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Ancestral Heroes, Your Ancestors, Fathers, Mothers, Grandfathers, Grandmothers, Uncles, Aunts, Friends, Who Served in the Civil War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, Gulf War.... and defended our freedom.
Alden, Leonard Case
LEONARD CASE ALDEN. Second Lieutenant 55th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), May 12, 1863; died at Hilton Head, S. C., October 5, 1863, of disease contracted in the service. LEONARD CASE ALDEN was born, December 22, 1839, in the city of Boston, -the son of William Vinton Alden and of Nancy Adams (Vinton) Alden. His autobiography in the Class-Book, after stating these facts, continues as follows: "On my father's side I am descended from John Alden, one of the passengers in the Mayflower upon its first voyage to Plymouth, A. D. 1620. The most important facts of his history can be found in any work upon the early history of Plymouth; and the romantic story of his courtship has been made by Mr. Longfellow the subject of his poem, 'The Courtship of Miles Standish.' John Alden settled first in Plymouth, afterwards in Duxbury, and was at a later period one of the original proprietors of the old town of Bridgewater. In some part of the old town, my ancestors in the line of my family name have resided since that time, engaged principally, as I suppose, in farming..... John Alden himself is supposed to have been of German blood. " On my mother's side I am descended from John Vinton, who came to this country not far from the year 1640. His branch of the family had probably recently lived in France, and belonged to the French Huguenots. The family is, however, an old English one, and the name can be traced back in England several centuries.... The branch of the family from which I am descended has lived for the most part in the town of Braintree. "I have lived in Boston all my life; and previous to entering college I had attended only the public schools of that city. I began my education at a primary school, kept in the basement of the Warren Street Chapel, from which I passed successively through the higher grades of public schools. In 1846 I entered the Brimmer Grammar School, taught by Mr. Joshua Bates; in 1852, the English High School, taught by Mr. Thomas Sherwin; and in 1855, the public Latin School, taught by Mr. Francis Gardner. After spending two years in this last institution, I entered Harvard College in September, 1857. At the Brimmer, the English High, and the Latin Schools I received Franklin medals. I also received a Lawrence prize each year of my attendance at the High School, for proficiency either in scientific or the literary department; and in the second year of my course there, I took an additional Lawrence prize for an essay upon 'Human Progress.' At the Latin School also, in the last year of my attendance there, I received a Lawrence prize for a translation into Greek of the concluding stanzas of Childe Harold. "In college I have been a regular attendant upon recitations, never having lost a day from sickness or other cause. I have been a member of the Rumford Society, the Institute of 1770, the Temperance Society, and the 4 B K. I may also mention, that in the Exhibition which took place October 18, 1859, I delivered a Latin version from a speech of Brougham on 'The Law Reform'; and for the Exhibition, May 7, 1861, an English oration was assigned me as my part, for the subject of which I selected ' Compromise.' "My life has thus far been a quiet one, spent principally in study, and not diversified by many events of special interest. In study, my tastes lead me principally towards physical and mathematical science, though I am also fond of philological study and of literature. "During my Senior year I have been engaged in reading Dante with Professor Lowell, and have spent many pleasant evenings with him over the pages of the Divina Commedia. Of my devotion to mathematics, I have also given a painful proof by continuing alone the study of that science with Professor Peirce, all the other members of the Mathematical Divison having relinquished the study at the close of the Junior year. "The idea of coming to college has been familiar to me ever since I was quite young. During the last part of my attendance at the English High School, however, I had in a great degree given up this purpose, as I then intended to make civil-engineering my profession; and therefore designed, as soon as I left that institution, to prepare myself for that business. But upon inquiry I found that I was then too young to pursue with advantage the studies of the Scientific School, and therefore I decided to come to college. But I nevertheless still cherish the intention of becoming a civil-engineer, and have continued to do so until quite recently."
