Bisbee, George W.
Age: 26, credited to New Haven, VTVITALS
Birth: 1834, Monkton, VTADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None notedDESCENDANTS
Evergreen Cemetery, New Haven, VT
Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.
(Dennis Charles Collection)
Sad stories abound in the lives of Vermont's Civil War veterans. Young men by the thousands left home for uncertain and foreign destinations with mixed feelings of gleeful anticipation and somber anxiety caused by the unpredictability of what lay ahead of them. Some would return home whole outside but damaged inside by what they had witnessed. Others came home visibly altered in their appearance and faced a lifetime of drastically different lifestyles. Hundreds came home to loved ones to face a slow death contracted while in the service of their country which, inch by inch, sucked the life from them. In a sense, George was lucky. The disease he brought home with him from the war took him quickly.
George W. Bisbee was born sometime in 1834-1836 in Monkton, Vermont. His headstone said "...died 1863 at twenty-nine years...."(DOB about 1834). The 1850 U.S. Federal Census said he was fifteen, putting his birth sometime in 1835. The website "Vermont in the Civil War" put his birth date in 1834. When he enlisted in the army in 1862, he declared his age to be twenty-six which put his birthday in 1836. Since half my sources said 1834, that is the year I went with. His parents were a little easier to identify. His father was Charles E. Bisbee, Sr. (1801-1877) born in New Hampshire on January 29, 1801. He married Sophia Andersen (1806-1892) in September of 1826 in Walpole, New Hampshire. Their first child was born in 1826 in the Granite State. By 1830, the Bisbee family had moved to New Haven, Vermont where George was born in 1834. Charles was a life-long farmer in both states. His 1845 farm was located on Hunt Road in New Haven. It was located as #21 going east on the map of District Number Five for Hunt Road in the History of New Haven in Vermont , pages 216 and 220. Charles also was very active in founding the Advent Church at Brooksville in New Haven in 1854. "...The original members were twenty-four in number, with Charles Bisbee and Amos G. Matthews as deacons..." The new sect was not warmly welcomed by other Congregationalists in the community because members of this church believed in the "...doctrine of annihilation of the wicked." By 1856, the group had doubled its membership to about fifty souls, mostly from families living in Brooksville. The group was ready for its own house of worship, and the new church building was dedicated in February, 1857. Charles had a long list of community service activities beginning in 1831 when he was "Freeman" of New Haven. A "freeman" in those days was an honorary position bestowed on a distinguished community member who had symbolic "free run of the city". Today we would give "The Keys To The City" to the well respected recipient of the award. Charles was also Highway Surveyor, 1845; Congregational Church member 1832-1854; Advent Deacon, 1854-1877; and Mills Church subscriber, 1851.
George had eight siblings. His two older brothers, Charles E. Bisbee, Jr. (1826-1895) and William A. (1829-after 1901) were born in New Hampshire. Mariett (1831-1843), his first sister, was also the first child to be born in Vermont. She was quickly followed by another brother, Reuben (1833-1923), born in Lincoln, Vermont. George soon followed Reuben in 1834. Next came a sister, Mandana C. Bisbee (1836-1838). She only lived to be two. The same year Mandana died, Chauncey W. was born (1838-1921). It was this brother that George wrote so many letters to while he was in the service with the Ninth Vermont. George also wrote many letters to his younger sister, another Mandana C. Bisbee, born in 1842. She, too, would have a short life span, dying at thirty-seven in 1879. The last sibling to be born was Edson (aka Edison) Henry born 1850 (died 1916). Charles never married before his death, therefore he did not have any children to carry on the family name.
