Fort Independence

May 25th - July 30th 1861.

Fort Independence today, photo by Sarah Kizina

Contemporary Photograph of Fort Independence by Sarah Kizina 2008. 

Table of Contents

The First Five Companies at Fort Independence    

     The following information comes from "Three Years in the Army" by Charles E. Davis, Jr. Boston; Estes & Lauriat, 1894. 

   On the 25th of May the five companies (Companies A, B, C, D, & E) with knapsacks, blankets etc., marched down State Street to the wharf, where they took the steamer “Nelly Baker” for the fort, and where they arrived in due time.

Fort Independence Gates     It was a joyous day, though cloudy.  We were puffed up with pride and importance at our new responsibility and the knowledge that we were to relieve the New England Guard, who had been garrisoning the fort for a fortnight.  The New England Guards was one of the crack organizations of Massachusetts, of which the citizens of Boston were justly proud.  It subsequently became the nucleus of the Twenty-fourth Regiment, that left Massachusetts for the seat of war December 9, 1861, and afterward made a glorious record.

     As we marched into the fort, that battalion was drawn up in line to receive us.  As we watched with admiration the precision and skill with which they performed their movements, we shed a big lot of conceit.

     The duties of a soldier began immediately on their departure.  We were in possession of a fortification of the United States, and the responsibilities seemed immense.  We were to guard it, and see that it was not stolen or captured by the enemy.

      A detail was made from each company for guard duty, and the writer began at once the tremendous duties of a soldier.  Being placed on the extreme Southern point of the island, nearest the enemy, he was cautioned to watch carefully, that the enemy might not come up the harbor without warning being given of his approach.  There seemed nothing ridiculous in all this; the caution was given and received in all earnestness.  These instructions were the first and, so far as can be recalled, the only ones he ever received, and they made a deep impression on his mind.  We often laughed afterwards as we reflected on the difference between this and the reality, though it was real enough to us then.  Not a wink did some of us sleep that night.  The responsibility was too great for sleep.

Morning came at last, beautiful and bright, with the fort still safe.  As the men turned out of their quarters, in the morning air, to fold their bright red blankets, it was indeed a picturesque sight.  The battalion companies were quartered in the fort, while the Roxbury Rifles were quartered in barracks outside.

During our stay at the fort, Sundays were visiting days, and the duties light, so we had ample time to devote to the friends who came to see us.  Visitors were also admitted on other days of the week; but they were not allowed to interfere with our duties.  We drilled seven hours each day during the week, besides guard-mounting and dress parade. 

      Major Leonard, who was in command of the battalion, was known long before he became a brigadier-general in the State militia by his superior qualifications as a drill-master, and he was possessed with the determination to show what he could do with raw recruits. 

Interior of Fort Independence

 After dress parade our work was done for the day, except the roll-call at tattoo, when we were obliged to fall in line and answer to our names.  We then had a half-hour to complete our arrangements for the night, when “taps” were sounded for the lights to be put out, which was a signal for us to go to sleep.  Sleep rarely came before midnight, however, owing to the noise which began the moment the lights were extinguished.  It frequently happened that the “Officer of the day” would interrupt the noise by telling us to “Go to sleep!” which had the very opposite effect.  We had great larks in those days, and played all the pranks in the calendar.  Some of the boys whose quarters adjoined the sally-port would listen at the nearest casemate to hear the countersign repeated as some one, passing in or out of the fort, would give it to the sentinel, when a mock “grand rounds” would be organized and each post visited, the guard being scolded for some imaginary neglect, and ordered to report to his captain in the morning.  The hours of the night were called by the sentinel on each post as he heard the bells striking in the city, adding “All’s well!”  The guard on the ramparts of the fort frequently, sticking his head in one of the chimneys, would yell, “And the wind north-east, and it blows like hell!”  which, of course would wake up every man in the room, bringing the officer of the guard to quarters to quell the disturbance.  The guard, by means of the chimney, would warn the occupants of the officer’s approach, whereupon he was sure to be greeted with a loud and continuous snore; the guard in the meantime stealing along to the other side of the ramparts, a safe distance from the confusion.

     Si Smith and Dan SImpsonUntil the 29th of June we lived well, having our own cook, plenty to eat, and a ration of beer served us each day.  It was the custom to detail a man from each mess to draw the allowance of food, and whoever possessed ability to get the greatest quantity of food for the smallest number of men was sure to receive a large amount of praise and popularity.  It was a talent more highly appreciated than any other accomplishment.

     Each morning we were awakened by the veteran drummer, “Dan Simpson,” and “Si Smith,” the fifer.  “Old Si,” as we called him, looks as though he was left over from the crusades, so thin and worn with age he appeared.  Both of these veterans could date their service back to the War of 1812.  At five o’clock in the morning they would come out to the sally-port, and after wrangling a bit (for tempers) they would sound the reveille which turned us out to answer roll-call.  Smith weighed about seventy-five pounds, though he didn’t look it.  His coat-sleeve, which seemed no larger round than a baby’s arm, was covered with service stripes from wrist to shoulder.  In spite of his attenuated figure, he managed to get wind enough to make his old fife sound as clear as a bell.  “Good morning, Si!” would be heard as the boys turned out.  “How’s your old friend, Miles Standish?”

     Pictured, Fifer Si Smith & Drummer Dan Simpson. Photo courtesy of Ron Palm.

     In addition to these venerable relics from “Ye olden time” we had four musicians from the “Germania Band,” who provided us with music at guard mounting and at dress parade.

