Category Archives: Civil War

Joseph Wilson (1843-1886)

By Bill Daley

There is a little-known gravesite of a black civil War soldier, Joseph Wilson, who is buried in Sandwich in a wooded area off of Quaker Meeting House Road near the Stop & Shop. In 2012, Eagle Scout Alex Moore of Sandwich, took on the project of restoring the neglected burial site. He cleared away years of invasive trees, unwanted growth and rotting leaves; created a new path to the burial area and replaced the decrepit fence surrounding the grave and replaced it with new fencing. He also cleared path to what must have been the small house and barn of Joseph Wilson.

This short paper is an attempt to correct the Sandwich archival records and bring clarity to the situation. Several newspaper articles have been written about him over the years and they too contained some erroneous information.

Joseph Wilson’s military records show that he was “mustered in” on September 27, 1862 when he enlisted in New Orleans as a private in Company I of the 1st Louisiana Regiment as an infantryman. His 1862 enlistment papers record him as age 19; therefore, his birth year was 1843. The unit was also referred to as the Native Guards, Free Colored*. Curiously, the 1st Louisiana Native Guard was originally formed in 1861 by the secessionist Governor as a militia for the Confederate States of America. It was comprised of free persons of color. It was disbanded within a year after New Orleans fell to Admiral Farragut and the city was occupied by General Butler.
* the muster in document contains the asterisk note, “subsequently became Company I, 73rd Regiment US Colored Infantry.”

The 1st Louisiana Native Guard was one of the first all-black regiments to fight in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was based in New Orleans and played a prominent role in the siege of Port Hudson, LA. Its members were comprised of a minority of free men of color from New Orleans but, most were African-American former slaves who escaped to join the Union cause and gain freedom.

In May, 1863 the name of the unit was changed to Company I, 1st Regiment, Corp d’ Afrique. The new name made use of Louisiana’s French origins and clearly references it as a unit with black roots. By May, 1864 it was renamed again with its final designation, Company I, 73rd Louisiana Regiment, US Colored Infantry.

Nothing is known as to how, when and why Joseph came to Sandwich. We do know the following from the Sandwich Vital Records, p.1033:
October 22, 1874 – Joseph Wilson, 28, [according to his enlistment papers he should be age 31] of Sandwich, laborer,1st marriage, born Maryland, son of Joseph and Mary married Caroline Phillips of Mashpee, 35, born Nova Scotia, 2nd marriage. Marriage performed by Rev. S A Blake.

The next record on file comes six years later from the Sandwich 1880 Census. Once again there is confusion and contradictions about the ages of both Joseph and Caroline as well as where Joseph was born. It records Joseph as age 40[correct age was probably 37] and lists him as “farm laborer”, born Virginia [ his marriage papers stated he was born in Maryland]. Carrie is recorded as age 50 [the correct age was probably 41 based on her marriage record] born Nova Scotia. She is listed as “keeping house” and they are recorded as blacks in South Sandwich.

The final record refers to Joseph Wilson’s death. Joseph died of consumption (tuberculosis)in Sandwich on May 3, 1886 which would have made him 43 according to his enlistment papers. However, the document of his death puts his age at 62! This age seems completely inaccurate because only 6 years earlier the 1880 Census records him as age 40 (probably was age 37 according to his enlistment papers).

Around the time of his death, Sandwich pauper records record a payment of $5 made to Alexander Booker for care rendered to Joseph. The town also paid $2.50 to F.A. Fisher for opening the grave of Joseph Wilson. His grave has a traditional Civil War headstone issued by the government and it is inscribed with his service in Company I, 73rd Regiment. There is no record as to how it was obtained; perhaps it was done by the local GAR. Carrie died in September 1891 which would have made her age 52 according to her marriage papers.

Local news articles in the archive file have understandably confused this Joseph Wilson with another Joseph Wilson shown in the book, “Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War”. They are two different people and the Massachusetts Wilson served in the famous 54th Regiment. He became prominent after the war and I have provided documented evidence of his history in the file to show that there two Joseph Wilsons.

In summary, more than likely that Joseph Wilson was a former slave. That would account for his confusion as to whether he was born in the slave holding state of Maryland or Virginia; as a young slave it would not have held much relevance to him. It may also account for the confusion of his age. Perhaps he was later sold by a slave trader to a plantation owner in Louisiana. Otherwise, there is no logical explanation as to why a free black man would make his way through the slave states of the South around the time of the Civil War in order to arrive in the slave holding state of Louisiana. Moreover, he enlisted in colored 73rd Louisiana Regiment which was primarily made up of freed slaves. All of this makes it very likely that he was born into slavery and only escaped it when the Union forces invaded and captured New Orleans.

