5 July 2007
It has been another banner week for emails from descendants of battle veterans. This time the AotW Mailbag brings a pair of Old Bay State soldiers to the fore. Though from different Regiments and background, each had significant War service subsequent to the Maryland Campaign of 1862 where both were wounded–Sergeant Henry W Tisdale on South Mountain and Corporal Lewis Reed in the Cornfield at Antietam.
There’s much to learn from Lewis Reed and Henry W. Tinsdale, thanks to the efforts of their families.
Lewis Reed was born in East Abington, Massachusetts on 26 October 1842. As War broke out in 1861, young Lewis was a “stitcher” in Abington proper, a town about 20 miles south of Boston known for its “boot and shoe establishments”.
He enlisted on 8 July 1861 as Corporal in Company G of the new 12th Massachusetts Infantry. By the end of his service with the Twelfth he had been promoted to Sergeant, but it’s not clear when. The Twelfth served in the Shenandoah Valley under Banks, in Northern Virginia with Pope, and at Cedar Run and Second Bull Run before embarking with the Army of Potomac for Maryland.
At Antietam Reed and the 12th Infantry fought in the Cornfield as part of General Hooker’s First Army Corps. Colonel Coulter, commanding the Brigade, reported:
The Twelfth Massachusetts had killed and disabled eleven officers of fifteen taken into the field. The loss of this regiment, owing to its position, was by far the most severe in the brigade…
Among the wounded on that fateful morning was Corporal Reed. He was away from the Regiment recovering until March 1863. The Twelfth saw action thereafter at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.
On 9 July 1863 Reed was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, a unit of black troops initially authorized by Governor Andrews in late January 1863. He resigned from the 12th Infantry in October or November, and reported and mustered into the 54th Regiment near Charleston, South Carolina on 26 November. The 54th, famous for its assault on Battery Wagner of 18 July 1863, was by then supporting artillery bombardment of Charleston itself.
Soon after, in February 1864, Reed and the 54th were in action at Olustee, Florida, and, with the rest of the Federal force, retired to Jacksonville after defeat there.
In March Reed was promoted 1st Lieutenant, and in mid-April the Regiment was withdrawn by steamship transports from Florida to Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, facing the “utter stagnation of active operations in the department”.
There was some action in the assault on James Island in July, but otherwise the men were assigned tedious seige duties at Charleston. The unit only saw combat again on 30 November at the end of the failed expedition to Honey Hill–where Reed commanded Company I–and finally, in one of the last battles of the War, at Boykin’s Mill on 18 April 1865.
In June, after War’s end, Lewis Reed was promoted to Captain and given command of Company K. He mustered out with the Regiment at the expiration of their term of service, and served briefly as Provost Judge at Charleston before mustering out of Volunteer service on 20 August 1865.
Probably living in Massachusetts after the War, Lewis Reed died at Rockland in 1925 at about 83 years of age.
Thanks to the diary* kept by Henry Tisdale, and preserved by his family, his service is a superb window into the War Between the States.
Henry was born 9 March 1837 at Walpole and was raised in West Dedham (now Westwood), Massachusetts. A 25 year old grocery clerk in early 1862, he enlisted as Sergeant in Company I of the 35th Massachusetts Infantry on 10 July. In his first diary entry, dated 30 July he noted:
… enlisted as a volunteer in the service of the U.S. Soon after the President's call for the 300,000 volunteers felt it my duty to be one of them, feel it as much a Christian as a political duty, and feel that every citizen ought to feel it so. And certainly have never felt more peace of mind as flowing from a sense of duty done, as in this matter of enlistment into the service of our country…
After initial training, the 35th Infantry departed for Washington DC in late August, arriving at Arlington on the 24th. After brief guard and garrison duty there, the Regiment set off for Maryland with the rest of the Army of the Potomac on 7 September.
On Sunday the 14th, approaching Fox’s Gap on South Mountain, Henry wrote
…Prospects of our getting into action before night multiply causing a sort of feverish excitement to come over me. Help me my heavenly Father to do my duty in thy fear and for glory for Christ's sake, Amen…
He wrote next six weeks later describing what had transpired later that day:
At little after 5 PM were upon the ground where the booming of artillery the screaming of shot and shell and rattling of musketry told us we were mid the stern realities of actual battle … drawn up in the line of battle in a cornfield and then advanced through a sort of wooden field to a thick wood where we met the rebels or a few scattering ones for their main body was on the retreat… Just after we entered the wood was wounded by a rifle ball passing through my left leg just opposite the thighbone.
