MASSACHUSETTS MINUTEMAN MEDAL OF RICHARD H. FISHER 4th MASS, AND LATER 39th MASS, WIA WILDERNESS

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The edge of this Massachusetts Minuteman Medal is stamped “RICHARD H. FISHER PRVT. H 4TH. REG. Fisher, a 28 year-old stonecutter from Quincy, who joined the 4th Mass. Militia Infantry, a three-month regiment and the first to leave the state, having been summoned to Boston on April 15, 1861, and departing on April 17 for Fort Monroe. Fisher enrolled in the regiment at Quincy on May 17 and then joined the outfit at Fortress Monroe, mustering in there as a private in Co. H on May 22. The regiment was sent to Newport News on May 27 and Company H was one of five of its companies to see action in the first engagement of the war, June 10, at Big Bethel, about eight miles from Newport News. The spot was being fortified by Confederates under Magruder and was the source of troublesome raids. Ben Butler launched a multi-pronged attack on it that cost him 18 killed, 53 wounded and 5 missing. Among the dead were Maj. Theodore Winthrop of Butler’s staff, and artillery lieutenant John Greble, the latter lamented as the first West Point or regular army battle casualty of the war, ranked with Ellsworth in the popular culture, who had been shot dead in Alexandria in May.

Fisher mustered out July 22 and a year later joined the 39th Mass, mustering into Co. H 8/26/61. His previous experience counted for something: he was mustered in as company first sergeant. The regiment organized officially 9/1/62, served in the Department of Washington until July 1863 when it joined the First Corps, Army of the Potomac, moving into the 5th Corps in March 1864. The regiment took part in the Fall 1863 campaigns of the army and the heavy fighting of Grant’s Overland Campaign in 1864, fighting at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, Hatcher’s Run, White Oak Road, and Five Forks, losing 5 officers and 91 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded. He is listed a receiving a flesh wound in the right arm at the Wilderness that seems to have kept him out for just two weeks. In mid-August, however, he was hospitalized for sickness, which lasted to February at least and resulted in him being returned to the ranks, likely just so someone else could take on the responsibilities. Some sources also list him as being commissioned, but not mustered, as 2nd Lieutenant, with rank dating to September 1864, likely the date of a vacancy in the company. In any case, he mustered out 5/18/65.

Authorized in 1902, the two-piece bronze medal consists of a rectangular pin-back bar reading “MASSACHUSETTS MINUTE MEN OF 1861” and a circular drop with the  Seal of the State of Massachusetts at center of the obverse and the reverse reading,  “THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS TO THE MEMBERS OF THE MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEER MILITIA WHO WERE MUSTERED INTO THE UNITED STATES SERVICE IN RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT LINCOLN’S FIRST CALL FOR TROOPS APRIL 15, 1861.” Approximately 3,800 of these were struck, stamped on the rim with the soldier’s name, rank, and unit and available for the veterans and family members.  [sr] [ph:L]

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