"The trouble with Jeff is that he lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech."

Goodrich’s War: Part One

In my never-ending quest to unearth as much information as possible about men who served with the original units that make up the basis of those that I reenact with, I’ve come across another interesting character, one Loren H. Goodrich. While his time at the front was comparatively short, it was one that was quite eventful indeed. Goodrich was with the 14th Connecticut when– after only a few weeks in service, and almost no time with their weapons– they were thrust into the raging conflict at Antietam in 1862, and suffered terribly for their inexperience. From Antietam, he and his pards set into winter camp outside Columbia, only to be drawn into the fight again at Fredricksburg, then at Chancellorsville, and finally at Gettysburg. On the slow pursuit of Lee’s army from Gettysburg back into Virginia, the long marches took their toll on Goodrich and he broke down physically; and was dismissed from the army with an Honorable Discharge in November of 1863.

During his time in the service, Goodrich wrote a number of letter home, some of which survive and are stored at the Connecticut Historical Archives in Hartford. I had the opportunity to transcribe them this past week, and I find Goodrich to be an interesting and literate fellow, with a history that– while not fully uncovered– holds continued promise for interesting notes and surprises.

This is the first part of his story.

Loren H. Goodrich was born around 1840 near Hartford Connecticut. There are a fair number of the Goodrich clan that settled around Hartford, including luminaries such as US Senator Chauncey Goodrich (1759-1815), who had two nephews marry into the clan of Noah Webster. Loren may or may not be of that lineage; but his skill in writing does belie some education beyond the simple farm he was raised on. The first specific, reliable mention of Loren comes from the 1850 census, when Loren was living with the family of Joseph and Sarah Wells in Wethersfield. This may be due to being sent here for boarding school; or perhaps he was adopted. At this stage, his youth remains rather cloudy.

Loren does not appear with the Wells’ in the 1860 census, though an L. Goodrich from Connecticut does appear in South Park, Arapahoe County, Kansas that year; along with a “Chauncey” of the same surname.  I believe this to be Loren, as he is found to have a brother by that name; and in in one of his letters to the Wells during the war, he asks after Chauncey, having heard that he was having a rough time of it– in Kansas. Arapahoe County was in the middle of a gold rush at this time– it could be the Goodrich boys went to make their fortunes on the frontier in 1860; or perhaps they were of an abolitionist stripe, and became Jay-hawkers in Bleeding Kansas. This too remains unclear, but Loren’s letters, while not indicating any real feeling one way or another about slavery in particular, do belie a deeply patriotic streak. Certainly, either scenario could be true. Perhaps both.

What is a known is that when the Sectional Crisis broke out into war, Loren Goodrich found his way to a recruiting station in New Britain, Connecticut, and enlisted to serve in the army for three years or the duration of the war; signing the muster roll on 2 August 1862; mustering in to serve with Co. F of the 14th Connecticut on the 23rd.

Two weeks later, he penned his first letter home; addressed to Joseph Wells in Wethersfield.

Virginia Sept 5th 1862

Dear Friends

I now sit down to write you a few lines. I am well and hope that are the same. We arrived in camp the next Thursday after we left Hartford. We had a very pleasant time to ride but it was very tiresome to ride so far.

We arrived in New York at 7 o’clock the next morning and from there we took a boat to Elizabeth Fort at 2 PM and from there we took the cars to Baltimore and arrived in Baltimore the next day at half past 3 o’clock in the afternoon. There we took supper. You would like to know we had for supper we had some ham bread and coffee with but a very little sugar and no milk.

At 9 o’clock we took the cars to Washington and arrived there at half 3 o’clock in the morning. After riding in the cars for 2 days an [sic] nights with but a very little sleep and from we was marched 5 miles from Washington across the Potomac River to our camping ground. We got our tents pitched at by dark we had no supper that night but a little coffee.

We was called up the next morning at half past 2 o’clock with orders to march to Chain Bridge 10 miles distant. We left our tents and knapsacks and everything that was in them but our rubber blankets. Our company was stationed out in the woods to guard Fort Eathen Allen [sic] and there we staid [sic] for 4 days without our tents or cooking utensils and sleeping on the ground with nothing but a rubber blanket to cover us. We had but one days rations in the 4. If we had not had any money we should have suffered for the want of something to eat.

Some us went foraging an then we bought 1 dozen chicken hens and a hog so that got along pretty well but then we don’t nothing about hardship to what them fellows do who have been out before. We see them coming most every day from the war and they say that they have been on a march for 20 days and they was in the 7 days fight they say if had not been for General McDowell they would have captured Stonewall Jackson.I should just that there was within 5 miles around from us there was fifty thousand men.

Please excuse my pen this time [?] and I will give more particulars next time about the war. I would like to have you write to me.

Direct your letter to Loren H. Goodrich
Washington D. C. 14th Reg C. V. in care of Col Dwight Morris from
Loren H Goodrich

1839 Artist's rendition of the Chain Bridge over the Potomac.

An 1839 artist’s rendition of the Chain Bridge over the Potomac as it stood at the time of Goodrich’s letter.

The history of Fort Ethan Allen and the Chain Bridge and their roles in the war, may be found here.

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