James Lorenzo Bowen.

Dedication of the monuments of the 7th, 10th and 37th Mass. Vols., at Gettysburg, Pa., October 6, 1886 online

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Online LibraryJames Lorenzo BowenDedication of the monuments of the 7th, 10th and 37th Mass. Vols., at Gettysburg, Pa., October 6, 1886 → online text (page 1 of 3)
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— OF THE —

7th, 10th and 37th Mass. Vols.,
At Gettysburg, Pa.,

October 6, i886.




President of the 37th Regiment Association.



By James L. Bowen.


The Homestead Job Pkint.


Mr. President, Comrades, Ladies and
Gentlemen :

Qtanding in this scene of peace and
prosperity, looking forth over these
smiHng valleys and beautiful villages,
breathing the air of unity and concord
which enwraps our entire land, from the
Lakes to the Gulf and from the Atlantic
to the Pacific, it is not easy at once to
transport ourselves, even in imagination,
back to the days of civil strife, three and
twenty years ago, and especially to that
feverish season of suspense, those crucial
hours of the first and second and third of
July, 1863, when over and around these
hills and valleys hung the battle clouds of
the most momentous contest ever fought
on American soil.

Yet as we come to this spot to dedicate
these monuments, in order to realize that for

which they stand, and what they imply, it is
necessary that we should temporarily leave
the present with its joys and brightness and
in fancy go back to those other days and
scenes. We would not reawaken if we
could the keen anguish of the former years,
now soothed and softened by Time's effacing
fingers ; the intense anxiety straining at the
heart cords is happily only a memory ; least
of all would we revive the passion and the
fury of those days of deadly strife when the
hand of brother was raised against brother.
It is not to perpetuate these that w^e have
erected here our monuments ; it is instead to
mark an epoch in the world's history, a
turning point in the destiny of a nation.

In some form or another and for one
purpose or another the memorial stone has
been erected through all the ages of the
past ; especially has its mission been to
commemorate notable events and illustrious
lives. Such are the shafts at Bunker Hill, at
Baltimore, at Washington, and the one soon
to be erected at Bennington. Such is the
monument in yonder National cemetery,

watching over the graves of nearly 4000
illustrious men who died along these hills
and slopes because they loved their country.
Illustrious men, did I say? That in deed
and in truth they were ; for while their lives
may have been very humble and of little
momeiu as the great world counts importance,
we should never forget, comrades and friends,
that to each and every one of these men his
life was his all, and in giving that he gave as
freely and as nobly as the most eminent
citized and renowned patriot — gave all that
he had and was on earth.

Correlative and supplementary to that
greater monument, we have placed these
lesser ones, to show that organizations with
which we were identified, and whose name
and fame had become dear to us, bore part
— not alone in what was done on this spot,
but here and elsewhere in all that great
struggle which had here its culmination and
turning point. Here may be said to have
been in every sense the central point in the
great war of the rebellion ; these hights form
a vantage ground, so to speak, from which

we may look back to the beginning
and hear the firing of the first gun at
Sumter; may witness the surrender at
Appomattox, the grand review at Washington
and the fading from the vision of the scenes
of blood and conflict. In point of time, the
battle of Gettysburg stood midway ; two
years had elapsed since the shot that
awakened every loyal heart was fired, —
years in which the cause of Union and
liberty had trembled in doubt ; two years
still in the future was the day when the
steadily waning power of the rebellion
should utterly collapse, and the old flag
should float unstained and in triumph.

So while we group our monuments. here,
primarily to mark phases of this supreme
conflict in which we had an immediate
interest, ' in a broader sense they stand for
all that had gone before and all that was to
come in which the respective organizations
had borne or were to bear part. And
when years hence the aged survivor of these
regiments or his descendants gaze upon
these mementoes, they will recall, not alone

the march to* Gettysburg, but he of the
Seventh Regiment will think as well of
Marye's Hights and Salem Church ; if of
the Tenth he will recall Fair Oaks and
Malvern Hill and the Angle at Spottsylvania ;
to the Thirty-seventh will come memories of
the Wilderness, of Winchester, of Petersburg
and of Sailor's Creek — he will remember all
the brave who laid down their lives, who
suffered wounds or disease or imprisonment,
and their memory shall become to him a
more sacred and hallowed one as. he stands
here and drinks in the inspiration of the
realization of all for which these men offered

Appreciating the importance that attaches
and ever must attach to this battle, knowing
how often in the future the student of
history, the intelligent citizen, the interested
sons and daughters of those who fought and
perhaps died here, will turn to this spot to
study the story of the battle and to imbibe
lessons of patriotism, Massachusetts as a
commonwealth led the way in providing that
the positions occupied by her sons should be


marked by enduring monuments for each
and every organization taking part in the
battle. We say that Massachu-setts was the
first state to provide that the position of her
every regiment, battery and independent
company should be suitably marked, and we
are proud that to the old Bay State, in this
direction as in* so many others, it was given
to lead. Other states have followed the
example, as still others will do ; and I hope
that in the years to come many of us may
wander again over these hills and through
these valleys, finding here tablets to mark
the spot where all the regiments and
batteries fought, — not alone of those who
wore the blue, but as well of those heroic
souls who fighting against us, against progress,
against destiny even, poured out their blood
with a heroism which shall crown their
names and their memories as long as time
shall last.

It is in pursuance of this action by our
state that these memorial stones of the
Seventh and Tenth and Thirty-seventh
Massachusetts Regiments have been placed

on this field, the appropriate locations having
been decided upon by the committees of
the several regiments in consultation with
the government historian of the battle.
Colonel John B. Bachelder, also a citizen of
Massachusetts. It may seem necessary to
explain why this particular spot was fixed
upon, where the brigade took no active part
in the contest, and only formed a supporting
line, while on other parts of the field it was
more severely tested. We must remember
in this connection that not all battles are
won by the fiercest encounters or through
those operations which entail the greatest
sacrifice of life ; and it was on this principle
that the Second Brigade, Third Division,
Sixth Army Corps, on the spot where their
monuments have been placed (or strictly
speaking at a point just in the rear of that
location), by their timely presence at a
critical instant of time, with the loss of but
one man killed, contributed to an important
result in the fortunes of the field. To
illustrate this fully, and to show by what
strenuous exertions these regiments were

here, just where they were needed and at
the time when their presence could be made
most helpful, it will be necessary that we go
back from the time of the battle and
accompany them as they march to the field.
The brigade had been first to cross
Franklin's bridges at the opening of the
battle of Fredericksburg, and last to return
to the Falmouth side when the further
prosecution of that disastrous contest had
been abandoned. It had foundered through
the mire and miser\' of the Mud march. It
had occupied the winter camps where,
especially in the case of the Thirty-seventh
Regiment, disease had proved more deadly
than the battle. It had stormed Marye's
Hights on the memorable 3d of May, 1863,
which the Seventh Regiment may well
remember with pride, when it so gallantly
led the brigade and won for itself
imperishable renowm. On that self-same
day the brigade had rendered noble sendee
at Salem Church, where it had checked the
almost triumphant legions of McLaws and
sent them back to the shelter of the forest

from which they had emerged. For 24
hours, lying in the open field at the extreme
front, a thin line of blue, with no better
protection than a few rails, it had held the
enemy's strong force at bay while ten times
its number of Confederates gathered at its
fi-ont and closed in upon the flanks till only
a single avenue of escape remained. Through
this the regiments effected a retreat more
brilliant in execution than gratifying in the
necessity, reaching the bridge in safet}-.
regaining the Falmouth side of the river
once more, — A^ith the sad consciousness that
all the heroic la\-ing down of hfe had been
but a waste, and that the campaign which
had begun with such magnificent promises
of brilliant victory had ended in discreditable
failurej — for which neither the Sixth Corps
nor its gallant commander, the honored
Sedgwick, could be held blamable.

