Sandwich Sailors, Soldiers, Sons

A Cape Cod Town in the Civil War

…April 1861 is different in Sandwich, Massachusetts. War has been declared between two regions of the country. Men in silk hats gather at the post office to read the latest news from Boston. Bonneted women converse over picket fences and garden gates. Concern fills the air. And young men of Sandwich Village, Jarvesville and Pocasset, of settlements along Cape Cod and Buzzard’s Bay, even Sandwich’s sailors at sea, hear and contemplate their country’s call for their service. These are the stories of those young men, their family situations and the small Cape Cod town from which they came.

Sandwich Sailors, Soldiers, Sons book cover

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Stauffer Miller’s latest book, Sandwich Soldiers, Sailors, Sons: A Cape Cod Town in the Civil War, tells the story of the Cape Cod, Massachusetts community of Sandwich before, during and after the Civil War.

Sandwich was unique among Cape Cod’s Civil War-era communities in that its economy was industrial rather than maritime. Boston businessman Deming Jarves established a glassmaking factory there in 1825. Irish immigrants soon arrived to work in Jarves’s factory. They were Cape Cod’s first Irish and also first Catholics. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Sandwich’s population stood at 4,500, a sizeable increase from what it was before the factory’s arrival. A substantial portion of that increase was Irish factory workers and their families.

English settlers colonized Sandwich in 1637, well before the arrival of the factory and the Irish. A descendant of those settlers was Charles Chipman, born in 1829. He received some schooling at a Sandwich academy and in 1850 enlisted in the army. After serving several years he obtained his discharge, returned home, married, formed a militia company and when the war began received a captain’s commission. Because he was a well-known and trusted local man, and had some military experience, he soon recruited a company of volunteers. About half of his recruits were Irish factory workers. Many of the others, though not Irish, were also drawn from the factory. Chipman’s glassmaking volunteers went off to the war in May 1861, just a month after its beginning. It would be another fourteen months before another company of Cape Codders marched to the war. This was in part because men of military age in the other communities were at sea when the war began, rather than at home working in a factory.

Thus, it was a combination of two factors, an on-hand pool of men from which to recruit and the right sort of man to do the recruiting, that allowed Sandwich to send men to the war so early. The book follows the fortunes of Chipman and his men through their many campaigns. It also follows the course of the community’s other soldiers as well as its men who entered the Union navy. Several letter collections provide insights into the Sandwich home front.

Miller’s first two books discussed all the Cape Cod communities and their army, navy and civilian contributions to the war effort. Sandwich Soldiers etc narrows the focus to the Cape community that sent the first, and the most, fighting men to the Union cause. That tighter focus allows for discussion of not just the soldiers and sailors themselves but their families too. Thus, readers will find Sandwich Soldiers etc both an engaging and  highly personal story of Cape Cod and the Civil War.

Charles Chipman and his Letters

Charles Chipman

Charles Chipman

Charles Chipman was a native of Sandwich, Massachusetts, a town located on Cape Cod at the point where it joins the rest of the state. Sandwich’s first European settlers, Puritans, arrived in the 1630s. Among those settlers were the Chipmans. When Chipman was born in the first third of the nine-teeth century, town residents were largely descendants of that original Puritan stock. That began to change in the 1840s as large numbers of Irish immigrants came to Sandwich to work at the Boston and Sandwich Glassworks. As the town grew more ethnically diverse a subtle class structure developed, with old-line Puritan descendants near its top, the more recently arrived Irish near its bottom.

As befitted the Chipman family’s somewhat elevated class standing in 1840s Sandwich, young Charles received the best education his town could offer, at the Sandwich Academy. Conversely the less well positioned Irish received the least and poorest education. Evidence of this can be seen in 1861, the first year of the war, when volunteers of Chipman’s newly-raised Sandwich company were asked to sign a receipt for army clothing. Around ten of the volunteers could only mark their name with an “x.” Most of them were Irish.

