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Chapter 9
from A History of Amherst College by William S. Tyler 1830

The Civil War --- Records of Amherst's Heroes --- The Commemorative Chime of Bells --- The Semi-Centennial Celebration.

Two events of peculiar interest and importance, for which we have found no place in the foregoing pages, belong to the history of President Stearns's administration, namely, the Civil War and the Semi-Centennial Celebration.  To these we must now devote a short chapter before proceeding to the subsequent history.

No class of men, as statistics prove, contributed to the grand army which saved the Union and the nation in the Civil War in so large proportion to their numbers, and none contributed an element of such military value and moral power, as the graduates and under-graduates of our colleges.  Several of the colleges in the Middle and Western States were closed for a longer or shorter period during the war; and the Eastern colleges felt scarcely less the depletion of their numbers and the diminution of their strength.  It is sufficient honor for Amherst not to have fallen behind her sisters in devotion to the cause---it is her pride and glory to have borne her full share in the burdens and sacrifices, if not in the honors and rewards, of this patriotic and heroic service.

At the first outbreak of hostilities, before the war had actually commenced, with the ardor characteristic of youth and college life, the under-graduates of Amherst volunteered their services and offered a company to the governor.  On that dark and portentous Sunday in April, 1861, which followed the fall of Fort Sumter, and the attack of the mob upon the Massachusetts regiments passing through Baltimore on their way to Washington, when other troops from Massachusetts and New York, forbidden to pass by that thoroughfare, were making their way slowly by way of Annapolis, and when it was feared that the rebels might already have seized upon the capital, the writer of this history preached in the College Chapel on themes suited to the circumstances, and in a strain intended to inspire courage, heroism, and self-sacrificing devotion.  And while the professor was preaching, or at least as soon as he had done, the students were already practising what he preached.  They drew up a form of enlistment which some fifty or sixty of them subscribed, and in which they offered themselves to the military service of the country in this emergency, deeming it a Christian duty not unbecoming the Lord's day to enlist in such a war, and adopting as their own the sentiment which they so much admired in their ancient classics:  Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.  The president's son was the first to put his name to this paper; a son of one of the professors was the next to enter the lists.  The governor declined to accept the proffered service, at the same time intimating that the day might come when duty would call them to the sacrifice.  The immediate peril soon passed by, and a general military drill under a competent military officer took the place of the proposed company of volunteers.  But both the young men specially alluded to above afterwards enlisted, and one of them was among the earliest sacrifices which our college offered on the altar of the country.  Many of the other volunteers, I know not just how many, found their way into the army, some before and some after their graduation.  Seventy-eight names are recorded on the roll of under-graduates who served in the army or navy of the United States in the course of the war.  Our classes, which had been steadily increasing in numbers for several years, were now so reduced that some of them seemed almost like the thinned ranks of an army after a battle.  One of the professors set the example of volunteering early in the war, and it was followed by one other officer of the college and by many of the students.  Prof. William S. Clark, commissioned as major of the Twenty-first Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, August 21, 1861, and promoted rapidly to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and colonel, fought in most of the principal battles of the first two years of the war till his regiment was reduced to the merest skeleton.  His friend, Dr. N. S. Manross, who for one year filled the vacancy in the faculty occasioned by his absence, at the end of the year followed him to the war, and at the very opening of his first battle, the battle of Antietam, he fell as he was leading on his company to the conflict.  Thus two of the officers of college went directly from the chair of the professor to the tent and the field of battle.  Two other members of the faculty were represented in the army by sons who were also sons of the college.  Three sons of the lamented Professor Adams enlisted, two of whom early lost their lives in the service.  Add to these connecting links the almost four-score students who left their classes, most of them for the purpose of entering the army, and many more who engaged in the service immediately after their graduation, and it will be readily seen how many bonds of sympathy and interest were thus established between the college and the camps and battle-fields during the war.  Every mail was expected with anxious interest.  The newspapers were watched, especially after every battle, and the lists of the killed and wounded were examined with trembling solicitude.  In some instances false alarms were thus communicated, occasioning much distress or anxiety at the time, but followed by speedy relief, and attended perhaps with not a little amusement.  Colonel Clark was reported first as captured and then as killed in the battle of Chantilly.  A telegraphic dispatch was even sent to the army giving directions for sending on his body.  But the colonel soon answered it himself, saying that he still had need of it for his own use, and a few days later be presented himself in person at the door of one of the professors with whom Mrs. Clark was passing a few days, and ringing the bell, inquired if the Widow Clark was there!