Do you wonder why I recite these pre\ious
incidents, and what bearing they may have
upon the presence of the Second Brigade at
Gettvsburg? Let us remember that it was
thro' -h the school of such disheartening


experiences as these to which I have referred
that the approaches to Gettysburg were
made. Defeat, disappointment, disaster —
these three words seemed to summarize the
experiences of the brave old Army of the
Potomac up to that hour. Where it had
won victories on the field, as it had
repeatedly done, the fruits of such victories
had never been adequately realized. I do
not in this connection reflect upon any
commander — I do • not seek to place the
responsibility — I only refer to the
indisputable fact that I may attest in behalf
of my comrades of the rank and file of that
noble army the full and glorious measure of
their patriotism. What had these men to
gain — but exposure and suffering, sickness
and wounds, captivity and death? Selfish
consideration they had none save that their
country, threatened with disruption and by the
hand of a relentless foe, needed their aid— and
their lives it might be. We are often times told
that the old army became demoralized and
disheartened during this period to which I
have referred. While in one sense and to a


certain degree this may have been true, in
the larger degree and the better sense it was
not true. The sufificient answer to such
assertions is found in the unshrinking charge
after charge at Fredericksburg, the undaunted
heroism of Chancellorsville and the attendant
battles by the Sixth Corps^ and especially in the
dearly-bought victory won on these hills of
Gettysburg ! These battles were fought by
men who had consecrated themselves to the
service of their country under the
commanders who should be set over them
by the constituted authorities ; they regretted
mistakes, they grew impatient of delays, it
might be ; they did not delight in war, and
even on the field of carnage shrank from its
horrors ; but if duty called they could go
unshrinkingly forth to death — and with an
army whose foundation was such manhood
as this, confident of the justice of their cause
and trusting that in his own good time the
God of Battles would lead them to complete
success, there could possibly be but one final

So when the bugles woke the sleepmg camp
before hght of the morning of the 4th of June,
and with eight days' rations the Sixth Corps
took its way once more to Frankhn's crossing,
there was the usual cheerful obedience to
orders, the ever present hope that this time
something worthy the effort would result.
Then it was that Eustis's Brigade began its
part in the Gettysburg campaign, four full
weeks before the meeting of the rival armies
on these hights. For ten days, almost
without sleep by night or day, now on one
side of the Rappahannock and then on the
other, building fortifications, standing or lying
on the skirmish line, now exchanging shots and
anon tobacco and coffee with the Confederate
picket lines, ever alert, never sure at one
moment what the next might have in store, the
Sixth Corps was engaged in demonstrations
intended to assist in uncovering the real
purpose of the enemy. Then in a pouring
rain on the night of the 13th the pickets
were withdrawn, the bridge was recrossed
and with a few hours' rest the command
faced to the north and began its part in that


series of masterly moves by which " Fighting
Joe Hooker" outgeneraled the Southern
commander, forced the invaders to take a
different route than they had intended, and
finally brought them to this historic spot and
to defeat.

Those participating will remember the
marches which ensued, beginning with seas of
mud through which the wheeled vehicles
went only by spasms, and the tired soldiers
— wearied and needing rest even when
the march began — picked their way as best
they could. But the summer sun quickly
dried the mud into dust that brought yet
greater torture for the marching columns.
There was scarcely halt by day or night till
the defenses of Washington were reached
and Eustis's Brigade sank weary on the
ground near Fairfax Station. There one day
of rest was enjoyed, when beneath a burning
sun the regiments marched to Fairfox Court
House, the exhausted men dropping all along
the way from sun-stroke, and for six days the
brigade bivouacked on the wide expanse of a
shadeless plain, whose sands glowed beneath


the fierce rays of a summer sun, while a
single roily, muddy spring furnished
thousands of men with the few mouthfuls
of un drinkable water they were able to
obtain. Glad of any change the brigade
moved to Centerville and reheved troops
that immediately marched away to the
northward. On the morning of the 26th
of June, the Seventh and Tenth and Thirty-
seventh, with the other regiments of the
brigade, followed. Five days later the Sixth
Corps halted *a hundred and twenty-five
miles from the weather-worn intrenchments
of Centerville. Rain had fallen nearly every
day, some of the time heavily ; but over the
slippery roads, torn by thousands of wheels
and pulverized by tens of thousands of hoofs
and feet, through beating storm and
sweltering heat, the determined corps had
made an average day's march of 25 miles
for five days in succession !

