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Chapin, Edward

EDWARD CHAPIN. Private 15th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), August 6, 1862; Sergeant; died at Baltimore, Md., August 1, 1863, of wounds received at Gettysburg, Pa., July 2. EDWARD CHAPIN, son of Nicholas Baylis and Margaret (Fletcher) Chapin, was born at White Pigeon, Michigan, May 15, 1841. He was the youngest son in a family of four sons and four daughters. His father and mother were both born in Worcester County, Massachusetts, - his father in the town of Sutton, and his mother in Northbridge; and his ancestors on his father's side, for seven generations, were natives of Massachusetts, and directly descended from Deacon Samuel Chapin, who came from England about the year 1640. His parents removed to Michigan in September, 1831; and at White Pigeon in that State his father died the 6th of July, 1845. In September of the same year his widowed mother, with her two youngest sons, returned to her father's home at Whitinsville, in the town of Northbridge. The next summer Edward Chapin began to attend the district school in Whitinsville; and he completed his preparation for college at the academies in Plympton and Andover, Massachusetts. In September, 1860, he was admitted to the Freshman Class of Harvard University. In July, 1862, at the end of his Sophomore year, he went home for the college vacation. Soon after, at the close of the Peninsular campaign, came a call for more men, to fill up our armies. Chapin determined to enter the service, and accordingly enlisted as a private in the Fifteenth Massachusetts Volunteers. On August 6, 1862, he wrote in his diary:" I have this day solemnly sworn to bear true and faithful allegiance to the United States, and to assist in maintaining its laws against all its enemies. I am now in the service and under the pay of 'Uncle Sam,' as a private in Company H, Fifteenth Massachusetts Regiment. After bidding good by to the dear ones at home, Ira Parkis, Henry Ainsworth, and I came up to Worcester and were sworn into the service of the United States." In this same company were three cousins of Chapin's, from Whitinsville, - Samuel, James, and George Fletcher, three brothers, who are several times mentioned in this sketch in the extracts from Chapin's diary and letters. On the 13th of August the recruits left Camp Cameron in Cambridge, to join their respective regiments in the field. On the 14th they arrived in New York, and on the 15th were embarked on board the steamship Catawba for Fortress Monroe, where they arrived next day. Here the news came that McClellan had evacuated Harrison's Landing. Accordingly the recruits remained at Camp Hamilton, near the fort, till the 24th, when they marched to Newport News, where the recruits for the Fifteenth joined that regiment, and were distributed into their respective companies. -On the 23d the regiment was embarked on board the transport Mississippi, and it arrived at Alexandria on the 28th. Soon afterwards the recruits received their arms and equipments, and the Fifteenth Regiment marched to the neighborhood of Fairfax. The Rebels were now advancing with a strong force into Maryland, and our army was ordered into that State to meet them. The Fifteenth Massachusetts crossed the Potomac by the Chain Bridge, and, by rapid marches, arrived in time to take part in the battle of Antietam. Chapin gives in his diary, under date of September 17, his experience in that battle. "1 We were called at half past two, A. M., and ordered to be ready to move at daybreak; but it was seven o'clock before we left camp. We forded the Antietam Creek, and crossed the fields in the direction of the enemy. Our artillery kept up a continual firing from the opposite side of the creek, and were replied to by the enemy. We halted beside a fence, and by the left flank and over was the work of a minute. At this place the Rebels threw some, shells among our generals; one of the recruits, Shoules, was killed instantly. Double-quick, and we were soon ahead of this piece of ground. It was very hard travelling over ploughed ground, and that, together with the exertion of keeping in line, tired me very much. The shells continued to follow us, and it was very evident that the Rebs could see all our movements from where they stood. We passed by a stone house and barn which were used as a hospital, and entered the woods. Here the broken guns, the dead and dying of our men, showed plainly that the battle had raged but a short time before. " In front of these woods was an open field where the Rebels had formed their line of battle. In this lot the enemy lay thickly. It seemed as though every third man must have fallen before the aim of our men. We passed over this line, and I suppose my heart was hardened by the excitement; for I could look upon them with the utmost indifference. We obliqued to the right, and soon saw a body of our troops lying in the edge of the woods, who received a volley as we came in sight. We marched into the woods in great disorder; and before we had time to form a line of battle, the bullets flew like hailstones, and many a brave comrade laid down his arms and went to a soldier's reward. I saw Murphy as he died; Hayden lay beside him, and a third was at my feet. I loaded and fired as fast as I could, but aimed at something every time; for I was not so excited but that I knew all that was going on, and realized my situation. We were on a rise in the ground, on a ledge of rocks, in full view of the enemy, who lay below us in a cornfield. They fired in deadly volleys, and the bullets flew thick and fast. Georgy [his cousin, George Fletcher, mentioned above] was struck and slightly wounded in the first fire, in the lip; another ball passed through his breast-coat-pocket. One ball struck my gun and tore the wood