Newton’s newly restored Civil War Soldier’s Monument was just re-dedicated this past week. It was built in 1864 to commemorate the Newton men that died in that war.
Each month this year, Katy Holmes from Newton’s Planning Dept has been compiling biographies, from all available records, for each soldier who’s name appears on the monument. Throughout this year, Katy has been releasing biographies on the month of each soldier’s death. This month Katy was assisted in her research by Sophie Ferreira-Iannone and Sebastian Lizardo from Day Middle School
For May, here are four soldier’s stories:
William Rogers Benson
William Rogers Benson was an 18-year-old clerk and musician from New Bedford, MA when he enlisted in Newton as a musician with the Mass. 1st Regiment, Company I, on May 24, 1861. Two other men from Newton whose names also appear on the Soldier’s Monument enlisted with Benson on the same day: Leroy S. Bridgman, 18, and William N. Freeman, 29. Bridgman was originally assigned to Co. F, but later transferred to Co. I. John Allen, whose real name was Philip Ledden, is also listed on the monument and enlisted with Company I the day before. Benson was killed almost a year later on May 5, 1862 in the Battle of Williamsburg, VA.
The Mass. 1st Company I reported for duty at Camp Banks, in Georgetown, D. C., until July 16, 1861 under George B. McLellan. The Company then marched on Manassas from July 16-21 and occupied Fairfax Court House. The Battle of Bull Run commenced soon after. From there they moved on to Bladensburg and to Maryland in the fall. Company I moved to Posey’s Plantation in late October and served there and at Shipping Point until early April, 1862, when they were ordered to Fortress Monroe, VA, on April 7, 1862 and thence to the siege of Yorktown from April 16-May 4. The Battle of Williamsburg commenced on May 5, the day William Benson was killed.
Benson has a marker in Yorktown National Cemetery, VA, as well as one at Newton Cemetery. The inscription on his marker at Newton Cemetery reads: “Fell in the Battle of Williamsburg, VA. Gave his life for his country.”
Benson appears on the 1855 census as a resident of Newton at the age of 13 where he lived with his parents, Frederick and Lucy, and four siblings. His death notice was also issued from Newton on May 5, 1862, where he was listed as being 19 years old.
Orlestus J. Adams, William B. Neff, and Stephen L. Nichols
Orlestus J. Adams was a 35-year-old ‘gentleman;’ William B. Neff, an 18-year-old clerk; and Stephen L. Nichols, a 28-year-old farmer in Newton, when they enlisted and died on the same days. On August 13, 1862, these three men enlisted with Mass 32nd Company K with 19 other Newton men listed on the Newton Soldiers’ Monument with them. All three were killed in action on one of the bloodiest days of the war at “the Bloody Angle” near Laurel Hill, VA on May 12, 1864 in the Battle of the Wilderness. This battle was all the more horrific when ammunition ran out and warfare was conducted hand-to hand and in close range. Their bodies were reportedly never recovered.
Company K was formed by Joseph Cushing Edmands, a Newton native who was a first sergeant in the Mass. 24th, and who, after recovering from illness at home in the spring of 1862, formed a new company comprised largely of Newton men. In late summer of 1862, the Mass. 32nd was sent to Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia. By this time, Edmands had been promoted to Major. From Fort Monroe, they marched to Centreville and fought at the Battle of Bull Run on August 30th. The Mass. 32nd also fought at Antietam, MD from September 16-17th; Blackford’s Ford on the 19th; and was in Sharpsburg, MD until October 30th. From there the regiment moved to Falmouth, Virginia and fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, which lasted from December 11-15, 1862. The regiment went on to fight in smaller skirmishes and was ultimately sent to fight at Devil’s Den in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Their military careers culminated in Fredericksburg and Spottsylvania, VA.
Orlestus J. Adams was born on April 29, 1827. In 1855, Orlestus appeared in the Boston directory as a salesman at 14 Milk Street. In 1857 Orlestus and his wife Annie lost their 18-year-old son, Frank, to typhoid fever, in Milford, MA. By 1861, Orlestus was living in Newton Corner with his wife Annie and newborn daughter Helen, and commuting to Boston. He also appears in a family history of LaSalle County, Illinois, as the deceased spouse of Annie P. Hathaway, who was born in Freetown, MA. Orlestus J. Adam’s cause of death is still under debate, as hospital records reported him suffering from “butt failure,” while another source reported his death due to battle wounds incurred at Laurel Hill, VA. It is also unclear as to whether he fought in Gettysburg.
Adams is memorialized on a gravestone at Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, MA, with the following inscription: “O.J. Adams, Born April 29, 1827, Killed in the Battle of the Wilderness at Spottsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864.” Adams’ widow, Annie, was living in Fall River before she died in 1901. His daughter Helen was married in 1881 in Milford, MA. Adams appears alphabetically on the monument and his name was listed there when the monument was dedicated in July 1864.
