal in Company F of the 46th Mass. Hancock survived the war and was mustered out on July 29, 1894. He had married Isaac and Jotham’s sister Martha in 1854. After the war he remarried Elma M. Rude.

First page of Austin Hancock's letter.

First page of Austin Hancock’s letter.

Newbern, June 28, 1863

Dear Sister,

Circumstances beyond the power of man to control render it a duty and a painfull one to address you in this manner. I have hoped that I should not be obliged to write you as I have had to others and tell them that their companion is no more, but such is the fact and grieves me when I think of the sadness it will cause you and other Dear friends who have already the sad news that their Husband, Son or Brother is dead. And now we have another to add to the list of men who left their Wives and little ones for the defence of this Country.

Isaac joined his friends in the Spirit Land yesterday morning at one o’clock. I was with him to last attended to his last request and saw the last gleam of recognition.

I should have written you before had it been possible for letter to have reached you and my own health prevented. I wrote to my Wife that he was sick, not considered dangerous, knowing you would here by her how he was. He did not go out much after the day that Jotham died, did not attend the funeral. He lay in my bunk in our quarters and I done all that I could for him, and it was with great reluctance that I could get his consent to go to the Hospital. He went to the General Hospital the 16th. He had the best of care, could not have had better at home although things would have been pleasant at home but as far as Medical attendance and good nursing could be done was done. I shall ever remember his Nurse with gratitude to him as well as myself. It was through his kindness that I was permitted to stay by Isaac I his last hours strictly against the Hospital regulations. The physician visited him often and took great interest in his case. The Nurse would not leave him when it came his turn to be relieved but said “No! I shall stay by that man tonight. I dare not trust him in others hands.” He did not leave him and may Gods blessing ever rest upon him.

We buried him last night in the Mass. [Massachusetts] cemetery in the grounds that he and I walked over a short time ago and he made the remark that he hoped that we should not have to lie there. Chaplain Rouse officiated at the burial, the same that officiated at Jotham’s. He is a fine [man] and feels for the Soldier and his Friends. I had very pleasant walk and conversation with him after the services. There are many things I could tell you if I should live to come Home that will interest you and other Friends that I cannot write. If we both had been well we should probably have been in Virginia or our Regt have gone their. His effects I have Boxed up to go north when Co. Goods are sent. I cannot write anything to comfort you and the little ones, but direct you to the Great Comforter who has promest to be a “God to the Widow and Fatherless.”

Hoping to see you all soon if my life is spared, I remain yours in Affection,

A. T. Hancock

This 1863 article from the American Agriculturalist shows how a family of four could live on $6.16 per week.

This 1863 article from the American Agriculturalist shows how a family of four could live on $6.16 per week.

THE HOME FRONT

 

Life in Worthington was deeply affected by the war, with sharp increases in taxes and the cost of living. In 1860, the population of Worthington was 1,046 and the tax rate was 12 cents per $100 valuation. Between 1862 and 1864 the tax rate increased to between 95 cents and $1.04 per $100. By 1865, with a population of 925, the tax rate had leaped to $1.98. Note that prior to 1865, taxes included the “society tax” assessment for the church. After 1865, with formal separation of church from state, the tax bill was for town, county, and state taxes only.

Throughout this period Worthington had far more domesticated animals than people. The number of sheep increased from 1,592 in 1861 to 2,544 in 1865, while horses averaged around 200 and cows averaged around 175. Nobody counted the chickens or cats, but there were dogs and dog licenses.

Springfield Republican, June 7, 1861.

The Springfield Republican, June 7, 1861.

Money was scarce, especially coins, and barter was common among rural farmers and merchants. Local banks produced their own currency to supplement federally issued “greenbacks.”

Worthington tax assessments, 1862.

Worthington tax assessments, 1862.

Worthington tax assessments, 1865.

Worthington tax assessments, 1865.

Franklin Burr's tax bills from 1861 and 1865 show the impact of increased tax rates.

Franklin Burr’s tax bills from 1861 and 1865 show the impact of increased tax rates. The “Society Tax” in the 1861 bill was to support the Congregational Church. By 1865, separation of church and state had come to Worthington, and the Society Tax was defunct.

Currency issued by a local bank.

Currency issued by a local bank.

From the home front, the women of Worthington supported the soldiers.

From the home front, the women of Worthington supported the soldiers.

Homage to the Sanitary Commission in Harper's Weekly, April 9, 1864.

Homage to the Sanitary Commission in Harper’s Weekly, April 9, 1864.

 

Russell H. Conwell at the gravestone of John Quincy Ring, 1921.

Russell H. Conwell at the gravestone of John Quincy Ring, 1921.

THE TRUE STORY OF RUSSELL H. CONWELL AND JOHN QUINCY RING

by Pat Kennedy and Mark Clinton

Worthington’s most famous son, Russell H. Conwell (1843-1925), had an interesting and complicated Civil War experience. In 1861, at the age of 18, he was forbidden to enlist by his father, a longtime abolitionist and supporter of John Brown. But at age 19, as agent for the Hampden County recruiters, he whipped up enough patriotic fervor among the young men of Worthington and surrounding towns to fully enroll Companies F and K of the Massachusetts 46th Regiment in 60 days.

After the war, when Conwell became famous, he often referred to his humble and poverty-stricken origins as one of four children of subsistence farmers, Martin and Miranda Wickham Conwell. As a boy, Conwell attended the South Worthington School with John Quincy Ring, a neighbor who became the subject of the most famous and influential of Conwell’s many inspirational stories.

Conwell with his sword.

Conwell with his sword.

