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Charles Brooks Brown.

Private 3d Mass. Vols. (Infantry), April 17–July 22, 186; private 19th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), August 23, 1861; Sergeant; re-enlisted December 20, 1863; died at Spottsylvania Court-House, Va., May 13, 1864, of a wound received in action May 12.

Charles Brooks Brown was son of Major Wallace and Mary (Brooks) Brown, and was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 29, 1835. He was the sixth in a family of eleven children. He received his early education in the public schools of Cambridge, and at the age of eleven years entered the High School, He was a pupil of that school at the time when it was put under the charge of Mr. Elbridge Smith, who infused new life into the institution, and soon caused it to rank among the foremost schools of the country. Brown, like many others, caught a new spirit under the new administration. He had always exhibited quickness of mind and eagerness to do as well as others whatever interested him. But he had cherished no thought of ever receiving more than a common-school education, and had expected erelong to engage in the business of his father,—that of soap-making. The size of his family and the humbleness of his father's means seemed to forbid his receiving further advantages. As he himself once remarked, it had been one of his earliest pleasures as a boy to go to the College buildings on Commencement days and take a look at the mysterious alcoves of the Library, and watch the College processions, without suspecting that he himself would ever become a participant in similar scenes. But while at the High School the desire to go to college suddenly took possession of him.

Up to this time his tastes had led him to take more interest in the natural sciences and in mathematics than in the classics, and he had many deficiencies in the latter to supply, within a [334] short time, in order to enter college with those of his class in school who had that destination. He had been particularly interested in chemistry, a knowledge of which he thought would be useful to him in what was to be his future pursuit. As he appeared to his schoolmates at this time, his chief characteristics were such as are generally expressed by the term ‘rough and ready.’ He was a favorite of the boys at their games, being strong of muscle and of an active temperament, and putting his whole spirit into anything in which he participated. He was below the average in stature, and for some time bore among his schoolmates the nickname of ‘Stubby,’ which was often changed to ‘Stuffy,’ to express his tenacity. In general, he was at this time recognized by his schoolmates as a boy of great pluck, quick mind, and good capacities, but with a relish for out-door sports, and for the every-day activities of life, rather than for persevering study.

But upon making up his mind to gain a college education, he directed all his vigor and persistency to fitting himself for admission, and with such success as to enter the Freshman class at Harvard in the year 1852, after passing a good examination in all studies except Ancient Geography.

During his college course he was very studious, and devoted himself to his prescribed duties with great assiduity. His tastes at college, as at school, were for the natural sciences and metaphysics, though he was not a poor scholar in the classics. He received a ‘Detur,’ and had parts at the Junior and Senior Exhibitions; his part at the May Exhibition of 1855 being in a Greek Dialogue. He graduated in the Class of 1856, with the rank of twentieth in a class of ninety-two members. His Commencement part was a Disquisition on ‘Sir William Hamilton.’ The mingling in him of blunt and hardy qualities with the finer traits of character so impressed his classmates, that the part given to him in the mock programme for the Junior Exhibition of October 17, 1854, was, ‘ A Mineralogical Essay, —— “Rough Diamonds,” —by C. B. Brown.’

He was obliged to depend chiefly upon himself for the means with which to meet the college expenses, and he pursued his [335] studies and maintained his rank in the Class, subject to the interruptions caused by pecuniary necessities. He met his expenses by keeping school during the winter, and with the aid furnished by the college monitorships, and, moreover, by the use of his pen. He was quite averse to having his friends know of his habit of relying on his pen, and was himself inclined to forget, so far as he could, his efforts in that respect. For his writings comprised a strange variety of subjects. Sometimes he wrote a sermon or a theological discussion for a religious newspaper,—for he had quite a taste for theological subjects, and had a familiar knowledge of the Bible; again, it would be a novelette for a weekly paper; and then, again, it might be a conundrum sent in competition for some prize offered. His surprise one day at receiving such a prize for a conundrum which he had devised while going to recitation, and which he had sent to a New York paper, and his joy at the unexpected windfall, led to his informing one of his friends of his habit of writing for the press, which he had before kept a profound secret.

A leading quality in Brown's character as he appeared to his college classmates was persistency. When he set himself to a work, he clung to it with almost dogged obstinacy. There was also in his nature, perhaps, a natural love of contest. This showed itself in social converse in his readiness to take sides upon any subject in question, and in his enjoyment of a vigorous defence of his opinions. He was always quick and frank to announce his views, and earnest in supporting them. In work or study, a spirit of competition was easily awakened in him. In sports, too, he enjoyed the excitement of contest, and particularly enjoyed out-door exercises requiring muscular strength, because of his sturdiness of body. He had also a great liking for all games requiring thought and patience. In the game of checkers, the homely associations of which were to him pleasing, he particularly excelled; and there were few amusements he enjoyed more than coming in as a stranger upon a party of proficient players of that game at a country inn, or elsewhere, and putting to shame the champion of the village. [336]

After graduation he selected the profession of the law, and in April, 1857, entered the law office of Messrs. Griffin and Boardman in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He was admitted to the Suffolk Bar in Boston, January 28, 1858, and soon afterwards went to the West to practise his profession. While looking for an opening, he visited Springfield, Illinois, where he made the acqaintance of Abraham Lincoln, and of his law-partner, Mr. Herndon; and after visits to St. Louis and elsewhere, he, at their suggestion, returned to Springfield and commenced practice in an office adjacent to theirs.

