Two Little Boys in Blue

By William Squires, from a manuscript at the Stone House Museum, Belchertown, Mass.

This is the story of two boys whose first name was Truman: Truman Squires and Truman Munsell. Both boys went to fight for the Union during the Civil War. Neither one came back. What makes it more interesting is the relationship that each one had in the family. Truman Squires was the next oldest child to Emory Squires, my great-grandfather. Truman Munsell was the next oldest child to Everline Munsell, my great-grandmother. The Civil War was a time of hardship and sorrow for many families but was especially hard for some.

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Truman Squires (Image courtesy of Les Squires)

Truman Squires came from a very poor family. His father had been declared an insolvent debtor a few years before and I doubt if things had improved much. The family had recently moved from Shutesbury to Pelham. His older brother, Henry, had been drafted and went into the service on September 9, 1863. He was living in Granby at the time he was drafted. He had been married for two years at that time. Truman enlisted from Pelham on December 21, 1863. Truman was a soldier in Company B of the 57th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He started for the battlefront on April 18, 1864. On the 25th, the regiment was reviewed by the President and Gen. Burnside. After that, it headed for the seat of battle, crossing the Rapidan at Germanna Ford on May 5. On the sixth, the 57th was sent to fight along the Plank Road, one of the hardest fights of the war. The 57th lost 47 killed, 161 wounded, and 48 missing. The 57th then joined the flank movement to Spotsylvania. Here it was engaged on the 12th, not far from Spotsylvania Court House, losing 13 killed, 35 wounded, and 4 missing. It was in this action that Truman was killed, I believe. It was either then or the next day when another 3 were killed and another 14 wounded.

Battle of Spotsylvania by Thure_de_Thulstrup. Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons.

Battle of Spotsylvania by Thure_de_Thulstrup. Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons.

Truman was closest in age to Emory, and presumably his playmate. The family was poor and some of the children had been living with an older brother, Hiram, at times. The sickness and death of the father, and the effect of the war on his brothers, would be hard on a young boy like Emory.

Truman Munsell’s family was having troubles, too. The family was not poor, but not prosperous either. The mother had been killed about five years before, and the younger children in the family had been sent out to live with different friends and relatives. The family was broken up, although the older ones stayed on the home farm. His older brother, George, had gone into the Army in 1862, and was discharged on July 29, 1863. Truman must have lied about his age, because he enlisted in the Army on August 26, 1864. According to the birth records, he was born January 29, 1849. This would make him 15 years, 6 months, 27 days old when he enlisted. When Truman went in, he joined the 31st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, a veteran group who had been on furlough and was just returning to the front.

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Boston Traveler, 21 July 1865

They were stationed opposite Donaldsonville, Louisiana, to keep down guerrilla bands, arriving at the end of September. They were mounted and equipped as cavalry. Truman was captured and made a prisoner on November 21, 1864, at Plaquemine, near Baton Rouge. This was only about two months after his arrival. He was released on May 27, 1865 and died a few days later on June 4, 1865. The records say he died of disease, but family stories say that he was practically starved in prison and when he got out, he ate too many beans and died. Others say that the beans had weevils or were only half-cooked, but all agree it was from eating too much, too fast.

Memorial Day had a special significance for Emory and Everline Squires. They were each between ten and fourteen years old at the time of the Civil War. Each of them had a brother who was only a few years older than they were, and had joined the Army. Neither of those boys ever returned home. By coincidence, they were both named Truman: Truman Munsell and Truman Squires.

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