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George Foster Hodges.

Private 5th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), April 20, 1861; first Lieutenant, May 8, 1861; first Lieutenant and Adjutant 18th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), August 20, 1861; died at Hall's Hill, Va., January 31, 1862, of disease contracted in the service.

George Foster Hodges was born in Providence, Rhode Island, January 12, 1837. He was the son of Almond D. Hodges, Esq., now of Boston, President of the Washington Bank, and of Martha (Comstock) Hodges. He entered Harvard College in 1852, when only fifteen, as a member of the Sophomore class, and graduated with honor and the regard of his classmates in 1855. In January, 1856, he became an assistant teacher in the school of Mr. Stephen M. Weld of Jamaica Plain. This position he held for a short time only, as he sailed for Cuba during the next October. He stayed awhile at Havana, and then went into the interior as tutor in a private family. In June, 1857, he returned home, not being pleased with Cuban habits and customs. On September 14, 1857, he entered the office of Hon. Peleg W. Chandler and George O. Shattuck, Esq., in Boston, where he remained until he went to the Harvard Law School, where he joined the Middle Class in the first term of 1858-59. He finished the course, and received the degree of Ll. B., and then for a while returned to Mr. Chandler's office. For the greater part of the time, until 1861 he resided in Cambridge, where he was Librarian of the Law School, and worked on the law books of Professor Parsons. He made the Index to Parsons's Maritime Law, and had a very important share in preparing Parsons's Notes and Bills, rendering valuable service in the composition of that work. He was exhaustive in his research, and, perhaps, unsurpassed in the school for thorough work. On April 20, 1861, he enlisted as a private in the [328] Charlestown City Guards, Captain Boyd, Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Militia, commanded by Colonel Samuel C. Lawrence, and the next morning left Boston for Washington. On May 8th he was commissioned Regimental Paymaster, with the rank of First Lieutenant, which office was abolished in the service after the return of the three months men. He entered Alexandria, Virginia, with the Fifth, at the time when Colonel Ellsworth was killed. After the battle of Bull Run, he carried Colonel Lawrence, who had been wounded, from the field to Centreville. On July 30, 1861, he returned to Boston with his regiment; but being determined ‘to see the thing through,’ as he expressed it, he obtained a commission on August 20, 1861, as Adjutant of the Eighteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers.

On January 31, 1862, at one o'clock in the morning, he died, at Hall's Hill, near Alexandria, Virginia, of typhoid fever, contracted in the discharge of his duty. He was recovering from a first attack, when a relapse came on and terminated fatally. Of him his brother writes:—

He was so loath to speak of what he himself did at the war, that we of the family know but little of his deeds and that little was mostly learned from his comrades. By them he was always spoken of with love and respect.

Hodges was very young in college, and those of his classmates who were with him afterwards understood best his promise and sterling worth. One of them writes in the Secretary's Report of his Class for 1865:—

I was, myself, much in company with Hodges during his residence at the Law School, at the time while I was officially connected with the college. Our old acquaintance ripened into warm friendship. His extreme youth, when we were all together, prevented his being then well known as the vigorous, noble-hearted man he in reality was, both in body and mind. He would have risen to eminence in the law; for his industry, patience, and clear perception of logical relations I have seldom known equalled. His death was to me a personal loss deeply felt. He was the more valued and appreciated, on some accounts, perhaps, because in my own profession; but his personal qualities won very much upon [329] all who, in his maturity, had the opportunity of knowing him. To them he was loyal to the last degree. If ever man was entitled to be called a faithful friend, Hodges was that man.

All who knew him well say the same of him, and the eminent lawyers with whom he studied bear testimony to his peculiar excellence in his profession also.

‘When I first heard of the death of your son,’ Mr. Chandler wrote to Hodges's father, ‘I thought I would write you a note at once .... It may be some consolation to you to know how much your boy was loved and respected by others, and to feel that you have the sympathy of all who knew him. Nor is there any reason why I should not repeat, now and here, what I have often said of him while alive, that I never knew his superior in many respects. In point of ability he stood in the very first class. His great success as a lawyer appeared to be absolutely certain. More than this, he was faithful, sincere, truthful, and simple-hearted. In simplicity, manliness, and other similar qualities, I never knew his superior. He was a universal favorite in my family, and I never heard one of his college mates speak of him except in terms of praise.’

And Mr. Shattuck says of him:—

Hodges was a very diligent student, and by constant application for more than three years, had become a thorough master of the principles of the common law. Every day's acquaintance brought out more distinctly his high character and his remarkable moral and intellectual strength.

He carefully weighed all questions of duty which were presented; and when his convictions were once formed, nothing seemed to deter him from acting in accordance with them. I well recollect the seriousness with which for several days he considered the question of entering the army. He carefully considered his duty to his family, his friends, and his country; but when the question was once decided, he seemed to have forgotten himself, and seized the first opportunity to serve his country by enlisting as a private.

