One hundred and sixty years ago, Union and Confederate armies fought The Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3, 1863. The Union victory is felt to be the turning point of the Civil War. It was the most costly battle in U.S. history with approximately 50,000 casualties.
According to The Proceedings at the Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation of the Town of Longmeadow, October 17th, 1883, 166 men from Longmeadow served in the Union Army. Of these, eight were killed in action, five died of wounds, ten died of disease and three died in prison. In 1913, fifty years after The Battle of Gettysburg, two of Longmeadow’s Civil War veterans arrived in Pennsylvania to honor the anniversary.
The 50th anniversary of the battle was commemorated by the largest reunion of Union and Confederate veterans. It was said to be “the greatest gathering of conquerors and conquered in the history of the world.” From June 29-July 4, 1913 approximately 53,000 veterans from 46 of the 48 states gathered in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The gathering was peaceful and veterans, who ranged in age from their late 60s to their 80s, slept in tents and re-hashed battle stories with comrades-in-arms as well as with their opponents. The reunion was designed to promote healing and unity in an increasingly fractured and polarized country.
Among them were Isaac Coomes (1834-1916) and Nathan Coe (1845-1943), who both lived in Longmeadow at the time. Born in Vermont, Isaac Coomes was just a child when his family returned to their own native Longmeadow in 1841. He remained for the rest of his life. He enlisted in the 37th Massachusetts Volunteers and served in 21 battles - including Gettysburg. Isaac Coomes was one of seven brothers, two of whom died during the Civil War. Elias was killed in action at the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia May 31, 1862, and James died at the infamous Andersonville Prison, Andersonville, Georgia in 1864. Isaac, like his brother Elias, was trained as a thimble and spectacle maker in Longmeadow.
According to an article in The Springfield Union, Coomes enjoyed his 1913 trip to Gettysburg even though he was in poor health at the time. The paper reported, “He was much gratified to get a drink again from Spangler’s spring, remembered by the soldiers for its cold, delicious water.” Isaac never married. He resided at the pumping station according to the street directory in 1901, and on Meadow Street at the time of his death in 1916.
The other Civil War veteran who traveled from Longmeadow to Gettysburg was Nathaniel Coe. Originally from Connecticut, Coe enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 17 in 1862 in the 21st regiment of the Connecticut Volunteers and later in the 2nd Massachusetts heavy artillery. He had been captured at the Battle of Chancellorsville (Virginia) April 30-May 6, 1863 and was “released on parole May 14, 1863.” Though he did not participate in the Battle of Gettysburg he still made his way to the gathering of soldiers who were commemorating the 50th anniversary of the important event. Coe left his home at 21 Hopkins Place and made his way toward Pennsylvania.
For a more detailed look at the 1913 Battle of Gettysburg reunion please see here.
-Contributed by Lenny Shaker, Longmeadow Historical Society
Photo Credit: "Union and Confederate veterans shaking hands at reunion to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. Pennsylvania United States Gettysburg, 1913." Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2018652225/. Other sources: Wikipedia Springfield Union News Springfield Republican Ancestry.com Military-Historians.org