William Bradbury Buxton was born in Woodstock, Connecticut on September 14, 1840. He was the son of Simeon Bentley and Caroline Boyden (Bullard) Buxton. William had three brothers: John, Harris and Anson. His sister Caroline was seventeen years younger. Their father was a builder, inventor and manufacturer. The family moved to Worcester, Massachusetts about 1846, where their property adjoined that of Rev. Edward Everett Hale, noted author, lecturer and Unitarian clergyman. The two families were friendly and, in a fashion, related, since the wives were cousins of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and his wife Eunice (Bullard) Beecher.
When the family left Worcester in the 1850's, William had decided to follow Rev. Hale's example. He was then about fourteen years old. The family moved to Rutland, Vermont, and by 1857, were in Montpelier. William helped with the chores around their father's large foundry. Each morning the boys had to arise long before dawn, and build more than a dozen fires in the foundry so that all would be ready when the men arrived for work.
By 1862, William was attending Meadville Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. His brother John had already enlisted twice, and his brothers Harris and Anson had just enlisted. William had to make a decision. His father had supported his education, and no doubt wished him to continue. Also, William's religious views probably clashed with the duties of a soldier. In late August 1862, William went to Brattleboro with a man who had agreed to substitute for him; or, as his brother Harris put it, "frenched for him."
William continued his education, somewhat insulated from the war. In February 1863, Harris died. No doubt this caused William to join the war effort. Against the advice of the faculty, he left school and joined the U. S. Sanitary Commission. For the next three months he often spent long hours helping the sick and wounded being moved from Aquia Creek on the Potomac to Washington. He also preached, and hauled supplies to Gettysburg. He recorded his work in two small journals entitled "Life on the Potomac in Hospitals and Camps."
After serving in the Sanitary Commission, William resumed his studies and became a Unitarian minister. On December 15, 1864 he married Hattie Elizabeth Townsend. Hattie was a devoted wife, and helped him with the many duties of his ministry. Their son Arthur died in 1872 at the age of one, and Hattie died on August 17, 1874. William was a gifted individual, appreciative of the natural world, and concerned for the welfare of others. His diaries, some of his sermons and poetry, and his sketch of the old foundry were preserved by his sister Caroline. Like so many of his time, William died of tuberculosis. The date was May 18, 1879. William was buried in Hope Cemetery in Worcester. He was thirty-eight.
The United States Sanitary Commission
The history of our Civil War will ever have associated with it the work of this great organization, prompted by divine charity, and guided by Providence, and without a parallel in human annals.
The institution sprang from a meeting of a few New York ladies, guided by that clear-headed, great-hearted man, Rev. Dr. Henry W. Bellows. One million dollars in cash reached their treasury the first three years, of which sum fifteen-sixteenths was expended for supplies and transportation; the other sixteenth for the support of the homes, lodges, hospital directory, hospital and camp inspection, and in the machinery of distribution. The officers and members of committees gave their services and time gratuitously. They supported more than forty Soldiers' Homes, scattered over the whole field of war. Two thousand three hundred sick and wounded soldiers was the average daily ministration in these homes - over 800,000 in one single year. A Claim Agency, a Back-pay agency, and a Pension Agency were supported, and at no cost to the soldiers whose interests were protected and served. A Hospital-directory costing $20,000 per year was sustained, in which anxious relatives and friends could readily find the sick and wounded. They had sixty hospital inspectors constantly in the field, and trains of hospital cars, in which disabled soldiers were carried to homes and hospitals, and provisions carried to the battlefields. They would expend vast sums of money to meet the exigencies of a great battle. After Murfreesboro, Antietam, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the commission expended from three to ten dollars for the comfort of each wounded soldier. Nor was such an expense extravagant, considering the blessings and comfort disposed at the very moment most needed, and when the General Government could ill spare the money or machinery to carry out so beneficent a scheme.
The Soldier in Our Civil War: A Pictorial History of the Conflict, 1861-1865. Edited by Paul F. Mottelay and T. Campbell-Copeland. Stanley Bradley Publishing Company, New York. 1890. Volume II, p.285.
Life on the Potomac in Hospitals and Camps.
