The Old First Massachusetts Coast Artillery In War And Peace Part 5

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It was inevitable that a reaction should follow the prolonged military exertion of the Civil War. The north had strained its resources almost to the breaking point, and people were tired of the very thought of a soldier. Volunteer regiments, upon their muster-out, disbanded outright; while militia organizations languished, and ofttimes died. "General apathy" was again in command of the situation.

Disbandment was the ultimate fate of the three-year regiment which had gone out under Col. Cowdin. Fortunately many veterans of the companies retained interest in military affairs, and appreciated the importance of maintaining the militia, so that they connected themselves with organizations designed to perpetuate the old regiment. Finally, on May 18, 1866, orders issued for the reorganization of the command.

As Col. Burrell's 42d Regiment had retained a place in the militia establishment thru the sheer pertinacity of its officers, and as it was recognized to be a continuation of the old militia 1st Regiment, Col.

Burrell was continued in command of the new 1st. The 1st Company was the corresponding company of the 42d. An unattached company, the 81st, consisting largely of 1st Regiment veterans and commanded by Lieutenant George H. Johnston, Adjutant of the 1st, took 2d place in the reorganized regiment. The Fusiliers' reserve or "depot" company (the 25th Unattached) continued as 3d Company, under command of Capt. Alfred N. Proctor, who had led the 3d Company of the 42d. Chelsea continued to supply the 5th Company, having organized the "Rifles" (4th Unattached), soon renamed "Veterans," as a "depot" company for the original 5th Company (the "Volunteers"); Capt. John Q. Adams commanded. Veterans of the original 6th Company (now the 9th Unattached) under their war commander, Capt. George H. Smith, continued to represent the old number.

The 10th Company of the 42d, under command of their war 1st Lieutenant, Edward Merrill, Jr., remained as 10th Company of the reorganized regiment. Thus six companies of Col. Burrell's new command were perpetuations of the old regiment of which he and Col. Cowdin had been field officers. The new 4th Company had seen ninety days' service under its designation of 1st Unattached, and was commanded by Capt. Moses E.

Bigelow. Three companies, the 7th, 8th and 9th, had no war records, and merely came in as the 45th, 66th (the W. Roxbury Rifles) and 67th Unattached. The latter two, however, were commanded by veteran officers, G. M. Fillebrown, formerly a 1st Lieut. in the Ma.s.s. Cavalry, and John D. Ryan, a 2d Lieut. in the 61st Ma.s.s. Inf., respectively. Capt.

Fillebrown's company is the 8th Co. today. With six of the ten companies coming directly from the old regiment, it is no wonder that the new organization was granted the right to call itself the 1st Ma.s.s.


Col. Burrell remained at the head of the regiment only sufficiently long to see it established on a firm foundation; on July 26, 1866, he was promoted to be Brigadier General. On August 29, 1866, Capt. George H.

Johnston of the 2d Company became Colonel. The original record book of this period is in the custody of Maj. J. W. H. Myrick of the Fusilier Veterans.

Col. Johnston's first camp was held at Sharon in 1866, and had an attendance of 533. With so large a proportion of the members.h.i.+p war veterans, the event seemed very much like a military reunion. Officers and men were already thoroly trained; all enjoyed the experience of again wearing the blue uniform. Similar encampments were held in 1867, 1868, 1869 and 1872--all in Hull. In 1870 the entire state militia, under command of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, encamped at Concord, and revived the memories of 1859. But how greatly had the situation changed during those eleven short intervening years! Then the war was a dread prospect; now it was a glorious retrospect. In 1871 a regimental encampment was held at Quincy.

On June 22, 1867, Col. Johnston and his regiment paraded as escort to President Andrew Johnson. A similar compliment was paid to President U.

S. Grant, June 16, 1869. The regiment also paraded in honor of Gen.

Philip H. Sheridan, when he visited Boston.

A new company, the Claflin Guards of Newton, was organized in 1870, and in 1872 became the 7th Company.

As a result of the Civil War the kepi and felt hat had been introduced into the bill-of-dress, and the five-b.u.t.ton blouse had become the popular coat; the felt hat was a revival of a pattern common in old Colonial days. In 1869 the regiment profited by a new feeling on the part of the legislature that a good militia was worth the expenditure of a little money; for at that time the state began to make an allowance toward the purchase of uniforms. $20.00 was paid for each man--not enough to buy a uniform, but far better than nothing. Since their experience at Bull Run in 1861, the regiment had worn blue; now, however, they returned to the gray uniforms of 1859. Breech-loading rifles were issued in 1872.