Two soldiers named William Neff appear in records as serving on the Mass. 32nd Regiment Co. K. William B. Neff was born c.1844. According to Sebastian Lizardo, a student researcher at Day Middle School, Neff was born in 1845 in Baden, Wurttemberg, Germany to James and Louise Neff, and came to Massachusetts when he was seven years old. Neff was discharged in 1863, but he re-enlisted in early January, 1864. On May 12, 1864 he was reported missing, and was later recorded as killed in action in a charge on Laurel Hill, Virginia in the Battle of the Wilderness.
Stephen L. Nichols was born in 1831 and may have worked as a farmer in Kingston, New Hampshire as late as 1860. A memorial marker to Nichols stands in Newton Cemetery, with the following inscription: “Fell in Battle of Laurel Hill, Va. He died for his country.” Very little else is known about Nichols.
Though Adams’ and Nichols’ names were listed on the Newton Soldiers’ Monument in time for its dedication in July 1864, William B. Neff did not appear on the monument until later. Information found on Neff and Nichols has been limited to military records, but Neff has the distinction of being one of five Newton Civil War soldiers on the Monument for whom we have a photo.
(Sophie Ferreira-Iannone and Sebastian Lizardo, members of the Evergreen Team under Tim Matthews at Day Middle School, contributed to this soldier bio.)
Alfred Washburn, May 14, 1865
Born in Auburndale in 1839 to Joshua and Sylvia Washburn, Alfred had many siblings, and by 1850 was 11 years old and in school. Washburn enlisted on December 2, 1861, and became a commissioned officer as Acting Master on December 28, 1861. Washburn served on the following ships: Ohio, Vandalia, Chocorua, and the Port Royal, and served in the South Atlantic and Gulf Squadrons during the bulk of the Civil War. Washburn took a leave of absence from the Vandalia and a month later was reassigned to the Chocorua. He also participated in the Battle of Mobile Bay, a turning point in the war and one of Grant’s first victories as General for the Union.
Though military sources from the time recorded that Washburn died of wounds on May 14, 1865, the New York Times reported on May 29, 1865 that Washburn was murdered by a sentinel on Levee Street, New Orleans while riding in a carriage. In either case, Washburn died in the Naval Hospital in New Orleans on the same day that President Johnson issued a conditional amnesty to all who fought on the Confederate side of the war. The Civil War officially ended about two weeks later. Washburn left a widow, Cornelia, a teacher, and has a marker in Newton Cemetery.
Eben R. Buck, another Newton soldier whose name appears on the monument, lived in the Washburn household in 1860 and appears to have been Alfred’s brother-in-law. Buck died in 1863 at Newburne, North Carolina.
Washburn’s photo appears on a photo composite of all the officers who served on the Chocorua.
David Hsmel- Sellman, member of the Evergreen Team at Day Middle School, and Sarah Goldberg, archivist at the Jackson Homestead, contributed research to this report.
Jefferson Lakin (Larkin), May 25, 1862
Though Jefferson’s name appears on the Monument as Larkin, all census data and military records refer to him as Lakin. A fireman from Bennington, VT, Lakin was born in about 1839 and on May 25, 1861, enlisted in the Mass. 2nd Infantry, Company D in Newton. He was killed in action in Winchester, VA one year to the day after he enlisted, and is believed to be the first Newton-enlisted soldier to perish while in service during the Civil War. He served in the 2nd Mass. with two other Newton men who join him on the Monument: Gilbert Cheney, also a fireman, and Henry T. Lawson. Both Lakin and Cheney were 22 years old when they enlisted.
The 2d Regt. Mass. Volunteer Infantry was recruited in April, 1861, the first regiment in the Civil War to be comprised entirely of Massachusetts enlistees. This regiment assembled at Brook Farm in West Roxbury, and was mustered into service on May 25, 1861. The regiment arrived at Martinsburg, VA on July 12th, and spent the bulk of the ensuing year on picket duty along the upper Potomac. From there the 2nd was sent to Darnestown, MD and wintered at Camp Hicks, about four miles west of Frederick, MD.
By the end of March 1862, the 2d Mass., which by now had joined the 3rd Brigade, was called to Winchester in the pursuit of Jackson and his troops through Strasburg, New Market, and Harrisonburg, PA. The 2nd was engaged by Confederate forces on May 24and 25 in Newtown, Kernstown, and Winchester, VA. The Battle of Winchester was a significant defeat for the Union, and over 2,000 men lost their lives, included Lakin.
There is no census data on Jefferson Lakin or his family to show that he or his family resided in Newton. Lakin is listed on Vermont databases with soldiers who died from that state but who served other state regiments in the Civil War. His burial place is unknown.