July – October 1861
The Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment organized for military service in the summer of 1861. They camped near the Blue Hills of Milton, Massachusetts, naming the location Camp Massasoit. On July 18 the regiment mustered into United States Service, adding additional recruits in August. Receiving orders to advance to the front for active service, the regiment left Camp Massasoit on September 4. Their enlistment tallied at three-quarters strength with seven-hundred and fifty recruits.
The regiment began their journey to the front, boarding a train from Groton, Connecticut. From Groton they travelled by steamboat for New York, where they journeyed by ferry for Philadelphia, arriving the morning of September 6. Later that evening they arrived at Baltimore at 10 PM. From Baltimore they travelled to Washington on cattle cars, arriving at 2:30 AM on September 7.
On September 9 the regiment received orders to report to Brigadier General F.W. Lander, an officer in General Charles Stone's Corps of Observation. The regiment arrived at Camp Foster in Poolesville, Maryland on September 14, 1861. As there was insufficient water at Camp Foster, the following day the regiment relocated two and one-half miles away at Camp Benton, located near Edwards Ferry, a ford between the Maryland and Virginia banks of the Potomac River. Camp Benton became their headquarters for the next several months.
Original Regimental Roster
Colonel: William Raymond Lee
Lieutenant Colonel: Francis Winthrop Palfrey
Major: Paul Joseph Revere
Adjutant: Charles Lawrence Peirson
Quartermaster: Charles W. Folsom
Surgeon: Henry Bryant
Assistant Surgeon: Nathan Hayward
Sergeant Major: Sylvanus R. Harlow
Quartermaster Sergeant: Henry Frederick Sander
Commissary Sergeant: Edward Hennessey
Hospital Steward: John Honnard
Captain: Henry M. Tremlett
First Lieutenant: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
2nd Lieut: Charles A. Whittier
Captain: John Herchenroder
First Lieutenant: John W. Le Barnes
Second Lieutenant: August Muller
Captain: Ferdinand Dreher
First Lieutenant: Alois Babo
Second Lieutenant: Reinhold Wesselhoeft
Captain: Caspar Crowninshield
First Lieutenant: George B. Perry
Second Lieutenant: Nathaniel Thayer Messer
Captain: George Adam Schmitt
1st Lieut: James Jackson Lowell
Second Lieutenant: William Lowell Putnam
Captain: Edward A. Walleston
First Lieutenant: Charles Follen Cabot
Second Lieutenant: Charles O. Day
Captain: Henry J. Sweeny
First Lieutenant: Henry Capen
Second Lieutenant: William F. Milton
Captain: John C. Putnam
First Lieutenant: Norwood Penrose Hallowell
Second Lieutenant: Henry Howard Sturgis
Captain: William Francis Bartlett
First Lieutenant: George Nelson Macy
Second Lieutenant: Henry Livermore Abbott
Captain: Allen Shepard
First Lieutenant: Allen W. Beckwith
Second Lieutenant: Charles Linzee Tilden, Jr.
Changes in Regimental Command
On September 18, 1861, Surgeon Henry Bryant was promoted to brigade surgeon. Assistant Surgeon Nathan Hayward was promoted to Surgeon, and E.H.R. Revere was promoted to Assistant Surgeon. Later that month, on September 30, 1861, Captain Henry Sweeny of Company G resigned.
In October, additional command changes ensued. On October 5, 1861, Captain Edward A. Walleston of Company F went home on leave. Two days later, on October 7, First Lieutenant Henry Capen of Company G and Second Lieutenant Charles Day of Company F resigned. On October 11, Captain John Herchenroder of Company B sent in his resignation, effective November 7. In order to deal with the vacancies in command, Lieutenants Messer and Sturgis were temporarily assigned to Companies G and F respectively, and Lieutenants Milton and LeBarnes were ordered back from recruiting service.
New commissions went into effect on October 12. First Lieutenant Alois Babo was commissioned Captain of Company G to replace Henry Sweeny. Second Lieutenant Milton of Company G was promoted to First Lieutenant of Company C to replace Alois Babo. Second Lieutenant Henry Abbott refused promotion to First Lieutenant of Company C because he wanted to remain in Company I. William F. Perkins, clerk in quartermaster’s dept, was promoted to Second Lieutenant in Company G.
Initiation into Military Action
On October 21, 1861, the regiment encountered their first combat at Ball’s Bluff near Leesburg, Virginia. This episode had devastating and irrevocable consequences on the newly-formed regiment.1
Follow the journey of the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment on the Home Page.
1George A. Bruce, The Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1861 - 1865 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Riverside Press, 1906), 1-24.