The Bridgmans of Belchertown: An American Family home
Eliot M Bridgeman
Eliot Bridgman was born on May 7th 1830 in Belchertown, Massachusetts. He was married to Elizabeth Dutton on May 14th 1851. They had three children: Clarissa, Henry, and Louis. Eliot's parents were Henry Bridgman and Clarissa Washburn. Eliot worked as a farmer, butcher, and even as a census taker for Belchertown and the surrounding towns. He also served as a Captain in the 91st regiment of the Union army, a "colored unit" in the United States Army. He served with George Mason Abby and Amos M. Ramsdell in the unit.
Eliot Bridgman enlisted in the 31st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and saw action in Union assaults on Forts St. Phillip and Jackson, south of New Orleans. During these campaigns his regiment encountered something very strange: a completely African American National Guard, of the Louisiana Militia, whose objective was to defend the Confederacy and its cause. The militia was entirely made of free African Americans.
On October 15, 1863, he received a colonels commission in the 91st Colored Infantry, specifically for B Company in that regiment. The 91st Colored Infantry was a Civil War unit that was formed out of the 20th Regimental Infantry and the 19th Regimental Infantry; they were also known as the 20th Corps de Afrique. The unit was stationed in Fort Pike, Louisianan. The men there were part of the Union troops to guard Fort Pike after the battle of New Orleans, where they also used it as a base for raids in the Louisiana area and a protective fort for New Orleans. They participated in the Pearl River Expedition, which was a series of skirmishes with confederate forces in the lower Mississippi River region. The expedition lasted April 1 to the 10, 1863. Eventually it was consolidated with the 74th United States Colored Troops on July 7th 1864.
---Beau Bensch and Chris Bishop
Malcolm Bridgman was born on December 18, 1834 in Belchertown, Massachusetts. At 15 he moved to New York City, were he worked in the mercantile business until he married his wife Marion Barton and moved to Granby in November 1857. Then in 1862 he joined the Union Army.
Malcolm was the 2nd Lieutenant of the 52nd Massachusetts regiment. He volunteered in response to a summons on August 4, 1862, from the federal government looking for troops to serve for nine months. On September 16 Malcolm had his physical done in order to be serve; he was 27 at the time. He was found to be in good condition and reported to Camp Miller. The recruits of Camp Miller in Greenfield were mustered into the army on October 2 and 11. November 19, 1862 the Massachusetts 52nd regiment left New York to board the steamer ILLINOIS for Louisiana. The steamer reached Baton Rouge on December 17 where the regiment was assigned to Kimball's (2nd) Brigade, Grover's (4th) Division.
The 52nd regiment remained at Baton Rouge until March 13, 1863 where they participated in an attack against Port Hudson; the regiment was able to hold their advanced position for 48 hours. The taking of Baton Rouge was critical to the success of the Anaconda Plan because it gave the Union control of the Mississippi River. On March 20, 1863 Malcolm received special orders from the Head Quarters Department of the Gulf. He was ordered to board the steamer Iberville with his company by seven o’clock that night. They were instructed to land at Madame Dupree’s plantation twenty miles from town. From here Malcolm was to lead his men to a store, owned by a local named Mr. Brown, and shut the store down “on account of the wire having been cut near by.” Brown was suspected of being a Confederate sympathizer and having something to do with the cutting of the telegraph wire. The company was to keep the store completely shut down, nothing was "to go in or out", until further orders. Malcolm was informed to keep his men together at all times as this was still hostile territory. He was to do everything in his power to keep the telegraph wire from being cut again. Reports regarding the success of this mission were to be sent to local Union Army headquarters in Donaldsonville.
On June 14 they participated in another assault on Port Hudson where three men were killed and seven wounded, including Captain Bliss. The regiment stayed there until the Confederates surrendered on July 30. On August 3, 1863 the Massachusetts 52nd regiment returned to Greenfield. The members of the regiment were furloughed until August 14 at which time they were discharged from their service. Malcolm then returned to Granby where he and his wife settled down and had their two daughters Marion Louise (1865) and Charlotte Agnes (1872). In 1885, Malcolm moved to Northampton and became a jeweler and optician. He died on November 6, 1893 in Northampton.
Malcolm Bridgman was the child of Wright Bridgman and Mary Stebbins of Belchertown, MA. Wright Bridgman had previously been married to Mary Sunderlin and Eliza Ferree. On September, 10th 1862 Bridgman married Stebbins, and on December 18th ,1834 she gave birth to Malcolm Bridgman.
Malcolm joined the army on September 16th, 1862 at the age of 27 in Granby, MA. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Malcolm's health examination prior to his military service showed us that he possessed Blue eyes, Brown hair, and was 5 feet 9 inches tall. Also the report stated that he had been clear of many childhood illnesses such as chickenpox, though this could have been a required deviation from truth in order to enlist in the army. During his years of service he was called upon to lead the 52nd Massachusetts on a variety of missions. One such assignment, on March 20th, 1863, Malcolm was called upon to lead the 52nd to close a shop owned by a 'Mr. Brown' in order to protect a local telegraph wire that had been cut previously.
However his days in the military were numbered, he was honorably discharged from the Union army on August 14th, 1863.
Malcolm lived out the remaining years of his life as a 'book keeper' and died on November, 6th, 1893. Today, four artifacts once belonging to Malcolm Bridgman reside in the Stone House Museum in Belchertown,MA: A red officers sash, a combined fork-knife-spoon utensil, a combat belt, and a cartridge satchel used in battle.
Malcolm Bridgman's Union Army spork. Courtesy of the Stone House Museum, Belchertown, MA
Malcolm Bridgman's cartridge case and belt. Courtesy of the Stone House Museum, Belchertown, MA