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Owen Ellsworth Ballou

Researcher: Caitlin Lawrence

            Owen Ellsworth Ballou, a Franklin resident and eventual soldier for the Union during the Civil War, was born in 1842.  He would lead a typical life, being involved in both his family responsibilities and in his work as a box maker, until volunteering as a Union soldier in September of 1862 at age 20.  While serving in company C of the 45th Massachusetts Infantry, Ballou would become active in numerous significant battles and operations.  Returning to Massachusetts less than one year later, Owen E. Ballou would again resume a normal life after eluding death and injury in the heated battles of the Civil War.

            Owen was the oldest of his three other siblings born to Barton Ballou and Phebe H. Peck.  Phebe (a native Franklinite, born in 1819) and Barton Ballou (originally of Pelham, Massachusetts, born in 1813) also produced Ellen Frances Ballou (1844), Elias Peck Ballou (1846) and Barton Alonzo Ballou (1858), who was Owen’s junior by 14 years.  He would eventually be wed to Amelia E. Robbe, who was born in Franklin in 1845, however, the date and other details of this marriage is unknown. After returning from the war, he was reported to have had a separate marriage in 1864 at age 22 to Aurelia Adams.  No children were reported in either marriage.

            In response to a call to arms on August 4, 1862, in which white, able-bodied men were encouraged to serve in the army for 9 months, Owen Ballou left his siblings and family at the youngest allowable age.  He joined the 958 other volunteers to join the 45th regiment of the Massachusetts Infantry (Militia), and was placed in company C (which was mustered in on September 26th) as a private.  Also known as the “Cadet Regiment”, the 45th Massachusetts was commanded by Colonel Charles R Codman and over 40 of its commissioned officers had been former members of the Boston Cadets. It was organized at Camp Megis, Reedville from September 26 to October 28, 1862.  For 9 days, he would travel south to Beaufort, North Carolina on the Steamer “Mississippi” (November 5-14).  He, along with the rest of the regiment, was later transported to Newbern, North Carolina by railway and assigned to Amory’s Brigade of Foster’s Division.

            Along with the men of the 45th Massachusetts and those of other states’ brigades, Ballou would make camp for a month on the banks of the Trent (near Fort Gasten) until December 12th. Until this point, he encountered the typical camp life of a soldier, being drilled daily and residing in a tent.  While most of his regiment was sent out to accompany General Foster on his expedition to disrupt the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad at Goldsborough, Company C was sent on special duty to Morehead City (which was a Confederate City in North Carolina that was quickly becoming an important port).  The efforts of the Union army (including Company C of the 45th Massachusetts Infantry) helped to disrupt the progress of this port town.

            While the date that Owen and the other members of Company C rejoined the other companies of the regiment is unknown, it is nearly impossible that Ballou fought at Kinston with the 45th two days later. Fought on December 14th, the timing of this battle would allow very little time for Company C to reunite with its counterparts and thus Ballou was most likely not a factor in the Union victory.  This offered Ballou a chance to escape the Union casualties, since 15 men of his regiment had encountered fatal injuries and 43 others had been wounded. It is likely that Ballou again was not involved in the battle at White Hall on December 16, 1863 in which 6 more of the Union soldiers of his regiment died.

            As Ballou and the rest of his company were reunited with the remainder of the 45th Massachusetts on December 21st, he and his comrades were assigned simple, tame tasks in the North Carolina area. Owen Ballou was involved in the January 17th reconnaissance mission to Trenton, which lasted for 5 days.  He and other members of his regiment were also involved in the three month (January 26, 1863 to April 26, 1863) provost guard in Newbern, North Carolina. During this time, Ballou again eluded death and injury in the May 14th attack by the Confederate army, since the 45th Massachusetts Infantry was little more than a spectator.  The regiment’s final mission was an expedition to Core Creek on the railroad toward Goldsborough, in which a brief skirmish with Confederate troops resulted in one regiment casualty and four others wounded.

            Ballou finally returned to his original military camp on the banks of the Trent. He was able to avoid complications from bad hygiene and diseases such as typhoid that ran rampant through Civil War camps, causing a high percentage of war deaths. Ballou also was subjected to the warmer climate of the southern states until leaving camp on June 24th for Morehead City, from which he was transported to Boston on June 30th.  Twenty of his regiment had been killed or had died of wounds; while 27 had died form accident or disease (luckily not one man was missing or had been taken prisoner).  Finally in his home state, Owen Ballou and the others of the 45th Massachusetts Infantry were formally welcomed in the customary style and marched to the State House, in which the governor formally thanked the troops.  Here, Ballou pledged to again serve the Union if an emergency ever arose.  This occasion never presented itself for Ballou, who then returned to the original camp at Reedville until the contract of service expired on July 8, 1863.

            Ballou then proceeded home to Franklin to resume his job as a box maker and would be wed (perhaps for the second time) in 1864 at the age of 22.  His wife Aurelia E. Adams, also a Franklinite, had once before been married (to a man having the name of Roblee) and all sources indicate that Owen and Aurelia maintained their marriage until death and bore no children.  At some point, he would move to Rhode Island, for in 1920 (at age 78) he was reported to be living in nearby Cumberland on Wrentham Road. Although his death date is unknown, it is likely that he died in the next 10 years and was buried in Cumberland, for he was not included in the 1930 federal census.

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