Vintage Views: A monument to the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

  • The 2nd New Hampshire battlefield monument at Gettysburg, Pa. JAMES W. SPAIN / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 6/18/2022 4:27:17 PM
Modified: 6/18/2022 4:26:57 PM

I have just returned from the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg, Pa. The climate was inviting, the fields neat and orderly, monuments stoic and representing the past. As I concluded my annual pilgrimage to this special place, I visited the monument that was erected in honor of the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry and a placed a small American flag in front of the memorial.

Col. Edward Bailey was the man that commanded the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry at Gettysburg from July 1 to July 4, 1863. He proudly ushered his men from New Hampshire onto the field those fateful days in 1863 to engage in battle against the Confederate Army, 354 men from New Hampshire. At the conclusion of the Battle at Gettysburg the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry had sustained losses, 20 killed, 137 wounded and 36 missing soldiers.

There was a gentleman from Pittsfield, N.H., that fought that day, a kind person that worked his days prior to the Civil War in his little shop in the Union Block. He lived with his wife and daughter on Chestnut Street and enjoyed his morning walk to his shop where he worked as a cobbler. He would affix his leather apron and repair the shoes that the people of Pittsfield wore about the streets of town, the people depended upon him for he was a good cobbler.

It was on the morning of April 17, 1861, that Henry Gordon awoke, enjoyed breakfast with his wife and daughter, gathered his belongings and left his Chestnut Street home in route to his cobbler’s shop. He was enjoying the quiet streets of this picturesque little New England town when he encountered his dear friend Orren Brock. Henry was an inquisitive young man and asked his friend Orren where he was off to at such an early hour this morning. Orren explained that he heard the federal government was recruiting soldiers over in Concord on this very day and he decided that he wanted to join the army. After a very brief conversation lasting only a moment Henry said to Orren “wait a minute while I get another coat and I will join you.” Henry returned with his coat and joined Orren in the seat of his single horse drawn wagon in route to Concord.

The decision that Henry Gordon made early on the morning of April 17, 1861, changed his life as well as the life of his family and friends. Orren signed up as Henry observed and within minutes both Orren and Henry were soldiers in the United State Army, assigned to Company E, New Hampshire Volunteers.

Henry reported for training in Concord and seemed to enjoy the life of a soldier. He was physically fit and organized, intelligent and followed his orders. He was officially mustered into the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers, Company E on June 3, 1861, and was quickly promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Henry Gordon greatly anticipated the adventures that lay ahead and he was not disappointed.

The 2nd New Hampshire found war quickly and efficiently served at the first Battle of Bull Run where Henry was wounded when a musket ball struck his hand. Henry recovered in short order and found himself on the battlefield once again, he served at Yorktown, the Battles of the Wilderness, Fair Oaks and Savage Station. Next, he was engaged with his fellow New Hampshire soldiers at the Peach Orchard, Glendale and the first Battle of Malvern Hill. As July of 1862 arrived, Henry Gordon again fought at Fredericksburg, second Battle of Malvern Hill, Bristow’s Station and the second Bull Run battles. As the drummers marched onto the Gettysburg, Pa., field followed by the proud battle-hardened soldiers of the 2nd New Hampshire the patriotism was evident. It was July 1, 1863, when Sargent Henry Gordon led his men into battle once again, a battle that lasted until July 4. This hallowed field of glory claimed the lives of his friends and neighbors, ordinary people doing extraordinary things. At the conclusion of the battle at Gettysburg the 2nd New Hampshire engaged one more time at Wapping Heights.

Henry Gordon returned to his beloved Pittsfield, N.H., when he was mustered out of the United States Army on June 21, 1864. Henry was once again living with his wife and daughter on Chestnut Street and resumed his role as the village cobbler after three years of war. It was said that Henry Gordon left a pair of unfinished shoes on the bench in his cobbler’s shop in the Union Block at Pittsfield, a simple pair of shoes that needed to be finished for a customer, the people depended on their cobbler and there was work to be done.

Vintage Views is a local history column that explores Concord and its surrounding towns. It runs every week in the Sunday Your Life section. The author is a historian and not a member of the Monitor’s staff.

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