He took part in the political contest of 1858 between Lincoln and Douglas, making various public speeches during the campaign on the side of the former, whom he ardently admired. Upon his return to the East, he was surprised to find how little Mr. Lincoln was known in New England; and it was his delight to talk with every one on this theme. He brought home with him two good photographs of Mr. Lincoln, one of which he kept in his own room, and the other of which he hung up in the room of a friend whom he frequently visited, and where he never tired of discoursing about his hero. His enthusiasm for a man who was then little known at the East led some of his friends to smile at what they thought his extravagance of earnestness. Subsequently, upon the nomination of Mr. Lincoln for the Presidency, he felt proud to have the opportunity of lending one of his much-derided likenesses to be copied, and to see copies of it circulated in public among the first pictures of Mr. Lincoln that were seen in New England.

While he was in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln was about to send his oldest son to some Eastern college. Brown, on finding that Harvard was not regarded with so much favor at the West as some other colleges, advocated in frequent conversations with Mr. Lincoln, and with his usual ardor, the merits and advantages of his own college. He claimed that the very conservatism charged upon Cambridge was salutary to a Western boy; and that the practical tendencies and vigor of Western life would react favorably upon Cambridge. The [337] result was, that Mr. Lincoln decided in favor of Harvard for his son.

Brown remained at the West about a year and a half, when he returned to New England and opened an office in Charlestown, Massachusetts, removing, however, afterwards to Boston. On November 14, 1860, he delivered an Oration in the City Hall, Cambridge, before the Cambridge High School Association, having been appointed orator for the occasion of its annual reunion.

He rejoiced in the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency, and in the ascendency of the political principles represented by him. Thus it happened that at the outbreak of the Rebel lion, in the following spring, not only was his general love of country ardent, but his special opinions and sympathies were such as to be easily touched by events. The attack on Fort Sumter aroused his inmost nature.

On the 17th of April, 1861, he left his home in Cambridge, in the morning, to go to his office in Boston, but learning that a Cambridge company of volunteers, which had been forming, was to be equipped and to leave for the seat of war immediately, he went and joined them, and that night was on board a steamer bound for Fortress Monroe, as a private in Company C, Third Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. He served with his company at Fortress Monroe and vicinity during the three months campaign, and received his discharge July 22, 1861.

But on his return home, and after the news of the battle of Bull Run, he could not keep quiet, and without waiting to consider how he could with most ease and honor to himself serve his country, he looked around to see what regiment would be likely to leave soon for the field; and on the 23d of August, 1861, enlisted as a private in Company G, Nineteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers; and five days afterwards was marching with his regiment, in which he soon became a sergeant. They were ordered to the vicinity of Poolesville, Maryland, where his company, with others, did duty in picketing the river. Passages like the following, from his letters at this [338] time, show the interest he took from the very first in the reputation which the sons of Harvard should sustain in the war.

He writes, October 10, 1861:—

There is a slight prospect of our being ordered to Missouri or Kentucky. I want to go anywhere, providing I can see active service; and if ever C. B. gets into a battle, rest assured that he will never disgrace the Class of 1856 or the old Cambridge High School.

After the battle of Ball's Bluff, October 21, 1861, his company was engaged all night in removing the wounded from Harrison's Island. He writes:—

About four o'clock in the morning, Caspar Crowninshield, of boat-club renown, turned up in shirt and drawers, with a blanket over his shoulders, after a cold swim across the river. All unite in praising his gallant conduct on the field of battle, and old Harvard has good reason to be proud of the courage and ability shown by her representatives.

Some of his vacations at school and college he had spent among the farmers of New Hampshire, where with his readiness to learn anything that was practical, he had become familiar with many of the duties of hard-working men. The following extract shows how he could turn this practical knowledge to account. He writes, December 19, 1861:—

Here I am, on the banks of the Potomac, still on picket duty. I have constructed a log-house, twelve feet by ten, with ridge-pole, &c., and it is large enough for my guard and myself. I have the best house on the tow-path of the canal. My practice in New Hampshire comes in play, for I always do my share. My house is bullet-proof, or very nearly so, with loopholes on three sides, and stands in a good position as regards the river; so if the Rebels should attempt to cross, even with my small force of four men I could give them a warm reception.

