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Back to Cook's Battery Boston Light Artillery

Primary Sources for the Cook's Battery Boston Light Artillery

Figure 1: Title: War views. No. 1501, Camp life, Army of the Potomac - writing to friends at home Summary: Stereograph shows Boston Light Artillery soldiers in camp at Relay House in Maryland sitting at a long table, writing letters, as one soldier, in the foreground, appears to be sewing. Photographed June 1861. LoC image.

Minute Men of '61 : History and Complete Roster of the Massachusetts Regiments Hardcover – 1910 by George W. Nason (Author)

Boston. Light Artillery, Cook's Battery

Minute Men of '61

(Three Months' Volunteers.)

On the morning of April 20, 1861, Major Cook received orders to have his Company ready to proceed to Washington, with Colonel Lawrence in command.

The Company numbered over one hundred and twenty men, and were each armed with a sabre and a revolver, and provided with heavy overcoats by the State. Their battery consisted of six six-pounders, together with seventy horses, ten tons of cartridges, shot and grape. The corps marched to the Worcester depot between one and two o'clock a.m. Here they remained until the arrival of the Fifth Regiment, and left with them early Sunday morning, April 21. At Framingham they were surrounded by crowds and greeted with music and salutes of cannon. At every stopping place. people left their homes and churches to show their approval of the cause, and their admiration of the troops who, forgetting everything but country, were ready to peril life for it.

They arrived in New York about dark and embarked in the steamer "De Soto," and sailed for Fortress Monroe, thence direct to Annapolis. where they arrived early April 24. The patriotic and cordial feelings which met them at every station in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, as they passed along, were chilled by the traitorous and hostile rebel atmosphere of Maryland; and preparations were made to gallantly meet and repel any attack that might be made upon them.

At Annapolis they were quartered in the Naval School buildings, and remained as a guard for troops passing to Washington, until May 4, when they marched to the Relay House, nine miles southwest of Baltimore, and encamped on the heights. Here they remained for some time as a guard, and were daily exercised in drilling and other military duties, being mustered into United States service May 18.

On June 13, went to Baltimore with the Sixth Regiment to protect the polls, and encamped at Mt. Clare, a suburb of the city. Major Cook received a letter from Major-General Dix, on July 26, stating that, though the term of service of the Company had expired, yet it was the earnest desire of the Department Commander that the Battery should continue to hold their position until July 30. In accordance with this request, the letter was read to the members of the corps, who voted to a man to accede to the wish of General Dix, for whom they gave three cheers and a skyrocket.

On August 3, the Battery arrived in Boston once more, and were met with a most cordial reception, and escorted into the city by the First Battalion of Dragoons, Major White; the Second Battalion of Infantry. Major Newton and the National Lancers, Captain Slade; and welcomed in a speech by Mayor Wightman, and were shortly mustered out.

Orders were received at 8.30 o'clock on the morning of April 20, 1861, by Major Cook, to have his Company in readiness to proceed to Washington with

288 MINUTE MEN of '61

Colonel Lawrence's Command. and at 10 o'clock in the evening he reported that his Company was ready. During the day they were busily engaged in perfecting arrangements to leave. The Company numbered over 120 men, and were each armed with a sabre and a revolver, and provided with heavy overcoats by the State. They supped at the Cornhill Hotel, the interior of which was beautifully decorated in their honor, and having sent forward, at 10 o'clock in the evening, their battery of six brass six-pounders, together with seventy horses selected mainly from the Metropolitan Railroad Stables, and ten tons of cartridges, shot and grape, the corps marched to the Worcester Depot between one and two o'clock. Here they remained until the arrival of the Fifth Regiment, and left with them early Sunday morning, the 21st. Stopping at Framingham, to wood and water, they were surrounded by crowds, who manifested the greatest excitement, and not only showered blessings upon them, but greeted them with music and salutes of cannon, and forced upon them eatables in great abundance. Indeed, at every stopping place the people left their houses and churches to show their approval of the cause, and their admiration of the troops, who, forgetting everything but country, were ready to peril life for R.

