Politics and Military

A Vermont Civil War Soldier Longs To Go West

Charlie George, a Vermont Civil War soldier, was one of four brothers who enlisted in the 10th Vermont Volunteer Infantry. All musical, they joined the  regimental band.

A Civil War drum corps in Virginia.

A Civil War drum corps in Virginia.

The George boys grew up in  Newbury, Vt., in a large farming family, the sons of James George and Maria Nourse. They had three sisters. Their father, who drank and gambled, wasn’t much of a provider. The boys all left home at a young age, two to farm, two to become telegraph operators

Charlie and Osman first joined the 10th Vermont in the summer of 1862. Their younger brother Herbert soon followed them. Two years later, brother Jere enlisted.

Charlie was in his mid-30s when he wrote a letter to his wife Ellie back home in Vermont on April 21, 1865. He had just gotten the details about the assassination of President Lincoln.

What a tragedy! When I think of the cheerful, pleasant and kind hearted face I met a few days ago in Petersburg it seems to horrible to believe! I shall never forget the expression of his face as he returned our salutes.

Westward Dreams

He then laid out his reasons for wanting to join the westward migration:

Ellie, I have been thinking about going West — I hate to give up the idea — in going there I can see everything prosperous and to stay in Vermont I can see nothing, but the same series of hard times that has followed us since we were married. By going West I can see a pleasant homestead made from the wild, but fertile land — a homestead fashioned after my own ideas — beautiful gardens and pleasant shade trees and orchards. You may think I see through a magnifying glass, and I know the fertility of the soil and rapidity of growth in Vermont and I could stay in Vermont and be happy, but my chosen locality has always been in the broad western prairies.

He told her he wouldn’t go unless she agreed, but he knew of her attachment to her mother in Vermont.

 I know too well the ties that bind you — it is your mother — and it would mean that I would be taking you away from her. I love her and do not wish to do that, which will cause her to grieve.

However, he argued,

I think that if we should emigrate and succeed well, your father would soon follow. He is too good a farmer to spend all his days among the rocks and hills of Vermont, when there is such a splendid country within reach. They are just having “Tattoo” — how long before I shall be where I can go to bed without the fife and drum for summons!….

With thanks to Bully for the Band!”: The Civil War Letters and Diary of Four Brothers in the 10th Vermont Infantry Band, by Charles George, Herbert George, Jere George and Osman George; edited by James A. Davis.  This story updated in 2022.

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