At the Academy, Chipman probably earned average grades in writing skills, judging by the common grammatical errors in his letters. His forte was likely the mechanical and military arts. He probably also demonstrated to his instructors a capacity for clear and decisive thinking. He may also have done well in the classics because in one of his letters he quoted a Latin proverb. After finishing his academy schooling, Chipman worked as a “machinist” in Sandwich. Unfortunately, the census takers didn’t expand on this term. Since there were several small factories and foundries near where he lived, he may have worked at one of them.

Politics enlivened Sandwich in 1859 and 1860. In late 1859 a party of sixty men that included Chipman and his brother George traveled from Sandwich to Cape Cod’s county seat at Barnstable to attend a huge public rally and Union meeting that denounced John Brown, his recent attempt in Virginia to incite a slave revolt, abolitionists and Republicans for leading the nation to the precipice of disunion. Chipman and his brother were Democrats, the conservatives of the time. Many of the Sandwich attendees at the rally were prominent businessmen of the town.

The liberals of the period were the Republicans. As the presidential election of 1860 heated up, a faction of rabid Republicans called Wide-Awakes formed. In September of 1860 Sandwich’s chapter of Wide-Awakes, other Massachusetts chapters and Republicans marched and rallied at Wareham, just west of Sandwich across Buzzards Bay. Republican Abraham Lincoln won the election and the Union began to break apart as Democrats had argued and warned might happen if he triumphed.

With the firing on Fort Sumter, South Carolina and outbreak of war in April of 1861, Chipman subordinated ever so slightly his contempt for Republicans, President Lincoln and Massachusetts Republican Governor John Andrew. He saw, perhaps with some equivocation, that the most egregious perpetrators in the breakup of the Union and violation of the constitution were not so much the Republicans but Jefferson Davis and his Confederate cronies.

Chipman was what came to be called a “War Democrat.” Individuals of such stripe supported the war but not the government. As soldiers they fought to restore the Union. Within War Democrat ranks in Massachusetts were some of the state’s most educated, up and coming men. Called the “conservative elite” in some circles—and often of Puritan stock like Chipman—Governor Andrew was smart enough to know that even though he and they disagreed on many fronts, he needed them in the conflict and therefore awarded them officer commissions. Chipman received his soon after the war began.

A soldier and officer more desirable than Chipman the army could not have wanted. He respected it as an institution, was tolerant of its paperwork and forbearing of its snafus. He worked his men hard but fairly, abhorred battlefield cowardice, recognized and tried to root out incompetence.

Chipman’s letters tell of a Sandwich homefront not always united in its support for the war. Lincoln’s suspension of personal liberties, the drain on the treasury, the draft, the high casualty count, the poor quality of military leadership and surprising tenacity of the enemy brought grumbling to Sandwich, a picture only brought to light because of the letters. Just how many people of the town went so far as having Copperhead tendencies, i.e., wanting to end the war through a brokered peace agreement, is unknown but the letters make it clear some such sentiment existed.

The survival of Civil War letters requires stewards. The first to steward the Chipman letters was their recipient, his wife Elizabeth. The second was probably her daughter Sarah Elizabeth Chipman Jones. Third and last was her son Francis Freeman Jones. The latter was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1892. After graduating from Dartmouth College he became a navy lieutenant in World War I. In 1966 his stepson, Stanton Garner, edited and published the letters of Chipman’s sister Mary in The Captain’s Best Mate: The Journal of Mary Chipman Lawrence on the Whaler Addison 1856-1860. Garner’s work may have motivated Jones to find a place of permanent safekeeping for Charles Chipman’s letters, a goal he realized around 1972 when he donated them to the army facility then called Carlisle Barracks and now the U. S Arrmy Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Stauffer Miller, Author

Stauffer Miller

Stauffer Miller, a native of West Virginia, lived in the Yarmouthport part of Cape Cod for fifteen years. He has written two books about Cape Cod and the Civil War. He lives in Winchester, Virginia.