Monday, May 30, 2016

Civil War Photos of Brookline Soldiers

On April 22, 1861— ten days after the attack on Fort Sumter — the men of Brookline gathered to sign their names on a document promising to "enroll themselves for the purpose of acquiring a knowledge of military drill and discipline, under the orders of the Military Committee of the Town."

When it came time for 24-year old Julius A. Phelps to sign he added, next to his signature, "Ready to go."

Phelps signature

The next man to sign added ditto marks next to his name, and several more townsmen followed Phelps' example, indicating they too were "Ready to go."

Fourteen months later Phelps was dead, one of the first of the Brookline men to give his life in defense of the Union. His name is one of 72 on the Civil War memorial installed in the old Town Hall in 1884 and now on display in the lobby of the current Town Hall.

Phelps memorial

Until recently, I knew of no photos of Phelps. In fact, I had come across photos of only one of the 63 enlisted men whose names are on the Brookline memorial. (The nine officers, from more prosperous and prominent families, were more well documented.)

I was pleased, then, to find Phelps and four other Brookline men in this montage of soldiers from Company A of the 1st Massachusetts Infantry. It's from the collections of the Brookline Library and has been digitized and made available on the Digital Commonwealth website. (Click on the image for a zoomable version.)

Company A, 1st Massachusetts

Who were these men? Here is what I have been able to learn about them.

Julius Phelps
Julius Augustus Phelps was born December 27, 1836 in Leominster, the son of Sumner and Dolly Phelps. His father was a farmer. By 1860, Phelps was living in Brookline with his older brother David and David's wife and young son. Both brothers were carpenters.

Phelps enlisted as a private on May 23, 1861 and was mustered into Company A of the 1st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, organized at Camp Ellsworth in Cambridge. The 1st was engaged at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) and was deployed in the Peninsula Campaign in Virginia in the spring of 1862, seeing action at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Eltham's Landing, and Seven Pines.

Phelps was shot and killed at the Battle of Glendale on June 30th. He was 25 years old. His name is on the family gravesite at Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster although it is not clear if he was buried there or somewhere in Virginia.

Frank Getchell
Lewis Getchell
Brothers John Franklin (Frank) Getchell and Lewis (or Louis) Gould Getchell were born in Hallowell, Maine, sons of Isaiah and Dorcas Getchell. Their father was a stonecutter. John was born December 21, 1838 and Lewis March 24, 1841.

Both brothers were living in Brookline at the outbreak of war, as was an older married brother, Isaiah. Frank, a carpenter, and Lewis, a blacksmith, enlisted together as privates in Company A on the same day as Phelps.

Lewis was shot and killed at the Battle of Seven Pines on June 25, 1862. He was 21. He was buried at the Seven Pines National Cemetery.

Frank survived the Peninsula Campaign and was promoted to corporal in November 1862. He died of disease in Falmouth, Virginia on February 3, 1863. He was 24. He was originally buried at Fitzhugh's Farm and was later reinterred at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

Another older brother, George, an officer with the 1st Maine Infantry, also died in the war. Their brother Isaiah continued to live in Brookline along with his family and his widowed mother. He had a carpentry shop at the corner of Beacon Street and Summit Avenue.

Joseph Turner
Joseph W. Turner was born in Derby, England in 1835, the son of Joseph and Sarah Turner. The family emigrated to the United States in 1842 and settled in Philadelphia. In 1854, they moved to Brookline where the father established a knit goods business. It was one of two manufacturing concerns in the town, according to Harriet Woods' 1874 Historical Sketches of Brookline.

Joseph and his younger brother Fergus both worked in the family business, Joseph Turner & Sons. The two brothers enlisted on May 23, 1861. Joseph died at Fair Oaks, Virginia of typhoid fever on June 21, 1862. His body was returned to Brookline and he was buried in the Old Burying Ground on Walnut Street.

Fergus Turner survived the war and continued to live in Brookline until his death in 1909.

William Trowbridge
William H. Trowbridge was born March 5, 1842 in Newton. He was the son of William W. and Sarah Trowbridge (sometimes spelled Trobridge.) His father was a soap and candle maker.

Trowbridge worked as an expressman. (Express companies delivered packages, by horse-drawn vehicles and later by rail.) He enlisted in Company A on the same day as the other men here.

He was on picket duty on July 1, 1862 after the battle of Malvern Hill when he fell dead. Death was attributed to "disease of the heart" (possibly a heart attack). He was 20 years old. His burial place is unknown.

For stories of other Brookline men listed on the Civil War memorial in Town Hall, see my earlier post Remembering Brookline's Civil War Dead.

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