by Ken Raymond
The 6th NH Volunteer Infantry was raised in the fall of 1861. By this time the opening volleys of the war had been fired and the Federal Arms had been handed a humiliating and costly defeat at 1st Bull Run. Patriotic fervor and the desire to put down the rebellion ran high. Enlistments for the 6th were conducted throughout the state and were completed in short order. Company K of the 6th was recruited locally in Rindge, New Ipswich, Peterborough and included men from other nearby towns. Thirty six men of this town enlisted in the 6th, thirty four of whom were in Co. K.
The principal recruiter and organizer of Co. K was Ebenezer H. Converse of Rindge. Mr. Converse was born Nov. 14, 1811 would turn fifty before the 6th departure from NH. Ebenezer was four years an officer of the Rindge Light Infantry and had been commander in 1836 and 1837. For the time, Mr. Converse was thought to be of considerable military experience. Two of his sons would also answer the call to military service. Morton E. Converse enlisted with the 6th in Co. K. Oscar I Converse was commissioned an officer in Troop G of the 1st NH Cavalry. Ebenezer was commissioned Capt. and was the first commanding officer of Co. K in the 6th NH.
Stephen B. Sherwin, born Feb. 13, 1805, was a local merchant and served in local and state politics. Mr. Sherwin had been a member of the Rindge School Committee and had served as Town Clerk. Like his father had, he represented this town in the NH Legislature in the years 1844, 45 and 46. In 1856 he represented his Party from NH at their National Convention in Philadelphia PA. He had also served as choir director in the local parish. Stephen’s son Henry H. Sherwin volunteered for military service and was enlisted in Co. K of the 6th NH as well.
The 6th NH Inf. Regt had their rendezvous at Camp Brooks, today better known as Cheshire Fair Grounds. The Companies of the Regt. began arriving as soon as their numbers were filled with Co. B reporting first on November 9th. They were soon joined by the full compliment and all were mustered into the US Army on Nov. 27th, 28th and the 30th. With the mustering complete and uniforms issued, a furlough was granted to the new soldiers on December 1st. This giving all the opportunity to see friends and family one more time before departure from the state to the seat of war.
On December 14th a large number of residents along with many of their soldier boys gathered at the Meeting House for the presentation of a sword to Capt. Ebenezer Converse. Stephen B. Sherwin the esteemed town resident presided at this meeting on the eve of the departure of so many townsmen. Kind words were offered by many as well as prayers for the safety of those headed into harms way. In the midst of this memorable occasion, the sudden death of Stephen B. Sherwin while sitting in his chair punctuated the event. Mr. Sherwin’s untimely death at the age of 56 cast an additional sadness over the already somber occasion. The soldiers rejoined their regiment at Keene and departed by train for Washington DC on Christmas Day 1861, many of them having seen home for the last time.