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H. Wells

H. Wells

Federal (USV)

Sergeant

Heber Wells

(1835 - 1930)

Home State: New Jersey

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 13th New Jersey Infantry

Before Antietam

He was the youngest son of Darius Wells (1800-1875) who pioneered the manufacture of wooden type - used to print oversize works and posters - in the late 1820's in New York. Heber had also been a type-maker, and was a newspaper compositor for the Paterson (NJ) Guardian which was established in 1856 by Orrin Van Derhoven and Hugh Crowell Irish.

Heber enlisted in Company K, 13th New Jersey Infantry on 8 August 1862 and mustered as First Sergeant on 25 August. His Captain was Hugh Irish.

On the Campaign

He was near Captain Irish when that officer was shot on 17 September 1862 at Antietam.

I immediately rushed towards him and supported his head, asking him at the time if he was badly hurt. He could say no more than, "Heber, I am killed," a few moans being the only sign from him. I felt his pulse, which was fluttering and then searched for his wound [in the chest]... During this time my situation was very perilous, as the regiment had recrossed the fence, leaving me alone with the Captain. So I was exposed to the fire of the enemy, as also to the fire from the awkward members of our company, who had to fire over my head to reach the enemy ... What takes so long to write occupied but a short time.
Another Company K soldier, Joseph Crowell, later wrote that after the Captain had died
... Wells searched the pockets, taking from them the captain's watch, the papers and memorandum, and unfastened his sword. He tried to get the pocket knife and other things on the other side, but could not, on account of the way the body was twisted around. There was imminent danger of the Union troops being repulsed and the body falling into the hands of the rebels, and Heber did not want any of the contents of the captain's pockets to fall into the hands of the enemy.

Then Wells made up his mind to rescue the body. The bullets were still whistling about his ears in a dangerous fashion, but he seemed to care naught for that. Picking up the things he had removed from the captain's pockets, and his sword, he took them over to the road and called for volunteers to rescue the captain's body. There were plenty of responses to this noble, yet sad duty, dangerous though it was. Of the volunteers, Wells selected Jacob Engle [Engel], Lewellen T. Probert [Probst] and Jacob Berdan, and the four carried the captain's body over the fence and laid it in the road ...

The rest of the War

He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on 20 November 1862. He was wounded, losing a finger, in action at Chancellorsville, VA in May 1863 and resigned his commission on 24 August 1863 after one year of service.

After the War

In June 1864, along with other investors, he bought out his father's old business and began manufacturing wooden type. He was in that business with various partners or as sole proprietor until 1899. He was a New Jersey State factory inspector to about 1911, then moved to Malden, MA in 1913. He was the "oldest man in town" when he died there in 1930, nearly 97 years old.

References & notes

Basic service from the Adjutant General1. The Wells quote above from a letter at the Passaic County Historical Society. Crowell's words are from his The Young Volunteer: The Everyday Experiences of a Soldier Boy in the Civil War (1906). Crowell had been a printer at the Guardian before the war. Heber's gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a photograph in the Massachusetts Commandery of MOLLUS collection via the Historical Data Systems database. Thanks to Andy Cardinal for the pointer to Wells and to the sources of the excellent quotes.

He married Sarah E. Shepherd (1836-1908) in about 1857 and they had 5 children. Heber was living with his youngest, Francis, in Malden at the time of his death.

More on the Web

See considerably more about Heber, his father, and the wooden type business in a fine post by David Shields, source of some details here.

Birth

01/25/1835; New York City, NY

Death

12/01/1930 Malden, MA; burial in Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Paterson, NJ

Notes

1   State of New Jersey, Adjutant-General's Office, and William S. Stryker, Adjutant General, Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865, 2 volumes, Trenton: John L. Murphy, Steam Book and Job Printer, 1876, Vol. 1, pg. 658  [AotW citation 21870]