In March, 1862, the regiment was transferred to the Peninsula, to participate in the campaign against Richmond. He shared in the labors before Yorktown and in the seven days fighting before Richmond; and throughout the whole campaign his letters show, in the gloomiest periods, no signs of [339] despondency on his part. He writes, June 6, 1862, from camp at Fair Oaks Station:—

I have not seen my knapsack since a week ago yesterday. Since then we have been constantly on duty, and I have not had my cartridge-box or roundabout off for eight days, except for a few moments. . . . . I enjoy first-rate health, notwithstanding the hardships of the campaign, and cannot give up my belief in the final capture of Richmond.

He writes, June 12th, of his experience in advancing pickets; and, in speaking of an order given him to send a man forward and then have the rest follow, says:—

It looked dubious, but as I never would send a man in where I was unwilling to go myself, when the order came, on I went myself.

At the battle of Fair Oaks in June, 1862, he was wounded by a minie — ball passing through the left leg a little above the ankle. He persisted in firing his gun several times after he was wounded, and then with its aid as a crutch hobbled off the field. He was sent to the United States General Hospital at David's Island, New York.

While in the hospital he had the opportunity of receiving his discharge from the service, and some of his friends urged his procuring it. His wound seemed to him to be healing too slowly, and for a few days he was despondent, and wrote:—

I am in doubt whether to take my discharge or not. Should I tell the doctor how I am, the discharge would be given without a shadow of doubt; but again it would look like backing out,—that I don't like.

He resolved to remain in the service, and soon had the satisfaction of finding his wound improving, so that by October 15th he left the hospital, and in November, 1862, rejoined his regiment near Warrenton, Virginia. About a month after his return the battle of Fredericksburg took place.

The following extract from the correspondence of the Boston Journal describes his conduct at the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862:— [340]

This regiment (Nineteenth Massachusetts) was presented with a new stand of colors, to replace those sent home stripped and torn by Rebel bullets. In the action of the 13th, the new colors had fourteen holes in them; and we are informed that they were carried by eleven different men, nine of whom were killed or wounded within one hour. Sergeant Charles Brown was the seventh man. He received a wound in the head, which stunned and for a time confused him. Lieutenant Hume, thinking his wound mortal, told him to give up the colors; but he refused, saying, “I will not give them to any man.” Finding he was fast becoming weak, he rushed out in advance of the line, staggered and fell, driving the color-lance into the earth; and there he lay, dizzy and bleeding, still grating the lance with both hands, until Lieutenant Hume caught them up.

Referring in his letters to the scenes of that day, he writes:—

The color-sergeants had been shot, and no one seemed willing to take the colors, when I made the offer, and to the front I went. When I took the colors I bade farewell to life; but God saved me. . . . . The Boston Journal gave your humble servant a good “puff,” in consequence, as I suppose, of a nearly accurate account of the affair as related by Lieutenant Hume to some correspondent of that paper. Give yourself no uneasiness, however, in regard to the wound I received. It would have felled a bullock; but the effect was temporary. I stayed with the regiment all the time, and the next day was all right, though my head was a little sore. As regards the remark of the correspondent, that “such sergeants should be commissioned,” that will come right, if I live, unless something happens not now thought of.

After the battle of Fredericksburg followed the winter-quarters at Falmouth. The following illustrates his esprit de corps. Writing January 13, 1863, he says:—

I am looking forward with somewhat gloomy anticipations to another battle. I do not fear it. Anybody who was ever with me in battle knows that I am not a man to run; but what I fear is this: the three regiments of our brigade, who always do about all the fighting of the brigade, are almost dismayed. We have six regiments, yet the Twentieth Massachusetts, the Seventh Michigan, and our regiment know as well beforehand as afterwards, that if there is any risky job to do, we shall have to do it; and it makes [341] the boys a little down-hearted. I have command of my company about half of the time; the Lieutenant being sick. In my company I have but twelve privates on duty; so that the boys feel, in a fight, as if their time had come. All I feel afraid of is, that the regiment may some time get into a fight, and not behave well, and lose some of their reputation. I would rather be shot half a dozen times than see the old Nineteenth run.

In spite of his hardy constitution, and although he had a year before written that he was ‘as tough as a knot, and could stand being wet all day, lie down in wet blankets, and wake up in the morning and not feel the effects of it,’ the exposures of the service began now to tell upon him; and April 24, 1863, he writes that he is ‘in full enjoyment of the blessings of fever and ague, and rheumatism.’

While he was suffering with these sicknesses the second battle of Fredericksburg (Chancellorsville) took place. When at midnight of May 2, 1863, his regiment was marched to the river-bank preparatory to crossing, the Surgeon of the regiment advised him to remain behind on account of his sickness. But as he afterwards wrote, ‘Notwithstanding any unfavorable effect it might have upon me, it was my duty to try and go.’ The enemy prevented the laying of the pontoon bridges, and twenty-five volunteers from each regiment were called for to cross in boats. Sergeant Brown volunteered to go, but was not allowed to go, on account of being needed in his position of Acting First Sergeant. After a crossing was effected, he participated with his regiment in the fighting and labors of the 3d and 4th of May, and on the 5th recrossed.

