Researcher: Kelly Meredith
Sitting at home and saying you support your country is one thing, but actually fighting on battlefields as you defend you and your fellow brothers is another. Sheperd G. Wiggin, of Franklin Massachusetts enlisted in the 35th regiment of Massachusetts, company A. While deciding to leave and support his country, he was also leaving behind his family and his occupation at home. Previous to the war, Sheperd worked as a box maker. Even though he now was settled in Franklin, he was born in Wolfsboro, New Hampshire. In making the decision to enroll in the war, he left behind many things and was risking never returning to them.
Family was a huge part of every man’s life in the 1800’s and for a man to leave them behind and enroll in the army was a major decision in one’s life. Wiggin continually had to deal with the concept of loss and was forced to move on whenever he was faced with it. Originally he was married to a woman by the name of Joan E. Wiggin. Unfortunately on November 21, 1854 Susanna J. Wiggin, their first daughter, died of consumption. Consumption was a sickness that occurred when your body’s immune system malfunctioned and started attacking itself. Susan was only a year and six months old when she died. Seven months earlier, Sheperd’s wife, Joan also died of consumption on May 28, 1854. Two years later Sheperd would remarry to a woman by the name of Almira. Sheperd and Almira had three children together, George Arthur, Edward Augustus and Ellen Laura. Throughout Sheperd’s life he continued to lose people that were extremely close to him. Although, in the long run, these losses may have helped him be continually strong throughout the war.
Eventually Sheperd would make the decision to leave his family and enlist in the Union army. He entered the 35th Massachusetts Infantry at the rank of a private. He was a part of such battles as the Battle of South Mountain, Battle of Antietam, and Battle of Fredericksburg. From these three battles, the 35th Massachusetts brought home two Union victories. At the Battle of South Mountain, Wiggin helped to destroy Lee’s army and he also fought to gain possession of land such as Crampton’s, Turner’s, and Fox’s gaps. The Battle of Antietam was an extremely important strategic victory for the Union. This battle not only proved that Lee could no longer invade the North but it forced the Confederate troops to retreat back to Virginia. Sheperd and the 35th regiment helped to attack the center of the Confederates at Sunken Road. Later, they attacked the right side of the Confederates crossing over the stone bridge of Antietam Creek. This would supposedly help the Union gain momentum. The 35th regiment, along with Sheperd G. Wiggin contributed by executing the orders given and forcing the Confederates to retreat.
Finally, the Battle of Fredericksburg occurred and proved that the momentum the Union had supposedly gained was not enough for a victory. Sheperd G. Wiggin and the 35th regiment struggled throughout this battle. They were along side many other regiments in an attempt for a full frontal assault on the Confederate defense on the heights behind the town of Fredericksburg. Wiggin had been fighting under Burnside, but soon he would have a new general for many reasons. Burnside had caused numerous casualties for the Union and needed to be replaced. In the end, the Union was driven back by a counterattack. The Union suffered 13, 000 casualties compared to 5,000 Confederate casualties. After this battle, Sheperd G. Wiggin would never be heard from again. The battle ended on December 15, 1863. Wiggin would die one month later on January 16, 1863 in Falmouth Virginia. He died from consumption, the same sickness that his previous wife and children had suffered from. He had died in action and ended his duties at the rank of a private. Sheperd G. Wiggin served a total of 3 years in the 35th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry. He exemplified loyalty to his country and continuous courage and heart. Although he left his family behind, he will always be remembered. Sheperd G. Wiggin was a man from a small town in Massachusetts, who died in action after the Battle of Fredericksburg, and will always be remembered for his constant service to his country throughout the Civil War.