ASHLAND’S CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS BY DAVID RUELL
From a talk given to Ashland Historical Society on October 14, 2015
The first problem in talking about Ashland’s Civil War soldiers is determining who they were. Ashland was part of Holderness until 1868, so all the records label our soldiers as Holderness residents. At this date, figuring out which part of Holderness they lived in would be difficult and sometimes impossible. Fortunately, a group of Civil War veterans undertook that task for the Ashland Civil War Monument, which lists 83 soldiers who served in the war. The town monument committee, all Civil War veterans, originally drafted a list of 84 names which was published in the local paper for public comment on any mistakes or omissions. Apparently, they did get responses, as on the monument, four of the names on the draft list were left out and three new names were added. So, the names on the monument are probably the most definitive list we have now. I have tracked down the military records of all but one of those 83 soldiers. Charles W. Thompson is still a mystery to me. There are four Thompsons listed on the monument and he is probably Charles W. Thompson who was the son of one of them and the brother of the other two. But, I have not been able to figure out which of the many Charles Thompsons in the Union army is the Ashland soldier. He may well have served in a unit from another state, as I have relied mostly on a massive roster of soldiers and sailors from New Hampshire published by the state in 1895 and the various histories of New Hampshire regiments. But I can speak on the other 82 soldiers. Twenty of them served in two different units, and two, Sylvester Howe and Hiram Small, enlisted in three different units. The 82 men served in fifteen different units of the army, none in the navy or marines. I will go through the unit by unit, but I will not give the full history of all those units. There were four regiments, the 1st, 6th, and 12th NH Infantry and the 1st NH Heavy Artillery in which large groups of Ashland and other Holderness men enlisted. Recruiters, usually local men, would canvass the town, and men would sign up to go off to war with their neighbors. I will give their histories in more detail, so you can have some idea of what service in a Civil War regiment was like and how it differed between regiments.
The Civil War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Three Ashland men soon signed up for service under the State of New Hampshire. Aquilla Peaslee and Thomas Peaslee both enlisted in the State Service in late April, but they were both discharged for disability on May 7, after just 2 to 2 ½ weeks. Whatever those disabilities were, it did not prevent them from enlisting and serving in the 6th NH six months later. Jonathan Stewart enlisted in April in the Concord Volunteers, who were sent to Fort Constitution in New Castle to defend Portsmouth harbor. He served at the fort in the service of the State of New Hampshire until the following May when he and many of his comrades joined a company of 52 men, now in the Federal army, that took over the defense of Fort Constitution. But, a few months later, in August 1862, this company was sent to Concord to became part of the 9th NH Infantry regiment that was then being formed.
President Lincoln’s first call for soldiers three days after Fort Sumter was fired on was for 75,000 men to serve for three months. He little suspected that it would take over two million men over four years to put down the rebellion. New Hampshire was asked to raise a regiment of infantry. Within two weeks in April, enough men for two regiments volunteered. The recruiting officer for this area was John H. Thompson, who had been the Holderness postmaster for nearly 20 years and had served as town clerk and selectmen. He enlisted 17 men for Company I, all of them now listed on the Ashland monument. They were James A. Baker, Aaron Cate, Omar Cate, Benjamin Gray, Addison Heath, Leroy Heath, William Howe, George Hughes, Henry Keyes, Warren Martin, Daniel Mooney, Hiram Small, James Small, Alpha Smith, John C. Thompson, Augustus Wilder, and George Willoughby. In addition, Sylvester Howe enlisted in Company G, for 18 Ashland men in all. All were privates, save for John C. Thompson who was a sergeant. In early May, the regiment was mustered in Concord. After a few weeks of training, they were sent to Washington, arriving on May 28. The regiment camped near Washington until mid-June when it moved to Poolesville, Maryland further up the Potomac, where they were to prevent a Rebel force from crossing the river. For 21 days, the regiment patrolled 15 miles of riverfront. The only incident of note was a fight at Conrad’s Ferry when five companies including Co. I traded shots across the river with the enemy. There were no Union casualties, but three Confederates were killed. This was the only combat the regiment ever saw. In July, the regiment moved up the river to join a larger force that was supposed to engage the Rebel forces in the Shenandoah Valley, but the Union commander was very cautious. He advanced and retreated but never fought. In the meantime, that Rebel army slipped away to take part in the Battle of Bull Run, the first big Union defeat. On August 2, the three-month terms of the soldiers expired and they were sent home to Concord, where the regiment disbanded on August 12. The regiment did not have an impressive record. But its men were patriotic, the majority of them later enlisting in other army units. All but one of the 18 Ashland men would re-enlist to continue the fight.
