By Judy Wakefield
---- — Seven soldiers from Andover were killed in the Battle of Spotsylvania in Virginia in 1864. Six more men died later from wounds sustained in that battle and at least two more died from sickness.
Even more men were wounded.
Sadly, the Battle of Spotsylvania was a day for the historical record books in town.
“It was Andover’s greatest loss in a single battle,” said Carrie Midura, programs and public relations manager for the Andover Historical Society. “The Battle of Spotsylvania affected nearly every family in the small town that was Andover in 1864.
“We don’t know how many more died in the five to 10 years after Spotsylvania directly as the result of the wounds they suffered there.”
This spring, Andover joins the nation in marking the 150th anniversary of the battle with an 11-week series of lectures, exhibits and other events that will explore how the Civil War changed the community to become what it is today.
The initiative — titled “Lest We Forget: Andover and the Civil War” — aims to tell the stories of Andover and its people during the 19th century.
Simply listing seven names doesn’t really put the loss felt by the town as the result of just one day in the Civil War into any sort of perspective, according to “Lest We Forget” organizers.
This is especially the case for today’s generation of people, who are confronted with death and casualty numbers on a daily basis, they said.
“Simply put, it was an enormous number to the town of Andover in 1864 as demonstrated by the 1864 numbers adjusted for today’s Andover population,” Andover Historical Society board member and “Lest We Forget” committee member Michael Morris Jr. said.
“... There are the soldiers who participated directly in the war effort whose sacrifices need to be remembered — from the common soldiers like the young teenager George Smart who left Andover as a drummer boy only to die of disease a short time later to 18-year-old Walter Raymond who starved to death in a Confederate prison camp on Christmas Day in 1864.”
Morris said it seemed appropriate that the town should honor those from Andover who fought in the Civil War during the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Spotsylvania given it marked the time the Andover Company first entered combat and suffered significant loss.
“A few of us thought it was important to commemorate Andover’s unique place in the country’s Civil War history and to examine its dramatic effects upon the town,” said Morris, a local attorney.
A $10,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation was secured with the help of Phillips Academy Head of School John Palfrey to help cover mailing and website costs for the series, Midura said.
Andover launches the 150th remembrance of Spotsylvania this weekend with a concert of popular Civil War pieces, including ones by President Abraham Lincoln’s favorite composer, Louis Moreau Gooschalk, and the Creole-influenced American Chopin.
The Boston Saxophone Quartet will perform Sunday, March 30, at 2:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall Library. The program will include several familiar classics, such as “Oh, Susanna,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “When Jonny Comes Marching Home Again” and “Dixie.”
Next month, the Andover Historical Society presents the exhibit “Faces of Andover: Impact of the Civil War.” Midura traveled to Carlisle, Penn., to obtain photos of Andover soldiers for the display, which is set to open April 11.
Also next month, Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust will visit Andover with Civil War documentarian Ric Burns for a lecture and film screening on “Death and the Civil War” sponsored by Phillips Academy.
The series involves the participation of several groups in town, including the historical society, Phillips Academy and its Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover Veterans Services, Memorial Hall Library, Greater Lawrence Technical School, Andover Bookstore and The Center at Punchard.
Morris said credited the hard work of many in pulling the series together, including historical society board president Jane Dietzel Cairns, Palfrey, Midura; Joan Silva Patrakis, author of “Andover in the Civil War;” local historian Jim Batchelder, who visited Spotsylvania; Don Robb, who is lecturing on the secessionist crisis; Doug Mitchell, researcher of Andover’s Drummer Boys, among others.
“Personally, I find it remarkable that Andover was not just the home to author Harriet Beecher Stowe whose novel, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ had contributed significantly to the anti-slavery movement in the country, but also how Andover was the summer residence of President Franklin Pierce, whose pro-Southern leanings and support for the Kansas-Nebraska Act contributed significantly to the secessionist crisis ...,” Morris said.
“It’s amazing to think that these two persons with such divergent views and who changed the course of our nation’s history walked the very same streets at roughly the same time.”
MUSIC OF THE CIVIL WAR MUSIC: Boston Saxophone Quartet performance Sunday, March 30, 2:30 p.m., Memorial Hall Library, 2 North Main St.
NORTH & SOUTH LECTURE SERIES: Afternoon lecture series presented by historian Don Robb and exploring why the Civil War happened, focusing on the split between the North and South and the people who came together to form a more perfect union; Thursdays, April 3, 10, 17 and 24 and May 1, 2 p.m., Center at Punchard, 30 Whittier Court. Cost $15; registration required, call 978-623-8321.
‘FACES OF ANDOVER:’ Andover Historical Society exhibit showcasing the impact of the Civil War on Andover, featuring 80 pieces, including photographs of Andover soldiers retrieved from Pennsylvania by historical society program manager Carrie Midura with assistance from longtime historical society volunteer Jim Batchelder, who visited Spotsylvania and cemeteries in Virginia; opening event Friday, April 11, 7 p.m., Andover Historical Society, 97 Main St.
‘DEATH AND THE CIVIL WAR:’ Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, an American historian and Harvard’s first female president, and Civil War filmmaker and documentarian Ric Burns will discuss Burns’ documentary on Faust’s book, “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War,” looking at the staggering death toll of the Civil War and the way it changed the nation; presented by Phillips Academy; lecture on Tuesday, April 15, 7 p.m., Cochran Chapel, 2 Chapel Ave.; film screening of”Death and the Civil War,” Sunday, April 13, 2 p.m., Kemper Auditorium, 5 Chapel Ave.; both programs open free to the public.
In May and June, more book discussions, conversations, a visit by renowned military historian Gordon C. Rhea and a walking tour are planned to continue the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The Townsman will provide details closer to those dates.
For a complete schedule for “Lest We Forget,” visit www.andoverlestweforget.com.
These seven Andover men were killed in the Battle of Spotsylvania in Virginia on May 19, 1864: