Blanchard, George F.
Age: 26, credited to Whitingham, VTVITALS
Birth: 11/06/1825, Whitingham, VTADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None notedDESCENDANTS
Died in Virginia
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George Frederick Blanchard, a soldier in Vermont's 16th Regiment, Company F and 8th Regiment, Company B in the Civil War, had an experience that most Vermont soldiers did not: his own brother was a Southerner who sided with the Confederates. However, this did not prevent George from enlisting in the Vermont Volunteers, and he did so not once, but twice, and ultimately was killed in a crucial battle.
Josiah and Rachel Blanchard of Whitingham, Windham County, Vermont had a large family of sixteen children. George was born in 1825, and he married Prudence Morley when he was 20. George and Prudence were living in Whitingham in 1850 and 1860, according to the federal census for each of those years, and George was a farmer. Their three children were ages 15, 8, and 3, and George himself was 36 when he enlisted in the Vermont Volunteers on September 3, 1862.
George's brother, Moses Clement Blanchard, was also born and raised in Whitingham and was older than George by less than two years. According to family records and public records, he moved to the South as a young man, married into a prominent Southern family, and was living in Alabama by the 1850s. Moses started a family and, according to a family story, became prosperous as a cotton merchant. He visited his siblings in Vermont before the Civil War began and his wealth was apparent to them from his attire in that he dressed well and somewhat sloppily, without attention to the neatness of his clothes. During this visit, he argued with his family over the issue of slavery. His Vermont relatives were abolitionists and were supporters of the Underground Railroad, but Moses fully supported the institution of slavery and insisted that they had a duty to turn in any fugitive slaves they knew of. George must have enlisted to fight for the Union fully knowing that his brother was a Southerner who supported the Confederate cause.
George, a sergeant, served his term in Company F of the 16th Regiment, apparently without incident. His personal experiences of the Battle of Gettysburg are not known. He was mustered out with the rest of the Company on August 10, 1863. However, he decided to re-enlist rather than return to civilian life. On December 26, 1863, he re-enlisted, then joined the 8th Regiment, Company B, a company which had already been together for nearly two years. According to his military service record from this time, he was 5' 9" and had black hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion. His occupation was listed as farmer.
In 1864, Company B fought in several conflicts in the Shenandoah Valley, including the battles of Opequon, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek. George Blanchard was killed in the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864. Herbert E. Hill, a soldier with the 8th Vermont at Cedar Creek, described George Blanchard's role in the violent battle, according to George N. Carpenter's account of it. On the morning of October 19, the Confederate forces surprise attacked the Vermonters and demanded the surrender of the flags:
Defiant shouts went back. "Never!" "Never!" And then, amid tremendous excitement, commenced one of the most desperate and ugly hand-to-hand conflicts over the flags that has ever been recorded. Men seemed more like demons than human beings, as they struck fiercely at each other with clubbed muskets and bayonets.
At first one color-bearer, then another, was killed.
Once more, amid terrific yells, the colors went up, this time held by Corporal Blanchard; - and the carnage went on. . . . The fearful carnage had swept through the entire command, and over one half the regiment was wounded or killed, when the third color-bearer, Corporal Blanchard, was also killed, and the silken colors, their soft folds pierced with bullets, and their third bearer weltering in his blood, bowed low to the earth amidst triumphant yells of the enemy; but to their chagrin in a few seconds it was again flaunting in their faces. Bleeding, stunned, and being literally cut to pieces, but refusing to surrender colors or men, falling back only to prevent being completely encircled, the noble regiment had accomplished its mission.
The Union forces were able to rally later in the day and ultimately won the Battle of Cedar Creek. George Blanchard was likely buried at the battle site. His military service record states that "[h]is effects were lost on the field."
After his death, according to George's federal pension application file, Prudence received an initial pension of $8 per month. She then applied for an increase due to having two children under the age of 16: Fred Willie, who was 10, and Elva, who was 6. Family records and census records show that Prudence later lived with their oldest child, Mary Ellen, for many years in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Prudence was still living in 1912 at age 84, according to the pension file.
The family story concludes with George's brother Moses reconciling with his Vermont family during a trip North after the war. This time, his clothes were old and threadbare and he was dressed very neatly; he was not the prosperous merchant they had seen before the war. It is not known if he reconciled with George's widow, Prudence. He died in Atlanta, Georgia in 1892.
Sources: George N. Carpenter, History of the Eighth Regiment, Vermont Volunteers 1861-1865, (Deland & Barta, Boston, 1886, Frederal Pension File, and family records.
Contributed by Bridget Bacon, 2nd great-granddaughter of Lucy Blanchard Smith, sister of George F. Blanchard and Moses C. Blanchard.