Glimpses of Soldiers' Lives: Charles F. Sherman
Prints and Photographs
Private Charles F. Sherman of 2nd Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery, with inset photo of unidentified woman and Grand Army of the Republic medal in case
“In case I am killed, this will draw my 3 years wages & bounty money,” wrote Charles F. Sherman on the reverse of his enlistment certificate, signed on August 6th, 1861. The grim contingency plan was unaddressed; perhaps it was intended for the woman tucked into the corner of Sherman’s ambrotype photograph.
His potential fate in mind, the twenty-year-old Sherman had left his hometown of Watertown, Massachusetts, and his career as a box maker to enlist with the 2nd Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery. It was the first Massachusetts battery committed to a term of three years of service in the Union army during the American Civil War.
Over the following years, Sherman and the 2nd Massachusetts Battery would cover incredible ground, criss-crossing land and sea. The regiment departed from Quincy, Massachusetts, on August 8, 1861, and headed for Washington, but was soon rerouted to Baltimore. A new commander, Captain Ormand Nims, joined the regiment in Baltimore and led them on an expedition through the Eastern shore of Maryland. Its purpose was to upset Confederate recruitment and to generally intimidate the opposition.
By December, the Confederate force was apparently sufficiently discouraged, and the regiment returned to its Baltimore area camp until February. Then it embarked on the DeWitt Clinton transport ship, destined for New Orleans and then Baton Rouge, where it arrived on June 2nd. That summer, it assisted Admiral Farragut’s fleet in a difficult demonstration against Vicksburg, and then was quickly called upon to return to Baton Rouge and aid against a Confederate attack. The regiment changed its position no less than four times in its efforts to overcome its enemy, suffering little loss, and a victory for the Union defense ensued.
The regiment spent the winter in Baton Rouge and the spring and fall of 1863 in expeditions across Louisiana. It began its return trip towards Massachusetts on November 1st, but that soon became complicated. In the early morning of November 3rd, the rear section of the regiment, under Lieutenant William Marland, was attacked. “[I] was attacked in camp before I could get harnessed,” he recalled. Though taken by surprise, Marland and the group were soon able to equip their horses and repel their assailants.
Sherman and his regiment then continued their journey home. They wintered at Franklin, Tennessee, and in early March joined General W. B. Franklin’s Red River expedition, which sent them back south to Louisiana. They were involved in a severe engagement on April 8th, outside of Mansfield, Louisiana, in which they lost three men and all of their guns.
The men were taken to New Orleans by boat and then finally to Boston on the U.S. Mail Steamer Matanzas. They were mustered out on August 16th, 1864.
Charles Sherman would live to see a new era for the nation. He died on January 29, 1928, at the age of 86.
"Certificate to muster Charles F. Sherman into 2nd Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery at Camp Adams, Quincy, Massachusetts.” LOT 14043-3, No. 23. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
"Charles F Sherman.” The American Civil War Research Database from: Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War, (Adjutant General); Massachusetts GAR: Journal of the Annual Encampment; GAR Dept of Massachusetts 1866-1947 (Sargent), (Heritage Books, Inc).http://asp6new.alexanderstreet.com/cwdb/cwdb.object.details.aspx?handle=person&id=100008389 [subscription resource - access inside Library of Congress buildings]
"2nd Massachusetts Light Artillery Battery.” The American Civil War Research Database. http://asp6new.alexanderstreet.com/cwdb/cwdb.object.details.aspx?handle=regiment&id=101002 [subscription resource - access inside Library of Congress buildings]
Compiled by: Ann Tyler Moses, Liljenquist Family Fellow, 2012. Last updated 2012 July.