Teacher finds town’s boys in blue
by Jack Deming
Nov 08, 2012 | 1450 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
READSBORO- Tom Boudreau has always been a fan of mystery novels, so it’s no surprise that 15 years ago, when his son asked him about the American flags and Grand Army of the Republic markers that adorned some of Readsboro’s headstones, he started investigating. Boudreau, a teacher at Readsboro Central School and self-described history buff, spent the next 15 years following every clue, death record, and military pension he could find until he identified where all 78 of Readsboro’s Civil War soldiers are buried.

With nearly half of Readsboro’s Union soldiers not buried in town, Boudreau had his work cut out for him. “When I began this project I discovered there was so very little information about the Readsboro veterans of the Civil War,” said Boudreau. “My first goal was to find out what happened to them because I heard there were not too many of them buried in Readsboro. That was the first goal.”

He began by talking to fellow Readsboro native Jim Dassatti, who put together a list of town soldiers from an adjunct general’s report that only gave name and rank. Town hall records, newspaper archives, and obituaries were often the starting points, with Boudreau collecting approximately half of the soldiers’ obituaries. Death records, as well as military pensions, also aided Boudreau’s hunt, but on occasion the search would go cold, only for a new clue to emerge, sometimes as long as three years later.

As technology advanced, so did his quest.

Vermontcivilwar.org, a website created by Tom Ledoux to document every Vermont Civil War soldier’s story, has aided his search tremendously. Ledoux’s list of soldiers helped Boudreau find the last soldier of his search, buried in Williamstown, MA. This came after Boudreau discovered the soldier’s name was spelled differently on his gravestone. This particular soldier had enlisted in a Massachusetts company and deserted, eventually joining a Vermont regiment. When it was discovered he had deserted, he was placed back in his Massachusetts regiment.

Boudreau says desertions make a soldier hard to find because there’s no record of a government pension. There is one soldier he says he may never find due to this. “I think there’s one soldier that I will never find. He disappeared due to lack of information, and all I have is this guy’s original name, the town he came from, and the fact that he deserted.

“The search was sporadic, they (soldiers) would come in flurries. I thought I was done two years ago, and all of a sudden there were five in a row that I thought were gone, and once you find a source, they’re like clues and you follow them to the body.”

Readsboro’s Civil War soldiers are buried both in town and across the country, including one in Arlington National Cemetery, six others in national cemeteries, and others as far as Los Angeles, Denver, and Texas. Three soldiers from the town were killed in action, while nine were killed by disease, the most common cause of death during the war. Seven of the soldiers buried in town were not necessarily from Readsboro, as towns would accept soldiers from neighboring communities in an effort to fill military quotas during drafts.

One of Boudreau’s most intriguing discoveries came from following the Cressey brothers. In Heartwellville Cemetery there are three military headstones erected in the 1970s for the Cressey brothers. Boudreau looked into the Cressey brothers and found out they were not brothers, and, even more shocking, they weren’t buried there.

“The town had to go through the senator’s office at the time to have them (headstones) put up,” said Boudreau. “They thought their info was right, but I started researching and found out they were cousins. I also found one buried in Michigan, one in Colrain, MA, and the other in Holyoke, MA. So I ended up with stones without bodies and bodies without stones.”

Boudreau would like to put his research into a book at some point but for now, he’s content, having found all of Readsboro’s defenders of the Union 151 years after the war began.
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