The original letters have been restricted for preservation reasons. Copies and transcriptions are available for research.
The history of the 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, formerly known as the 14th Regiment of Infantry, spans from 1861 to 1865. John S. Harrison was enlisted in Company F, the Scott Grays of Lawrence, which was raised by Captain Samuel Langmaid. The men enlisted in Company F came from Lawrence, Lowell and other adjacent towns. The original lieutenants were Kimball, Follansbee, Batchelder and Henderson. The company made visits to various towns in Maine and Massachusetts, and on December 18, 1861 went to Washington, D.C. Their orders were to relieve Company G at Fort Runyon in order to perform garrison duty in defense of Washington. In May of 1862 the company occupied tents at Fort Scott, which commanded a view of the Potomac and Washington. During the holidays entertainment was provided in the form of a ball as well as minstrel shows and amateur theatricals performed by the Soldiers' Dramatic Society at Fort Craig and Fort De Kalb. The first death of the company was James Garland, who on January 20, 1862 died of typhoid fever. In the spring of 1864, the Union was on heightened alert and the company was made aware that it might need to fight. It wasn't until May 10, 1864 that they, along with Company D, were ordered out as skirmishers. They entered the battlefield, where Eleazer Washburn was killed and fifteen others were wounded. At the close of the war there was a grand parade in which John S. Harrison and other members of the company took part.
John H. Freeman, the recipient of the letters in this collection, was born in Lawrence, MA in 1846. His mother, Maria E. Freeman, was born in 1824 in Maine and his father, Nathan Gardner Freeman, was born in 1815 in Vermont. Nathan Freeman worked as a machinist. John Freeman had five siblings: Gardner A. (born in 1849); Charles J. (born in 1850); George W. (born in 1856); Francis E. (born in 1858); and Ella R. (born in 1859). John Freeman worked as a carpenter in the mills and possibly in a school. He married Clara Cleveland of Maine in July of 1870, and in 1875 married a second time to Ameritt A. Vidito (her name is also listed as Amelia in the 1880 Census). Ameritt was born in 1856 in Nova Scotia to Aria and Susan. John and Ameritt lived in Methuen on Arnold Street and had five children: Everett (born in 1878); Wendell (born in 1882); Chester (born in 1884); Wilbur (born in 1888); and Blanche (born in 1892).
John S. Harrison, who wrote the majority of the letters in this collection, was born in 1844 in England to John and Fannie Harrison. At the time of his enlistment into the military John S. Harrison was 19 and a musician. Harrison was a member of the 14th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, Heavy Artillery. In a letter from Harrison dated September 24, 1863, he indicates his regiment has been changed to the 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment of Massachusetts by order of the War Department. However, the American Civil War database indicates Harrison enlisted in Company F on July 5, 1861 and mustered out on July 8, 1864. Harrison was an operative serving on the Union side. During the war the Lawrence City Directories report that John S. Harrison was employed in gents furnishing goods, and after the war they state that Harrison worked in “fancy dry goods.” On December 13, 1870 Harrison married Lizzie A. Marsden. Both were 26 years of age at the time and lived in Lawrence. The marriage certificate notes that Harrison worked as a “Loader.” On June 14, 1873, at the age of 29, Harrison died of consumption.
Henry A. Dow, who wrote four of the letters in this collection, was born 1843 to Betsy Cameron and John Dow, who was a “master joiner.” They had other children named Parker S. and Dophana P. During his life, Henry A. Dow lived in Marshfield, Washington and then Cabot, Vermont as a farmer and carpenter. He married a woman named Isabel and they had four children: Guy N. (born in 1871); Lee (born in 1873); Lilian (born in 1879); and Myrta (born in 1879). Dow died on March 10, 1932 of influenza and was buried at the Elm Street Cemetery in Cabot, Vermont. He served in the 8th and 13th Vermont Infantries during the Civil War.
Whitfield T. Angus, who wrote three of the letters in this collection, was born in 1842. He enlisted in Company A of the Massachusetts 3rd Heavy Artillery Regiment on November 30, 1863. During the Civil War he served as a private and an operative. He mustered out on September 19, 1864 in Philadelphia, PA. On October 8, 1864 he enlisted in the Navy and was promoted to full seaman. Angus mustered out again on August 12, 1865.
Wallace Bailey, who wrote four of the letters in this collection, may have served in the 4th Regiment Heavy Artillery. However, little information is known about Bailey. In his letters he often refers to John H. Freeman as his brother, but it is unclear if they are related.
Unfortunately, no information concerning Clara E. Critta or I. F. Batchelder could be found.
Scope and Content Note
The bulk of the letters in this collection were authored by John S. Harrison of Lawrence, MA while he was enlisted in Company F, 1st Regiment of Heavy Artillery, formerly known as the 14th Regiment of Infantry. These letters were written between 1861 and 1864. The other letters were written by Henry A. Dow, Whitfield T. Angus, Wallace Bailey, Clara E. Critta (?), and I. F. (?) Batchelder. Many of the letters were written while the writers were stationed at different forts, including Forts Albany, Runyon, Scott, DeKalb, Whipple, Craig, Corcoran and Barnard — all in Virginia. Henry A. Dow writes from the U.S. General Hospital in Montpelier, Vermont, where many of the sick and injured were sent. The male writers were enlisted in the following regiments: Company A, Massachusetts 3rd Heavy Artillery Regiment; 17th Massachusetts Unattached Heavy Artillery; Company A, 4th Regiment of Heavy Artillery; and the 8th and 13th Vermont Infantries. The letters were all written to John H. Freeman.
The letters offer a description of the daily life of soldiers stationed at various forts, mostly in Virginia, during the Civil War. Subjects include: living/working conditions; love interests; the weather; a description of the barracks; experiences on the front; homesickness; reports of fort artillery; brigade drills; and references to friends living in Lawrence. John S. Harrison refers to Harriet Beecher Stowe's son, Lieutenant-General Grant, as well as President Lincoln, on August 12, 1862. John S. Harrison's letters dating in the later half of 1862 and into 1863 detail his thoughts on the politics of, and battles involving, General McClellan on the Potomac, General Burnsides, Governor Seymour, and the draft riots.