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

Goodrich’s War: Chancellorsville

This is Part 8 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (with letter of Sept 5 1862)
Part Two (with letter of Oct 2 1862)
Part Three (with letter of Dec 9 1862)
Part Four (with undated, post-Fredericksburg letter)
Part Five (with letter of Jan 5 1863)
Part Six (with letter of Feb 11 1863)
Part Seven (with letter of Apr 23 1863)

Hooker's plan of battle for the Chancellorsville campaign.

Hooker’s plan of battle for the Chancellorsville campaign.

The Union Army of the Potomac’s battle at Chancellorsville was a messy affair– and a brief one. Union General Joseph Hooker (born rather near me in Hadley, Massachusetts) sought to reverse the continual ill fortunes of his command following two years of loss after loss, retreat after retreat, with yet another advance across the Rappahannock in the late spring of 1863. Bold in conception, Hooker’s plan called for a masking force to remain before Fredericksburg on the rebel front, while the bulk of the army moved to the west, crossing the river at United States Ford, then pressing east, striking at Lee’s rear. This plan avoided the foible of the frontal assault that doomed the campaign at Fredericksburg the year before, and perhaps might have succeeded, had it not been for the combination of an audacious move by Lee to split his forces before a superior foe, and blazing incompetence on the part of the corps commanders of the Army of the Potomac.

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Goodrich’s War: Spring of 1863

This is Part 7 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (with letter of Sept 5 1862)
Part Two (with letter of Oct 2 1862)
Part Three (with letter of Dec 9 1862)
Part Four (with undated, post-Fredericksburg letter)
Part Five (with letter of Jan 5 1863)
Part Six (with letter of Feb 11 1863)

The balance of the winter of 1863 after the Mud March was comparatively quiet for Loren Goodrich and the rest

Union camps and review sites, April 8 1863

Union camps and review sites, April 8 1863

of his pards in the 14th Connecticut. There was a small amount of excitement around Connecticut’s annual elections, where the conservative Democratic party was attempting to make some hay around the specter of dissatisfaction with the war effort among the soldiers at the front. Regimental historian Charles Page notes that the men got together at dress parade on March 24 and passed, nearly unanimously, resolutions endorsing Governor Buckingham (Page 113).  The mood may not have been fully as unanimous as Page suggests, as Goodrich’s letter home of about a month later indicates a mood amongst the men that was souring towards the war– indeed, he may well have been one of the dissenters that Page glossed over in favor of the party line.

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Goodrich’s War: The Mud March

This is Part 6 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (including his letter of Sept 5 1862)
Part Two (including his letter of Oct 2 1862)
Part Three (including his letter of Dec 9 1862)
Part Four (including his undated, post-Fredericksburg letter)
Part Five (including his letter of Jan 5 1863)

The winter of 1863-4 was difficult for the 14th Connecticut, and for Loren Goodrich in their Falmouth Virginia camp– and worse when they left it. The weather was cold, stormy, and rainy. Sleeping in the elements day in and day out can take quite a bit out of a body– and so it was that two brothers with Company K, Francis and Frederick Hollister of Chatham, died of exposure within half an hour of each other (Page 110) on December 23 1862 (Historical Data Systems, Inc). Regimental historian Charles Pages notes that the brothers lost their blankets in the confusion at Antietam, and “…had to sleep out of doors or crouch scantily clad all night long over a smoky camp-fire.”  The brothers were buried together (Page 110).

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Goodrich’s War: The Aftermath of Fredericksburg

This is Part 5 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (including his letter of Sept 5 1862)
Part Two (including his letter of Oct 2 1862)
Part Three (including his letter of Dec 9 1862)
Part Four (including his undated, post-Fredericksburg letter)

Winter quarters for the Army of the Potomac.

Winter quarters for the Army of the Potomac.

The ancient Roman army had a tradition called “decimation,” by which a unit that had performed some ill-deed would be punished by being ordered by a senior commander to be broken up into groups of ten. In that group, one member would be selected to be beaten to death, usually with stones or clubs. The punishment for the Fourteenth Connecticut was the inverse after Fredericksburg– they were reduced to a shell of their former selves. Officers and private soldiers alike had been struck dead, or wounded grievously at Fredericksburg. Regimental historian Charles Page quotes Sergeant Wade, who relates the return of Captain Moore of Goodrich’s Company F from the District of Columbia– where he’d been during the battle at Fredericksburg, missing the fight– to see the battered remains of his unit thus:

“December 17th– Captain Moore returned to the regiment. He had been sent to Washington a day or two before we moved over to Fredericksburg, to get us camp kettles and other property belonging to us, and as luck would have it, he was out of the last engagement, — for had he been with us, another noble officer would doubtless have been killed: for all the regiment knows that there never was a fight yet, but what he always took the lead, and seeing only a little band of us left, — scarcely one hundred fit for duty,– his feelings over-powered him, and for a while he was completely overcome” (Page 107).

