The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought from December 11th to December 15th, 1862. Among the 120,000 or so Union soldiers in the Army of the Potomac was a 36 year old French-Canadian immigrant named Moises Beaulieu. Moises had enlisted in June 1861 in Company A of the 11th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment (sometimes known as the Boston Volunteers) and thus had already been in the Union army for some 18 months when he found himself on the bank of the Rappahannock River across from the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Major General Ambrose Burnside, a Rhode Islander who had risen from Colonel of the 1st Rhode Island to commander of the army, was waiting for pontoons to arrive so bridges could be built across the river. At that time the 11th Massachusetts was in Brigadier General Joseph Carr’s brigade, of Brigadier General Dan Sickles’ Second Division of George Stoneman’s Third Corps, part of the Center Grand Division commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker.
It’s funny that I have been a pretty serious student of the Civil War for almost 30 years, and yet I am still learning and discovering so many things that I really did not know much about. Lately a lot of that has been due at least partially to Private Moses Beaulieu. I have been trying to follow his (my Civil War ancestor’s) journey through the war. Most recently, I have been studying the last great campaigns of the war for his unit, the 11th Massachusetts Infantry, in the Army of the Potomac.
I hadn’t been posting as much on the blog lately, and after writing about Aunt Donna I feel like I should distract myself a bit by writing about Civil War history. So indulge me, if you will.
Among the Union troops at Gettysburg was a middle-aged French-Canadian soldier who had enlisted at the beginning of the war in the Boston Volunteers, a unit that later became the 11th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. His name was Moses Beaulieu, and he was a widower who had left his 4 year old daughter in the care of the woman who ran the boarding house where they lived in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. He was one of the first members of his family (my mother’s family) to move from Quebec to Massachusetts, where he had found work as a bootmaker in the booming shoe industry.
As Kelly and I are both new members of the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association, I was invited to do a presentation for them, and so I decided to do my Boston in the Civil War era presentation, basically a revised version of a presentation I wrote for Historic New England years ago.
When I got up this morning, the temperature was 4 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill was -10 degrees Fahrenheit. We may even get some snow tomorrow night and Thursday. I will try to get some pictures and post them if we do. And behind that storm will come more bitter cold, what our fave meteorologist Dave Epstein is calling “the worst of the winter”. Predicted lows for Friday and Saturday are well below zero, not even including wind chill.
ETA: The National Weather Service is now saying that Thursday could bring a “significant winter storm” with predictions from 4 to 8 inches to as much as 12 inches of heavy wet snow (with numbers possibly changing depending on how far inland the storm tracks), plus high winds, which means downed trees and power outages are much more likely. We may even have ourselves a blizzard. Oh my.
While I have been in parades and candlelight vigils and such, I have never been in what could be called a political protest until this weekend. But I am glad I did it. In fact, it has given me a great deal of satisfaction, and has cheered me up somewhat from what has been for some time a generally dark mood. The crowd ended up being MUCH bigger than was originally anticipated. I think they were expecting maybe 90,000 people, but the totals were probably more like 150,000 to 175,000.
I would never have imagined that I would look back on the Presidency of George W. Bush with any type of nostalgia. And I certainly never imagined that I would live to see a Presidency that was not only worse than Bush’s, but is well on the way to topping the administration of James Buchanan as the absolute worst Presidency of all time.
That’s a question I am often asked in winter here in Boston by people who know me, especially on particularly cold days. My answer is always no, no matter how snowy and miserable and cold it is. And the reason for that is because while I don’t mind cold winters, I really, really don’t like hot summers. Plenty of people don’t feel the same way, which is probably why so many people from the Northeast retire to Florida. But I would always rather put up with nasty Boston winters than brutal Alabama summers. And it’s why on days like today (when it’s supposed to get over 90 degrees) I long for winter to return.
Being the weather geek I am, let me break it down for you with some data.