Streeter, Philander Alonzo
Age: 20, credited to Vernon, VTVITALS
Birth: 09/15/1840, Vernon, VTADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None notedDESCENDANTS
Forestdale Cemetery, Holyoke, MA
Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.
At the outset of hostilities in April 1861 a call went out from President Lincoln for the states loyal to the union to muster hundreds and eventually thousands of young men to put down the rebellion of the southern states. Many Vermont boys heard the call and responded. One of these young 19 year old "boys" was the son of a blacksmith from Vernon, Vt. in the southeast corner of the state. His name was Philander Alonzo Streeter. At the time of his enlistment he was living and working in Brattleboro as a carriage maker. Philander was one of nine children in this small town made up mostly of farmers and dairymen.
Philander enlisted and was mustered in to Co. "C" at Burlington on the 20th of June 1861. Within a week he and the rest of the nearly 900 men of the 2nd Vermont Regiment were headed for Washington, D.C. and the defense of the capital of the United States. Not much time went by before they were headed into harms way in a little town 25 miles west of Washington called Manassas. The ensuing battle went initially well for the Union boys but by early afternoon rebel reinforcements started turning the tide in favor of the Confederate army. What became forever known in the north as the battle of Bull Run was the turning point in the knowledge that this war was destined to be a long and difficult struggle.
The 2nd Vermont regiment was a part of General Howard's brigade and was the only Vermont regiment in the battle. By the time Howard's soldiers were put into the fight after 3PM it was virtually too late to be of any value in turning the tide back in favor of the Union army. The rallying rebels put themselves heavily on the flank of the Maine and Vermont boys to the extent that a near rout was underway barely after the brigade entered the conflict on Chinn Ridge. A general retreat was ordered by Howard and the troops took to the rear the way they had come earlier in the day via Sudley Springs Ford. Needless to say many Yankees were wounded in the struggle and were hard pressed to escape capture. In stopping to aid a fallen comrade, Pvt. P. A. Streeter subjected himself to eventual capture. In all, 31 Vermont men were reported missing and later reported as captured. Most were captured near the Sudley church on Sudley Road heading north from the battlefield. Within 2 days they were placed in various facilities in Richmond, Va. One of these places was a recently converted ship's chandlery and warehouse owned by a Maine family named Libby, the place Pvt. Streeter was kept for five and a half months. This so called Libby prison became notorious for its ill treatment of Union prisoners during the remainder of the war. Congressman Alfred Ely of New York and Col. Michael Corcoran of the famed Fighting 69th New York Volunteer Infantry regiment were also captured and placed in Libby at the same time.
The doors to Libby prison were open for the influx of union soldiers on the 23rd of July. When the front door was literally open to accept prisoners, Pvt. Streeter was given the dubious honor of being the first union soldier to step across the threshold. His account of the episode written for the newspaper in 1890 when Libby prison was opened as a museum in Chicago after being dismantled in 1889 and moved to Chicago, is related here:
"First as you stand in front and look at the building, the door that I went in at is clear to the left of the building and I went up to the third floor. I took my place at the center window in the east end of the building (or the end at your left as you face it). I am sending one of my cabinet photographs with this, so they can have a picture of the first Union soldier that entered the building. Of course, I was not alone, but I was at the head of the line when we were marched from the cars (ed. train) to the prison, so in that way I was the first to enter it. You can bet I was glad to put a brick wall between me and the mob that was gathered there in the street. I tell you the bricks and stones flew about as fast as the bullets at Bull Run, for we were the first lot of 'Yanks' the folks had seen. there were twenty sailors but no soldiers in the building. When I stepped in there was a big, lantern-jawed cuss, with a long blue frock and musket in his hands, and he said: 'You go upstairs right smart or I'll shoot you.' I says, 'Well, I be darned.,' but I got up the stairs all the same, and met the same salute on the second floor. We went up to the third and last floor, and then I sat down by the window in the only chair there was the room, and that was the floor."
Then on the 3rd of January 1862, Pvt. Streeter and 238 other prisoners were given a parole and released to Capt. William D. Whipple, Asst Adjutant General (who is a distant cousin to Pvt. Streeter) and returned to the union lines. Pvt. Streeter was transported by the steamer George Washington up the Potomac River to Washington where he met up with his old regiment and went on to fight the remaining battles of the Army of the Potomac for his remaining 3 year enlistment, that is, up to and including the battle at Cold Harbor June 1864 and before Petersburg.
Closely following the battle of Gettysburg, the Old Vermont Brigade (5 Vermont regiments, the 2nd - 6th) were detached from the Sixth Corps and sent to quell the riots being experienced in some of the northern major cities over more callups for soldiers. These riots got extremely violent, especially in New York City and up the Hudson River as far as Albany. However, when troops started arriving, especially the battle hardened troops from Vermont, no further conflicts were witnessed. Things calmed down and peace was restored.
