Civil War veteran
Private, Co. E, 32nd Massachusetts Infantry
Standing 5 ft. 7-1/2 in. tall and featuring a light complexion, blue eyes, and grey hair, William was a 33-year-old Plymouth, MA Boatman and married father of four, when he enlisted on Dec. 2, 1861 and was mustered that same day as a Private in Co. E of the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry. It should be noted that his wife Mary Jane was pregnant with her fifth child when he enlisted.
William was “present” on all Company muster rolls from January 1862 through July 1864. In 1862 his regiment fought at Second Bull Run and Fredericksburg where William was wounded on Dec. 13th. The wound was not serious enough that he required hospitalization, nor was he absent from his regiment on account of the injury. The following year the 32nd Massachusetts locked horns with Confederates at Chancellorsville and in Gettysburg’s Wheatfield. William re-enlisted for an additional three years’ service on Jan. 1, 1864 and was issued a bounty in the neighborhood of $400, payable in four or five installments.
It’s evident that William was beset with illness beginning in May 1864 and was sent to the Division Hospital on July 15, 1864 and subsequently transferred to Dale General Hospital at Worcester, MA. His military service record is not clear on dates, but it’s known that he was allowed to return to Plymouth in order to cast his vote in the fall elections and beginning Nov. 2nd was under treatment with Dr. Alexander Jackson of Plymouth for Chronic Diarrhea. He was still in Plymouth on May 11, 1865 when Dr. Jackson wrote William was unable to travel due to his medical condition. A July 26, 1865 letter, which due to a missing page was penned by an unknown writer, made clear that William had been reduced to a “skeletal state,” that his wife was dying of Typhoid Fever, and the family, which included five children, was in dire financial straits due to the fact William had not received any pay since March 1864. The pay issue was not resolved until after William’s death at Plymouth on August 6, 1865. The cause of death for William, who was 35 years and 8 months of age, was listed as Tuberculosis of the Bowels. Interment at Plymouth’s Burial Hill took place two days after he breathed his last.
Plymouth death records indicate that William’s wife Mary Jane (Saunders), a native of Nova Scotia, was 35 when she died on July 28, 1865, six days after contracting Typhoid Fever. Although her final resting place can’t be confirmed it’s believed she’s interred at Burial Hill. Pension records confirm that Mary and William were wed at Braintree, MA on Jan. 21, 1852.
Following William’s death, Alvan G. Morton of Plymouth was appointed guardian for the five Shaw children, including Alice J., born Oct. 4, 1852; William H., born Nov. 17, 1864; Ruth G., born Jan. 25, 1858; Cyrus E., born Jul. 6, 1860; and Mary E., born Mar. 13, 1862. Morton filed for pension benefits on their behalf which were approved at the rate of $2 per month per child on Jan. 29, 1866. Benefits were to continue until each child reached their 16th birthday.
The following research information was entered by Find a Grave member Sandra Lennox:
MASSACHUSETTS SOLDIERS, SAILORS, AND MARINES IN THE CIVIL WAR
Mass. Volunteer Infantry
Volume III [p. 489]
William H. Shaw - Priv. - Res. Plymouth;
33; boatman; enl. and must. Dec. 2, 1861;
wounded Dec. 13, 1862, Fredericksburg, Va.;
re-enlist. Jany. 1, 1864; died of disease,
Aug. 6, 1865, Boston, Mass.
Massachusetts State Census 1855
Plymouth, Plymouth, Mass.
Dwelling #721 - Family #1024
William H. Shaw - 25y - born MA
Mary J. Shaw - 25y
born Nova Scotia
Alice L. Shaw - 3y - born MA
William H. Shaw - 9 months - born MA
Deaths Registered in the Town of Plymouth
August 6, 1865
William H. Shaw
Male - Widower
35 years, 8 months
Residence & place of death: Plymouth
Place of birth: Fairhaven
Names & birthplace of parents:
Harvey (no other information given)
Volume 184 - Page 303
Leander Lovell, Town Clerk
Note: Mass. Soldiers, Sailors, etc. in
the Civil War has William's place of
death as Boston. I did not find a death
register for William from Boston, just
the death register from Plymouth which
says that he had died in Plymouth.
WM. H. SHAW,
32 Mass. Regt.
died Aug. 6, 1865,
aged 35 y'rs.
Epitaphs from Burial Hill
By Bradford Kingman