Researcher: Kristina Beksha
Throughout the Civil War, hundreds of men from Franklin voluntarily enlisted in to Union army, knowing that they’d have to leave their homes to risk their lives to save their country. Among these brave men was a man by the name of George W. Thompson. Thompson was born in Waterboro, Maine in 1827. His father was a man named Thaddeus Thompson. His wife was Joanne and together the two had 7 children: Clarissa, Alice, George, Frank, Harriet, Zeolide, and Julia. George stayed in Maine, working as a boot maker, until 1860, when at the age of thirty three he moved with his family to Franklin, Massachusetts.
In May of 1861 George W. Thompson enlisted in the Union army. He was assigned to the Company I. In August, Company I along with seven other Companies were mustered into the Massachusetts 18th Regiment. Two days later the regiment headed for Washington DC. Several days after arriving, his regiment was assigned to Fitz John Porter’s Division where they crossed the Potomac River and were on outpost duty until March 1862. By May the 18th Regiment was in Virginia to help complete the Peninsula Campaign, which was a major operation in southeast Virginia that was, the purpose was to capture the capital, Richmond, and entrap the Confederates in northern Virginia. The Peninsula Campaign was just a small part of the Union’s overall Anaconda Plan. The Anaconda Plan had three major parts, to blockade southern ports, send ships down the Mississippi River to split the Confederacy in two, and finally to capture Richmond. George W. Thompson and the 18th MA Regiment was involved in trying to capture Richmond.
The first real fighting that George W. Thompson was involved in was with Porter’s Corps when they attacked Stonewall Jackson at the railroad embankment at the second Battle of Bull Run. The next battle the Porter’s Division was at was Antietam on September 17, 1862, however George W. Thompson and the 18th Regimen did not fight. On September 20th, the 18th Regiment attacked Confederate troops after they again crossed the Potomac River, but were forced to retreat.
The winter of 1863 was spent in camp, but in May the 18th, now under the command of General Meade, fought in the battle of Chancellorsville where they finally came out victorious. They were again successful at the battle of Gettysburg helping gain a Union victory and without suffering a large number of casualties. Porter’s Corps also won and captured Rappahannock. As a result of the victories, George W. Thompson along with 139 other men re-enlisted to serve for another three years. In October 1864, Thompson was sent to the 32nd Massachusetts Regiment where he severed for the remainder of the war.
While in the 32nd Regiment, George W. Thompson fought in several smaller battles, such as a July 18th attack and a battle at Poplar Spring Church, and all of them resulted in severe losses. He spent the winter in the trenches. For the most part, there were no victories for the 32nd when Thompson was part of it. However, the 32nd did help with defeating Lee at the battle of Appomattox near the end of the war. George W. Thompson was honorably discharged at Boston Harbor and received final payment. After the war Thompson settled back at home in Franklin, Massachusetts and in 1880, at the age of 53, he received $192 in military aid.
George W. Thompson’s and other brave men like him are the reason that the Anaconda Plan was successful and the Union and Confederates were able to be rejoined as the United States of America.