Monday, May 30, 2016

Sons and Soldiers: Deerfield, Massachusetts and the Civil War...

~ In Remembrance on Memorial Day ~

The Civil War monument in the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts is inscribed as a memorial to the 42 “lamented sons and soldiers who for their country and for Freedom laid down their lives in the war of the Great Rebellion.” These 42 were among the 303 individuals credited to Deerfield in the Union’s war records, 167, or 55 percent, of whom were Deerfield’s “sons”—men who resided in the town—and 136 of “soldiers”—recruits hired from near and far to fill the town’s quotas.The story of how these troops were raised, and of who they were, provides an instructive case study of one northern community’s war experience. It is essentially a record of how the community accommodated its behavior to constant national demands. At the outset of the war, Deerfield accepted responsibility for inspiring self-sacrifice among its citizens. By the end, the town expressed its commitment to the Union by assuming a collective financial burden. For the most part, Deerfield’s “sons” who went to war left home in 1861 and 1862. Starting in 1863, the town answered the Union’s calls primarily with “soldiers” who were not Deerfield natives, but this shift occurred within the context of constant local patriotism. When the “Great Rebellion began in 1861, Deerfield’s population was approximately 3,073, an increase of 27 percent over 1850. Roughly 17 percent, or 510, of Deerfield’s residents were men between the ages of twenty and forty-five, and therefore potentially eligible to serve in the Union army. Much of the population growth in this New England farming village resulted from the influx of native and immigrant laborers who came to work in the cutlery in Cheapside (the town’s northern section), on the railroads, or in smaller industries such as wallet making in South Deerfield. In this essay Deerfield refers to the area covered by Old Deerfield, South Deerfield, and Cheapside, all of which shared one town government. ~ Emily J. Harris

My great, great grandfather John Ware fought in the Civil War, volunteering from Deerfield in 1862 where he lived in what is now known as the Wells-Thorn House. He left behind his wife, Ellen, and a young son, Orlando, when he mustered into the Union Army. He returned in 1865 to find that his wife had left, and his sister Laura was caring for both his son and a daughter born after he went to war. Mary, who was my maternal great grandmother, was born upstairs in this historic house, where the Wares lived more than 100 years.~ JDHWB-R

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