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Towle, Ransom Winfield


Age: 25, credited to Rochester, VT
Unit(s): 4th VT INF
Service: enl 8/24/61, m/i 9/21/61, SGT, Co. E, 4th VT INF, reen 12/15/63, pr 1SGT, comn 2LT, Co. A, 5/17/64 (5/25/64), wdd, Savage's Station, 6/29/62, reen 12/15/63, wdd, Weldon Railroad, 6/23/64, pow, Weldon Railroad, 6/23/64, escaped from prison, kia, Winchester, 9/19/64

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: 04/1836, Rochester, VT
Death: 09/19/1864

Burial: Bingo Cemetery, Rochester, VT
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Joe Schenkman
Findagrave Memorial #: 99769675


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Unknown
Portrait?: Gibson Collection, VHS Collections
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: See also: Correspondence at UVM's Center for Digital Initiatives


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Copyright notice


Bingo Cemetery, West Rochester, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.


Vermont Officers Reunion Society Collection
Courtesy Vermont Historical Society

(Gibson Collection)

Ransom Towle and the West-R-Boys

Ransom Winfield Towle was the third son of Rufus and Sabra (Washburn) Towle, was born April 11, 1836, in Goshen, Vermont (now West Rochester). He never knew his oldest brother, who was unnamed, and did not live two weeks. Before he was ten, Ransom saw his mother Sebra lose three more of her children.

The West-R-Boys were Ransom's family and friends from West Rochester, as well as the surrounding town and hamlets, like Hancock, Rochester, Goshen, Forest Dale, and Brandon. They elected Ransom W. Towle as their leader, giving him the rank of Sergeant. Sgt. Towle called them the West-R-Boys. They had signed up with Captain Terry for the Fourth Regiment of Vermont Volunteer Infantry, Company E. the summer and fall of 1861. The 4th VVI were the first regiment to leave Vermont in blue uniforms!

Ransom enlisted as a Sergeant in Co. E, 4th Vermont Regiment, on August 24, 1861. Wounded at Savage's Station, Va. on June 29, 1862, he re-enlisted on December 15, 1863 and was promoted to 1st Sergeant of Co. A. On May 17, 1864, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. He was wounded and taken prisoner at Weldon Railroad, Va. on June 23, 1864, incarcerated at Libby Prison in Richmond, but escaped and returned to his unit. On September 19, 1864 he was killed in action at Winchester, Virginia. He is buried in the Bingo Cemetery, West Rochester.

Ransom's extended family included his uncle Samuel, who lived on West Hill with Judith Peasley and their seven children(Ransom's cousins) as well as the large Flanders and Washburn families, which knew each other in many cases from over a hundred years before arriving in Rochester, from such places as Hillsborough, Newbury, and Sutton, New Hampshire, and from Tolland, Connecticut. Ransom's grandfather Caleb Towle seems to have arrived in the Land of Goshen in the early nineteenth century with many of his ten brothers and sisters, and Ezra Washburn had come to Philadelphia Peak in Goshen in 1798.

Ransom Towle was directly related to witches on both sides of his family - all the way back to Isabella Towle, in mid-seventeenth century Hampton, New Hampshire (then part of Boston), on his paternal side. He was related to the famous Sarah North Martin on his mother's side, through the Flanders' family. Many of the old families in Rochester were (and are) related to Sarah North Martin, who was found guilty I the Salem Witch Trials, and hung on Gallows Hill in 1698.

They arrived in Brattleboro September 21, 1861, and went from there to Virginia, first Camp Advance and then to Camp Griffin, located in Northern Virginia, about where the C.I.A. is located today. Camp Griffin swelled to 150 thousand men (and boys), and sickness hit the Vermont troops at a far higher rate than troops from other states. The Vermonters were known to be amongst the toughest soldiers, with the weakest constitutions. Most were hillside farmer's sons who had never been sick - tough men with delicate immune systems. Most common was the "Virginia Quickstep."

The Fourth Regiment was involved with the Peninsula Campaign led by General George McClellan, including the first skirmish at Dansville where they fought J.E.B. Stuart's men in a foraging party that turned into a food fight that, oddly enough, later forced a legal definition of the war, which decided it was not about slavery.

After losing many lives to sickness and others for medical disabilities in the seemingly endless dress-parades and tramping to "find the enemy," Camp Griffin quieted down for a long winter's nap. Fighting picked up in the spring of 1862 with engagements at Lee's Mills (April 16), Williamsburg (May 5), Golding's Farm (June 26), Savage's Station (June 29), White Oak Swamp (June 30), Crampton's Gap, The "Siege of Yorktown" (most inhabitants had evacuated), and Fredericksburg. Ransom received his first head wound (he had three in all), at Lee's Mills, where RWT describes the debacle of their favorite General "Baldy" Smith so drunk he fell off his horse, but was mostly not to be seen.

By 1863, the 4th Regiment was part of the Vermont Brigade, as were all the early regiments, and joined other states in the Army of the Potomac under General U.S. Grant, who confronted Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at every opportunity, some of them probably opportunities for the Rebel Cause that wounded and killed large numbers of Vermonters, who had gained such a strong reputation as tenacious fighters that when generals ran out of commands, they would resort to, "Don't retreat till you see the Vermonters retreat!"

Ransom spent all of 1863 in Brattleboro and Burlington hospital, where he worked as an orderly. He reenlisted December 15, 1863, from Burlington Hospital. We have no letters from 1864, only a very illegible diary, as he wrote in pencil - it smudged over time, and much is in shorthand. There is both a ledger that records days spent tramping, battle activity, letters incoming and outgoing,, and business transactions for both watches he was buying wholesale from a dealer in Brattleboro named Charles A. Tripp, of Chase & Tripp ("Sign of Watch and Spoon: tea sets, castors, spoons, forks, &c"). Ransom also sold the maple syrup he called molasses, that he bought 50-to100 cans at a time from his father and. He seems to have had a lively business for both mail-order businesses, recording brisk sales with many of his family and friends.

Ransom was wounded again and taken prisoner at Weldon Railroad, on June 26, 1864. The third-of-a-page that reads, "arrived at Libby Prison," is torn out of his diary, during the "scant fare and insolent treatment" he received while in a room he shared with 114 other officers in Libby Prison, a large brick tobacco shed-turned-prison across the James River in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

Ransom Towle escaped from prison along forty miles of abandoned train tracks while being marched to Danville, Virginia, probably one stop away from Andersonville Prison in Georgia. Ransom wrote Escape from Rebel Captivity, a narrative about his escape in an "extract of a letter," at Clifton Farm, Virginia. Its an incredible story of how he walked about two-hundred miles to West Virginia using the stars at night as his compass, was published by the Vermont Historical Museum in 1903.

Ransom was given a twenty-day leave after this ordeal, before he was back to the battlefields of Virginia's Bloody Soil.

Check out this soldier's correspondence in the "Ransom W. Towle Correspondence" Collection at the UVM Libraries Center for Digital Initiatives "Vermonters in the Civil War" Collection

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