12th Vermont Infantry
Jabez H. Hammond
Army Life in Virginia
This is a series of letters written by a Vermont farm boy as a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War to his folks back on the hill farm in the town of West Windsor in Windsor County, Vermont.
Jabez Holms Hammond was 20 years old when he enlisted for nine months duty in the West Windsor Guards in the fall of 1862 along with his three older brothers Ira 27, Stephen 26, and Ulysses Haller 23. The Guards was composed of men from the town of West Windsor and, shortly after it was formed, became Company A of the 12 Regiment, Second Vermont Brigade, which was mustered into service on September 25, 1862 at Camp Lincoln, Brattleboro, Vt.
When they went off to war they left at home on the farm their father Daniel 49, their mother Mary 47, a sister Sara Lovina age 19 and two younger brothers Elwin 14, and Ernest Mark 8.
All of the letters "to the folks at home" were written by Jabez, although two of them include messages from the oldest brother Ira. Also included are three lengthy and informative letters from father Daniel to his "boys away down south in Virginia." These three letters are especially interesting because of the detailed information they relate about such things as town affairs, Dan's opinion of the War's progress, news of the neighbors, descriptions of farm work and the state of affairs at the farm itself, which is referred to as Dan's Crotch. As will be seen, he writes with a touch of humor at times.
Nicknames are often used in the letters. Jabez is frequently referred to as Bogus. The others are given names like Lightfoot, the Deacon, Old tip, Scratchass and The Orderly. I leave it to the reader to determine who is which.
The letters themselves are fairly well written, given the conditions and times. Although there is a marked improvement in Jabez's handwriting, form, style and punctuation as the number of his letters grows, the reading of even the last few letters requires some study. Although words that begin sentences are seldom capitalized, many odd words scattered throughout each letter are capitalized. Nor are sentences always completed with a period. This often requires interpretation. In the typing of the letters, a double space indicates a new sentence begins.
The spelling is pretty fair and where he is unsure, Jabez spells phonetically, which does the job. Some letters get left out of words and other times they get added. At times a word get written twice and some time an obvious word is left out. Proofreading was evidently done only now and then. As closely as possible the letters have been copied faithfully as written. Where the writing was unclear, the (?) was used.
Events Leading Up To The Organizing Of The Second Vermont Brigade
Roused by the reverses of the Peninsular campaign to a fuller realization of the magnitude of its task, the Government, in July and August, 1862, was making extraordinary efforts to place a force in the field sufficient to speedily overwhelm all resistance to the national authority. It was not enough that on the 1st of July the President had issued his call for 300,000 three years men. Congress, a few days later, passed an act authorizing him to call out the entire militia of the States, adding provisions for filling the quotas, if necessary, by conscription --- the method by which the Confederacy had for six months had been filling its armies. Under this act, on the 4th of August, Mr. Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 militia to serve for nine months, within which time the rebellion was to be crushed. When this new call came the State authorities of Vermont were busily arming and equipping the Tenth and Eleventh regiments, and were hoping that when these had been sent out and the other regiments filled by volunteers in numbers sufficient to raise the State's quota of three years men they could have a respite from the work of recruiting troops; but they responded to the new demand with undiminished spirit. On the 10th of August the instructions of the Secretary of War, fixing Vermont's quota of the militia at 4,898 men, were received by Governor Holbrook, and on the next day he issued a general order for a new enrollment of the militia of Vermont, comprising all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 years, and on the day following an order calling into active service all the militia companies in the State.
Twenty-two such companies appeared upon the State roster. Ten of these had seen three month's service in the First regiment, but so many of the members of these companies had subsequently re-enlisted in the three years regiments, that but six companies had been able to preserve their organizations, and these were much reduced in numbers. Of the other companies, some had formally disbanded, and some, though existing on paper, had ceased to exist in fact. Under the circumstances only thirteen companies were able to respond to the call. These were the Howard Guards of Burlington, West Windsor Guards, Allen Greys of Brandon, Saxtons River Light Infantry of Rockingham, Woodstock Light Infantry, Bradford Guards, Rutland Light Guard, Tunbridge Light Infantry, Ransom Guards of St. Albans, New England Guards of Northfield, Emmett Guards of Burlington, Lafayette Artillery of Calais, and Frontier Guards of Coventry.
On the 13th of August a third order called for volunteers for nine months to fill the quota. The order stated that no recruiting officers would be appointed but that the town officers and patriotic citizens would be expected to enlist the men and form the companies. Thirty more companies were enlisted, organized and accepted under this order.
