FOSTER, Robert E. – enlisted 16 Aug 1861 at age 23 as a Private in Company D, 3rd Infantry, mustering in 23 Aug 1861. Born, resided and credited to Newmarket, he was wounded when he shot his finger off accidentally 26 Jun 1862; and received a Disability Discharge on 28 Sep 1862 at Hilton Head, S.C. That did not deter him, for3 years later at age 27 he enlisted and mustered in on 2 Aug 1864 in Company D, 24th Regiment Veterans’ Reserve Corps. He enlisted as a Private and was discharged 2 Dec 1865 at Washington, DC. where he performed guard duties.
He died of heart disease on 8 Sep 1906 at age 68, still working off and on as a laborer in town. His Obituary was published 14 Sep 1904 in the Newmarket Advertiser:
Robert E, Foster died at the home of his sister, Mrs. David Bassett, last Saturday, aged 68 years. Mr. Foster was a Civil War veteran, having served in Company D, Third Regiment, and for a time after the war served in the 24thRegiment Veterans’ Reserve Corps. He had been for a few years an inmate of the Soldiers’ Home at Togus, Me., but returned here a few weeks ago. Mr. Foster was unmarried, and his immediate relatives are three sisters, Mrs. Bassett, Mrs. Malvina Shanon and Mrs. Jan Jenness of Portsmouth. The funeral took place at his late home Tuesday afternoon.
History & service engagements until such time as Foster was discharged 28 Sep 1862 at Hilton Head.
Organized at Concord and mustered in 23 Aug 1861; moved to Camp Scott, Long Island, N. Y., 3 Sep thence to Washington, D. C., 18 Sep, and to Annapolis, Md., 4 Oct. Attached to Viele’s Brigade, Sherman’s South Carolina Expeditionary Corps, to April, 1862.
Expedition to Port Royal, S. C., 31 Oct - 7 Nov 1861. Capture of Forts Walker and Beauregard, Port Royal Harbor, S. C., 7 Nov. Duty at Hilton Head, S. C., till April, 1862. Affair Hunting Island, March, 1862. Reconnoissance up Savannah River to Elba Island March 7-11. Expedition to Bluffton March 20-24. Occupation of Edisto Island April 5. Affair at Watts’ Court April 10. Reconnoissance of Seabrook Island April 14. Advance on Jehossie Island April 17. Skirmish Edisto Island April 18. Duty at Edisto Island till June 1. Operations on James Island June 1-28. Picket Affair June 8. Battle of Secessionville June 16. Evacuation of James Island and movement to Hilton Head June 28-July 7. Duty at Hilton Head till April, 1863. Affair at Pinckney Island August 21, 1862.
(photo: 3rd NH Infantry encampment at Hilton Head)
Union Gen. Henry W. Benham began landing his two divisions on James Island, south of Charleston, SC., on June 2, 1862. “Doom hangs over wicked Charleston,” wrote the New York Tribune. “That viper’s nest and breeding place of rebellion is, ere this time, invested by Union Arms-perhaps already in our hands.” The Union would try to capture the city by approaching it from land, forgoing the naval approach past the cannon at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Though the Confederate land defenses were in fact weak, Benham thought them to be many times the number of Rebel troops actually available for the defense of the city.
Gen. Nathan G. Evans, commander of the Rebel forces on James Island, strengthened his five-mile-long line. The strongest part was a fort under the command of Col. Thomas G. Lamar at the hamlet of Secessionville, where there was an artillery battery composed of two 24-pounder rifled cannon, several 18-pounders, an 8-inch columbiad, and a mortar. On June 11 Union Gen. David Hunter instructed Benham to carry out a reconnaissance on James Island-but not to initiate a general engagement.
At 4:00am on June 16, one of Benham’s divisions, 3,500 men under the command of Gen. I.I. Stevens, attacked the Confederate position at Secessionville. The attack was repulsed within 15 minutes. By the time the federal forces had regrouped to mount another charge, General Evans had arrived with reinforcements to bring the Confederate strength up to 2,000. Benham brought his other Union division, 3,000 men commanded by Gen. H.G. Wright, up on his left to cover his flank and twice again attacked the fort. Each assault was fierce but unsuccessful. By 10:00am the fierce Battle of Secessionville was over.
Benham stopped the attacks and ordered a retreat. The federals sustained losses of 107 dead, 487 wounded, and 89 captured; the Confederates lost 52 killed, 132 wounded, and 8 missing. General Benham was informally charged with disobedience for bringing on the disastrous Battle of Secessionville and was mustered out of the service in August 1862.
The Veteran Reserve Corps was originally called the “Invalid Corps” from April 1863 until March 1864 and lasted until the end of the Civil War in 1865. The Corps was a military organization within the Union Army that gave light duty to partially disabled or otherwise infirm soldiers (or former soldiers). This allowed more able-bodied soldiers to serve in combat. About 60,000 men served in the Reserves. They performed guard duty, did patrol duty at Washington D.C., and enforced the draft. Men often enlisted in a company recruited in the counties where they lived though not always. After many battles, companies might be combined because so many men were killed or wounded.
(source: National Park Service, The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System), 3rd NH Infantry, History)