Bickford, Charles B.
Age: 21, credited to Peacham, VTVITALS
Birth: abt 1841, Peacham, VTADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None notedDESCENDANTS
Fairlawn Cemetery, Oklahoma City, OK
Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.
CHARLES B. BICKFORD
By Lois Field White
"The Union needs more troops!"
President Lincoln issued a call for more volunteers for the Union Army on August 4, 1862, following the disastrous results of the Peninsula campaign. Vermont responded with 5 Regiments: the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th. The new soldiers, almost five thousand in number, were to serve for nine months. They were commanded by Brigadier Edwin H. Stoughton of Bellows Falls. The new brigade, the 2nd Vermont, was assigned to the Reserve Corps and to the defense of Washington. Colonel Redfield Proctor commanded the 15th Regiment and William W. Grout was the second in command. The 15th Regiment was composed of 9 companies from Caledonia, Orange, Orleans and Windsor Counties. Company F included men from Peacham and surrounding towns. These men were called the nine-month soldiers
Twenty-five young men from Peacham, among them Charles B. Bickford, the 21-year-old son of Benjamin and Bridget (Keyes) Bickford, answered the call. Charles was the youngest of the six Bickford children and the last to leave home. Charles' parents must have dreaded seeing him leave the Penny Street farm and go off to war. By 1858 Emily and Albert Bickford, the two oldest children, were still in Peacham but Russell, Carrie and Harvey had all left. The boys were living in the West. Now the youngest child was leaving.
The 25 Peacham men enlisted on September 16, 1862 and went into camp at Brattleboro on October 8. They were mustered into Federal service on October 22. Charles Bickford wrote home to his sister and brother-in-law, Emily and James Richardson Kinerson, describing the Company's journey. The trip took several days. Charles' letter is printed below as written and retains his spelling and grammar:
Oct. 28th, 1862
Dear Sister Emily
Here we are at last in Dixie surrounded by forts and batteries in all directions from us. We started from Brattleboro on Thursday last at 2 p. m. and took the cars and went to New Haven Connecticut & arrived there about 11 o'clock at night and there took the Boat and arrived at New York City at six the next morning where we found a breakfast ready for us, we stoped there til about eight then took two other Steam boats went down by Fort La Faette to Port Monmouth, New Josey then took the cars at 2 P. M. and arrived at Cam___ (sp) N. J. at 11 at night we then tok the ferry boat and crossed over to Philadelphia about three miles we then found a supper ready for us which was as good as we could ask for. We then took our knapsacks on our backs and marched 5 miles to cars that night and started at 2 in the morning passed Williams at 5 and ___ DeGrass at 7 in the forenoon and arrived at Baltimore at noon (Saturday). We marched through the city to the Washington Depot about 2 miles. Then stacked our arms in the street and took dinner. Then stoped in the street all that afternoon till 7 at night then took the cars for Washington & arrived there about 6 the next morning went to one of the Government buildings & took breakfast then marched to an outbuilding about like a shed where the Reg't. stoped all day Sunday and that night in a place as close as they could lay. It rained all day Sunday and that night as hard as it could pore I was on wagon guard that day & night & found it a little damp in spots but we use rubber blankets and keep most of the rain off. Monday we marched to Arlington Heights about 6 or 7 miles from Washington and had to cross the Potomac on long bridge which is about 1 1/2 miles long. From here we can see into Washington & see all that is going on there the Capital looms up above all other buildings there and it can be seen for miles around. If the Rebels should take these Heights they could easily take Washington. The cars could easily reach it from here. We were reviewed today by General Casey it was a grand sight 12000 men moved in line of battle their bayonets & swords glistening in the sun shone like silver after it has been polished. General Casey is an old man with white locks but his eyes shine with all there youthful brightness and they then seem to take all in at a glance. I have no more time to write now for we have been on the march all day & have got to be ready to march at 6 tomorrow morning for Capital Hill. Excuse my haste & write soon. Remember me to all inquiring friends, to James and the children
Direct to Company F 15th Vt Reg't., Washington, D. C.
Your Brother Charles
During Charles' 10-month service his Company F. was stationed in Washington, Arlington, Fairfax Court House, Fairfax Station and other area locations. Charles told of camp life, described the village of Fairfax Court House and thanked his family for food and clothing they had sent. In a letter written March 9, 1863 he described the capture of their commanding officer, Colonel Edwin Stoughton, by "secesh" guerillas organized and led by John Singleton Mosely who was called the" Grey Ghost of the Confederacy". Charles said the capture served Stoughton right because he chose to live in a fine house in town 4 miles from his command, rather than in the camp so the soldiers could protect him. General George Stannard replaced Stoughton and soon became famous.
The 12th, 13th, 14th 15th and 16th Regiments, the 2nd Vermont Brigade, began the long march up through Maryland towards Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on June 25, 1863. They drew near to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 1 at which time the 12th and 15th Regiments were detached from the others to remain and guard the supply wagon trains. However, Major General Daniel Sickles of the Third Corps came along, discovered Stannard's two Regiments, and ordered the men of the 15th Regiment up to the battlefield. They traveled all night to get there and arrived with wagons of food for the troops early on the morning of July 2. The soldiers all ate breakfast together.
Later that day Col. Redfield Proctor was ordered (over his objections) to take his 15th Regiment and return to Rock Creek Church, 2 1/2 miles from the battleground, to resume guarding the supply wagons. At noon that Regiment marched along Cemetery Ridge, passed the base of Little Round Top, continued on east between that hill and Big Round Top and left the battlefield. Therefore the soldiers of the 15th Vermont were not among those who fought and died at Gettysburg. However, the Vermonters of the 13th, 14th and 16th Regiments were instrumental in the July 3 repulse of Pickett's Charge, known later as the turning point of the Civil War.