The year 1872 brought the most prolonged tour of duty for the maintenance of public order, if we except Shays' rebellion, that the regiment ever had. Boston was then a city of frame buildings, standing close together, and separated by very narrow streets. On Nov. 11, fire broke out, and speedily grew uncontrollable by reason of high winds.

When after three days of horror, the devouring flames were finally stayed in their work of destruction, old Boston lay in ashes.

Thieves, thugs and criminals of every sort are prompt to congregate in seasons of public calamity. When society is threatened by such a danger as conflagration, its ordinary police precautions break down; and people are helpless to protect their property or even their lives. All the militia in Boston were immediately called out to help rescue endangered lives, and to protect the panic-stricken fugitives. Where everyone is suspicious of everyone else, a man in uniform is the only one able to render any aid. Victims of the fire would not allow a stranger in civilian clothes so much as to a.s.sist them to places of safety, for fear of violence and robbery. The troops were kept on duty during thirteen days, the latter part of the period being devoted to guarding the ruins and aiding in the task of rehabilitation. One picturesque feature of the regiment's service was the escorting across the city of treasure valued at $14,000,000. No other call to duty is so truly a test of military readiness as that in connection with a fire, coming as it does always without the slightest previous warning. And no other duty, performed as the 1st Regiment performed it in 1872, does so much to win friends for the organization, and for the National Guard of which it forms a part.

At no other time does the National Guardsman appear so nearly in his true role, as "a soldier of peace."

During the term of the next commander, Col. Henry W. Wilson, Dec. 12, 1872--April 28, 1876, the regiment felt the effects of a new movement for military efficiency. Col. Wilson was himself a Civil War veteran, an ex-Captain in the 6th Regiment. But he believed the time ripe for innovations and improvements. The Civil War officers were growing too old for active service; and no one was in training to take their place.

England, with a military system not essentially different from ours, had introduced strict principles of instruction for her volunteers some ten years previously, and now commenced to reap beneficial results.

Consequently the 1st Regiment welcomed the new state muster-field, first opened for use in 1873. Framingham at once became a synonym for increased efficiency; that very year the tour of camp duty was lengthened from three to four days, and from time to time thereafter successful effort was made to secure further extension. Ma.s.sachusetts had the proud honor of leading all other states in providing a regular state camp-ground.

Perhaps because so many "old fellows" were bidding farewell to active military life, perhaps for other reasons, this was an age of sentimentalism in the regimental history. On Dec. 17, 1873, the 1st Company adopted a badge or medal for use with full-dress uniforms and also on civilian clothes; and other companies were so favorably impressed by the innovation as to imitate it. Col. Mathews later designed the regimental emblem which stands on the cover of this book, and which is based on the "white diamond" of the old "third corps."

Capt. William A. Smith of the 1st Company was an enthusiast about rifle-shooting; and kept agitating the matter with a view to inducing Ma.s.sachusetts to take it up. Already England had her ranges for volunteers, and in New York the Creedmoor range was in active operation.

Capt. Smith presented many excellent reasons why small arms practice should be made part of the militia requirements. In Colonial days every farmer was a good shot--he had to be, in order to keep down "varmints"

and to keep off Indians. But when the state became fully settled the reason for popular skill in shooting ceased, and the shooting itself was discontinued. Thruout the Civil War, marksmans.h.i.+p was a neglected factor in the training of both northern and southern armies. By 1875 the need had become so crying that Capt. Smith and others succeeded in convincing the Ma.s.sachusetts authorities. As soon as genuine rifle compet.i.tions were authorized, the members of the regiment, and especially of the 1st Company, stirred themselves to render the matches exciting; as a consequence, up to the time the regiment became interested in artillery, it was noted in the state for success in small arms compet.i.tions. From the 1st Company alone went out two such shots as Col. Horace T. Rockwell and Major Charles W. Hinman, both of whom had places on rifle teams which went to England and represented America in international matches held in 1880, 1883 and 1888. After 1878 the 4th and 12th Companies also won fame with the rifle.

The annual routine of a militia regiment--weekly drills, two or more field-days, shooting, one or two weeks' camp, etc.--keeps the members busy along useful lines. But it does not afford a historian much to tell, save as he indicates the steps of progress from year to year.

Parades, on the other hand, possess some romantic and popular interest; and it is hard to convince laymen that they have almost no military value. A regiment is largely judged by its appearance on parade. In Col.

Wilson's time there chanced to be included the fateful year, 1875, when eastern Ma.s.sachusetts celebrated the centennials of Concord and Bunker Hill. With President Grant present from Was.h.i.+ngton on April 19, there were "great doings." On June 17 the "crack"-est military organizations from other states visited Boston to lend "tone" to the procession,--the 7th N. Y., the 5th Md., the 1st R. I., the 1st and 2d Pa. That day Gen.