Within a month forty-three companies, comprising about 4,000 men, were organized and accepted; and by the 20th of September seven additional companies tendered themselves, so that the quota of militia was filled by voluntary enlistments.
Among the men so enlisting were many men of high patriotic purpose, whose professional and civil responsibilities had not permitted them to engage for a three year's term in the army; and the nine months regiments thus comprised an unusual proportion of men of liberal education and recognized standing.
The fifty companies were organized into regiments by Adjutant General Washburn, and rendezvoused at Brattleboro as soon as the barracks furnished by the United States were ready for occupation. As these were militia regiments, they were officered in accordance with the State Constitution -- the companies electing the company officers; the company officers nominating the field officers, who where thereupon commissioned by the Governor; and the field officers selecting the regimental staff. (from Vermont in the Civil War, Volume II, By G. G. Benedict, pp 397-401)
The reader who, after reading Jabez Hammond's Civil War letters, wishes to study further the fortunes of the 12th Regiment and the part it played in the war as part of the Second Vermont Brigade, is referred to the above mentioned Volume, pp. 402-405 and 416-493.
26 Sep 1862 Ulyssis &
Brattleborough, Vt. 5 Oct 1862 Jabez Camp Lincoln, Vt. 9 Oct 1862 Jabez Washington, D.C. 16 Oct 1862 Jabez Camp Cassey, Capitol Hill 29 Oct 1862 Jabez Camp Cassey, D. C. 6 Nov 1862 Jabez Camp Vt., in Fairfax Co. 9 Nov 1862 Jabez Camp Vt., in Va. 13 Nov 1862 Daniel West Windsor, Vt. 14 Nov 1862 Jabez Camp Vt., in Va. 17 Nov 1862 Jabez Camp Vt., in Va. 23 Nov 1862 Daniel West Windsor, Vt. 26 Nov 1862 Jabez Camp Vt., in Va. 6 Dec 1862 Jabez Camp Vt., in Va. 6 Dec 1862 Daniel West Windsor, Vt. 12 Dec 1862 Jabez Camp Vt., in Va. 13 Dec 1862 Jabez Fairfax Court House 14 Dec 1864 Jabez Fairfax Court House 31 Dec 1862 Jabez Camp Fairfax, Va. 4 Jan 1863 Jabez Camp Fairfax, Va. 7 Jan 1863 Jabez Camp Fairfax, Va. 18 Jan 1863 Jabez Camp Fairfax, Va. 25 Jan 1863 Jabez Camp Fairfax, Va. 29 Jan 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 30 Jan 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 5 Feb 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 7 Feb 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 10 Feb 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 22 Feb 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 25 Feb 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 9 Mar 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run Shoals 11 Mar 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 18 Mar 1863 Jabez (none given) (none given) Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 4 Apr 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 8 Apr 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 19 Apr 1863 Jabez Camp Peter T. Washburn, Va. 23 Apr 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 30 Apr 1863 Jabez Camp near Wolf Run, Va. 3 May 1863 Jabez Camp near Warrington Jct., Va. 7 May 1863 Jabez Camp at Rappahannock Station 24 May 1863 Jabez Camp near Bristos Station 10 Jun 1863 Jabez Union Mills, Va. 11 Jun 1863 Jabez Union Mills, Va. 22 Jun 1863 Ulyssis &
Camp one mile from Wolf Run. 9 Jul 1863 Jabez Camp Lincoln, Brattleboro, Vt.
After being discharged from the army in that summer of 1863, Jabez Hammond returned to West Windsor, Vermont and spent the rest of his life living and working as a farmer and jobber (contractor) in that community. On August 24, 1865, he married a local girl, 18 year old Julia Ann Blanchard. Although he doesn't mention her in his Civil War letters, he wrote her obituary for the local paper in 1902 and stated that she had been "my girl" since she was sixteen. They raised a family of six sons and one daughter. Addie, born December 15, 1877 lived only twelve years until May 8, 1889. The sons were: Dwight, born April 1, 1867; Charles, born August 29, 1869; Fred, born August 2, 1874; Luther, born June 22, 1881; Duane, born January 19, 1886; and Maxwell, born July 19, 1887.
