Do the father-and-son Mainers who went off to save the Union both lie in unmarked graves?
Tracey McIntire of Maryland is not sure where the father lies, but she has visited the burial site of the son — and it’s definitely not marked with his name, no thanks to the Veterans Administration.
Henry Herrick left his home in Norway to join Co. G, 14th Maine Infantry Regiment on Jan. 21, 1862. Forty-three at the time, Herrick left behind his 43-year-old wife, Ruth Leach Herrick, and their 14 children: Sarah, Harriet, Eliza, Joseph, Rebecca, Edward, Mary, Newton, Orpha, Daniel, Ruth, Willie, Howard, and Rose.
The 19-year Harriet was Tracey McIntire’s great-great grandmother. Joseph would have been her several times removed great uncle.
The 14th Maine Infantry sailed from Boston aboard the steamer North American in February 1862. Henry Herrick went ashore on Ship Island in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, March 8 and stayed there until leaving for occupation duty in New Orleans in late May.
Standing 5-6, Herrick had blue eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion likely due to the myriad hours he spent working outdoors at his professed occupation of “farmer.” At 43, he was essentially middle-aged, older than most men who served in the 14th Maine. Falling sick in the Big Easy, Henry Herrick was “discharged for disability” on June 29 and sent home.
The 19-year-old Joseph Herrick enlisted in Co. G, 32nd Maine Infantry Regiment on March 29, 1864. By this point in the war, the earliest regiments created in Maine were mustering out with the expiration of three-year enlistments. When asked to create a few new regiments over winter ’64, Maine came up with the 2nd Maine Cavalry (destined for the Florida Panhandle) and the 31st and 32nd Maine infantry regiments, which were sent to Virginia.
The 32nd was the last regiment mustered in Maine.
Being the oldest son, Joseph had helped out immensely by supporting his family. “Some neighbors wrote testimonials on how Henry and Ruth depended on their son for income prior to and during the war,” Tracey McIntire informed “Maine at War.”
“Joseph apparently worked in the lumber industry and was often paid in grain, which he would carry home on his back,” she wrote.
At 5-8, Joseph was 2 inches taller than his dad. He had blue eyes, light hair, and a light complexion. He was probably quite muscular from all the hard physical labor he had to do.
By the time he enlisted, Joseph could earn an approximately $300 bounty that, by the standards of farmers eking out a living in the Androscoggin Valley hills, was magnificent. “A neighbor wrote that Joseph gave his enlistment bounty to his parents so they could purchase a farm in Greenwood,” McIntire indicated.
Modern Greenwood borders Bethel and encompasses the villages of Bryant Pond and Locke Mills. Land was less expensive than in Norway and Paris; getting their own farm would have been a dream for Henry and Ruth Herrick.
The 32nd Maine left the state in two complements: six companies on April 20 and four companies (including G and Joseph Herrick) on May 11. The first six companies fought at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse, and all 10 fought at Cold Harbor in early June.
Joseph Herrick fell ill shortly afterwards. The army was not so generous in discharging soldiers for medical disability in late spring 1864, so unlike his father two years earlier, he stayed in the service.
According to McIntire, Joseph was recovering in a Union hospital during the Battle of the Crater, in which the 32nd Maine Infantry charged to the far side of the exploded crater (see http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com/2014/03/27/young-officer-paid-terrible-price-when-32nd-maine-charged-the-crater-part-2/. He returned to his company in time to fight in the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 Battle of Peebles’s Farm on the south side of Petersburg.
Confederates captured Joseph during that battle and shipped him to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina. Lacking the notoriety of Camp Sumter (a.k.a. Andersonville Prison) in central Georgia, Salisbury was nonetheless a hellhole that claimed the lives of many prisoners.
Joseph Herrick died there on Nov. 21, 1864. His Soldier’s File at the Maine State Archives lists his reason for leaving the army as “died while prisoner.”
At Andersonville, an energetic and conscientious Union prisoner identified each dead prisoner by the number assigned his grave. Most prisoners dying at that infamous prison went into graves marked by numbers later engraved on the headstones placed there after Andersonville National Cemetery was established. Specific prisoners can be found by comparing names to grave numbers.
Not so at Salisbury, where some 200 dead Mainers were tossed into burial trenches now marked “Unknown.” McIntire has visited Salisbury and found the particular trench where Joseph Herrick lies.
So far she and others have been unsuccessful in convincing the Veterans Administration to set up a marker listing the names of the 3,501 Union soldiers buried at Salisbury.
As for Henry and Ruth Herrick, the loss of Joseph’s allotment (the young farmer sent home most of his $13-per-month private’s pay) made paying the farm’s mortgage just about impossible. They lost the farm, and their luck continued to deteriorate when the War Department denied Henry’s pension application.
“They say that i had the heart disease prier to my enlistment and they rejected me,” Henry wrote plaintively in a letter disputing the rejection of his pension application. He had contracted rheumatic fever in Louisiana in 1862, but after the war, the parsimonious War Department (as directed by an equally skin-flint Congress) rejected many pension applications, if only in hopes that sick veterans would die and thus cost the federal government no pension funds.
According to McIntire, Henry and Ruth Herrick later “depended on the town of Greenwood for assistance” and “were living on the Greenwood poor farm at the times of their deaths.
“I have no proof of where they were buried, but if buried in the Patch Mountain Cemetery (where several other family members were buried), there were no carved head stones,” McIntire told “Maine at War.”
However, she has contacted a few second cousins living in Maine to see if they know exactly where Henry and Ruth are buried.
If you enjoy reading the adventures of Mainers caught up in the Civil War, be sure to like Maine at War on Facebook and get a copy of the new Maine at War Volume 1: Bladensburg to Sharpsburg, available online at Amazon and all major book retailers, including Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble.
Brian Swartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He loves hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.