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Cenotaph in Houghton Cemetery in Stamford honoring two sons of Charles and Harriet Clough who died in the Civil War. The men are buried in Virginia and Maryland.

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Vermonters' Civil War muster; one family's great losses


MARK E. RONDEAU

 

Published in Bennington Banner June 27, 2011 

 

The second article in an occasional series about the Bennington area and the Civil War, focusing on soldiers and units from the Green Mountain State and on life at the home front.

 

BENNINGTON -- At the outbreak of the Civil War, James H. Walbridge, 34, son of a North Bennington woolens manufacturer, erstwhile California gold miner and member of a famous (or infamous) vigilante committee in San Francisco in 1856, organized a unit known as the Bennington Union Guards.

 

The Guards were the talk of Bennington. "This Company of Volunteers is making decided advancement in the science of war," the May 23, 1861, Bennington Banner reported. "They are being drilled eight hours a day by our townsman, G.S. Ladd, Esq., an experienced officer of the Massachusetts School, who shows himself to be a thorough and efficient disciplinarian."

 

Some 20 companies from around the state had been selected to form the Green Mountain State's first two volunteer regiments. The Bennington Union Guards, the great majority of its members from Bennington County, was to become Company A of the Second Vermont Regiment. Also part of this regiment were companies organized in nine other cities and towns throughout the state.

 

At the beginning of June, the Banner noted that the Guards "burnt some gunpowder on Tuesday afternoon, they firing quite a number of rounds in true military style, under Sgt. Ladd." The same issue of the then-weekly paper noted that the Rev. Phillips of the Methodist Episcopal Church addressed the Guards in a special service the previous Friday.

 

Phillips contrasted the motives of the revolutionary patriots in breaking away from England with those of the Confederate rebels. "One was for the establishment of Liberty and paternal love for humanity, while the other is for perpetuating a system of wrong and oppression, alike wicked and unholy," the Banner wrote.

 

On June 5, a group of Bennington women presented an American flag they had produced at a cost of $60 to the company at a ceremony at First Congregational Church on the eve of the unit's departure for Burlington the next day by train to be mustered into the U.S. Army.

 

After accompanying the unit throughout the war, the flag later was part of the funeral of every member of the Custer Grand Army of the Republic Post buried in Bennington. Two members of the GAR post, Bennington men John C. Clark and Payson Hathaway -- though not veterans of Company A or the Second Regiment -- donated the flag to the Bennington Museum in 1929.

 

At the time it was little more than a bunch of shreds and tatters bound together with twine, but John Spargo, the president of the museum, had the flag restored to the extent possible.

 

Bennington soon keenly felt the absence of the newly departed soldiers. "Our streets seem deserted without their daily presence; the armory where they were accustomed to go through their regular drill looks vacant," an article in the June 13 Banner states.

 

By June 24, the Second Regiment, mustered into service for three years, with 868 officers and men, left Burlington by train, headed for Washington D.C., where it made camp until July 10.

 

The Banner ran a July 5 letter from Lt. Newton Stone, second in command of Company A after Capt. James H. Walbridge. Stone was a mature 24-year-old, son of a Readsboro minister with strong abolitionist leanings. Moving to Bennington at age 21, he began to pursue a career in the law.

 

The regiment was camped less than a mile from the Capitol, with its unfinished dome in sight, and some soldiers even sat in on sessions of Congress. But Stone's main purpose was "to refer to some things that concern the comfort and health of our Co., which are not as they should be."

 

For one thing, there was no shade in the encampment, not an easy thing in a southern summer -- and the camp was very large and very crowded.

 

"As to the health of the Regiment, there has been considerable work for our surgeon. In general the sickness that has prevailed has been caused by the heat and insufficiency or bad quality of food and water," Stone wrote. "There have been a number of cases of measles -- some in our own Company."

 

If camp conditions helped dispel the romantic vision of war so many Americans held in 1861, the defeat the Union suffered during the third week of July at the first Battle of Bull Run in Virginia made it clear that this would not be a 90-day war. The Second Vermont Regiment participated in the battle, and Cpl. R.H. Benjamin, 30, of Company C, from Brattleboro, was the first Vermonter killed in action in the war.

 

The Second Vermont did not take part in any more major warfare until well into 1862. Yet disease remained a major threat -- indeed it killed more soldiers in the Civil War than did enemy arms. Of the 620,000 soldiers who died during the war, two-thirds died of disease.

 

Of the 1,858 men who served in the Second Vermont Regiment, 224 were killed or died of wounds and 175 died of disease or other causes.

 

Where is John Clough buried?

 

On Dec. 10, 1861, Lt. Newton Stone wrote a letter from Camp Griffin, Va., to John M. Clough of Stamford about the death of Clough's only son, also named John, 21, the day before of pneumonia and typhoid fever.

 

"I hope in this bereavement that you will find great consolation in the fact that he attempted to do his part to quell this wicked rebellion and serve his country," Stone wrote.

 

Accounts in both the Banner and the Hoosac Valley News and Transcript of North Adams, Mass., indicate that John Clough's body was embalmed and sent back to Stamford for a funeral service at the Stamford Baptist Church attended by people from the town and the general area.

 

"The occasion was solemn and impressive," the Banner reported. However, as I learned from the excellent website vermontcivilwar.org, no burial information about John Clough exists.

 

So I visited Houghton Cemetery in Stamford, a well-kept, wooded cemetery on a lozenge-shaped hill about 300 feet east of Route 8.

Here I found the grave of John Clough's father, John M. (1811-1884), and his family, and adjacent to it, making a long row, the graves of the families of men who I surmise were John M.'s brothers, Orlen Clough (1814-1885) and Charles Clough (1821-?). Charles lived in the Heartwellville section of Readsboro which borders on Stamford.

 

Though I found no sign of a grave for young John, beside the tombstone for Charles and Harriet Clough stands an impressive cenotaph honoring their two sons who served in Company A of the Second Vermont:

 

* Charles E. Clough, 19. He died of disease in Baltimore on July 9, 1863, and is buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery in Maryland.

 

* Marcus M. Clough, 24, was killed in action at Charles Town, W.Va., on Aug. 21, 1864, and is buried in Winchester National Cemetery in Virginia. Further research indicates that by the time of the 1860 census, Marcus was living in Readsboro and married to a woman named Mary, who was born in 1844.

 

Further research revealed that this extended family -- which had lost several children in infancy or early childhood -- had suffered even more during the Civil War.

 

* Warren Clough, born in 1844, son of Orlen Clough, of Stamford, enlisted in September, 1862, and also served in Company A of the Second Vermont Regiment. On May 5, 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness -- on the same day in the same battle that would take the life of Col. Newton Stone -- Clough took a ball through the left side and had two fingers shot off.

 

The 1880 U.S. census shows Warren Clough married and living in Lysander in western New York. His burial site is unknown.

 

Other questions remain -- where is young John Clough buried? Are his remains in Houghton Cemetery with the rest of his immediate family but in an unmarked grave? Were his parents so disheartened to lose their only adult child that they never marked his grave?

 

Or is he buried elsewhere? Online records mention a Clough Road Cemetery in Stamford, at which the last burial was in the 1840s. However, a trip last week on this road revealed no sign of a cemetery. Where is it?

 

I will write about any answers I receive in a future article.

 

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Civil War Series

Mark Rondeau - Writer, Editor, Photographer