"Of late, however, my plans for the future have become rather unsettled, and I have no course well marked out before me." Closing his college course by delivering the oration second in rank at the Commencement, on "National Character elevated by National Affliction," - which indicated the lively concern he even then felt in his country's highest interests, - Alden continued his studies during July and August, as was his wont even during his vacations, and returned to Cambridge in September to enter upon the duties of " Proctor and Assistant in Chemistry." While he held that appointment, his time was spent in assisting Professor Cooke in the lecture-room, in hearing recitations, in the instruction of private pupils, and in personal scientific investigations. Although study was his life, and from his physical, mental, and moral constitution he was averse to war, still the holy cause of our country appealed to him with great power. If, however, he felt uneasy on this account in his position at Harvard, he concealed the fact from his friends until the last moment. Continuing faithful to every duty, as he had always been, few knew that occupations which would have been in ordinary times most in harmony with his tastes were now chafing his soul. At last he was compelled to relieve his burdened mind. In a letter to a friend, of the date January 30, 1863, he says: "The question sometimes comes to me very seriously, especially when the American cause has met with reverses, or when I hear of friends and acquaintances who have laid their lives on the altar of patriotism, whether I ought to be here." This passage hints at what is believed to have had great influence upon his mind, —the patriotic death of many lamented classmates. When in charge of the ClassBook in the absence of the Secretary, from September, 1862, to June, 1863, he watched with well-grounded pride the swelling army and navy list; and when death took away one after another of those whose names were there recorded, he said to himself, "The places of these brothers must be filled. Is it not my turn now?" In his biographies of his classmates, - Almy and Doolittle, - to be found later in this volume, this working of inward solicitude is to be plainly traced. When permission was finally obtained for Massachusetts to send out colored regiments, and he saw how they would need brave, intelligent, sympathizing, Christian officers, his duty seemed to him plain,-so plain that neither the entreaties nor the arguments of friends, who thought his usefulness as a patriot would be greater in the study than in the camp, could convince him that he was mistaken. In this state of mind he writes: "I regret now that I did not enter the struggle earlier. My mind is pretty well decided that I shall take the first commission I can get. I may go even as a private, - at least I am willing to go in that capacity. Another extract from a letter will show that it was to him a privilege as well as a duty to take up arms in his country's defence. "You suggest a doubt whether it is my duty to go to the war.....Ought I to wait till it is proved to a demonstration that it is my duty to go? Or should I feel any happier, if I should one day have it to reflect upon, that though the country was ruined, I had been so prudent as to save myself harmless. Is it not as much a privilege as a duty to fight in this holy war? 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.' " Accordingly, at the recommendation of his classmate Hallowell, then the prospective Colonel of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, Alden was commissioned Second Lieutenant in that regiment, May 12, 1863; and he reported at Readville, without a day's delay. We have the comforting assurance in his own words that he did not regret his decision; for he says, "I have felt happier since I have known that I am going, for I have been a looker-on long enough." He was not one to take such a step without the most serious consideration of all the possible consequences. He did not await the summons of disease before preparing himself to encounter its results. Evidence of this forethought is continually recurring in his letters: "I have not a great deal of that sort of courage which renders one insensible to danger. But yet I trust I can meet danger or death without flinching.... If it please God, my life is as safe on the battle-field as at home; and if not, why should I wish to live?.. I have gained something. A man is not completely a man, until he is strong enough to lay down his life with composure and contentment. I am at least much nearer to that point than I was. And whether I go or stay, I shall feel much happier now that I have settled that point, that I am ready to go. I don't know that I ever quite understood before - certainly I did not by experience - what those words of Christ meant, 'He that saveth his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake, the same shall find it.' " In the last part of this extract our attention is called to an epoch in Alden's spiritual experience. He was justly characterized, in the resolutions passed by the Class upon learning his death, as "possessed of a spirit thoroughly progressive and craving growth." This was seen, not merely in his course with regard to the common moral reform questions of the day, in which he gradually reached and then openly and firmly maintained positions at that time called radical, but also, and perhaps quite as clearly, in his own inner religious life. No one would have called Alden in college an irreligious man, - so pure, so true, so conscientious, so earnest for the right and against the wrong, - and yet we find him not satisfied with rectitude -of deportment and unimpeachable morality, but seeking during the last year of his life something higher. This may be described in his own words: - "April 2. "Sometimes it seems to me that I have entered upon a new life; and I think, when I read the words of Jesus, my heart answers as it did not before. " If sincere penitence for sins committed, and a deep sense of unworthiness in the sight of God,- if the putting away of one's own righteousness, and the casting of himself humbly on God's infinite mercy, - if the renunciation of self-seeking, and a hearty desire to live to the glory of God, and to grow into his likeness, - if these constitute the new birth, then perhaps I may think, though with trembling, that I have passed from death to life. "I believe, too, that I need a Saviour, and that it