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4th Vermont Infantry


"A Story of His Life"
written by his Niece, Mildred L. Burgess,
14 Green Lane, Worcester, Mass., 1913

George Perham Spaulding was born in Cavendish, Windsor County, Vt., 30 March, 1843. He was the son of John Jr. & Lucy (Marsh) Spaulding. He lived at home until 15 years of age, when he went to live with General and Mrs. Davis in Cavendish. He remained there until the Civil War broke out. He distinguished himself in the Civil War by his bravery. When he was 18 years old he enlisted in Cavendish, Feb., 1861. He served three months, taking part in the Battle of Bethel on the James River.

The next day [probably after a leave from service], the young lad, for the first time was marching off to duty, he heard bells tolling, while passing a church in Cavendish. He asked from whom they were tolling the bell and a man nearby replied that it was for a Mrs. Spaulding. This, as it proved, being Mr. Spaulding's own mother [Lucy Marsh Spaulding], whose funeral was that day. He was given permission to attend the funeral service at the grave. The family had been unable to locate him, to send him the news of his mother's death. The father died two years before. Mr. Spaulding's father was a strong advocate of the abolition of slavery. He saw much of slave life while during early life he lived in South Carolina and when he came [back] North to live, he used to lecture on the slave question, advocating freedom for the Negroes. Mr. Spaulding was the grandson of John Spaulding, Sr., who served during the Revolutionary War.

Enlisting a second time, 20 Aug., 1861, George served three years and at the end of this he re-enlisted to serve until the close of the war. He was taken prisoner and told many interesting stories of his confinement in the southern jails.

While camping at Newport News, Virginia, he saw the Cumberland and Congress sunk by the Merrimac, 8 March, 1862. One of the sailors of the Merrimac stamped the crucifix with the Blessed Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross on Mr. Spaulding's right arm. Mr. Spaulding in later years remembered that he was sure that this helped to save his life throughout the war. It surely was the most skillful piece of work to be done of that kind and acquaintances intimate with Mr. Spaulding viewed the perfect picture on his arm.

He took part in many prominent battles in the Civil War. He was first taken at Petersburg, Va., 23 June, 1864, and was kept in a Richmond prison and later a prison in Danville and in Andersonville more than six months. From Andersonville he was taken to Savannah, Ga., and was paroled from there, returning to Rutland [Vt.] to visit with relatives. He remained 60 days and then having been exchanged, returned to the army and fought until peace was declared. He served in Co. "C", 4th Reg't of Vt. Volunteers, Second Brigade, Third Division of the 6th Army Corps. His Regiment was in the army of the Potomac and saw almost continuous service from the first advance into Virginia until the fall of Richmond in 1865. Among the battles in which he was engaged were the Second Battle of Bull Run, Fair Oaks, the Seven Days Battle, Harpers Ferry, the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, South Mountain and Gettysburg and many other battles. He served under Gen. George B. McClellan, Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, Gen George B. Meade, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and General Hooker.

At the Battle of Gettysburg, where the doom of the Confederacy was made certain, a shot took off Mr. Spaulding's cap and to the fact that he was small of statute, he attributed his escape from death. Another bullet grazed one elbow, but otherwise [he] had come out of the greatest battle of the war uninjured. During the fighting at Gettysburg, one of the Confederate generals and his horse was shot and during the firing of the bullets, Mr. Spaulding crawled over stone walls and the battle fields on his hands and knees, dodging the shots, reached the general and his horse and unstrapped the saddle from the horse and also the rifle, and then managed in the same way to get back. He gave the saddle to his Captain and the rifle he sent to his brother in Worcester [Mass.].

He was made First Corporal soon after enlisting and then promoted to First Sergeant, Second Sergeant, Orderly Sergeant, Second Lieutenant, and at the close of the war, he was Acting Captain, not having received his commission.

He was Acting Captain of "H" Company. He returned from the army aching to the bone with scurvy, which he had contracted while in prison. The food in prison, Mr. Spaulding said, was terrible. Many a day only beans were given to the soldiers to eat. Half the time there were not fires to cook with and the water was white with life [lice]. He told of a wonderful happening while in prison. The prisoners craving for some fresh water to drink, and had been for days praying for some to be given to them when suddenly there sprang up a pool of clear, fresh, cold water out of the ground in a very dry spot. It was a great relief to the poor suffering prisoners and they felt it was some miracle performed by God. The prisoners were divided into groups of 81 each. Mr. Spaulding had charge of one of these groups. These men were taken out to get wood in groups of six or eight and the one in charge of the group was responsible for the lives of each man. Immediate death by shooting was the penalty paid if one of the men escaped. One incident occurred when one of his men was missing, having hidden behind a stump, one of the head officials of the prison noticed the absence and was about to punish Mr. Spaulding with his life, when suddenly the missing man arrived upon the scene.

During his time in prison he has said that he craved for salt to eat so badly that he told the prison guard if he would get some he would give him his only coat. The guard brought him a small bag, at which Mr. Spaulding gave up his only coat. This occurred during the winter months, and Mr. Spaulding has said he was very choice of the salt and would take only a little pinch at a time.

When Mr. Spaulding came out of prison, he said that the only clothing he had was just the pair of trousers he had on and those were so rotten that the threads had rotted away to the seams so he had made little sticks and fastened the seams together. The other clothes had rotted to pieces from having to sleep on the damp ground.

In February, 1864, before the close of the war, Mr. Spaulding wedded Miss Margaret Sullivan of Cavendish, after a typical soldier's romance. During the few years of their living in Vermont, three sons were born to them. At the close of the war, while Mr. Spaulding remained in Rutland, he was a locomotive engineer, running from Rutland, Vt. to Schenectady, NY When leaving Vermont, he and family went West and from there to Texas, where he had been living for more than 33 years prior to his coming to Worcester.

Mrs. Spaulding died 10 June, 1912. She was an active and faithful worker in St. Anthony's Catholic Church and was looked to as one of the finest women in Longview, Texas, where both lived. Mr. Spaulding also became a Roman Catholic during the Civil War.

He had not seen his brother or three sisters for more than 40 years. After the death of his wife he had written his youngest sister, Mrs. Isadore Burgess, formerly of Uxbridge Street, urging her to go to Texas with her daughter Mildred, whom he had never seen. The sister found Mr. Spaulding in poor health. He figured in a gasoline explosion about two years ago at Brown Lumber Company's Mill and it greatly affected his entire system, his eyes being quite bad and his throat being in very poor shape from the accident. He had, for the last fifteen years, been manager of the Brown Lumber Company as Engineer.

Mr. Spaulding was advised by his doctors and his son to come North, as the climate did not agree with him in Texas. He came and planned to make his home in Worcester, with his youngest sister and niece, who had been with him during the past seven months. He arrived in Worcester on June 12 [1913]. After being here only two days, he was taken with a severe attack with his throat and after being examined by a specialist and other doctors, it was pronounced cancer of the larynx.

He was spiritually cared for by the Rector of the Immaculate Conception Church, where he would have been a member had he been able. Mr. Spaulding was failing so fast and it was so that nothing for his throat could be given in his home, he was moved to the hospital near the home and there remained until his death, 23 Nov., [1913] at 10:40 p.m. Mr. Spaulding was a great sufferer and grew more so as his life grew shorter, with great patience he bore all until the end.

There was a High Mass of Requiem in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, 2 Dec., at 9:00 a.m. After the service, the body was taken by the son to Longview, Texas, where a High Mass of Requiem was chanted in the little Mission called Saint Anthony's Church, 5 Dec., at 10:00 a.m., after which the body was laid to rest in Greenwood Cemetery, by the side of his wife and two other sons.

He died at the age of 70 years, 7 months and 2 days. At the time of his death he had not a single gray hair in his head. He had dark brown hair.

[Signed in 1913, Mildred L. Burgess, Niece, who passed the last year of Mr. Spaulding's life with him.]

[taken from Families of Cavendish, Vol. 2, by Linda M. F. Welch, Cavendish Historical Society, Cavendish, Vermont, 1994, and reprinted with permission for the Vermont Civil War Web Page on the World Wide Web]