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Editor's note: This article is part of an occasional series marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.
Two of the first local young men to enlist after the shelling of Fort Sumter were Benjamin and William Perkins, descendants of the Shaws and residents of the Shaw mansion on Blinman Street in New London.
An item in the April 20, 1861, edition of The Daily Chronicle reports: "Benjamin R. Perkins of this city yesterday joined the Volunteer Rifle Company just formed at Hartford."
The New London County Historical Society has only a handful of papers from the brothers, one of which is the following poem, written in a fine hand on a yellowed sheet of paper, from the files of Benjamin Perkins.
Was he the author of this poem? The paper doesn't say.
The drums are beating in the camp
The tents have all been struck
The Order comes, we march away
Yes, such is soldier's luck
But though our music gaily sounds
And brightly our bayonets gleam
There's many a face that wears no smile
And eyes where no joys gleam
And now we're marching through the town
The town we know so well
We pass where dwell those sisters three
And where the reigning belle
And gaily sound, our bands' loud notes
That Polka; they know so well
Ah! will they shed One little tear
While waving that farewell
And may we never meet again
Those Girls so sweet and fair
With nought to cheer our breaking hearts
But a ring, or a (whisp?) of hair
In answer sound our bands gay notes
And seem to us to say
A soldier must love wherever he is
For soon he must march Away
Also among the items in the society's collection is a note on a piece of cardboard, about the Dec. 14, 1862, Battle of Kinston, that reads:
"William Williams Perkins was killed at Kingston (sic), N.C. Dec 14 '62 in his third Battle. Just twenty one years of his age. His commission as Captain was on the way to him, when he was killed.
Benjamin survived the war, spending part of it in prison in Charleston. He seems to have received fairly humane treatment there compared to the inmates at Andersonville, Ga. After the war, Benjamin stayed in the Army and went west to fight Indians.