Civil War Journals of William Bradbury Buxton
United States Sanitary Commission, 1863
April 15, 1863 (Wednesday) . [At Meadville Theological Seminary, in northwest Pa.] Called on the Dr. Early - had a conference with him about going to Washington - his dissatisfaction. The good-byes - Seaver & Pyper. Must write to Mintie. Bench on Cars - reached Williamsport noon.[Expenses:] Ap 15 To R. R. to Washington 14.85 " " " Dinner at Corry Pa. .45 16 " Delaware House .75 " " Left 7-40 am Elmira " " Luncheon Williamspt .12 " " Supper .30 " 17 Baggage & omnibus Baltimore .75 ----- 17.22 " " Dinner .50 " " Supper .20 " 18 Bkfast .20 " " Dinner .50 ----- 18.62
16 April (Thursday) . Saw Susquehanna River at Williamsport. Arrived at Sunbury 4 PM. Delayed until the departure of the next train - or till eleven o'clock PM. The wheat fields green. Improved appearance of the country - Susquehanna Valley - after leaving Lycoming Valley - rafts. The delay caused by land-slides. Saw two men, one with a glass eye, the other one who wore pants in the style of state prison window grates. [Also saw] Soldiers. Left Sunbury at 11 PM.
17 April (Friday) . Reached Baltimore 7:20 IAN. Left Baltimore for Washington at 8 AM. Arrived Washington 10 AM - the sunny plantations - slums - picket grounds - visited the capitol building in company with Chandler of the 150th Pa.
18 April (Saturday) . Wrote to Mother & Seaver. Studied the workings of the Sanitary Commission. Saw H. S. Day in the evening met Chandler on duty at gates.
19 April (Sunday). Went to hear Channing. Went to Ft. Slocum, returned, wrote to Mother, Hattie, & Mintie.
22 April (Wednesday) . Left Washington for Baltimore, went to the Mansion House.
25 April (Saturday) . Visited Camden Hospital.
26 April (Sunday). Attended West[?] Church - I. F. W. Warr preached. Also went to hospital - Singing - Wrote to Seaver & Pyper.
27 April (Monday). Bought a very beautiful rose full of buds - makes the office fragrant. Trees quite green. Foster - Co G, 9th Regt - wounded in foot - in West Hospital. Mr. Longfellow - nephew of H. W. L.
2 May (Saturday) . Went to Druid Hill Park - 2 miles from Balto. - Mr. Abbot - send specimen cards - regulations etc., which will be of assistance to Mr. Bullard. Send Mr. J. T. Pancoast tickets for soldiers at reduced rates - F. N. Knapp - 4 May (Monday) . Went to Washington at 3 05 pm - Carpet bag 1.50 - Fare & 1.75 Baggage. Rec'd a letter from Welles & Kate A. Boyden - Martin L. Noerd[?] - 355 F - North - Saw him - Lib Treas Dept - Saw A. Lincoln - C. Sumner - Lincoln's appearance sad - weary.
5 May (Tuesday) . Morning - left Washington - Steamer Juniata - Passed[?} Gunboat No. 9 at Alexandria - secesh [Secessionists] on board our boat (prisoners) . Sent letter to Seaver, 2 papers to Z.T. [Zimri Townsend, Hattie's father] . Left trunk in charge of Sanitary Commission - 244 F St. Reached Aquia Creek at 1 o'clock - gunboats - Rebels wounded - Gov't Boats - Soldiers - worked - sent 14 boxes Potomac Creek.
6 May (Wednesday) . Took care in part of 20 cars of wounded men. Gave coffee and crackers - and administered comfort. One man dead in cars. These men went up to Washington by [the] "Mary Washington". More are to come today. If anything comes from Potomac Creek for Lt. Richardson send it to Dr. Douglas. 153 Pens.[?] Sat 5-30 numbered[?] 934. Sunday 180. Fight at Fredericksburg, Va. [Apparently the losses of the 153rd Pa.] Wrote to Mrs. Moore a letter of encouragement. Lt. B. [?]P. Quince - gave him an orange & my coat - Co D 123rd Regt NY Vols - Co D - 64th NY A man [in margin: "B. F. Johnson"] died at the Lodge. He had been all day without food - wounded in the hip - his brother was with him.
7 May (Thursday) . Wrote to Mother. Took care of 16 boxes - Cut bread - Copied regulations - marked boxes. Vt Brigade took the heights - 26th New Jersey broke[?] - grape & canister - Hooker on the side - Rebels fortifying. Cpl Lafayette Moore [2nd Vt Inf Co F] Fayston, Vt. M. L. Smith - wounded in right breast & left shoulder - not seriously - Prepared bread for the minister in company with Dr. Channing. Took 127 wounded men to Washington. Rested, wrote to Hattie, E. W. H., Mother, Rector Hopkins. J S Spaulding also.