‘On reaching this side,’ he writes, ‘ the excitement and nerve that had sustained me through the entire affair left me, and I was entirely exhausted, and was ordered to fall out and have my things carried, and told to take my own time to reach the camp. I have been unable to do anything since I returned.’

When in June, 1863, the army moved, under Hooker towards Maryland, he was sent, against his own will and protestations, to the hospital at Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, being almost entirely disabled with fever and ague, and rheumatism. From here he writes:— [342]

Sometimes I feel very hopeful, and feel that the time will be short before I return once more to active service; then perhaps the very next day I feel discouraged, and fear that I shall never again face the foe. . . . . It is the first time I have been sick to amount to anything since I was in the army; but now the old wound in my leg bothers me considerably (the one I had in the head never gave me any trouble), but I do not expect it will be long before I have a chance to get back to the front again. I hate to be away from the regiment.

He writes again, congratulating a brother upon not being drafted, since he thought their family in sending three sons to the war was doing its share, and says:—

Don't think I am tired of the war or a disbeliever in maintaining it. I am in for carrying it on until the South will get so badly whipped that they will not dream of rebellion again for a century. But one family should not be called upon to make all the sacrifices; and this is why I would not have you go.

He writes from hospital at Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia:—--

I am sorry you think I have done my share in putting down the Rebellion. I do not. My experience up to this time has only served to make me anxious to conclude the war and to be in at the death. Do not imagine that I admire military service, or am at all fond of martial pomp. Far from it. But my entire sympathies are enlisted in putting down this Rebellion. It is the old conflict, —the Roundheads and the Cavaliers; and one or the other must succumb.

At length, much to his joy, he was able to leave hospital, and he rejoined his regiment November 23, 1863. On account of the absence of the commissioned officers from sickness, or duty elsewhere, he took command of the company upon his return, and three days afterwards was sharing in the fatigues and perils of the reconnoissance across the Rapidan.

For the first two weeks of December, 1863, he had a very serious question to reflect upon and decide,—that of re-enlisting. With the exception of a month's interval between his return from the three months campaign and his second enlistment, he had now been in constant service since the very opening of the war, had been twice wounded, had received a [343] severe shock to his rugged constitution from the exposures of the service, and was a soldier in a regiment which was so reliable, and had done such gallant service, that it was sure to find its place in the thickest of the fight in any future campaign. All this he had done and endured with no higher rank than that of Sergeant, while of a nature more than ordinarily ambitious, and while feeling as deeply as any one could that his abilities and education entitled him to be a commissioned officer. Ways were opened to him of procuring an officer's position elsewhere; friends were suggesting to him that he had done his share of the hard work of the war. But to his own mind there seemed but one line of conduct for him to follow. He must at all events continue in the war until the Rebellion was crushed; and remaining in the service, he must abide with his old regiment, and receive his promotion there, or not at all. So he writes to his parents entreating them to be contented and to overcome their natural disappointment until his furlough, at least; and on December 20, 1863, he deliberately re-enlisted in the ranks.

To those who knew his peculiar temperament, there was something more in this action than either patriotism on the one side or personal indifference on the other. For this resolute, hardy, self-trained young man there was a kind of pride in the very humbleness of his station, and in the thought that the rank which others sought through private favor or influence would come to him through his deserts, or not at all. Some personal opposition or discouragement which he encountered within his own regiment perhaps increased his unwillingness to leave it. He had spent most of his life in conquering obstacles, and could patiently bide his time while conquering a few more. He was far from being an unambitious man; but his was a kind of ambition which enjoyed the thought of suddenly emerging from obscurity and ascending several steps at once, or, should this fail, of going down to posterity as simple Sergeant Brown. This last is the alternative which fate chose for him, and this the laurel which after all suits his strong nature best. [344]

After the usual month's furlough allowed on re-enlistment, he returned with his regiment to the army of the Potomac in March, 1864; and May 3, 1864, entered upon the campaign in the Wilderness, having charge of his company. Just as the campaign commenced, he received from Major-General Butler an appointment, which friends had procured for him, as First Lieutenant in that general's department, dated April 26, 1864. But without seeking for leave or orders to report under that appointment, he put the document in his pocket, and passed safely through the hard fighting of the first few days, until the morning of May 12, 1864, when, in command of his company, he shared in the glories of the charge of Hancock's corps at Spottsylvania Court-House.

The line of works had been carried, cannon and prisoners captured, and half of the regiment killed or wounded, when another advance was made. During this advance, while leading on his company, Sergeant Brown was struck by the fragments of a shell which burst close beside him. His right leg was taken almost off by the explosion, and his left leg was badly mangled.