One 1st NH veteran was Warren Martin, who actually went back to Maryland to enlist one month later in the 13th Maryland Infantry for 3 years. Martin is, to the best of my present knowledge, the only Ashland man to serve in a non-New Hampshire Union unit. He was later appointed sergeant, re-enlisted after his term was up, and fought until the end of the war, so essentially he was in the army for the whole war but for that month between regiments, an honorable military career.
The same cannot be said of George Willoughby, another 1st NH veteran and the only Ashland man to join the 2nd NH Infantry. He enlisted in August 1861 for three years, but his enthusiasm did not last that long, as the following June, he deserted at Seven Pines, Virginia, during the retreat of the Army of the Potomac. The monument committee must have been aware of his desertion, but they chose to ignore it and honor his year or so of service anyway.
Four Ashland men joined the 3rd NH infantry when it was mustered in August of 1861, for three-year terms. But they all left the regiment the following August. James A. Baker, a 1st NH veteran, and Francis M. Hughes enlisted in the regimental band. But in July of 1862, Congress voted to disband all regimental bands, so all band members were mustered out at the end of August and sent home. Hughes was then in the hospital, but he was also sent home with the band. The regiment was part of the expedition to occupy Port Royal, South Carolina, and the nearby coastal islands and had occupied Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, in November 1861 and was stationed there until the spring of 1864. There the 3rd was ravaged by disease, with over half the regiment at one point reported sick and off duty. John H. Thompson, the former postmaster who had recruited the men in the 1st NH, was a personal friend of Gov. Berry who gave him a commission as a lieutenant in Co. I. He was 53 years old when he joined, the oldest man by about nine years of the Ashland men who served in the war. Although an officer in Co. I, he seems to have spent most of his time as the Commissary officer for the regiment. He too became sick and was failing for weeks, when typhoid fever set in and he rapidly got worse. Realizing that he was dying, he, as the regimental history reports, “ arranged his business affairs and dictated messages of love to his family and calmly awaited the approach of the grim destroyer.” He died on August 26, 1862. His body was accompanied back to Holderness by the fourth Ashland man Private William Ballard. Ballard must himself have been sick, as he never returned to the regiment and was soon discharged for disability, although he would later recover enough to enlist in the Heavy Artillery.
Two men served in the 4th NH Infantry which was mustered in September of 1861. Sylvester Howe, a veteran of the 1st, lasted just four months, as he was discharged for sickness in January. He would recover and later join the 12th NH. Private Joseph Appleyard received a medal issued by Maj. Gen Gilmore for gallant and meritorious service in the operations around Charleston, South Carolina. He was wounded in the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg in July of 1864 and killed a couple of weeks later on August 16, in the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, Virginia.
Three veterans of the 1st NH joined the 5th NH Infantry when it was mustered in October of 1861. Alpha Smith was wounded in June 1862 at White Oak Swamp in Virginia, during the Army of Potomac’s retreat, and was discharged for disability about two months later. Addison Heath served as a musician until his three-year term expired in 1864. Leroy Heath reenlisted in 1864, was wounded on June 26 of that year during the siege of Petersburg, and was transferred to the Invalid Corps in April of 1865. The Invalid Corps was for soldiers who, for health reasons, could no longer serve as front-line combat troops, but could do lighter duty, as guards, cooks, nurses, etc.