was Christ's divine mission to save us from our sins; that he is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life; that Christ died for us, the just for the unjust, and that he is truly the Redeemer and Saviour of the world." And again:" Do I truly live now? 0, I dare not speak confidently, but I hope I do. " I do love God. I do desire to take up my cross and follow Christ and be his disciple. I do wish to live in communion with the Holy Spirit. " O, I shall have the noblest motives to inspire me. Not only shall I be working to maintain government, to put down treason, but I cannot help hoping that it will be my privilege to aid, in some degree, in the redemption of a race. I feel every day more sure that our land can never again enjoy peace and quiet, can never receive the blessings of God, can never raise its head again unshamed, until we have done full justice to the negro." Here we see the guiding principles which led him to take his life in his hand and to ally himself with a despised, race, in the hope of doing something for their elevation and the salvation of his native land. Here are the sentiments plainly expressed by him in health and strength, which he cherished as his chief consolation in the sad hours of his lonely sickness and death. His regiment was ordered in July to Newbern, North Carolina. After staying there a few days, it was transported to Folly Island, where it participated in the siege of Fort Wagner. Soon after his arrival in that trying climate, Alden was taken sick, and, the surgeon's efforts to check the disease proving unavailing, nothing remained but to seek home air again. After a great struggle he sent in his resignation, and set out for the North on the 2d of October; but too late. At Hilton Head he was just too late for the steamer for New York, and could only be taken to the army hospital, where he died October 5, 1863. His body, obtained by his brother with the greatest difficulty, and only after an appeal to the President himself, was brought home on the steamer Arago; his classmate, E. P. Gould, coming North by the same boat. Gould, with a few other classmates, attended the funeral services, which were held in Shawmut Church on March 14, 1864. The remains were deposited in the Vinton family tomb in Braintree, where rests the body of his father, with those of other relatives. As a scholar Alden's high position was never questioned; yet college rank lists, on 'which his name was always very near the head, told only part of the story. It should be remembered that his deafness was a constant obstacle to his creating a favorable impression in the recitation-room; and also that his attainments were not limited to the studies of the regular curriculum. To him study was its own reward, mental progress was a necessity, and the school and college honors, so often received, were rather incidents than aims. His scholarly acquisitions were not the hasty gains of genius, but the gradual accumulations of talents faithfully employed. Composition was difficult to him, yet he excelled in it; and a certain delight in overcoming obstacles seems to have induced him to give what he calls " a painful proof of his devotion to mathematics by continuing alone the study of. that science with Professor Peirce " during his Senior year. His proficiency in this department was attested by his taking the " Gray Prize," of two hundred and fifty dollars, for proficiency in mathematics during that year. As a friend he was faithful and true, cordial with his intimates, cheerful, and even mirthful. This was well understood by those who often resorted to his room, from which, however, his sociability carried him too seldom; and yet hardly a member of the Class was more interested in the welfare of the rest than was Alden. To say that no one of the many patriots who went out from among us was moved by purer views of duty than he, or performed more conscientiously the work assigned him, is indeed to give the highest praise, but still no higher than is deserved.
Colonel N. P. Hallowell, his first regimental commander, thus wrote of him: "With all who knew him, I mourn the loss of Alden. You knew him, and knowing him, need not be told how he discharged every duty, quietly, faithfully, cheerfully. It must have been high motives that led him, with his difficulty of hearing, and I think total disinclination to anything military, to leave his studies for this... "When he offered his services to aid the Fifty-fourth, as an officer, or in any other way, I tried very hard to dissuade him from taking the field, and finally was forced to refuse him my influence, on the ground that he lacked military experience. He was too much in earnest to give the project up. He applied himself to Casey's Tactics, and when the Fifty-fifth was started, again presented himself, - this time with credentials from his military instructor. He so clearly saw that a colored regiment was to be his field for labor, he was so religiously in earnest, that I no longer felt it right to stand in his way. His was the first commission issued in the Fifty-fifth, and his was the first life demanded."
Page 215Pardon Almy. 215
PARDON ALMY. Second Lieutenant I8th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), August 20, 1861; killed at Bull Run, Va., August 30, 1862. THE following is extracted from the autobiography of Pardon Almy, given in the Class-Book: "I was born in Little Compton, Rhode Island, at nine o'clock, P. M., on Monday, July 4, 1836. I am the son of Mary and Pardon, son of Sanford, son of John, son of Job, son of Job, son of William, who came from England and settled in the southern part of Tiverton, Rhode Island. There, and in the northern part of the adjoining town of Little Compton, the line of his descendants from whom I come have ever since resided, and have all been farmers. The old homestead is still in the Almy family. " My mother's maiden name was Mary Cook..... The first sixteen years of my life were spent on a farm. I began to go to school when five years old, attending only the summer term for the first two years, then for three years both the summer and winter terms; then, until I was sixteen, only the winter term, working on the farm in the summer. In September, 1852, I went to Pierce Academy, Middleborough, Massachusetts, where I stayed three terms, until May, 1853. During the summer I worked on the farm. In September I went back to school, and stayed one term. In the winter 1853-54 I taught school in the southeastern