As the ball struck me it gave me a shock which led me to feel at first that the bone must have been struck and shattered and for a moment did not dare to move for fear it was so. Found on moving that the bone was not injured and that I had only a flesh wound… I think that the shot must have been fired by some straggling rebel or sharpshooter in a tree, as we had not yet got up to within reach of the rebel lines…
Over the next days Tisdale was treated at a makeshift hospital in Middletown, then in the Lutheran Church in Frederick, finally at the Government Hospital in Philadelphia. In late October he was sent to recover at Alexandria, Virginia. He returned to active duty with his Regiment, by then at Falmouth, Virginia, in February 1863.
Henry and his Regiment traveled West with the Ninth Corps in mid-1863, serving in Kentucky and Tennessee, and then on to the Vicksburg Campaign surviving a near miss in July at Jackson. In August they returned to Tennessee seeing action on the Knoxville Campaign and in East Tennessee through March 1864.
The 35th rejoined the Army of the Potomac in April and was soon on the Wilderness Campaign. On 24 May Henry was separated from his unit and captured by Confederate troops near the North Anna River:
… found myself alone and mid the rain, mist and wood began to be in doubt as to the line of retreat when I came upon Lt. Creasy, and two other staff officers chatting unconcernedly and so felt all right and kept on coming out to open field when I came upon a line of skirmishers lying upon the ground. Marched towards them supposing them our own men when suddenly a half a dozen or more jumped up took aim and yelled out ?ždrop that gun¨ý-kept towards them yelling out ?ždon't fire on your men¨ý, only to receive a second yell from them. Then to suddenly realize that death or surrender was my alternative and with a feeling of shame and mortification, threw down my gun which I had hoped to carry home (with scar of rebel bullet received at Jackson, Mississippi) as a memorandum of the war.
Was soon taken in charge by a member of the 7th Alabama with a reproof for not dropping my gun at their first call, and the remark that in ?žanother minute you would of been a dead man.¨ý Marched to the rear was relieved of rubber blanket, shelter tent, and cartridge box, and found myself with about 25 more unfortunates. Was humiliated to find myself alone of the 35th at first but not for long, for soon came in the three staff officers, and five comrades of the 35th…
Thus began Henry’s sojourn as a prisoner of war. After a short stay at Libby Prison, Richmond, he was moved south to Andersonville (Camp Sumter, Georgia) where he would spend the next 4 months under abysmal conditions.
In October 1864 he was transferred to Camp Lawton, near Millen, Georgia, but, threatened by the approach of Sherman in late November, the Confederates moved the inmates again, this time to Florence, South Carolina. He remained there until exchanged, through Wilmington, North Carolina, on 3 March 1865.
After being reunited with his Regiment he was mustered out of service on 13 June, and returned home. He married in 1868 and fathered a house full of children. In about 1870 he moved to Roxbury and opened his own grocery store.
Henry W. Tisdale died at age 85 on 31 May 1922.
Biographical information for Lewis Reed provided by descendants Robert and Lesa McFadden. The photograph of Captain Reed and details of his Army service are from A Brave Black Regiment by Capt Luis F. Emilio (2nd ed., 1894), reissued by DeCapo Press (1995). Thanks to Lesa McFadden for the pointer to that volume.
Biographical information and snippets from Henry W. Tisdale’s diary are from the complete transcription posted online by great grandson Mark Farrell, who’s email pointed me to the Sergeant in the first place. *Be warned however, that this diary website is rife with pop-up ads.
The pair of photos of the Lutheran Church in hospital garb are found online from The Dreaming, a Frederick community arts project, and can be glimpsed in the background of a reenactment held at the church in 2006. Original source of the images is unknown.
The Colors Return depicts Gen Darius Couch returning battle flags to Massachusetts Governor John Andrew in 1865, and is from Chapter 26 of ESS Brooks’ Stories of the Old Bay State (1899).