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The Civil War Letters of George Turner
In August 1861, seventeen year old George M. Turner, known to his family and friends as “Pop,” joined Company A of the 3rd Regiment of the Rhode Island Volunteers. Like many young men of his generation who volunteered for the Grand Army of the Republic, Turner was full of fervent nationalism and pride in taking on the cause to save the Union. Before enlisting, Turner lived with his parents, Amos and Betsey Turner, on Point Street in Providence. Though Turner was the only child of Amos and Betsey, he had a close, sibling-like relationship with his cousin Ursula Trask, who is one of his main correspondents in his letters home. Turner’s close relationship with his family is demonstrated through the numerous letters sent to his many cousins, aunts and uncles. Many of Turner’s compatriots in Company A were acquaintances, and school mates from his youth. Turner served most of his enlistment with his best friend, Alonzo Williams of Coventry. Turner thoroughly enjoyed both writing and receiving letters, which resulted in nearly two hundred manuscripts that span the course of Turner’s entire enlistment, and shows how he matured and changed over the course of the war.
Turner served the majority of his enlistment on Hilton Head Island, and the surrounding islands and estuaries of South Carolina. Though Hilton Head was the site of only one major conflict during the war, it was a position of great significance as the headquarters for the blockade of Southern harbors. Turner was part of the Heavy Artillery gunner units on land around Fort Welles, and also spent some time employed as the cook for his company. Turner also served as a gunner on the gunboat George Washington which patrolled the waters surrounding Hilton Head and Port Royal for several months. When the George Washington was destroyed in April of 1863 by a Confederate battery near Port Royal Ferry, Turner was one of the few to survive unscathed. Turner spent the remainder of his enlistment back on land, and participated in some excursions further south into Florida near the end of his enlistment. Despite the hardships of war, Turner constantly wrote of how much he enjoyed his soldiering life. When his enlistment was coming to an end in the summer of 1864 he immediately considered reenlisting for the Veterans Corp to serve out the war. However, Turner’s love and duty to his family took precedence, so he finished his term and returned home to Providence in the fall of 1864.
This project was completed by Michaela Keating in the spring of 2013.
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