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.

South Mountain from Boonsboro, MDclick to see larger image
South Mountain from Boonsboro (A. Waud, Sept 1862, Library of Congress)

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”.

Capt Lewis Reed, 54 Mass Infy
Lewis Reed (from Brave Black Regiment)

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.

Battle of Olustee (painting)
Battle of Olustee (Florida State Archives)

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.

Evangelical Lutheran Church, Frederick, MD as Hospital c. 1862
Evangelical Lutheran Church, Frederick, Maryland in use as a hospital (1862-63)

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 ≈ìdrop that gun¬ù-kept towards them yelling out ≈ìdon't fire on your men¬ù, 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 ≈ìanother minute you would of been a dead man.¬ù 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.
Birds eye view of Andersonville Prison click to see larger image
Bird’s-eye view of Andersonville Prison (c. 1890, Library of Congress)

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.
Colors Return
Colors return to Governor Andrew, 1865 (from Stories)



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).

12 Responses to “They were Massachusetts men”

  1. Mark Farrell says:

    Thank you for the very nice tribute to my great-grandfather, Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale. Here are a few corections. He was in Company I from Dedham of the 35th MA and he was 85 when he died. The 1862 photos of the makeshift hospital at the Lutheran Church in Frederick, MD are still hanging on the walls of the church. The pastor let me photograph those photos which were credited to Matthew Brady. When I visted it several years back it had just been newly remodeled. If I had visited the previous summer I would have found the church much like it was in 1862. I will try to send you a few pictures of Henry.
    Mark Farrell

  2. Brian says:

    Thank you Mark. Very cool about the church photos, too – I was glad to find them. They were apparently taken in 1862 with Antietam wounded present. Who knows. One could be Henry …

  3. Lesa and Robert McFadden says:

    We enjoyed the piece you wrote on Lewis Reed, my husband’s great-great grandfather. Thank you for taking the time and effort to learn more about him and to add him to your roster.
    Lesa and Robert McFadden

  4. Jennie says:

    Tag! You’re it!

    I’ve chosen your site to be “it” in a virtual game of history blog tag.

    For more information, please visit the American Presidents Blog.

  5. Brian says:

    Hi Jennie – thanks for thinking of Behind AotW, but these viral memes are not in my line. Sorry if I’m breaking the chain :(

  6. Patrick Tisdale says:


    I’m researching potential connections of our line of Tisdales (my grandfather being a Henry E Tisdale; his father in turn a James Tisdale, of Chester PA) to yours – Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale.

    I’ve not encountered any information on Henry W.s parents or children. Can you point me to any sources?



  7. Mark Farrell says:

    Hi Patrick,

    There are several books:”Meet The Tisdales” is one. My mother has it and another one which both date back to John Tisdale who arried at Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634 and settled in Taunton and was later killed during King Philip’s War in 1675. Google his name and some history is at that site. You can email me at the address at my website.

    Mark Farrell

  8. Jill Bercaw says:

    My son is doing a project for school …. A civil war scrap bpok from A to Z. Each page to cover something with the civil war ie a=abe lincoln). We talked and decided to take the life and diary of a civil war soldier and make a scrap book based on his life. My son chose your great grandfather. Thank you for posting his diary online. My son is learning so much from reaching into the mind of someone living it.

    We are however finding it difficult to locate pictures of your great grandfather, any pics that he may have sent home or from places he was known to be during the war. Is there any help you can provide or another website we can visit?

    Would you like a copy of the project once completed?

  9. Amber says:

    as for what i have seen on this site it is a very good site for info on the civil war between the confederacy and the union. thanks yall for publising this. it was real helpful for what im doing

  10. Mark Farrell says:

    Hi Jill,

    That is a fine tribute to Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale. I would love to see a copy of your son’s school project and am happy to hear the he enjoys learning about a soldier’s life.

    The only photos of my great grandfather were taken after the Civil War. There are photos online of Antietam, Vicksburg, South Mountain, and Andersonville.

  11. Mark Farrell says:

    Hi Jill,

    My email is HenryWTisdale@MSN.COM

  12. mikemanners11 says:

    I do not feel sorry for these Yankees. They came down to the South to kill, rape, and rob Southern people. They got what they deserved.

    The North did just as bad to Southern Prisoners of War.

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