Sometimes the sad intelligence, conveyed by newspaper, letter, or telegraph---conveyed perhaps through the medium of a friend and broken as kindly and tenderly as possible to the afflicted individual or the bereaved family---was too soon confirmed by the arrival of the lifeless body.  Then followed the funeral service, the great congregation in the chapel or the church, the prayers and dirges, the address or commemorative discourse, and the long procession of students and citizens, mourners all, to the place of burial.  Amherst was witness to not a few such scenes in the course of the war.

The "Roll of the Graduates and Under-Graduates of Amherst College who served in the Army or Navy of the United States during the War of the Rebellion," printed in 1871, records the names and in brief the services of two hundred and forty-seven men, of whom seventy-eight were under-graduates and one hundred and sixty-nine were graduates.  When the semi-centennial catalogue was issued in 1872, the number of graduates, then more fully ascertained, had grown to one hundred and ninety-five.  Among these were six former tutors of the college.  Two of these sacrificed their lives in the service.  Of the two hundred and forty-seven names on the roll, ninety-five, or nearly thirty-nine per cent of the whole, enlisted as privates.  Some of them were immediately elected to some office and received commissions.  The greater part of the others were promoted to one grade or another, and generally to successive grades, as the reward of meritorious conduct or faithful service.  Amherst furnished in all thirty-five chaplains, some of whom were pastors of some of the largest and best churches in the city or the country, and not a few sacrificed their health and periled their lives in the service.

The college furnished thirty or more surgeons to the war.

Passing from chaplains and surgeons to other officers, we find on inspecting the roll and noting their rank at the close of their service, three brigadier-generals (two of them major-generals by brevet), nine colonels, twelve lieutenant-colonels, nine majors, twenty-five captains, seventeen first lieutenants, seventeen second lieutenants, nineteen sergeants, five corporals, besides a few ensigns, color-bearers, and several adjutants, quartermasters and paymasters of different ranks.  Not a very brilliant show of superior officers in comparison with some of the less clerical colleges of the East, or some of the more belligerent institutions of the West, but showing a proportionate number of promotions far beyond the average among soldiers drawn from the community generally, and thus illustrating forcibly the value of the higher education in the military service.  Never before nor since, not even in the Prussian army in the late Franco-German war, were there so many bayonets that could read, and so many shoulder-straps that could think, as there were in the army of the United States that put down the great rebellion; and to this element of intellectual and moral power no other communities contributed so largely as the colleges, and among the colleges none more than Amherst.

Thirteen of our soldiers were confined in rebel prisons, some of them dragged in succession through two, three, or four of those places of more than fiendish torture, and two of them welcomed death as a blessed deliverance from the starvation, insults, and cruelties, worse than death, to which such prisoners were subjected.

The classes that graduated soon after the opening of the war, as might have been expected, furnished the largest number of recruits for the service.  In this respect '62 is the banner class, thirty of its members having gone to the war; '61 and '63 each sent twenty-three; '64 furnished fifteen; and '65 twenty-one for the service.  The class of '65 lost the largest number; six of its members died in the service, four of whom died of mortal wounds received on the field of battle; '63 lost four men, three of whom were killed in battle; '64 lost the same number.  The other classes above named lost one or two men each upon an average.

The graduates of the older classes were, of course, all above the military age, and could not be expected to furnish many soldiers.  But not a few of them, as we learn from our correspondence, made up for the deficiency by sending their sons to the service.  The oldest graduate whose name appears on our roll was Rev. Timothy Robinson Cressey of the class of '28, who went himself as chaplain of the Second Regiment of Minnesota Volunteers, and took with him five sons into the service.