They arrived at New York about dark, and embarked late that evening in the steamer "De Soto," in which they sailed for Fortress Monroe. They arrived the 23d, at noon, and were ordered direct to Annapolis, and arrived there early the next morning. The patriotic and cordial feelings which met them at every station in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, as they passed along, were here chilled by the traitorous and hostile rebel atmosphere of Maryland; and preparations were

made to gallantly meet and repulse any attack that might be made upon them.

At Annapolis they were quartered at the Naval School Building, and remained posted in this city as a safeguard for troops passing to Washington, until May 4th, when they marched to the Relay House and encamped. Here they remained for some time as a guard, and were daily exercised in drilling and in other military duties. May 18, the oath of allegiance to the United States was administered to the corps by Lieut. H. S. Putnam. June 13, went to Baltimore with the Sixth Regiment, to protect the polls, it being election day in that city,—returned soon after to the Relay Station, but were immediately again ordered to Baltimore, and encamped at Camp Clare. June 30, ordered to march from the camp into the heart of the city, two detachments being stationed in Monument square, and the others at the Custom House. July 10th, returned to Camp Clare.

July 26, Major-General Dix addressed a letter to Major Cook, stating that, though the term of service of the company had expired, yet it was the earnest desire of the Major-General commanding that they should continue to hold their position until the 30th.

In accordance with this request the letter was read to the members of the corps, who voted to a man to accede to the wish of General Dix, for whom they gave three cheers and a "skyrocket"

August 3d, the Battery arrived in Boston once more, where they met with a most cordial reception, being escorted into the city by the First Battalion of Dragoons, Major White; the Second Battalion of Infantry, Major Newton, and the Lancers, Captain Slade, and welcomed in a speech by Mayor Wightman.

Thus ended the three-months' service of Cook's Battery.



Boston Evening Transcript, May 13, 1861


A letter received in this city from a member of the Boston Light Artillery, dated at the Relay House, May 8th, gives some details of the recent movements of that corps, from which we take several extracts:

You no doubt have heard of our march from Annapolis to this place. We were roused up at one o clock in the morning and supplied with twenty-four rations, and then started, no one of us knowing where, excepting Gen. Butler. We went over the worst roads you can imagine, also through tobacco and cornfields and woods, across rivers, &c. till we reached Washington Junction, a distance of thirty-one miles. There to halted to feed our horses, took another negro guide, and pushed forward to this place, a distance of eleven miles, with better roads, and arrived at eleven o'clock. Some of our horses as well as men dropped from fatigue as soon as we halted, from this forced march.

We are here to protect the great bridge of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It is the most stupendous work of the kind I ever saw, being 112 feet high, with solid granite arched pillars. The arches at the bottom are sixty feet wide, and the structure is about a quarter of a mile in length. The Baltimore roughs intended to blow up this bridge, and we were only in time to save it. This and another covered bridge are the only great thoroughfares for passing from the Northwest to the South.

Our battery is stationed on a very high and steep within half a mile of both bridges. We are 172 feet above the town, if the small settlement may be so called. We are with the New York Eighth and the Massachusetts Sixth Regiment's, and are entrenched in a position which we can hold against any odds. It required sixteen of our stoutest horses to pull each field piece up here. We are only a rifle shot from Baltimore County. Our name has gone before us, and the people feel secure where we move. Hundreds come to see us, and the praise of the Boston Light Artillery is in all mouths.

The people here pretend to be all for the Union, but still there are secessionists among them. Several of our party ate breakfast with a colonel of a secession regiment, but were not aware of the fact till he had departed.

As one of the incidents of camp ills I will mention that one of our guard was shot at last night, but was not hit. He instantly gave a return fire, and shot the cowardly rebel on the spot, and the miscreant was soon put under the sod. The whole affair passed so quickly that many of the company were not aware of an attack and its results.


