Monday, February 13, 2017

My Civil War Ancestor- Winslow Brainard Rogers

     If you've read all my blogposts, then you know I have a Civil War ancestor who was one of the seeds of my interest in genealogy.  We had a bundle his actual letters home in the house when I was a child. I read what seemed, at the time, as very sad letters home and I  wondered about this man. Here's what I've been able to discover. Winslow Brainard Rogers, grew up in Holden, Massachusetts, a small town just outside of Worcester. He worked at various jobs, but most of the census material has him working in a boot factory in Holden. One Worcester town directory from a time before his marriage listed him as a "painter" and I assumed "house painter".
     But as I researched for this post I found an intriguing clue. First I found  a paragraph in a history of Worcester County.
This is a listing for W. B.'s son Eugene, Harrington Rogers, who became a sign painter and an artist. Notice the last line of the first paragraph, "instruction from his father, also an artist".Then, I found W. B.'s  profession in his muster papers listed as "painter". Where are those paintings now?
      No photographs survive of Winslow. The best I am able to do is his physical description in those same muster papers.  He had blue eyes, brown hair and dark complected and stood 5 foot 7 inches tall. He was 37 when he signed up.  Winslow reported to Camp Wool, which was located in Worcester. Camp Wool had been formed at the Worcester Agricultural Fairground near where Elm Street Park is now.
Worcester Agricultural Fairground
The camp was just to the west of the actual park, in an area that's now residential. Here's a description of the site from one of the Civil War commemorative sites:
"Initially the camp was know as Camp Lincoln, in honor of a Massachusetts governor. The first regiment to occupy the site was the 21st Massachusetts in July of 1861. It was soon followed by the 25th. After these regiments departed in August and October respectively, the camp was not used until the July 1862 call for additional three-year regiments. Renamed Camp Wool (for General John Wool) the  site was designated as the rendezvous for three-year regiments from western Massachusetts. Units trained here were the 21st, 25th, 34th, 36th, 49th, 51st and 57th regiments of infantry."
W. B. Rogers was mustered into the 36th Massachusetts infantry, Company G in August of 1862. He was a bugler. At first I wondered about this. The war was going badly at this point. He was already 37 years old. He had a wife, a son and a baby on the way. What made him want to put himself in harm's way?  As we work our way through his letters, you'll see that this was a man of some conviction.
I have left much of the spelling, capitalization and punctuation as is, except in instances where it might be required for clarity.

"Camp Wool- Aug 22
Dear wife. I take this oportunity to write a few lines. I am well and enjoy myself as well as I expected. My thoughts are on those Dear ones at home. Oh four features are fixed on my mind and will be as long as I have my sence. I am trying my best to get a furlough but do’nt much expect to get one. Calvin Hubbard came into Camp yesterday. I have got into a very good company. There are a good many Christians and we have prayers
every night and there are a few things to enjoy. Warren and Caleb have just come to our tent. I feel very anxious about you. How does Eugene do. Kiss him for me and give my love to all.
                                                                                    W. B. Rogers"
Warren would be Jonas Warren Rogers, his uncle. Not sure which Caleb this is, but possibly Jonathan Caleb Rogers,  a cousin.

"Camp Wool- Sunday Aug 24 /62
Dear Wife
            I take one more oportunity of writing a few lines as I had flatered myself that I should see you today. but I cannot get out of camp at present. but hope I shall some day this week. It is as quiet as could be expected. We don’t drill today. we have preching this afternoon. We had a prayer meeting in our tent last night. There are a good many fine men in this Regiment. They are very indignent because they cannot get a furlough. Elmira and Caleb were in camp yesterday and brought me a basket of provisions. Oh I long to see you. Write me a line as often as you can. Tell Eugene to come in and see me. Give my love to all friends. William Nichols came into camp yesterday. I took a little cold last night but I feel quite well except that. Give my love to Mother if you see her. Tell her I feel that I am doing my duty to my Country and to you all. God Bless you.
From your loving husband.
                                                                        W. B. Rogers"
OK, this is definitely Jonathan Caleb Rogers, who was married at this time to Winslow's sister Almira. He mentions his mother, Betsy Howe Rogers as well. Winslow's father, George, died when he was only 5. I found guardianship papers appointing  Jonas Warren Rogers. (Warren of the previous letter) He was raised by both Warren and his mother Betsy. 
      This letter gives you some idea of distances at the time. Holden, today is barely beyond the town limits of Worcester by car.  Yet, the going to see W. B. in camp wasn't possible, apparently, for Cassandria and Eugene. 
     This is the beginning of a series of posts for Winslow Brainard Rogers. I'll be sharing copies of the letters along with any other information I can find over the coming months. W.B. was not Sullivan Ballou of Ken Burns fame; his letters are not profound or poetic, but they give you some idea of one man's journey at a time which defined our history.

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