"In all," he writes, "we served fifteen years in the war, were in twenty different battles, and all returned in safety without the loss of a life or a limb.  All still live, and four of us are preaching Christ crucified, in four different States, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa."

Rev. William A. Hyde of the next class ('29) writes:  "I had four sons in the war---two of them in nearly all the war.  One of them suffered 'deaths oft' in rebel prisons for about ten months.  He saw Libby, Danville, Andersonville, and Florence in that time."

Rev. Benjamin Schneider, D. D., of the next class ('30), the veteran missionary at Aintab in Western Turkey, and the venerable father and bishop of all the Protestant churches in that section, had three sons and a son-in-law in different stages of education in this country, one of them, William Tyler Schneider, a member of Amherst College, all of whom went to the war, three in the army and one in the navy; and his oldest son, James, a young man of rare promise who was preparing to rejoin his father in the missionary work, and who entered the army in the spirit of a missionary, lost his life in the service.

The names of all under-graduates who lost their lives in the service were, by vote of the trustees, enrolled among the graduates of their respective classes.  Special favor and indulgence were extended freely, when asked, to all under-graduates who served in the army, and returned to college.

Through the wisdom of President Stearns and the liberality of his friend, the late George Howe, Esq., of Boston, the college rejoices in a monument such as exists nowhere else to commemorate the fallen heroes of the war, viz., a memorial chime of bells placed in the tower of the College Church, which began to give forth their music at the Semi-Centennial Celebration, and which, in all coming time, while they fitly introduce the services of the Sabbath and accompany the exercises of our literary festivals, and grace all occasions of special interest, will always be associated with the heroic lives and martyr-like deaths of our brave soldiers, and, by perpetuating their memories, stimulate future generations of students to follow their example.  Among the fallen whose memory will thus be perpetuated is a son of the liberal donor, Sidney Walker Howe, of the class of '59, who was killed in the battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, only a few months after be entered the service.  The gun captured in the battle of Newbern, and bearing the names of those who fell in that battle, stands in the vestibule of the Art Museum.  Thus coming generations will be reminded of the virtues and sacrifices of our brethren who lost their lives in the War of the Great Rebellion.  And so long as a single classmate or college-mate shall survive, we will enshrine him in the memory of our hearts.  And often as we meet at our annual reunions and call the rolls of our respective classes, when their names are called, their surviving classmates will respond for them:  "Dead on the field of battle"---"Died for their fatherland."

The war closed in 1865, leaving the college sadly depleted in numbers, and with many mourners.  But in the years immediately following under the care of President Stearns new life came to take the place of that which was lost, the classes gradually filled up, and the happy prosperity of former times was renewed and increased, as we have described in the preceding chapter concerning President Stearns's administration.

One event of importance, however, immediately following the sixties remains to be named---the Semi-Centennial Celebration.

The alumni and friends of a college whose foundations were laid in a religious faith and consecration so nearly akin to those of the patriarchs and prophets of olden times might well keep the fiftieth anniversary of its opening as a "jubilee."

The first steps towards associated action were taken by Prof. Roswell D. Hitchcock of New York city.  He brought the subject before the alumni at their annual meeting, July 8, 1868, and at his motion the following resolutions were adopted:

"Whereas our Alma Mater in three years from now will have completed her first half-century; therefore

"Resolved, That the trustees of the college be requested to make provision for the celebration of that event.

"Resolved, That Prof. William S. Tyler, D. D., be requested to prepare a history of Amherst College, which shall be ready for delivery at Commencement, 1871, and that he be requested also to address the alumni on that occasion.

"Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to confer with the trustees and with Professor Tyler, and to act as a committee of arrangements for our approaching semi-centennial."

In accordance with this last resolution, Prof. R. D. Hitchcock, W. A. Dickinson, Esq., and Prof. R. H. Mather were appointed such a committee, to whom, at the annual meeting of the alumni, July 13, 1870, Professors Edward Hitchcock and J. H. Seelye were added.