After the battle was over the various Regiments started the long journey back through Maryland to Washington and home to Vermont. On July 23 the men of the 15th Vermont reached Brattleboro and were mustered out on August 5, 1863.
George Benedict began assembling information on all the Vermont regiments before the war ended… Colonel Redfield Proctor wrote to him in January 1864, describing the 15th Vermont: "Now Benedict, though the 15th would have been 'historical' if kept with the Brigade & put into the fight, as it was we claim nothing more than to have obeyed orders and taken good care of the train". Proctor was later elected Governor of Vermont and chose Benedict as state historian to compile a history of Vermont in the war of the rebellion.
Peacham boys returned home after their nine months' of service. Some re-enlisted; however, Charles Bickford did not. Instead, he went West. By January 5, 1864 he had arrived at the home of Russell and "Rett" (Amaretta) Bickford, his brother and sister-in-law, and their children. Russell had developed a successful business called R. K. Bickford, Lumber Commission Merchant, located at Cor. Lake and West Water Street, Chicago, Illinois. Charles worked for Russell for a time, then by March of that year he joined his brother Harvey Bickford and his wife Abba in Leavenworth, Kansas. Charles began working for Harvey and on March 20 wrote home telling his folks, "Harvey has been blessed with a little girl 3 days old, bright and smart I guess although I do not consider myself a competent judge". The baby was named Nellie.
By July of 1864 Charles and Harvey had delivered 30,000 lbs. of corn to Fort Seyon, Charles described, writing from Council Bluff, Kansas. The Bickford men continued hauling corn on Harvey's 13-wagon train through Indian country. Five to six yoke of oxen pulled each wagon.
Throughout 1865 Charles continued working for Harvey selling wood-and they were still running wagon trains to New Mexico. The Indians were very bad and twelve to fifteen thousand soldiers had been sent West to protect the settlers and travelers.
In 1866 Charles left Harvey's employ and traveled to Montana Territory where he cut and put up hay for the winter market, bought mules and a wagon and groceries to resell, and began mining for gold and selling wood. That winter his hay sold for $30.00 per ton in gold dust, the only currency generally used. Greenbacks were seldom seen and were worth only 80 cents in gold dust.
Charles wrote Emily and James in July, 1867, relating that he had a wood yard and three teams drawing wood from the mountains. Charles had bought several hundred cords of wood and was selling it at a good profit. He and his "pardner", a Charles R. Bickford from Stowe, Maine, were mining and they had taken out as much as $8.00 worth of gold to a pan of dirt., Charles and his"pardner" later sold their mules and wagon for $550.00 in gold.
Charles left Montana in September 1868 and returned to Harvey's in Leavenworth. He then began clerking for the Missouri Valley R.R. Transfer Company.
Charles' brother Albert Bickford wrote from Peacham in late December 1869 that their mother, Bridget Bickford, had died on November 14. Apparently Benjamin and Bridget were then living in Peacham Corner. Charles had visited his father in the spring of 1870 and had been offered money but did not accept it as because he did not want his family to think he was trying to get money from them. On December 18 Charles wrote his sister Emily that he could have used cash as business was not good because of trouble between the railroad companies. During this time Benjamin went to live with his daughter Emily and her husband James, where he remained until his death April 18, 1871. Emily wrote in her memoirs that Charles married Eliza Hutchins June 17, 1871.
Nine years passed.. By June of 1880 Charles had established a drug and variety store, C. B. Bickford and Co., in Troy, Kansas. He was also handling hard and soft coal and was helping Harvey on the cattle drives coming up from Texas. He wrote his sister Carrie Bickford Varnum in Marshalltown, Iowa from St. Joseph, Missouri, telling her he really liked the drug business better than anything he knew of and that he had built up a good trade. Charles and Eliza now had two children, Florence, born in 1874 and Bert, born in 1880. A third child, Ben, was born in 1882.
In February, 1901, Charles and his family sent birthday greetings to Emily on her 80th birthday. Charles wrote, "I should like very much to be with you when sugar time comes and eat hard sugar off the snow once more". Charles was then nearly 70; his daughter Florence Van Ness was 27, and sons Bert and Ben were 21 and 19 respectively. They were all in good health. Charles, Eliza and the boys lived in Oklahoma City and Florence and her family were in Dexter, Missouri.
Probably Charles lived out his life in Oklahoma after his travels around the United States and the Territories. His Peacham parents, sister Emily and brother Albert kept track of him through his letters and those of his Western siblings. Charles, a farm boy from little Vermont, became prosperous as a result of his strong work ethic and willingness to take chances in the developing West. What a life!
Peacham, the Story of a Vermont Hill Town, by Ernest L.Bogart, 1948, published by the Vermont Historical Society, Montpelier, VT
People of Peacham, by Jennie Chamberlain Watts and Elsie A. Choate, 1965, published by the Vermont Historical Society, Montpelier, VT
Nine Months to Gettysburg, by Howard Coffin, 1997, published by The Countryman Press, Woodstock, VT
Vermont Hero, Major General George J. Stannard, by George S. Maharay, 2001, published by White Mane Books, Shippensburg, PA
15th Vermont Infantry, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bickford/Kinerson Family Papers, Peacham Historical Association, Peacham, Vermont.
Originally published in the Peacham Historical Association Newsletter; reprinted with permission.