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The Reunions of Company "I"

As Reported in the Vermont Tribune newspaper

The Old Grand Army Men
by Volney S. Fullam,
28 May, 1914.

Who are those quiet, white-haired men,
Whose every movement shows
That their remaining years are few;
Fast drawing to a close?
Shoe modest, manly bearing and
whose calm and steadfast eye;
Mark them as those who for the right
would do and dare and die?

They are old Grand Army men, whose
record will remain --
Forever upon honor's roll without a
blot or stain --
The men who heard and heeded in dark
days their country's call.
And responded with a willingness to
sacrifice their all.

'Twas not in quest of glory that they
marched forth to the field,
But freedom's stirring story to their
minds and hearts appealed.
And upon their country's altar they
laid all they had to give,
Prepared to die, if need be, that the
government might live.

Their story is unfolded by the button
on the breast,
Which marks them all as members of
the bravest and the best --
The noble men who, side by side,
stood fearless, firm and true;
For freedom and for equal rights -- the
red, the white, the blue.

Their earthly race is almost run; the
shadows 'round them close;
Soon to their weary frames will come
the last, long, sweet repose;
And in the great hereafter, in high
heaven's exalted plain,
There will be a seat of honor for
the Grand old Army men.

Ludlow 25 June, 1914: "Company I Meets Again. Thirteen of Its Members Now Known Living -- Another Reunion by Ten of Them. All hail to the survivors of Co. "I" 2d Reg't Vt Vols. We challenge the entire United States to present a better record than was shown by this Company which held its 31st annual reunion in Ludlow, June 19th. This Company was mustered into the service in Burlington June 26, 1861, or fifty-three years ago. Of the original 83 men who went with this company in 1861, thirteen are known to be living ,and ten of them very present at the reunion, namely: Volney S. Fulham, Albert D. Beckwith, Elwin A. Headle, and Daniel D. Hemenway of Ludlow; Perry G. Wells of Wallingford; Webster D. Derby of Peterboro, NH, Henry Colby of Kellyville, NH, Eleazer A. Hall of Plymouth; George B. Burbank of New York city and Albert A. May of Meriden, Conn. Beside these ten attending , six others were present: Charles H. Ray and John Barrett of Ludlow, Willard D. Buxton of Simonsville, Amos E. Nichols of Reading, Abel Ray of South Reading, and Stephen Houghton of South Londonderry. Three were represented by letter -- Peter S. Chase of Brattleboro, Harvey K. Austin of Akron, Ohio, and C. Wesley Priest of Belmont, making 19 present or accounted for. It is certainly very remarkable that so many of the boys who went to the war in 1861 should be so active and strong as these men appeared at this annual gathering. The wives and lady friends of Co. "I" furnished one of Ludlow's best dinners which was certainly relished and enjoyed by all. One pleasant feature was the presentation to the company of a large cake very beautifully decorated with flags and inscribed as follows: "Co. I. 2d Vt. 1861-1865.; Reunion 1914." This was a gift from Mrs. Rose Adams of Chester, daughter of Mrs. Mary B. Beckwith. A rising vote of thanks was extended to Mrs. Adams for the cake and to the ladies for the dinner. Mrs. Cooledge, widow of Comrade Daniel F. Cooledge, displayed a beautiful flag from her store in honor of Co. "I" and this was quickly followed by others so that the village presented quite a holiday appearance. The business meeting of the Company was called to order at 11:00 a.m. by President Albert A. May. After the transaction of routine business it was voted to hold the next reunion in Ludlow on the second Friday in June, 1915, and at the same place and time until otherwise ordered by vote of the Association. At the election of officers, President May asked permission to name his successor, and suggested George B. Burbank of New York city, who was nominated and elected. For vice president, Perry G. Wells of Wallingford; secretary, Albert D. Beckwith of Ludlow; treasurer, Charles H. Ray of Ludlow; Executive committee: All members residing in Ludlow. Comrade Burbank made a very neat little speech on taking the chair and Comrade May spoke very interestingly and thanked the comrades for their loyalty to him. So far as it is known but one of the members died during the year, Warren S. Leslie of Osawatomie, Kansas. A most beautiful day greeted these old men, the oldest being Colonel Fulham 84, the youngest being Abel Ray, age 67. Many of the scenes and incidents of their war days were brought up, their experiences in camp, on the march, and in the field of action were discussed, peals of laughter over some good joke or funny incident kept the company in the best of humor until late in the afternoon when the gathering came to a close with hearty handshakes and an earnest: 'God Bless you; may we meet another year."

