“When he wrote, he wrote to the whole community,” said Drake. “We can read it as part of the community.”
He is through and through a farm boy: He talks about the countryside he had passed through, the horses, the price of milk, apples the size of a “hens egg.”
But his first battle leaves him despondent. Fredericksburg was a disaster for the Union — a bloody mess that ended in retreat. Most of Harwood’s letters avoid graphic details because he knows he is writing for a wide audience, but in the aftermath of Fredericksburg, which lasted from about Dec. 11 through Dec. 15 in 1862, he was deeply shaken.
“Times look dark, darker, every day and I fear that this war will never end until the last drop of blood has been shed, unless it be by the Great hand of the God Almighty. Little do you at the North know how this war is conducted, and the little sympathy a sick or wounded soldier gets, we may write to you but we cannot describe it,” he wrote on Dec. 22, 1862. “Many are the trials, the sorrows, the sufferings, the temptations, the privations, and the discouragements of a soldiers life. . . I hope that I may be spared to meet you all again and that not before long.”
Harwood made it through his enlistment, though he was wounded twice in later battles. He went on to work in insurance and banking. The war, he said, was his education.
In a 2 p.m. program Sunday at the Needham Historical Society, Drake will present the first year of Harwood’s enlistment, and one of the organizers of the exhibition, Claire Fusaro, will tell the story of Company C.
Said Gries, “This was the adventure of their lives.”
Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com.