The 6th NH Infantry was raised and organized in the fall of 1861. Company A was recruited primarily in Plymouth and Holderness. When the regiment was mustered on November, 28 Holderness residents, 19 of them later listed on the Ashland monument, were found in company A. One other Ashland man, Aaron Cate, a 1st NH veteran, joined Co I in December, so Ashland had 20 men in the regiment. Omar Cate, Hiram Small, and James Small were also 1st NH veterans. Aquilla and Thomas Peaslee had served briefly in the State Service. Thomas P Cheney was appointed 2nd Lieutenant of Co A and was later advanced to 1st Lieutenant. After a month of training, the regiment was sent to Washington, arriving on Dec 28. On January 9, the regiment sailed from Annapolis as part of General Burnside’s expedition to the North Carolina coast. Malaria and measles so plagued the 6th, that it spent most of the campaign on guard duty on Hatteras and Roanoke Islands. Among the seriously ill were Corporal Henry Smith, who died of disease on Roanoke Island on March 28, 1862, to become the first Ashland man to die in the war. Joseph Plaisted was discharged for disability on March 3 on Roanoke Island, only to die on April 8 back home in Holderness, presumably of whatever disease that led to his discharge, although I do not know that for sure. Burnside was preparing to march inland when he was ordered to reinforce the Army of the Potomac, so the 6th sailed back to Virginia to become part of the IX Corps. A tragic accident marred this transfer. The steamer “West Point”, carrying the sick of the IX corps up the Potomac to Washington, collided with the “George Peabody” and sank. The crew abandoned the ship, leaving over 200 passengers with one boat. About 120 of them drowned, including Private Samuel Plaisted.
The 6th joined the Army of the Potomac in time for the 2nd Battle of Bull Run on August 29, the most disastrous of its career. A brigade of three regiments, including the 6th, was ordered to advance into woods in which the Confederates were massed. The regiment to the left of the 6th fell back. But the 6th went on, unaware of its danger until it was virtually surrounded. The 6th retreated quickly under heavy fire, but nearly half of the men who went into battle were killed, wounded, or captured. Nathan Hackett died of his wounds on September 12. Thomas Peaslee was wounded so badly that he was discharged for disability in October. William Harriman was both wounded and captured. He was paroled back to the Union army six days after the battle. Here the records become confusing. The regimental history says that he deserted from the parole camp in Annapolis. The state roster says that he was discharged to date October 6. I do not know which is correct.
Until the following spring, the 6th was part of the Army of Potomac. It took part in the battles of Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg and the almost as deadly winter encampment at Falmouth, Virginia. Ai T. Plaisted was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg. The losses that fall and winter were substantial. Four Ashland men were discharged for disabilities, Cyrus Plaisted in October, Lieut. Thomas Cheney and Hiram Small in November, Aquilla Peaslee in February. Two years later, Hiram Small would join the cavalry, but the others were done with the war.
In March of 1863, the IX Corps was sent to Kentucky by way of Cincinnati. The 6th was stationed in a number of Kentucky towns to guard against guerrillas while waiting for the East Tennessee campaign to began. Sickness followed the regiment. Ai T. Plaisted died of disease in April in Covington, Kentucky. In June, the IX Corps was sent to help General Grant in the Vicksburg campaign, so the 6th went back to Cincinnati, then by train to Cairo, Illinois, and down the Mississippi by steamboat to Vicksburg, where they joined Grant’s army in the siege of that city. After that city fell, the army with the 6th headed east to fight Johnston’s army and capture Jackson, the Mississippi state capitol. The regiment then marched back to Vicksburg and went up the river again. The summer heat, malaria, long marches, and bad water took their toll on the 6th. . By the time they reached Cairo again, half of the regiment was unfit for duty. Moses Tirrell died of disease on the hospital boat Tycoon on the Ohio River at Cannelton, Indiana in August. William Harris was transferred to the Invalid Corps in June, as was James Small in September. Small served two more years in the Invalid Corps, but Harris deserted that unit in June of 1864. He was allowed to return in 1865 after the war was over and then formally discharged after three days.
The 6th returned to guard duty in Kentucky towns during the winter of 1863-64, broken by a furlough for those who had re-enlisted. After the furlough, the regiment rejoined the IX corps in Annapolis. The 6th served the rest of the war in the Army of the Potomac, as Grant moved south for the last time. The regiment was in the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Tolopotomoy Creek, Bethesda Church, Cold Harbor, the siege of Petersburg, the Battles of Weldon RR, Poplar Spring Church, Hatcher’s Run, and Fort Sedgewick. James Smith was wounded in the Wilderness on May 4 and more severely at Spotsylvania eight days later. Aaron Buzzell was also wounded at Spotsylvania and was later discharged for his wounds. Joseph Lambert and Aaron Cate were discharged in December of 1864 as their terms had expired, but they missed little of the fighting. Cyril Lambert, who had re-enlisted, died of disease back in Holderness on April 17, 1865, 8 days after Lee’s surrender.