Immediately after being wounded, he drew from his pocket his unused commission as Lieutenant, now stained with his blood, and a likeness of his betrothed, and told the comrades who came to wait upon him to send those home with the news of his death. He was obliged to lie on the battle-field an hour before he could be conveyed to an ambulance, was then carried three miles for that purpose, and then driven to the field hospital of the Second Corps. He was received into the hospital tent about ten o'clock in the morning, and so great was the vitality of his system, that he lived until half past 6 o'clock of the following morning.

After he was taken into the tent, he told an attendant that his fighting days were over, and he wished him not to leave him until he died, and to inform his parents that he died doing his duty. His mind would often wander, and at times he spoke as if to his mother, and at other times as if to his company on the field. [345]

Two of his brothers, James and Henry, belonged to the same corps. James was wounded in the same battle, and died the same day with Charles; and after the battle had ended, Henry visited his wounded brothers. When he came to the hospital where Charles was lying, and had been recognized by him, Charles seemed anxious to know how the battle was going; and among his first questions he asked, ‘Shall we win the day?’ Henry told him his brother James was mortally wounded. ‘It will be hard,’ replied Charles, ‘for mother to lose both of us’; and the news of his brother's condition more than his own approaching death, seemed to unnerve and prostrate him. From that moment he sank rapidly until the morning of the following day, when he died.

His betrothed, whom he had first known through a letter of religious counsel which she had written to him as a soldier, and to whom he had become engaged during his last furlough, was taken ill of rapid consumption upon receiving the news of his death, and died six months later with his name upon her lips.


Daniel Hack.

Private 14th Mass. Battery, January 24, 1864; discharged for disability, March, 1864; enlisted as private in Connecticut (but unassigned), March, 1864; died of disease at Hartford, Conn., April 17, 1864.

Daniel Hack was the son of Christopher Amory and Sarah (Seaver) Hack, and was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, December 21, 1834. He was the second of four children, all sons. From earliest childhood he was noted for the beauty of his countenance, the sweetness of his temper, and the quickness of his intellect. He had a high forehead, a full, deep-set eye, dark curling hair, clustering thickly upon his temples, and a frank, manly, and captivating expression. Though he was not tall, and his frame was slender and delicate, there was yet a remarkable grace in his light step and his upright carriage. He inherited from his maternal grandfather an accurate and retentive memory, a great love of reading, and an easy and copious flow of language both in speaking and writing.

At an early age he became a pupil of Bristol Academy, one of the oldest and best of the New England Academies, and was under the instruction and training, first of Samuel Ripley Townsend and afterwards of Henry Blatchford Wheelwright, by whom he was fitted for college. With these teachers he was always a favorite pupil, from his docility, his aptness to learn, his eagerness in study, and his correct and exemplary conduct. He was equally a favorite with his teacher in the Sunday school, and with his companions in sports and studies. His preparation for college was thorough, and he entered with honor in the summer of 1852. No young man had more of the confidence of friends, as to his future success.

In the winter of his Sophomore year he taught school in Taunton. In October of the Junior year he was compelled by ill health to leave college for a time and return home, and [347] did not go back until the beginning of the spring term. The loss of so much time, and the difficulty of making up so many studies, were fatal to his hope of class distinction, and his rank at graduation in 1856 was not so high as had been predicted by those who knew his ambition and ability. His college course, however, was by no means a failure. His range of reading was wide, especially in English literature, and few young men could converse more intelligently on topics of general literary interest.

He intended to become a lawyer; and for this purpose entered his name with Hon. E. H. Bennett of Taunton, with whom he read law for a short time, but continued ill health and other causes prevented him from carrying out this plan.

From April, 1857, to March, 1858, he resided in the town of Richmond, Vermont, where he made many friends, who remember and speak of him with the deepest affection. Returning to Taunton in 1858, he corrected himself with his father in the printing-office, in the duties of which he had long before become expert. It was the amusement of his school-days' leisure, and in after years he turned it to a useful account. His correct taste, and an eye for the beautiful in art, rendered him an adept in the business of Job Printing, and his judgment and skill were in demand among all the customers of the establishment.

When the war broke out in 1861, his patriotism was aroused; and if his physical condition had allowed it, he would probably have enlisted in one of the companies formed in his native town. In the year 1862, when Washington was threatened, and the President called for men for thirty days, he was still more anxious to go; and again, at the leaving of the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, on its second service of nine months in the Department of the Gulf. In the course and conduct of the war he took the greatest interest, and was familiar with its operations, and ardent for the national cause. It was a mortification that his schoolmates and classmates were able to show their zeal and self-sacrifice, while he was compelled to stay at home. In January, 1864, against the wishes of friends, [348] who knew his physical unfitness for military service,—and, indeed, without their knowledge,—he enlisted in the Fourteenth Massachusetts Battery, (Captain Wright,) then in camp at Readville. There he was detailed as clerk at the post headquarters. At a review of the troops by Major-General Burnside, he stood for several hours with wet feet; took a severe cold, which brought on a congestion of the lungs; went home on a three days furlough, which was extended to three weeks on account of his continued illness, and returned to camp on the 14th of March. It was then found, on examination, that he was physically unfit for the service, and he was dropped without having been mustered in.

