Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lieutenant George Studley, 19th Maine Infantry

Sometimes, oftimes, in the search for family a story comes to light that raises an eyebrow.   Such is the story of First Lieutenant George Studley, grandfather to Alice and Nettie, Civil War veteran, combatant at the likes of Fredericksburg, battle of The Wilderness, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and Appomatox with the Army of the Potomac.  Why didn’t we know this story? 
We already know the answer to our question - we didn't know because veterans who survive the tragedy of war and return to civilian life speak seldom to family of the trauma.  What could be worse than losing half your regiment in a battle?  Perhaps to lose your own boy to the war, in the same battle you are fighting.  This is the story of our second great-grandfather, George, and his son, Albert Studley.

George was the sixth of seven children born to John (1790-1826) and Pearn Lang Studley (1797-1882) in Lincolnville, Maine, in 1824.  George's father, too, was born Lincolnville and lived all his life in this settlement on the western side of Penobscot Bay, likely making a living in farming or lumbering.  He fought in the War of 1812 defending against British invasion of Maine and married George’s mother in 1813 when he was age 23 and she sixteen.  George’s father died when he was two years old; John was only 36 and Pairn a 30 year old widow with seven children under the age of 13.  George’s stepfather, farmer Robert Dodge, came into the picture when George was 7 years old and three more children were added to the family.

In 1845, twenty one year old George married Harriet A. Packard, an 18 year old from  Thomaston, several towns south of Lincolnville and in 1850 the couple was living in the coast town of Rockland, Lincoln County, Maine, with sons Albert, age 4, and George Leslie, age 2.  George’s brother, Benjamin, is living in the house.  Both George and Benjamin are carpenters, as are four other young men in the house, so this may well have been a boarding house for young men working at shipbuilding.

By 1860, George and Harriet have settled into a home in Camden, Maine, also along the Penobscot Bay, with only their family in the home, now comprised of Albert E, age 14, George L, age 11, Arrametta, age 6, Alice, age 4, and Lisetta, age 6 months.  George is working as a farmer.

While George’s life has likely not been easy to this point, it would soon be turned upside down.  Fort Sumter was fired upon in April, 1861,  and Lincoln called for 75,000 militia from the states.  By July 1861, 500,000 volunteers had signed for three years.  The war was not going well for the North and in July 1862 a call was made for another 300,000. Maine provided more soldiers for its population than any other state in the Union, and with this last call our George, now age 38, volunteered to go.  Harriet was left not only to care for the teenagers, Albert and young George, and three daughters under the age of 10, but she was newly pregnant with Sidney, our great-grandfather.  How did Harriet make do for the three years George was gone?  Did she stay on the farm with help from the two boys?  Did the grandparents help out?

George made his way to Bath, Maine, where he mustered in as a private with the 19th Maine Infantry, Company A, on August 25, 1862.  Two days later, they marched through the streets of Bath to the rail station, and from there by rail and boat to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and finally to Washington, DC.  What a trip this must have been for a man who had likely never been away from the coastline of Maine!

Washington at the time had no paved streets, most buildings other than government were wood, and the town was heavily armed and fortified.  Second Bull Run - with the Dillow 2nd great grnadfather and his two brothers - was going on at the time the nine hundred sixteen men of the 19th arrived, and the young recruits could hear the battle in the distance.  The regiment was assigned to forts around the city, and Company A went to Fort Greble, now Congress Heights.

An error in not assigning the 19th as a “new regiment” resulted in evacuating the Washington fort in late September, heading on foot for Fredericksburg, Virginia.  In late November, the Second Corps was encamped at Falmouth on the bluffs across the Rappahannock.  To move supplies by wagon, the 19th Regiment was put to work building “corduroy roads”, a process involved cutting down trees for logs:

“... the men from Maine knew how to handle an axe.  It was rich entertainment to watch the New Yorkers in our brigade trying to cut down a tree.  They would hack a circle about six inches wide around the tree and keep at it, hitting as near the center of the circle as they could, until the tree yielded.  It was still more entertaining to see some green, officious Lieutenant of our Regiment, from the city, instructing some lumberman soldier as to the proper way to do this work”.

As a result of delays building pontoons to cross the Rappahannock, the Union Army did not start across until Lee’s men had a chance to occupy the heights above Fredericksburg.  George’s Brigade had the high risk task to be second to cross the pontoon to take the town of Fredericksburg.  “It has been affirmed that this pontoon bridge crossed by our Regiment was laid in as hazardous a place as any position used for such crossing during the war”, reflected an officer of the 19th.   

The 19th was assigned the next two days to the extreme right flank while the slaughter of the Union Army attempting to take Marye’s Heights was toward the center and left flank.  The 19th escaped casualties.  The Union Army lost 12,500 men at Fredericksburg.

The Regiment retreated back across the river and wintered in miserable winter conditions,

 “... our Falmouth camp was our Valley Forge of the civil war...during the winter, the Regiment lost about one hundred men by sickness (10 of these from Company A), and the burial of the comrades was a pathetic sight.  The expiring comrade “wrapt the drapery of his couch about him, and that drape was the army blanket.  In this he was buried, and his only headstone was a piece of a hard bread box.  The signal of the burial was given by the muffled drum, the power pathos of which went through all the camp.”

The Chancellorsville campaign, another Union defeat, began in late April.  While Lee was diverted to Chancellorsville, the 19th crossed the Rappahannock in the second battle of Fredericksburg, and guarded the telegraph lines, all without casualty.  By late May, the Second Corps had a new commander, General Hancock, and the crew left behind their winter camp on June 14th, 1863 ... headed for Gettysburg.

Next installment:  Gettysburg

Source: The History of the Nineteenth Regiment of Maine Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1865, John Day Smith.

Recommended film:  Gods and Generals gives an excellent account of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and the Wilderness.


izzegirl said...

Great story - can't wait for more!

Pat said...

Daddy would be enjoying this. Can't wait for Gettysburg.