On January 20th, we will launch the Facebook page of David Crossley Meechan, a Duxbury resident who fought in the Civil War.
The memoir, “Big Davy the Brave”, was donated to the Drew Archival Library by David’s Granddaughter, Evelyn Alden Ryerson Hathaway in 2008. The entries start on 20 January and that is when we will start also. On his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/David-Crossley-Meechan), we will post his journal entries 150 years to the day that they were written. These diaries were written during the “War of the Rebellion”. Some days he had to write with a pencil but while he was in camp he wrote in ink. When he complied the journals he wrote the following “As I do not intend to write for public perusal, I hope whoever may read my narrative may be lenient in their criticism, and bear in mind my object and purpose is to let my children know how their father tramped and suffered with the glorious ARMY OF FREEDOM and followed that dear old flag on many a long weary march and bivouac, camp and battlefield and toughed it out through the struggle. Given in his own hand in his own poor prosaic way, simply told as to beloved children the story of my life during the war of the great rebellion”.
But let’s start with some of his reminisces about his enlistment and his journey to Virginia where the diaries begin. He wrote:
“Before I come to the date, January 1862, when I commenced my diaries, I must try to rake up my memory the facts and incidents leading up to my being a soldier on Hall’s Hill, Virginia in camp with the 18th Massachusetts Regiment, 1st brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps, McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.” . . . .
“It always seemed to me as if Duxbury, Mass. was more stirred up than any other town I know of, and more thoroughly aroused at the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter in Charlestown Harbor in the early spring of 1861. . . Staid and puritan old Duxbury seemed to be madder at them pesky rebels and more anxious to be first at their throats; to grapple with treason and to get the honor of opening the fight”
“On the 23rd day of May 1861, a town meeting was held, well attended. Town Hall full of earnest men. Patriotic speeches by all the prominent men. Hon. Gershom B. Weston who was a senator in the state legislature, was anxious to recruit a company of one hundred citizens of Duxbury to respond to the governor for duty wherever he saw fit to send us. We were not to go to Washington like a mob or flock of sheep. We must uphold the honor of the town like regulars and give a good account of the patriotic spirit which animated the town in sending us to the front.”
“I was twenty three years old, had lived in Duxbury since I was fifteen, was married to Laura A. Alden, had a child, our girl Mary, who was nearly two years old, and in the ordinary course of nature we expected another child in about three months. Mr. Weston had canvassed the town in the section in which I lived and found that there were about 15 or 16 young men who would enlist if I would, and not otherwise, so that made me for the time a rather important personage. I told Mr. Weston I was more than willing to enlist, but I could not see my way clear to leave my wife in the condition in which she was, and my duty seemed to be to remain with her until at least the young unmarried men had been exhausted. He was so enthusiastic, and so thoroughly in earnest, and so anxious to secure the other young men, my friends, that he gave me a solemn promise. If I would go to war he would look after my family in my absence, and see they had everything necessary for their comfort. And the best of care, medical attendance. After consulting my wife I signed the roll as did my friends, and I want to say right here and now that the Hon. Gershom B. Weston kept his pledge to me faithfully, fully and honorably. My family had much better care and luxurious treatment from Mr. Weston’s liberality that I could have provided for them during the four years of my absence.”
“A few days before June first we had a company of raw recruits numbering about ninety men. By the end of the first week in June the town had provided us with a fine gray uniform and employed a very efficient drill Master from Plymouth, William H. Winsor to drill the company. . . sometime in the latter part of June, we were ordered to Readville, near Boston. There we found other companies of the 18th Regiment of Infantry that was being organized for service at the front . . .The Duxbury Company was E and we soon stood foremost among all because of our martial appearance and our saucy looking captain. . . . Under Colonel Barnes we developed such excellence in drill and military discipline that we were considered the crack regiment in the army around Washington and were complemented my receiving French Zouve uniforms and full equipments; knapsacks made of calf skin trimmed with the hair on, and everything Frenchy, a free gift to every man in the regiment. We remained in Readville . . . until August 1861 when we started for Washington. . . . The 24th day of August we boarded a train, crowded, packed the cars full of our equipments . . . I can never forget the match through New York City . . . Never a regiment marched through New York City could equal the appearance of the 18th Massachusetts Regiment . . .During the night we were transferred to the Jersey Shore and packed onto trains to Baltimore. Arrived in Baltimore about sunset. As the cars had to be hauled through the city by horses they must be emptied so we must march to the depot to embark for Washington. We had heard of the manner in which the Sixth Massachusetts regiment had been mobbed just before . . . we were hurried to the depot and boarded the train for Washington. . . .In September we got orders to march into Virginia . . . moving forward to Hall’s Hill, we began to learn the whole duty of a soldier in enemy country. . . . We began to suffer from the cold as the ground was frozen most of the time, and I remember I made my letters shorter on account of number fingers, in a tent, on a hardtack box cover. My wife sent me a diary to jot down my experiences each day. I now commence on:”
So look for David Meechan’s page of Facebook starting on January 20th and we will journey with him as he fights for the “Army of Freedom”