This new discouragement did not hinder him from trying again. He went alone to Hartford, Connecticut, and enlisted as a private there; but before being assigned to any regiment, was taken sick and died in Hartford, April 17th, 1864, aged twenty-nine years and four months. His relatives were with him in his last illness, and brought his body home for burial. The funeral services were held in his father's house, four days later. His body rests in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Taunton.

Not much more can be said of the uneventful life of this young man, whose military service was so short, and who, though he twice enlisted as a private soldier, never saw a battle. Those who knew him from early childhood,—and the writer of this notice is one of them,—knew him to be amiable, generous, honorable in his intentions, and without malice in his heart. Many have mourned that his early promise should have been clouded by physical disease and lost in premature death; yet it is their satisfaction to remember that he gave his life to the cause of freedom and his country.


Stephen George Perkins.

Second Lieutenant 2d Mass. Vols. (Infantry), July 8, 1861; first Lieutenant July 11, 1862; killed at Cedar Mountain, Va., August 9, 1862.

I approach with infinite reluctance one of the most difficult themes for biography to be embraced in these volumes. There hung around Stephen Perkins a peculiar atmosphere, not merely suggestive of admiration, not merely of affection, but of some indescribable commingling of the two, more subtile than either, which renders his most intimate friends unwilling to attempt his portraiture, and thus leaves the task for me. And I, his cousin and his teacher, can hardly overcome this same shrinking, or force myself to break that silence which his proud and fastidious nature would doubtless have preferred. For he made no claims, ran no race, won no prize, achieved no eminence but in dying; and perhaps from peculiarity of temperament, would have achieved none had he lived. Yet his friends were all among the most gifted young men of his day, and it is now observable that not one of these companions seems able to talk of him without a tinge of romance. So peculiar and subtile the impression of superiority which he made, I observe that it can be better measured by a certain lowering and trembling of the voice in those who attempt to describe him, than by any account they can give. One of them said, the other day: ‘I could write nothing about Stephen Perkins, because the simplest things I could say of him would seem like such absurd exaggeration. Suppose I should say that my few years' intercourse with him had done more for me than any other influence of my life,—who would believe it? Yet it would be the most commonplace truth.’

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, September 18, 1835. His father was Stephen Higginson Perkins, a well-known Boston merchant and a man of varied culture, whose life has [350] been devoted in great measure to the study, and latterly to the practice, of art. Stephen's mother was Sarah (Sullivan) Perkins, daughter of the Hon. Richard Sullivan of Boston, and one of a family of sisters well remembered in that city for their charms of person and of mind. When Stephen was seven years old, I took charge of him and his two brothers, as their private tutor, residing in the family in Brookline for nearly two years. He was then a sweet, modest, lovable, boy, with a healthy and active mind, but without indications of the philosophic, introspective mood which he afterwards developed. And though his physical activity was great and constant, he was then short of stature, and only his large bones and very powerful muscles gave promise of that superb physique which he finally attained. Beloved as he was by all who came in contact with him, and becoming constantly a finer and finer type of noble and intelligent boyhood, yet I do not think that any one ever predicted of him the precise combination of traits and tendencies which his manhood showed.

He passed from my instruction to that of Dr. Charles Kraitsir, a learned Hungarian, whose theories of language were then attracting some attention; and he was afterwards successively the pupil of Messrs. T. G. Bradford and William P. Atkinson. He entered college with the Class of 1855, but was compelled to leave it by weakness of the eyes, and afterwards joined the Class of 1856. During most of his college career he was obliged by the same infirmity to study with the aid of a reader, his chief dependence in this way being Francis Channing Barlow, since Major-General of Volunteers. This drawback made the attainment of college rank impossible, but his remarkable abilities were fully recognized by his classmates and teachers. In his social relations, however, he had developed that peculiar reserve and imperturbability of manner which were his later characteristics; and everybody admitted it to be a good hit, when in the distribution of mock parts for an imaginary exhibition, that assigned to Perkins was ‘a Dissertation on Icebergs.’

After his graduation he travelled in Europe, returning in [351] 1857; spent a year in the Law School at Cambridge; but afterwards left that department of the University for the Scientific School, where he obtained a degree in Mathematics in 1861.

At this period the first trait which impressed a stranger on meeting him was his distinguished physical aspect. Those present at the College Regatta at Springfield, in 1855, will remember the admiration excited by the picked crew of the Harvard four-oar, the ‘Y. Y.’ composed of John and Langdon Erving, Alexander Agassiz, and Stephen Perkins. Three of these young men, including Stephen, were over six feet in height, and all were in the finest condition, according to the standard of training in those early days. Discouraged at the very first stroke pulled, by the breaking of the ‘stretcher’ of the strokeoar, they yet rowed a stern-race with perseverance so admirable, that they lacked but three or four seconds of victory, being then beaten only by the six-oar of their own University. To this result, as I am since told by one of the crew, the peculiar imperturbability of Perkins's temperament greatly contributed. He had an aversion to ‘spurts,’ and believed in a certain total of effort, to which it made no sort of difference whether his opponents were in sight or out of sight. This coolness of habit characterized his whole physical nature. He was not light, agile, nor adroit; but to whatever undertaking he addressed his rather indolent strength, that work was done.

