Keeping the Home Fires Burning
In the presidential election of 1860, North Andover went Republican for Lincoln. By this vote the town made a decisive stand against slavery and for the preservation of the Union. In April 1861, Union forces were forced to surrender Fort Sumter in South Carolina to the Confederate Army. At this time the federal army numbered less than sixteen thousand men. Following the disastrous Surrender at Fort Sumter, Lincoln issued a call for volunteer soldiers from the state militias, thus increasing the Union forces to seventy-five thousand. The War of the Great Rebellion had begun.
Although there were no battles in North Andover during the Civil War, the national conflict affected the town in many ways. The federal government established a quote of enlistees for every city and town in the north. North Andover’s quota was 293 and the town responded with 15 men more than the required number. One out of four males in North Andover served in the Civil War.
On May 6, 1861 North Andover voted to appropriate $5,000 to equip a company of volunteers and to provide for the families of the recruits. The stipend was established at fifty cents a day during training and increased to ten dollars a month once recruits were officially mustered into the army or navy. By 1864-65 the town was required to pay a bounty for Soldiers. In one year this expense came to $7,750.
By the end of the Civil War, North Andover was in debt, probably because government reimbursement was very slow. North Andover men formed militia companies and gathered for drilling exercise at Union Hall on Second Street and also at Becky’s Pond. There is an anecdotal record stating that in one day twelve youths employed at Davis and Furber went off to enlist.
Farm Life in the 1860s
North Andover farms in the middle of the nineteenth century produced hay and apples as major crops. Later in the 1800’s corn became a common crop both for market and for cattle fodder. Butter and cheese were produced for domestic use and sometimes for market.
The typical North Andover farm was set by the side of the road and usually consisted of the original farm house which included wood room, washroom, dairy room and carpentry room, with separate outbuildings to house poultry, pigs, sheep, and cattle. In addition to the family living quarters in the main house, a typical farm also had a root cellar for food storage, a wagon shed, and often an ice house.
Many North Andover farmers at the time of the Civil War owned from fifty to seventy acres of land. Families were large and every family member worked to keep the farm going. Winters were bitterly cold and one major task for men and boys was to chop 15 cords of firewood to provide for winter heat. Women and their daughters had myriad tasks including making the dairy products, cultivating vegetable gardens, preserving fruits and vegetables for the winter months, and sewing garments for every member of the family. According to George Barker, the current owner of Barker’s Farm, “they certainly had enough work to keep them busy from the crack of dawn until well into nighttime.”
George Rea: From Farm Boy to Soldier
George Rea was born in 1843 in the North Parish section of Andover which in 1855 became the separate town of North Andover. As a child and youth he lived and worked On the Rea family farm. In 1860 approximately half the Northern population lived on farms. The typical New England family farm, besides livestock, grew vegetables, harvested apples, and produced hay. It is evident from the letters George wrote back home to his brothers that he missed the countryside, the farm chores, and the activities of his childhood.
George Rea was one of the 278 men that North Andover sent to fight in the Civil War. By the age of twenty he was stationed at Fort Duncan, Virginia, writing homesick letters to his brothers, who were back in North Andover on the family farm.
Prisoner of War
In early 1864 George Rea was garrisoned with his regiment at Fort Craig, Virginia, a small crescent-shaped fort constructed on the Arlington Line as part of the defensive ring around Washington D.C.
On April 3, 1864, on duty in the guard-house at Fort Craig, George Rea wrote a long letter home to his family recounting some humorous anecdotes that had occurred when he wrote letters for fellow soldiers.
“I have written any number of letters for other fellows lately and you better believe we have some fun,” he wrote. In the same letter he refers to his commanding officer: “Major Holt is a bully old fellow and I hope we shall be in his battalion as long as we stop here.”
By May 8, 1864, George Rea and his fellow soldiers were fighting in the Battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse. Spottsylvania was the second battle of General Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign of the Wilderness. Although tactically inconclusive for either the Confederates or the Union, Spottsylvania was one of the costliest battles of the Overland Campaign. The battle lasted for thirteen days and by May 21, 1864 a combined total of 32,000 men had been killed.
George Rea was one of 2,500 men captured and sent to the infamous Andersonville Prison in Georgia. Andersonville was essentially built on Swampland, which increased the conditions of dysentery and disease. The prison was originally intended for ten thousand prisoners but by August 1864 it held 33,000 prisoners.
One survivor told of the horrifying sight of those who had been healthy soldiers but who were reduced to “walking skeletons covered with filth and vermin.” In less than two years close to 13,000 men died at Andersonville from disease, exposure, and abuse. In the autumn of 1864 those prisoners able enough to be moved were transferred to other prisons. Sadly, this was too late for George Rea, the farmer-soldier from North Andover, who died at Andersonville on September 3, 1864.
