Another chronicler of the Fourteenth Connecticut was Sgt. Benjamin Hirst of Company D. Hirst was born at Stockport, England, near the city of Manchester. His family worked in the textile industry, and when the Hirsts emigrated to the U.S. in 1847, they again found work in textile manufacturing, and lived in the area of Chester, PA. In 1852, Ben married Sarah Quinn, to whom he would write many of his Civil War letters.
Benjamin Hirst enlisted July 16, 1862 and was mustered as a sergeant. His service with the Fourteenth was cut short at Gettysburg, when he was wounded in the shoulder during the repulse of Pickett’s charge. He was transferred to the Veterans Reserve Corps (a.k.a. Invalid Corps) until his discharge on July 9, 1865 because of medical disability. Sergeant Hirst lived until 1909, and died in Springfield, MA at the age of 81.
Hirst”s letters comprise nearly a day by day journal of the history of the Fourteenth Connecticut as he saw it and lived it. He lets us in on life at war and far from home for the average infantryman. His language is engaging and his writing is quite good, but alas, his spelling? Not so much.
Fiction Connection: Benjamin Hirst’s English roots provided part of the inspiration for my character Sgt. Needham. Hirst”s letters gave me valuable insight into how a husband and wife communicated with each other during the war and the everyday issues they dealt with. It was particularly informative to learn what information Ben revealed to Sarah, and what he chose not to tell her.
Details provided above were drawn from The Boys from Rockville, edited with commentary by Robert L. Bee, University of Tennessee Press, 1998.