Destiny then entered the life of Pvt. Streeter as we see his regiment detached and sent to Poughkeepsie, NY to bring a military presence to the city. It was during his march along the way that the following incident occurred which is told by his wife-to-be, Nettie Mae Tracy of Titusville, NY. The following is an excerpt from a newspaper article in the Springfield Sunday Union and Republican newspaper (Springfield, Massachusetts) dated February 2, 1936:
Mrs. Nettie M. Streeter, 91, recalls with remarkable clearness details of how a bouquet picked for Civil War soldier led to romance and marriage.
One interesting war story which reveals the secret of her marrying a soldier in the Civil War follows. Her husband, who was a member of the 2nd Vermont, Co. C Volunteers militia was passing through her old home town this way one day in 1862 [sic 1863]. These soldiers, several in number, lost their way for a few miles on their trek to Poughkeepsie, NY in line of march. They stopped right in front of Mrs. Streeter's, (then Miss Nettie M. Tracy) home in Titusville, NY. Her father, at the sight of soldiers, rushed out, tied the horses to a post and just told the soldiers to dismount and go right in for a good dinner.
After dinner, Mr. Tracy said to his daughter, Mrs. Streeter, her sister and her girl friends, "You girls go and pick nice bouquets for the soldiers to take back to camp." They started to go, when Mrs. Streeter remarked, "You girls give yours to the other soldiers. I want to give mine to the man with the black hair," meaning Philander A. Streeter. Mr. Streeter and his comrades went on and when he got to camp he wrote to Mr. Tracy to thank him for the dinner and hospitality of his home, inclosing a short note to the young lady, who gave him his bouquet. Mrs. Streeter wrote back thanking him for his note and the correspondence became most frequent. Finally they were engaged by letter in 1865 and married in 1866 coming to this vicinity (i.e., Holyoke, Ma.) in later years.
Pvt. Streeter was engaged in the following battles by his own testimony: "1st Bull Run, July 21st 1861, Lee's Mills, April 16th 1862, Williamsburg, May 5th 1862, Goldings Farm, June 26th 1862, Savage Station, June 29th 862, White Oak Swamp, June 30th 1862, South Mountain, Sept 14th 1862, Antietam, Sept 17th 1862, Fredericksburg, Va., Dec 13th 1862, Marye's Heights, May 3rd 1863, Salem Heights, May 4th 1863, Fredericksburg, June 5th 1863, Funkstown, July 10th 1863, Rappahannock Station, Nov 7th 1863, Mine Run, Nov 26th 1863. Wilderness, May 5th to 7th 1864, Spotsylvania, May 8th to 21st 1864, North Anna River, May 22nd to 25th 1864, Totopotomy, May 27th to 31st 1864, Cold Harbor, June 1st to 12th 1864, Petersburg, Va. June 16th 1864."
His regiment was present at Gettysburg with the Sixth Corps but his Vermont Brigade was protecting the left flank of the Union army in the vicinity to the rear of Little Round Top and were virtually in reserve, but were involved with the pursuit of Lee's army engaging in battle at Funkstown, Md. 10 July 1863.
In addition to being slightly wounded in the furious fighting at the "Bloody Angle," at Spotsylvania, he had several narrow escapes having a number of bullets pass through his clothing.
During the battle of Cold Harbor in June of 1864, Pvt. Streeter was engaged in a little 'reconnoitering' for the Union army which he claims was to earn him a promotion …. but this was not to be as he relates:
I was detailed to go to the Rebel works at Cold Harbor in the night and see what was in front of them, which I did and it took me about three hours to come back. As the moon came out almost as bright as day, and nothing to shield me but the swamp grass, I had to crawl flat on my face all the way but I got back to Headquarters about 3.A.M. and made my report to General Wright then commanding the 6th Corps. This I deem the most important event of my service. For this service General Wright sent to me (through Regimental Headquarters) a recommend[ation] for a commission, which did not reach me until 1890. The [recommendation] reached my Captain just before my time of service was out, and he kept them and never told me a word about it until about four months before he died.
Philander was mustered out of the service to his country on 29 June 1864 in Brattleboro having served his entire 3 years with only a short furlough to recover his health after being paroled from Libby prison January 1862. He returned home to Vernon, Vt. just in time to watch his father, Benjamin Arnold Streeter pass on 10 July 1864. He married his war-time sweetheart on 5 December 1866 in Titusville, NY. They eventually settled in Holyoke, Ma. where they raised their 3 sons. Philander was employed at the Parson's paper mills and Beebe and Holbrooke which he helped to build. He was active in the GAR in Holyoke, Kilpatrick Post #71 for years, and participated in the 1876 dedication of the Holyoke Civil War Soldiers Monument in which there was a horrible accident. He spent a term as the post's commander in 1890. He was present at several reunions of Co. C in Brattleboro, VT over the years. At one reunion, in 1890, Philander stood for a photograph of the survivors of his company.
