Hadley grew up in Whitingham, graduated from Whitingham School in 1965, and returned to Whitingham after graduating from Northeastern University. He was one of the founders of the Historical Society before pursuing employment in other parts of the country.
“I have always been interested in Whitingham history,” Hadley said, “and devoured every book I could find on the subject. Thanks to my grandmother, Florence Page Morse, our family kept a number of original documents including from my great-great-grandfather, Moses Streeter.”
According to Hadley, Moses Streeter kept a journal of clippings from newspapers of the Civil War era, some of which he authored as a correspondent. Two other Streeter brothers served in the conflict, Hiram, who was married with three children and joined the Massachusetts 57th Regiment in December 1863, and Joseph, who kept a diary of his experiences in the Vermont 8th Regiment.
Hadley’s extensive research explored the origins of the Streeter family, believed to descend from Stephen, who was born in Tenterden, County Kent, England, and immigrated to Gloucester, Massachusetts Bay Colony, circa 1640. He married Ursula Adams and subsequent generations moved to the Worcester, MA, area.
Several generations later, James Streeter married Susan Alton in 1788, settling in Whitingham on what became known as Streeter Hill. Their son James married Sally Corbett of Rowe, MA, a descendant of the Revolutionary War veteran Nathaniel Corbett, for whose son Moses the Streeters’ first-born would be named.
The Corbetts’ second son, Hiram, was born in 1825. At age 20, Hiram and his friend Clark Jillson set off, as Hadley recounts, “to seek their fortunes.” Ending their journey in Worcester, Jillson worked as a mechanic and printer, as well as involving himself in community affairs, becoming a judge, the mayor of Worcester, and co-founder of what would become the Worcester Historical Society. Never forgetting his roots, Jillson gave the keynote address at the Whitingham Centennial in 1880, and published “Green Leaves From Whitingham, Vermont” in 1894.
Hiram, meanwhile, had become a farmer with a young family. In 1863, Hiram joined the 57th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment. Hadley said, “He felt a strong sense of duty to his country, leaving his family, friends, and a pleasant home.”
Hiram’s regiment would eventually join up with Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s 9th Corps headed to meet the Army of the Potomac, led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. On May 4, 1864, Grant’s combined forces of almost 120,000 men began the Overland Campaign and entered the Wilderness; on May 6, the 1st Corps, including the 57th, approached Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill and his men.
Hadley reported, “According to the regimental history, they (the 57th) succeeded in getting within 10 feet of the enemy’s trenches. All forces in this battle were severely challenged by the dense undergrowth with sharp brambles of the Wilderness.” The terrain and battle conditions resulted in extensive losses for both sides.
Hadley detailed the ensuing battles at Spotsylvania, North Anna, and Cold Harbor, ultimately resulting in the Siege of Petersburg from June 1864 to March 1865. Lee’s army surrendered in April 1865, ending the Civil War.
It was the Battle of Petersburg and the reported incompetence of the 57th’s commander that cost Hiram his life on June 17, 1864. At the time, men were buried where they fell and Hadley notes, “Hiram’s grave was marked by his friends, an important fact that was stated in a letter from his company surgeon to his widow.” In 1866, “The fallen were placed in wooden coffins, accompanied with any identifying headboards and re-interred at Poplar Grove National Cemetery (in Petersburg, VA).”
Hadley, accompanied by his brother-in-law Jim Benoit and friend John Doty, visited the Poplar Grove site following an extensive renovation and rededication on April 29, 2017.
Doty, a lifelong history buff, said the trip was very interesting and emotional. “Just to see how the Park Service staff treated the soldiers, many not even known, with such respect, was impressive.”
Hiram’s brother Moses, whose wife had deserted him in 1861 and who had no children, enlisted in the 18th Connecticut Regiment in 1862.
According to Hadley, “On June 13 to 15 of 1863, the 18th participated in the Battle of Second Winchester in Virginia, an action which delayed the advance of Lee’s army toward Pennsylvania and ultimately enabled the Union to reach Gettysburg in time to halt Lee’s advance.”
Moses was assigned duty on the ambulance train and would continue in that capacity under the command of Gen. David Hunter. Referring to the campaign across West Virginia, Moses wrote, “On Gen. Hunter’s raid, marched 700 miles, participated in several bloody battles in sixty days.” While on ambulance detail, Moses would have certainly been all too familiar with the human toll of those battles.
In September 1864, following a battle in Berryville, VA, Moses was assigned to a train of 34 ambulances to transport the wounded to safety. According to Hadley, the return trip was faced with the threat of being raided by Col. John Singleton Mosby’s guerillas who successfully raided supply trains and did indeed attack Moses’ ambulance train. Although chased into the woods, he and others snuck back to Union lines. He later wrote one of many articles on his exploits, including an introduction to Abraham Lincoln, for a number of newspaper outlets.
“He wrote that he marched over 2,500 miles and participated in 18 bloody battles during his three years of service,” Hadley said. In 1878, Moses and his third wife moved to Kansas but a Cheyenne raid killed many settlers and prompted Moses to return to Whitingham.
Joseph was described by Hadley as being initially reluctant to join but he eventually enlisted in December 1863. Joseph wrote, “The Rebs made an attack about daylight. Rather surprised us. I was wounded about sunrise. Was taken prisoner. But the good Lord gave us the victory & was taken back by our boys after sunset.” The wound in his left foot would result in permanent disability. Joseph lived out his days in Readsboro.
“The suffering of all participants in this war is unfathomable,” Hadley said.
Wilmington resident Meg Streeter believes that her great-great-grandfather was a cousin of Moses. “What I found fascinating,” said Streeter “was what common people in Vermont did during the war.” Streeter discovered that Moses once lived in a house at the intersection of Kentfield and Sadawga roads that stands today.
Hadley closed his presentation noting that 168 Civil War soldiers are credited to, born in or buried in Whitingham, with Hiram’s name not listed. He wondered how many others have been overlooked.
“We don’t have a monument in Whitingham to our native sons who served in the Civil War. After 152 years, perhaps it is time to think about such a monument.”