In Sandwich, he lived in a small farm in South Sandwich near what is now called Quaker Meeting House Road. He is buried on what was his farm site. As a farmer, he must have cleared the land but, after 130 years the property is completely wooded and it is now owned by the town of Sandwich.

He must have been very poor and it is likely that he practiced subsistence farming to live. The pauper records prove that he had little or no cash on hand. His early death at age 43 is further proof of the hardships of his life.

Joseph Wilson is the only know black Civil War veteran buried in Sandwich.

Bill Daley
Sandwich Historical Commission
March 2019

A Very Special Memorial Day

William Eaton and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

Memorial Day , 1911

By William F. Daley

(Click for larger view.)

Over 100 years ago, the town of Sandwich celebrated a very special Memorial Day. On May 30, 1911 William Eaton, a wealthy business man from Brockton, donated a 30 foot Civil War Monument to the people of Sandwich. It was erected next to the Town Hall on a piece of greenery that became known as Eaton Square. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is still there today for all to see.


The dedication took place on a rainy day, but that did not dampen the spirit of the throngs of townspeople and visitors who turned out for the festivities. There was a parade lead by the band from the Keith Car & Mfg. Company and, the full crew of the USRC Gresham, Civil War veterans from the GAR, school children and a host of town officials. There was even a recital of Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg. Patriotic speeches were given including one by the keynote speaker, John F. (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald, the Mayor of Boston and the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy. Mayor Fitzgerald spoke of the custom of various nations honoring their great generals, but said the United States was the one nation to recognize the common soldier in granite.

William Eaton

William Eaton, the donor, was not always a rich man. During his youth he was desperately poor. His English father, James, was a glass worker at the Boston and Sandwich Glass Co. (B&S), but he died in 1856 when William was only 8. There were no government social services in mid 19th century America and young William had no alternative but to go to work at the glass factory. In his short autobiography he describes the situation:

After my father’s death I went to work in the Boston and Sandwich Glass Works, where they worked night and day, beginning at one o’clock a.m., Monday. After I worked in the factory some time Mr. Fessenden, the superintendent of the factory, became interested in my case. He sent me to board with a family by the name of Reighel. He paid my board every two weeks to them out of what I earned in the factory; he also gave me what I needed to get shoes and clothes. I tried to be careful of them and tried to make them last as long as possible as I feared I might not be able to pay my way, my wages being very small. After paying for these things, what little was left was saved for me, but this sum was very small.

He was a tireless worker and by the time he was 14 he had saved enough to buy some furniture, hire a house and make a home for his Irish mother Mary and his 2 brothers. At the factory he was fortunate to meet a good friend of his father, John F. Clayton, who was the steam engineer at the factory. Billy Eaton was interested in all things mechanical and Mr. Clayton took him under his wing, spoke words of encouragement to him and answered the hundreds of questions he put to him. Whenever he had “spare time”, he was in the engine room learning all he could from his mentor. He was a quick learner, had a natural
ability in this field; and eventually he became the assistant engineer to Mr. Clayton.

Years later, Mr. Clayton asked the B&S for a raise, but the company refused the request and Clayton resigned. The company asked Eaton to show the new engineer around the factory and to make him familiar with the operations. In an amazing show of loyalty, Eaton said he would not do so and he resigned as well. The company found Mr. Clayton too valuable to lose and he was soon hired back and his demands were satisfied. William returned as well and stayed as Mr. Clayton’s assistant until the company closed in 1888. After Mr. Clayton died, William carried flowers to the grave of his friend at least twice per
year and did so for the rest of his life.

William Eaton moved on to other parts of the country and improved his career as an engineer. Eventually he made his way back to Brockton where he invested money in real estate and accumulated some wealth. During his retirement years he took the time to visit different places in the US. One of these journeys took him to Gettysburg where he was emotionally overcome with the sacrifices that so many young men made in defending the Union. He remembered his boyhood years in Sandwich and recalled the young lads from
the glass factory who answered Lincoln’s call for volunteers. It was this experience which motivated him to donate the monument and its inscription reads:

Presented by William Eaton
to his Native Town of
Sandwich, Mass.
As a Memorial to his Father
James R. Eaton
May 30, 1911

Erected in memory of the
Soldiers and Sailors
From This Town
Brave Defenders of the Union
and the Flag
We Honor Their Noble Deeds.
“Let Us Have Peace”

When the Memorial Day festivities took place in Sandwich on May 30, 1911, they were exclusively directed to those who had given their lives during the Civil War. Its tradition was begun by General Logan in 1868 when he had his troops place flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The practice quickly spread among the northern states and May 30 was initially known as Decoration Day. The southern states did not participate in May 30 observances, choosing instead to honor Southern dead on separate days. It wasn’t until the end of World War I that Memorial Day changed from honoring those who died in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died in any war.