part of my native town. The summer was again spent on the farm; and in September I again went back to school, and remained two terms, until February, 1855. I then went into the office of Dr. M. B. Roche, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. With him I studied medicine a little, but was not very attentive to my studies, as I had no fancy for being a physician, having gone there at the solicitation of my brother rather than from any wish of my own. "4 I was there about seven months. Then I was for a time out of employ, quite undecided what to do next. I had an excellent offer to go into business, if I would wait until the next March, which I should probably have accepted if it had been immediate. I had for some time desired to go to college, but had not the means. I consulted my father, and was promised such assistance as he could render. In December, 1855, I again went back to Pierce Academy, and began the study of Latin and Greek under the tuition of C. C. Burnett. In September, 1857, I was admitted into Harvard College. I have been a member of the Institute of 1770, and of the O. K. Where I shall go, or what I shall do, immediately after leaving college, is quite uncertain." Pardon Almy was the second of the Class to die, - he was the first to die on the field of battle. Unhappily, he was not the last so to die; and how many more cherished friends, how many more valuable lives, the wicked Slaveholders' Rebellion will cost us, it is impossible to say.* Immediately after Commencement, 1861, (where he delivered an essay upon "The Prospects of Africa,") Almy went to New Bedford, where his brother Charles Almy resided, and opened a recruiting-office in that city, - having been promised by Governor Andrew a captain's commission in, case he should enlist a company. He was introduced by his brother to the Mayor of New Bedford and to other persons of influence there, and received from them such help as they could afford. But recruiting went on very slowly. After persevering a few weeks in his efforts to raise a company, Almy relinquished the attempt; and, having sent into camp the recruits he had raised, he himself went to Readville, and acted as instructor in drill. During the month of August he was commissioned by Governor Andrew as Second Lieutenant, Company K, Eighteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, Colonel Barnes. This regiment went quite early to the seat of war, and arrived in Virginia August 30, 1861, -just one year before Almy's death. It was stationed at this time at Hall's Hill, opposite Washington. During the following winter this regiment, with others, was principally employed in cutting down woods and building roads, no proper military operations being at that time carried * Note by the Editor. - This sentence is allowed to remain as originally written in the Class-Book, April 22, 1863, by its author, who himself enlisted within a month after that time, and died within six months, in the service. His biography precedes this in the volume.
When Manassas was evacuated by the Rebels, in the spring of 1862, Almy's regiment went to Vienna, a few miles west from Washington. When General McClellan moved down the Peninsula, this regiment went with him, in General Fitz-John Porter's division. It was engaged in the siege of Yorktown, but did not participate in much of the fighting in the campaign against Richmond. A singular accident prevented it from taking part in the seven days' battle immediately before Richmond. The regiment, with others, was sent out on an expedition under General Stoneman, expecting to meet the enemy and to see some hard service. But they did not find the enemy as they expected; and they were cut off from the main body of the Federal forces by a movement of the Rebels in their rear. For several days the whole force was supposed to be captured by the Rebels; but General Stoneman retreated down the York River, and then marched up the James, rejoining the main body of the army after an absence of seven or eight days, at Harrison's Landing. They thus escaped in safety from the hands of the enemy, but they lost all their camp equipage, which was burned; and for three weeks after their return they were without tents to shelter them. After the Army of the Potomac was withdrawn from the Peninsula, Almy's regiment was joined to General Pope's army, and fought in the battle of Manassas, August 29 and 30, 1862. From the first day's fight Almy came out unharmed, but upon the second day he was killed. His company was ordered to take a certain battery. They charged and took it. But on capturing this battery, they found a second still in front. While advancing against the second battery they came under a very severe cross-fire, and were forced to retire. While retreating, Almy was heard to exclaim, "God! they'll annihilate us!" and the words had hardly been spoken when a bullet struck him in the head and instantly killed him. The field was left in possession of the enemy; hence his body was not recovered, and no memento marks its resting place.
At the time of his death he was twenty-six years and two months old. His career as a soldier was every way creditable to him, as the following extract from a letter from Major Joseph Hayes of the Eighteenth Regiment will testify. Major Hayes says: "His conduct in the late engagement, in which he fell, is mentioned in the highest praise by all the officers who were engaged with him. He fell right in the very front, while bravely cheering on his men under a most galling fire, and displayed to the last a spirit of intrepidify and gallantry surpassed by no one. Lieutenant Almy was always prompt, faithful, and zealous, and cheerful too, in the performance of his duty as a soldier." Almy's cheerful performance of his duty was especially noteworthy. His letters to his friends were always written in good spirits, no matter what the circumstances, in which he was placed. He was a young man of excellent abilities, more distinguished, however, by the general balance of his faculties than by extraordinary pre-eminence in any special department. He possessed good judgment, the best common sense, and great tact in all practical matters. He had much kindness of heart and was always good-natured and cheerful. His qualities as a friend and companion cannot be spoken of too highly. He enlisted in the military service of his country from motives of the purest patriotism, and in dying he ended generously a life which he had generously lived.