W. T. Sherman was reviewing officer. Sherman's war experience had trained him to judge troops. He was forced to admit that Boston's parade was a fine military display; and he had to add that the 1st Ma.s.s. was not behind the best. On Nov. 29, 1875, by a singular coincidence, Col.

Wilson was called upon to parade his regiment as part of the funeral escort for his great namesake, the late Vice-President Henry Wilson, who was interred at Natick.

At first the regiment suffered from the new innovations. Its older members, trained in the hard school of actual war service were capable soldiers and required little instruction; and the younger men who needed more training were only a minority in point of numbers. As soon as it became evident that more time was going to be demanded for encampments and for small-arms practice, many older soldiers applied for their discharges. As the ranks grew shorter and thinner, the state authorities began to talk of disbanding companies, just as they had always been accustomed to do. Finally the break came. Col. Wilson resigned on April 28, 1876, leaving Lt. Col. Alfred N. Proctor in command; and on the following July 6, the regiment was reduced to the dimensions of a battalion and was redesignated the "1st Battalion of Infantry." Lt. Col.

Nathaniel Wales, who was placed in command, was a Civil War veteran with a brilliant record. He had enlisted as a private soldier, had served in the 24th Regiment, the 32d, and finally in the 35th, and came out of the war-service a Colonel. It is highly unusual to pa.s.s thru so many grades within less than four short years. Furthermore, Col. Wales was said to have been the youngest man holding the rank of Colonel at the time he attained it. His love for the 1st Regiment was such that he was willing to endure a reduction of rank for the sake of re-establis.h.i.+ng the old command upon a secure basis.

A company of the 3d Regiment, the Cunningham Rifles from Brockton, were transferred to the 1st Battalion at the time of the reorganization and became the 10th Company. This reorganization was by no means limited to the 1st Regiment--it was state-wide in its incidence. The 1st Battalion emerged from it as a six-company organization.

One or more companies of the 1st made the trip to the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876, and to the Valley Forge Centenary the year following. On Sept. 17, 1877, the battalion partic.i.p.ated in the parade and ceremonies connected with the dedication of the Soldiers' and Sailors' monument on Boston Common. The companies presented a fine appearance in the eyes of the public; and following the celebration dined together much to their own gratification. New members enlisted, new interest began to be manifest, and there was a feeling that the present reduced condition would be only temporary. Col. Wales of course exerted all of his influence to have the regiment restored.

Finally the legislature responded and pa.s.sed an act creating a 1st Regiment by a process of consolidation. There were four companies left of the 3d Regiment, then forming the 3d Battalion. And four companies represented what had originally been the old 1st Infantry of ante-bellum days, now organized as the 4th Battalion. So the legislature transferred the Fusiliers and the Claflin Guards to the 5th, the Chelsea Rifles to the 8th, and consolidated the 1st Battalion, the 3d Battalion and the 4th Battalion, as the "1st Regiment," Col. Nathaniel Wales commanding.

The date of this important legislation was Dec. 3, 1878. By a stroke of genius the law-makers had created a twelve-company regiment, organized in three battalions each under command of a Major; and had devised a new plan of organization which was destined to work so well that, twenty years later, Congress would adopt it for use all over the United States.

As the companies from the 3d Regiment were located in Plymouth and Bristol counties, they introduced a new geographical element into the 1st. Thereafter "The Cape" was to stand side by side with Boston, and right n.o.bly were the Cape companies to uphold the regimental traditions.



It now becomes necessary to go back and trace out the origins of the organizations which were consolidated with the 1st Regiment in 1878. Let us first give attention to the companies which bore the t.i.tle of 4th Battalion. We shall discover a battalion or regimental history stretching back to 1834, and company records commencing as early as 1787.

Three "independent companies" of infantry were listed in the roster of 1788 as connected with the 1st Division, Suffolk. One of these disappeared from the records the following year, and another in 1792.

The lone survivor yet survives--in fact is the 3d Company, M. C. A., otherwise known as the Independent Boston Fusiliers.

On May 11, 1787, the Governor's Council voted to approve an application signed by Thomas Adams and fifty-three others, and to charter a company.

Gov. James Bowdoin presided at the Council meeting and himself introduced the pet.i.tion. On the following July 4, he stood with the members of the new company on the slope of Bunker Hill and, at that shrine of American liberty, presented them their official charter. They next proceeded to the home of John Hanc.o.c.k, soon to be Governor, and at his liberal table, as his guests, enjoyed an inaugural dinner. The Fusiliers have excelled in many military lines thruout their long and honorable history--by no means least of their attainments is the masterly skill with which they have maintained the custom of dining together. Their motto, _Aut vincere aut mori_, seemed high-sounding in the early years. "Conquer or die" presented harsh alternatives. But the time was to come seventy-five years later when the nation needed just such stern, self-sacrificing devotion; and then the Fusiliers indeed lived up to their motto. The Fusiliers wore red coats, in commemoration of certain gallant foemen with whom America had recently been engaged.

