News Archive 2009-2018

Bowdoin Remembers: Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War Archives

Commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

Amid the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, Bowdoin is preparing to commemorate the sesquicentennial with Alumni College programming. “The Afterlife of the American Civil War,” a series scheduled August 8-11, 2013, will feature keynote speakers, talks by Bowdoin faculty and walking tours of historic Brunswick.

In the months leading up to the Alumni College, the Bowdoin Daily Sun, at the beginning of the month, will post Civil War milestones and other remembrances related to the College.

With thanks to the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, this month we feature September 1862 entries from the journal of John Deering Jr., a member of the Class of 1864, and excerpts of letters from Charles Henry Howard, a member of the Class of 1859, to his brothers on Sept. 19 and 21, 1862, following the battle of Antietam (Sept. 17, 1862).

Entries from the journal of John Deering Jr., of the Class of 1864

John Deering Jr. enlisted in the 13th Maine in December 1861 and was medically discharged in August 1862. The entries below describe the end of his trip home to Maine from New Orleans via “steamship” Fulton  (sailed Aug. 28th with other discharged soldiers).

Journal entries from September 1862:

Thursday, Sept. 4, The wind died away this forenoon, and it became very pleasant.  Came in sight of land about sundown, when a pilot boat came along side and the pilot, coming aboard, assumed command of the Fulton, He brings the news of great disaster to the Federal forces of Virginia.  He says that our army has been defeated and driven back to Washington with the Rebels in full pursuit.  Anchored in the evening near Sandy Hook and remained there during the night.

Friday, Sept, 5, Arrived at New York at eight o’clock this morning and immediately hauled up to the pier of the Fall River line of steamers. Put our baggage on board the “Empire State,” where we got a nice breakfast for a half a dollar. Took a stroll about the city up Broadway and others of the principle streets. Making some purchase of fruit went on board the steamboat. Started at 5 P.M. for Fall River by the way of Newport. Going down the river saw the Great Eastern, lying at anchor some distance below the city. She answers the description of her that I have read. The weather is beautiful.

Saturday, Sept 6, Arrived at Fall River at sunrise and took the train for Boston.  Took a coach for my brothers on Harrison Avenue, but not finding my brother at home, stopped at the house of Mr. Thomas News.  Took the three o’clock train for Saco, where I arrived at eight o’clock.  My mother and father were overjoyed to see me.

Charles Henry Howard’s letters to brothers Rowland, of the Class of 1856, and Rodelphus following the Battle of Antietam (Sept. 17, 1862)

“Otis” is Charles’ brother, Oliver Otis Howard (Bowdoin 1850); Capt. Whittlesey is, most likely, Bowdoin overseer, 1859-1863, and prof. of rhetoric and oratory, 1861-1864.

Charles Henry Howard to Rowland Bailey Howard:

September 19, 1862

Maj.Sedgwick was badly & I fear fatally wounded. He was the A. A. general so that all his duties devolve upon Capt. Whittlesey who is totally inexperienced tho’ apt to learn. Capt. Howe (aid) went home with General Sedgwick to Conn. The remainder of the staff (Captains Bachelder & Smith (Qr Mr & Com.) with Lieuts. Whittier & Steele (aid & ordnance officer) are here.

Of course we have had hard duty & hard fare for the past week but the Lord is with us & gives us a good measure of health & keeps us from all harm. Others of our staff lost their horses but as I could not well walk & could not possibly run my horse in Providence was spared. Capt Whittlesey was cool & active in duty while exposed to the greatest possible dangers. Otis was all that you could ask.

Of myself I fear I have already written with terms of higher commendation than was justified or than others would speak of me. I am unconscious, however, of having shrunk from any danger when duty called. Good night – much love to all ““ I go to sleep in tent with Capt Whittlesey upon some straw on the ground. We have no cot bedstead ““ but shall sleep soundly. Otis sends love to you, to Ella & to Lizzie Patten.

Charles Henry Howard to Rodelphus Gilmore:

September 21, 1862

H’d Q’rs Division
Sumner’s Corps
Near Sharpsburg, Sept 21st “˜62

My dear brother,

“We were very happy to receive your letter yesterday dated Sept. 14th. I had not received a single letter until yesterday when one came from Rowland also. You probably are aware that Otis & I have been in another battle, the severest & grandest of the war [Antietam]. We came out untouched by bullet or shell altho’ constantly exposed & thousands fell about us. The loss in our Brigade was greater than at Fair Oaks & in the Division, which fell to Otis after Gen. Sedgwick left the field, the loss is fearful.

Gen. S. remained after being wounded in the neck & in the arm until he became so weak from loss of blood that he could stay no longer. Capt Whittlesey & I were near the General all the time except when sent away on duty & we were all under fire for about two hours, the hottest kind of musketry & at the same time a fury of shot & shell. At Fair Oaks we did not have the artillery firing as here.

The field was extended over 3 or 4 miles & attacks were made simultaneously in their distinct places so that you can see the ground covered with dead for half a mile in every direction in these three quarters. My horse even was kindly spared in Providence for I cannot yet walk with ease & could not possibly run. Altho’ I had had considerable experience in war I had never before seen such terrible sights – the heaps & rows of dead! You can discern where the Rebel lines were by the line of dead lying side by side. And many of the wounded up to last night had not yet had surgical attendance for the reason that there were so many that with all of the hundreds of extra surgeons who came from Washington there has not been time to get round to see all the poor suffering fellows yet.