top of page

Samuel E. Gay

          In Pittsfield, Massachusetts on November 20, 1861 to February 20, 1882, the 31st Regiment was organized. This Regiment was also known as the “Western Bay State Regiment.” While men from Massachusetts were anxiously preparing for war, a man named Samuel E. Gay decided to join the men and enroll into the Regiment. Samuel E. Gay, formerly a farmer, voluntarily enlisted himself to fight in the 31st Regiment of Massachusetts’s infantry. (This was a division off of Company K.) This man was born in Franklin and had been raised by Willard Gay and Mary Gay. His family history in Franklin went back several generations before he and his parents were born. Samuel married at age 25 in Franklin, and on July 14, 1862, he set off for war.

            During the Civil War, the 31st Regiment began sailing down the Mississippi River in a steamboat called the “Mississippi”, and was the first Union Regiment to enter New Orleans. Since the Union’s major plan of attack was to blockade Southern ports and move down the Mississippi River to split the Confederacy in two, that is a reasonable assumption as to why the men would travel such a long way South.  Out of 165 Massachusetts divisions, the first Union Regiment to enter the New Orleans Port was regiment 31.  Some main battles the 31st Regiment was involved in were battles at: Fort Bisland, Port Hudson, and Pleasant Hill.  All three of these battles were Union victories.

            Fort Bisland, located in western Louisiana, was won over by the Union on April 13, 1863. There were about 684 total casualties; 234 were from the Union and 450 were from the Confederacy.  Over the course of the battle at Fort Bisland, the Confederacy lost almost double the men than the Union did. Port Hudson, located near east Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was a battle that resulted in enormous amounts of casualties. Over the course of 48 days, there were 12,208 casualties. The Confederacy had over 2,000 more casualties than the Union, and the Union worked itself into another victory. This was not just another victory; afterwards even more of the Mississippi River was open to Union navigation. The battle on Pleasant Hill occurred on April 9, 1864, and there were 3,100 estimated casualties. Again, the Confederacy’s number of casualties differed from the Union’s number of casualties by hundreds. The battle of Pleasant Hill helped influence General Nathaniel P. Banks of the Union to forget his idea of capturing Shreveport, Louisiana. Regiment 31 assisted in all of these battles and helped the Union to numerous victories.

            The 31st regiment discharged on September 30, 1865 back in Massachusetts after about three years of fighting.  A total of 205 men that had been in the regiment during its activity passed away before it discharged. 52 enlisted men had been killed and wounded, 3 officers died, and 150 enlisted men died from disease. The regiment assisted the Union to succeed in a number of battles over the course of its existence. It is unknown whether Samuel E. Gay survived until the discharging of the 31st regiment, but his family continued living in Franklin throughout the generations.

          Throughout the course of the Civil War, individuals and families were heavily impacted by change of lifestyle while adapting to a loss of loved ones. Volunteers in Regiment 31, including Samuel E. Gay, could be called heroes at those crucial times in history.  Each person played their own role, and as a team they helped move the Union toward great success.  An immense amount of victories were made and each single victory assisted the Union while pushing one step closer to winning the War. Without the cooperation of the Union, the war may have been lost, which could have changed the course of history forever.

bottom of page