- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2006

The 2nd New Hampshire was one of the first regiments formed in response to President Lincoln’s call for troops in the spring of 1861.

In early May, as the regiment was recruiting, the War Department requested only units that would enlist for three years, not 90 days as previously done. Therefore, the 2nd was one of the first of the three-year regiments.

The regiment was mustered into service in June 1861 and left Portsmouth, N.H., on June 20 for Boston, then New York City, arriving in Washington on June 23. One of the regiment’s privates was George L. Chase of Company H.

In his service records (available from the National Archives), Chase is described as being 24 years old and 5-foot-3-inches tall and having black eyes, brown hair and a florid complexion. He stated that he had been a farmer before joining the Army. He was mustered in on June 5, 1861, for three years.

Sometime during Chase’s service, probably in the spring of 1862, he bought an ID tag. The tag is of the type with a bust view of George Washington and the words “George Washington Born February 22, 1732.” Research shows that the Merriam Co. made these tags. The word “Merriam” can be seen below Washington’s shoulder. This is Joseph H. Merriam, a known maker of ID tags.

Joseph Merriam is listed in Boston directories starting in 1854 and is shown as moving in 1857 to 18 Brattle Square, Boston. On some business cards dated 1863, it is 19 rather than 18. His cards list him as a “Die Sinker” and add “Medals struck in - gold - silver - copper, or Tin.”

These tags were bought from the sutler assigned to the regiment. Chase’s is stamped “Geo. L. Chase. Co .H. 2 R. E. G. BULL RUN WAGONER July 21, 1861 HENNIKER.” This is typical of the information stamped on Civil War ID tags. However, two pieces of information on this tag are unusual. The first is “Bull Run” and “July 21, 1861.” Chase was proud to have been there and had it stamped on his tag. The second is “Wagoner”; soldiers occasionally had their rank on their ID tag but seldom their assignment. Henniker was his hometown, as shown on his enlistment form.

Pvt. Chase’s early bimonthly returns show his status as “not stated”; this was common in the early part of the war. However, they do show that on Aug. 13, 1861, he was detached to the Quartermaster Department as a teamster.

Today if you go to the parking area on Matthew’s Hill, you will find a trail into the woods. Walking down this trail will bring you to a marker for the 2nd New Hampshire. The regiment was there about 11 a.m. on the 21st.

Later in the afternoon, the regiment was heavily involved in the fighting on the west side of modern Sudley Road, where the regiment lost seven killed, 56 wounded and 46 missing, according to one report.

The next entry in Chase’s records is for January-February 1862. It notes that Chase was “overpaid one day by Major Hazelton June 30 1861 $0.36.”

Chase is present as a teamster until May 25, 1863, when he is reported as absent, sick in Concord, N.H. Before this, in 1862, the regiment was involved in the siege of Yorktown (April 5 to May 4) and the battles of Williamsburg (May 5), Fair Oaks (May 31) and Malvern Hill (July 1) during the Peninsula Campaign.

After these engagements, the regiment was ordered back to Alexandria and arrived there in late August. From there it was sent west to Warrenton Junction for the beginning of the Second Bull Run Campaign. The regiment camped near Fort Ward after the campaign.

The history “Second New Hampshire Regiment” by Martin A. Hayes, published in 1896, says the unit “moved over to near Fairfax Seminary, going into camp to the rear of Fort Ward.” Later it says the regiment “built a line of rifle pits between Forts Ward and Worth.” Fort Worth has been destroyed, and nothing remains visible today.

The unit moved to Falmouth, Va., in late November 1862. The regiment spent the Battle of Fredericksburg in reserve.

The next major event in the regiment’s story is that it was detached from the Army of the Potomac and ordered to New Hampshire. This is described in detail in the regimental history, which describes how the regiment was ordered home on Feb. 28, 1863, and arrived there on March 3, 1863. The regimental history implies this was to allow the troops to vote in important local elections.

The regiment remained in New Hampshire until May 25, 1863, when it was ordered back to the Army of the Potomac. The muster roll for September-October 1863 suggests Chase got well but didn’t report back with the unit. The roll states he was “Apprehended as a deserter, Aug 14/63 in NH. Returned to duty by order of General [Gilman] Marston. Expense of apprehension $3.50 to be deducted from his pay.”

While Chase was gone, the 2nd was heavily engaged at the Battle of Gettysburg, suffering 193 killed, wounded and missing out of a total strength of 354, according to “Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg” by John Bussey and David Martin. The 2nd was in the heavy fighting on the Emmitsburg Road as a part of the 3rd Corps.

Chase returned to the unit in August 1863 and was present through the fall. However, in January 1864, his records note that he was fined “$0.90 for 1 canteen & 1 haversack.”

According to the regimental history, the 2nd was assigned to the Army of the James in April 1864. As a part of that army, the regiment participated in the fight at Drewry’s Bluff that took place between May 4 and 16. Afterward, the regiment rejoined the Army of the Potomac.

The final combat the 2nd saw was in the fighting at Cold Harbor. Because Chase was present until he mustered out on June 21, 1864, he must have been a participant in these actions. According to his service records, Chase came through with no injuries. When mustered out, he was due $15.11 for his clothing allowance and a bounty of $100.

For some reason, after his first term of service, Chase decided to return to the war and joined another regiment. On Sept. 5, 1864, he mustered into Company C of the 18th New Hampshire at Concord.

Records show he was born in Groton, Vt., and that he was to receive a bounty of $100. He also had aged, reporting he was 29, though he would have been 27 by the enlistment records cited earlier.

Chase is shown as “present” from Oct. 31, 1864, to February 1865. While on duty, he lost a haversack during January-February 1865, which cost him 67 cents from his pay. He was sent to a hospital on March 18, 1865, and he lost a canteen, which cost him 65 cents from his pay, during the March-April period.

He is shown as “admitted to Slough G.H. Alexandria Va, April 26, 1865 with chron. Diarrhea.” From there he was sent to Manchester, N.H., on May 25, 1865, and mustered out with the regiment on June 10, 1865. The government owed him $33.33 of his bounty and $48.84 for unused clothing allowance.

Regardless, Chase was a sick man. The regimental history of the 2nd New Hampshire notes that he died on June 13, 1865, at Henniker. Though he did not die while on duty, there can be no doubt that he died as a result of his service to his country.

Joseph Stahl is a longtime collector of Civil War memorabilia. He lives in Fairfax.

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