as I was putting on a cap, but passed by without touching me. We remained in this place for three quarters of an hour, the officers said, though certainly it did not seem more than fifteen minutes, when we had orders to cease firing. Just at this time a ball passed through Jimmy [his cousin, James Fletcher], just between the eyes, killing him instantly. He had stood there, bearing up bravely and doing his duty nobly during the whole fight; and then, just as he had almost finished his work, he died. Sam and Georgy stepped up to him, but seeing that he was gone they left him. I saw him just before he fell and just after, but did not see him fall. I stood the third from him back and to the left of Ed Tanner; Sam Batcheler fell near by, and Ike Marshall was also left there. The Rebels flanked us, and made it absolutely necessary for us to retire. I did not see many of the boys, and tried to keep with one or two, but when I got back to a house used as a hospital I lost sight of them all. As we were falling back it seemed as though the balls flew thicker than before; but perhaps I noticed them more. I gave nearly all my water to a man wounded through the lungs, and oh, how eagerly he grasped my canteen as I knelt down by his side! " I went back, trying to find our men, but not seeing any except Dunn, I went back to the house that we passed in the morning and got some water, and I never found any that tasted better than at that moment. I then found Dixon and a few of the boys; bit none knew where the regiment lay. We went back towards the battle-field, and after some inquiries we found the brigade; there were thirteen of the company present of sixty-three who had gone out with us in the morning..... We went in with five hundred and seventy-four men, and now number two hundred and fifty. Four commissioned officers were killed and five wounded." Soon after the battle of Antietam the Fifteenth Regiment moved with our army towards the Potomac, and forded the river near Harper's Ferry. The army remained in camp at or near Bolivar Heights till about the middle of November, when it moved to Falmouth, opposite to Fredericksburg, and there went into camp. In the first Fredericksburg battle Chapin's regiment was in the reserve. The Fifteenth Massachusetts at that time was in the Second Division, Second Corps; General Hancock commanding the corps, and General Gibbon the division. The regiment crossed over the river on the first day (December i ), late in the afternoon, and passed the night under the river's bank. Early the next morning it advanced without opposition into the city of Fredericksburg, and during the following night was out on picket duty. In a letter to his cousin, dated December 19, 1852, he thus narrates the further part taken by his regiment in the battle: " About half past eight (in the morning of December 13th), heavy firing, both musketry and artillery, began on the left of the line, and the battle had in reality commenced. The Fifteenth fell in and was rapidly marched to the scene of action, about two o'clock, P. M. As we were passing through one of the streets, crash came a shell through a building a few feet in front, and bursting killed the doctor and one of our company, severely wounding others. Another compliment of the same sort was paid us a few minutes after, and we started double-quick for the battle-field. The Major was soon after wounded, and we took up our position behind a hill as a reserve. During all this time the firing had been terrific; and as we saw regiment after regiment advance over the hill behind which we lay, and some of them come falling back in disorder, not being able to stand the murderous fire of the enemy, our hearts almost failed us. Twice the Eighteenth Massachusetts made a charge upon their works, and twice were driven back, cut almost to pieces. Thus the battle raged until about five o'clock, when we saw a long column of men coming into the fight. Cheer after cheer went up, and they advanced boldly over the hill, and we surely thought that the day would then be ours. The firing then became, if possible, more terrible than before, and to our dismay the troops came falling back; some of them without hats, guns, or anything else. Then the Fifteenth advanced to the second line, and on the plain where the battle had raged. Darkness came on, and the battle ceased. As we filed into line and lay down, we received a volley; but it was too high, and but few were injured. We lay out on picket again that night until one o'clock. I shall long remember those hours. They did seem long, as men wounded and dying called for help when we could not assist them." At some time during the winter or spring of 1863, Chapin became Orderly Sergeant of his company, of which his cousin, Samuel Fletcher (mentioned above) was then First Lieutenant. During the winter and following spring our army remained in camp near Falmouth, until the battle of Chancellorsville, in which the regiment was again in the reserve. The army remained in the camp opposite Fredericksburg until the enemy, in June, 1863, began their movement north into Maryland, when our forces left their camp, and by long and sultry marches, by way of Dumfries and Fairfax Station, advanced into Maryland, and finally met and conquered the Rebels at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In this battle Chapin received the wounds which eventually proved mortal. He was wounded as the Fifteenth Regiment, driven in by the superior force of the enemy, was retreating across an open field. The first shot brought him to the ground, and while lying on the field he was shot twice again, -once in the left thigh and a second time in the right knee. He lay on the field of battle from' the afternoon of July 2d, when he was first wounded, till Sunday, the 5th, when he was removed to Newton