 One of the features of the day’s work was “dress parade,” at sunset; at which time we turned out in full uniform to take our position in line.  It was the custom, during this ceremony, to lower the flag on the fort, the band playing while it was being done.  One of the airs which they played was from the “opera of Grenada.”  To this air the boys fitted the following words:  Fort Independence“Corporal of the guard, corporal of the guard, corporal of the guard, post eight.”  This never lost its popularity with us.  It was carried into service by our regimental band, and was frequently played by it, always awakening pleasant recollections of our service at the fort.  After the band was discharged, which occurred early in September, 1862, we heard it no more until our arrival home.

     Thus passed the days until the 29th of June, when the State sent to the fort five more companies:  two from Marlboro’, one from Natick, one from Westboro’, and one from Stoneham.

     The addition of these companies made no difference in our drilling which was pursued relentlessly.

Photo Credits: *Image Courtesy of J. M. Gould; Center for Fort Preservation & Tourism.  Contemporary images of Fort Independence   Sarah Kizina, 2008. Drawings of the 4th Battalion by Henry Bacon, Company D, used with permission from Massachusetts Antiquarian Society; Col. Leonard's Flag courtesy of Librarian Nancy Odell, Westborough Memorial Library;  Arial Photograph of Fort Independence from the Boston Public Library Print Department; Illustration of the Steamer "Nelly Baker" by artist James Bard from;  Steamer "Connecticut" from Vol. 7, Photographic History of the Civil War, edited by Francis Trevelyan Miller, 1911.

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Memoirs of Charles H. Roundy, Company F

     The Feltonville Rifles left Feltonville, (now Hudson, Mass.) and our first stop was Marlboro, where we were joined by Company I, and at Westboro, by Company K, and we certainly owned that train on the way down.

    We arrived in Boston, marched through the principal streets and took steamer for Fort Independence, Boston Harbor.

     Here we spenUniform of 4th Battalion by Henry Bacont 8 weeks, drilling, marching and learning the duties of a soldier and what a delightful soldiers life we led perfecting ourselves in marching, guard duty and drill – drill – drill – then more drill.

     The 4th Battalion of Rifles of Boston – Major Samuel H. Leonard Commanding, was the nucleus of the 13th Regiment – it consisted of Companies A, B, C, D of Boston and E of Roxbury, the remaining Companies were from the Country towns – Co. F, (the old Feltonville Rifles) from Feltonville – now Hudson.  Co. G. from Stoneham.  Co. H. from Natick, Co. I. from Marlboro, and Co. K. from Westboro.

    The 4th Battalion wore a natty gray uniform and when we first saw the five companies drill at dress parade we could not help showing our appreciation of their most excellent work and wondered if we, the new companies could ever attain to such perfection, every motion was made at the same instant and with the precision of machinery, and we took new interest and drilled harder than ever – and the day came when the whole regiment standing in line in the old fort would go through the manual with the same exact precision and at the command “ready – aim – fire” – just one click told the tale and the Colonel could not help saying “Well done" – and at “Parade rest” who of the old regiment will ever forget the band of 4 pieces and later Tom Richardson’s Band – moving out from the right and marching down the line of Companies then countermarching to their original position, while the music echoed and re-echoed from those granite walls, to me the event was thrilling and never will be forgotten.

     Saw Mother, and said Good Bye.

     One day I got a pass and went to Charleston to see my mother.  I was in uniform, with a natty fatigue cap and felt that I was about just right.  Mother said “Charles, - What are you wearing those clothes for ?  you are not a soldier ?  You are too young.  What does it mean ?” 

  “It means that I have enlisted Mother, and am going with the boys.”

    She shed tears, then said – “Well – I suppose you would go anyway," then more tears.

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 News From The Fort

Roxbury City Gazette; Presentation of Flag to Major Leonard 

     This  letter transcription is from the defunct website "Letters of the Civil War" which was maintained by Tom Hayes, in the mid 1990's.  Saturday, June 8th 1861 is the date of the visit described.

JUNE 13, 1861

Fourth Battalion of Rifles.

    It was our pleasure on last Saturday afternoon, in company with a party consisting of the members of the Old City Guard of Boston and their families, to visit the Fourth Battalion of Rifles at Fort Independence, and witnessed the presentation of a beautiful silk flag to the Battalion. The Germania Band accompanied the party. 

    Though the weather wasn't the most comfortable, it being rainy, the garrison went through the review, presentation and dress parade in a creditable manner, and elicited unqualified praise of the spectators.

    The battalion was reviewed by Gen. Tyler, Cols. Thompson and French, Capt. Bird of the "Old City Guard," Capt. Holmes of the Boston Independent Cadets.  After the review, the troops being formed in close company on three sides, Major Leonard advanced, and the ensign being placed conspicuously in front of the line, read a letter of presentation from Messrs. Hogg, Brown and Taylor, in which they stated that they presented the banner, "knowing that you will nobly bear your part in the struggle, to wipe from it every stain, and again fling it to the breeze from the summit of every State."

    Major Leonard responded in behalf of the Battalion, with appropriate sentiments and eloquent words. "If," said he, "it should be our good fortune to be numbered among those of whom in future days it should be said that with that determined and unwavering bravery which vaults not myself, they breaded a wave of revolt which threatened the destruction not only of our lives and our homes, but of the grandest government which the world has ever seen, rest assured that the considerate friends who have by this presentation, inspired us with a new incentive to honorable achievement's, shall not have occasioned to feel the blush of shame for any deeds of ours."  

     In conclusion the Major called for three cheers for the American flag, which were given with an enthusiasm that could not be mistaken.

    The affair was a pleasant one throughout, and all returned well satisfied with their visit.  We tender out thanks to Lieuts. Pratt and Colburn for the many kind attentions bestowed upon us during our visit.

