Military (4/4)

CHAPTER X.

———

MILITARY HISTORY.

———

Shays’ Rebellion and Subsequent Troubles —
Civil War —
Bedford’s Honored Dead.

Bedford was reluctant in voting to adopt the Constitution, but having done it, she was true to its


provisions. In the County Convention at Concord, August 23, 1786,

“to consult on matters of public grievance, under which the people labor,”

John Merriam and Timothy Jones represented the town. They were active in all measures adopted to quiet the minds of the people who attempted to oppose the government. Captain Christopher Page headed a large company of militia in Shays’ Rebellion, and in the following year the town voted

“to pay each man who went to Concord and Stow to join General Lincoln six shillings per day.”

Foreign troubles and the war with the Western Indians were occasions for calls for soldiers by the General Government, and the town voted on August 28, 1794,

“to give each soldier that shall voluntarily enlist the sum of eighteen shillings as a bounty, and to make them up $8.00 per month, including the state pay, in case they are called upon to march, and for the time they are in actual service.”

The soldiers that enlisted were Moses Abbott, Jr., John Reed, Jr., Eleazer Davis, Jr., John Merriam, Jr., Job Webber, Asa Webber, William J. Lawrence and William Kemp.

In 1798 troubles with the French aroused the people in this town as elsewhere. Many leading citizens adopted and wore the constitutional badge of attachment to the Government. The town voted on November 5th

“that the Selectman be directed to show out to the officers from the town stock as much powder and ball and as many flints as the law requires for each soldier of said company on their inspection days, and also that the selectmen be directed to furnish each soldier on muster days with sixteen cartridges out of said town stock.”

The alarm of war with Great Britain in 1807 was an occasion for action, and the town voted

“to make up to the soldiers that may voluntarily turn out in defence of our country, $14.00 per month as wages, if called into active service, and to give the men, ordered to be discharged from Captain Lane’s Company, if they should voluntarily turn out, $3.00 per man, as an encouragement to the same, whether they march or not.”

December 27th the town

“granted to Captain Lane’s soldiers who should enlist in the defence of our country for the term of six months $13 per month as wages during the time they are in actual service.”

The 1812 or Madison’s war, was a time of anxiety and increased military duty. The order came for the Bedford company to march at once for the defence of Boston; a night was passed in the preparation, women cooked, while men and boys made cartridges. It was on a beautiful Sabbath morning of September that the fife and drum summoned the militia together at the old meeting-house, Captain David Reed in command. With saddened hearts the entire people assembled for a brief religious service. After words of exhortation and earnest prayer from the patriotic pastor, came the partings and the march.

The last person who lingered outside the meeting-

[ tipped-in page ]

[ portrait photo ]
Oliver W. Lane.

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house, and watched with tearful eyes the departing troops, was the venerable deacon, who, still suffering from the wounds received in the Revolution, felt most keenly the parting from his son. It required but a few days to prove that the call had been a mistaken one, and the company were gladly received to their homes.

In 1815 the Commonwealth reimbursed the town

“for rations furnished the militia when called to Boston.”

Bedford saw but little of military life for nearly a half-century after General Jackson‘s victory at New Orleans.

The militia observed the spring “training,” when officers were elected and the fall preparations for muster.

The full company of the town was in attendance at the reception tendered Marquis de Lafayette, in 1825, when the corner-stone of Bunker Hill monument was laid. For some years the military duties were but little more than a dull routine, unless enlivened by a sham fight, ending in a representation of the surrender by Lord Cornwallis to Washington. The town had no organized company after 1833. The sentiment of the town was with the Government in regard to the Mexican trouble. In March, 1847, resolutions were adopted and placed upon the records of the town. They begin as follows:

“Resolved,— That we approve of the course our government has pursued in prosecuting the war with Mexico for the attainment of negotiations for an honorable peace.”

The years that followed the Mexican trouble furnished important subjects for debate, and the citizens of this town organized a lyceum, where perfect freedom of speech was enjoyed. The Fugitive Slave Law, the Kansas and Nebraska Bill and many kindred themes were earnestly discussed. The people heartily indorsed the acts of Charles Sumner, Henry Wilson and other unflinching defenders of the cause of freedom. The brutal attack of Preston Brooks upon Charles Sumner in the Senate Chamber, at Washington, was felt by the citizens of this town as a personal insult. A legal meeting of the voters was immediately called and resolutions adopted and placed upon the records.

