As an author of fiction, I’m always in need of colorful, true-to-life characters. One of the characters we meet briefly in An Eye for Glory is the new recruit Caesar Ferretti. I based Caesar on two real new recruits who joined the Fourteenth Connecticut during August, 1863, Antonio Capellini and Joshua Tripp.
According to Charles D. Page, Antonio was “a small man of dark complexion and baboon face, all overgrown with hair. No one could converse with him or find out where he was born. He could be taught but one duty of a soldier and that was that of drawing his rations. He was most careless of Uncle Sam’s property and when on the march he always straggled and would throw away his gun, bayonet, knapsack, haversack and canteen. It was a common thing to see him brought back with his few remaining effects crowded into an old grain bag slung over his shoulder.”
Page wrote of Tripp: “Unlike his scriptural namesake, who led the children of Israel into the land of promise, Joshua was not designed by nature to assist in leading the Army of the Potomac into the promised land of victory. In fact this second Joshua’s intellect was so inﬁnitesimal that he could hardly tell the muzzle of his gun from the breech and many remember the ludicrous attempts to teach him how to shoulder his gun. Few will forget his being mounted upon a barrel at the quarters of the Brigade Guard and the frequent trips of the major to attempt to teach him this ﬁrst requisite of a soldier’s service. This, however. was useless and was only terminated when the head of the barrel gave way and poor Tripp passed temporarily out of sight.”
Such was the quality of some of the new members of the valiant Fourteenth Regiment. Here’s how Michael Palmer, who had been recently promoted to sergeant, described my composite character, Caesar Ferretti, in a letter to his wife. “He’s an Italian bricklayer about thirty years of age from Bridgeport. He’s short of stature with dark brown, almost black, wiry hair, a full, equally dark moustache, deep brown eyes, and a scruffy unkempt beard,… Although he speaks little English, Caesar made it clear he thought the army would be more enjoyable than masonry, but that was before he had been many days with us… Regular and repeated discipline has failed to produce any lasting positive effect—Caesar simply accepts his fate with a sheepish grin and a shrug of the shoulders. I can only conclude the cause is futile…. I can only hope when the fighting resumes, that Private Ferretti will cause no harm to himself or any others of the regiment who happen to be close by.”