Digging into Derry program celebrates local heroes of Civil War

July 28. 2013 9:19PM

The Forest Hill Cemetery gate was donated by Lt. Col. George Thom after the Civil War. (COURTESY)

DERRY — As part of its Digging into Derry adult summer reading series, the Derry Public Library is offering a program about three soldiers whose names are inscribed on the town’s Civil War monument.

Today at 6:30 p.m., TJ Cullinane of the Friends of Forest Hill Cemetery will be talking about the lives of 1st Lieutenant George Upton, 6th New Hampshire Volunteers, Capt. J. Charles Currier, 11th New Hampshire Volunteers and Lt. Col. George Thom, United States Army.

“Upton was a Pinkerton graduate who was promoted from the ranks for his valor and ability,” said library communications coordinator Meryle Zusman. “A man of deep Christian faith, but not in the least bit concerned with abolition, he had a premonition of his death the night before he was killed in action at the Battle of the Crater. His home in Derry, perpetually kept in mourning trim by his bereaved widow, would later inspire Robert Frost to pen the ‘The Black Cottage.’”

The Grand Army of the Republic post in Derry was named after Upton.

Currier was also a Pinkerton graduate. He was shot in the face twice during the war, but he survived.

He symbolically drove in the “golden spike” uniting the transcontinental railroad with the hilt of his sword at Promontory Heights, Utah, in 1867, according to Zusman.

Currier was president of the California Sons of the American Revolution and Adjutant General of the California National Guard, as well as the owner of a 900-acre cattle farm in San Luis Obispo.

“Currier was a mourner of note at the funeral of conservationist John Muir but would die in greatly reduced circumstances in Brookline, Mass., in 1924,” said Zusman.

Thom graduated from Pinkerton and West Point and was a regular soldier, serving as the aide-de-camp to Franklin Pierce in the Mexican-American War.

“As a cartographer in the Civil War, his depiction of the Battle of Shiloh set the standard for all others to follow,” said Zusman. “It is referred to simply as Thom’s Map.”

Thom received brevet promotion to brigadier general. Three of his five children would perish while he was away in the war, and ultimately, he would outlive his entire family.

After the war, Thom remained in the Army and surveyed every hazard to navigation in all of the harbors in New England. He left Derry the gates to Forest Hill Cemetery and a stained glass window in First Parish Church.

Cullinane will discuss these men and briefly explain the work of the Friends of Forest Hill Cemetery, including the database project that the library is developing, Zusman said.

This program is free and is part of the Derry Public Library Summer Reading Program for Adults.


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