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Goodrich’s War: Fredericksburg

This is Part 4 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (including his letter of Sept 5 1862)
Part Two (including his letter of Oct 2 1862)
Part Three (including his letter of Dec 9 1862)

The assault on Marye's Heights, as recreated by an artist.

The assault on Marye’s Heights, as recreated by an artist.

December of 1862 saw Loren Goodrich and his 14th Connecticut engaged in yet another titanic battle that would exact a terrible price on the new regiment, already battle-hardened after only three month’s service to the Federal cause. From a solid plan of battle, poor execution and a terrible selection of ground on which to assault the rebel troops doomed the Federal army to another dismal failure; and the common soldier would pay the price yet again for the mismanagement and bungling of the leadership. In this fight as in many to follow, the battle at Fredericksburg would presage the carnage of the Great War some fifty years later in scope, and in horror.

While his earlier letters home told some of the terrors of the battlefield, the tone and tenor of the letter Goodrich sent back in December tells the tale of his anguish and shock. Where he seemed to have some confidence in success, and in the army, Goodrich’s December letter sees some erosion of that, as he castigates some vainglorious officers for their wasting of the lives of the private soldiers, for what would amount to no gain at all.

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States’ Rights and the Lost Cause Piffle

The real cost of chattel slavery-- the human one.

The real cost of chattel slavery– the human one.

Something those of us involved in Civil War reenacting and living histories hear quite a bit from the secessionist reenactors is the old chestnut that “The war wasn’t about slavery. It was about States’ Rights / tariffs/ Northern Aggression / some-other-twaddle.”  Sure, the principle of tariffs were bound up in the whole ordeal, but there was really only one “State’s Right” that the secessionist leaders in Montgomery, or Mobile, or Richmond were really interested in: Their perceived rights to own slaves as human chattel.  The typical “not about slavery” statement, while well-loved by those that choose to wear the grey, is pure, unadulterated tripe; and does a grave disservice to the actual history; and their presentation of it to the public does a grave disservice to those that they share their revisionist history with.

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Goodrich’s War: The March to ‘Camp Froze-to-Death’

This is Part 3 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (including his letter of Sept 5 1862)
Part Two (including his letter of Oct 2 1862)

After the titanic battle of Antietam, commanding General George McClellan began again to exhibit what Lincoln would refer to as “a case of the slows,” allowing the Army of Northern Virginia to pass unmolested back into the safe and friendly (if war-worn) fields of Virginia. Finally, on Monday September 22nd, the Army of the Potomac began a move south (having given Lee a three-day lead), and the Fourteenth Connecticut with Loren Goodrich in the ranks, joined the pursuit. According to regimental historian Charles Page, the march towards Harper’s Ferry was led by the band with music, playing favorite airs such as “Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel,” “Dixie,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “Old Virginia.” A particularly specially adored song was noted by Colonel Hitchcock of the nearby 138th Pennsylvania– “John Brown’s Body” — all the more appropriate, given their approach to the place where Brown’s penultimate act played out (Page 60-61).

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Goodrich’s War: Destiny at Antietam

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series built around the letters home of Loren Goodrich, Co. F 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. See also…

Part One (including his letter of Sept 5 1862)

On Sunday, September 7 1862, Loren Goodrich of Co. F of the 14th Connecticut found himself formally a member of the Army of the Potomac. The 14th was selected that day to brigade with the 113th Pennsylvania and the 108th New York– both also brand new regiments, fresh to the fight, officially forming the Second Brigade of the Third Division, II Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

Indeed, the greenhorn 14th CV itself had only mustered in on August 23rd, and just received their muskets August 29th. Most of the 14th CV’s companies received brand new Springfield rifle-muskets; flank Companies A & B got Sharps rifles. They would barely have time to acclimate themselves to these new tools of the soldiering trade before they would be called to use them in anger (Page 25) . (more…)

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.

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The Matter of Jeremiah Franklin Files and His Ancestry

I believe that my descent is reasonably traced back through the line of George Spencer Files to Jeremiah Franklin Files. While the evidence is merely circumstantial, I do find it compelling. Enclosed herein is the story of Jeremiah and his ancestry– a great story in my opinion. Jeremiah Franklin Files was born to a family with a rich, if, spotted history in colonial and antebellum America.

1715-1753: Monongahela Massacre

Jeremiah’s great-great grandfather was one of the early residents in the Virginia colony– one Robert Files

Sign commemorating Files & Tygart.

Sign commemorating Files & Tygart.

(1715-1753); who, along with his brother-in-law David Tygart, moved beyond the legal limit of the Virginia colony into modern day West Virginia– which was reserved by treaty for the native population. Robert, his wife Elizabeth (Tygart) and their clan settled in a small valley at the junction of what is now known as the Tygart River and Files Creek (Map of Robert’s Settlement), where they held a small farm. In the winter of 1753, the farm came under the attack of a local native tribe; and Robert, Elizabeth, and five of their six children were all caught and killed. Only their son John Adam Files escaped; and fled to David Tygart’s cabin to warn his uncle and his family. With the Tygarts, John fled the frontier, back to Virginia-proper.

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