Pvt. Philander A. Streeter passed on 16 January 1919 at the age of 78. His wife of 53 years, Nettie Mae outlived him by 19 years passing on 4 Feb 1938 at the youthful age of 93.
Holyoke Daily Transcript
16 January 1919
CIVIL WAR VETERAN DIES IN HOSPITAL
PHILANDER A. STREETER,
FIRST UNION SOLDIER
TO ENTER LIBBY PRISON
Was for Thirty Years Master Mechanic for American Writing Company
Philander A. Streeter, 78, the well known master mechanic, for many years connected with the American Writing Paper company, died this morning at the Holyoke City Hospital.
He was of the eighth generation of the family founded in America by Stephen and Ursula Streeter of Gloucester, the line of descent being through their son Stephen.
Mr. Streeter was born in Vernon, Vt. Sept. 15, 1840, son of Benjamin Arnold Streeter, and a maternal grandson of Uriah B. Green, a colonel in the war of 1812. He was educated in the schools in Vernon and for a time was employed on the farm, later going to Brattleboro to learn the carriage builders trade, but when the war broke out he responded to President Lincoln's call, although much against his employer's wishes.
He enlisted in June, 1861, Co. C Second Regiment, Vermont Volunteers Infantry. His regiment followed the Sixth Massachusetts in their tumultuous passage through Baltimore, and was the second regiment to arrive in Washington from the north, He saw hard service with the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
Mr. Streeter nearly came to grief in his first battle, through an act of mercy to a wounded comrade, which reflected great credit to him. At the First battle of Bull Run in a pause of his retirement to aid a wounded comrade, he was taken prisoner by a party of Southern Cavalry whom he and four of his companions thought were Union troopers; but who proved to be Confederates.
With many others captured in the same battle, they were sent by rail to Richmond, when disembarked from the freight cars and formed into line, Mr. Streeter was placed in the van and at the head of the line entered Libby prison, the first Union prisoner of war to enter that converted tobacco warehouse, which proved to be a place of much suffering and woe.
He was exchanged at the end of five months, but the change that had taken place in this time was most terrible, and the man of 165 pounds, on entering, was the skeleton of less than 100 pounds on leaving. He was sent north and once again recovered his health to such a degree that he again went to the front and fought until the end [ed. note: until June 29, 1864 - the war went on until April 1865].
Among his battles were Second Bull Run, the Wilderness and the battles around Richmond. In addition to being slightly wounded in the furious fighting at the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania, he had several narrow escapes. Having a number of bullets pass through his clothing, but he returned bronzed and scarred, and had the pleasure of entering Richmond, a second time, a victor and not a prisoner.
After the war, Mr. Streeter for a time conducted a carriage repair shop in Vernon [Vt], but later went to Poughkeepsie, NY, where until 1871 he was engaged as a carpenter, In that year he located in Holyoke [Mass.], where he was employed by Beebe & Holbrook, assisting in building their mill and continued in their employ for twelve years. He sustained an injury that for a time caused him to retire from mill work, and he engaged in light farming until he entered the Mt. Tom paper mill as master mechanic. When that mill was absorbed and became the Parsons division of the American Writing Paper Company. Mr. Streeter continued as master mechanic and served continuously for 30 years, retiring in 1913 from active performance of his duties.
He was a charter member and past commander of Kilpatrick Post  GAR, a member of the Methodist Episcopal church and in political faith was a republican.
Mr. Streeter married, Dec. 5, 1866, Nettie M. Tracey [Tracy], daughter of Frederick M. and Susan (Wood) Tracey of Delhi, NY, who descends from ancient Colonial family, her paternal line Tracey, her maternal line Wood. Through her mother she traces to a great-great grandfather, Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Her father, Frederick M. Tracey was of Delaware County, New York, and both his ancestors and descendants being prominent in New York city and state.
While he was in service, his patriotic wife to be was doing her bit at home, and in after years Mrs. Streeter the moving spirit of the Woman's Relief Corps, received every honor the organization could confer.
On Dec. 5, 1916, Mr. and Mrs. Streeter celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. The affair was a very patriotic one.
Mr. Streeter leaves besides his wife, two sons, Herbert Ellsworth of Springfield, general manager of the Swedish Gage company, Inc., Austin Taylor of West Springfield, engineer of the Boston & Albany. The youngest son, Oscar Alonzo, a veteran of the Spanish-American War died in 1905 [ed. note: killed while employed by the B&A railroad].
The funeral will be held Saturday afternoon [ed. note: Interment - Forestdale Cemetery, Holyoke].
Submitted by Donald E. Streeter - Atkinson NH, great grandson of Pvt. P.A. Streeter.
Note: Quotations from Pvt. Streeter were taken from the G.A.R. membership book at the Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke Room, entitled: Headquarters Post No. 71, Department of Massachusetts, GAR, Personal War Sketches.