Civil War Letters of Pvt Eugene F Hawley

Joseph/Samuel/Capt Joseph/Timothy/Rufus/Zerah/Edward/Eugene HAWLEY

James Genko discussing the Civil War Letters
of Pvt Eugene F Hawley

Eugene Fowler Hawley,son of Prof Edward Hawley, grandson of Dr Zerah Hawley, and great-grandson of Rev Rufus Hawley, was born November 28, 1842. He enlisted at age 18 in the 5th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry July 23, 1861for a 3 year term. Enlistment papers indicate he was 5′ 8″ tall, with blue eyes and brown hair, occupation “student.” During these three years, he wrote over 60 letters, providing poignant insights into his patriotism, loneliness, and devotion to his family. These letters are in the collection of the Avon Free Public Library.

For Eugene’s first year of service, the 5th Connecticut was active in the area of Maryland and Virginia. During the Battle of Cedar Mountain in Virginia (August ’62), Hawley was taken prisoner and sent to the prison camp on Belle Island in the James River at Richmond. Earlier in the battle, as he ran through a wheat field that had been cut, but still had short stubble, he impaled his big toe in the joint on a bayonet still affixed to a musket dropped by a fleeing Confederate. A month later, he was paroled and returned to his regiment.

In May ’63, Hawley fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville. At Gettysburg in July, as the 5th Connecticut erected breastworks of logs to fortify their position, Hawley’s right index finger was crushed between the logs. Later, as the Union Army chased the Confederates back into Virginia, Hawley came off picket duty, was surprised by Rebel cavalry and taken prisoner again. He spent 2 1/2 months back at Belle Island camp. Conditions were much worse this time and he lost 51 pounds.

Hawley was then transferred to Camp Parole, a Union prison where soldiers awaited exchange for Confederates – but they were still confined. While he was held prisoner, the 5th Connecticut moved west, so upon release, he had to report to Columbus, Ohio. A month later his regiment joined General Sherman’s campaign on Atlanta. In June, ’64,they fought in the assault on Kennesaw Mountain. In July, Eugene Hawley was discharged at Chattanooga and returned to his family in New Haven, Connecticut.

In 1867, Eugene Hawley married Martha Townsend Hitchcock in New Haven, later moving to Hartford County. They had 5 children: Harry Eugene, Arthur Edward, Lewis Raymond, Mary Eudora and Irving Townsend.

He worked as a mechanic, but applied for an invalid pension in 1879 due to his finger injury at Gettysburg, plus heart disease and rheumatism from his imprisonment. His pension was $2 / month. In 1882, he applied for an increased pension, as his “finger neither opens or shuts, incapacitating my ability for labor in my business, at least one half of my full capacity.” In 1898, his application for a pension increase to $6 was denied. Another request in 1904 increased his pension to $40 / month. Eugene Hawley died April 25, 1920 in New Haven, where he is buried at Evergreen Cemetery.

Source: Presentation by James Genco at the 81st Annual Hawley Society Reunion October 15, 2011,in Farmington, CT.  James Genco has lived in Avon for the past 25 years. An attorney, he spends much of his spare time pursuing interests in American History. A Michigan native and a Civil War expert, he has published two books relating to Michigan’s role in the Civil War, and is currently finishing a third. Genco is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Museum of Connecticut History, and President of the New England Antique Arms Society.