Samuel Brown wasn't so different from the young people who go to war today, willing to put their lives on hold and risk everything for their country. A Bowdoin graduate, he was soon made captain and on Sept. 17, 1862, led his Massachusetts regiment in the bloodiest day of battle in American history.
The men who fought with him came back with stories of how cool he was amid the carnage at Antietam, Md. He called out, "Now boys, load and fire." As far as anyone knows, those were his last words. Brown took minie balls in the neck and hip and died at age 26.
An elementary school in Peabody still carries his name.
Mayor Michael Bonfanti, a veteran himself, thinks this is a good time to remember Brown and all those who gave so much. The year 2011 marks 150 years since the United States Civil War, by far the worst conflict in our history.
Local municipalities and history organizations expect to observe the sesquicentennial with exhibits and lectures likely to carry on throughout the four years mirroring the war.
By this time 150 years ago, with Abraham Lincoln elected and poised to take office, South Carolina had already seceded from the Union. Mississippi would be the second Southern state to join the rebellion on Jan. 9. Open war did not begin until April 12 when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
This region was already a hotbed of abolition with much of the opposition to slavery centered in Boston. But the most powerful speaker against human bondage was probably the escaped slave Frederick Douglass, who lectured in Salem and lived in nearby Lynn. He was joined on the speaking circuit by another black crusader for freedom, Salem resident Charles Lenox Remond.
David Goss of the Museum of Salem plans a talk on Salem in the Civil War on Feb. 3 at the Old Town House. The Marblehead Historical Society is hoping to spotlight its wonderfully preserved GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) room, on the top floor of the Town House and left exactly as it was when the last Civil War veteran attended the last meeting.