(Roxbury City Gazette; June 13, 1861; pg. 2, col. 3.)

Col. Leonard's Flag     In the regimental history, Three Years in the Army, Charles Davis writes, " An interesing fact connected with the flags carried by the regiment ought not to be omitted.  At the breaking out of the war, the firm of Hogg, Brown, & Taylor were doing business in Boston.  Like other firms it took a deep interest in the welfare of soldiers, and contributed liberally to thier comfort when ever oppportunity offered.  On our departure, this firm, in addition to the colors provided by the State, presented us with a  duplicate set of colors, and from time to time, as they became worn out, they furnished others to take thier place." (p.xxix.)

     Flag Historian Steven W. Hill researched the flags of the 13th Mass., in 1995 for the Massachusetts State House, and wrote that Hogg, Brown & Taylor presented a National and State Color to the regiment July 30, 1861 just before it left for the front.  The day was rainy and no ceremony is recorded.  The national banner presented that day is supposed to have been used throughout the regiments service.  It was returned to the Massachusetts State House August 1st, 1864 when the regiment mustered out of Federal Service.  The flag described in the presentation here mentioned, is probably the flag now hanging in the Westborough Memorial Library.  (pictured).  Lt. William R. Warner, Sgt. Austin C. Stearns and Sgt. Melville H. Walker donated it to the library in 1903.

Roxbury City Gazette

The following letter suggests that Captain James A. Fox of Company A, was the popular choice to be  Major of the regiment.   But it was Jacob Parker Gould of Stoneham, who was elected.

FORT INDEPENDENCE, June 18, 1861.  

   Dear Gazette: – Not being particularly engaged, I sit down to write you a few lines.  The duties of the garrison continue the same as heretofore; we received the papers from you, on last Saturday evening, and they were in great demand.  The boys seemed as glad to get them, as though they were hundreds of miles away from home.

     Last Sunday, we had religious services, conducted by the Rev. Mr. Manning, of Boston.  The services commenced, by the band playing “America,” accompanied by the voices of the troops, followed by the reading of a psalm, and a most excellent discourse, which was brought suddenly to a close, by a heavy shower of rain.  The services were finished, by singing the Doxology, the troops returning to their quarters in double quick time.  It cleared off, soon after, when we had a battalion drill, followed by a dress parade, in presence of a large number of visitors.

     Monday, was the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill, but we had nothing out of the usual course, with the exception of firing some blank cartridges for the first time.  The firing was very good, the Roxbury boys not being a great ways behind.

     This morning, at seven o’clock, the Colorado steamed down the harbor;  the soldiers assembled on the outside of the fort, and gave her some rousing cheers as she passed, the band on board saluting in return, by playing some national airs.  Success attend her.

     You need not be surprised if you see us up in the city, before long, as there are rumors of our changing quarters and going to Brook Farm, as soon as the regiment now stationed there leaves for the war.  We shall then be sworn in, and come under Uncle Sam’s regulations.  We shall have a very fine regiment, and Major Leonard is the man to command it.  The next officer, we hear, is to be Captain Batchelder, of Co. B, a most excellent selection.  The next in command, will probably be Capt. Fox, of  Co. A., a fine soldier and gentleman.  A regiment under the command of such gentlemen as these, cannot fail of success, and we hope that those in authority, will profit by some of the appointments that have been made, and appoint only those, who know their duty, no matter what their political proclivities may have been. 

     Excuse me, for occupying so much room in your valuable journal, and if pleasing to you, I will try again. 



Letter of John B. Noyes, June 28, 1861.

   John Buttrick Noyes was born in Petersham, Massachusetts on March 2, 1838, the son of George Rapall Noyes (1798-1868) (Harvard College A.B. 1818) and Eliza Wheeler Buttrick (b.1804). John was a graduate of Harvard College, A.B. 1858.  His father was a well known Professor of Divinity at Harvard.  This background gained John access to prominent families & individuals during his war time travels in Maryland, Pennsylvania & Washington.

     John Noyes enlisted as a private in Company B of the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment July 16, 1861.  At Fort Independence he was offered the rank of Corporal.  Before accepting the offer he took a day to check on the progress of a friend’s plan to organize a new rifle company in which John had been promised an officer’s commission.  Upon learning the plans were stalled, he returned to the fort to find the Corporal's rank had been accepted by another in his place.  So John went to the front as a private believing it was better to go immediately to the seat of war as a private in the 13th than wait for the chance of receiving an officer’s commission in an organization yet to be formed.  In 1863 he gained an officer's commission in the 28th Mass. Vols. and rose to the rank of Captain, Brevet-Lt. Colonel, with that organization.

     During the war he wrote about 300 descriptive letters home to his family, including his mother & father, his three older brothers, George, Stephen & Charles, and his younger sister Martha.  His comrades called him ‘Hardee’ after ‘Hardee’s Tactics’ the military manual then in use, because of his fondness for discussing movements after battalion drill.  Charles Davis wrote of him “He had keen sense of humor and, strange to say frequently missed the point of a story until the next day, when, perhaps while on the march, he would suddenly burst into laughter, to the amazement of his comrades who could see nothing to laugh at until his explanation, which was as good as the story itself.”*

     I am grateful to Houghton Library, Harvard University for granting permission to post these materials.  

*13th Regiment Association Circular #23, Dec. 1910.

 By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Fort Independence, Boston Harbor June 28, 1861

Dear George,
     Tomorrow the other rifle battalions which are to form with us the 13th Regt (Riflemen) of the M.V.M. come down to the fort.  The Major meets these battalions on Boston Common at 3 P.M.  So you can see them if you care to.

