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History of the 37th Massachusetts Infantry

In late August Major Oliver Edwards was given permission to organize the 37th Regiment of Infantry, mostly drawn from the four western Massachusetts counties. They were mustered into US Service between August 30 and September 4, 1862. They moved to Washington, where they remained for the better part of September, before being sent to Frederick, MD to join Devens’ Brigade, Couch’s Division, 4th Corps, Army of the Potomac. Shortly after, Devens’ unit became part of the 6th Corps.

The 37th made several expeditions into Maryland, but its first battle experience came on the left at Fredericksburg, December 11 – 15, 1862. It went into winter camp, but in January 1863 it participated in Burnside’s “Mud March,” then returned to its camp. In the spring campaign the 37th was engaged at Marye’s Heights and Salem Church.

It was part of the forced march to Gettysburg the night of July 1-2, covering 35 miles in an 18-hour march. The unit suffered heavy losses on the 3rd as it shifted from point to point to bolster the fighting units. In August, the 37th was sent to New York City to enforce the draft, and by autumn it was fighting at Rappahannock Station and Mine Run.

In the spring of 1864, the 37th headed for the Wilderness. They fought at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, before being sent to Petersburg. It conducted several other operations, such as those at Charles Town and Winchester, returning to Petersburg. It was also involved at Hatcher’s Run and Fort Fisher before the final assault on Petersburg. It was involved at Sailor’s Creek on April 6, 1865, capturing Generals Ewell, Kershaw and Custis Lee. But being a short distance away, they missed the “real action” at Appomattox Court House on the 9th.

The 37th Massachusetts was closing in on its term of service by this point, so they were one of the earlier units mustered out.

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About William A. Bartlett

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How William might have looked. He enlisted in the 37th Mass. Infantry at the age of 31.

These letters were written by Pvt. William A. Bartlett (1831-1897) who enlisted in Co. D, 37th Massachusetts Infantry during the American Civil War. William was the son of David Bartlett (1805-1836) and Cordelia Morey (1808-18xx). William married Alida Priscilla Fish (1829-1898) on 29 March 1854 in Westhampton, Massachusetts. Together they had at least five children: Clarence Alton Bartlett (1856-1929), Ida C. Bartlett (1857-1883), Mary A. Bartlett (1860-1915), Carrie M. Bartlett (1862-19xx), and Charles Watson Bartlett (1865-19xx).

Bartlett was above the median age for enlistees in the American Civil War and his age and health seems to have limited his ability to perform the full duty he desired. He complained of pain in his arm which seems not to have been caused by his duties as a soldier but possibly an old complaint — rheumatism. If he served in battle with his comrades of the 37th Massachusetts, he did not speak of it in any of these twelve letters. When his regiment was ordered to New York City in July 1863 to restore order during the draft riots, he did not accompany them, preferring instead to remain on a special detail that afforded him light duty at the Corps headquarters.

From the letters we learn that he was sent to a hospital in Washington D. C. prior to the end of 1863 and in the spring of 1864 he was still awaiting his discharge from the Veteran Reserve Corps. His military records state that he was mustered out of the service on 15 April 1864.

At the time of his enlistment, he gave his occupation as a carpenter. In the 1870 U. S. Census, he also gave his occupation as a carpenter. In the 1880 U. S. Census, however, no occupation is given for the 48-year old veteran who seems to have been an invalid “at home.” William and his wife Alida made their home in Blandford, Hampden county, Massachusetts after the war.

 

 

 

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These letters were purchased by an acquaintance of mine who asked me to transcribe and research them. In exchange for this service, he authorized me to post the letters on this blog so as to preserve the collective history contained in them for the benefit of historians and/or family researchers.

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