Local author discusses Stafford soldiers in the Civil War
By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Thu., Oct. 10, 2013
Local author and historian Bruce G. Dutton describes the Civil War as the worst of all the wars, because it involved this country’s own people holding a revolution against the government. “It was okay when we [held a revolution against England], but not so when [the southern states] did the same,” he said. “I don’t think we really fought it to free the slaves, but that’s another story,” said Dutton, who offered those remarks and more at a talk at the Stafford Library on Monday, Oct. 7, to promote his 2002 book, entitled, “Stafford in the Civil War.”
Dutton said that as much as he hates war in general, he wanted to honor the soldiers of Stafford who served, and after spending a prodigious amount of time searching for information on them, he ended up compiling a book. The 87-page tome is an alphabetical compilation of those who fought from Stafford and those who are buried in local cemeteries. It includes information about individual regiments, diary entries and letters written home. “I just started making a list of the people, and gathering information about each of them,” he said.
Providing a few statistics, Dutton said there were 309 soldiers from Stafford who reportedly joined the military, and of those 66 were killed, 44 were disabled, 35 deserted and 54 were wounded. However, he said all of those figures are somewhat suspect, as men could sign up to serve in any town or state.
Dutton also said the concept of desertion was looked at differently than it is today, as people who lived in the 19th century were more independent thinkers who didn’t feel anyone had the right to tell them what they could or could not do. He said he suspects many signed up to get away from the hard work and tedium of farm work to chase after glory, only to come up against horror and carnage. Some likely got separated from their regiments during battles, while others may have just left. As independent thinkers, he said, they didn’t feel anyone had the right to tell them they couldn’t go home if they needed to get the crop in to feed their starving families. He said in the whole of the country, there were 270,000 desertions during the Civil War. “They didn’t have AWOL back then. They didn’t see things the same,” he said.
“Some say [the Civil War] was the first modern war. It came after the Industrial Revolution and we had more accurate guns and ammunition,” Dutton said. “The memorials to the war all seem to be all about guns, so I’m always pleased to see the angel in Hyde Park [in Stafford]. It’s a peace memorial,” he said.
Copies of “Stafford in the Civil War” may be purchased at the Stafford Library or at the Stafford Historical Society. During the months of September and October, the library will also be displaying artifacts and information on the subject of the Civil War on loan from the Stafford Historical Society.