In early August, 1862, Samuel W. Fiske, 34, enlisted as a private in the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteers. Fiske left his wife, Lizzie, who was eight months pregnant, and his one year old son, George.
What makes Fiske memorable to me and to history is that this man was the full-time minister of the Congregational Church in Madison, CT. He was granted a one year leave by the congregation, which Fiske termed a “vacation,” and he could have enlisted as a chaplain, but he wanted to fight with the infantry. He also wished to write accounts of his experiences for the public at home, and the editor of the Springfield (MA) Republican newspaper was more than happy to have his own dedicated war correspondent. On September 8, 1862, the first of Fiske’s accounts appeared in the Republican under the pen name Dunn Browne.
While with the Fourteenth, Fiske experienced all the hardship, humor, frustration, friendship, terror and tragedy that was the American Civil War, and he was never reluctant to take pen in hand and write about it. Before the regiment left Hartford, Private Fiske was made a 2nd Lieutenant, and in January, 1863, he was promoted to the rank of captain and placed in command of Company G.
Captain Fiske was taken prisoner at Chancellorsville (May, 1863) and had the unique privilege of reading his own obituary in the Republican. Paroled within a few weeks, he was back with his regiment in time to take part in its heroic stand at Gettysburg. During the battle at the Wilderness, just a few miles from where he was captured the year before, he was shot in the chest on May 6, 1864 and died on May 22 at Fredericks-burg. The last words he wrote to his readers were, “for God and freedom throughout the world.”
Details provided above were drawn from Mr. Dunn Browne”s Experiences in the Army: The Civil War Letters of Samuel W. Fiske, edited by Stephen W. Sears, Fordham University Press, 1998. (This book is truly excellent and a worthy addition to any Civil War library.)