Major 38th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), August 19, 1862; Lieutenant-Colonel December 4, 1862; killed at Port Hudson, La., May 27, 1863.
the many Boston and Cambridge boys who met thirty years ago at the boarding-school of that fine old-fashioned Englishman, William Wells, in the near neighborhood of Harvard University, can hardly have forgotten one schoolmate who came among us from New Bedford, in the year 1836. He was a large, heavy, rather unwieldy boy, of great personal strength and rather indolent habit, who possessed, by reason of physical proportions, a kind of brevet seniority among his compeers. Neither genius nor the reverse, neither eminent saint nor prominent sinner, he earned a permanent sobriquet from his size, and left behind him chiefly an impression of inertia, of good nature, and of good sense. But those whose acquaintance with him continued through college life will also remember how that cumbrous frame gradually developed into a very powerful and commanding manhood; that rather heavy face into a handsome and noble aspect; and that rather indolent mind into clearness and vigor, though perhaps never into brilliancy. He became, in due time, and in his own way, a man of society, of culture, and of taste. But he studied no profession, developed no marked ambition. He was satisfied, perhaps too easily, with the competence and the pleasant surroundings to which he was born; and, retiring after graduation to his native city, he passed twenty years so quietly that his name was hardly mentioned beyond it, save among a small inner circle of his early companions, until the war called him forth for duty and for death. William Logan Rodman was the only son of Benjamin and Susan (Morgan) Rodman, and was born March 7, 1822. He was descended, on the mother's side, from a prominent family  in Philadelphia, and on the father's side from a line of worthy ancestors, all members of the Society of Friends, and numbering in their ranks the most influential merchants and ship-owners of Nantucket and New Bedford. Joseph Rotch, his great-great-grandfather, William Rotch, his great-grandfather, Samuel Rodman, his grandfather, were all men of uncommon character and ability, who left a permanent impression on the community where they lived. The latter, especially, was a man of remarkable capacity, uprightness, and benevolence, and of physical appearance so striking as to attract attention everywhere. ‘All Boston,’ said his friend Josiah Bradlee, of that city, ‘would turn out to see Samuel Rodman walk down State Street.’ Something of this personal prestige belonged to his grandson, in middle life, as a mounted officer. William Rodman spent five years at Friends' Academy in New Bedford, and two years under the care of Mr. William Wells. He entered college with his class in 1838, and graduated in 1842. He soon began mercantile life, being at first chiefly engaged in the oil trade. In 1849, during the California excitement, he sailed for San Francisco in the ship Florida, part of which he owned; but he went ‘before the mast,’ and did his full share of the ship's duty. Leaving the vessel at that port, he returned home by way of Calcutta and Europe, having been absent about two years in all. This was his only prolonged absence from home until he entered the army. During the intermediate period his life was quiet and uneventful. He participated moderataly in business life, and in social and political activities; was never married, lived at home, and enjoyed his books and his gardening, with some admixture of genealogical researches and antiquarian pursuits. As a son and brother he was not merely irreproachable, but carried into those relations a rare tenderness and a loyal, almost romantic reverence. As a citizen he was public-spirited, honorable, and morally stainless. He was president of the local Horticultural Society, a trustee of Friends' Academy, and of the Five Cent Savings Bank; was a member of the Common  Council in 1852, and one of the city representatives in the State Legislature in 1862, having been elected as a Conservative Republican. During all this period he kept a diary; and a few extracts from this will show, better than anything else, the manner in which his whole nature was roused and stimulated by the gathering alarm of war. The extracts begin with the day of President Lincoln's first election.
November 7, 1860.—Was up until three o'clock, and came home with the assurance of a Republican victory. I have no fear of secession or revolution. The South will bluster and resolve, but cotton is seventeen and a half cents per pound, and all will be quiet. It is a great revolution, however, in one sense. Political power changes hands, and the most corrupt and degraded administration topples over, not, I hope, to be revived in my day. . . . . November 10.—The last three days, talking over returns. Today we have accounts of terrible import from Charleston and Savannah. They will have to submit to the will of the majority in the Union, or go to everlasting smash out of it. My own idea is, that, however the South may fume, fret, and bluster, just now, they will be very calm before next March. . . . . November 13.—Papers still full of Southern secession nonsense. . . . . December 5.—I cannot feel that this great confederacy is to be destroyed just yet, and I don't like to contemplate the fearful ruin that must overtake the South if they pursue their mad scheme. . . . . December 10.—Put on my skates this afternoon. Am aching all over. Two hundred and fifteen pounds is a heavy weight to be supported on two one-eighth-inch irons, but I love to mingle in these gay crowds. . . . . December 17.—Wonder what South Carolina is doing. Skating. . . . . December 28.—Great stir yesterday, owing to the despatch that Major Anderson had evacuated and destroyed Fort Moultrie. Some of the people talk blood and warfare, but this is easy talking far away from the probable scenes of danger. . . . . January 25, 1861.—What a short-sighted babydom prevails in Boston. The Mayor fears W. Phillips and the Abolitionists will make a riot, and so closes the Anti-slavery Convention. Boston gentlemen, or rather, Boston snobbery, must stop the mouths of the radicals and fanatics, because, forsooth, the traitors of South Carolina won't like it.—Bah! the fools make one sick. . . . .  March 7.—Anniversary of D. Webster's fatal speech, and of my birth. . . . . April 15.—'Tis true Sumter has fallen, and war has commenced. We accept the fact with mortification and anger. A severe accounting must follow. I don't fear the result. Stirring times. Governor Andrew issues orders for an assembling tomorrow of the Massachusetts volunteers, and the Guards are preparing to start in the morning. Two thousand must start for Washington to-morrow .... April 16.—The Guards went off this morning in good style. Thirty-five muskets,—some dozen more to follow this evening. They were addressed by Clifford, from the City Hall steps, in a beautiful little speech. The crowd was very large, and the scene was solemn. Tears rolled down many a rough face. We escorted them to the boat. We may all have to follow. .... May 24.—I have been occupied in soldiering, having become a high private in Company C, Home and Coast Guard. Drilling takes up my evenings, and all last week I did garrison duty at Fort Phenix. We had, upon the whole, a good time. Ours was the first squad from Company C detailed for service, and we acquired quite a reputation for soldierly bearing. The sneer at ‘kid gloves’ is wearing out, for we have done more real hard work, drilled more, and behaved better than any other company. Of course the gentleman will tell now, as it always has in the service.It appears from this diary that he was sent for soon afterwards by Governor Andrew, who offered him the post of quartermaster in any regiment which he might choose. The offer did not satisfy him, as he wished for a position in the line; and so he waited awhile longer. Bull Run did not discourage him. He came home indignant from Boston, on the day the news arrived, and wrote, ‘I never did see such a set of croakers. . . . . For my own part, much as I regret the result, I see in it good to come.’ In September he went to Washington to see about an appointment, but nothing came of it, though he enjoyed the visit very much. He says (October 8th, 1861): ‘I failed in the object of my visit to Washington, but saw, what every one ought to see, the capital in war time. I have new love for my country and new confidence in our rulers.’  In November he was elected to the State Legislature, as a Conservative Republican. There he was an active member of the Committee on Finance,— no easy post in Massachusetts in war time. The session lasted until April 30th, 1862; and his services were thus mentioned, in a letter written after his death, by Honorable A. H. Bullock, then Speaker of the House, and now Governor: ‘In the session of 1862 I became warmly attached to Colonel Rodman, and our friendship ripened into intimacy. His frank and gallant bearing, as an associate among gentlemen, attracted the appreciation of all. His marked intelligence and honorable purposes commanded the respect of the House.’ During the summer following, at a time when recruiting moved heavily in New Bedford, Rodman decided to raise a company for the war, and showed such zeal that he was ultimately commissioned Major of the Thirty-eighth Massachusetts, dating from August 19th, 1862. The regiment left the State on September 24th, and was encamped near Baltimore until November 10th, when it sailed for New Orleans, with General Banks's expedition. During the period of delay, Rodman wrote with his accustomed frankness: ‘I am green as a leek, but pick up constantly, and manage pretty well.’ This admission makes it the more interesting to read in his letters the record of steady progress and of final mastery.
This was his last letter. The last evening of his life was spent in entertaining these officers. The rest must be told in the words of others. The two letters which follow are from his cousin, Captain Rodman of the Thirty-eighth Massachusetts, and from Adjutant Loring of the same regiment.
Most of those whom this book commemorates were very young men, who had no life-long habits to surmount, no settled pursuits to abandon, and to whom the new duty of military service came as the first grand interest and joy of their existence. Of the maturer men there were many whose lives were already full of active employment, more or less public in its usefulness, so that even their army service hardly implied a wholly new direction to their activities. Here, however, was  one whose life had enjoyed almost too much repose, and whose mind almost too much leisure; and whose bonds were the set habits of unmarried life and the warm endearments of parental and sisterly love. From these he must break away; but beyond this effort, all was new life and joy and strength; the career at last open for strong manhood never yet adequately developed; the final outpouring of faculties reserved for this. Whatever might be the sacrifice to others involved in his departure from home and in his death on the battle-field, it is certain that to no one chronicled in this book did the war bring a nobler opening of a new career. His previous habits had given him self-control, uprightness, generous feelings, cultivated tastes, and the warmest affections. War called for all these and more: he gave all it asked for, and died in the giving. The following testimony may well close the tale.