And his beauty of face was as characteristic as that of his figure. The highest point attained, twenty years since, by American miniature-painting, in the judgment of many connoisseurs both in this country and in Europe, was a likeness of Stephen Perkins taken by Staigg about 1843. None who have ever seen it can forget the charm of those dark-blue eyes, that fresh complexion, and that open smile,—traits of boyish beauty which he always retained.

But the peculiar charm of this stately mien lay, after all, in something undefinable, a certain type of temperament, a sensation of tranquil strength, of indefinite resources, of reserved power. What he accomplished seemed far less than the victories [352] he seemed to waive and scorn. There seemed a sort of Greek languor about him; not the best temperament for usefulness perhaps, nor even for happiness, but undoubtedly the most potent for personal fascination, though he would not have deigned to use it consciously for any such end. He seemed to attempt nothing; in fact it was the drawback upon his life that he did not greatly care to attempt anything; and yet his mere preferences seemed to carry more weight than the vigorous efforts of other men. Each of his associates had some anecdote to tell, showing how Stephen had at some time ‘conquered without the crossing of bayonets,’ effecting by a single quiet word or look what others had toiled and stormed in vain to accomplish. Quite democratic in his theories and sympathies,—though he never got credit for this with strangers, —and utterly despising every affectation of personal or social advantage, yet he had at his command all the haughtiness of a Venetian nobleman, and could at a moment's notice put barriers insurmountable and immeasurable between himself and any offender.

The sort of temperament which Charles Reade endeavors to describe in his Lord Ipsden in ‘Christie Johnstone’— but without there freeing it from a certain air of affectationwas natural and almost controlling in Stephen Perkins. Holding in his hands youth, beauty, culture, social advantages, he seemed yet to grasp them all lightly, as if for the next breeze to bear away. He dallied with his great powers, not in mere indolence, still less in conceit; but as if some hidden problem were first to be solved before these trivial faculties could become worth exercising. Meantime it was the very consciousness of this unstated problem which seemed to give him his influence. This delaying quality was the very thing that charmed. It suggested vast spaces of time and hidden resources of ability. It was not alone that thought in him lay behind action, but something else seemed to lie behind thought; as in a machine-shop the flume is behind the wheel, and the silent reservior beyond the flume. His control of those about him was not a thing won by effort, but a thing possessed in virtue of mere head-of-water. [353]

Thus it was noticeable that his intimates seldom praised him for this or that special gift, except perhaps that of conversation, but always labored to carry their explanations back to some ultimate force, expressed or implied. And it is equally remarkable that their enthusiasm bore no reference to any expected success in any special direction. Usually the admiration and the predictions of young people go together; where they see gifts, they expect miracles. In his case they seemed to recognize a rarer quality than that which wins success, and they were content to allow him a whole eternity to grow in, demanding nothing meanwhile. They did not pretend to understand or explain or justify him; they only knew that there was but one Stephen Perkins. It was a dangerous form of admiration; a weaker person would have been spoiled by it. He only received it all with that same equanimity with which he took everything else. When his friends were pleased, they called this stoical mood philosophy; when they were a little provoked, they called it laziness; when very much provoked, they called it conceit,—and revoked the phrase in self-contrition the next day. For they knew very well that under all this motionless surface there was a nature absolutely noble, that would gladly give up all the superficial joys of life, could it but live itself out clearly and find its true career at last. And older men and women, whose society he always rather sought, found him modest, gentle and truthful, though they might miss something of that fresh enthusiasm which seems the proper birthright of youth.

It is almost needless to say, after what has been said of his temperament, that he had a choice taste in books, and knew his Emerson from beginning to end. He liked, too, to hear Theodore Parker preach, but would not acknowledge to any positive thrill of the blood from that powerful electric battery; and if moved thereby to any special act of courage or selfsacrifice, would have been sure to keep it out of sight. Habitually defending all who where attacked or criticised, he also habitually understated all emotions; and when the war came, treated it as he treated the rest of life, with only a sort of [354] guarded and critical interest. He held it at arm's length for philosophic consideration. Of course life was nothing; but after all, might not the whole game, about which the nation was excited, prove as valueless as the particular pawn which was all he could contribute if he took part? Even when he had actually enlisted, he was very willing to let it be supposed that it was only from ennui, or because he was tired of being asked whether he were not going. One of his intimates told me that he only once ventured to put the question to Stephen point-blank, why he went into the army, and then he only replied, with his accustomed shrewd, meditative smile, that ‘it was an ancient and honorable profession.’ But one of his female relatives has since said that at the outbreak of the war, on her remarking to him, rather heedlessly, that the war was not likely to come home to their two lives, for instance, in any immediate way,—he answered, with an unwonted seriousness that was almost sternness, ‘I do not know that it will make any difference in your life, but it is likely to make a very great difference to mine.’ In a few days he had enlisted.