Then the exhausted soldiers, who had
already performed a series of marches
rarely equaled in history, rested for
something like 24 hours. The corps had


reached Manchester, more than 30 miles
from the spot where we now stand, and in
the rear of Pipe Creek occupied the right of
the position in which General Meade hoped to
fight the impending battle. It was not so to
be. Even while the weary battalions of the
Greek Cross were tleaning their muskets
and resting their limbs, the advance of the
two armies had met beyond Seminary Ridge
and the great battle of the war had begun.
General Meade had not meant to fight at
Gettysburg — General Lee had not meant to
fight at Gettysburg ; but may we not reverently
believe that a Power greater than the power
of any earthly commander had directed the
movements of the armies of earth?

Far away at Manchester the boom of the
cannon was heard, and the idling soldiery
speculated indifferently as to its cause. x\s
the day waned the sounds ceased, and were
scarcely given further thought. The dusk of
evening was gathering, the shelter tents had
been pitched, and the tired men were
already stretched beneath them or lounging
in the vicinity, anticipating a refreshing


night's rest, when about head-quarters came
a quick bustle, orderhes dashed here and
there, bugles rang, drums beat, the little
villages of canvas disappeared as by magic,
and the quickly formed column filed out on
the highway. The Sixth Corps had begun
the most famous march in its history.

To do full justice to the effort which
followed we must not forget the circumstances
under which it was made. We must recollect
that the men began the long march at an
hour when they were to wrap themselves in
their blankets for much-needed rest and
sleep. The few hours' respite which they
had enjoyed had been merely sufficient to
reveal the extent of the exhaustion which
their previous long marches had induced.
And worst of all, so far as the physical
comfort of the soldier was concerned, the
recent change in commanders and in
methods in the commissary department had
left the men without food in their haversacks ;
so that when this march began scarcely one
in ten had rations sufficient for a single meal.

Under such circumstances the heroes of


the Sixth Corps turned their faces toward
the battle-field. I need not recall the long
night march ; how the head of the column
mistook the road and before the error was
discovered and the steps retraced added six
or eight miles to the distance ; the incessant
plodding of men almost asleep as they
moved ; the final coming of morning light
and the brief stop beside a pleasant
water-course where a few of the more
energetic had time to make a cup of coffee ;
then the warning of the bugles and the
resumption of the march before there was
opportunity to bathe the swollen feet or the
dust-filled eyes. The sun arose, mounting
higher and higher, and the interminable
hours of the forenoon dragged away while
the column moved on and on and on.

Only the participant in like experiences
can realize the misery of the ceaseless
march through the long, sultry hours. It
was a broiling July day. The sun poured
down with merciless, unbroken heat, and
the dust that rose in great clouds from the
highway enveloped man and horse, general


and private soldier alike, in its all-embracing
mantle of torture. How the exhausted
lungs panted for one cool, pure breath !
Panted only to be mocked by the bitter,
burning, dust-laden air that seemed to come
from the mouth of a furnace. What wonder
that the sun-stroke was omnipresent along
the line — that strong men gasped and
staggered and fell, while the thick blood
burst from mouth and nostrils, and the
tortured frame was placed tenderly in some
shaded nook by comrades whose visions
swam and who trembled on ,the verge of a
like fate? Yet the winding column never
paused, for not the life of one man but the
life of the nation was at stake that day.

Late in the afternoon the column crossed
Rock Creek, and how welcome was the halt,
even in the open field, on the gowing hill-top,
where the sinking sun still poured its
scorching rays. Roll-call showed how
admirably the men had responded to the
demand upon them. The Thirty-seventh
regiment, with its quota of over 600 that
had set out the night before, showed but

seven absent, and all these, with the
exception of one deserter, were in their
places before the battle ended, and by a
strange fatality nearly every one was killed
or wounded the following day.

