Newton’s newly restored Civil War Soldier’s Monument was just re-dedicated this past spring. 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.
I’ve been (mostly) posting them as she released them, though in recent months I’ve fallen down on the job a bit. Here are the four most recently compiled Newton Civil War soldier’s stories:
Charles H. Leavitt
Charles H. Leavitt enlisted with the Mass 32nd Company K from Newton as a Private on August 13, 1862, the same day as 22 other Newton soldiers who appear with Leavitt on the Newton Soldiers’ Monument in Newton Cemetery. Leavitt died of disease two months later on October 21, 1862, at General Hospital in Sharpsburg, MD. He was 19 years old and single, and his occupation was listed on military records as Farmer. His burial location is unknown.
Leavitt joined Company K after it 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. Leavitt was gone by the time the regiment left Sharpsburg.
There is no Newton resident information for Charles Leavitt or his family. Using his date of birth and occupation, there was a match with a family in Chichester, NH. That line of research did not turn up anything new, and Leavitt did not appear on Chichester’s list of native sons who fought in the Civil War. As with many other soldiers on the Newton Monument, Leavitt enlisted from Newton leaving little other evidence of his roots. Leavitt is not buried in Antietam National Cemetery, at least not by name. Hopefully over time more information will be discovered about him.
John Myers (Meirs)
Born in about 1816, John was a farmer/laborer and a likely German immigrant when he enlisted from Newton in the Mass 1st Cavalry, Company H, on October 5, 1861. He was discharged with a disability at Potomac Creek, VA on January 25, 1863, and died 11 years later. He applied for his own pension in 1871. On military records, John Meir’s name is spelled Meirs. By the time John Meirs’ name made it onto the Newton Monument, the spelling had changed to Myers. Either way, John is buried in Newton Cemetery.
Two soldiers named John Meirs, both from Newton, enlisted on October 5, 1861 with the Mass 1st Cavalry Company H. One of these men is referred to in military records as “Jr.” and the other as “Sr.”
Junior died in October 1864, and was not included on the Newton Soldier’s Monument. Military records show that he was a confectioner when he enlisted, and that he died at age 21. Junior was taken prisoner on November 29, 1863 at Parker’s Store, VA, and later died of diarrhea as a prisoner at Andersonville, GA on August 20, 1864. With help from a National Park Service historian at the Andersonville National Historic Site, Junior’s grave was located in Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia (#6286). His mother Agnes filed for his pension.
Newton may very well have Clara Barton to thank for helping to identify Junior’s remains and bury him appropriately. In 1865 Barton was contacted by an Andersonville prison survivor who had secretly kept death records from the prison. She and the soldier traveled to Andersonville and embarked on a year-long effort to identify remains and contact families. Upon her return from Andersonville she established the Missing Soldiers Office in Washington DC, which during its two-year tenure identified 20,000 missing soldiers, about 13,000 of whom had died at Andersonville Prison.
A thorough check of the records did not uncover a family relationship between Junior and Senior, but given the age difference, it was possible. An 1865 census record from Brookline, MA lists John and Agnes Meirs, married and both born in Germany, with ages that are consistent with military and pension records. If Junior had been their son, he would not have been living in 1865. Junior’s mother Agnes did not apply for his pension until 1882. Given how late Junior’s mother applied, it is possible Junior’s whereabouts were unknown for some time.
John Blasdell Rogers
Born to Newton residents Aaron and Elizabeth N. Blasdell Rogers, who married in Newton in 1832, John Blasdell was born on December 24, 1833. John was a 31 year-old wood carver, and single, when he enlisted as a Private with the Mass. 57th, Company K, on April 6, 1864. Of the men listed on the Newton Soldiers’ Monument, John was the only one to have served in the Mass. 57th.
The Mass. 57th organized in Readville, MA and mustered out to Annapolis, MD in early April. From there, the regiment moved south to Washington DC. Rogers was in service during the Battle of the Wilderness from May 5-7, and in Spotsylvania and the Courthouse in late May. These battles were followed by service at Cold Harbor in early June and ultimately at Petersburg in mid-June. Rogers was wounded during the Siege of Petersburg on July 26, 1864, and died nine days later at Emory Hospital in Washington DC. Rogers was interred there, but was later moved to Newton Cemetery.
In 1855, John was living with the Smith family in Newton and working as a wood carver. His father Aaron died two years later (1857) in Newton Center, of consumption. John enlisted seven years later, and served with the Mass. 57th for a total of three months.
William Henry Johnson
Born in Boston in 1834, William was a 24-year-old ‘Market Man’ when he enlisted as a Private with the Mass. 13,th Company B on April 2, 1861 and served for three years. He was discharged on July 15, 1864. William died of unknown causes in Boston about three years later on September 8, 1867. He is buried in Newton Cemetery.
There were a whole lot of soldiers named William Johnson who enlisted during the Civil War. Thanks to families who have registered their family trees with ancestry.com, it appears William was the son of Abijah Johnson and his wife Eliza Washburn Johnson, who owned much of the land on the south side of Auburndale before and during the Civil War. Johnson Sr. was responsible for platting Grove, Maple, and Hancock Streets on his land, all of which are now included in the Auburndale Local Historic District. Abijah also built several homes in this area.
A website devoted to the Mass 13th volunteers (http://13thmass.org/) contains a description of the unit I could not have said better myself: “ “They are a damned insubordinate lot,” said brigade commander General John J. Abercrombie when asked what kind of troops they were. General Irvin McDowell sneered and called them a ‘bandbox brigade’ after their habit of prinking for reviews; wearing paper collars and white gloves for the occasion. But they proved they could also fight.
“I am proud of them. I like to go into battle with them,” Major Gould wrote to the ailing Col. Leonard the day after the battle of Antietam. “Hartsuff’s brigade is complimented, how much praise must be awarded to the 13th who stood so long so bravely.” They fought hard at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and other places until the day they left the front lines at Petersburg in July, 1864, to return home to Massachusetts.”
The 1860 census shows that William was the oldest of four children living in Auburndale before moving to Boston to work. He was unmarried.