Although not much is known today about Wesley Haslam, it is known that he was willing to lay down his life for his country during it’s darkest years. He fought in key battles, such as the Second Battle of Winchester, that had a resounding significance throughout the Civil War. Private Wesley W. Haslam was an American hero, who lived in Franklin, Massachusetts.
Haslam was born in the early 1840’s in Franklin, Massachusetts. His parents are unknown. On August 18, 1862, Haslam was enlisted into the 18th Connecticut Regiment under William G. Ely, the regimental leader. Entering mid-war, Haslam did not see his first tour of duty until June 1863 during the Gettysburg Campaign.
The Second Battle of Winchester took place on June 13th through June 15th, 1863. This was Wesley’s first battle and his regiment’s orders were to protect the town from the advancing Confederates under Lt. General Richard Ewell. During the three-day ordeal, Ewell’s troops routed Major General Robert Milroy’s Union forces. As put by a Confederate artillerist, “This battle of Winchester ... was one of the most perfect pieces of work the Army of Northern Virginia ever did.” The 18th Connecticut lost 597 men during the battle of Winchester, but their efforts helped save countless retreating Union soldiers. The Battle of Winchester gave the south the belief that they could now attack the North, seeing as this was one of Lee’s first attempts on the offensive. These hopes were later dashed in July, during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Haslam did not again see combat until May 1864, during the Battle of New Market. In the eleven-month hiatus the commander of the regiment changed hands. Now, Major General Franz Sigel become the commander of Lynchburg Campaign involving the 18th Connecticut. Their new objective, as ordered by Ulysses S. Grant was to destroy the railroad in Staunton, Virginia and then a rail complex in Lynchburg. Their opposition was Confederate forces led by former United States Vice President John C. Breckinridge.
On May 15, 1864 the two armies met in New Market, Virginia. The battle was quick and decisive with Breckinridge, although outnumbered, successfully defeating the advancing Union troops. The railroad remained in Confederate possession until May 26 when Major General David Hunter launched an offensive.
The final battle of Private Wesley W. Haslam’s military career was the Battle of Piedmont near Augusta, Virginia. On June 5, 1864, Hunter attacked Confederate troops, defeating them easily, killing the Confederate general, William Jones, and taking more than one thousand soldiers prisoner. Hunter pushed Lee’s forces deeper South and ended the threat of anther Southern offensive in Northern Territory.
In May 1865, Haslam was discharged from the Union army after three years of service. He entered the war as a Private and would leave as the same rank. He moved back to Franklin, eventually marrying a woman by the name of Happy. He served as Class Leader at the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1893, also serving as a Steward. He was employed as Commercial Traveler and lived on 23 East Street, until his death is estimated in the early 1900’s.