78 from Readsboro served during the Civil War

Monday November 12, 2012

READSBORO -- Seventy-eight men listed Readsboro as their residency when they enlisting to fight in the Civil War among the Green Mountain Boys, although gravestones in the small mountain town only account for less than half of them.

So, where are the rest?

That is the question Tom Boudreau had in 1997 -- a question that would lead him to 15 years of digging through town archives of burial records and Selectboard minutes, federal pension records, newspaper obituaries and countless websites. Just recently, Boudreau, a math teacher in town, checked the last name off his list when he located the gave site of the 78th Readsboro soldier. Along the way, he also came across an additional 20 to 30 men from Readsboro who fought in the Civil War but registered with other towns.

During the Civil War the federal government gave states a number of men that must join the union army, and states then assigned quotas for each town.

"If a town's quota was filled, someone from Readsboro, say, may have signed up in Stamford," Boudreau said. "When they signed up they had to name the town they were signing up from, so they may not have necessarily even lived in the town."

Having reached a terrific milestone in his research (to say his research is complete may never be true even though he has answered the question he first set out to discover), Boudreau shared his research in collaboration with the town Historical Society's observance of the war's 150th anniversary earlier this month.

Boudreau, who calls himself "kind of a local historian" during his free time, began his research after walking through a cemetery in town with his young boys who were curious of the markings on some grave sites and why some sites were decorated with flags.

The questions led Boudreau to keep an eye out for Civil War veterans. He soon discovered less than half of the 78 men who enlisted in Readsboro were buried in town.

"I added the numbers and found very few Civil War veterans, about 37, were buried here in town," Boudreau said. "I got to thinking, where did they all go? What happened to them all?"

With those questions in mind, Boudreau set out to find all 78 men. He started by visiting cemeteries in surrounding towns and going though town archives.

"The deeper I got into it the more interesting it became," Boudreau said. "I like to read mysteries and it's like there's 78 different mysteries out there that needed to be solved. And every time I solved one that's when I got my high."

While looking at Readsboro Selectboard minutes from 150 years ago, Boudreau said he found references to town payments to men who enlisted. The stipend, Boudreau said, was generally around $100 per year of service, although there were variances depending on when a person enlisted and for how long. While the minutes included some useful information, they did not include the names of those who enlisted.

After local archives, Boudreau turned to the Internet, where he was largely aided by the website www.vermontcivilwar.org. Even after Internet searches, Boudreau said, finding some of the men was difficult.

"There were maybe five to 10 men that, five years ago, I thought I would never, never find. But, low and behold, somehow or another I was able to get them all," he said.

Some of the men had particularly fascinating stories Boudreau was able to uncover -- like one man who deserted a Massachusetts company only to later enlist in Vermont. He was later discovered while serving with the Vermont company, at which time he was discharged but allowed to finish his term in Massachusetts without being tried for desertion. That man's gravestone in Williamstown, Mass., took 14 years to find because the headstone gives a false last name, he said.

Boudreau said few ancestors of those who fought in the Civil War remain in the area, although he has swapped stories with some who he has tracked down.

While Boudreau said he is not a writer, he does plan to eventually turn his research into a book.


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