This grouping of accoutrements belonged to Private Stephen Homans, Co.A, 6th Mass Vols., and went thought Baltimore, Maryland, where the first Massachusetts blood was shed in the Civil War.
After confederate batteries began shelling Fort Sumter, South Carolina, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call on April 15th, 1861, for 75,000 volunteers; the 6th Massachusetts Infantry (along with one Pennsylvania regiment) were the first to respond, heading out for Washington, D.C. on the morning of April 18th.
Once the regiment arrived in Philadelphia, Colonel Jones had received information that word coming from Baltimore was that trouble was brewing, causing the colonel to inquire of railroad officials at to the availability of transportation through Baltimore, thus avoiding any open conflict with the citizenry there. Railroad officials in Baltimore assured constantly that no trouble would occur unless the regiment provoked it.
The arrival of the 6th Mass in Baltimore at 10:00 A.M. took the city by surprise, but very quickly any assurances made previously where lost in the immediate confusion and the growing mobs now prevented safe and organized passage through the city. Clubs, bricks, rocks, anything that could used by the mob now had officer’s of the regiment concerned about the ranks opening fire on civilians, which they had been ordered prior to their arrival in Baltimore not to do.
Do to the many obstructions of the track, or that simply torn up across the city, transportation for four remaining companies was not forth coming. The mob had grown to an estimated 10,000, “the air was filled with yells, oaths, taunts, all sorts of missiles, and soon pistol and musket shots.” The officer who, at the desire of the other officers in the regiment decided to take command of the four companies was Captain Albert S. Follansbee, who now gave orders to the soldiers to fire at will. Through the danger proceeded the column in the following order, Co. C, I, L, and lastly Co.D. Finally making it to the station, amid the carnage, four men from the column had been killed, and about 36 wounded soldiers; several of them left in Baltimore and the bulk of the wounded brought with the regiment to Washington and sent to hospital there.
On their way to the seat of war, the first bloodshed had been spilt in a northern city, with unfortunately, a numerous constituency of southern sympathizers. Company “A” had gotten through not suffering any casualties, but like all the men of the regiment, had the distinction of arriving first at the Nations capital.
Private Stephen Homans, like most of the men comprising the 4 companies in Lowell, Massachusetts, with only hours notice assembled early on the morning of the 16th in Lowell. At the age of 19, Homans was mustered into Federal service, in Washington, on the 22nd of April, to serve for three months. He mustered out of service in Boston, on August 2, 1861. Homan’s would re-enlist into the 2nd Mass Infantry the following November, into Co. “E” of that regiment but would be discharged for disability on January 14, 1862.
His grouping consist of the following:
- C.STORMS contract .58 caliber cartridge box with its original shoulder sling. Missing both cartridge tins and the ’39 eagle breastplate. Maker marked on both side of the box. Nicely toned oval US box plate held on with the original leather thong. “U.S.” in large 10mm high letters stamped beneath the box plate. The underside of the main flap has Homan’s stencil used twice on the leather surface. Hard to read at first, but all becomes rather clear; Stephen Homans / Co, A 6th Mass Vols. This was done using an issued type stencil. longest length (Co. to Vols.) is 3 1/8 ” Not all of the lettering is clear, but close inspection will reveal Homans name. Condition overall is very good, dryness, crackled finish to leather on sling, straps, and flap corners. Stitching sound, some bug damage in a few places only, refer to photos.
- Cap Box, early militia type with squarish flap, belt loops are completely sewn on. Long inner flap; not much left of wool fleece within box. General wear overall , all tight stitching. Nice untouched surface.
- M1858 smooth sided canteen. The brown wool cover still caked with dirt from a century ago, and rubberized residue from being in a heap with the other pieces of this group. One side is pretty rough, no sling, no stopper and chain. There is no maker marking on the spout. It tis what it is.
- M1857 Militia tarred (rubberized) canvas, knapsack. Surprisingly in very nice condition, with the leather straps all present other that the blanket straps missing from the top of the knapsack. leather shows crackled, crazed surface, some dryness, but displays very well. One mouse chew as sewn in photo (approximate inch or so round). Linen tie downs on one side of the inner flap partially gone. There is a name written inside the top panel, “J.O. B……”( mostly likely issue to this soldier, if he was a soldier, or written in much after the period?)
- Rubberized wet weather 1851 Shako cover, No doubt what piece of headgear this went on. See the image of the 6th Mass soldier painted by Don Troiani, wearing these shakos going to Washington. This was probably place easy to get to in case of rain. Maker marked inside the crown,” .” One of the eyes for holding up the havelock style flap (on the front right side- easy fix) is missing. This like the canteen and all the other items were carelessly thrown into a box, and consigned to a barn, so is suffers wrinkles, flaking, and general wear. If put on a mold or a shako, some good restoration could done, by simply reshaping over a form. This is a scarce piece of headgear accessory.
- The History of the 6th Massachusetts, did not come with the group originally, but was a need addition for simply wanting the history of this regiment and its early involvement going to Washington, getting through Baltimore, etc. I rough shape for the book buying type, but a great tool to keep with this group. Some hard wear on corners, spine, and some pages loose or separated. 99% intact, and all there.
- Beside the copied reference material I have added, there is a note by a previous owner listing the articles here within, minus one of two cap boxes. I never saw it. The group was purchased many years ago from a New York State auction house. Stephen Homans grouping ended up in a barn in Otego, N.Y., and that is all I know.
Colonel Edward F. Jones of Pepperell, Ma (Town of Col. William Prescott of Bunker Hill fame) received President Abraham Lincoln’s official call for troops, through the Massachusetts Adjutant General’s Office three days later on the 15th, directing the 6th Massachusetts to depart the state for Washington. At noon on the 18th the regiment departed Boston, arriving in Philadelphia at 1:00 o’clock A.M., April 19th. Taken from the 6th Mass history comes this extract highlighting history’s repetitive powers for the “Minutemen of 1861”; “If it had been in the power of the government, for dramatic and patriotic effect, to arrange the programme in the best possible manner, could any other day have been so propitious for treason to strike down its first victims, as the anniversary of the day, on which was
“Fired that shot- heard round the world” –
at Lexington, April 19, 1775? And is it not remarkable, that some of the descendants of the very men who then shed their blood in the beginning of the first great war for independence, should have been the first to fall in the last, and that, too, on the same immortal day? The nineteenth of April will, hereafter, unite Lexington and Baltimore on the page of American history; for each begun a long and bloody war, and Middlesex county was represented in both conflicts.”
Having lived in Massachusetts most of my adult life, having called Pepperell home, visited Lexington and Concord too many times to count, loving our country’s history, and valuing the glorious date of April 19th as a patriotic American, I marvel how I never loose that humbling experience when handling such items as these.
The print of the 6th Mass soldier going through Baltimore was painted by Don Troiani.