At the annual meeting of the board, July 9, 1868, the foregoing action was approved by the trustees, and the prudential committee was authorized to confer with the committee of the alumni.

At the annual meeting of the trustees, July 13, 1870, a special committee, consisting of the president and Doctors Paine, Sabin, and Storrs, was appointed to make arrangements, conjointly with the committee of the alumni, for the celebration of the jubilee of the college in 1871.

There was some discussion and some difference of opinion among the alumni and friends of the college as to the proper time for the celebration.  As the first Commencement was held in 1822, the Commencement in 1871 would be not the fiftieth but the forty-ninth anniversary of that day, and it seemed to some, at first thought, that the celebration should be at the fiftieth Commencement, which would be in 1872.  But it was the opening of the college to receive students, and not its first Commencement, which its friends desired to celebrate, and as it was agreed that Commencement week would be the most suitable and convenient time for the celebration, the conclusion was quite unanimously reached that the Commencement of 1871, although it would occur some two months earlier than the exact anniversary of the opening, should be the time.

Not a few of the alumni reached Amherst the Saturday previous to Commencement, and remained till Friday or Saturday of the next week, that they might have time to recall old recollections and keep a week of jubilee.  The exercises of the week were opened as usual on Sunday by the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper in the Chapel in the morning, and the baccalaureate sermon in College Hall in the afternoon.  President Stearns very appropriately took for the text of his baccalaureate, Leviticus xxv. 10, "Thou shalt hallow the fiftieth year," and discoursed on the religious history and characteristics of the college, paying at the same time a feeling and generous tribute to the men, especially the members of the faculty, who, through poverty and reproach, had stood by it in its dark and trying hour.

Monday and Tuesday were devoted as usual to the prize exhibitions and declamations, and to the exercises of Class-day, the out-of door performances of the latter, however, being nearly drowned out by copious showers which were to purify the air for the next day.

Wednesday from early morning to a late hour in the evening was given up to the jubilee.  The day dawned auspiciously, and continued clear and bright, yet cool and comfortable even to its close.  It seemed made---it doubtless was made---for the occasion.  In the exercises of the morning, Hon. Samuel Williston, the generous benefactor of the college, fitly presided.  The exercises were opened with prayer by Rev. E. P. Humphrey, D. D., of Louisville, Ky., of the class of '28, and the eldest son of the second president.  The assembly then joined in singing the doxology,

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow,"

after which followed the address of welcome by President Stearns, and the historical discourse by Professor Tyler.

In the afternoon, Hon. A. H. Bullock of the class of '36, presided, and addresses were made by the presiding officer, by Professor Snell, '22, Dr. Edward P. Humphrey, '28, Rev. H. N. Barnum, '52, Rev. H. W. Beecher, '34, Prof. E. A. Park, Prof. R. D. Hitchcock, '36, and Waldo Hutchins, Esq., '42.

The addresses, both of the forenoon and afternoon, besides being printed in full at the time in The Springfield Republican, have been published in the form of a pamphlet, and, having been sent to the alumni generally, have doubtless been read by most of the readers of this history.  It is therefore quite unnecessary that they should be made the subject of analysis or remark.  A letter from Dr. R. S. Storrs, of the class of '39, which was read by Henry Ward Beecher, is also contained in this pamphlet, together with the addresses of Prof. H. B. Hackett, '30, Bishop Huntington, '39, Hon. H. S. Stockbridge, '45, Willard Merrill, Esq., '54, and George C. Clarke, Esq., '58, which were not delivered for lack of time.

The exercises were held beneath a spacious tent which was spread under the shadow of the trees in the grove where the students of Amherst, through all their generations, have found exercise and recreation, have walked and talked, have sat and conversed or meditated, and where every object that met the eye, whether in the grove or on the grounds, or in the distance, called up old memories, revived hallowed associations, and spoke with scarcely less power than the speakers, to their minds and hearts.  The audience was large and the tent well filled in the morning.  In the afternoon, it was full to overflowing, and it was calculated that there were at least three thousand persons in it, besides many who stood around the open sides, or sat in their own carriages on the grounds.

