Lewiston and Lawrence, Massachusetts
July 7, 1864
Elijah Shaw was a 35 year-old manufacturer with business interests in Lewiston and Lawrence, Massachusetts. He enlists in the 1st Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment from Lawrence, and then later re-enlists in the 10th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, citing Lewiston as his residence. Shaw served as Adjutant and Captain in both regiments.
Planning with other veterans from the two regiments to re-enlist in the new 29th Maine Infantry Regiment, Shaw is in Augusta in September, 1863.
While there, Shaw renews his acquaintance with Napoleon Trudeau, who had been Regimental Sergeant Major of the 10th Maine. Trudeau had resigned to serve as one of Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon’s principal assistants. Through Trudeau Shaw comes to know "the two Charlies," Charles Partridge and Charles Ames, who worked with Trudeau and Hodsdon in contending with the paperwork generated by the Civil War.
Shaw spends the winter in Augusta, but resigns his commission and does not join the 29th Maine when it leaves for Louisiana in May.
He remains in contact with his friends in the Adjutant General’s Office, who send him a copy of the Adjutant General’s Report for 1863.
As a former Regimental Adjutant, responsible for the administrative record-keeping details of the 1st and 10th Volunteers, Shaw appreciates their labors. In a July 7, 1864 letter, he asks about Hodsdon’s worst headache: "Has he those quotas all adjusted satisfactorily? I know he has not…."
Shaw understands the importance of the records Hodsdon and his staff keep.
"Tell him not to be discouraged," he writes, "for posterity will rise up and call him blessed."
Aware that Hodsdon’s office was responsible for determining monetary aid to soldiers’ families, as well as pensions and other assistance, he adds that, "to have the blessings of the widow and orphan" will be "recompense enough."
In his History of the 1st-10th 29th Regiment, John Gould notes that Shaw survived his time in the Army without a scratch. His good fortune may have bothered Shaw when he considered the casualty reports that arrived every day.
"What more noble resting place for a soldier than on the spot where he gave his life for his country? This is where I should love to lie. The quiet of some country churchyard has no charm for me like the glory of a resting place on the field of carnage when one falls in such a noble cause as this," he writes.
Shaw then reassures Trudeau and the two Charlies that he is all right. "Tell the General I feel secure – calm as a summer evening."
Shaw returned to Lawrence, where he resumed his manufacturing business.
- Elijah Shaw recognizes the importance of the Adjutant General’s record-keeping for the soldiers and their families. Do these records still have importance for us? Why?
- Shaw describes his feelings about the deaths of so many men as the War drags on, and seems to almost wish he had been buried among them. Can you see any evidence for what today we call "survivors’ guilt" in his letter?