8 May (Friday) . Went to Alexandria on "J. E. Brooks" - went to Ft. Slocum - Returned to Washington on A. A. W... The tramp[?] of 34th Mass moving to Falls Church. Met Mrs. Delafield on the Jno Brooks. Met Wm D. Rice - Chaplain 129 Reg - Bethlehem Pa - with a wounded soldier on the John Brooks.
9 May (Saturday) . Spent Sat. night on the John Brooks waiting for wounded to come in - this was a beautiful day. Flowers are springing on the old camp grounds. William K. Hall, Chaplain, 17th Conn. Regt. - Yale College. Capt Stratton Swedesboro - Capt Bronson 14th Conn, Waterbury. William Edgar - Osborne - all [three] in the same tent. Mrs. John Phillips care of William Smith - Lynn, Mass - a lady of pluck, met her at Brooke Station.
11 May (Monday) . Went to Brooke Station with wines & refreshment [for] Captain Stratton - bought him some ale - his home is at Swedesboro - Right leg amputated. Capt Bronson -14th CL telegraphed home, Waterbury Conn - wounded in shoulder. I tried to take good care of him. Private Osborne - Pa - amputated - bears up well. Staid over night - met with good fare.
12 May (Tuesday) . Slept well on the morn of the 12th I arose [late] and wrote up the books at Aquia Creek. Bade the boys goodbye with regret. I must remember the case of the boy who was 14 - ran from his stepmother and was taken very sick with fever - He was getting better. The boys in the camp are good hearted and treat me with great kindness. Wrote to Finley for tent to be sent by Express. Wrote to Mother.
13 May (Wednesday) . Went to Washington today for [?] stores etc. Bought the things for Capt Stratton.
14 May (Thursday). Met Dr. Channing - at P.O. - He [and I had a] nice long conversation. At evening met Mrs. Phillips of Lynn - her husband and two friends were with her - her husband on a stretcher - am much moved by the earnestness of this devoted young woman. In the morning wrote letters - visited Blenney - Co G 33rd NY - gave him his letter from his father - I answered his father's letter. Need my [coat?] mended - lost my umbrella - the second this month.
15 May (Friday) . Was troubled about getting away to Brooke Station from Washington on account of mistake in the pass. Sent a note to Spaulding Mt Pleasant - a paper to A. W. Blaney[?] of Hamilton - H. D. Hopkins - Montpelier - C. Graff, Waterford - Mother. This morning was to take a box for the wounded of Capt Stratton - Capt Bronson - of the 14th Ct. - Waterbury - but had difficulty in getting a pass. Assisted in getting Lt Richardson on the cars. Went to Georgetown to see about sending a number of things. Wrote letters.
17 May (Sunday) . Went down to Aquia Creek on John Brooks to get my things - return[ed] to Washington. Wrote to Mother & Hattie.
18 May (Monday) . Spent Monday in waiting - took charge of forwarding 280 circulars [for Knapp & Longfellow]
20 May (Wednesday) . Worked on same.
21 May (Thursday). Worked on Knapp's and the abstract[?] report.
23 May (Saturday) . Made arrangements to go to Falls Church. This week I have worked hard and feel somewhat unwell. The exercise tomorrow will do me much good.
24 May (Sunday) . Went to Falls Church. Saw Mr. Fairchild & Charlie Flagg of the 34th Mass Regiment [Charles B. Flagg] . Went to church, saw the soldiers, prayed - at evening after dress parade preached to the Regiment - in a hollow square. It was inspiring. Visited Munson's[?] Hill. Miss N - was there at supper. The day was fair, the air full of the fragrance of locust blossoms and melodious with the song of birds. Returned at evening somewhat merry with my days ride.
25 May (Monday) . Continued my work on the manuscript.
27 May (Wednesday) . Completed the report - Knapp went to N.H.
29 May (Friday) . Worked for J. A. Abbott on Pay-Master's Roll - in the afternoon for Mr. Fowler and Olmstead [Frederick Law Olmstead, head of the Sanitary Commission] copying and reading over the "Western Tour Report."
30 May (Saturday) . Green went to N.H. - I copied for Fowler - worked on "Western Tour Report" until 9 PM worked for Dr Douglas on figures.
