|Civil War Soldiers "Tip Tickle Rally"|
Thursday, March 22, 2001
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 TELEGRAM & GAZETTE 2001
So I've Heard Column
Robert R. Ducharme of Dudley, the region's leading Civil War historian and reenactor, has discovered a rather humorous account of a Civil War confrontation in Webster's North Village.
Mr. Ducharme, a teacher at Oxford High School, found the material in a website, "Letters of the Civil War," in a story for the the Cambridge Chronicle, published August 10, 1861.
W.D.G., who reported about the Sixth Massachusetts, Washington Light Guard's return home, traced a rail route from Washington, D.C., to Boston. The troop train was on its third or fourth travel day when it stopped briefly at North Village near the S. Slater & Sons Co. cotton factory. This brought some of the soldiers into eye-contact with some of the young ladies employed in the mill. Many area residents remember the factory, largely destroyed in an early morning fire Jan. 1, 1969.
The 6th Massachusetts was one of the first units sent forward at the outbreak of the Civil War, according to Mr. Ducharme, They were attacked by Southern sympathizers in Baltimore, suffering some of the first casualties of the war. "It was these men that Clara Barton assisted in what was her first experience in nursing (the) wounded," Mr. Ducharme said.
Most Northerners thought the war would be of short duration, so troops were initially recruited for just 90 days, accounting for the report that soldiers were returning home in August 1861. "These men were part of the meagre force that helped defend the capital as the nation prepared for war," said Mr. Ducharme.
Now for the great part about the North Village:
"Arriving at Webster, the train came to a halt for 10 or 15 minutes, and here, I think, a genuine--perhaps a tender--feeling was manifested, at least on the part of the soldiers," wrote W.D.G.
"The young ladies in the factory came out to greet them, when an indiscriminate shaking of hands took place. The soldiers flocked around by the hundreds. Entering the factory, the red capped soldiers could be seen at every window in earnest and patriotic discussion with the ladies.
"The engine whistle was blown and a grand double quick rally was made for the cars. On arriving at the factory doors, one fellow, bolder than the rest, gathered a miss in his arms and imprinted a series of warn and ardent kisses on her blushing cheeks.
"This action was a signal for a tip-tickle rally, and in less time than a wink more than 50 damsels received the salute to which they submitted with that charming resistance and grace which so delighted the soldiers that more than one returned after the cars were in motion to gather a supply of sweets.
"The scene was humorous, interesting, and decidedly rather taking. They departed with 'three cheers for the Webster girls.'"
The Norwich & Worcester Railroad Co. had a relatively small station in North Village during the Civil War, according to railroad historian John Mrazik. It was on the Webster side of the French River, just below the North Village crossing.
Mr. Mrazik, a teacher-coach at Webster's Bartlett High School, said the station was "quite popular," used by operatives in the Slater factory. The troop train described in the Cambridge Chronicle, might have stopped to take on water.
Although its corporate designation changed several times over the years, the 1861 line is still in place, known today as the Worcester & Providence Railroad, according to Mr. Mrazik.
Now, the questions are: Whose great-great-great-great-grandmother worked in the North Village mills during the Civil War? And, what's a tip-tickle rally?
Now that some serious money is being spent to study possible upgrades of Webster's Anthony J. Sitkowski Elementary School, bringing the plant into the 21st century, a bit of history might be in order.
The former secondary building, long known as Bartlett High School, was built in two parts. The original
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