By Alexander Geschardt
Special To The Standard
My name is Alexander Geschardt. I’m a Freshman at Woodstock Union High School. The Civil War has always been something that has fascinated me since I was in the 4th Grade when I participated in the History Fair at the Woodstock Historical Society and studied the Civil War. As part of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War I am writing an article every month in the Vermont Standard about Woodstock’s role in the “War between the States.” I am getting the information from an original copy of the Vermont Standard from 150 years ago.
When you think of the Civil War you probably don’t think of Vermont. There were no battles fought in Vermont but many troops came from this state. Stroll through any one any of our graveyards you will more than likely will find the grave of someone who fought in the Civil War. Vermont had one of the highest casualty rates of any state.
This month in 1861 the Civil War had just begun; troops from across New England and other areas of the Union were being called upon to fight. Vermont was one of the states required to have soldiers volunteer for the war under President Lincoln’s call for troops on April 15th, 1861. One of the volunteer groups of militia were the Woodstock Light Infantry, who expected the war to end within a several months.
Vermont also helped the war by funding it. The Vermont State Legislature put up one million dollars for the purposes of war. Back then a million dollars was much more than it is today where in modern times a million dollars is much more common to accumulate in America. People of the State were also asked to donate money and join the service, or volunteer. The Woodstock Light Infantry, part of the 1st Vermont Regiment, began training a few times a week starting on April 17th 1861.
Vermont was anti-Confederacy — they really despised the Confederacy pro-slavery ideas and were quite verbal about it. Many in Vermont were eager to fight the South and put an end to their way of life. Fredrick Holbrook was the Governor of Vermont in 1861, and he sent a very strong message to the Senate. The message was about the “outrage” of the Confederacy’s actions against the Union. He said that they should be dealt with through force. Vermont responded with a regiment that consisted of 780 officers and men.
In the April 19, 1861 edition of the Vermont Standard there was an interesting article written by Richard H. Lee, who was a relative of Robert E. Lee. The article was a rebuff to an article that was written in the Albany Evening Journal March 23, 1861 and it was extremely pro-Confederacy. He described how the South was more than ready and anxious to fight the North. For example, one of the things he said was, “We of the South are anxious to meet some of you rabid Republicans on the field of battle; and whether or not you have the courage or not to risk your life on the battlefield.” He also wrote very derogatory remarks about African Americans. He remarked very rudely about them with this: “I would be willing to meet your best regiment of Republicans with a regiment of our negro men, and feel very sanguine of a victory,” inferring that the best troops in the North aren’t even as good as their worst troops, since the South found African-Americans to be inferior.
Researching what was happening in Woodstock 150 years ago by actually reading the Vermont Standard has given me a glimpse into what it was like to live here during the start of the Civil War. While the events of the Civil War were taking place hundreds of miles away, it is clear that the people of Vermont were involved and active in the fight against the South and it dominated the news. In the same way events in the Middle East and North Africa are in the forefront of our minds through the media, the Civil War was first place in the news 150 years ago here in Woodstock.
By Alexander Geschardt