The people carried out their bold sentiments in their public and private acts. The advocate of freedom for the slave always secured a hearing, and the homes of leading citizens were open to those who, early or later, espoused the cause of the bondmen. [*1] In the fall of 1860, when the two political parties, “Democrat” and “Republican,” were, sub-divided into four, this town gave her support to the Republican, and gave a large percent of her votes for Abraham Lincoln. [^1]

In the months that followed, during which the “Southern Confederacy” was formed, there was a feeling of deep interest in this small town bordering upon excitement.


The attack upon Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861, opened the War of the Rebellion and aroused a generation that had never felt the devastations of war or learned the evolution of troops. [*2] The young men of Bedford, true to their ancestral record, began to enlist, and eleven had entered the Union Army before the close of the year. Among them was Cyrus Page, then sixty years of age, and still bearing the honorary title of captain, conferred upon him by the old militia company of the town.

But fifteen days after the outrage upon Sumter, a “Liberty Pole” was erected upon the “Common” or “Training-Field.” Oliver W. Lane, a descendant of the Lanes of Indian and Revolutionary fame, contributed the most towering pine of his forest; every artisan and workman joined in the rally on April 27th, and raised the pole, from which the flag of the Union was unfurled and waved daily during the years of bloody conflict, now raising the spirits of the people as it waved from its highest point, and anon hushing them to silence, as, from half-mast, it betokened a nation’s sorrow.

On June 27th, 1861, two months after the unfurling of the flag, and directly beneath its folds, occurred the first loss of life in Bedford, indirectly caused by the war. The alarm had led to a very general practice of firearms, and a young man injudiciously discharged his pistol across the Common and killed a bright boy of nine years, Samuel T. Hughes. The first recorded action on the part of the town was a vote instructing the selectmen to draw from the treasury, according to their discretion, for the support of the families of volunteers and a tender of the free use of the town hall

“to the Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society to hold their meetings to render aid to the sick and wounded soldiers of our army.”

This society did most valuable service through the war, continually contributing through the various Christian and Sanitary Commissions. Some of the women gave personal service as nurses in the camp. In August, 1862, a bounty of $100 was voted to each volunteer for nine months’ service. In 1864 the town raised $624 to fill her quota. The sums raised by a vote of the town indicate but a fractional part of the money expended by her citizens in the cause. Not less than $5000 were contributed to the war by the town in addition to the long-continued drain by taxation. Besides the direct tax, there was the indirect or “Internal Revenue,” which demanded, and vigilant officers collected rates upon almost every transaction. After the war closed, the Ladies’ Aid Society turned its attention to procuring funds for the erection of a monument to the memory of those who had died in the struggle.

About $1600 were earned and contributed for that purpose with which a suitable Scotch granite monument has been erected in Shawshine Cemetery. The inscriptions are as follows:

“Soldiers’ Memorial, 1861–65.  They gave their lives for us and their

[ p 30 ]

country. The Ladies of Bedford pay this affectionate Tribute to their memory.

Albert L. Butler, died 1862; Charles W. Goodwin, died 1862; Clark C. Cutler, died 1862; Henry Hosmer, died 1862; Thomas Isaac, died 1863; James Munroe, died 1863; Samuel W. Stearns, died 1863; Joshua Atwood, died 1864; John Byron, died 1864; Charles Coudry, died 1864; William F. Gragg, died 1864; Warren G. Holbrook, died 1864; Charles W. Lunt, died 1864; Charles A. Saunders, died 1864.” [^2]

Memorial day is sacredly observed on each annual return, and the rapidly increasing list of graves of those who served their country in the war receives the attention of a grateful people.

At the memorial service of 1887, immediately following the death of Captain Cyrus Page, the following hymn was sung. It was composed for the occasion by Abram E. Brown, and

“dedicated to the Memory of Captain Cyrus Page and other Brave men who honored Bedford in the war of the Rebellion:”

“All honor to our soldiers brave,
Who left their home and kindred dear,
Who nobly fought this land to save,
Of the oppressors’ rod to clear.

Their mounds we’ll deck with flowerets bright;
Their noble deeds to children tell;
Through passing years and ages’ flight
A country’s pride their praise shall swell.

The earthly file is narrowing fast,
The ranks of Heaven are gaining there.
Let’s halt, and down our garlands cast,
While for the living raise a prayer.

In Thee, God, we’re trusting still.
Our fathers’ God, Thou too hast been.
With joy we’ll own Thy sovereign will.
And following Thee, life’s battle win.”

There were enrolled as liable to do military duty in 1861, eighty names, and in 1862 the enrollment list reached eighty-seven.

In the army roll ninety names are registered to the credit of Bedford. Seventy-four of them were citizens of the town. Six were in the service of the navy.


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. percent ∨ per cent.
  2. 1864.” ∨ 1864.

ANNOTATIONS

  1. “bondmen”: slaves
  2. “evolution”: drilled movement
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