The canon fire on a fine Spring morning in April of 1861 directed at Fort Sumter awakened a sleeping giant. Within days of receiving the news, Vermont set about raising armed and equipped regiments to serve at the discretion of President Lincoln. After the Battle of First Bull Run, the nation began to realize that this shooting war was not going to be a short affair like at first thought. A year after Fort Sumter surrendered, President Lincoln again called for 300,000 more troops to be raised. Vermont had already raised, equipped and sent eight infantry regiments into active service. In May, 1862, it called for a ninth one. In about forty days, the Ninth Vermont was formed. George Bisbee was one of the volunteers who signed up for duty. The twenty-six year old signed before the recruiter, A.R. Sabin, at Middlebury offering his services for three years. On June 2, 1862, the five feet ten inch carpenter with light eyes, sandy hair and a light complexion opted to become a Private in Company C of the Ninth Vermont Infantry. It wasn't until July 9 that George had to report to Brattleboro, Vermont to be formally accepted into the service along with the other volunteers of the Ninth. After the muster-in ceremony, Private Bisbee received his $25 installment of bounty money.
The Ninth Regiment was organized at Brattleboro and mustered into the service there on July 9, 1862 for three years. It was ordered at once to Washington. By July 19, the command was attached to General Sturgis' division at Cloud's Mills. Five days later, the Regiment was moved to Winchester where it was employed in the construction of fortifications and other fatigue duties for several months. Early in September it was sent to Harper's Ferry on the approach of Stonewall Jackson's forces. Due to the Federal command's indecisiveness and questionable loyalties, the Ninth, along with nearly twelve thousand other Union troops, were forced to surrender to General Jackson.
Harper's Ferry was humiliating to the Union but not to the Ninth Vermont. Colonel Stannard, commanding at the time, initially refused to surrender his men to the Confederates. For two hours after all other Federal troops had stacked arms, the Ninth and its Colonel attempted to fight its way out of the trap it was in and break through to reach the Army of the Potomac located nearby. Only when a Confederate division cut off its route of escape did Colonel Stannard, out numbered ten to one, order his command to Bolivar Heights to stack arms with the other Federal prisoners. Before reluctantly surrendering, the officers of the Regiment cut the national colors into strips and parceled them out among themselves thus keeping it out of the hands of the enemy. They had intended to do the same to the State flag, but, in the excitement and haste, was not completely successful and a large part of it ended up in the hands of the Confederates. It was sent to Richmond as a trophy. Later, in 1865, when the Ninth marched into Richmond at the head of the Union Army of the Potomac, the flag was recaptured form the Rebel archives by the same command that had lost it. At the request of the Governor of the State of Vermont, the flag was returned to the State Capital where it resides to this day. The Ninth had the dubious distinction of being the only Regiment from Vermont that lost its colors at the hands of the enemy.
From Harper's Ferry, the Ninth was sent to Chicago on parole. They spent the next four months there. On January 10, 1863, the Ninth was exchanged. The Regiment received new Springfield rifles in anticipation of returning to the field of combat after a long and embarrassing detention as prisoners of war. Unfortunately they were assigned to guard the newly arrived Confederate prisoners captured at Murfreesboro and Arkansas until April 1 when they returned to City Point, Virginia. The Regiment was at Suffolk during the siege in April and May of 1863. From there, it was sent to Yorktown and occupied West Point during the Gettysburg campaign. A futile attempt was made to capture Richmond while its defenders were drawn off to take part in Lee's push into the North. July, August and September found the Regiment once again at Yorktown where the health of the Regiment suffered greatly from the climate and malaria. For this reason, and because of the persistent urging of the Governor of Vermont on behalf of the troops, the command was transferred in October to the Newport barracks located between Morehead City and New Berne, North Carolina. Early in February, 1864, at the time of the attack upon New Berne, a detachment of Confederates were sent by General Pickett to capture Newport barracks. The ensuing fight resulted in three men of the Ninth being awarded medals of honor for gallantry. As a result of the Confederate assault, the Ninth was obliged to withdraw to Morehead City. Three days later, the Ninth reoccupied the Newport barracks. During the summer of 1864, various detachments of the Ninth were employed in dealing with Confederate activity around the New Berne area. September 15, 1864 was the second anniversary of the surrender at Harper's Ferry and was also the date on which the Ninth arrived in front of Petersburg.