Nearly seven hundred of the alumni were present, that is, almost one-half of the whole number of living graduates---a number two or three times larger than had ever before attended Commencement, and "a larger proportion, probably, than ever assembled at any American college."  Every class was represented.  One-third of the first class ('22) was present---one-half of its living members.  That half was Professor Snell.  He lamented in his address the absence of the other half, which he modestly and playfully declared to be "the first half, the oldest half, the greatest half, and the best half"---the Rev. Pindar Field.  All the surviving members of the second class ('23) were present, viz.:  Rev. Theophilus Packard and Rev. Hiram Smith, both from the far West; '24, '26, and '27, were each represented by three persons, about one-third of the surviving members, and these came from almost as many different States and belonged to nearly as many different occupations as there were persons.  The class of '25 was the only class except that of Professor Snell, of which there was but a single representative present, and he came from Conway in obedience to a telegraphic dispatch sent by some zealous brother alumnus that every class might be represented.  Six out of seventeen survivors represented '28, '29 was represented by five out of nineteen, '30 by ten out of sixteen, '31 by fifteen out of thirty-seven, and '32 by nine out of twenty-three.  So much for the first decade.  In the second decade ('32-'42), the largest number present was from '39, viz., sixteen out of thirty-seven living members; and the largest proportion was from '36, viz., thirteen out of twenty-eight.  The average attendance from the classes of this decade exceeded thirty-five per cent of the living members.  In the third decade the percentage was but little more than twenty-five.  In the fourth decade it ran up nearly to fifty per cent, and in the last period, as might have been expected, it rose to considerably more than half the living members.  The largest number from any one class was from '69, who by special request granted by special favor of the trustees, received their second degree in 1871, and who were represented by thirty-three members.  Next to '69 stood '65, being represented by twenty-nine members.  These facts, which may perhaps be reckoned among the "curiosities of the jubilee," have been gathered from the cards which were hung, one for each class, in the reception room in Walker Hall, and to which the names of the alumni were transferred as fast as they registered them, so that each alumnus might know who of his class were present, and where they were to be found.  These cards or scrolls (for they are more than a foot square) have been preserved, and will be among the curiosities of literature in coming ages.  The original register in which the alumni entered their names as they arrived may also be seen in the library, and is an autograph book of rare and unique interest.

The alumni came from every part of our own country and from every quarter of the globe.  Classmates and friends who boarded together, perhaps roomed together, perhaps sat side by side for four years, but who had not seen each other for ten, twenty, thirty, forty, almost fifty years, met as strangers, gazed in each other's faces, heard each other's voices, and perhaps did not discover a trace of the features or even the tones once so familiar, or did perhaps catch a ray, and at length, with the help maybe of a hint or allusion from a bystander, began to conjecture the person; but when the discovery was made, they rushed into each other's embrace.  Many such scenes of bewilderment marked these meetings and greetings in which the language was often little more than a strange mixture of laughter and tears.  Wednesday evening was given up to a reunion in College Hall, and much of the night was spent in class meetings of such deep and thrilling interest as only they who have been present at such meetings know, and even they cannot fully tell.

They seem to have gone away pleased with themselves and each other, proud of their mother, loving their brothers, feeling that they had a good time, and fully persuaded that whoever should keep the centennial jubilee of the college in 1921 would have a still better time and find a great deal more to admire and rejoice in.

Several of the classes left behind them class scholarships as an expression of their gratitude and filial devotion.  The plan as originated by Prof. R. D. Hitchcock contemplated at least one by each class.  His own class set the example by establishing three.  The catalogue issued in the fall of 1871, next after the jubilee, announces fifty scholarships in all, of which about half were not on the previous catalogue, and several other class scholarships as established in part.  When the harvest is all gathered in, perhaps the result will be not less than fifty scholarships of one thousand dollars each, which, with Mr. Williston's donation, will make up the handsome sum of one hundred thousand dollars of free-will offerings resulting directly or indirectly from the jubilee.

 

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