When the 6th was disbanded in July of 1865, only 2 of the 20 Ashland men remained in the regiment, both of the officers. James Smith had advanced from Private to 2nd Lieutenant of Co. E. The only one left in Co. A was Omar Cate who had risen from Private to 1st Lieutenant. Of those 20 men, 6 had died, 9 had been discharged for disability or sent to the Invalid Corps, 1 had either deserted or been discharged for disability. And just 4 had survived in enough good health to complete their terms of service in the regiment.
The only Ashland man in the 7th NH Infantry was Private Augustus Wilder who was signed up for three years when the regiment was mustered in Oct 1861. In April of 1864, he was transferred to the Invalid Corps, then returned to the regiment five months later, and was finally mustered out after his term expired at the end of the year.
Three Ashland men served in the 9th NH Infantry.
As I mentioned, Jonathan Stewart has served at Fort Constitution in New Castle as part of the State Service, then in May of 1862, he joined a small unattached company of 52 men in the Federal service who were going to man that fort. Benjamin Gray, a veteran of the 1st NH, also joined that company at the same time. But plans for the company soon changed. The Confederate threat to Portsmouth was rather remote, while the Union army needed more soldiers, so the unattached company becomes part of Company E of the newly formed 9th NH in August. At that time Stewart was appointed Corporal. The 9th, like the 6th, took part in the Vicksburg campaign. The day after the capture of Jackson, Miss., Stewart and others were, as the regimental history put it, ”roaming the city to see or find something of interest when a magazine exploded under or near him and tossed him into the air. His hair, eyebrows, and beard were singed off and he was burned quite badly.” But, the history continues, he “was a cheerful soul” and “in an ambulance on the way back [to Vicksburg] with bandaged eyes and blistered face and hands, was chuckling over his comrades, in the fact that he could ride while they had to [walk].” Stewart recovered, was promoted to sergeant, and was wounded again in the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg. Both Stewart and Gray served their full terms and were discharged when the regiment was disbanded.
The third Ashland man in the 9th was Rufus Mooney Merrill, who had one of the most unusual careers of any NH soldier, as he was one of a small number of NH natives, perhaps as few as 3, who served in both the Confederate and Union armies. About 1858, when he was 18, Merrill moved to Georgia to work on a railroad. In June of 1861, he joined a Georgia regiment, he later said under duress. But at least one historian has questioned that, as the Confederacy did not have a draft at that time. In any event, he soon decided that he wanted out of the Confederate army. He was stationed at Fernandina, Florida, which is in the very northeast corner of the state, on the coast just south of Georgia. After Union troops occupied Port Royal and Hilton Head Island at the south end of the South Carolina coast in November of 1861, he and another Confederate soldier from Philadelphia in the same situation, decided that this was their chance to desert. They stole a boat and set out for the Union-occupied islands, some 100 miles away by the sea. The voyage did not go well. Their food and water ran out and since they did not have a compass, they went off course and were lost at sea. They would probably have died if they had not been rescued by a Union gunboat and taken to Hilton Head. They were then sent to New York. Merrill arrived home about December 20, still dressed in his Confederate uniform. In June of 1862, he enlisted in the 9th NH which was then being recruited. But, if he was ever captured by the Confederates and recognized as the deserter Rufus Merrill now fighting for their enemy, he most likely would have been executed as a traitor, so he enlisted under the name of John Mooney. Mooney was mustered in as a sergeant. After performing well at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in October. But over the winter, he developed respiratory problems, which proved to be tuberculosis, then an incurable and often fatal disease, which he could have contracted in either army. He was discharged from the army in March of 1863 and died of his disease in 1866 at the age of 26. He is buried here in Green Grove Cemetery. On his tombstone up near the flagpole, the 9th NH is listed under his name, but there is no mention of his Confederate regiment.