Boston Evening Transcript, May 16, 1861

THE BOSTON LIGHT ARTILLERY IN MARYLAND. The following letter from one of the professional gentlemen attached to the Boston Light Artillery Company, will be road with interest, although it was not written with the view of publication.

Washington Junc., in Camp, May 10, '61

Dear G: We had got very comfortably settled at Annapolis, under a roof in a good room, with steam when it was cold and rainy; and gas, when it was dark. A good cuisine and proper beds were only wanting to make it like a watering place. Our men had fine, level parade grounds, upon which to drill, and “every thing was lovely” We expected to remain there permanently; but the fates and the exigences of war willed it otherwise. At half-past twelve o'clock Saturday night, the Major came to our room with orders to start. The bugle sounded, and “all up” was the word. Then took place that “hurrying to and fro” we read about, and at seven o'clock A. M., Sunday, we filed out of the gate with full battery and what impediments we could carry on two baggage wagons.

The march to this place was 40 miles tong, and for the first 30, over the worst roads mortal man ever travelled—gullies, holes, water and mud. We called a halt at noon, of two hours, refreshing man and beast; pushed on then over the Baltimore and Washington Turnpike, and arrived here at 9 P. M. just before the rain commenced. I rode here a part of the way and part on the wagons, and walked a little. That was a forced march with a vengeance, and some who had not rode for a time were pretty well used up. Principal objects of interest on the way, niggers and pigs.

The 8th New York were ordered also, and went in cars. The 6th Massachusetts also, from Washington, We were quartered that night in an old deserted hotel, unfurnished, dirty and reputed to be haunted. The ghost of the murdered Bryce Hobbs did not, however, disturb the slumbers of the B. L. A. We made up fires the available fire-places, spread our blankets on the floor, and slept the unbroken sleep of the tired soldier.

It rained all night and all day Monday the troops on the hill, having no camp equipage, suffered exceedingly. They now have tents, huts, &c. The medical corps remained in that house till Friday night, when we removed to our lodge the wilderness, a board hut which we arranged so that it is quite comfortable. I have my doubts, though, about its ability to shed all the rain that may fall.

Our battery is in position on this hill and the immediate neighborhood. Two pieces command quite a sweep of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, two the valley opposite, and two lying around loose for contingencies. The muzzles of these in position look smilingly out from behind “illigant breastworks.”“ In the local dialect, they are “right smart, ‘deed they are”

The country about here is exceedingly beautiful and romantic. Hill, valley and water course. Vegetation profuse, cliff, bridge and sand-bank. All the elements of a Switzerland, except the glaciers.

At twilight Wednesday, a soldier of the 8th, who accidentally shot himself, was buried with military honors. It was a most impressive scene, heightened by the echoing roll of the muffled drums and the measured tramp of the procession, as they bore him to his resting place. He died as honorably as if upon the field of battle. He war drawing the charge from a Minie rifle, after guard duty.

Crowds come out here from Baltimore every day Many ladies, to whose society we, of course, have no objection. We are now experiencing all of the varieties of comp life, without the elegancies of the muster field. We may stay here some time, and we may be ordered away before I finish this. We fire at a target with striking success I trust some of the secessionists will get before our guns ere long—down they go—a ten strike every time.

It rains again, and, alas, our shanty looks like a sieve. We just this A. M., received orders, and four companies of the Sixth and two of our guns have started toward Harper's Ferry on a scout. We (medically) need a surgeon's wagon for occasions like this. 6 P. M.,the men returned. No trouble, aside from hard work in loading a captured infernal machine—a steam gun, that sows shot like seed, on the centrifugal principle. Four mules and three men prisoners. The mules and the “masheen” are at our camp—the men gone to Annapolis.

Tell Ned that I find frequent occasion for therapeutics, but not much military surgery as yet. The men are continually banging, cutting and bruising themselves. Farewell. LEBARON.