17 June, 1915: 'Co. "I" Has Another Happy Reunion -- Officers Re-elected. The above dates, 1861-1915 were frequently commented upon by the survivors of Co. "I" 2d Reg't Vt. Vols. who met in happy reunion here the 11th instant. The day and the dinner and the welcome were all the veterans could ask for. Some of the company came to Ludlow on Thursday so as to look up old friends, as this company was peculiarly a Ludlow company, the first to go out from this town, and owing to the reunion being held here the town has always felt a deep interest in them. The ladies of Co. "I" furnished a fine dinner in Grange hall of which sixteen of the men who served in Co. "I" partook. Those present were: Volney S. Fulham, the first captain of the company; Albert D. Beckwith, Charles H. Ray, Daniel D. Hemenway, Elwin Headle, John Barrett, all of Ludlow; C. Wesley Priest of Belmont; Perry G. Wells of Wallingford; Peter S. Chase of Brattleboro; Abel Ray of South Reading; Amos Nichols of Reading; Eleazer A. Hall of Plymouth; and Stephen Houghton of South Londonderry; while Webster D. Derby of Peterboro, NH and Albert A. May of Meriden, Conn, made up the sixteen present. Four were accounted for by letter; namely: The president, George B. Burbank of New York; David D. Holster, also of New York; Jasper N. Clark, Scottsville, Mich.;, and Willard D. Buxton of South Londonderry, making twenty present or accounted for out of thirty three who are supposed to be still living. Of those present ten were of the original company that left the village in June, 1861 and three of them were men who went out with the company and returned with it at the close of the war, having been with the company in the first Bull Run battle and near when Lee surrendered at Appomattox. At the business meeting of the company the officers were re-elected; namely, President, George S. Burbank of NY; Vice-president, Perry G. Wells of Wallingford; Secretary: Albert D. Beckwith of Ludlow; Treasurer: Charles H. Ray of Ludlow; Executive Committee: all the surviving members living in Ludlow. One loss of death during the year was reported -- Alba Royce of Plymouth. It was voted to hold the next reunion in Ludlow on the third Friday of June, 1916. During the meeting the evolution in mode of traveling was referred to as follows: When we first left the state we were conveyed in nice passenger cars. Later we were taken in freight cars. Still later in cattle cars, and then for four years or more we had to walk and carry all our luggage; and now some of our members come in automobiles -- notably Albert A. May, who drove his own car from Meriden, Conn., and proposed to return the same way. It was a happy gathering of old men calling each other boys, for they were mere boys fifty-four years ago when they volunteered their services and offered their lives on the altar of their country. May they live yet many a year to enjoy the benefit and fruits of their sacrifice, is the prayer of a grateful people."