       Wednesday Tower’s (N.A. Rev.) school came down to the fort and saw our dress parade at 5:30 P.M.  The wind blew furiously so that you could hardly keep in line, and hear but indistinctly the orders, so that the parade was not very good in a military point of view.  The girls liked it though, and the more so from the contrast between things here and at Fort Warren from which they had come here.  I found two or three Boston friends among the girls and Miss Dixwell’ (3d) of Cambridge.   It is the general remark that no objection could be made to the advent of Tower’s School on every visiting day during our stay here.  Yesterday we received fatigue pants, a blue shirt, brogans, & towel.  Co. C signed 3 year enlistment papers also.  I think we shall wait to see what officers we are to serve under before we sign.  We shall probably be mustered into the service in about 10 days, and start for the south within a months time.  I shall not probably go to Cambridge before Commencement day.  Let me know when that is to be. 

      We are to be escort to the City Government of Boston 4th of July.  You will then have a chance of seeing us.  Our selection as escort is quite a compliment to us & our efficiency in drill.  If you know any first rate fellows who want to join our Battalion send them down here at once as we are filling up to our complement of 101 men.  We haven’t any room however for any Irishmen or unmitigated roughs.  I shall send my valise to Adams’ Express office to day or tomorrow, and I should like to have you call there and take it.  Let Mother get the duds ready as soon as possible.  I will enclose a letter with directions.

                                    With love to all,
                                                Yours Truly,
                                                      John B. Noyes

     "We haven't any room however for Irishmen or unmitigated roughs."  The ironic thing about this statement is that when Private Noyes finally obtained his long sought after officer's commission, it was with the 28th Mass., an Irish regiment.

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Arrival of Companies F, G, H, I, & K, June 29th.

Boston Herald, July 1, 1861.

July 1, 1861.

     The Thirteenth (Rifle) Regiment at Fort Independence. 

    The five companies from Marlborough, Sudbury, Natick and Westborough, which, together with the Fourth Battalion of Riflemen and the Roxbury Rifle Company, form the new Thirteenth Regiment, went down to Fort Independence Saturday afternoon in the steamer Nelly Baker.  The several companies reported themselves to Major Leonard, on the Common, and under his command marched down to the boat, which left at half past two o'clock. - The Natick and Marlborough firemen, who escorted the companies from those towns into Boston, marched down to the wharf in the rear of the military, and gave their friends some parting cheers as the boat left. 

    Capt. Hobart Moore, of the Natick company, resigned his commission Saturday morning on account of ill health, and 1st Lieut. Perry  D.  Chamberlain was in command.

    The battalion was handsomely received by the soldiers already at the Fort, and the men, soon after their arrival, set about putting their camp in order. 

    All five companies are encamped outside the Fort; Co. F, of Marlborough, Capt. Pope, upon the southerly side,  nearly opposite the sallyport, and the others upon the easterly side of the Fort, Co. H, of Natick, and Co. I, of Marlborough, being located upon the high plot of ground, and Co. K, of Marlborough, and Co. G, of Sudbury, upon the lower. All have the Sibley tents. 

    The 4th Battalion and the Roxbury company remain in the same quarters as before, the former inside the Fort, and the latter in the building outside.

    The regiments lack about 200 men of being full.  The new arrivals reported as follows:  Co. F, 90 men;  Co. G, 64 men;  Co. H, 79 men;  Co. I, 90 men;  Co. K, 101 men.  The Boston companies could be filled up at very short notice, and the orders for that purpose will probably be given in a few days.  Major Leonard will have a splendid regiment.  We all know what the Fourth Rifle Battalion is, and the new acquisition are of the right stamp.  Of course they are at present lacking the drill and discipline which the Boston Battalion has had an opportunity to obtain, but that they will make good advancement in military science we have no doubt.

    The rank of the commanding officers of the Regiment, according to the dates of their commissions, is as follows:- Capt. Batchelder, of Co. B;  Capt. Fox, of Co. A;  Capt. Pope, of Co. F;  Capt. Kurtz, Co. C;  Capt. Blackmer, of Co. K;  Capt. Harlow, of Co. D;  Capt. Palmer, of Co.  I;  Capt. Jones, of Co. G;  Lieut. Chamberlain, of Co. H;  Lieut. Pratt, of Co. E. 

    The regimental line will be subsequently formed thus: -


    The following is a roster of the five companies which arrived at the Fort Saturday: -

    Co. F, Marlborough - Captain, Abel H. Pope; 1st Lieut., John T Whittier; 2d, Charles F. Morse; 3d, Donald Ross; 4th, Rufus H. Brigham.

    Co. G, Sudbury - Captain, Abel G. Jones; 1st. Lieut., Joel Parmenter; 2d, Marshall Davis; 3d, Lenan Willey; 4th, W. H. Benham.

    Co. H, Natick - Captain (vacancy); 1st Lieutenant, Perry D. Chamberlain; 2d, A. W. Pray; 3d, Francis Jenks; 4th, Joseph Adams.

    Co. I, Marlborough - Captain, Moses P. Palmer; 1st lieutenant, David L. Brown; 2d, Alfred G. Howe; 3d, Samuel D. Witt; 4th, (vacancy).

    Co. K, Westborough - Captain, William P. Blackmer; 1st Lieutenant, Charles P. Winslow; 2d, Ethan Bullock; 3d, John Sanderson; 4th, Abner Greenwood.

    1st Lieutenant Palmer, of Co. G, has resigned, but his resignation has not been accepted.

(Boston Herald, July 1, 1861, Pg. 2, Col. 2.)

Letter of John B. Noyes, July 2nd 1861.

MS Am2332 (3) By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

     Fort Independence, July 2d 1861

Dear Martha
     I received your note this P.M. immediately after our Battalion drill.  I haven’t time to write you at any length, as I wish to have this note go by the 6 o clock boat.  I wish to have my duds washed and sent back as soon as possible, together with my boots.  The blue shirt is too large in every way & I intended to give some directions as to its alteration.  Perhaps mother can alter it to suit herself and me.  Make it so as to fit George.   You ought to go to Boston to see us.  I believe we parade at about 9 A.M., but am not certain.  I will get a furlough and talk over matters after the 4th of July.  Mother need not be depressed.  I am not obliged to go; and if I were, for my own comfort to look no further, the position of private in our Regiment is much better than that of officer in most of our Regiments.  In the First Regiment C. F. Walcott could find no decent society among the officers; the privates in our company are mostly sons of men in good circumstances thrown out of profitable employment by the crisis.  The rest of our Reg’t.  has now come to the Fort.  The men are in every way superior to most volunteer soldiers.  They are farmers, and sons of farmers, and of American parentage.  The exclamations “by gosh,” “darn it” show their birth places.  One of them dipped his hands into the harbor water, licked it, and wanted to know if he had got to drink that water!  There is a rumor that Maj.. Foster of Salem is to be our Colonel; if that be so, he will have no 4th Battalion as Major Leonard is our unanimous choice for that position.  But I have no fear that Leonard will be rejected.

                   Good by for the present.
                                           Yours Affectionately
                                                                    John B. Noyes

Roxbury City Gazette

 Quarters 13th (Rifles) Regiment,
July 2d, 1861. 

      Mr. Editor. – Knowing well the deep interest that is taken in the 13th Regiment, and the especial regard paid to the several companies of which it is composed, I am prompted by a sense of duty to inform its many friends, through the columns of your luminous sheet, of its present condition, location, and future prospects, so far as known to your humble servant. 

     For the past few weeks we have been favored with fair weather, so that we have rarely been interrupted in our daily exercises.  There has been the appearance of a storm for the past few days, and we arose this morning to find the premonition true.  It rained quite hard during the night, and still continues.  This will test, to a certain degree, the utility of the Sibly tents, which are pitched outside the Fort, and we think they will prove their efficiency.

     These tents are occupied by the five new companies which arrived here on Saturday last.  By this arrangement the 4th Battalion and the Roxbury company are not disturbed.  Four of the companies are on the southerly side of the Fort, and one is located just outside the sallie port.  Of the new companies, two are from Marlborough, one from Westborough and Sudbury, and one from Natick.  These companies are composed of fine looking men, and their very appearance does honor to the towns from whence they came.

     The 4th Battalion is to do escort duty in Boston on the coming fourth, and it is understood that company E. of Roxbury will visit that city sometime during the day.  The new additional forces will be left in command.

     This regiment is to be uniformed alike throughout before leaving the State.  The uniform is said to be somewhat of a Zouave style, with light blue overcoats.  When fully equipped we flatter ourselves we shall confer honors upon the State from whence we hail, not only before our departure, but enroute for the seat of war, and on the battle field, if we are favored with such a privilege.  It will not be on account of our appearance and efficiency alone, but those enobling qualities which in every respect characterizes true manhood.

     The superiority of our officers throughout, in regard to military discipline, and as gentleman, is unquestionable.  They are too well known to need comment.   Major Leonard is a favorite of the regiment, and we think no one could fill his place satisfactorily.

     The best of feeling exists between the different companies, and a happier lot of boys is seldom seen.  Camp songs are all the rage, and musical instruments of every description are in abundance.  At times our boys are very operatic, but oftentimes the banjo, tamborine and bones take the place, and a regular clog dance and other negro peculiarities come off much to the amusement of the immense audiences present.  A little more practice and Morris Brothers and all other minstrelsy will be altogether in the shade.  We are progressing rapidly, and it is expected we shall be prepared to leave sometime during the month. 

     Not wishing to occupy too much space in your paper, I will close without further remark.

Yours occasionally,



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Austin Stearn's Memoirs

(From Three Years with Company K; edited by Arthur Kent; Fairleigh Dickenson Press; 1976.)

Steamship Nelly Baker by artist Bard

     We passed a very pleasant time learning to be soldiers, drilling down on the Point, doing Guard Duty inside and out of the Fort, [having] dress parade inside the Fort at sunset, and occasionally a ride on the "Nellie Baker."

     The last was not compulsory, but was taken for pleasure, as every one who had been on guard was excused from all duty for the forenoon and had the privilege of riding down the Harbor to Fort Warren, to visit the 12th Mass.

     I remember of going down one day, with four or five others; when we arrived at the Fort it was raining hard.  We concluded not to land but kept on to Nahant.  How mad the Captain was, when we were coming back, because we would not pay our fare.  It was cheeky, I know, but others did it the same; why couldn't we?

Steamboat Nelly Baker was built in 1855; painted by artist James Bard.

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Letters of James Ramsey, Company E.

Photo of James Ramsey

    James F. Ramsey was born 1842 in Boston.  Along with others in Company E, he signed his enlistment papers at Fort Independence July 20, 1861 to serve three years with the 13th Regiment.  James was an amiable and charitable companion with a strong Christian faith that must have helped bring him through the harsh campaigns. He always enjoyed the Sunday sermons and the music sung or played during those services as well as the concerts given in camp.  He would read from the bible for his fellow soldiers and was often asked to write or direct letters home for them because of his beautiful penmanship.  His own letters were frequently signed ‘kiss Hugh for me’ referring to his two year old brother.   I am indebted to Don Gage of Iowa, a family descendent, for sharing these letters with me.