Maryland Heights, March 18, 1863
“Dear Brother Cal, as I sit in my bunk here with my longshanks hanging down over the edge I think of the good times we used to have at home and wonder when the time will ever come when we shall squabble together again as we used to when I was home. How much are apples per pound now at home? I suppose they are cheap for they were so pleanty last fall.”
Fort Duncan, Virginia, May 31, 1863
“I don’t think there is much sign of my getting home to help you hay this Summer, by the looks now though I should like to first rate.”
Fort Duncan, Virginia, August 12, 1863
“I suppose while I am writing here you are at work haying the same as ever. Seems to me as though I could see you over to Lydia Meadow hard at work mowing down that stout grass where you have to mow a rod then stop and rake it up to get enough to wipe your sythe with.”
Gen. Isaac Ingalls Stevens
Isaac Ingalls Stevens was born on March 25, 1818, to Isaac and Hannah Cummings Stevens. His childhood home was the Moody Bridges Farm on Marbleridge Road, North Andover, which his father first leased and later purchased. The house can be seen today at 125 Court Street, across the meadow from the Parson Barnard House.
Isaac was a bright, hard-working boy strongly encouraged by his father to be a high achiever. At the age of ten, Isaac began to attend School at Franklin Academy where he was an outstanding student of mathematics. In his early teens, taking a break from academic rigor, Isaac got a job from his uncle Nathaniel at the Stevens Woolen Mills in North Andover.
When he was fifteen he began attending Phillips Academy. With the help of Gayton Osgood, who was a Congressional Representative from Essex County, he received an appointment to the West Point Military Academy. In 1839, at the age of twenty-one, Isaac Ingalls Stevens graduated from West Point at the head of his class.
As a Lieutenant of Engineers, Isaac’s first military assignment was in Newport, Rhode Island, where he took part in the building of Fort Adams. In Newport he met and married Margaret Hazard.
After the admission of Texas to the Union and the hostilities with Mexico increased, Stevens served with the Army Corps of Engineers in Mexico and attained the rank of Major. From that position, he was reassigned to Washington, D.C. The couple had five children, of whom Hazard was the only son. In 1834, at age thirty-six, Lt. Isaac Stevens was appointed by President Franklin Pierce to the governorship of the newly formed Washington Territory, and he traveled West to Olympia, Washington, with his wife and family to take up that post.
Upon the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Isaac Stevens volunteered to serve his country and help to save the Union. After some delay-probably based on politics and a long-standing disagreement with General McClellan-Maj. Stevens, now promoted to Colonel, was given command of the 79th Highlanders, a New York City Militia company, which was close to mutiny. Using his characteristic methods of fairness and discipline, Stevens won the loyalty of his regiment and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General.
Battle of Chantilly
In the late summer of 1862, after General John Pope’s defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens was given the assignment of guarding the rear of the Union Army’s retreat in Fairfax County, Virginia. Stevens assembled his regiments in the area of Ox Hill, Southeast of Chantilly Plantation.
Scouting reports received by Stevens indicated that General Andrew “Stonewall “Jackson, with a complement of 70 regiments, was heading toward the Union Army’s line of retreat. Upon learning this, Gen. Stevens realized that Jackson’s move could cut the Union Army in half and lead to total disaster, and he called for a march to Ox Hill.
Stevens’s division, the 79th Highlanders, arrived at Ox Hill about 3 p.m. on September 1, 1862, and the commander ordered his troops to flush out the enemy. He directed his son, Hazard Stevens, who had joined him in 1861 after his career at Harvard, to help lead the advance. Hazard was wounded during this advance.
While the battle raged, a ferocious thunderstorm erupted over the combatants. When the Union troops seemed to falter, General Isaac Stevens took up the color standard of St. Andrew’s Cross from a wounded color-bearer. Holding the banner high above his head, he rushed forward shouting, “Highlanders, my Highlanders! Follow your general!” The regiment fought fiercely and was able to repel Stonewall Jackson’s attempt to divide the Union line.
Disaster was averted for the Union Army, but not without grave cost, for as the 44-year-old Gen. Isaac Stevens led his Highlanders into the enemy lines, a bullet pierced his skull and he fell dead. For his bravery, and with recommendations of his men, Isaac Stevens was posthumously appointed to the rank of Major-General. Hazard Stevens, who had been wounded at Chantilly, became the youngest Union Brigadier-General before the end of the Civil War, and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Hazard Stevens wrote a biography of his father’s life, and said of him “[H]e held liberal views of religion and attended the Unitarian Church…manifesting the greatest interest in education, temperance, anti-slavery, and every cause that would make mankind better or happier.”
Supporting the War Effort: Leave it to the Ladies
North Andover women and girls did their part in the struggle to preserve the Union. Church groups organized sewing circles which met to make shirts, flannel drawers, stockings, gloves, and scarves for “their boys in blue.” The Female Benevolent Society was formed as a community group to support the soldiers and the families they had left behind. Records show that this society paid for shoes for the children in the Fish family, which had four males serving in the army.