31 May (Sunday) . Visited Falls Church, which Mr. Fairchild & others have fixed up - Had a service there which seemed impressive to the soldiers - lost my books coming out.
1-2 June (Monday & Tuesday) . Worked on the Surgn[?] Lists completing the one for the New York area main regiments - the two documents carry over nearly 20 pages.
3 June (Wednesday) . Had orders to come to this lodge (No.5), where I am now in charge.
Undated. Little incidents occur - heart touching in the extreme - show us how much good there is in the heart of the rough soldier.
6 June (Saturday) . Every night, on the arrival of the John Brooks, numbers of wounded and furloughed men come up - these I send in ambulances to the "lodge" and "home". Now and then a Vermonter comes. Last evening a Vermonter, Ed Stack - a news-boy came - who had lost his money - I soon learned that he was acquainted with [my brother] Anson - that they had often been together - had lightened each others burdens. He told several capital stories quite in point. The evening otherwise dull, was very pleasantly spent. Days I think of friends, and spend a good many hours writing letters, reading, thinking, taking notes of the contrabands & queer sights of the vicinity.
9 June (Tuesday) . Went to Alexandria, Va. at the order of Richardson to see Lt Gleason & Longfellow, but after waiting for several hours (until one o'clock the next morning), I found that the train, consisting of 11 cars, was heavily laden with our wounded men. It was impossible to find any men as they were sleeping and the cars only stopped a few moments at Alexandria. Then I took the same train, reaching Washington via Long Bridge 3 o'clock on the morning of the 10th Peck of the 86th N. Y. very brave - unparalleled - courted the shells of the artillery all the AM and finally was shot through the heart while skirmishing.
10 June (Wednesday). It was a cold morning - I found myself quite weary. Calvin C. Downs, 2[nd?] N.H. - Dover, N.H.
11 June (Thursday). Went on with the building arrangements - have made many improvements - a new building has been added - a new fence. Letters come. Saw a fight - a brutal one between a negro and an Irishman - The Irishman did the fighting - and used stones. Last night went to an infamous place with Lt W. - came away at 11 -
13-14 June (Saturday & Sunday) . Very hard work caring for the sick and wounded - was up night and day. Soon after, the John Brooks ceased to run to Aquia Creek. Up to the 4th of July very little comfort was given to the soldiers - as very few came from Alexandria - the only points in Virginia near Washington where there are sick soldiers moving by this point - my duties have been too light.
8 July (Wednesday) . I received orders to go to Baltimore as the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought and the Commission was making [great?] exertions to outdo the Christian Commission in its efforts to relieve the sick and wounded of our army. [William took the train to Baltimore - ~$2.25] I had for company Mr. Prindle[?], but after reaching Baltimore we separated. Mr. K. [Knapp?] had loaded and equipped three wagons for special relief service. It was my duty to take the seventh horse, a comfortable animal, to Frederick City. was to escort the wagons and attend to delivering the goods to Dr Stine[?] . We started off in the best of spirits. The horses were fresh and ready by ten o'clock for the stint. We moved along slowly -
9 July (Thursday) . Brake blocks for the wagons - $1.00.
11 July (Saturday) . R. R. from Frederick to Baltimore - $2.25.
12 July (Sunday) . R. R. from Balto to Washington - $2.00.
19 July (Sunday) . Milk - Bill of Provisions, Lodge No.5 - $2.85.
23 July (Thursday) . Went to Georgetown and arranged for a passage to NY. Sent [my bro.] John 23.50 by Hamden's Express; also $150 by letter. Fare to NY-$8. Having received my pay [William was paid from April 15 to July 30 of 1863 at $45.00 per month, plus a small bonus and compensation for expenses] and having everything ready I went on board the Salvor, which was a propeller steam launch. We fired the salute as the tug left us in the stream and thus on a pleasant day we began our journey.
[The voyage to New York, in heavy seas, took five days. William arrived home in Montpelier on July 31, and returned to Meadville Theological Seminary on August 15.]
William recorded his experiences in two pocket journals, each measuring about 3x6 inches. His writing is very small, in ink and pencil, and often quite faint. Abbreviations are used throughout. There are many names and addresses, but the context is often uncertain. In the above excerpts, unclear text has been eliminated; complete dates and some punctuation have been added.
Material and photograph ©2005 by Colby Buxton Rucker; Used with permission.