The Civil War Reports of a Massachusetts Corporal

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March 18, 2009English 1200“This afternoon we were startled from our siestas by the metallic crack of rifled cannon…” These powerful words were included in an influential firsthand account written by Zenas T. Haines regarding the Civil War. Employed as a prestigious newspaperman for the Boston Herald, Haines’ resided in Maine. It was there he encountered several inspirational writers who shared with him a common desire: to travel to the southern states of America with the goal of recording their impressions, as northerners, pertaining to the Civil War. Haines published numerous articles that aid in providing an insightful documentation of nearly eight months of military combat in North Carolina. Haines was a member of the 44th regiment, which consisted of well-educated, middle class, Bostonian men. His letters divulge a dramatic memorial of United States military operations that took place in the state of North Carolina. The articles authored by Haines express many previously unsolved mysteries regarding the Civil War, including the outlook of New England soldiers toward the war, opinions of soldiers regarding their commanding officers, camp life, and various other experiences.

It is made evident by Haines that the war took a vindictive toll on civilians, both white and black.

Haines joined the 44th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia Regiment, and went on to serve in North Carolina as a corporal in Company D. He authored a series of reports for the Herald, vividly describing the military life of troops, beginning with the regiment’s organization in August 1862. The articles, written under the title of “Corporal” and later published in tangible form in the Herald, provide an in-depth record of a previously existing Union regiment from the authentic perspective of a United States soldier.

The 44th regiment, which consisted of approximately ten companies, each including one hundred men, was reputable for its demographic distinctiveness. A majority of the soldiers were wealthy members of the community; they included businessmen, clerks, and Ivy League college students. After a three-day passage, about one thousand men arrived in Morehead City, North Carolina. The next morning, Haines began recording his experiences.

Haines’ letters reveal imperative information pertaining to how life in the United States has drastically changed since the Civil War era. As demonstrated by use of direct quotes and indirect conjectures, it is astounding how these men’s views differ greatly from those of men today. North Carolina’s rural population had a completely different mindset during the Civil War. Haines’ outlooks on the American south are absurd, and sometimes comical. After arriving in New Bern, Haines stated “a more miserable and worthless tract of country than the barren pine region which we traversed cannot well be imagined.” He writes about the types of people he encounters, reporting that the troops “witnessed several good specimens of the real Southern ‘white trash.’” Haines also quotes Company F representative John Wyeth, who affirms that “North Carolina was a tough place, barren and desolate, and hardly worth the cost of fighting for”. The views of Union soldiers, including Haines, towards the state of North Carolina and its surrounding Southerners seemed to be rather ludicrous.

During the Civil War era, it is evident that a great amount of tension between the North and South existed. It is imperative to understand reasoning for this tension, which stemmed from various sources. Haines and his military comrades gave the impression that they were criticizing Southerners and their lifestyle. Haines writes, “We doubt if they possessed a solitary white handkerchief…” The superior lifestyle enjoyed by most of the 44th regiment soldiers differed greatly from the Southerners’ lifestyle. More prominently, the North and South disagreed on important and controversial issues.

The Civil War was originally commenced because of the widespread disagreement on slavery, the economy, and individual states’ rights. The Union states believed that slavery should be abolished, but the Confederate states’ opinions deviated. Because the Union consisted of Free states, a law existed that forbade the buying, selling, trading, or owning of slaves. Confederate states grew cotton while Mid-western states grew wheat, and Northern states housed many factories and businesses. The Union states paid its workers wages to be employed in the industrious factories. In the Mid-western States, farmers saved money by paying one person to run a wheat-cutting machine that performed a job that normally took the work of twelve men. The Confederate abided by a different set of laws, and lived an extremely differing lifestyle. Wealthy plantation owners owned slaves, who worked without pay on the plantation gathering cotton and performing other unpleasant tasks, often under gruesome conditions. Several southern states strived to create their own laws instead of allowing the Federal Government to make them, while the Union preferred the Federal Government being the primary lawmakers. The opposing states were also debating whether or not the newly formed states should be free states or slave states. As a result, the Southern states seceded from the United States, and the Civil War began. Due to disagreement on these significant matters, it is effortless to observe the differences between the northern and southern United States.

The account of the 44th regiment that Haines wrote and sent to the Boston Herald has provided a marvelous firsthand record of a unique and interesting nine-month Union regiment in America’s greatest war. It offers an important description of the transformation of young men into citizen soldiers willing and able to fight for the Union cause. This relates strongly to the idea of citizenship in that the men band together to work as one and fight for a common cause. Much can be learned from these articles as they indicate several significant aspects about the place and people during this time frame. It is important to understand the past, because as George Santayana once said, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it."Word Count: 1140Works CitedHarris, William C. "In the Country of the Enemy" Gainesville: University P of Florida, 1999.

"American Civil War." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 22 Mar. 2009 .

Mitchell, Reid. Civil War Soldiers: Their Expectations and Their Experiences. New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1988O’Connor, Thomas H. Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield. Boston: North-eastern Universtiy Press, 1997.