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11th Vermont Infantry (aka First Heavy Artillery, Vermont Volunteers)
The Bemis Boys
[the following biographical essays are for a future edition of FAMILIES of CAVENDISH and the BLACK RIVER VALLEY region of southern Windsor County, Vermont, to be published by the Cavendish Historical Society, Cavendish, Vt., and compiled and edited by Linda M. F. Welch]
The Story of the BEMIS BOYS of Vermont:-- The little ville of Baltimore (Windsor County) Vermont is far off the beaten path located on the side of Hawk's Mountain near Springfield and Chester. It was once a very busy little community, farms dotting the landscape-- farmland as rich and productive as any in the state. But the touch of time has turned the community into a very small one indeed... There are less than 100 people who consider themselves town residents in 1998. Among the early settlers of this town was AMOS BEMIS, a Revolutionary soldier from Massachusetts who settled in, cleared the land and produced a large family of boys and girls who learned how to survive the many hardships of rural, poverty-stricken early 19th century New England life. The Bemis family was pretty poor, but they were proud people.
Among the grandchildren of Amos Bemis were the farm boys who turned out to support their country in the War of the Rebellion. The following is a brief story of the life of the Bemis brothers of Baltimore;
George E. Bemis, was born in Baltimore, Vt. 14 March, 1846, the son of Lewis and Rebecca (Farr) Bemis. Lewis and Rebecca Bemis suffered many hardships on their mountain farm. From the list of their boys, five saw service in the Civil War - Sidney, George, Martin, Lowell and Henry. The story is told of Sidney's running away to enlist when barely 16 years old. He was an overgrown boy and lied about his age, so was accepted. When he came home and told the family what he had done, his father raised $300.00 and took him to Brattleboro, intending to secure his release because he was under age. Sidney, however, declared over and over again that he was going to enlist and would not give up his intentions to do so if his father did succeed in frustrating his first efforts. Seeing the futility of opposing him the father returned with his money in his pocket, and his son all set to be a soldier in the U. S. Army."
"The battle of Weldon Railroad proved a day filled with disaster for two of the three Bemis boys engaged in it. Martin lost his arm just below the elbow and poor George was taken prisoner. Sidney was designated that day as one to draw the rations, so was comparatively safe. Martin came home in Feb., 1865, and wrote Ellery H. Webster of Irasburg, Vermont (stepson of Irena Davis born and reared on the Parkman Davis place) to learn what he could about his brother, George. If you are a mother, let your thoughts go out in sympathy to Rebecca (Farr) Bemis as she read these lines that were the letter of reply:
Irasburg, Vt., Feb. 8, 1865
I have just received your letter of the 4th enquiring about George. We were taken prisoners the 28th of June as you will remember. George was with us all the while until the 10th of September. We left Andersonville, Georgia and went to Charlestown, South Carolina. George was not able to go with us and he was sent to a hospital. Since then we have heard nothing of him. I suppose I might as well tell you just what I think about him.Martin, I think your brother George is dead long ago. It was an awful place there and we did not get half enough to eat and poor unwholesome stuff at that. Out of the 50 that was taken, I don't think there is a dozen alive ones now. You wanted to know how he fared. I am not able to write a long letter now and it would take a long one to tell you anything about it. I know you are anxious to hear from George, so I write you a few lines and send them by the first mail.
Your Truly, Ellery Webster"
George was finally discharged from the prison at Andersonville, and his race was about over. When on the boat coming home, he died of chronic diarrhea off the coast of South Carolina and was buried at sea...." He died 7 Dec. 1864; a Civil War soldier, Co. "F", 11th Reg't., Vt. Vols.(age 18 years 5 months). There is a monument dedicated to George in the Pine Grove cemetery in N. Springfield, Vt.
Sidney F. Bemis, brother of George, was born on the ancestral farm in Baltimore, 19 Jan., 1847. Sidney and brother Solon both had long curly hair. Sid was a Civil War soldier too. He was hit with a bullet that struck his belt buckle, but he was not hurt. However, he suffered from joint pain and other ailments throughout his life from long exposure to cold and dampness during the war. After the war, he worked in Chester on the Rocky Ridge Farm for Mr. Hial Lockwood. He was employed most the time as a 'teamster.' At the age of 42 years, Sidney m. at Chester, 14 July, 1889, Mrs. Abbie J. (Kent) Aldrich (b. Chester, 1846, dau. of Anthony & Ruth B. (Holden) Kent, and widow of Clark Aldrich).
NEWS: Gassetts, 25 Dec., 1891: "It is reported that Mrs. Sidney Bemis can survive but a few days." He m. 2nd, -- Mrs. Adams.
NEWS: North Springfield, 15 May, 1896: "Sydney Bemis of Baltimore was found recently in a vacant house formerly occupied by Henry Smith, where he had broken in and stolen a jug and some cider. He is at large."
