Celebrating friendships, stories and discoveries along the way

Friday, July 19, 2013

Banks Brigade Bee Walk at Mount Auburn Cemetery

Last Sunday I attended the Banks Brigade Bee Walk at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a Civil War theme walk was in honor of the women of the Banks Brigade. This group formed in October 1861 to make clothing and bandages for soldiers in the Civil War and was named to honor General Nathaniel P. Banks, a native of Waltham and a governor of Massachusetts from 1857 through 1860. During the Civil War General Banks served as Commander of the Department of the Gulf in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The first meeting of the Banks Brigade took place at the house of Jane (Loring) Gray, wife of Harvard botanist Asa Gray, to meet Asa’s niece Julia Bragg. Jane invited sixteen girls to her house for the event, and the girls knitted and sewed clothing and bandages for family members and other soldiers in the Union Army. The girls met the following week at the house of Susan Dixwell. They decided to meet every Friday as long as the war continued, dedicating their sewing and knitting to the war effort. After the war ended they continued the group, renamed “the Bee”, as a social and charitable effort until 1931. Twenty-seven of the members through the group’s history are buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, including seven founding members.1

These women were not only friends but also family through their relationships with each other and with the soldiers who were the beneficiaries of their sewing and knitting effort. Mabel Lowell Burnett, a Banks Brigade Bee member, was the daughter of Fireside poet James Russell Lowell and a cousin of Charles Russell Lowell Jr., a colonel in the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, and James Jackson Lowell, a Lieutenant in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.


Charles Russell Lowell Jr. was married to Josephine Shaw, sister to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and sister to Anna Blake Shaw, a Banks Brigade Bee member. Anna's broken grave marker bears no inscription.


20th Massachusetts Regiment officers James Jackson Lowell and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. were second cousins through the Jackson family. Eleanor Baker Gray, another Banks Brigade Bee member, married Patrick Tracy Jackson, a cousin to James Jackson Lowell and a second cousin to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.


After the war Oliver Wendell Holmes married Fanny Bowditch Dixwell, daughter of Banks Brigade Bee mentor Mary Bowditch Dixwell, and sister to a founding member of the Banks Brigade Bee, Susan Hunt Dixwell Miller.


The walk offered a fascinating glimpse into the lives and relationships of these accomplished women during and after the Civil War. Mabel Lowell Burnett served as an editor for her father James Russell Lowell’s works of poetry. Dorothea Dix, a Banks Brigade Bee mentor, was superintendent of nurses during the Civil War and in later years was an activist for the mentally ill.


Emily Elizabeth Parsons, another mentor of the group, was a Civil War nurse and after the war founded the Cambridge Hospital for Women and Children, the precursor to Mount Auburn Hospital.


Steve Pinkerton, a Mount Auburn Cemetery docent, was the guide for this excellent walk. Civil War walks are an ongoing series of events at Mount Auburn Cemetery to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. For additional information about Civil War walks at Mount Auburn please visit http://www.mountauburn.org/2013/the-civil-war. For other events at Mount Auburn please visit their calendar of events at http://www.mountauburn.org/category/events.

1 Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery, The Bee at Mount Auburn Map Cemetery: A Cambridge Discovery Days Tour, brochure (Cambridge, MA: Mount Auburn Cemetery, 2013), inside brochure section.
2Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts), Mabel Lowell Burnett marker, Fountain Avenue, Lot 323, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.
3Mount Auburn Cemetery, Anna Blake Shaw marker, Fountain Avenue, Lot 4047, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.
4Mount Auburn Cemetery, Eleanor Baker Gray Jackson marker, Lime Avenue, Lot 2149, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.
5Mount Auburn Cemetery, Mary Ingersoll Bowditch Dixwell marker, Ailanthus Path, Lot 1180, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.
6Mount Auburn Cemetery, Dorothea Dix marker, Spruce Avenue, Lot 4731, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.
7Mount Auburn Cemetery, Emily Elizabeth Parsons marker, Greenbrier Path, Lot 607, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Remembering the Civil War at Mount Auburn Cemetery

On this day 150 years ago Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment into battle with the Confederates in an ill-fated attempt to storm Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Colonel Shaw died while leading the charge and was buried at Fort Wagner in a mass grave with his men.

During the Civil War families often honored their fallen in their family plot with a cenotaph memorial stone if their family member was buried elsewhere. Two of the fallen at Fort Wagner are remembered at Mount Auburn Cemetery with cenotaphs. Colonel Shaw's name is listed on the Shaw family monument on Pine Avenue.


Eighteen-year old Captain Cabot Jackson Russel's stone rests with his family in the Jackson plot on Lime Avenue.