22 June, 1916: "Co "I" Reunion -- Another Enjoyable Gathering -- Twelve Present, Seven Sent Messages: The 30th annual reunion of members of Co I", Second Regt. Vt. Volunteers, was held in Grange hall Friday, June 16. There were twelve present and seven accounted for by letter. Those answering in the last 'roll call' the past year were Harvey R. Austin and George W. Shaw. A bountiful dinner was served in Banquet Hall by the ladies of Co. "I" which all seemed to enjoy. Subsequently a business meeting was held, Vice Pres. Perry Wells filling the chair in the absence of President Burbank. The minutes of the last meeting were read and approved. The following responded in the roll call: C. H. Ray, D. D. Hemenway, Abel Ray of South Reading, John Crosby of Rutland, Perry G. Wells of Wallingford, Sull Reed of W. Springfield, Mass., E. R. Headle, C. W. Priest of Belmont, E. A. Hall of Plymouth, V. S. Fulham, John Barrett, A. D. Beckwith. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year. President: Perry G. Wells of Wallingford; vice-president, C. W. Priest of Belmont; secretary, A. D. Beckwith of Ludlow, treasurer, C. H .ray of Ludlow, executive committee: Co. "I" members residing in Ludlow. It was voted to hold the next meeting when most convenient the date being left with the committee. At the close of the business meeting, Rev. Ira Priest being present, was called upon and gave a very interesting and instructive talk on the present crisis of our country, its preparedness, and many items of interest. He went back to the days of '64 and spoke of the disadvantages the comrades were subject to on their return to their homes from the war by losing their situations when they took up arms to save their country. He was loudly applauded. Next we listed to a few witty remarks from Comrade Wesley Priest. Mr. Parmenter, a son of a veteran being present, was next called on and spoke very sympathetically of the old comrades which was appreciated by all. The meeting was then adjourned. As near as can be entertained, there are 29 comrades of the company now living."

