Harris Boyden Buxton was born in Woodstock, Connecticut on January 14, 1845. He was the third son of Simeon Bentley and Caroline Boyden (Bullard) Buxton. He had three brothers, William, John and Anson, and a sister, Caroline. The family moved to Worcester, Massachusetts in about 1846, and to Rutland, Vermont by 1855. They then located in Montpelier, where Harris' father had a large foundry on the Winooski River. Like his brothers, Harris worked at foundry chores, learning to be a machinist.
No doubt Harris had grown up hearing stories of his three great-grandfathers who fought in the Revolution, and he was patriotic. By the summer of 1862, his brother John had enlisted twice, and Harris volunteered also. He was only seventeen, but he enlisted at Montpelier in Company H, 11th Vermont Infantry Regiment as a private on July 23, 1862. He was the second in Vermont to join the regiment. The regiment mustered at Camp Bradley in Brattleboro, where, in his letter of September 2, Harris described standing guard through the night in a violent thunderstorm. The regiment then went south by train to construct and man forts for the defense of Washington.
In his letter of September 24, 1862, Harris told of the precautions taken as his unit went through Baltimore, and on to Fort Lincoln, on the northeastern perimeter of Washington. The days were spent digging and chopping, as the men worked hard to complete the defenses. Harris remained patriotic, writing, "Harris B. Buxton - true to his country and flag.
That winter the regiment officially became a heavy artillery unit. Company H went into winter quarters at Fort Slocum. The buildings were constructed of logs stuck in the earth, and chinked with moss. Many of the men became sick. Harris contracted typhoid pneumonia and was taken to the regimental hospital at Fort Massachusetts (later Fort Stevens) . He died there on February 20, 1863. He was buried at the nearby Soldiers Asylum Cemetery, now Soldiers Home National Cemetery, the first national cemetery of the Civil War.
Little evidence of Harris' brief life remains. The National Archives preserves his two wartime letters. There is his tombstone, white and weathered, standing in the long rows, casting even shadows across the soft grass. And there is his photograph, in. uniform, holding the flag, the enduring flag, close beside him.
Letter from Harris Boyden Buxton (1845-1863) of Co. H, 11th Vt Inf to his mother Caroline Boyden (Bullard) Buxton in Montpelier, Vermont.
Original in pension tile at National Archives. Some punctuation (periods) added for clarity.Sept 2d 62 Brattleboro Camp Bradley My Dear Mother I have read your 2 letters this Wednesday night and was glad to hear from you. Sorry you are feeling so bad. dont shed no tears, for my health is good. I have not thought to write to you and been very busy to work in camp. excuse me mother for not writing I received the shirts they are good ones Very soft. Anson [younger brother] was up here from the village and went and got them. Wm [older brother, age 21] was here 4 or 5 days ago with a man from Bernardston. he frenched [substituted] for him [William]. I expect to go to Dixie in a week. I got my $13.00 [private's salary] yesterday and my $25.00 [bounty] today. I expect $7 tomorrow that is state pay. that is all the pay I get untill 2 months. I must lend Wm some he is in Montague Mass he wants $10.00. I will do the best I can for him he is a little short. Anson [brother, age 15] has enlisted in Capt Randalls Co 2d Regt. I have not heard from him since he left Brattleboro. he has gone to Woodstock Gen W headqrs. I have signed $10.00 to the allotment on interest in State treasury. I dont think I can get a furlough to come home Will if I can but not expect me. our Col is not doing Right By the Boys he don give them any furlows and the 10th [Regt?] is. the Boys dont like him the other officers are good and kind but him. I have been on guard the 2d time since I Been here. night before last I was on all night Rained hard all the time but I have got all of my equipments. Rubber blanket so did not get wet only my feet they very very wet. it thundered and lightninged so it Blinded me But I can stand it. The ground was Covered all over in and around the camp so that 200 [men] up and Ran the guard Slept in Barns. is father at home now? I have not heard any thing from him yet. father I cant write any more news I have Raked all I could for mother. I will write as often father to you and mom as I can. I cannot see the lines this Eve no candle. enclosed Mother I will send you $8.00 eight and it dont make me short yours Very kindly Harris B Buxton PS Direct your letters this way HBB Co H 11 Regt care Capt Rich enclosed you will find a check to be drawed on the Vermont Bank present it from H B Buxton Mother please write all the new[s] especially from John [older brother, age 19, in 1st Vt Cavalry] I dont hear one word from him Where is he [Is] he all right he probably was in the Battle [Second Bull Run, Aug 29-30] Write me about things at home Harris B Buxton I have got me a stencil plate Co. H
Letter from Harris Boyden Buxton (1845-1863) of Co H, 11th Vt Inf to his brother, William Bradbury Buxton, in Montague, Massachusetts.
Original in pension file at National Archives. Some punctuation (periods) added for clarity.Sept 24th 62 Washington D.C. Ft. Lincoln My Dear Brother Wm I have not had time to write to you till to day. I have writen to mother the 13 inst and have not heard from her. my health is very good. We have enough to eat and drink hard crackers meat & good Army Bread. Rice once a week. I wrote to you when I was in Brattleboro to Montague. I enclosed a check of $10.00 to you to be drawn on the Suffolk bank. John [older brother in 1st Vt Cav] is not a great ways from here. have you got the money? Write me. I can write with a lead pencil. --- about the boots I did not have a chance to send I sent them home. We had a pleasant ride from the time we got in to the cars in Brattleboro till we got in -----. We went through the ----- ----- -----. from there to ----- then to ----- ----- from there to Baltimore. When we got in Maryland we all loaded our guns ready for them but they did not attack us the city was floating with the stars and stripes. We did not buy any thing to eat but what looked good for there is rebels there. I bought me a revolver in B [Baltimore] Cost $18.00 a good one. We ate dinner at B took the cars to Washington in the afternoon. We have got some good officers in the Regiment but a poor Col. he did not give us a furlough. He is not liked by the Boys. He has no good voice for Commanding. I have not heard from Anson [younger brother, in 2nd Vt Inf] since I left Brattleboro. Write me where he is if you know. ask mother if she had got her check of $8.00 when you write to her. Write as soon as you get this to her for I may get one from you first if you will write me as soon as you get this. I hope you will have good luck in going to school [seminary]. I will help you if I get money here. I signed the $7.00 pay to mother and the $10.00 to J B Page treasurer so I have $3.00 here. I will save some if I can. ask mother if she has got my letter. tell me when you write me. I am anxious to hear all the news. from your Brother Harris PS direct your letters to H B B [Harris B. Buxton] Washington D.C. 11th Regt Co H Care Capt Rich ft Lincoln where we are 5 miles north from Washington Write as soon as you get this Harris Buxton true to his Country and flag [drawing of flag] [long may it?] wave ore the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Material and photograph ©2001 by the late Colby B. Rucker; used with permission.