Henry Clay Long (1838-1862) was the son of Miles Long (1804-1877) and Anna Bridgham (1810-1851) of Bucksfield, Oxford county, Maine. In 1861, Henry married Deborah (“Dora”) Packard Whitman (1837-19xx), the daughter of Joshua E. Whitman (1788-1858) and Catharine Pratt Davee (1791-1878). From the 1860 Census we learn that before the Civil War, and before their marriage, both Henry and Dora worked in the boot shop of Deborah’s relative, Elijah P. Whitman. Henry was a boot maker and Dora was a boot fitter.
In November 1861, Henry enlisted as a 3rd Class musician in the 11th Maine Infantry on 29 October 1861. His motivation for enlisting was clearly for financial gain, though he did condemn the traitorous actions of those that brought on the rebellion. A 3rd Class musician—the most highly skilled—was eligible for $34/month in the service which appears to have been considerably more than he was earning as a boot maker.
Not long after Henry arrived with his regiment in Washington D. C. in October 1862, however, he learned that Congress was considering the passage of a Bill to discharge all of the regimental bands. It seems that most of the regiments were accompanied by bands which prompted the Secretary of War and General McClellan to question the necessity of these highly-paid non-combatants. By early 1862, there were reported to be as many as 17,000 band members in the regiments reporting for duty, costing the government an estimated $5.5M a year in wages, not to mention subsistence.
Henry’s letters are highly interesting to read for two reasons. One, his letters chronicle the saga of the passage of the Bill in Congress that would discharge the regimental bands (this would not come to pass until after the Peninsula Campaign), and two, a greater opportunity to observe and record the activities of the 11th Maine was afforded Henry who—as a band member—had little duty to perform each day.
Ironically, when the 11th Maine was sent to the peninsula in the spring of 1862, the regimental band was forbidden to play their instruments by order of Gen. McClellan who desired not to give away the positions of the Union army. As such, Henry and his fellow band members tagged along with the regiment as they advanced towards Richmond serving no useful function until the Battle of Fair Oaks where they were caught in the maelstrom of the Confederate attack and ran from the field with their comrades, leaving their instruments, their personal baggage, and the stretchers they might have used to attend to the wounded.
It is riveting to see the evolution of Henry’s ideas as to the likely duration of the war. At the start of the Peninsula campaign, Henry was certain the war would be over in a matter of weeks. “There is a large army in advance of us and it is nothing but troops in every direction. It looks as if there was enough to eat the whole South in twenty-four hours,” he wrote on 15 May, shortly after the Confederate army retreated from the Yorktown defenses and the second line at Williamsburg. But after personally witnessing the hand-to-hand combat and suffering the ignominious defeat at Fair Oaks, Henry was less certain that the war could be ended so quickly.
Unfortunately for Henry, he was never able to get the discharge he desired and spoke of in nearly every single letter he wrote to his wife. After the setback at Fair Oaks, the 11th Maine was sent to the rear on the Chickahominy River where he contracted typhoid fever and died within a matter of about a month. He died on 7 July 1862 in New York City while in the service.
In March 1867, Dora married Henry E. Hay of Lynn, Mass., a veteran of the war, having served as a sergeant in Co, I, 4th Mass Heavy Artillery.