Letter of Caleb Mortimer, ca. May 16, 1861, Gilder-Lehrman Collection

Relay house Md, 1861

Dear Wife

I received a letter from you today dated April 29 and also my pipe and it made me feel glad to get a letter from you and the old pipe was like seeing an old friend where the letter has been I am at a lose to know since I wrote to you we have moved from Annapolis a week ago last Saturday night about twelve o’clock we were waked up and ordered to pack traps and prepose to start and about half past six in the morning we were on the road and marched all day about thirty miles through one of the worst roads one ever did see and the last part of our journey in a drenching rain and when we arrived here you never did see a man more completely used up set of men and horses you cannot Imagine we put up that night in an old house said by neighbors to be haunted but you better believe the ghosts did not haunt us much that night and the next day we moved on the hill about half a mile from the house and commenced a camp and now we are encamped here in my next letter I will give you a description of the camp and how we live about a week ago I need orders to get my section ready

and in a half an hour we were ready to start and marched down to the depot and putting our two pieces aboard the cars and started towards harpers ferry and when about ten miles from this place we disembarked and took possession of the renowned steam gun and four mules which was on its way to harpers ferry to the sesesion army there and brought it safe back to our camp and we have it here now and it is quite a curious machine and if is does what its inventor claims for it is a murderous weapon throwing three hundred balls per minutes and if such is the case it is better in our hands than that of an enemy. It is a big machine looking about as much like a shark as anything I can think of and weighing about four or five tons. Last Monday while we building a shanty I received an order to have my section ready to march in twenty minutes and you better believe we dropped the tools and went I walked in double quick time and started for the depot again and getting our pieces aboard the cars together with our horses and on the same train the Sixth Regiment of Mass. and apart of the Eight Regiment of New York and learned that our destination was Baltimore and as we neared that city every eye was on fire and every tooth set for we expected a warm reception we arrived about seven o’clock in the evening took our pieces off the cars and

the Infantry disembarked and formed units a hollow square and my sections of artillery in the centre and wo be to the party that had attacked that regiment that night but we marched through the city without the least disturbance and halted on the top of Federal Hill about a mile from the centre of the city and just as we stopped then came up on of the hardest thunder storms I ever did see and not a sign of a shelter for horses or men and it never rained harder finaly we found a place to ty our horses to a fence and a room about twelve feet square for the men and we had hardly got our horses unharnessed when the long roll was beat which summons every man to arms and the horses was harnessed again and every man in the camp was turned out in the storm expecting an attack as the officers heard that there was a row going on downtown and might come up to catch us napping but if they had they would have met with a terrible reception as my guns was placed one commanding one street and the other gun commanding the other and we were well flanked with Infantry but nothing came but we stood at our guns all night in the drenching storm the men built about fifty camp fires on the hill and the way they piled on the wood was a caution to the city folks it was the wildest scene

ever witnessed the men was lying on the ground with a cord wood stick for a pillow and in the morning a harder looking set you never did see but the next morning came out bright and warm and dried them up somewhat and in the afternoon the camp equipage arrived including tents and cooking utensils and the next night we passed as comfortable as could be in the afternoon. I was busy writing as mounted orderly for General Butler and rode almost all over Baltimore delivering dispatches and without the least trouble in fact the city has entirely changed the next day Major Cook sergt Wright and myself as escort to the General and staff accompanied him to the Gilmor House which is by the way the Revere House of this pace to dinner and your husband had the honor of taking dinner with the General and also as escort the party back to quarters. I am getting short of paper and must stop the next time I write I will give you some more of our adventures in the city and also of our return give my love to father and mother and the children and all friends. Write often for nothing is so pleasant as to get a letter from home direct your letters the same as before to Annapolis and I shall get them from your affectionate Husband Caleb

Caleb Mortimer
Gilder-Lehrman Collection

Boston Evening Transcript, May 27, 1861


Relay House Camp, via Washington, May 27. The Massachusetts Sixth and Eighth Regiments, together with Cook’s battery of Flying Artillery remain here under Col. Jones. The men are all in good health, and ready to march at ten minutes notice. Picket guards are kept out in the direction of Harper's Ferry. [Despatch to Journal.