Hodges was unobtrusive, but very active in benevolent labors. While studying law, he regularly taught in the Evening School of the Warren Street Chapel. When he tried his first case, and was successful, he carried part of the fee he earned to its Treasurer, saying to him, “This is one half of my first fee. Take it, that it may do good to others.”


His death was too early in the war to afford opportunity for brilliant military service; but his immediate superiors, Colonel Barnes and his classmate Major Joseph Hayes, both afterwards general officers, bear testimony to his fidelity and conscientious discharge of his duty.

When Rev. William S. Mackenzie, another classmate, heard of Hodges's death, he wrote to Hodges's father as follows:—

My acquaintance with him commenced early in the college course, and was very intimate all the way through. I never knew him to be guilty of a piece of meanness. Indeed, he always seemed to me to look on any such thing in another with surprise mingled with sadness. When others would become indignant and utter remonstrances in violent language, he was thoughtful, sad, and silent. He appeared to be incapable of understanding how anybody could descend to say or do mean things, and such as imposed on conscience. “Foster,” I used to say, “you are an unsophisticated fellow.” But that word did not do him justice. It was a pure noble-mindedness (is that the word?) that made him so promptly and keenly sensitive, and so averse to anything that outraged manliness.

He was singularly affectionate, kind, and compassionate. Those qualities shone in his face, spoke in the tones of his voice, and, as I can bear witness, in many unobtrusive but significant acts. There was no selfishness apparent in anything he did or said. It did not seem to occur to him when doing a favor, however costly, that he was making any sacrifice. He loved to help any one; it cost him no effort, it was spontaneous and cheerful. There was a gush of good — will in his face, and a naturally affectionate tone in his words. I was a poor boy, with very little to help me along in college. My struggles with want were severe. Putting both hands on my shoulders, and looking into my face, Foster would frequently say, “Mac, how are you getting along?” If reluctant to disclose the truth, in sympathetic tones of voice he would coax me to tell him. If I consented, it was sure to fill his eyes with tears. He had a tender heart; tears came quickly and easily. With a voice made husky by emotion he would often say, “Never mind, Mac, you will get along, and come out right side up in the end.” Many a timely favor came into my hands from some unknown source in the Class. It was very evident to my mind that he was often very intimately concerned in those favors.


Colonel Lawrence, of the Fifth Massachusetts Militia, was also a classmate of Hodges, and gives the following account of the way in which Hodges enlisted, and afterwards saved his Colonel's life at the first battle of Bull Run:—

When my regiment was called out, and we were about to start for Washington, I met Hodges on Court Street. Said he, “Colonel, I want to go with you. Have you a place for one man more in your regiment?” I replied, “Hodges, are you willing to go as a private?” “Yes,” said he, “I mean to go any how, for I can't stay at home in this war.” So we went down to Faneuil Hall, and I put him into the Charlestown City Guards as a private, and so he went to Washington. I there detailed him to write for me at Headquarters, and procured his appointment as paymaster of the regiment. While he served in the ranks, and afterwards, I never knew a more energetic, active, attentive, devoted soldier. He always went to drill, though his duty did not require it of him; but he was eager to learn, and became very thorough in his knowledge of tactics, through his desire to fit himself to become an Adjutant. He often rode with me, and was very fearless. When we went on the Bull Run campaign, my regiment, the Fifth Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, had the advance of Heintzelman's column; and, as I went at the head of the regiment through the thick woods, often in advance of the line of skirmishers, Hodges was always with me. When we came under fire, Hodges was left with the wagons, where it was proper for him to stay. But at a time when the fire was very heavy, whom should I see but Hodges, quietly walking up through it all. “Hodges,” I exclaimed, “are you here?” “Yes,” he replied very quietly, “I thought I could be of some help to you.” He then stayed with me, acting as Aid, to carry orders through the regiment, as the noise made it impossible for my voice to be heard.

Just at the close of the battle I was wounded, while near the right of the regiment. Hodges came up and ordered the men to carry me to the rear. He had me put into an ambulance, which is the last thing I remember then, for I became insensible. Four or five men, I believe, accompanied the ambulance a short distance. In the confusion of the general retreat, the others, supposing me almost dead, and that it was impossible for me to survive, all left me; but not so Hodges. He took me out of the ambulance, which the driver had left, and, bearing me over a fence into a wood, supported me against a tree. He told me that all had gone, and I should probably be soon taken a prisoner, but that he would stay [332] with me and be taken too. I told him to go, as it was bad enough for one to be taken prisoner. “No,” said he, “I shall stay, for it is not right to leave you, our Colonel, helpless here alone; and besides, I want you to understand I will not desert a classmate.” And so he stayed until assistance came. By Hodges's means I escaped captivity at that time, and probably death. He was a noble fellow, and none could wish a better friend.

Hodges died too soon for the fame which follows success, whether in arms or a professional career. He was the only member of the class of 1855 who died in the war,—a fact rather singular, since twenty-seven out of its eighty-three members served in the army. But if fidelity, in its broadest sense, —fidelity to country, friends, and duty,—is the noblest element of manly character, it can be truly said that no nobler man gave up life in his country's service than Foster Hodges.

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