In passing to the sequel of the story, it would be easy for a stranger to conjecture that this proved one of the cases where the war gave the needed fulness and completion to a life otherwise incomplete. But I do not think it was so with Stephen Perkins. With his rare powers, and his sensitive, haughty nature, the course of development was not to be so easily rounded. On the 8th of July, 1861, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Second Massachusetts (Infantry); was promoted First Lieutenant in the same month of the following year, and was killed within a month after his promotion. The intermediate period was the most tedious epoch of the war, and he was engaged in its most tedious service, in the Army of the Potomac. Danger and exertion would have seemed to him worthy the sacrifice they brought; but he chafed under a forlorn and monotonous routine, and amid a seemingly aimless waste of resources. Life, which had appeared of little value at home, seemed utterly valueless there, and the secret languor of the blood increased rather than diminished. His [355] letters showed much of his accustomed philosophy, but no enthusiasm and little enjoyment. None of them are now accessible to quote from, and I speak of them from memory alone. He complied with forms which he detested, fulfilled a routine which he undervalued, and saw a seemingly useless campaign draw its slow length along. It will always remain uncertain what influence active service might have had in concentrating his powers of action and developing the latent enthusiasm of his nature. But it is certain that inactive service, under generals in whom his shrewd sagacity put no faith, and with noble companions whose lives he saw wasted, gave neither joy nor tonic to his nature.

The disastrous battle of Cedar Mountain, the first important engagement of the Second Massachusetts, took place on the 9th of August, 1862. The regiment was under fire but half an hour, yet of twenty-two officers who went in only eight came out unhurt; five were killed, five wounded, three others wounded and captured, and one captured while attending a wounded comrade. Of the five killed, three stand recorded in these volumes,—Abbott, Goodwin, and Perkins,—besides Savage, who died of his wounds. Of those five killed, moreover, three went into battle almost too ill to stand, of whom Stephen Perkins was one. ‘All our officers behaved nobly,’ wrote Robert Shaw after this battle, in a letter which will be found elsewhere in full. ‘Those who ought to have stayed away did n't. It was splendid to see those sick fellows walk straight up into the shower of bullets as if it were so much rain; men who, until this year, had lived lives of perfect ease and luxury.’

In a contest so hot, individual casualties pass for a time unnoticed, and often the precise facts can never be established. Robert Shaw says: ‘The men were ordered to lie down until the enemy came nearer. Almost all the officers kept on their feet, though.’ This readily explains the fearful loss among those thus prominent. It is stated by Colonel H. S. Russell, then Captain in the Second, that when the regiment had been in position about twenty minutes, Stephen Perkins received a [356] wound in his right hand, but refused to go to the rear, saying that a handkerchief was all he wanted, and this was given him. Ten minutes afterwards, Russell noticed him again, and in a few minutes more, when the regiment was withdrawn, he was not in his place. The body was found a little way to the rear, pierced with three bullets.

His remains were identified on the next day by General Gordon and Captain Shaw, and were, after due preparation, sent to Washington, and thence to Oakhill Cemetery, Georgetown. There took place on the 25th of September that simple and touching funeral ceremony, the narrative of whose pathetic loneliness has touched many hearts; while it was yet more consonant with the nature of Stephen Perkins than would have been any priestly or military splendor. The services were performed by Rev. John C. Smith of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, who thus describes the scene:—--

There were but four of us,—the father, Dr. Francis H. Brown, Surgeon of Judiciary Square Hospital, and a young ministerial friend, Mr. D. R. Frazier, from the Union Theological Seminary, New York. As we were about to leave the Superintendent's house, I beckoned to three wounded convalescents near by, and said to them, “Boys, I have come here to bury a young officer; we have no guard, fall in and act for us.” They obeyed promptly, giving the usual military sign. We went to the vault and received the body; then moved in the following order, namely, Superintendent and convalescents in front, myself and the young minister; the body carried by hand; the father leaning on the arm of Dr. Brown (also a Boston man). . . . .

Reader, if you visit the metropolis and desire to see the grave marked by the marble placed there by the father's love, go to the monument of the Russian Ambassador, M. de Bodisco, and a few yards eastwardly you will see the spot where lie the remains of the gallant young Lieutenant of the Second Massachusetts.

Thus closed the brief earthly life of one whose slow and large development would alone seem enough to guarantee immortality, [357] in a universe where nothing runs to waste. To Stephen Perkins, with his haughty humility, the accidents of place and fame were nothing, and the most unnoticed funeral and briefest record would have appeared most fitting. And he who, with no steady hand, has woven this slight tribute to the noble promise that he loved, may now gladly let the garland drop, and leave the rest to silence.

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