Local Affairs in Lowell During the Civil War

Jim Peters shares another story about Lowell during the Civil War:

In the midst of the fighting in 1862, the Lowell School Committee and the Superintendent of Schools decided that they had to beef up the educational system in Lowell.  The most colorful reason for this emanated from the Mayor who said he would rather have boys going to school than shoveling horse dung off of the city’s streets.  The courses offered were almost all vocational, and a young apprentice could elevate his standing in society by taking courses that, largely, made him more technically capable.  Many young men became skilled in fabric work in this way and carried their knowledge  of that and marketing skills to the outside world.

     This was the time for marketing.  Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck joined forces.  Montgomery Ward instituted the catalog at this time, and became very wealthy in the process.  He reached out to the lonely on the prairie and sold them items that they could not do without.  The excitement of the marketing of the day is best presented in “The Music Man’s” popular song, “The Wells Fargo Wagon.”
    The idea that business could be engaged in in the middle of the Great War, was seen as promising.  Unlike their sisters in Richmond, the northern woman could buy new dresses, the finest kitchen utensils, and whatever else Mr. Montgomery Ward had to sell.  And the light paper on which the catalogs were printed were read and used in the nation’s prairies.
      Little is said about those aspects of early American life because it is considered to be beneath the dignity of the historian.  Edward Pershey, the first Superintendent of the Tsongas Center in the Lowell National Park once told me that it was more important to know what objects were near to the heart of the early people of America than what was written about them by the historians.  Objects, he said, were of practical value.  I just completed listing a number of pages of the Lowell “Courier” newspaper and I noted, and observed in my writing, the number of patent medicines, watches, and other goods, including watches, that were advertised.  Thus, I have to conclude that patent medicines, watches, and other goods were of value to the average man-in-the-street.  Watches, especially, were sought after because they were considered to be valuable to the male image.  Watches were often passed down from father to son.  They were of more value than other items.
    Lowell was proud of the service of the sons on the battlefield.  One man, Lieutenant Solon A. Perkins of Lowell, was Commander of the Third Massachusetts Regiment of Calvary.  He died in battle on June 3, 1863 of mortal wounds suffered   in the battle of Clinton.  Mr. Chase, in his “History of Lowell,” states that,
    “Lieut. Perkins was one of Lowell’s bravest sons.  The city had no more costly sacrifice to lay upon the altar of patriotism…early in the Rebellion (he) entered the service of his country.  As Commander of Calvary he exhibited an intrepidity and daring which won the admiration of friend and foe. “
    “We feel most tenderly and most painfully the intestimable cost at which our liberties have been maintained.”  {Illustrated History of Lowell, Massachusetts, Page 681}
    The Richardson Light Infantry became known as the Seventh Battery.   It was in “active service” at Fortress Monroe, Norfolk, Yorktown, and Suffolk, Virginia.  The Fifteenth Light Battery was mustered into war on February 17, 1863 and was commanded by Timothy Pearson of Lowell.  His first two Lieutenants were also Lowell men,  Their names were Albert Rowse and Lorinth Dame.   It served throughout the rest of the war and was mustered out on August 4, 1865.
    The Thirteenth Massachusetts Regiment held a few Lowell men, including George Bush, Captain of Company B who was killed at Chancellorsville.  Lowell had men in every army unit, it seems.  There are too many to count but some of the Companies that were formed included:
    Hill Cadets
    Butler Rifles
    Sixteenth Massachusetts Infantry
    The Sixteenth Massachusetts Infantry saw action in as varied as the battles of Fair Oaks, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  Many Lowell men lost their lives at Gettysburg.  One who died elsewhere was Lieutenant James B. Darracott, who fell at the Second Battle of Bull Run.  Needless to say, because most people are aware of this, he died while fighting troops under the control of famed Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson.
    As mentioned before, in some battles men pinned their names and hometowns on the back of their blue uniforms because they wanted to be properly buried.  At Gettysburg one of the  men who died, Captain David W. Roche  was from Ireland.  They wrote of him,
     “He was one of Ireland’s most noble sons, possessed of the real Irish impetuosity and courage.” {Ibid. Page 682}
    I cannot say enough about Lowell’s contribution to the war.  Over 500 men died in battle over the course of the war.  Few cities or towns made the ghastly sacrifice that Lowell’s men made.  Over 2% of our men died in the war.  They were, like the first two Lowellians that died, Ladd and Whitney, machine operators and mechanics, farmers, teachers, Irish laborers and the like.  The Memorial Library was named for them and their sacrifice.  Many bodies were never returned, probably because they had to be buried on the battleground.  Their empty graves dot many of Lowell’s Cemeteries and their names live on inscribed in the tough New England granite gravestones.  But the absence of some of the bodies does not diminish the sacrifices made on the battlefield.
I will continue to give you Lowell’s contributions and sacrifices in the War Between the States, but I intend to include, as time goes on, other wars and the contributions of those men, from the Revolution to Afghanistan.