12th NH Infantry In July of 1862, a call for 300,000 3 year soldiers went out. The 12th NH was raised in Belknap County and the surrounding area, what we call the Lakes Region today. The entire regiment was recruited in just 4 days in August, between Tuesday and Saturday. 42 Holderness men, 32 of them later listed on the Ashland monument, joined Co. E. Most of these men were recruited by Orlando Keyes. Four of the men, Henry Keyes, George Hughes, William Howe, and Sylvester Howe had previously served in the 1st NH and Sylvester Howe had also served in the 4th NH, making this his third enlistment. Given the large number of Ashland men in Co. E, it is not surprising that when the officers of Co. E were elected, Nathaniel Shackford was elected Captain, Orlando Keyes 1st Lieutenant, Hiram Woodman and William Howe two of the five sergeants; Samuel Cheney, Olof Jewett, George Hughes, and Edward Shepherd four of the eight corporals. Besides the 32 Ashland men in Co. E, two others joined the 12th, George Andrews in Co. G and Osmond Baker in Co. H, for a total of 34, the largest number of Ashland men in any one regiment.
The regiment rendezvoused in Concord at the end of August and left for Washington in late September. After a march to Orleans, Virginia, the regiment returned to the capitol and joined the III army corps, and marched south to Falmouth, Virginia, across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, the 12th was kept in reserve. The 1862-63 winter encampment proved far more serious, as exposure, poor rations, jaundice, and measles weakened and killed thousands of soldiers in the Army of the Potomac. Charles Barry was discharged for disability in November and Calvin Andrews in January. Andrews recovered and later joined the artillery. Five Ashland men were not so fortunate and died of the disease that winter- Sergeant Hiram Woodman and Willis Clark in December, Albert Smyth, and George Annable in January, and Hosea Harris in February. Smyth and Annable were both sick with measles on adjoining cots in the hospital and became strong friends “refusing to be separated”. The regimental history says that “they used to spend hours in talking about the improbabilities of their recovery and of being resigned to the fate they believed awaited them.”
At the end of April 1863, the Army of the Potomac begins its spring campaign, which soon led to the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2 and 3. On the first day, the regiment did not participate in the battle. On the second day, the 12th was sent forward into the woods in its front, with orders to “engage the enemy there and hold him in check as long as possible”. The regiment advanced and was soon attacked by a Confederate force that outnumbered it 3 to 1. Within half an hour, one-third of the men were killed or wounded. Within an hour and a half, only a quarter remained. Finally, the few remaining men were ordered to retreat when faced with a new enemy force and certain destruction. By this time, the Confederates had advanced a half-mile on each side of the regiment, which had apparently been forgotten by the Union generals, who never gave it support nor orders to retreat. The regiment went into battle with 28 officers and 550 men. When it reformed behind the union lines, there were barely 20 men still able to fight, under the command of a 2nd Lieutenant, the senior of the two remaining officers. 72 men were killed, 250 wounded and 50 missing. Orlando Keyes, who had been promoted to Captain of Co. D, told a comrade while the regiment was forming the line of battle, that he would not survive the battle. He was wounded in the leg, a wound sufficient to cause him to leave the field, but he refused to do so. He was killed instantly by a bullet while waving his sword to cheer his men on. His brother Henry Keyes received a wound that cost him his arm and led to his discharge for disability. The regimental history states somewhat euphemistically, that Henry Keyes was “wounded severely in the …battle, causing his death two years later.” But, at least, the historian recognized that the mental wounds of war were sometimes more serious than the physical ones. On July 24, 1865, Keyes took a forged prescription order purporting to be from the local doctor to the drugstore, an order which included along with other medicines, two ounces of arsenic. He went home, swallowed the poison, and died in about four hours. In a note to his wife, he said that he was “tired of living”. Washington Baker died more quickly of his wound, living just 16 days. Frank L. Hughes was wounded by a piece of shell striking his spine, an injury that soon led to his discharge. Captain Shackford, Samuel Baker, John Gault, and Miles Sweeney were also wounded but remained in the army. Newell Davidson was captured during the battle. He managed to escape his captors once by hiding in the bushes at a rest stop but was recaptured. He then proceeded to talk his way out of going to Libby Prison. Davidson persuaded a Rebel captain, who wanted to communicate with a sister in New York, that he was sick and tired of fighting and that, if sent back to the Union army, he would get a furlough, visit the captain’s sister in New York and then skip to Canada, where he said he had an uncle who had moved there to escape the draft. The ploy worked, and Davidson was sent back to the Union lines where he rejoined his regiment and served faithfully until the end of the war.