As a jobber, he was responsible for the construction of many buildings and structures in West Windsor and the surrounding Vermont towns of Windsor, Woodstock, Hartland and Reading and across the river in Cornish, N.H. He specialized in stone masonry and many of the stone buildings, stone foundations, bridge abutments and bridges still standing in those towns are quiet testimony to the quality of his construction. A good example, still in excellent shape, is the Blow-Me-Down Mill and Bridge in Cornish, N.H. on Route 12A a mile north of the Windsor-Cornish covered bridge.
Jabez lived to be 68 years old. The following is taken from the Vermont Journal, printed in Windsor, dated Friday June 17, 1910:
This community was shocked and saddened to learn early Sunday morning of the death of Jabez H. Hammond one of the most respected and best known citizens of this town. His death was the result of an accident. It appears he was trying to get his manure spreader under the shed at his home early Saturday evening which was down a steep incline about 100 feet from the place he started at. The supposition is that he tried to ride or bear down on the pole of the spreader to steady it. It carried him some 25 feet all right, when either the pole or forward wheels hit some cobble stones and threw him off. He received a blow on his head which probably stunned him, then the heavy wheels of the spreader ran upon him and as there was no evidence of a struggle, he probably died instantly. When found, one of the hind wheels was directly upon his chest.
Mr. Hammond twice married. Survived by wife and 6 sons by first wife, Dwight, Fred, Luther, Charles, Maxwell and Duane.
Mr. Hammond had been a consistent member of the Methodist church in this village for 44 years and a steward for the same time. He represented his town in the legislature in 1900 and had held about every office in the gift of the town. Was lister and road commissioner for several years and was president of the Cemetery Association. He took a deep interest in everything for the building up of the town and for the elevation of the people. He had been a contractor and builder for many years, his last great contract in masonry was in the re-building of the cells in the west wing of the state prison. He was a soldier in the Civil War where he served as sergeant in Co. A of the 12th Vt. Regiment. Mr. Hammond will be greatly missed as he was a respected citizen and a good neighbor and friend.
The History of Jabez Hammond's Letters
Jabez's oldest son was Dwight, born in 1867. He lived in West Windsor, had a farm and worked for his father on construction jobs. He married Lucy J. Spaulding, also of West Windsor, April 4, 1888. They had a daughter, Gladys, and three sons, Shirley Jabez, Donald Blanchard and Winston Dwight. He farmed in West Windsor until about 1910, when the family moved to Windsor. Donald and Winston went into the construction and plumbing business with their father and were successful until it folded during The Great Depression. Dwight died in 1936.
Donald, born June 22, 1898, was my father. He married Beatrice P. St. John on June 24, 1924, and built a home on Halls Terrace in Windsor, near his folks place and where I grew up. When the family business failed, Dad worked on his own as a plumber and small contractor for a while before going into the sand and gravel business and then into the reinforced concrete pipe culvert business, which he owned until 1959. He died in 1972.
I first ran across Jabez Hammond's Civil War Letters when I lived with my grandmother Hammond for the best part of a year as an 11 year old youngster interested in stamp collecting. My grandfather had died the year before and during his last illness had been given the letters by his brother Luther, to read to fill the time. They were tied up in a little packet with a ribbon and kept in my grandmother's bureau drawer. The stamps of course were old ones and of special interest to me, but I was not allowed to remove them or tamper with the envelopes in any way. Their historical significance was lost on me.
Years later, as a 22 year old college student on summer vacation in 1949, I ran across the letters again as my dad was reading them for something to do during an illness which kept him abed. I read them through, for the first time, and realized their value. I spend a number of hours that summer transcribing them on to typewritten pages which I made up into a bound folder, making them much easier to read. When our children were growing up and studying the Civil War in school and college, the bound folder was read and used a number of times as a source for reports and term papers. But I lost track of the original letters over the years and had only the poorly typed pages as a record of the letters and a very interesting piece of family history.
In the summer of 1982, during a conversation with Mrs. Lyle Hammond of Windsor, a chance remark revealed that the letters were still in existence and that she and Lyle had them. I received their permission to recopy them and the foregoing is a result of that effort. In order to tie them into events of the time I did a little research in the Windsor Public Library, a Hammond Genealogy written in 1894, and the two volume work named Vermont in the Civil War.
I also took the original letters and envelopes to the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier where they were delighted to make a photocopy of each letter and envelope for their records. When I returned the original letters to the Lyle Hammonds they very graciously gave them back to me to keep permanently for future Hammond generations.
/s/Sidney N. Hammond
RFD Mace Hill Road
Hartland, Vermont 05048
January 17, 1983.
Contributed by Gerald J. Rice