Brattleboro man to give talk on great-grandfather's Civil War memoir, found in the 1980s in a trunk

Saturday May 18, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- David Twombly had always been proud of his heritage, but for years didn't know too many details about it.

That all changed in the 1990s, when his daughter was doing a fourth-grade project about the Civil War and discussed the assignment with her grandfather, Gilmer Twombly. The next thing David knew, his daughter had received copies of maps and illustrations regarding the war from Gilmer.

When David asked where the images came from, Gilmer said they were in "Among The Wounded in 1864" -- a diary/memoir written by David's great-grandfather, Alexander S. Twombly.

It is this book that will be discussed in the meeting room of the Brooks Memorial Library at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22. David Twombly will share the stories behind the writings and talk about his appreciation of the item.

David considers himself a Civil War buff, which is fitting for him, having had a father from the North and a mother from the South.

The eldest Twombly was born in Boston in 1832 and grew up a well-educated man, eventually attending Yale University and a divinity school before becoming a Presbyterian minister. Once the Civil War broke out he volunteered with the United States Christian Commission, an organization that supplied Union troops with medical services and religious literature. He chronicled his experiences in "Among The Wounded in 1864," which Gilmer Twombly discovered in the 1980s inside a steamer trunk he had inherited.

David, the founder of Twombly Wealth Management Group LLC, said his father had kept his find a family secret for years. He said he plans to speak for 45 to 60 minutes Wednesday. He has had copies of the book made, while the original is "securely stowed away right now."

Library Director Jerry Carbone said David Twombly approached him about having a public forum to share the history of the book.

"I said, ‘Wow, this would be a great idea for a program at the library,'" Carbone recalled, adding that it might inspire some people to check into the history of the heirlooms they have inherited.

He said the event will tie in perfectly with the library's multi-year commemoration of 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Carbone said the library has a Civil War diary of its own, donated in 1906 by Cpl. Nelson Wandell. Carbone said that book was transcribed by a volunteer.

The Rev. Twombly's diary/memoir includes descriptions of his time in Fredericksburg, Va., where the Union Army sent its wounded troops.

"What makes it really special is the compiling of letters and sketchings that are a reflection of what was taking place there," David Twombly told the Reformer. He said the book contained 20 etchings of scenes of the war, a regrettable chapter in American history that pitted former countrymen against one another.

The minister's original book also contains a reply from one of the many letters he wrote to widows after watching their men die of injury or disease. Also included are details about The Battle of Cold Harbor, one of the bloodiest and most lopsided of the war, The Battle of the Wilderness and The Battle of Spotsylvania.

The original book also had an original program from the Fourth of July celebration of 1865 and states the program had belonged to Ulysses S. Grant, former commander of the Union Army and the 18th president of the United States of America.

"I don't want to brag about my heritage," David Twombly said, leafing through a non-authentic copy of the book, "but it's really neat stuff from a family perspective."

For more information, call 802-254-5290, ext. 0, send an e-mail to or visit

Domenic Poli can be reached at, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow Domenic on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions