"My Soldier Husband"

The Life and Death of Orderly Sergeant Baxter H. King by Elias Stewart, Graduate Student

Despite being a lesser-known engagement, the Battle of Lynchburg acts as a unique tapestry in which an array of notable people from across the East Coast convened in a seemingly insignificant town to fight in the Civil War. Many of these individuals went on to do prominent work after the war while others left a lasting impact before their deaths on the battlefield. This post will document a New England soldier, Baxter H. King.

Baxter, also sometimes called Harry, was born on November 17, 1839 in Athol, Massachusetts to parents Isaac and Polly King. At the age of 22, when he enrolled in the Union Army, he lived in the town of Barre, only miles from where he was born. Baxter served as a teacher and was noted as having a dark complexion, dark hair, blue eyes, and was five feet, six and a half inches tall. In the time between his enrollment on July 4 1862 and officially mustering in on July 31st, King married Lucy Freelove Stone on July 9th. They would have a little over a month together before his service began on August 15, 1862 when his unit, Company E of the 34th Massachusetts Infantry, left for Washington D.C.

Like many Union regiments, King and the 34th campaigned throughout Virginia and West Virginia. As his muster roll indicates, King was preset in every engagement of his infantry until his death in 1864. It is also noted that he received a promotion from 2nd Sergeant to 1st Sergeant while on duty in Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, West Virginia during the months of September and October of 1863; speculatively due to a death or vacancy in that position, favor from superiors, or being voted up by his peers. Another personal account of King is from a journal entry of the Infantry’s Colonel, William S. Lincoln, who mentions King as having lost his voice while at camp in Martinsburg, West Virginia in April 15, 1864, saying that “Sergeant King, most unexpectedly and unaccountably recovered his voice today; returning to him as suddenly as it was lost, it caused him no little surprise.” Soon after, King and his company joined with Union forces led by Major General David Hunter in June and marched south through Virginia with orders to capture the city of Lynchburg, an operation that would be known as Hunter’s Raid.