Copyright © 2006 by Alan Fraser Houston
I have decided to call into service an additional force of 300,000 men. —Abraham Lincoln, July 1, 1862
After a number of reverses for the Union in 1861, the government recognized that the war would be prolonged. Consequently, President Lincoln called for 300,000 volunteers on July 1, 1862. The farming community of Sandwich, New Hampshire, sent slightly more than half of its 340 eligible men off to serve in the Civil War. Of these, 85 enlisted for three years in mid-August 1862, following the president's July summons.
The men from Sandwich, one of whom was thirty-year-old Lewis Quimby Smith, formed most of Company K of the Fourteenth Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteers. Lewis and his family corresponded dutifully and many of these letters survived. Lewis's encouragement to the folks back home to "keep up good courage," reciprocated by his family, was essential for coping with the trials of the next three years.
The Sandwich Historical Society's collection of Smith family letters, totaling over 125, is unusual in that letters from Lewis are about equaled by the letters from family members back home. Thus, from the soldier’s side, it is a record of his and his regiment's experiences along the Potomac River, in Washington, in New Orleans and on the lower Mississippi, in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and, until war's end, in Savannah, Georgia. In Lewis’s absence, his family experienced illness and epidemics, vagaries of weather and money, and sharply contested politics at the town, state, and national levels. For the folks at home, the challenges often equaled Lewis's.
The catalyst for this project came with the discovery of Lewis's 1864 pocket diary. His entries include the battles of Third Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek in the fall Shenandoah Valley campaign. In addition to the diary and the Smiths' correspondence, an equal number of letters and a handful of other diaries from other writers in the regiment contribute to the record.
Thus, Keep Up Good Courage, A Yankee Family and the Civil War, is the history of a soldier, his company and regiment, and his family, town, and state. It is a record not from the staff tent or the officer's mess, but one from the ground up—three years as a soldier.
Book specifications: 351 pages Cloth, 6x9, 67 illustrations, comprehensive index.
ISBN: 1-931807-49-3 / ISBN13: 9781931807494
The Sandwich Historical Society, which is a partner in this publication, retains the rights to the Smith family correspondence.
Published by: Peter E. Randall Publisher LLC, P. O. Box 4726, Portsmouth NH 03802