On August 11, 1862 an 18-year-old Stoughton born resident named Alfred Edward Waldo enlisted in the Union Army in Co. E. 35th Massachusetts Infantry Volunteers.
He left his comfortable home at what is now 310 Lincoln Street in Stoughton where his parents William P. and Mary (Talbot) Waldo would anxiously await his correspondence every week until the day it no longer came.
Waldo was one of the many casualties during the Civil War from Stoughton. A large bronze and granite plaque I worked on with Charles Large preserves their memory.
Sadly, it is rare to have a glimpse into the lives of these veterans, especially those who did not return home.
But, in the case of Alfred Edward Waldo, the town of Stoughton has a chance to walk in his boots, as he headed off to war about 150 years ago.
Preserved at the Stoughton Historical Society is Waldo’s diary. And in recent years, I was able to find a dealer on eBay selling his correspondence both back and forth. These letters were very expensive, however the Stoughton Historical Society was able to purchase some of them, and also through the kindness of the seller, allow us to reprint the content of the letters.
Waldo was born in Stoughton on March 13, 1844, and by the time he was two-years-old his family moved to what is now Lincoln Street. The house in which he lived still stands today, which was a recent discovery I made only this past week.
His father William came to Stoughton from Royalston, Vermont but married Mary Talbot, a Stoughton born native.
In 1846, William P. Waldo lived in the same house later occupied in 1936 by Arthur Churchill. This house at 310 Lincoln Street still bears its 19th century charm nestled on the southeast corner of Lincoln and Churchill Avenues.
This simple farmhouse would be the last place Alfred Waldo called home in Stoughton.
In 2007, on a research trip to Washington, I stood on the Mall near the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. On this spot on June 7, 1864 a young 20-year-old resident lost his final battle. Waldo died from “wounds received in battle” at the former Armory Square Hospital.
Waldo had participated in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. I travelled across the Potomac by Subway to a famous cemetery where Presidents and soldiers lie side by side. But in 1864 when they laid Waldo to rest at Arlington National Cemetery it was a far cry from the size it is nearly a century and a half later.
At the Pearl Street Cemetery here in Stoughton, a memorial cenotaph stands next to his parents’ graves in the Talbot lot for young Alfred and his brother Samuel.
Sadly, Waldo’s parents would feel tragedy twice in the 1860’s when their other son, Samuel Austin Waldo, died July 8, 1868—he too dying at the age of 20.
While in Washington, I thought to myself that I may be the first person from Stoughton in many decades to make the pilgrimage to Alfred Waldo’s grave to pay respects.
His story needed to be told.
With the efforts of Dwight MacKerron and the Stoughton Historical Society this became a reality. This book is nearly 150 pages long and sells at the Historical Society for $20, and $15 for members.
For the next few weeks I will relate some of the letters and diary entries from this important chapter in our town’s history on Stoughton Patch, giving readers a chance to relive Waldo’s experiences in war.
Both Dwight MacKerron and I thought it would be an interesting subject for a Stoughton reads together – I might add and Stoughton remembers together—a page from our shared community history.
Check back next week for Waldo’s first diary entries and first letter sent home to his parents, written in August 1862.