From Schoolboy to Soldier.
by Quincy S. Abbot.
Published by Quincy S. Abbot, West Hartford, CT. 2013. 256 pages.
Quincy S. Abbot has compiled the letters and journal of his grand-uncle Edward Stanley Abbot, and he’s aptly named the book, the complete title which is From Schoolboy to Soldier, the Correspondence and Journals of Edward Stanley Abbot, 1853-1863.
This volume follows Stanley Abbot’s thoughtful and introspective passage from family son to Harvard university student to Civil War Union soldier. Along the way, Abbot penned a journal and maintained a prodigious correspondence with family and friends describing his thoughts and activities from the school years of his youth to just days before the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
Through it all, Abbot harbored sentiment for the Northern cause of preservation of the Union, as the Civil War loomed large in press coverage and military preparation. Abbot came from a family replete with New England colonial and Revolutionary War military service; his great-granduncle was Nathan Hale, he of mythic proportion for regretting that he had but one life to give for his country.
The first half of the book recounts the coming of age of a privileged young man plentifully advised by his older brothers and father, pre-ordained for a Harvard education. His parents and brother had strong objections to Abbot’s desire to join the Army, but his ardent idealism, “I…believe that the cause for which this war is undertaken is a just and politic one, that it needs a million hands to carry it on, and that every man that is free from the burden of supporting others ought to give up his time, the furtherance of his own plans, and, if need be, his life to help in assuring the ultimate triumph of this cause.” overcame family loyalty. Abbot enlisted on July 1, 1862 at Ft. Preble, Maine, into the United States Infantry.
Abbot’s telling of his military years is the most absorbing part of the book. He shares the dull and dreary hours of camp boredom and the author has included some of Abbot’s hand-drawn illustrations of everyday comings and goings. His vivid details of bivouacing offer us a sneaky peek into camp conditions. His letters are punctuated with a few episodes of military action, including his version of the Battle of Chancellorsville with his own map and perspective of the confrontation (which, the author notes, does not totally agree with the maps at the Chancellorsville Battle Center).
Our vantage point of today furnishes the answers of how history finally turned out. We know Abbot’s life ended before the Civil War did. The narrative of his death and burial memorializes the deaths of countless soldiers and sailors, reminding us of the intense personal losses to families.
Abbot left no descendants to uncover and tell his story, but his grand-nephew’s compilation brings posthumous recognition to his hopes of becoming an acknowledged writer.
From Schoolboy to Soldier is available directly from the author at http://www.fromschoolboytosoldier.com/ as well as from RootsBooks.com and from Amazon at http://goo.gl/8bwPg.