Jerome Goodrich is one of six soldiers from the Deerfield and Cambridge areas who will be featured in the 2021 edition of “We Shall Not Forget,” an annual salute to local veterans published each November.
Jerome Goodrich was a 19-year-old farmer living in the town of Oakland when he signed up in 1862 to fight with the Union Army in the Civil War.
He would never come home.
Cambridge-area soldier Edward Potter, who was just a couple of years older than Goodrich, would bury his friend under a sycamore tree overlooking the Atchafralya River near Morganzia, Louisiana after Goodrich was killed in a skirmish in 1864.
Potter, who was featured in the 2020 edition of We Shall Not Forget, penned a series of emotional diary entries reflecting on Goodrich’s death and burial.
Jerome Goodrich had been born in New York in 1842.
At the time of his enlistment in the U.S. Army on Aug. 21, 1862, he said he resided in the town of Oakland in Jefferson County, Wisconsin.
Described in his enlistment papers as a single 19-year-old farmer with blue eyes, auburn hair and a light complexion, he committed to serving three years in the Union Army.
He and Potter enlisted on the same day and were both assigned to Company D of the 29th Wisconsin Infantry.
Potter had been born on Jan. 23, 1840, also in New York. He would be appointed a second sergeant on June 29, 1863, and would be promoted to first sergeant on April 15, 1865 and to first lieutenant on June 19, 1865.
Goodrich saw action in every battle his company participated in until his death in 1864.
According to E.B. Quiner’s 1866 account, “The Military History of Wisconsin,” the 29th Wisconsin Infantry was composed of soldiers from Dane, Dodge, Jefferson and Columbia Counties. They were mustered into military service on Sept. 27, 1862 at Camp Randall in Madison and left Wisconsin on Nov. 2.
In his book, Quiner said the regiment first took a train to Cairo, Illinois, then made its way down the Mississippi River, arriving in Helena, Arkansas on Nov. 7, 1862. The 29th Wisconsin made several expeditions in Arkansas and Louisiana in 1862.
The 29th Wisconsin Infantry was central to the battles of Port Gibson and Champion Hills, Quinter wrote. Those conflicts pushed Confederate troops back into Vicksburg, Mississippi, and readied the way for a siege.
The battle at Port Gibson, Quiner said, happened May 1, 1863. Potter wrote in his diary that Union forces captured about 2,000 prisoners that day and took most of the Confederate artillery.
“We advanced down a ravine and received a galling fire,” Potter wrote.
“There is a great deal of talk about what the 29th stood at the battle Friday. We were in the thickest from the first and under fire,” Potter continued on May 4.
The battle at Champion Hills followed on May 16, 1863.
“It was the bloodiest day I ever saw, and I hope we may never be obliged to see another in the war,” Potter wrote on May 17.
The 29th Wisconsin Infantry lost 111 men at Champion Hills, Potter said.
Quiner wrote in his account that General Francis McGinnis specifically praised the 29th Wisconsin Infantry after the battle of Champion Hills.
“The fact that they captured two batteries, driving the enemy before them, speaks more loudly in their praise than anything I could say,” McGinnis said.
Two months later, Company D returned to the site of the Champion Hills battle on their way to Jackson, Mississippi.
“I was in hopes of never seeing this battlefield again,” Potter wrote then.
From late May to early July 1863, Union forces, including the 29th Wisconsin Infantry, lay siege on the city of Vicksburg, a fortified rebel city and one of the last Confederate strongholds on the Mississippi River. The Vicksburg Campaign was led by the Union’s Maj. General Ulysses S. Grant.
During the siege, Potter and the 29th Wisconsin served as sharpshooters, lying in shallow rifle pits, shooting at Confederate battlements.
“We have laid all day in a ravine with our batteries firing over our heads from one way and the rebel sharpshooters from the other,” Potter wrote on May 22, 1863, one of the first days of the siege.
He also wrote of holding picket lines, which are battlefield perimeters, watching for enemy advancement. In newspaper archives, Potter described how northern and southern soldiers on picket lines “chatted, smoked together, traded jack knives and at dawn, gave each other time to get back into the intrenchments (sic) before firing again.”
From time to time during the war, Potter mentioned Goodrich in his diary.
“There has been a large forage train out in the country,” Potter wrote on Oct. 25, 1863. “Some of the boys went and got arrested when they got back. Jerome Goodrich got some chickens and sweet potatoes that eat just fine. They did not catch him, but they did Dave (likely David Scobie).”
On Dec. 5, 1863, as he was heading home on furlough, Potter wrote that “there was no boat upriver last night, so I did not get to leave this morning. Jerome Goodrich has been over several times today. The boat came up this evening, so we shall go in the morning. “
Jerome Goodrich also kept a diary.
On July 16, 1864, while in Algiers, Louisiana, he wrote that he “was on guard today. I got me a new gun today.”
On July 17, 1864, he wrote that he “went over the river today and had a good time. Took the street car and went down to the wharf and came back and went to the market and got my supper and then came home.”
Goodwich was killed 11 days later, on July 28, 1864.
Potter recorded his friend’s death in his diary.
“Started this morning at 1 o’clock on a scout,” Potter wrote. “We reached the Atchafralya River about 10 o’clock. The rebs fired on us from across the river killing Jerome instantly and wounding (Thomas) Skeed (from From Atkinson) and wounded Gibson in the hand.”
Goodrich was killed by a rebel ball that struck his forehead.
“We fetched him and buried him with full military honors under a large sycamore tree, about 50 yards from the river and one mile up from the fort,” Potter wrote, adding that “his grave lies four paces southwest from the tree, and that “the initials of his name are cut in the tree.”
In a similar entry on July 29, Goodrich wrote that “we marched back to camp bringing Jerome with us. We buried him today with full military honors.”
And on July 30 he wrote that he had “put up a headboard on Jerome’s grave.”
A few weeks later, Potter wrote that he had received a letter for Goodrich, apparently mailed before the correspondent knew of his death.
And in a later entry, Potter would write that he had “paid expenses for Jerome’s things — $1.50.”
Goodrich’s photo and two diary entries are in the archives of the Cambridge Historic School Museum in Cambridge, Wisconsin.
Potter was honorably discharged from the Union Army on June 22, 1865 and returned home to the Cambridge area.
He wed Mary Townsend of Cambridge in 1868 and they had four children. He went on to serve as Cambridge village president and was among a group of local veterans who pushed to have a monument erected in Veterans Park honoring those who had served in the Civil War. The monument still stands in the park today.
Potter died in 1922 and is buried at Lake Ripley Cemetery.