5 July, 1917: "Company I Reunion -- Seventeen Out of Twenty-Nine Present or Accounted For. The 31st annual meeting of Co. I" 2d Reg't Vt. Vols was held in Grange Hall Friday, June 29, when twelve of the veterans were present to renew old associations, and letters of regret and greetings from five absent members were received. Those present were: John Barrett, Albert D. Beckwith, Volney S. Fulham, Elwin A. Headle, Daniel D. Hemenway, Charles H. Ray, of Ludlow; Henry W. Colby, Kellyville, NH; Webster D. Derby, Peterboro, NH; Eleazer A. Hall, Plymouth Union; Amos E. Nichols, Reading; Perry G. Wells, Rutland; and Albert A. May, Meriden, Conn. The five represented by letter were George B. Burbank, California; David R. Bolster, New York city; Peters S. Chase, Brattleboro, Sullivan E. Reed, Springfield, Mass. It is quite certain that there are now twenty-nine members of this company still living ,seventeen of whom were present or accounted for. A general exchange of thoughts and happy reunion occupied the time until 12:30, when dinner was announced and Co. "I" never sat down to a better one, which was furnished and served by Mary W. Beckwith, Mary B. Ray, Lillie Peck, Martha Barrett, Victoria Spaulding, Mrs. P. G. Wells and Rose E. May. After dinner the business meeting was called to order by President Perry G. Wells. The routine business was dispatched in good order and at the election of officers, Mr. Wells refused a re-election and Albert A. May of Meriden was elected by acclamation. John Barrett was elected Vice President; Albert D. Beckwith, secretary, and Charles H. Ray, treasurer. The members residing in Ludlow were elected as the executive committee. Voted that the time and hour of holding the next meeting be left to the executive committee. Remarks were made by P. G. Wells, Amos E. Nichols, C. C. Hall and Volney S. Fulham, while Mrs. May read a poem entitled "The Kid has Joined the Colors." The comrades were all delighted to learn that none of their number were taken away by death during the past year. President Albert A. May spoke as follows: You will remember that the great Gettysburg speech was written by Lincoln while on a train and on a piece of brown wrapping paper, and it is considered the masterpiece of all literature. Do not for a moment think I am trying to compete with that speech, for that would be impossible; but a few thoughts have come to me while I felt might be of interest to you. My thoughts at this time as they naturally would be, are suggested by the present war situation. Fifty-six years ago at this time this company, whose reunion is now being held here, was in active service and was stationed in the defense of Washington, ready to do, to dare, and to die if need be that our nation might live and the Union be preserved. Our own recollection of these days, the memory of the boys who were with us at the time, and history all tell us, 'We did our duty well.' Comrades, a few of us have lived to see the result of our service, in a fully united country, a prosperous nation. Today we again see the evidence of war all about us. You do not see so much of it in the quiet country village as we who are in cities and especially living near large cities. In my own city we have two companies of the National Guard and three companies of the Home Guard, besides a large number of men in various other branches of the service all in uniform, drilling and getting ready for more active duty, either at home or abroad. At the present time we have two companies of the National Guard guarding our munitions plants, one company guarding our water supply and all the railroad bridges around our city and New York are being closely guarded Our armory, the fourth largest in Connecticut, is a place of great activity. the members of the Grand Army of the Republic have been equally active. My post voted unanimously when friendly relations were broken with the Imperial government to offer our services to the general government, if old men like us could be used, and we also offered the use of our building for recruiting or rendezvous or drill, if it was needed, and we received a very courteous note from the President in acknowledgment of the same. We are, however, being called upon an have been for several weeks to go from place to place where efforts are being made to get 'recruits' to show ourselves, and in many cases saying a few words to encourage the young men to enlist; and we have been made very prominent as the heroes of '61 to '65, and the young men of today have been urged to show the same loyalty, the same patriotism and the same heroism which was displayed by these old men in the days of the Civil War. This has brought the veterans of '61 to '65 in great prominence, and the little bronze button means more today to the young men of our country than it ever did before. The G. A. R. man is being recognized and honored today as never before. But my comrades, my friends, as we travel over this fair land of ours today we realize how rapidly our ranks are thinning. A few years ago and only a few you could not go into any public gathering without seeing here and there a G. A. R. button, but now you meet very few of them. I was forcibly reminded of this a few weeks since while visiting my old Masonic Lodge in Massachusetts which had not visited before for twenty-five years. There were present about 150 men and I was the only one present wearing the little button, when twenty-five years ago, one-third of the members of that lodge were old soldiers. Such is life. In a few years the G. A. R. and all it means will be a matter of history, but the principles for which it fought; the government for which it served; and the flag for which so many died, shall never perish from the earth. And, my comrades, we should today be the most happy and grateful body of old men in the world and should be extremely thankful to Almighty God that he has permitted so many of us to see this day, and to be able to do our 'bit' to uphold our government, to support our President. We cannot go into the active field, but we can lend our moral support, we can throw our influence on the side of right and justice. We can say to the young man and to that young man, "Go." We can buy Liberty bonds, we can aid the Red Cross, we can do a lot if we have a disposition to do so. When the Home Guard was being formed I called up the gentleman who had charge of the recruiting station and offered myself as a recruit, and he laughed and made me this reply, "Capt., I am very sorry, but you were born too soon," which was a very polite way of telling me I was too old. But I was not deterred by that. The governor has asked for the use of automobiles to transport troops and supplies and blanks were sent to ever automobile owner in the state. I have two autos and I immediately filled out both banks, offering the use of both cars. I have two young men in my employ -- one 27 years of age and the other 36. One is already in the Home Guard and the other belongs to a band which has offered its services to the government, and I have told them that if they were called out on duty either at home or abroad their situation will be waiting for them on their return. So my friends, I am trying to do my 'bit.' I gave four years and three months of the best of my life to my country, and was ready to sacrifice life itself it needed to preserve the union of the government ad I do not regret it and were I a young man today, I would enlist at once. In the great struggle of '61 to '65 my life was spared, although I have been carrying the marks of six shots received while in line of duty. But for all this I have enjoyed myself under the government you and I, my comrades, helped to save. God and the nation have been good and precious to you and to me. Let us all thank God for his goodness and mercy to us. Let us all be ready to stand for our country. An old saying used to be 'Stand for your country, l right your wrong, your country.' The newer and better saying is, Stand for your country, always right, my country.'

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