They departed Boston in August 1861 to a cheering crowd and the tune of “John Brown’s Body.” Though some of these Andover soldiers would not “see the elephant” (gaining experience in of the world though war) until two years later, more than a quarter of them would never return to their beloved hometown.
Drawing on journals, letters and newspaper articles, Andover in the Civil War chronicles the journey of these brave men and brings to life the efforts of those who remained on the homefront. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps were just two Andover citizens who threw themselves wholeheartedly into the Union cause.
Lesser known but equally impressive was Robert Rollins, who migrated to Andover in 1863 and enlisted in the North’s first all-black regiment. Historian Joan Silva Patrakis introduces many more patriotic characters and moving stories from this “Hill, Mill and Till” town during the bloodiest years of America’s history.
From the Andover Historical Society
On a late June morning in 1861, members of the Andover Light Infantry prepared to leave for war. Dressed in gray felt hats and Zouave-style uniforms, seventy-nine men reported to Town Hall where a farewell celebration awaited. Following patriotic speeches and the well wishes of residents the whole town accompanied the men to the railroad depot and sent them off with rousing cheers. For some volunteers, it would be their last memory of Andover.
The men were mustered into the 14th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as Company H. This unit was later designated the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. During most of its 3-year service the Company guarded the approaches to Washington and saw little action, much to the dissatisfaction of men eager to “see the elephant.” Within weeks of being discharged, they had the opportunity. In the fields and woodlands of Spotsylvania, Va., Company H faced the enemy in a devastating battle. Seven men were killed; five more died from their wounds. All told, 30 were wounded.
Unofficially, 716 men represented the town of Andover throughout the war although not all of them were residents. Quotas were often filled by volunteers from other cities or states, sometimes indicating a strange mix. Andover, for example, received credit for 46 naval recruits, 15 hospital stewards and 12 Southern representative recruits assigned to U.S. Colored Troops.
Spotsylvania took the deadliest toll on Andover volunteers but many other fields claimed the lives of residents serving in other companies or regiments.
Statistics show ninety-two men gave their lives to the cause. Twenty were killed in combat. The largest number of deaths was caused by disease. Fifty-three men died this way, including sixteen who were detained in prison camps.