Encouraging passersby to sign up at recruiting centres, Avery Brown would play his drum to catch their attention and motivate them. He would eventually try to sign up himself. Not once or twice but three times. They'd have nothing to do with him till on the third attempt there was a little mutiny when about 100 potential recruits refused to sign up unless Avery was first enlisted. And so he was! He WAS ONLY EIGHT YEARS old at the time. While the names of the 2nd and 3rd pictured above are unknown their ages were 10 and 11. And the one on the right is a picture of Sgt Clem at age twleve. By the time he finally retired he held the rank of general.
Chapin, in an old newspaper photo at right, would see service in several major battles with the 142nd New York Infantry and would soon earn a promotion to Corporal. In December of 1864 he found himself on board a sailing ship with his fellow soldiers and being transported along the Atlantic coastline to the famous Fort Fisher of which you have heard quite a lot over the past few days.
Chapin and his fellow soldiers were near the Fort when the attempt at blowing the place up in December did not succeed. His troops were later landed and participated in the second attempt in December to take the fort. The enemy was so busy dealing with the naval and marine attacks to the front that one of the officers in the 142nd NY was able to actually sneak into the rear of the fort and seize an enemy flag that had earlier been shot down during the massive bombing activity. Heading back to his unit the officer tore the flag up into many smaller pieces and handed them out to many in the unit. Chapin may have actually received one of these.
The officer also told his Colonel that the fort did not look well protected from the inside and that he felt with some reinforcements, it could be taken. The Colonel then requested further troops but was shocked when the general noted the fort could NOT BE TAKEN and called off the whole operation.
The general was soon replaced with another Union General. Still later one of the senior Confederate officers was to state that they had so little ammunition that the fort could have been taken and actually saw the officer grab the flag. He thought the fellow may well have been there to demand a surrender... which he would have received.
Thousands of troops would die later in the battle on both sides as well as in mid January when a 3rd assault was launched. Most of this bloodshed could have been avoided.
Regardlless, moving on to the 3rd assault, Chapin would be front and center in the battle. At the rear of the fort there was a wall built from logs standing on end and lashed together with rope. It stood about 9 ft high. Punching a hole in this would have allowed access to the interior of the fort. Volunteers were sought and 13 men... Chapin being among them, chose to crawl forth about 300 feet and get to the base of this obstacle and with axes and shovels and battering rams they worked away at it till the soldiers cut a hole through. A hole that expanded enough to let thousands of their troops in.
Chapin dropped his axe and with musket and a 21" bayonet attached entered the fort and became engaged in a deadly hand to hand combat that lasted several hours. Finally that battle was won when the Confederates surrendered. The Southern stonghold at Wilmington, 29 miles up river also soon fell and within months after that General Robert Robert E Lee surrendering his army. The Civil War was finally over!
Union General Ames would later recommend the 13 on the assault team for the Medal of Honor, but like a number of other occassions the recomendation seems to have gotten lost. In 1914 one of the soldiers hired a lawyer and argued with the Adjutant General that an investigation ought to take place to find out why that soldier never received the medal he was recommended for. In December of that year it was announced that those still living... including Chapin and the fellow who started the enquiry would be getting a medals and within days of the notification a medal arrived in the mail for Chapin and presumably the others.
When Chapin's term was up he was released. He hadn't even turned 18 yet. Soon it is believed he rejoined and may have served with the 169th NY infantry briefly.
After the war Alaric Chapin went with his brothers and sister and parents out west and took up farming. Later Alaric would get his own farm and raise several children. On retiring he spent some time in Alberta with one of his sons and then moved to the Oregon area to be with 2 other sons.
Many a year would pass and upon Alaric's death he was buried at Portland Oregon. During the US By-Centenial, his grandaughter in Canada took his medal, some important papers and the actual musket and bayonet form Alaric's Civil War days and donated them to the Glenbowe Museum at Calgary Alta. where I have had the priviledge of viewing them. They are on display today and his medal is one of only two in the entire country that I am aware of that are on public display. Though there are a few others in the country carefully squirelled away for obvious reasons.
I would highly recommend a visit to Glenbowe to see these very important historical treasures. Please remember that this Medal of Honor and the one in New Brunswick are THE ONLY TWO ON PUBLIC DISPLAY IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY THAT I KNOW OF. While there also check out the many Victoria crosses they hold.
NOTE: Oregon researcher and writer Randy Fletcher was doing some serious research into one of the Oregoneans involved in the Fort Fisher battles at the same time that I was. I was so advised while at Glenbowe in Calgary doing my own research on Chapin and the 3 battles at Fort Fisher. I then contacted Randy through the net and phone converations and we exchanged information on the battles, soldiers and sailors involved. The results of some of his great work appears above and for this I am most grateful for this sharing. So do I extend thanks to the folks at Glenbowe who were most helpful and interested in telling the Chapin story.