The Sixth Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry proved to be a body of fighting men that won many accolades and victories during the American Civil War. The men were of a well-travelled regiment that fought in both theatres of the War, and their journey would take them to many major battlefields around the nation and its territories. The War took these men from their homes in New Hampshire to the fields of Virginia, on through North Carolina and eventually through Kentucky and Mississippi. The War would again bring them back east with the IX Corps where they would fight in nearly every major engagement throughout Virginia until the war’s end at Appomattox Courthouse. Their journey, which took nearly five years to complete, began in New Hampshire where the men enlisted during the fall of 1861 in Keene, NH. When the smoke cleared, the War would result in 10 Officers and 177 Enlisted men killed in action (Dyer). Additionally, 3 Officers and 233 Enlisted Men would lose their lives to disease.
The men came from various towns in New Hampshire, and made up of a vast array of social statuses and occupations. The companies of the Sixth came from the communities below:
Company A: Plymouth and Holderness
Company B: Haverhill, Enfield, and Littleton
Company C: Exeter and Hampton
Company D: Ossipee, Sandwich, Rochester, and Wakefield.
Company E: Keene and Peterborough
Company F: Swanzey and Chesterfield
Company G: Croydon and Cornish
Company H: Dover and Portsmouth
Company I: Concord and Canterbury
Company K: Rindge, New Ipswich, and Peterborough
According to Lyman Jackson, a veteran of the 6th, many of these men chose to enlist for a $10 bounty, $13 a month, and the promise of a new Springfield rifle with a saber bayonet (Jackson, 1). Unfortunately, they would never see a Springfield with a saber bayonet.
The regiment mustered into service between November 27-30, 1861, and were temporarily assigned to Camp Brooks on the Cheshire Campground in Keene, NH, until they received orders to depart for Washington, D.C. on December 20, 1861 (Heald). From Camp Brooks, the Sixth would depart on a march to Norwich, CT where they boarded the Steamer ship Connecticut. The men would pass through New York Harbor on December 26, 1861 and disembark at Amboy, NJ where they would board trains bound for Philadelphia, PA. At Philadelphia, the Sixth would have dinner at the famed “Solder’s Home,” also known as the Cooper Shop Saloon. At 1:00 PM on 27 December 1861 the soldiers would board a train to Baltimore where they would arrive at midnight on the 28th. The train would then continue to Washington, D.C. where they would arrive at 4 PM on the 28 December 1861. On the 29th, the men would march into camp at Bladensburg under General Silas Casey.
In the first week of January 1862, the Sixth New Hampshire received orders to report to General Ambrose Burnside for his expedition as part of the North Carolina Expeditionary Force. This would begin an extensive history with Burnside as the commander of the IX Corp. Prior to the departure of the 6th Lyman Jackson states “There we received the long looked-for rifles. They were not, however ‘Springfield rifles,’ but Austrian (Jackson, 18).”
After receiving their issue of weapons that they would use on the North Carolina campaign, the men moved to Annapolis, MD on 7 January 1862 where they would board the steamer “Louisiana” and the ship “Martha Greenwood.” The journey would take them by Fort Monroe, and on to the Hatteras Inlet where they encountered a large storm. The ships would wait off of Hatteras Inlet until 17 January, 1862 when the sixth would disembark and report for duty at Camp Wool under the command of General Williams. The 6th would suffer extensively from sickness and illness due to the elements. Eventually, due to a poor location, Camp Wool would be moved further inland to better grounds.
On 21 February 1862 the men would again embark on ships and advance to Croatan Inlet near Roanoke Island where they would go back into Camp again. Shorty after this move, Colonel Converse would resign from commanding the 6th New Hampshire due to illness, Lt. Colonel Simon Griffin would take command of the Regiment shortly after. It was at this time that Griffin would set up schools of instruction for Officers and NCOs to improve drill and martial understanding amongst the soldiers (Lyman, 34). Additionally, during their stay on the coast, Historian Bruce Heald maintains that the Sixth were trained as sharpshooters (Heald).
Burnside’s Expedition would make an attack on New Bern, NC on 14 March 1862, but the Sixth would remain in reserve with the 48th Pennsylvania due to the plague of illness throughout the regiment. On 14 April 1862 the Sixth received orders to prepare several days rations and embark with the 9th and 89th New York, the 21st Massachusetts, and the 51st Pennsylvania towards Camden, NC. General Jesse Reno had command of the expedition.
On 19 April 1862 the Sixth would participate in an attack in Camden County, NC which became known as the Battle of South Mills. The sixth held the extreme left flank of the line, having been posted in defense of a Marine Corps Battery of Artillery. The 9th and 89th New York would advance through a heavily wooded area on the right, with the 21st Massachusetts and 51st Pennsylvania on the extreme right. The four regiments on the right would advance within the Confederate defense lines and take heavy fire. On the left, along a roadway, the Sixth would attack the Confederate right. The men of the Sixth would advance rapidly and begin pouring enfilading fire into the Confederate lines, eventually driving them from the field. The Sixth would have 1 killed and 2 wounded during the fight (War of the Rebellion). After the battle, General Reno and the expedition would return to their camps on Roanoke Island.
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. New York: T. Yoseloff, 1959.
Heald, Bruce D. New Hampshire and the Civil War: Voices from the Granite State. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.
Jackson, Lyman. History of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment in the War for the Union. Concord, N.H.: Repub. Press Association, 1891.
Scott, Robert N. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, D.C.: Govt. Print. Off., 1880.