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Chapter 4:

  • Companies sent to the forts
  • -- officers appointed to command -- Militia battalions -- First call for three years troops -- delays at Washington -- letter to Montgomery Blair -- letter of Secretary of War -- General Orderno. 12 -- six regiments allowed -- Governor anxious to send more -- Letterof General Walbridge -- Governor to Senator Wilson -- more delay -- Extrasession of the Legislature -- address of the Governor -- proceedings of theLegislature -- War measures adopted -- debate on colored troops -- Billspassed by the Legislature -- sinking fund -- Government securities -- Payof troops -- established camps -- seven millions of dollars -- State aid toFamilies of soldiers -- the six regiments of three years men -- ten moreRegiments called for -- their organization -- additional staff officers appointed -- Surgeon-General's Department organized -- letter of Governor toDr. Lyman -- board of Medical Examiners -- promotion of the Surgeon-General -- letter of the Governor to Colonel Frank E. Howe -- New-Englandrooms, New York -- letter of Colonel Lee to Charles R. Lowell -- Lettersof the Governor to different parties -- circular of the Secretary of War -- Colonel Browne to Colonel Howe -- abstract of correspondence -- Colonelsargent to General Scott -- Cobb's Battery -- letter to Colonel Webster -- letter to the President -- Irish regiments -- flag-raising at Bunker-Hillmonument -- speech of Governor Andrew -- speech of Colonel Webster -- interesting ceremonies -- conclusion.

The defenseless condition of the forts in Boston Harbor, in the early part of the war, was a cause of much labor and anxiety to the Governor, and to the merchants and underwriters, whose vessels at anchor in the harbor, or lying at the wharves, were greatly exposed. Frequent representations of the insecure condition of Boston were made by the Governor to the Secretary of War, which, for a considerable time, failed to elicit attention. To allay, in some degree, the general feeling of insecurity, the Governor, on the 24th of April, ordered the Fourth Battalion of Infantry, under command of Major Thomas G. Stevenson, to garrison Fort Independence, where it remained until the 21st of May. On the 29th of April, the Second Battalion of Infantry, under command [163] of Major Ralph W. Newton, was ordered to garrison Fort Warren, where it remained until the 1st of June.

Major-General Samuel Andrews, of Boston, was ordered to take command of both forts, which position he held from the 1st of May until the 1st of June, when he was relieved. The command of Fort Warren was given to Brigadier-General Ebenezer W. Peirce, on the 13th of May. He was relieved on the 27th of the same month, having been appointed to take command of the Massachusetts troops at the front, and to fill the vacancy occasioned by the promotion of General Butler to be a major-general of volunteers. General Peirce was succeeded in command of Fort Warren by Brigadier-General Joseph Andrews, who remained on duty there, and at Camp Cameron, in Cambridge, until Nov. 18, 1861.

On the 21st of May, the Fourth Battalion of Rifles, Major Samuel H. Leonard, was ordered to Fort Independence, where it was recruited to a regiment of three years volunteers, afterwards known as the Thirteenth Regiment. A camp was also formed on Long Island, in Boston Harbor, to which a number of companies, composed of men of Irish birth, were ordered. These companies were to form two regiments of three years men, to be known as the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Regiments. They were afterwards consolidated into one, and known as the Ninth. Of this camp, on the 11th of May, Brigadier-General William W. Bullock was placed in command. He remained on duty until the 12th of June, when the Ninth was ordered to Washington, and the camp was broken up.

The battalions first ordered to the forts performed much labor in removing rubbish, old shanties, piles of bricks, and lumber; filling up excavations; erecting chimneys and cook-houses; arranging hospital accommodations, and preparing them, as well as the limited means would permit, for defensive operations. These labors have never been properly acknowledged by the General Government; on the contrary, a captious and unjust report of the condition of the forts was made, in June, 1861, by an army officer, a copy of which was sent to Governor Andrew by Major-General Wool. This report sets forth that the [164] forts had been greatly injured by the two battalions; that nails had been driven into the walls of the casemates, drains obstructed, filth accumulated, and chimneys so erected that large guns could not be properly manned and worked. That these statements had a slight foundation upon which to rest, we shall not deny; but if the officer had made a survey of the forts, and especially of Fort Warren, before the two battalions had taken possession, his report would have been of a different tenor, and he would have accorded to the soldiers praise instead of censure. They certainly deserved it: they saved the Government time and money in making the forts habitable, and by putting them in a condition to defend the harbor, and maintain garrisons.

The Governor, on the 25th of April, appointed the three major-generals of militia,—Messrs. Sutton, Morse, and Andrews,—with a portion of their respective staff, an examining board to pass upon the qualification of persons elected officers of new companies. This board remained in service until the 24th of May, when it was relieved from further duties. The number of persons examined by the board was six hundred and forty-one men, thirty-nine of whom were rejected.

On the 2d of May, Lieutenant-Colonel C. C. Holmes, of the First Company of Cadets, was placed in command of a guard at the State Arsenal at Cambridge, and the powder magazine at Captain's Island. The guard was composed of members of the cadets and students of Harvard University, who volunteered their services. They were relieved on the 30th of May, and received the thanks of the Governor.

We have already stated, that the President issued a proclamation, on the 3d of May, for volunteers to serve for three years, or during the war. On the 4th of May, Secretary Cameron issued General Order No. 15, setting forth the number of regiments to be raised, and the manner in which they were to be organized. There were to be thirty-nine regiments of infantry, and one regiment of cavalry. Nothing was said or intimated in the Secretary's order about the proportion of men or regiments which each State was to furnish. At this time, there were, in Massachusetts, upwards of ten thousand men organized into [165] companies. They had enlisted as militia: they now pressed forward to the State authorities to be accepted and organized as volunteers for three years. The Governor could not accept them; could not muster them; could not encourage them, further than with kind words, until answers were received from Washington to messages which he had sent, asking that they might be accepted. Days passed on: no requisitions came. The companies held to their organizations; paraded the streets, partly for drill, but chiefly to pass the time, until information should come from Washington, that their services would be accepted. No orders came; delay and disappointment marked the hour; men could not understand why the Government would not accept their services. They pressed daily to the State House; the Governor wrote and telegraphed again and again to Washington, beseeching the Secretary to accept the services of men anxious to serve their country. No answer came for more than a fortnight after the President's call had been issued. A letter from Secretary Cameron was received by Governor Andrew, on the 22d of May. As a favor, Massachusetts was allowed to furnish six regiments of three years men.

From among a number of letters written at this time, and upon this subject, we select the following, to Montgomery Blair, Postmaster-General:—

My dear friend,—Your last letter, in which was mentioned a possible plan for retaking Sumter, reached me in the midst of cares and toil, which have left no opportunity to pursue the subject.

I do not know what may be your opinion, or that of the Administration, as to operating at that point.

The whole matter has now assumed the broadest proportions, and we in Massachusetts are only anxious to be up to our whole duty; and it is my strong desire to receive from you every friendly and prompting hint, and to endeavor to follow it. At the same time, I wish your aid in affording Massachusetts those full opportunities which become her services and her character.

I have not the honor of personally knowing the Secretary of War. nor do I know how far he may share your sympathy with Massachusetts in her present attitude. At all events, I cannot address him on [166] paper in the earnest and familiar manner I wish, and which, indeed, I might adopt if face to face.

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