The Army of the Potomac retreated and Lee went on the offensive, moving north into Pennsylvania. The Union army followed and after long marches caught up with the Rebels at Gettysburg. The III corps arrived on the morning of July 2 and in the afternoon, moved forward into a salient which projected from the Union lines. This was a dangerous and risky position, which the Confederates attacked in great numbers. The 12th was driven back, but the regiment rallied and with reinforcements counterattacked and forced the rebels back. The line was held but at great cost to the 12th. Of 224 men in the battle, 21 were killed and 73 wounded, 42% casualties in two hours. The color-bearers, including Sergeant William Howe, were killed. The regimental history notes “Sgt. Howe fell dead with the state colors still held in his death grasp as if his last thought was for their safety.” A shell shattered both of Samuel Gault’s legs and he died the next day. Job Jenne was wounded by a musket ball in his hip and by a piece of shell in his shoulder, wounds that ended his active service and led to his discharge for disability. Captain Shackford was wounded three times before he was carried off the field. His wounds kept him out of service for almost three months. William Clement was captured, but that proved, as it did for many Union soldiers, just a slower death. He died of disease in the Confederate prison at Belle Isle, Virginia in October. The last day of the battle, July 4, 1863, the 12th spent quietly in the reserves. That day is now regarded as the war’s turning point, as it saw Lee’s retreat back to the South and the surrender of Vicksburg. But Private John Lougee did not have that historical hindsight. After a year and ten months, he had had enough of the war and deserted that day.
The much-depleted 12th was detached from the Army of the Potomac a few weeks later and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland to guard prisoners of war, a duty that occupied them until April of 1864. During the winter, Sylvester Howe was transferred to the Invalid Corps. In the spring, the regiment was assigned to the XVIII corps as part of the Army of the James and took part in Gen. Butler’s unsuccessful attempt to capture Richmond, fighting in three battles in May. In that month, Miles Sweeney was also sent to the Invalid Corps.
At the end of May, the XVIII Corps was reassigned to the Army of the Potomac under Grant and joined him at Cold Harbor on June 1, when fighting was already underway. The 12th did not take part in the battle on June 1 and 2. But on the 3rd, Grant ordered another attack on the Confederate lines, a decision he would later regret. In this charge, the 12th was given the responsibility of leading a brigade of four regiments in a massed column designed to punch through the heavily defended Rebel earthworks. The attack was a disaster. In the words of one lieutenant, the men fell “half a platoon almost at a time, like grain before the reaper, or grass before the scythe.” The regimental history states “in less than ten minutes from the word “forward” there was no brigade to be seen, and of its leading regiment, nearly one half lay dead or disabled on the field.” In those 10 minutes, of the approximately 300 men of the 12th that went into battle, 63 were killed and 114 were wounded. Sergeant Samuel Cheney was among the killed. There is a poignant story of how his brother Daniel would crawl out on the battlefield between the two armies for the next three nights, searching for Samuel’s body, carefully lighting and shielding a match whenever he came across one that might be his brother’s. But Samuel Cheney’s body was never found and identified. The wounded included Hollis Blake who was shot in the ear. More severely wounded were Capt Nathaniel Shackford and William Welch. Both were expected to die. Shackford was hit by a piece of shell in the back, which according to history cut him “almost in two”. But he lived and returned to the regiment in October. Welch had eight bullet wounds. The surgeons had so little hope for him that they left him until last, but he also survived and was discharged for disability. Welch never fully recovered, as it was said that, after the war, he never saw “a well day or [had] ever been able to do a full day’s work”. He died in October 1883 from what one of his doctors called “physical exhaustion from his wounds”. On June 4, while still at Cold Harbor, Sgt. George K. Hughes was killed by friendly fire. An artillery unit to the rear of the 12th was firing over the soldiers. A percussion shell hit a tree and exploded. A piece of shrapnel was buried in Hughes’ back, killing him in a few moments.
A week later, the XVIII Corps was sent on a flanking movement to the south to take Petersburg, which failed because the rebels dug in there first. The two armies then settled into a long siege around Petersburg and Richmond that lasted through the winter and into the spring. Samuel Baker was transferred to the Invalid Corps in January, but otherwise little changed for the Ashland men in the 12th. The two armies sat in their trenches occasionally shooting at each other, in what appeared to be a stalemate. But, by the spring, the Confederates were running out of supplies and men. Finally, on the morning of April 3, 1865, the 12th woke to find that the Confederates had abandoned their lines and that Lee’s army was gone. By 8 o’clock, the picket line of the 12th had reached Richmond. Newell Davidson raced ahead of the rest and later claimed to be the first Union soldier to enter the Confederate capital, a claim that is impossible to confirm, but is quite plausible.
In June, the 12th was mustered out of the service. Of the 34 Ashland men in the regiment, 13 had died, 9 has been discharged for disability or transferred to the Invalid Corps, 1 had deserted and only 11 had served out their full term of service in the regiment, including Nathaniel Shackford, now the regiment’s major and thus the highest-ranking of all of Ashland’s soldiers, 1st Lieutenant Edward Shepard, Sergeants Daniel Cheney and Osmond Baker, Musician James S. Baker, Corporal Newell Davidson and Privates Hollis Blake, John Gault, Hiram Harris, Clark Hines, and George Andrews.
The 15th NH infantry was one of two regiments raised to serve for nine months. It was mustered in October 1862 and sent to Louisiana where it took part in the successful siege of Port Hudson, the last Confederate fort on the Mississippi. The only Ashland man in the 15th was Private Thomas Scully who served and survived his full term.
Cavalry. Four Ashland men served in the cavalry.
In late 1861, NH recruited four companies of cavalry which were combined with eight companies from Rhode Island to form the 1st New England Cavalry, which was later renamed the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, much to the displeasure of the NH soldiers. In the spring of 1864, the NH companies of the RI cavalry and three newly-raised companies of NH cavalrymen were combined to form the 1st NH Cavalry. The NH cavalrymen served primarily in Virginia. Daniel Mooney, a veteran of the 1st NH, joined the 1st NE Cavalry in September of 1862. He was captured twice, in October of 1862 and June of 1863, but was paroled both times. Mooney was appointed hospital steward in January 1865. The other three men, Aquilla Small, Hiram Small, and Charles Taylor, all enlisted in March or April 1864 in the expanded 1st NH Cavalry. Aquilla Small was wounded in June of 1864 but served until the end of the war. Charles Taylor was transferred to the Invalid Corps in April of 1865. Hiram Small, who had previously served in the 1st and 6th infantry, was not so lucky in his third enlistment. He died of disease, although there is some confusion as to the date and place of his death, as three different sources give three different dates in March and April of 1865 and two different places – Holderness and Manchester.
1st NH Heavy Artillery In 1863, two companies of heavy artillery were raised to defend Portsmouth Harbor, but in May of 1864, they were transferred to Washington which faced more danger than Portsmouth did. In August, the War Department authorized the raising of more companies in New Hampshire. So successful was the recruitment that a full heavy artillery regiment of 12 companies with 1800 men was created. Company G was recruited in the Laconia area. 18 Holderness men, including 11 on the Ashland monument, enlisted for one year in Co. G and were mustered into the new regiment in September. Two of the Ashland men were veterans, Calvin Andrews of the 12th and William Ballard of the 3rd, who was appointed 2nd Lieutenant. The others were Horace Baker, Peabody Blake who was appointed Quartermaster Sergeant, Walter Blanchard, Oliver Craig, Frank Ellison, Joseph Ellison, Jr., John Lord, Oscar Plaisted, and Musician Nathan Thompson. The 1st NH Heavy Artillery served in the defenses of Washington but never faced an attack. One historian summed up its services in one sentence “it garrisoned a line of works ten miles in extent and gained considerable proficiency in artillery drill”. Craig and Plaisted were promoted to Corporal and Ballard become 1st Lieutenant. Otherwise, the military careers of the Ashland men were uneventful. Although the regiment lost 34 men to disease, none of the Ashland men died, although one other Holderness man did. The regiment was mustered out in June of 1865 without ever having fired a shot at the enemy. But that does not mean that its service and that of the other troops in the fortifications around Washington was not important. Washington was so well fortified that Grant could leave the capitol to its own defenses, and take the Army of the Potomac south to pursue Lee and force the Confederates to defend their capital, eventually pinning Lee’s army into the trenches around Richmond and Petersburg, while Sherman marched through Georgia and the Carolinas and the Confederacy slowly ran out of supplies and men. So the 1st NH Heavy Artillery, in its own quiet way, contributed significantly to the ultimate success of the Union army.