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Caleb W. Ballou

Researcher: Francesca Foisy


          When the men of Massachusetts left eagerly for war, they did not realize that they had the possibility of not returning to their families and their life back in their hometown. Caleb W. Ballou was born in Wrentham Massachusetts, he was the son of Sally and Caleb W. He was a family man with four brothers and a veteran father, Ballou would spend his days in Franklin Massachusetts, as a farmer working alongside his family, they lived in a simple two-bedroom house on Pond Street in that small town. He married on August 5, 1856, at the age of 27 to Bridget McGee from Ireland; he would bare no children.

          The year was 1861 and the nation’s new conflict arose between the United States of America (the Union) and the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). By 1861, just before the outbreak of the Civil War in the United States, serious economic differences among them was over states’ rights and slavery this divided the people of the young nation. These differences also divided the country geographically. Nineteen states prohibited slaves as fifteen southern states permitted ownership of slaves; this is what formed the Union vs. Confederates.

          The Civil War was known as the war between states, and Ballou was fighting for the Union under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant and Sherman. He fought with Company H, regiment 40 in Massachusetts, which was titled as the mounted infantry where most “common” uneducated but working class would serve under. The infantry was the combat arm of the army that was made up of units trained to fight on foot. They were to close in on their kill or capture their enemy, by use of many men on foot with light but deadly weapons. Ulysses S. Grant was a man who used strategies and unexpected tactics to be victorious. Grant’s main objective was to cut off the Confederacy’s supply base, which would force them not to move into Richmond, Virginia. William Sherman, was the type of leader who used planned attacks, with depicting the enemies’ tracks by use of maps, and directional tools, this in fact led him to many successful strikes, that later made him become a commander of the armies in the West. Caleb W. Ballou fought in the battles between the 15-18th of June; the men in the 40th regiment encountered long days and several engagements along rebel camps. During the regiment’s service in the Civil War they lost 5 officers, 67 enlisted men were killed or wounded as 125 were struck by disease.

          Caleb’s family had traveled along to battle with him, having four brothers in the service and a father Caleb W. Ballou Sir, being a veteran in favor of the Union. His brother Perry A., a private in the service fought along with him in the 40th Mounted Infantry Regiment but was soon captured in Drurys Bluff, Virginia on May 16, 1864 while proceeding to upper Virginia. He was sent to Andersonville Prison and survived. His other brother Owin, Adin, and William also fought, and contributed in the Civil War.

            The mounted infantry was organized in Lynnfield in August of 1862, then moved to Washington, DC on September 8, and joined forces with the 2nd Brigade to the Abercrombie’s division. The men supporting the Union dominated their first major victory “Siege of Suffolk”. The regiment’s main service was towards the duty in the defense of Washington DC, the nation’s capital. “ It seems that they ordered us to march to far into the states and we came upon thousands of our enemies and a terrible battle ensued… Yesterday was one of the most anxious days of my whole life,” is stated in the letters sent home from the men of the 40th Massachusetts Infantry. The 40th infantry fought in such battles as Morris Island (August 7-14), against Fort Wagner and Gregg, Swift Creek on Arrowfield Church (May 9-10), the battle of Drewry’s Bluff (May 14-16), Cold Harbor (June 1-12), where they had planned siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond. Cold Harbor was one of the major, and bloodiest battles the regiment fought in during the Civil War, the battle was fought in Virginia. It happened when the Union army of the Potomac, which numbered about 110,000 men under General Ulysses S. Grant, attacked the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, about 60,000 men under General Robert E. Lee.

            Towards the end of Caleb’s service he was wounded in battle, that caused him to live with a permanent disability. Caleb W. Ballou is now buried in the Davis Thayer Cemetery in his childhood hometown of Franklin.

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