     Ramsey arrived at Fort Independence June 27.  He had been stationed at Fort Warren prior to enlisting in the 13th Mass., so I assume he was a member of the militia group "Tigers" garrisoning Fort Warren since April 29.  Many of these men scrambled to find a unit to join when on May 25, the state declined to accept their services as an organization.  George Kimball of the 12th Mass. described these exciting early days in his memoirs.   Here are some brief excerpts:

     "In the early part of April, there being indications that Uncle Sam was about to awaken from his lethargy, I joined the Second Battalion of Infantry, familiarly known to Bostonians as the “Tigers.”  Our armory was in old Boylston Hall, and here, night and day, was heard the tramp of feet and the clatter of arms as the embryo soldiers learned their lessons."

"Some delay occurred, out on the 29th of April the "Tigers" were let loose, 250 strong, and, headed by Gilmore's Band, we marched to the wharf, where we took a steamer for the fort .  All along the route we were cheered to the echo, and we were very proud to be looked upon as defenders of Old Glory."

Garrison Duty at Fort Warren

     "In time of peace garrison duty is doubtless very dull music, but with a great war opening and events daily transpiring which excited their enthusiasm to the highest pitch, the 250 men of the Second Battalion of Infantry found life at Fort Warren exceedingly pleasant. The fort was comparatively new and had never before been occupied by troops. Piles of rubbish of every kind incumbered not only the spacious parade ground, but every casemate and every nook and corner was filled with it.  So we set to work with a will to put our house in order and had manual labor galore.  Twas interesting to see professional men, merchants, clerks and others as busy as bees with shovel and wheelbarrow and broom, while song and jest and heartiest laughter rose continually as an accompaniment."

     Brig. Gen. Ebenezer W. Pierce took command of the fort on May 15, and ten days after, the battalion, finding that the Government would not accept their services as an organization, returned to the city."

     "It now looked as if I must hustle if I intended to get at the enemy before he surrendered, so I ran about looking for a favorable opportunity to enlist."

 Fort Independence June 27th 1861

                       Dear Mother I am very well.  I arrived safely at the fort yesterday morning at about ten o’clock.  I was in such a hurry that I forgot my penholder.  I like the rifle drill very much we only drill four hours a day and it is a great deal easier than infantry.  I enjoy myself very much here better than I did at fort Warren because it is a great deal pleasanter.  I hope you will come down to the fort.  I signed the papers showing that I was willing to serve three years we expect to be sworn into the United States service soon.  The rest of the regiment are expected to be at the Fort this week.  It is a great deal cooler here than in the city there is a cool wind comes over the water every evening.  At night you can here (sic) the sentinels cry out the hour and say all is well they here (sic)  the clocks in the city strike.  This morning they made a mistake and cried the hour of five to (sic) soon about a half an hour.  I may come to the city in  about a week.  Give my love to all.  Kiss Hugh for me.
                                                                                                    From your son.

Fourth of July Plans, July 2, 1861.

Fort Independence July 2d 1861

          Dear Mother I am well and I like (it) here very much, now I am aquainted I think I will come home some day next week.  The company talk of going to Roxbury next Fourth of July if they do not get our new uniforms.  If we get our new uniforms we will come to Boston with the fourth Batallion.  We will most probably go to Roxbury.  I will not have a chance to go out of the ranks.  I went on guard this morning for 24 hours.  I will get relieved to morrow morning at 8 O’clock.  We commenced to draw pay Saturday we have our regular allowance of food we are to have no more butter and the like.  Yesterday Col. Lenard(sic) received a dispatch to be ready to move from the fort at 24 hours notice if we do we will go into camp before we go south.   The whole regiment are to have a full Zouave uniform.

Give my love to all
        from your son.

P.S.  I have not received a letter yet.

Life at the Fort, July 11, 1861.

Fort Independence July 11th '61.

         Dear Mother I am pretty well although I do not have enough to eat nothing but bread and water the men are all dissatisfied with the food.  I think the regiment will disband if something is not done before Saturday.  I expected to see you down here yesterday.  I watched every boat that came down.  I see Haslet’s folks down here yesterday they inquired for Hayley.  I told them he was down to the other fort.  I wish you would send my things down soon.  The boys were glad of the dough nut.  There is a party from the country down here to day.  The next letter I send is to go to Nelly in New York.  I would send it my self but I do not know how to direct it.  From your Son.

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Fourth of July Exhibitions

From "Three Years in the Army" by Charles E. Davis, Jr. Boston; Estes & Lauriat, 1894. 

Boston 4th of July Parade with 4th Battalion by Henry Bacon     We drifted along until the “Fourth of July” without excitement, except that which was provided us by our friends on visiting days.  Formerly it was the custom of the city authorities of Boston to celebrate the “Fourth" by an annual parade of the city government.  Our services were offered and accepted as escort, in company with the “Tigers” and the “New England Guard,” and we looked forward with anticipations of pleasure and pride at the opportunity, thus afforded, of showing the result of our work.

     We were up early the morning of the “Fourth” brushing clothes, blacking boots, and making other preparations for the day’s jubilee.  We were well tanned by constant exposure to the sun, giving appearance of health and vigor, our uniforms fitting perfectly, with the addition of white collars, and our guns and bayonets in excellent order, so that we made a very satisfactory appearance.  As we stood in line inside the fort, we all felt how much was at stake in competing with the two battalions with whom we were to parade.  We were told to eat a hearty breakfast, for we had a hard day’s work before us; but what a breakfast that was, and what murmurs of indignation were expressed as we flung the mouldy toast and the mild dilution of coffee at the cook-room!  It was too unsavory for us, so we went without it, though the time came, months after, when we wished that we might have some of that same toast.