University Hospital, Baltimore. July 8th he wrote to his mother from the hospital at Baltimore, informing her that he had been wounded and was then in the hospital. This letter is here given almost entire, as it is so characteristic of the man, showing as it does his courage and cheerfulness, and that tender regard and love for his widowed mother which leads him to under-estimate the danger of his wounds lest she should be unduly anxious for his safety. The letter is written with a pencil, and the characters are so faint as to be almost illegible. It was with the greatest difficulty that he could write at all; he could not sit up, neither could he draw up his limbs to rest his paper upon, and he could only write a few lines at a time. "BALTIMORE, July 8, 1863. "MY DEAR MOTHER, - We left Union Town the 1st of July, and reached Gettysburg about nine, P. M. Early Thursday morning we marched to the battle-field, and lay in line till afternoon. A little before three, P. M., the batteries on both sides opened, and the Fifteenth then took its position farther in front and behind a fence. Here we lay for about an hour and a half, listening to and watching the fight going on to the left. About five o'clock our skirmishers were driven in. The Second New York Regiment, on our left, was flanked by the Rebels, and fell back. The Fifteenth followed them, and then the men began to fall. We had to cross an open, level plain about three hundred yards wide before reaching any place of shelter. While crossing this the enemy were advancing and pouring into us a heavy fire. I fell just about ten yards from the wall, on the back of the field; the enemy passed over me, but very few of them returned. While lying there the bullets came from every direction, and the wonder is that I was not killed. The first ball struck me in the right knee and brought me to the ground. As I lay there, another struck me again in the right knee and passed out at the same place as the first one. A spherical-case shot entered my left thigh and hip about an inch and a half from the joint, and I had it cut out and now have it in my possession. I am too tired to write much more. I cannot tell you of my journey to this hospital. Suffice it to say that I only reached this place last night, the 7th. Of course I have suffered some in the mean time. My wounds are doing finely, and I shall soon be able to walk with crutches. I was fortunate in not having any bones broken. There is nothing dangerous in my wounds; so do not be anxious about me. I have received every kindness and attention since I came into this city, and you may rest assured I am in good hands. The Lieutenant [Lieutenant Fletcher] was wounded at the same time I was, - shot through the head. The doctor said he could not live; but when I last saw him, day before yesterday, he was looking much better, and I am confident he will, with good care, recover. At all events his old love of fun has not left him, for he made my sides ache with laughing. " Glorious news from Vicksburg, isn't it? Much love to all. Send your letter as this letter is headed. Haven't heard from any one since the 19th of June. "Ever your affectionate son, " ED." His wounds, though severe, were not considered dangerous at first, and were not so reported by the surgeons. But towards the end of July his case became very critical, and his friends, learning of his failing strength, hastened to be with him. At this time it was thought that to save his life amputation of the right leg must be made. Amputation accordingly took place, but he survived the operation but a few hours, dying the next morning, August I, 1863. His mother and brother were with him during the last two days of his life, and in this brief interview were cheered by his unshaken trust in the Saviour, and his assurances that he felt not the least regret that he had given himself to his country. His funeral took place from the house of his grandfather (Samuel Fletcher, Esq.), in Whitinsville, from whose dwelling two other grandsons who fell in battle within that year had been borne to their graves, while two others were there yet suffering from wounds received in battle. Any sketch of Edward Chapin which omitted to notice his religious character would be essentially incomplete. He early became a professed disciple of Christ, and to the end of his life he proved the genuineness and sincerity of his belief by his consistent Christian walk and conversation. In the hour of death his faith and hope did not fail him. A friend, writing of his last hours, says:" He met death, not only with entire resignation, but apparently with triumph. A few hours before his departure he engaged in audible prayer, which was listened to with deep emotion by the hospital attendants and the wounded men about him. He prayed for the surgeons of the hospital, for the nurses, for the sick and suffering men, for the soldiers in the army, for his country that it might be delivered from its dangers, and for himself that he might be fully prepared for the change before him." In person he was of medium height, strongly built, with broad shoulders and full chest. His features were regular; his hair and eyes were light; his mouth well shaped, with his lips firmly shutting; his whole face indicating a firm and resolute character. Chapin was modest and unassuming in his manners, and perhaps somewhat reserved in his demeanor towards strangers, but thoroughly manly and independent in spirit. He usually held a high rank in his Class, whether in College or at the Academy; but he was a careful and thorough scholar, rather than a showy one. As a soldier he was resolute, patient, and faithful; thoroughly convinced of the justice of the cause for which he fought, and unwavering in his confidence in its success.



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