April 12, 2011 marked the sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War when Confederate soldiers opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in 1861. President Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army made up of citizens from each state. By war’s end on April 9, 1865, 1,030,000 Americans had died, making the Civil War the deadliest war in U.S. history.
Our own town of Mason contributed men and materials to the war effort. A description of Mason’s role in the war can be found in Elizabeth Orton Jones’ Mason Bicentennial, 1768–1968. Jones writes that Mason residents first heard word of the attack on Fort Sumter when a boy, walking up the hill from the train depot with the mail, yelled, “Sumter has fallen!” During the war, Mason families gathered at night with the daily newspaper eager to learn whether the newest casualties belonged to them or to anyone in Mason. Some residents, according to Jones, had family members fighting on both sides.
All in all, Mason sent 121 men and boys off to fight in the war. Mason’s soldiers served in the First through the Thirteenth New Hampshire Volunteer Regiments, the First New Hampshire Light Battery, the First New Hampshire Volunteer Cavalry and the First New England Volunteer Cavalry. One man enlisted in the navy. Sadly, 15 Mason soldiers were killed in action and 13 died of disease, an all too common occurrence during the time.
The Town of Mason paid $25,675.18 for bounties and to hire soldiers. Residents formed a society called the Soldiers Aid, which met in Town Hall. Women scraped cloth to gather lint for bandages for soldiers’ wounds and made fans out of turkey feathers that would be used to cool soldiers’ fever sores.
For Old Home Days on August 28, The Mason Historical Society is planning an exhibit called Mason and the Civil War to be displayed in Mann’s Store. The Historical Society is asking residents to lend items to the exhibit that relate to Mason’s role in the Civil War. Items can include photographs, letters, medals or uniforms. If you are interested in lending an item, please contact Rob Doyle (878-9171), Charlie Moser (878-3826) or Barbara Devore (732-3761).