All who have followed the history of the
battle know the story of the coming of the
Sixth Corps to the field. It was the last to
arrive, as the distance it must march was so
much greater, and when its cloud of dust
down the Baltimore pike was first noticed there
was a momentary fear that the Confederate
cavalry had gained the Union rear. Then
the headquarters flag was descried, and
sight of the Greek Cross was never more
welcome. "The Sixth Corps is coming!"
went from lip to lip, and hearts that had
been anxious grew strong and confident.
Before the footsore, weary men had time for
rest their services were needed to reinforce
the Union left, hard pressed by Longstreet's
Corps, and at the call the men struggled to
their feet. Kevin's Brigade, which had led
the corps on that memorable day, scarcely
paused beside the pike, but on to the left it

went to give assistance to the suffering Third
Corps. Over the slope it hastened into the
fight. Eustis's Brigade came next in hne,
and halting on the hot hill-top it had barely
realized how terrible had been the 20 hours'
march when it, too, heard the ringing call
to duty, sprang to its feet and in a moment
was moving across the fields toward Little
Round Top. When half way a second
message came back from General Sedgwick,
who at the front was watching the fortunes
of the day. "Tell Colonel Eustis to bring his
brigade here as soon as possible ! ^' The
Thirty-seventh, leading the column, heard
the word and broke at once into a double-
quick. The Tenth followed and the Seventh,
while the men of Rhode Island were not
less prompt at the call. There was no
laggard step in all the brigade. Bayonets
were fixed as the command dashed forward,
and with a precision that would have done
credit to the drill field the brigade swung
into line of battle with the right resting near
the headquarters of the brave Sedgwick, just
to the rear of the spot where the monuments
now stand.

But the conflict was dying out. Longstreet's
battalions were shattered by the terrible
contest they had already made, and in one
of his reports he says that riding forward to
reconnoiter and seeing the strong lines of
fresh troops coming into position he
reluctantly gave the order to abandon the
contest. Yes, there were strong lines of fresh
troops there ; they had marched more than
i6o miles in six days to reach that spot,
crowni^ig the effort with a continuous journey
of almost 40 miles to enable them to present
that firm front at that important moment ;
and though their advent was not greeted by
a fresh effusion of blood, but rather by the
sparing of further slaughter, on that position
we place our monuments and dedicate them
in reverent memory of that magnificent
effort — and of all its associate efforts and

On this spot, then, let them stand, in
memory of the sons of Massachusetts, who
as a part of the great loyal army here as
elsewhere at duty's call, with their comrades
from every other loyal state, welcomed


wounds and suffering, yielded up without
repining limb or life, if the sacrifice was
demanded, that humanity's cause should
move forward and not backward.

God's ways are not our ways. We look
back over the score and more of years that
have elapsed since these hills trembled with
the roar of hostile cannon, and our hearts
bleed afresh as we recall those scenes of
consecration and sacrifice. But with the
light of the later day we see coming forth
from the fiery crucible the pure gold of a
grander and better national life ; up from the
baptism of blood there rises a nation
redeemed and purified. We mourn for
noble Hves laid down in this sacred cause,
but we hold to-day as their price our common
heritage of a united country, its interests
and destinies no longer threatened by
sectional lines and jealousies, but fostered
and unified by all the blessings which have
followed the travail of those days of war.
The dawn which assured this better era first
shed its brightness over these hills of
Gettysburg, and all who in those memorable


hours of battle stood here contributed to
the grand result.

It is in recognition of these facts that the
various monuments dot this battle-field. As
part of a common legacy we have placed
here the memorials of the Seventh and
Tenth and Thirty-seventh Massachusetts
Regiments, that they may help to tell the
great, complete story of the battle. One by
one the men who composed these regiments
are dropping from the earthly roll, but when
the last survivor shall have gone, the
monuments will remain to silently give their
testimony. The impress of time will be
written on their surfaces in stain and
corrosion ; but no less eloquent shall be
their voiceless story. May all who coming
here look upon them go away with a stronger
and purer patriotic fire burning in their
hearts ! May the breezes which sweep over
this sacred spot bear to every son of America
the constant realization of the blessing
which is his in this government — so
appropriately epitomized in the words of
the immortal Lincoln, "Of the pecjple, by


the people, for the people," — till the dearest
possession of the generations succeeding us

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Online LibraryJames Lorenzo BowenDedication of the monuments of the 7th, 10th and 37th Mass. Vols., at Gettysburg, Pa., October 6, 1886 → online text (page 1 of 3)