Two days after its arrival, the Ninth received a detachment of recruits, increasing its numbers to 1, 129. On September 17, 1864, one hundred picked men of the Ninth were sent as a support to an isolated, exposed earth-work known as Redoubt Dutton. The detail from the Ninth lived in gopher holes (rifle pits) under the muzzles of the Union guns of the redoubt. A one hundred gun salute on September 24 and again on the 30th brought on a determined attack from the Confederates and the brunt of it fell on Redoubt Dutton. The steady, well-directed fire of the Vermont line disarranged and broke two well organized lines of battle at less than one hundred and fifty yards.
On September 29, the Ninth participated in the Battle of Chapin's (Chaffin's) Farm. On the 27th of October, the Regiment took part in the Battle of Fair Oaks. The Ninth was recalled to form part of the troops sent to New York under General Butler to protect the city from anticipated riots during the presidential election. From New York City, it was sent back to Richmond. April 3, 1865 the Ninth, along with the Twelfth New Hampshire, were the first two Federal Regiments to enter the abandoned Confederate capital. Running through the burning streets of Richmond, they did not halt until they reached the front door of the Confederate White House. For the next two weeks, the Ninth was part of the provost guard in Richmond. Soon, Lee, Johnson and other segments of the Rebel Army surrendered and the shooting war was over. On the 13th of June, the original members of the Ninth were mustered-out. About four hundred recruits remained in the service until December when they were disbanded and sent home. The Ninth then became a thing of the past.
In several ways, Private Bisbee was a lucky fellow. He saw very little combat action after the Ninth was sent to Chicago on parole from Harper's Ferry in September, 1862. Just prior to the embarrassing surrender, he had received his first of two promotions. Sometime around August of 1862, he was promoted to Corporal. He enjoyed that rank all during the time the Ninth was stationed at Camp Douglas guarding Confederate prisoners shipped there after being captured at the front. Corporal Bisbee delighted in a fairly care free existence while at Camp Douglas. He kept a daily diary from January 1, 1863 until October 10, 1863 in which he recorded his daily activities. From January until April, 1863, he spent lots of his spare time writing letters to friends and family back home. He wrote many of those to his sister, Mandana, and his brother, Chauncey. When he wasn't on guard duty or drilling, he attended an oratory club to which he belonged. There he participated in debates in teams on contemporary subjects like "...extension of knowledge increases moral evil....", "...married life is more conducive to happiness than single...." or "...war benefits a nation." In his leisure time, Corporal Bisbee spent time touring the city, dining and conversing with various acquaintances.
The Ninth was anxious to get back to the front so they could redeem their reputation as a fighting unit and regain the State of Vermont's honor. The Regiment thought its chance had come when, on Wednesday, February 4, 1863, the Regiment was given field gear and issued new Enfield rifles. Unfortunately, a large number of Confederate prisoners (about 1,900) had been delivered to Camp Douglas and the Ninth was needed to guard them. On April 2, 1863, the Ninth's long awaited release from guard duty arrived. With 500 Rebel prisoners earmarked for exchange, they were sent to City Point, Virginia. On the way, Corporal Bisbee observed some folks making maple sugar in Ohio. Once at City Point, it took three days to exchange about 500 Rebels for almost 400 Union men. For some reason, which Corporal Bisbee did not bother to explain, the Ninth was shipped back to Baltimore where it lodged at the Union Relief on April 14, 1863. Two days later, at 5:00 a.m., they boarded the Adelade for Fortress Monroe again. "...We got no sleep for some marines came on board and raised the dead all night." They arrived at Fortress Monroe at 7 a.m. on the 16th of April to find that the Regiment had moved on to Suffolk. By April 17, Corporal Bisbee and company had caught up with the Ninth. Except for hearing some cannonading and receiving a few shots from Rebs across the river that separated Blue from Grey, little happened to