    We were escorted to the boat by the other companies of the regiment, who expressed their generous wishes for our success.  They were quite as anxious for our credit as we were, and the hearty cheers that were given as the boat left the wharf testified the good feeling that existed, and which continued during the whole three years of our service, and indeed has never ceased to exist.

Exhausted by Henry Bacon     Upon our arrival in Boston it became known that we had come to town without a breakfast, and while halting in front of the Parker House kind friends supplied the deficiency.  All along the route of seven miles we were greeted with demonstrations of great kindness and hospitality.  It was a day never to be forgotten.  The enthusiasm of the people excited us to do our best, and we never did better.  Our two months of constant daily drilling enabled us to make a very creditable appearance.  The enthusiasm with which we were everywhere greeted was due to the fact that we were part of a regiment soon to leave for the seat of war;  for at that time the patriotic feeling was at its whitest heat.  It was a hot day, the thermometer at 104; but our daily work out of doors enabled us to make the march with the loss of only one or two men, while the other battalions suffered much more than we did from the intense heat.

     After the parade we were furloughed until the following morning, when the battalion returned to the fort to meet the kindly greeting of the companies who were already aware of the success achieved by the five companies, through the newspapers, which were extravagant in their words of praise.

     While the battalion companies, so called were doing escort duty for the city of Boston, Company E, which went to the city in the same boat, was entertaining the people of Roxbury with an exhibition of its proficiency.  The members were received with the same demonstrations of enthusiasm as greeted the battalion, and were given a dinner at the Norfolk House.

    We were young boys then, and these events seemed great in our lives, though what followed was far greater in importance and magnitude. 

Roxbury City Gazette; Company E's Roxbury Exhibition.

Roxbury Rifle Company.
JULY 11, 1861.

     The advent of the Roxbury Rifle Company among us on the Fourth it is said, took some of our citizens completely by surprise.  Their discipline and general appearance having exceeded the most ardent expectations, which gained for them the bestowal of many favors, and the unqualified approbation of all.  In the afternoon, the committee on celebrating the day, gave them a fine dinner at the Norfolk House, after which a few hours were spent in a convivial manner, speeches and songs forming no insignificant part of the entertainment.

     Alderman Burrill, Councilman Morse, Lieut. Pratt, and others, were among the speakers.  These festive ceremonies over, they proceeded to Mt. Pleasant, for drill, where they astonished their many friends by the faultless execution of their various evolutions, especially in wheeling in double quick time.  From there they proceeded to Meeting House Hill, where they went through with similar movements, which elicited hearty applause.

     At about seven o’clock, they took the Metropolitan cars for Boston, but on arriving at Long Wharf, where they were to embark for Fort Independence, received permission from the Adjutant of the battalion, to remain until morning, which they were not unwilling to do. 

     Too much cannot be said in praise of this company, the members of which are nearly all young and robust men, who do honor to our city and to themselves.

(Roxbury City Gazette; July 11, 1861; pg. 2, col. 3.)

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Preparing to Leave for the Front.

Letter of James F. Ramsey, Company E.

Fort Independence July 15th

          Dear Mother I am very well, we have better food now, this morning our mess fried some potatoes and bread for breakfast.  We were all glad you sent that bread it went better than the gingerbread.  I hope you will come down Wednesday when you come you must bring some writing paper I am all out of it bring a good lot of it.  I don’t know how soon I will come home I may come next Saturday.  You sent that letter to Nellie did’nt you.  We expect to be off soon.  If we do not I think that I shall leave.

                    from your son.

Fort Independence Aerial View

On the 16th of July, 1861, the regiment was mustered into the United States service to serve a term of three years.  On the 29th of the same month it left Fort Independence for the seat of war.   [Aerial Image from the Boston Public Library, Print Department.]

Roxbury City Gazette; Presentation Sword to Captain Pratt.

JULY 25, 1861.

     Presentation. – Capt. C. R. M. Pratt, of Co., E, Thirteenth Regiment of Rifles, is to be surprised this afternoon, at the camp at Fort Independence, by the presentation of an army regulation sword, with sash, belt, shoulder-piece, and other accoutrements, all of the finest workmanship.  A number of store-keepers in the vicinity of Webster Hall, are the donors, and intend it as a mark of their esteem, to an able and efficient commander, in Col. Leonard’s famous Rifle Regiment. 

     The new uniforms of this regiment have been received, and 13th will be sent to join the grand army in a few days.

     The following official appointments have been made in the Roxbury Rifle Company: – Captain, C. R. M. Pratt; 1st Lieut., J. Colburn; 2d Lieut., Edwin Frost; all of this city. 

(Roxbury City Gazette; July 25, 1861; pg. 2, col. 5.)

Letter of Edwin Rice, Band.

      Edwin Rice's grand-nephew Ted Perry, published Rice's war time letters for his family in 1975.  His preface to the small book states:   "Edwin Rice lived in Marlboro, Massachusetts.  He was born December 6, 1839.  The Band of which he was a member had been started about 1858.  ...These letters, ...were carefully husbanded by his older sister Viola.  They were conveyed to his younger sister Mary Alice by Edwin late in life..."

     Mr. Perry, the grandson of Mary Alice, received the letters in 1937.  Edwin Rice lived long enough so that Ted Perry had memories of him.  "My first recollection of Edwin Rice was at Eagel Camp, South Hero, Vermont.  This was a summer camp started by George W. Perry, Mary Alice's husband.  It was a camp for families and is still operating now by a corporation in the same manner as it was 84 years ago.  Its location is on the west shore of Vermont's Grand Island in Lake Champlain, facing Plattsburg and the Adirondack Mountains.

     "Edwin Rice and Viola Rice used to sit on the front stoop of Comfort Cottage ( now called the Eagle's Nest) conversing often by pencil notes.  Vioula usually had her ear trumpet which made an impression on my memory."

     Extra copies of this booklet were given to the "Edmund Rice Society," a genealogical association,  to be sold for fundraising purposes, while copies lasted.  A copy of the booklet is in the collection of the Marlboro Massachusetts Library.  The letters add depth to the chronicles of the 13th Mass.  The band followed its own itinery in camp, and Rice was able to observe and comment on things other soldiers couldn't. 

Fort Independence
Sunday Morning
July 28th 1861

    I have put all the things that I don’t want into the instrument case and shall send them home tomorrow morning.  The bundle you sent came safe and sound.  I have got all my clothing from the Quarter Master.  1 pair of pants long enough for Joe Ames and big enough round for Joel Hastings.  It is the best fit I could get.  2 shirts, 2 pr. Drawers, 2 pr. Socks, 1 fatigue coat, 1 overcoat, haversack, canteen, rubber blanket, woolen blanket etc.

     The Regiment leaves tomorrow.  The band is going with it.  I shan’t have time to come home again.  Don’t want you should send any more things to me until you hear from me again.  When you do write to me I wish you would send me some postage stamps as I cannot send a letter by mail without one.  It is reported here that the Regiment is going to stop at Worcester and there is going to be a collation provided for them there.

     Charley Brigham came from Marlboro yesterday and told me that father sent a word to me by him about my shop but forgot what it was.  If Uncle Lambert has not given you that note yet, pitch into him till he does.

     It is very busy here today.  The Quarter Master is busy giving out arms and equipment, and the soldiers are picking up and sending home things that they do not want and can’t carry.

     There will be some money coming to me from the sale of the band instruments, somewhere from fifteen to twenty dollars, which you can get from Ed Longley or David Barnes.

     I shall have to bid you good-bye now as I don’t expect to get away again.  I shall write as soon as we get to Washington.

Love to all,
                              Edwin Rice

P.S.  The money coming to me from the band is enclosed.  Wish you would settle my bill with John MacDonald and keep the rest.  The amount I owe him is about $8 or $10.

Letter of John B. Noyes; Leaving Fort Independence, July 30th 1861.

Picture of the Steamer Connecticut, Long Island Sound

Pictured is the Steamer "Connecticut," from the 1911 book series "Photographic History of the Civil War."   The original caption states The Connecticut from Long Island Sound was considered a "crack"  boat in Long Island Sound navigation preceding the war.   During part of the war she was used as an army transport on account of her speed.  Private John B. Noyes wrote the following letter enroute to New York aboard this steamship.  

MS Am2332 (4) By permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University .

                   Long Island Sound, On board Bt. “Connecticut”

                                    6 A.M.  July 30, 1861

Dear Mother

            Our Regiment left the Fort at about 1 % yesterday and was received in Boston by the old City guard, and the 2d Batt. of Infantry. It rained in torrents as we left the Fort, and we were obliged to wear overcoats to keep our selves dry; yet large numbers of people met us at the wharf.  All along the route the enthusiasm was great both in and out of the ranks.  At every step there was hand shaking and greeting on the part of the observed and observers. A collation was provided for us at Faneuil Hall – cold ham, bread and coffee.  From the hall we marched to the Depot, where I was glad to meet Martha, Alice and Mrs. Francis.  I also saw Charley Vaughan & Reed and Martin.  We stopped a few moments at Framingham and filled our canteens with water.  There I caught Harry Scott’s eye.  At Westborough & Natick great crowds crowded the depots as we passed at a slackened pace, so that the citizens might at least catch a view of the respective companies.  At Worcester we met with a grand reception.  It seems as though more people turned out in spite of mud and cloudy sky than actually lived there.  We marched through the city by platoons acting as Companies in column, and also 4 ranks Company formation.  The enthusiasm was tremendous.  Here Col. Leonard lives or did live.  At a hall an excellent dinner was provided and the inner man was satisfied.  It seemed as though every one was vying with another to treat us well.  I stepped into a shop and asked for ninepence worth of luxuries and was given a quarters worth as the boys say free, gratis, for nothing.  Leaving Worcester at 10 % after a stop of two hours, we stopped not till we reached Danielsville, Conn.  There many of the boys turned out and greeted the nutmeg women and men who were glad to see their Mass. Brethren in the great cause.  Thence going onward we rode to Allen’s Point, seven miles below Norwich where we went on board the Steamer Connecticut. Ενθεν đε πτοτερα πλεο μ2r

(Father will translate it for you) not άχάχήμ ενορ ήτώρ* for we were glad at last to find rest.  I soon tumbled into a bunk & sweet sleep soon fell upon me.  This morning I thought you might like to hear from me, and this scrawl is the consequence.  I will send it from New York or Jersey City, as we do not know whether we land at New York or Jersey City.  I am in good condition and Spirits.  I forgot to say that I never went through more mud and water than I did yesterday. Even my balmorals were hardly a protection. Alas for the condition of my new pants!  We are to be gloriously received at Philadelphia.

                                    With love to all I am your Aff. Son

                                                                        John B. Noyes.

*I have tried to copy the greek letters accurately but I know there are errors.  If anyone can help me with this I would appreciate hearing from you.-webmaster.

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Page Updated March 26, 2011.