Brothers Edward and Norwood Hallowell, formerly with the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, served under Colonel Shaw and survived the conflict at Fort Warren. Edward assumed the role of Colonel of the 54th Massachusetts after Robert Gould Shaw's death. The brothers survived the Civil War and are buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery on Indian Ridge Path.



Many Civil War veterans are buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, including brothers Edward H. Revere and Paul J. Revere, grandsons of the famed midnight rider, Paul Revere. Edward and Paul served in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment as surgeon and commander, respectively. Edward was killed while treating the fallen on the battlefield at Antietam.


Paul was Colonel and leader of the 20th Massachusetts at Gettysburg and was mortally wounded on July 2, 1863 during the famed battle.


Mount Auburn Cemetery offers a series of Civil War themed events to mark the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War. For more information please visit The Civil War & Mount Auburn Cemetery at http://www.mountauburn.org/2013/the-civil-war.

1Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts), Shaw family monument, Pine Avenue, Lot 1286, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 15 June 2013.
2Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cabot Jackson Russel marker, Lime Avenue, Lot 2149, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.
3Mount Auburn Cemetery, Edward N. Hallowell marker, Indian Ridge Path, Lot 4124, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 15 June 2013.
4Mount Auburn Cemetery, Norwood P. Hallowell marker, Indian Ridge Path, Lot 4124, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 15 June 2013.
5Mount Auburn Cemetery, Edward H. Revere marker, Walnut Avenue, Lot 286, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.
6Mount Auburn Cemetery, Paul J. Revere marker, Walnut Avenue, Lot 286, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 14 July 2013.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Remembering Vincenzo Strozzi

My grandfather, Vincenzo Strozzi, died on this day 77 years ago. Vincenzo, born June 30, 1876, was a native of Borgo di Gaeta in the Latina province of the Lazio region in Italy. He emigrated to the United States in 1899 and settled in East Cambridge, Massachusetts in a neighborhood populated with immigrants from Gaeta. Vincenzo married Antonetta Sorrentino, a native of Scafati in the Salerno province of the Campania region in Italy, on December 23, 1905. Vincenzo was a fun-loving man who excelled in gardening, cooking, and music. He enjoyed midnight pesto parties with family and friends and sang “Pagliacci” to his delighted guests. He loved to prepare meals with wife Antonetta, an excellent cook, and took particular pleasure in savoring Antonetta’s delicious Neapolitan specialties. He died suddenly on July 3, 1936, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He is buried in St. Michael Cemetery, one of the first Boston cemeteries created for Italian immigrants.


1 St. Michael Cemetery (Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts), Vincenzo Strozzi marker, Section 27, Plot 53, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 29 May 2004.

Remembering Oliver Bates at Gettysburg - 150 years later

In marking the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg I visited the battlefield to honor the service of my second great-granduncle, Private Oliver Bates of Company A of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. The 20th Massachusetts was heavily involved in the repulse of Pickett’s Charge, the Confederate infantry assault, at the Angle on July 3, 1863. The 20th Massachusetts held back the forces of General James Kemper’s brigade of General George Pickett’s division at their battle position along Cemetery Ridge approximately 150 yards south of the Angle. Confederate forces led by Brigadier General Lewis Armistead of Pickett’s division breached the Union line at the Angle, and the 20th Massachusetts rushed to the Angle to close the breach. Fierce hand-to-hand combat ensued, and the Confederate charge was repelled. General Armistead fell wounded surrounded by Union forces. Although he was expected to recover from his wounding he died two days later in a Union field hospital.

The 20th Massachusetts suffered heavy casualties at Gettysburg, particularly during the hand-to-hand combat to seal the Union line at the Angle. Private Oliver Bates was most likely wounded during this hand-to-hand fighting. His service records state that he received a head wound, but no other details concerning his wounding were listed. Apparently his wounding was severe, as he did not report again for duty until January 1864. This six-month interlude after Gettysburg was the only time during his entire military service that he did not report for duty.1

The 20th Massachusetts monument at Gettysburg marks their battle position on July 2 and on July 3 before they rushed to seal the breach at the Angle.

A bronze plaque near the copse of trees at the Angle marks the approximate location of the 20th Massachusetts as they sealed the breach.

At 3:00 P.M. on July 3, 2013, the National Park Service re-enacted the Pickett-Pettigrew charge. Nearly 12,000 people marched from the Confederate position on Seminary Ridge across the field to the Union position on Cemetery Ridge, where several thousand people awaited them. I felt honored to stand at the 20th Massachusetts position during the re-enacted charge and, as Armistead's brigade approached the Union line, I moved to the Angle to re-enact the movement of the 20th Massachusetts during the battle.