Letter of Caleb Mortimer, June 15, 1861, Gilder-Lehrman Collection

10 oclock PM Relay Camp June 15 1861

Dear Wife

I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines the last you will receive from me from this place as we have received orders to pack up and start tomorrow morning Where the lord only knows although our first stopping place is probably Baltimore but whether we are to stay there for any length of time I am in doubt. I have an Idea that the next time you hear from me I shall be down to Fort Munroe or further down in old Virginia the Boys are in high spirits at the Idea of going into active service and having an opportunity of making a mark for the sake of old Massachusetts. I sent you By Mr Converse the Noburn Express a daguerotype of my horse which you will get in a few days after you receive this keep it to remember on who never forgets you nor the little ones I have left at home You wrote to me to know what I intend to do about staying for three years I will answer if the Battery is accepted by the government You may depend upon it I shall never leave the Boston Light Artillery if the company comes home at the end of three months I shall come with them if not I shall not although I would give anything to be once more with my loved ones and kind friends that I have left behind me I cannot forget that I have a sacred duty to perform and do not shrink from that duty and hope that while life lasts I shall always be found at my post and when duty calls then you will find me I have been with the company in fair weather and have spent may happy hours with them in time of peace and you know me well enough to know that I shall not forsake them in the hour of danger I hope I shall be spured to be always at my post and do nothing to cast a shadow on the bright halo that now hangs over my childhood's home give my love to father and Mother and the children also to all enquiring friends it is getting late and I much close I will write again the first opportunity.

from your affectionate Husband
Caleb CE Mortimer



The Baltimore Sun, June 17, 1861

The Boston Light Artillery Company, stationed at the Relay House, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, has been brought in and located at the camp near Mount Clare.


Boston Evening Transcript, June 18, 1861

THE BOSTON LIGHT ARTILLERY IN BALTIMORE. A member of this corps, writing from the Relay House, gives the following particulars of the visit of the Artillery and the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment to Baltimore, on the day of the recent election.

The train which was to convey us to Baltimore not being on hand, we seized three trains, but they did not have cars enough for us; but while waiting for another the train intended for us came up, and in twenty minutes our whole battery, horses and men were loaded on the cars, officers and all taking hold and helping. We then started, and stopped within half a mile of the city, and went on a hill with the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment. The New York Thirteenth, with a drum corps of twenty drums, soon after arrived (3 P.M) from Annapolis, 1250 strong. They joined us on the hill, where we waited until six o'clock, our whole force amounting to 2500 men, when news came that the Union candidate was defeated. We were then formed into line, with half of the Sixth in advance for our right flank, and the remainder in our rear for our left. The order was then, “Forward, double quick, march!” and away we went on a dead run into the city, into Pratt street, where our soldiers were fired upon on the 19th of April last, the same that were with us. The New York Thirteenth remained on the hill as a reserve. We were all under command of Col Jones. Gen. Banks lay back in Fort McHenry, waiting for the mob to fire on the Massachusetts boys again.

We rushed through the streets at full gallop, with the gallant Sixth in our front and rear at double quick time. We went through the maneuvres of street firing and charging bayonets, firing down cross streets, advancing, firing again, and again charging bayonets, the whole length of Pratt and East Baltimore streets, and it was all done by us on a gallop and by the infantry on the run. Such an exciting scene I never saw before. The people were silent, and many very much frightened; some of the women fainted, thinking we were intending to attack the city.

About dark we returned to the hill and bivouacked for the night, and at nine o'clock the next morning returned to our old quarters at the Relay House, feeling much better for our trip, and leaving more Union men in Baltimore than we found there, I think.


The Baltimore Sun, July 9, 1861

Withdrawal of Artillery from the City.—The Boston Light Artillery, which has been stationed for several days past in Monument square and on Lombard, street, in front of the custom-house, was withdrawn yesterday morning, and it was stated sent to the Relay House. The infantry are still in the city, and the custom-house and postoffice closely guarded. There is also a considerable reserve force of infantry quartered in the old postoffice. building and in Monument square.


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