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James Snow

Researchers: Kyle Cybulski and Andrew Childs


            On the twenty-sixth of December, 1863, in Reedville, Massachusetts, the fifty-sixth regiment of the Massachusetts infantry became accessible to any volunteers wishing to participate in the American Civil War for the Union army. This regiment gained participants to venture into battle up until the date of February 24, 1864, in which the regiment left the state for Annapolis, Maryland as part of the Union army. This regiment contained numerous soldiers including private James E. Snow. Though private James E. Snow did not make a stand in any of the current history books that are being studied throughout schools, he and many other individuals of the war played just as an important role as any of the generals or commanders of the armies. Ulysses S. Grant of the Union army and Robert E. Lee of the Confederate army, who were two extremely notable Civil War figures may have been the brains and bronze behind the operations performed during the war, yet without the lower ranked soldiers to carry out these orders to perfection while risking their lives these two generals would have not made the history books either. 

            James E. Snow was born on an unknown date in the year 1834, in Wrentham, Massachusetts, which today is currently a part of the town of Franklin. Wrentham, Massachusetts was part of the Norfolk County and the Snow family reported to the Sheldonville post office to receive their information on the country as well as their bills and other private information. James was the son of John H. Snow and Mary Snow. When he was born he had one living grandparent in Ann Snow who was John H. Snow’s mother, as well as an older brother named Horatio. Horatio was older than James by only two years, and six years later, Mary Snow would give birth to James’ younger brother Benjamin. James was twenty-nine years old when he made his decision to join the Union army as part of the fifty-sixth regiment, and he managed to leave this regiment alive at the end of the war.

            The fifty-sixth regiment’s campaign started on March 21, 1864, in which they traveled to Maryland and approached the country’s capital of Washington D.C. They were part of the first brigade, of the first division, of the ninth army corps of the army of the Potomac. They remained at this position until September of 1864 in which the transferred to the second brigade, of the second division, of the ninth army corps, of the Potomac. Their first action was seen on May 5 in Spotsylvania County. It is now known that they were participating in a battle that would be known as the Wilderness, yet is also referred top as Combats at Parker’s Store, Craig’s Meeting House, Todd’s Tavern, Brock Road, and the Furnaces.  Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and Major General George G. Meade led the charge of the Union army. As they struggled against General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate army, only to lose 18,400 soldiers and call the battle a draw. They continued to fight in the Spotsylvania County region, with the battle of the Spotsylvania Court House only one week later. Following that skirmish they stumbled into Caroline and Hanover Counties to fight the battle of the North Anna River in the northern section of Virginia. Though there were 18,000 fewer casualties than the previous battles the results at the end of the day were still inconclusive on which side had won and which side had lost.  The small battle of Totopotomoy followed, yet after that the battles of Cold Harbor and Petersburg claimed an abundant amount of lives. During these battles the Union army including the fifty-sixth regiment gained a vast majority of landed and drove back the Confederate army, but this continuous flow of soldiers directly into the Confederate army would not only cost the Union army many lives, but also two Confederate victories. James E. Snow and the fifty-sixth regiment would not be denied a Union victory though as they were withdrawn from the Petersburg battles to participate in the Globe Tavern battle, in which the Union troops were able to drive back the Confederate army and gained full control of the Weldon railroad.  Like many other privates Snow saw action in destroying the right flank of the Confederate army and giving them an appropriate reason to retreat. General G.K. Warren conducted the soldiers in this battle, yet this extended the campaign of U.S. Grant and gave the Union army a forceful momentum boost. Peeble’s Farm resulted in another Union victory before they were shut down at Boynton Plank Road on October twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth, under the command of General Winfield Scott Hancock.  Finally, the Union army regained control with a Union victory at Fort Stedman in which Snow and the other soldiers in his regiments were placed under the command of General John G. Parke. During this battle Lee’s Confederate troops made an attempt to penetrate Petersburg, yet instead they encountered a large amount of Union troops, like James E. Snow that were ready and willing to open fire.  In the final battle at Petersburg the Union troops held their ground and James E. Snow was a successful member in containing the northern border in the Anaconda plan, which eventually trapped and crushed the Confederates and their citizens from all geographical aspects of where they were located. 

            The soldiers lived and fought throughout the course of the Civil War serving their countries as their duty, yet they should be considered hero’s due to what they experienced. Not only did they witness the power of death, nut the suffering of living during the time of war. Civil War soldiers did not have good transportation, even if they had any transportation at all, and they marched for several hours at a time on foot, in which some men were not equipped with shoes. When a soldier finally was able to rest they were not fed sufficient amounts of food and a lot of times the supplies that were needed to keep the soldiers healthy were scarce. Also, if the bullets or bayonets in battle did not kill them, diseases from unsanitary sewage water did. Conditions were made even worse by bad weather or the ultimate fear of becoming a prisoner, which is how many soldiers depart from earth. The fifty-sixth regiment lost six officers, with 120 men killed or mortally wounded, and another 100 men dying from these conditions and diseases, for a total of 226 men lost at war. James E. Snow was not one of these men who died, and he was also not one of the men that a recorded in history books presently, yet it is justified to say that what he did for his country by protecting and preserving the Union while risking his life is clearly enough for him to be recognized and viewed as a true American hero.        

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