As the Cadets were then clad in white and another company in blue, a striking patriotic ensemble was produced by the grouping of uniforms whenever the independent companies paraded. William Turner was elected the first Fusilier Captain; the names of his successors are recorded elsewhere in this book. No wonder that the Fusiliers, actives or veterans, have always been noted for maintaining the most successful and distinguished military ball in all Boston, the military-social event of the year; for their first Captain was, by profession, a dancing-master.

Capt. Turner was succeeded by Capt. Joseph Laughton, who when not on militia duty, was occupied as a clerk in the Treasurer's office.

[Ill.u.s.tration: THE FUSILIERS ABOUT 1845]

After 1798 the Fusiliers were never without vigorous and congenial companions.h.i.+p. Enthusiasm was then in full flood; George Was.h.i.+ngton had shown his patriotism by consenting to accept a subordinate position, that of Lieutenant General of the army under President John Adams; and men were enrolling themselves in the new legionary brigade. America was aflame with indignation over French injustice. On September 4, 1798, the Boston Light Infantry was organized after four months of preliminary meetings--the body which today reports to the Adjutant as the 2d Company, M. C. A. Their motto, "Death or an honorable life," is a ringing echo of Charles C. Pinckney's immortal words, "Millions for defence; not one cent for tribute." At the first banquet of the company, Oct. 18, 1798, when the charter was received, the toast was--"The United States of America; as they have drawn the sword of justice with reason, may they never sheathe it with disgrace." Would that this sentiment might always prevail with the authorities in Was.h.i.+ngton! Amongst the members present at this banquet were sons or near relatives of such patriots as Paul Revere, James Otis and Joseph Warren. Truly the sons were rallying about the standard of the fathers.

Drills were first held in the old State House, and after 1802 in Faneuil Hall.

There were lovers of Shakespeare in the Boston Light Infantry. At a dinner in 1815 one of them gave point to his speech by quoting the words of Henry V, hero of Agincourt:

"In peace, there's nothing so becomes a man, As modest stillness, and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger."

All of the speech was forgotten except the final words of the quotation, "The tiger!" Company orators kept repeating the expression. Ere long the Boston Light Infantry found itself provided with a nickname--and it is best known thruout its long history as "The Tigers."

In 1800 the Fusiliers under Capt. John Brazer and the Tigers, Capt.

Daniel Sargent (a merchant in civil life), were the two light infantry companies const.i.tuting the sub-legion of light infantry--both being entirely independent. Indeed the sub-legion of light infantry had no field officer until Feb. 14, 1806, when Capt. Daniel Messinger of the Winslow Blues was elected Major. The Blues were organized in 1799 and first appeared on the sub-legion roster in 1802. The Was.h.i.+ngton Light Infantry were organized in 1803.

When in 1810 the legionary brigade was transformed into the 3d Brigade, 1st Division, Maj. Messinger's sub-legion of light infantry was broken up and the companies were distributed amongst the infantry regiments of the brigade. The Fusiliers and the Was.h.i.+ngton Lt. Inf. were incorporated with the 1st Reg., the Tigers with the 2d, and the Winslow Blues with the 3d. These infantry regiments, former "legionaries," were neither train-band militia nor independent uniformed volunteers. Their status was somewhere between the two; it was hoped that the light infantry companies might serve as leaven for the infantry, and bring all up to the volunteer standard. The arrangement continued until 1834. By that time it was clear that only the independent companies, the "light"

infantry, retained any vitality; and they were separated from the infantry regiments, and organized into a separate "Regiment of Light Infantry, 3d Brigade."

Non-commissioned officers of the light infantry companies manifested active interest in the training school, "The Soul of the Soldiery," from 1811 until 1819 and later.

Another company was born amid the war excitement of 1812, the New England Guards. Even from the days of their first Captain, Samuel Swett, it was felt that a distinguished destiny awaited the organization.

During their entire half century of existence, they made constant effort to maintain their personnel at the highest standard; and the effort was crowned with success. An extant lithograph, in the museum of the A. & H.

Art. Co., shows the Guards in the year 1836 parading with four platoons of twelve files each--numbers indicative of the company's popularity.

The Old First Massachusetts Coast Artillery In War And Peace Part 5

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