For additional information about Oliver Bates and the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment please visit http://20thmassregt150.blogspot.com.

1Compiled service record, Oliver S. Bates, Pvt., Co. A, 20th Massachusetts Infantry; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Remembering Colonel George Ward at Gettysburg - 150 years later

This afternoon I visited the monument of Colonel George Hull Ward at Gettysburg with Colonel Ward's great-great grandson, Bob Ward. At Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, George Hull Ward, Colonel of the 15th Massachusetts Regiment, led his men into battle with Confederate General Ambrose Wright's Georgia brigade after Union General Daniel Sickles salient maneuver near the Peach Orchard resulted in a near collapse of the Union line. Colonel Ward and the 15th Massachusetts engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the Georgia brigade. Realizing that they could not hold their advanced position near the Emmitsburg Road, Colonel Ward ordered his regiment to retire. At that moment he was shot in the right leg and his men carried him off the field behind the lines to a field hospital. Colonel Ward died the next morning at 4:30 A.M.1


Bob, a genealogy friend, participated in the Gettysburg reenactment in the role of his great-great grandfather. It was a great honor to meet Bob at his ancestor's regiment to remember the valiant service of Colonel Ward and the 15th Massachusetts at Gettysburg 150 years later.


1Edwin R. Root and Jeffrey D. Stocker, Isn't This Glorious! The 15th, 19th, and 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiments at Gettysburg's Copse of Trees (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Moon Trail Books, 2006), 4-8.
2Gettysburg National Military Park (Gettysburg, Adams, Pennsylvania), Colonel George H. Ward monument, in field near Codori Barn, 39.812239° N, 77.238737°, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 02 July 2013.
3Gettysburg National Military Park , Colonel George H. Ward monument, photographed by Carol Swaine-Kuzel, 02 July 2013. Descendant Bob Ward is standing next to the monument.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Remembering Gettysburg - 150 years later

This week, July 1 through July 3, marks the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, one of the fiercest battles of the Civil War and one of the most memorable battles of all time. Confederate General Robert E. Lee, in an attempt to force the Union to come to terms and recognize the Confederacy as a separate nation, forced a conflict north of Washington D.C. to induce the Union to plead for peace. The conflict occurred at Gettysburg, a small town in Pennsylvania four miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. The battle ensued for three days, enacting combined casualties of nearly 50,000 men. The battle was a victory for the Union and recognized by many as a turning point in the Civil War, as in prior battles the Confederates claimed the majority of victories.

On the first day of the battle heavy fighting occurred to the west of Gettysburg. Union Cavalry forces led by General John Buford encountered Confederate infantry led by General Henry Heth. Although he had been ordered by General Lee to avoid a conflict, Heth engaged Buford, who held the Union line with dismounted cavalry until the arrival of General John Reynolds of the Union First Corps. Reynolds led the Iron Brigade into position along McPherson’s ridge and was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter. The Union Eleventh Corps encountered forces led by Confederate General Richard Ewell north of Gettysburg. The First and Eleventh Corps fought valiantly during the morning and early afternoon, suffering heavy losses. In the afternoon both Union lines broke and the Confederates swept into Gettysburg. Union General Winfield Scott Hancock braced the retreating Union lines on Cemetery Hill. The day ended as the Confederates charged Cemetery Hill but were beaten back by the Union forces. Although regarded as a Confederate victory the first day of fighting ceased with the Union holding the high ground and a superior position for continued conflict.

On the second day of battle the two armies faced each other along two opposing lines, with the Confederates holding Seminary Ridge and the Union stationed along Cemetery Ridge. The Union line resembled a fishhook, with Cemetery Hill at the north and the Round Tops at the south. The Confederates charged both flanks of the Union line, with repeated attacks on Cemetery Hill and a series of attacks to secure the Round Tops. Some of the severest fighting of the war occurred for possession of the Round Tops, and heavy conflicts occurred at Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, and along the southern portion of Cemetery Ridge. Again, the Union line held, and both sides suffered heavy casualties.

On the third day of battle Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to strike the center of the Union line with a large infantry assault preceded by an artillery barrage to weaken the Union defenses. This infantry charge was comprised by divisions led by Generals George Pickett and James Johnston Pettigrew. The Confederate charged bravely but met severe artillery and rifle fire as they approached the Union line. The Union line held again and the three day conflict ended. Pickett’s Charge would be remembered by Union and Confederates alike for the bravery of the Confederates in the ill-fated charge and the stubborn resistance of the Union in meeting the charge and enacting its repulse.