Joseph Manchester’s Civil War story can be found in “Joseph K. Manchester, Northern Son in the South 1861-1863” by Windham resident and Historical Society member Carol Manchester. The book is available the Windham Public Library and through the Historical Society.

Joseph K. Manchester was born on March 15, 1842. He was the son of Nahum and Lydia Manchester and the great-great grandson of Windham founding father, Stephen Manchester. The house in which he was born was originally Stephen’s, though it had been moved from its original location to a new place by Joseph’s grandfather, Gersham, in the first decade of the 19th century.

Joseph grew up on the family farm where he was told of the adventures of his Manchester ancestors who fought bravely against the area’s Native Americans in New Marblehead’s early days and also, later, in the American Revolution. These tales rang true to the 19-year-old when President Lincoln put out an urgent call for troops in the summer of 1861.

Nahum was reluctant to let his son enlist in the army, mostly because the strapping, 6-foot-tall youth was needed on the farm to hay, harvest and store crops, dig muck from the bogs to spread on the gardens and tend to the farm animals.

Joseph did not give up easily, however, and convinced Nahum to allow him to join the Union cause. By September 1861, the young recruit found himself in Augusta where he was mustered into the 9th Maine Regiment Infantry. Five days later, after a journey via steamship and train, he was in Washington, D.C., to establish camp in the capital’s defense.

This was the beginning of Joseph’s Civil War adventure. During the next two years, Joseph saw many battles and traveled through several states in defense of the Northern cause. His regiment supported the 54th Massachusetts in the battle on Morris Island;  this group of Black soldiers was made famous in the movie “Glory.” Through all of his travels, he communicated with friends and family via letters to and from home.

The letters and Joseph’s Civil War story can be found in the book, “Joseph K. Manchester, Northern Son in the South 1861-1863” by Windham resident and Historical Society member Carol Manchester. The book, available at the Windham Public Library, chronicles Joseph’s story through his correspondence and adds historic details.

The following is one of his letters written to his parents from Fernandina, Florida, on Christmas Day 1862:

“Dear Father and Mother,

“I take my pen in hand to inform you that my health is good at present. I received a letter today bearing date Dec 5th and another dated Nov 29th. I was glad to hear from home. I am always glad to know you are all well. Little Seward wrote about my sheep and lambs. Libby boys had a letter home stating that I wrote home that the Regt was destitute of clothing. I did not write so, and I must correct it. I want you to tell the Libbys that it is not so, that I did not write so. We have clothes enough such as they are but they don’t fit; I want some smaller that is all. If I get some that fit me from home that will save me from drawing them. I don’t want to take clothes that don’t fit and that is why I wrote for them. Elbridge has started it. Nice story but I want it stopt.”

The letter continues with some heartfelt words directed specifically to his father.

“Mother says you are jealous. She says you think I think more of her than I do of you. I think as much of one as I do of the other but mother writes more to me than you do. That is why I write to her so much more than I do the rest. That is all foolishness to take notice of it.”

He continues with some more details before his final closing. Letters like these fill the book with stories of battles, hospitalization and life in the field. Some are light and some are heartbreaking. They provide a true insight into a young soldier’s triumphs and ordeals.

Sadly, Joseph left this world at age 21 in Beaufort, South Carolina, in August 1863, but through this book, his story goes on. If you’d like to read more about young Joseph, you can order the book by calling the Windham Historical Society at 892-1433. The cost is $15 plus postage.

Haley Pal is a resident of Windham and an active member of the Windham Historical Society.

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