Edward Richardson, Musician and Merchant

Edward was born in Methuen in 1836, the son of Manley and Rebecca Richardson.  He and his brother Joe enlisted in the Army during the Civil War on August 23, 1862.  He was living in South Newmarket (Newfields) when he enlisted as a musician.  South Newmarket was credited for his service, and his name is engraved on that town’s monument. He initially enlisted in Company A, 11th New Hampshire Infantry.  He was later transferred to the 2nd Brigade Band, 2ndDivision, 9thArmy Corps in October 1862.  He took part in the battles of Fredricksburg, Vicksburg, Jackson, Army of the Potomac, Seige of Knoxville, Wilderness, and Petersburg.  He mustered out June 4th1862 as a 2ndClass Musician.

Civil War Musicians

During the Civil War, music played a prominent role on both sides of the conflict: Union and Confederate. On the battlefield, different instruments including bugles, drums, and fifes were played to issue marching orders or sometimes simply to boost the morale. Singing was also employed as a recreational activity and release from the tensions from the battlefield.  In camp, music was a diversion away from the bloodshed, helping the soldiers deal with homesickness and boredom.  Soldiers of both sides often engaged in recreation with musical instruments, and when the opposing armies were near each other, sometimes the bands from both sides of the conflict played against each other on the night before a battle.

(Photo: “drummer boys on break”)

In May 1861 the United States War Department officially approved that every regiment of infantry and artillery could have a brass band with 24 members, while a cavalry regiment could have one of sixteen members.  This requirement was ignored as the war dragged on, as there was a greater need for riflemen than musicians.  In July 1862 the brass bands of the Union were disassembled by the adjutant general, although the soldiers that comprised them were sometimes reenlisted and assigned to musician roles.  By December 1861 the Union army had 28,000 musicians in 618 bands; a ratio of one soldier out of 41 who served the army was a musician.  Musicians were often given special privileges. Union general Phillip Sheridan gave his cavalry bands the best horses and special uniforms, believing “Music has done its share, and more than its share, in winning this war”.

Whole songs were sometimes played during battles.  The survivors of the disastrous Pickett’s Charge returned under the tune Nearer My God to Thee.  At the Battle of Five Forks, Willie, from Sutton NH, was a Civil War musicianUnion musicians under orders from Sheridan played Nelly Bly while being shot at on the front lines.  Samuel P. Heintzelman, the commander of the III Corps, saw many of his musicians standing at the back lines at the Battle of Williamsburg, and ordered them to play anything.  Their music rallied the Union forces, forcing the Confederate to withdraw.  It was said that music was the equivalent of “a thousand men” on one’s side. Robert E. Lee himself said, “I don’t think we could have an army without music.”

(photo: former Civil War musician, Willie of Sutton, NH performing his “one man band”)

However, General Ulysses S. Grant was tone deaf and could not recognize any of the light airs of the time; military music was especially annoying to him, and he often threatened to shoot anyone playing an instrument near him.

Sometimes, musicians were ordered to leave the battlefront and assist the surgeons, as were  the 20th Maine’s musicians at Little Round Top. As the rest of the regiment were driving back wave after wave of Confederates, the musicians of the regiment were not just performing amputations, but doing it almost in a quick step.    Upon release from service, most of the musicians joined in, or formed their own community bands.


Richardson, the Merchant

After the war,  Edward stettled in Newmarket and opened a grocery store on Main Street.  At  that time the building was owned by Mr. Walker, the father of Martha Walker, who was a music teacher in the schools for many years.  Edward soon had a flourishing business, selling grain and all kinds of groceries and crockery. 

He married a Miss Ida M. Furber, daughter of Samuel and Jane Furber and they lived for a while on Mt. Pleasant Street.  He then purchased land and built a house on South Main Street now owned by Mrs. Albert Edgerly (article printed 1949).    ”Eddie” was also sheriff under Mr. Coffin, and often  found himself in many a  dangerous situation.  

He was fine auctioneer, and people from miles around brought their old furniture for him to sell in front of his store on Saturday afternoons.  He had a large bell which he rang to call customers to the pending sale.  He was also a gifted orator, speaking at several public functions.  His health began to fail, and he retired from business and shortly died thereafter, on April 6, 1901 at the age of 65.

(photo: Richardson’s Grocery. from left: Pierce Haines, store clerk; Charles Whitehorn, Al Tebbetts, and “Ratty” Fullerton)