Archive 2008 - 2019

The Civil War & Holliston: 151 Years Later

by Paul Saulnier

The men were anywhere from teenaged to early 50s, and most are listed as mechanics, being factory workers rather than farmers. According to Arlene Abbott: "the photo above is of my great grandfather, James Henry Livingston Keegan, who was part of Co.K, 43rd Regiment, New York infantry.  He was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, transferred to the veterans Reserve Corps in Washington, D.C. and served as a member of the Honor Guard at  President Lincoln's bier (the framework on which his coffin was placed).  I had a plaque beside the picture on the mantel, but it is old and probably difficult to read.  Not connected to Holliston but one of my favorite ancestors.  After the Civil War he moved to Massachusetts and eventually was a mill manager in Uxbridge."

Holliston residents agreed to look after the families while the men were gone until they returned and even if they did not return.

Town Historian Joanne Hulbert provided much of the details related to the  members that attended the session at the Historical Society regarding Holliston's participation in the Civil War. Joanne pointed out that after the initial call for the best and ablest of the men of Holliston, the restriction was eventually lifted and that old adage "the Irish need not apply" allowed them to enlist as well. Their families were also looked after while they were off firing the war.

 Over thirty society members attended this informative session.


Frank Chamberlain, who participates in Revolutionary War reenactments, spoke of how Holliston's enlistees showed up for duty, proudly dressed in new grey wool uniforms with brass buttons, an "unfortunate" color choice. Frank pointed out that during the early days of the war, southern soldiers often intercepted shipments of goods from the north and ended up dressed in blue uniforms. He said eventually the color scheme was sorted out.


Many relics form the Historical Society's collection were on display.

Rick Brown, who also participates in Revolutionary War re-enactments, but on the opposite side from Frank, spoke about his ancestors who fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. Rick especially enjoys shooting at Frank. 

Sheila Adams told of the historic Adams family that she married into. She had lots of information about the Adams' participation in the war, mostly in the Navy. Pictures of the ships they sailed and even an Admiral's hat were on display.


This was Doctor C.C. Jewett's chair used in the field when he was treating the wounded. C. C. Jewett's chair is displayed in front of the portrait of Dr. Sewall Burnap. The two doctors alternated their service to the troops,  First Jewett went, then Burnap relieved him.

So that's how they made those skirts so puffy.

Resident Sewall Fiske signed up in 1861 at the age of 51 claiming to be only 41. An ardent abolitionist, Sewell went south to preach the evils of slavery. One night he was discovered walking down a dirt road, stripped of his clothes and dressed in a suit of tar and cotton, not a spot of skin to be seen. He returned home soon thereafter.

Elbridge Cutler wrote many poems about the war. One in particular was so good that it was used by both sides to rally the troops. Cutler had forgotten to put in any words about the north.

During June, 1862, three of Holliston's enlisted men were killed in action and six more eventually died of wounds inflicted in that month. A total of 364 men from Holliston served during the war, 66 over its quota.