break the routine of camp life from April 18 to May of 1863. On that date, Corporal Bisbee wrote in his diary that he went out from Camp (at Suffolk) about five miles to destroy some Rebel entrenchments. He commented on how much fun "the boys" had chasing hogs, sheep and geese. But he also alluded to "suffered badly". He didn't clarify who was suffering or from what - George's entries in his diary typically were short on details. He did not mention anything more about his health until Saturday, May 23, 1863 when he wrote "...Unwell...." This was the first time he mentioned being sick or feeling poorly. He mentioned it again three days later. By June 2, 1863, he was in the hospital in or near Suffolk, Virginia. He remained in one hospital or another, first in Suffolk, then in Hampton, from June 2 until August 15, 1863. He spent that time reading letters from home and writing letters to relatives. He did feel well enough to go blackberry picking a couple of times. August 16-17 he was upgraded to convalescent camp at Hampton, Virginia. On August 18, 1863, he returned to his Regiment at York Town aboard the George Washington. It was at this time that Corporal Bisbee was promoted again to 5th Sergeant. From August, 1863 to October, Sergeant Bisbee never said a word about feeling badly or having any kind of problems with his health in his diary entries. He only reported writing more letters, doing occasional guard duty or helping officers as an orderly. In fact, on October 2 he related how the Regiment had received orders to march out, how they had all packed and prepared to go and even had started marching to the awaiting transport boats when the orders were countermanded. Then, out of the blue the next day, he announced in his diary that his request for a furlough to go home had been granted. The next day, he wrote to "Father & Lizzie", probably telling them about his coming home on leave. Sergeant Bisbee left for Fort Yorktown on Wednesday, October 7, 1863 at 1:15 p.m. and arrived in Middlebury, Vermont at 1:30 p.m. on the 9th of October. He was picked up in Middlebury by Brother Mathers and brought to the home of his parents. The final entry in his diary was written Saturday, October 10, 1863. It just said, "At home." Twenty days later, Sergeant Bisbee was dead. According to his service records, he died of chronic diarrhea at his parent's home in New Haven, Vermont on October 30, 1863.
Since George was single when he died, there was no wife to claim a pension nor any minor children to support. However, there was a mother. Sophia filed for pension benefits on June 14, 1877. She was granted benefits for her life time.
1. www.findagrave.com, Memorial #40786089; Vermont in the Civil War.org/Cemeteries/Vermont/New Haven/Evergreen/Bisbee, George W./Vitals; Ancestry.com., 1850 U.S. Federal Census for George W. Bisbee; www.fold3.com, compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Vermont. p. 2, image 311619817. Hereinafter referred to as Compiled Service Records.
2. www.findagrave.com, Memorial #6390010; Ancestry.com, Raymond Harry Bisbee, Sr., Family Tree for Charles E. Bisbee; www.findagrave.com, Memorial #40786089 for George W. Bisbee; Ancestry.com, New Hampshire, Marriage Records Index, 1637-1947 for Bixby.
3. New Haven in Vermont, 1761-1983 by Harold Farnsworth and Robert Rogers, Published by the Town of New Haven, 1984, pp. 216, 220, 137 and 281.
4. Ancestry.com, Raymond Harry Bisbee, Sr. Family Tree; www.familysearch.org; Ancestry.com/search/u,s,, Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current; Ancestry.com, Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908; Ancestry.com, U.S. Federal Census/All under the names of the children and/or parents.
5. www.fold3.com, Compiled Service Records, p. 2, image 311619817.
6. Ibid., Compiled Service Records, p. 3, image 311619819.
7. Vermont in the Civil War/Units/Ninth Vermont Infantry/Regimental History; Ibid., Units/Ninth Vermont Infantry/Introduction.
8. www. lib.auburn.edu/archive/find-aid/138.htm, Guide to the George W. Bisbee Diary RG 138
13. www.fold3.com, Compiled Service Records, p. 22, image 311619880.
14. www.lib.auburn.edu/archive/find-aid/138.htm, Guide to the George W. Bisbee Diary RG 138.
15. www.fold3.com, Compiled Service Records, pp. 24 & 26, images 311619886 & ...892.
16. www.familysearch.org, General Index: Pension Files for Bisbee, George W.
Courtesy of Bernie Noble.