John Q. Ring (1843-1863) enlisted in the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment Heavy Artillery, Co. D, on July 30, 1863. He was 20 and his occupation – salesman – was unusual among the area’s recruits. Conwell’s skills as a salesman were well-established at this point, perhaps providing a bond between them. Captain Conwell, after finishing his nine-month enlistment with the 46th Mass Infantry Regiment, re-enlisted for a three-year term in Company D of the 2nd Heavy Artillery. His position as Captain was reaffirmed.

In September 1863, Company D, under Conwell’s command, was sent to Newport Barracks, where they spent the fall and winter. On February 1, 1864, the Barracks’ Commander received warning of a pending Confederate attack. On February 2, 1864, Conwell left the barracks and his men. During his absence, the Barracks was attacked by a Confederate force of about 4,000, and the Union forces, including Conwell’s men, abandoned the fort to the enemy.

Record of Conwell's court-martial and dismissal.

Record of Conwell’s court-martial and dismissal.

Conwell was arrested and imprisoned at nearby Fort Totten. Although he later claimed he had left his men in order to collect their back pay, at the time of his arrest he did not give any reason for leaving his post. He spent the month of February in the brig and was subsequently court-martialed. Since he refused to account for his actions, he was found guilty, and, on May 20, 1864, dismissed from the service without pay or pension. Conwell appealed the verdict, but the only question debated on reconsideration was whether he was insane or a coward. With General Bank’s concurrence, it was determined he was not insane. In later years, seeking to have the conviction overturned, Conwell claimed that Banks was “miffed” with him.

After his dismissal, Conwell purportedly joined General James McPherson’s command as an aide with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and was promised an official pardon from Lincoln. However, there is no record of Conwell’s service with McPherson, his promotion, or any contemporary correspondence related to a pardon or reversal of the court-martial. General McPherson was killed in Atlanta on July 22, 1864.

During the month of February, 1864, while Conwell was in the brig, John Ring reported sick and was sent to Hammond Hospital in Beaufort, where he died on March 13, 1864 of “Phthisis” (tuberculosis). It is likely that he already had this condition when he enlisted. His father, Ethan Crandall Ring (1812–1898), lived a long life, but his mother, Fanny (born 1818), was an invalid who died in 1862 at the age of 44, not long before her son enlisted. John Q. Ring’s body was buried on the Hammond Hospital grounds on March 14, 1864, and then sent north on April 29 and reburied in Worthington’s Ringville Cemetery.

Newspaper item on sword presentation to Conwell.

Sword presentation to Conwell, from The Springfield Republican, October 7, 1862, page 4.

Conwell’s famous story about John Ring is mostly myth. It begins in 1862 with Conwell’s recruitment of men into the 46th. According to Robert Shackleton, one of Conwell’s many laudatory and unquestioning biographers, the men of the 46th were so enthused by Conwell’s patriotic spirit that they gathered their “scant” money to buy Conwell a sword, “all gay and splendid with gilt,” and decorated with the statement, “True friendship is eternal.” Shackleton reports that Conwell later kept the sword above his bed in his Philadelphia mansion. This sword did exist, but its reappearance later in the story is highly suspect.

According to the oft-repeated myth, Johnnie Ring adored Conwell and followed him into the service as a servant rather than a member of the Company. Conwell told Shackleton that he didn’t need a servant, but “It was the only way to take poor little Johnnie Ring.” According to military records, however, the real John Quincy Ring was never Conwell’s servant. He was the same age as Conwell. He enlisted in the 2nd Regiment Mass. Volunteer Heavy Artillery, where Conwell served as Captain, and was paid as Company Clerk from October 1863 through February 1864. Ring was officially promoted to Corporal on February 1, 1864, the day before Conwell’s unauthorized departure.

Death record for John Q. Ring.

Death record for John Q. Ring. “Phthises” is now known as tuberculosis.

As the story goes, Ring read the Bible obsessively, and he and Conwell – who reported being an atheist at the time – argued frequently about religion. One day the Confederate forces unexpectedly stormed the camp in New Bern, NC, and the sword was left behind in the tent. Johnny Ring braved bullets to rescue it, was caught on a burning bridge while escaping, and died of his burns with Conwell at his side. In reality, the Confederate attack was not sudden or unexpected, and Ring died of tuberculosis in a Union hospital.

As Conwell’s life went on, he frequently retold and continuously embellished his story. In 1921 he produced a money-losing silent film titled Johnny Ring and the Captain’s Sword. The promotional poster below provides a synopsis of what happens after Ring dies: “The boy’s death made a deep impression on Colonel Conwell. Later while leading a charge in the Battle of Kenesaw [Kennesaw] Mountain, he himself was severely wounded and left on the field of battle for dead. In the long hours of pain and agony, Colonel Conwell found his God and vowed that if it were the Lord’s will to spare his life, he would go forth and do the work of two men for God, one for Johnny Ring and one for himself.”

A statue of Johnny Ring with sword and Bible stands, uncritically today, on the grounds of Temple University, the college Conwell founded in Philadelphia.

Promotional poster for Johnny Ring and The Captain's Sword (1921).

Promotional poster for Johnny Ring and The Captain’s Sword (1921).

Statue of Johnny Ring at Temple University, Philadelphia.

Statue of Johnny Ring at Temple University, Philadelphia.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Diane Brenner has lived in Worthington with her spouse, Jan Roby, since 1994 and has been a longtime member of the Worthington Historical Society, serving on its board and as one of its archivists. As someone who loves the mystery and adventure of historical research, she has curated several exhibits and contributed articles and photographs to The Corners. In her spare time she works at her day job as a book indexer: www.dianebrenner.com

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