The Civil War & Holliston: 151 Years Later
Company B of the 16th Massachusetts Regiment saw about 50 Holliston men sign up
when the call came in April, 1861. Many more signed up in the years after 1861 as the
war dragged on.
The names of the men who died are inscribed on the monument at town hall. The money
was raised for the memorial by the women of Holliston, who funded many projects in town.
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.