Gassetts, 14 Jan., 1898: "Sidney Bemis from the Soldiers' Home is visiting his old friends and associates for a few days. He shows good keeping."
14 July, 1905: "Sidney Bemis, who has been living in Bennington, is to help James Shepard in Baltimore this season."
NEWS Windsor County Court, 17 Jan., 1907: State v. Sidney Bemis of Weston, Vt. Mr. Bemis was charged with depositing poison with intent to kill a certain horse owned by one Eugene Bryant of Springfield. The case was dropped when the defendant proved he did not know of the poison, but was fined $25 and costs."
From Slayton Kendall, 1973: "Sidney was known to often carry a roll of bills that sometimes totaled nearly $1,000. They were wrapped in a pocket handkerchief and tucked in his pants pocket. He didn't trust banks. Folks warned him that it was not wise to carry so much money on his person. Sid assured them that 'it would take quite a man to get the roll away from him.' The family knew that Sidney often carried a little pistol in his other pocket and most the neighbors knew it too. It was doubtful that Sid every knew how to use the pistol, but it made people think twice about robbing him. He spent the last years of his life with Frank and Emma Kendall in Baltimore. He died while 'sitting up in his rocking chair' in the front room at Grampa Frank Kendall's. The $1,000 roll of bills were not in his pocket when he died. It was later discovered that he had opened up a bank account and had the cash put away there." Sidney d. in Springfield, Vt. 2 May, 1932
Martin Van Buren Bemis brother of Sidney and George, was born in Baltimore, Vt., 4 March, 1844. Martin m. in Baltimore, 23 Oct., 1912, Cora M. Weightman of Chester (b.--, dau. of William & Eliza (Bemis) Weightman).
Martin was a Civil War soldier serving in Co. "F" 11th Vt. Reg't. He lost an arm during a major battle, but this never stopped Martin from doing the work of a man who had both his arms. Family tradition has it that Martin met up with his brother Sidney while the soldiers where on a retreat march-- the Southerners having pushed them back. As Sidney was passing a cannon that was being moved by three men, Martin held up his bandaged arm stump from behind the cannon and said to Sid, "I've been hit, Sid, and I'll see you later." However, the boys did not meet again until after the war had ended and they both arrived back home and reunited to their home on the hill at the old homestead in Baltimore.
NEWS Baltimore, 25 April, 1890: "Mr. Bryant of New York has moved on to the Martin Bemis place."
Martin and Cora lived in Baltimore on what (in 1996) is known as the Arthur Basso place (Basso purchased the property in 1915)The house stands just up the road from the one-room school in Baltimore. A family story is told that he used to drive his oxen into town Springfield for his groceries and his "once-a-month" bottle of whiskey. From Harold Allen, 1973: "He would sip away at this bottle on the way home but never got past the Walter Allen place. Here he would stop, beg for his bed and board and lodging for himself and for his oxen team in the barn. Walter always obliged him and Mrs. Allen would give him his supper and set him up a place to sleep. Come morning he would slip a $5 bill on the table in the kitchen and be off with his team before anyone was up and stirring in the Allen household. One time (when he was a young lad) while he was walking over Hawk's Mountain to Cavendish, he ran across a doe and her fawns. From out of the bushes came a big old buck that chased him up a tree where he stayed all night until he felt safe to come down." Harold Allen told another story about Martin, "... he [often] whitewashed his favorite ledge on Tommy's Flat near the top of Hawk's Mountain.This ledge was the one the Indians had used as a look-out and near where they used to camp while passing over Hawk's Mountain. Martin's 'snowy white ledge' could be seen from Croydon Mountain in New Hampshire on a good clear day. Friends once asked Martin why he did it as it seemed quite a task for a one-armed man. His reply was he thought 'people ought to know something was going on up there in the mountains'".
NEWS: Gassetts, 11 July, 1884: "Martin V. Bemis fell through the scaffold of his barn on the 9th, striking aside a sharp board, which pricked him some and came near stabbing him."-- Baltimore, 1 Aug., 1912: "Martin Bemis has bought a 30-horse power automobile, the first one bought in this town. Mr. Bemis has Forest Coburn of Weathersfield as his chauffeur."
Memories of Slayton Kendall, 1973: "Martin Bemis was quite a hand to move fences to accommodate his needs. He owned a large share of the mountain land. His wife owned quite a chunk of land in back of Governor Johnson's Camp. Martin sold off some standing lumber from the property, but it wasn't discovered until several years later when someone purchased the land that few of the trees stood on Martin's land. Most of the lumber had been removed from his X-wife's property. Martin was quite a drinker and was known to hang one on for a week at a time. A binge drinker, they call it. His wife left him later."
Martin died at the George Cook residence in Baltimore, 12 Oct., 1925. Cora d. in 1920.