Deming Jarves

During the years from 1861 to 1865, 386 men from Sandwich enlisted in military service. Approximately 100 of these were glass factory workers. Patriotic fervor was running high and Deming Jarves, the head of the glass factory, suspended the rents of any factory worker who enlisted in the war. Volunteers reduced the number of workers in the factory and glass production decreased. It would take years to rebuild the manpower at the factory. By the war’s end, 54 Sandwich men had died on the battlefields or from wounds or diseases. For a small town of 4,500 people, this represented a tremendous sacrifice. It was within this atmosphere that William Eaton spent his early teenage years at the glass factory in Sandwich and as head of his family household.

Martha Hassell, former Curator at the Sandwich Glass Museum, captured the meaning of Eaton’s monument in an article she wrote in 1981. “Although it was particularly those men [enlistees] whom Eaton was honoring in erecting his monument, he was also remembering all the workers of the Boston & Sandwich Glass Factory who had played such an important role in his life. Therefore it seems appropriate that the monument should be placed not only near the town but also facing the Sandwich Glass Museum where so many beautiful
pieces of Sandwich glass are on display.”

It should be said that without Eaton, there would be no Civil War Memorial in Sandwich for town records show that a committee was formed in 1867 to explore the proper way to honor the Civil War dead, but the town ultimately voted to postpone the enterprise and nothing was ever done until William Eaton donated his monument in 1911. He never married and died in Brockton in 1928 at age 80. He is buried in the town where he was born in the Old Town Cemetery on Grove Street and his grave is distinguished by a large Eaton granite stone bearing not only his own name but lovingly those of his parents and brothers and sisters as well. He also honored his first cousin, Joseph Eaton, a glass worker who served in the 36th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War. At the Mt. Hope Cemetery on Route 6A, a large granite boulder bearing the name Eaton was placed beside the simple headstone of the Civil War veteran.

Eaton had done well in life, but he always felt badly about his own lack of formal education. He had said, “I could have gone farther in life if only I had had some mathematical training.” In his later years he placed $10,000 in a scholarship trust to be used for worthy Sandwich students. He did not name the scholarship after himself, but after the man who had provided him with the education he needed. The John C. Clayton Scholarship has been awarded to deserving Sandwich High School seniors for nearly 80 years and the practice continues to this day.

Finally, William Eaton never forgot how difficult it was to be poor. In his will he set aside $5,000 in trust known as the Mary, Charles and John R. Eaton Memorial Fund in honor of his mother and brothers. It calls for the fund “to provide needy and worthy families in the town with Christmas dinners and other comforts during the Christmas season” It is still in existence today. He was a humble man of quiet dignity who did the best he could. He loved his country, his family and his native town of Sandwich. Mr. Eaton concluded his own short biography with these words. “I have been industrious and it has been a source of great happiness. I have been temperate in my habits and believe in the simple life, which I have followed to a great extent. I have been able to accomplish some things beyond my expectations. I have made the most of the talents God gave me.’

Eaton Square ca. 1912 (Click for Hi-Res View)

Related Articles:

New Civil War Memorial Wall Plaque Now in Town Hall

Sandwich Men who Died in Military Service during the Civil War 1861-1865

New Civil War Memorial Wall Plaque Now in Town Hall

Sandwich Civil War Plaque
Bill Daley inspecting the new Civil War plaque. The Historical Commission extends its highest praise and appreciation to Bill for spearheading this important project.

The Civil War Memorial Wall Plaque has been delivered and it now hangs on the wall of the first staircase case landing at Town Hall. It shows the full names of the 294 Sandwich men who served as soldiers and sailors. A gold star is beside the names of the 54 men who lost their lives because of the war.

As far as Cape Cod is concerned, Sandwich raised the first military unit on the Cape; the Sandwich Guards (Co. D 29th Regiment) saw the first military action; Sandwich had the most men join of any town on the Cape and sadly lost the most number of men. Sandwich was not alone in its losses; more than 600,000 Americans lost their lives during this 4 year nightmare.

Roster of Civil War Soldiers & Sailors, Sandwich, MA


Sandwich & The Civil War

By William F. Daley

The Sandwich Guards –
29th Regiment, Company D

On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The shelling rapidly escalated into a series of actions including President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion. They were to be raised from the state militias to serve a term of 3 months of active duty; a clear indication that this would be enough time to put the Rebels in their place. It would soon become apparent that 3 months would not get the job done and that the enlistments would need to be extended for a longer time.

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