Researcher: Brianna Murch
Silas H. Wilson was one of many soldiers that participated in the Civil War. He wasn’t a famous general or strategist – just a regular, Massachusetts man who sought to defend his country in time of war. But his absence in the history books doesn’t make him any less important.
Silas was born around 1819, and his father was named Enoch. In 1860, just before the Civil War, Silas could be found living in Franklin, Massachusetts. He was forty-one years old, and shared his residence with four other people, including his wife, Jeanette and his son, Charles H. Wilson. Both Silas and Charles volunteered to fight in the Civil War.
Silas was part of the 35th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, Company A, organized at Camp Stanton in Lynnfield. Soldiers were recruited during the summer of 1862, then mustered into service between August 9th and 19th. Silas and the rest of the 35th Regiment were under the command of Colonel Edward Augustus Wild. After reaching Washington on August 24th, Silas and his regiment were later assigned to Ferrero’s 2nd Brigade, Sturgis’ 2nd Division, Reno’s 9th Corps.
Joining with the Army of the Potomac, the major Eastern Theatre of the Union Army, Silas participated in the battles of South Mountain, which were the beginning of the Antietam campaign. General Robert E. Lee and his army had begun to proceed North, when the Army of the Potomac found Lee’s plans and used the opportunity to attack the Confederate army at their weakest moment. Silas Wilson was one of 36,000 Union soldiers present on September 14th, 1862. It was a strong attack – by night, the Confederates retreated in fear of being completely surrounded, and later fled for Sharpsburg. Silas’ participation in this battle is actually somewhat heroic. The Union’s actions at South Mountain resulted in the end of Lee’s attempts for a war campaign in the North. Also, it led to the battle of Antietam, after which the Confederates depressingly retreated back to Virginia, realizing this war was far from over.
However, Silas didn’t escape from South Mountain unscathed – he was deeply wounded during the fight and taken prisoner. He was confined to a penitentiary in Richmond, Virginia. Prisoners were often given insufficient clothing and forced sleep upon bare floors. Hospitals and meals also became inadequate due to overcrowding – one pound of bread with ½ a pound of beef became reduced to ¾ a pound of bread. Sometimes ounces of beans, rice, and small sweet potatoes were substituted when the other foods were low in supply. Silas was one of the luckier men, though – he was eventually discharged due to his disability and allowed to return home. Sadly, his son Charles wasn’t so fortunate – on May 5th, 1864, Charles died in Virginia while battling the Confederates.
Following the war, Silas lived a rather simple life. By 1880, the sixty year old had moved to Norton, Massachusetts, and worked as a jewelry manufacturer. He died sometime before 1929.