The Civil War gave women in the 1860’s an opportunity to develop organizational skills and to recognize the effectiveness of uniting for a common cause. Women also organized projects to earn money for the war effort. They created flags, wall hangings, and quilts to be sold to patriotic supporters. Some of the most popular fundraising events were bake sales and dessert teas. In April 1864, Mary Osgood Stevens, the young daughter of Moses T. Stevens, decided to organize her own benefit bake sale.
Mary had attended a fundraising activity in the “lower village” on Water Street and this gave her the inspiration to organize a similar activity in her own neighborhood of Stevens and Osgood Streets. According to a Letter to the Editor, which appeared in the local newspaper on April 24, 1864, Mary and her “little supporters” did very well, realizing from their sale of Sweet desserts a total of $115.00 and donating $105.00 to the “holy cause” sick and wounded Soldiers.
Mr. editor – While the Metropolitan Fair of New York is pouring its millions of dollars into the treasury of the Sanitary Commission, the rills of patriotic beneficence should not be overlooked. One of these was opened at North Andover on the evening of Wednesday, the 27th, at the house of Moses T. Stevens, Esq.
As illustrative of what a child can do, it may be well to state that this affair originated in the mind of his little daughter, who, on returning from one at the lower village, expressed the desire of having another at her own home. On being told she might, away went she, flying first to her little friends, and, putting their heads together and their hands to work, enlisted the sympathies of those that were older, until a table was furnished that realized with its accompaniments of cake, creams, and et ceteras, the handsome sum of one hundred and fifteen dollars.
This will go to the benefit of Massachusetts sick and wounded soldiers, an object of no narrow patriotism, in as much as what is done for them is so much done for the great cause in which we are all involved.
The night was cloudy and dark without, but radiant with smiles and good cheer within. The company broke up at a late hour, apparently well satisfied with themselves and all the world except copperheads and rebels. Long live our holy cause and its fair little supporters of North Andover.
North Andover, April 28th, 1864
Letter of Commendation to Mary O. Stevens from William Dale, Surgeon General
Soldiers and Sailors Monument
One out of four North Andover men served in the Union Army or Navy during the Civil War. After the war ended the town planned to erect a monument in honor of those who had served in the war. For various reasons it was five decades before this project was realized.
In 1912, forty-seven years after the end of the Civil War, the town appropriated $5,000 to build a memorial for all North Andover citizens who had served as Soldiers or sailors in any of the country’s wars, which included King Philip’s War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War.
The bronze Statue, designed by Mrs. Theodore Kitson of Quincy, depicts a young Union volunteer prepared for battle. On Flag Day, June 14, 1913, the town held a dedication ceremony in front of Johnson High School where the memorial statue was fixed to the top of a plain field boulder. The distinguished orator Solon W. Stevens gave the dedication address, saying “They were men bound by all the sacred family and social ties…and these they put aside to obey their country’s call.” Ironically, less than a year after this dedication, World War I had begun.
Taken from a letter written by Kate Hastings Stevens in 1938
North Andover owned a triangle of land bordered by Andover and Peters Streets. During the Revolutionary War, and, it is believed, the Civil War, North Andover men drilled on this land as a Training Field. Becky’s Pond, so-called because Miss Rebecca Barker’s house faced the pond, was situated in the center of this triangle of land. Many North Andover children learned to skate on Becky’s Pond.
The possibility that the triangle of land was used for militia drilling during the Civil War gains credence from the newspaper clipping which follows. According to an article from the Wig-Wags weblog by Rene Tyree, the majority of Union and Confederate regiments raised in the first year of the war carried U.S. pattern.69–caliber Smoothbore muskets, primarily Model 1842s and converted flintlocks. It is possible that the “musket” found in Becky’s Pond had been brought home as a trophy of war and could have been either a Confederate rifle or a Union one.
Civil War Musket Found In North Andover Pond
Becky’s Pond in North Andover yielded a sawed-off musket of Civil war time a few days while town park department employees were clearing out the bed of the dried pond.
Philip L. Donnelly chanced to discern the butt of the old rifle barely protruding from the mud. He dug it out and found the gun heavily caked in mud and rust. It fell apart at the lock but was well preserved otherwise. The spring still worked.
The musket has a percussion lock common to the days of the rebellion, and a short wooden butt characteristic of old models.
Mr. Donnelly took the musket to the public works office and it was examined Friday by George E. Jewett, 20 Marblehead Street, whose hobby of collecting old guns has made him something of an authority on them. Mr. Jewett identified the rifle as a Civil war model. The barrels of guns in those days were long, and obviously this one had been sawed off, he said.
“Becky’s Pond” is a pool located on the old Revolutionary War training grounds at Peters and Andover streets, North Andover. Finding of the gun caused speculation first as to whether it was left there in Revolutionary times, and after Mr. Jewett’s identification, in Civil War times.
It had a bayonet which could still be used effectively. Mr. Jewett doubted that the musket has remained in the mud since the Civil war. There was little question, however, that is has been there many years.