Wearing a sombre expression and a slightly oversized greatcoat, 14-year-old Lucian Wells Hubbard posed in a studio in Hartford, Conn., in front of a photographer’s army camp backdrop of Sibley tents and cannon balls. After his keepsake image was taken, probably shortly after his enlistment in July 1862, the drummer in the 14th Connecticut began a momentous, 21-month journey.
Whether parents Calista and Timothy Hubbard—a 52-year-old ship carpenter who sometimes plied his trade in New York—gave consent for their eldest son to join the Union army is unknown. In addition to Lucien, the Hubbards had five other children, ranging in age from 4 to 24. What is certain is the great anxiety 45-year-old Calista felt because of her son’s absence from home in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
On the very day Lucian experienced the bloodiest single-day battle of the war, at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, Hubbard wrote a heart-rending note to her son:
“We heard of battles and we think perhaps your regiment may be engaged in some of them and it casts a sadness over my feelings, and my heart is filled with anxiety until I shall hear that you are safe. I know that you must have had a pretty hard time since you left, but all that I can do for you is to pray for you that God would strengthen you and help you and give you courage to endure all that He in his providence shall call you to pass through. “You may think because you do not hear from me after that I have forgotten you. No, Lucien your Mother has not. I think of you in your long weary marches, in your tents, or your lodgings on the ground … and I pray God that this dreadful war may soon be over, but He alone knows when it will be. … “All the men most want to know if I have heard from you. They think you have good pluck to go to war so young as you are. Do be careful of your health as I fear you will ruin your constitution for life. Take good care of yourself. Write as often as you can and try to improve in writing and composition, for your school days are gone. Good night my dear boy. May Heaven protect you.”
As a drummer, Hubbard did not participate in much, if any, fighting. Not surprisingly, his mother preferred that he avoid armed conflict at all costs. “Now Lucien,” Calista wrote on Jan. 19, 1863, “if you love your mother, for my sake do not expose your life unnecessarily for we are commanded to use all means to preserve our lives and the lives of others.”
But Hubbard was far from a bystander during the war—he dressed wounds at Antietam, carried off war booty during the Union army’s sacking of Fredericksburg in December 1862 and had the shell of his drum broken by an artillery fragment at Chancellorsville in May 1863. At Gettysburg two months later, he acquired souvenirs from Rebels, sending the prizes of war home to his mother. In April 1864, the private’s war ended far behind enemy lines, 400 miles from home.
In excerpts from a remarkable cache of correspondence between Lucian and Calista Hubbard, we see a snapshot of the youngster’s war—and of a mother’s love for her boy:
Only weeks after the 14th Connecticut left Hartford, it fought in its first battle outside the village of Sharpsburg, Md. The regiment swept across William Roulette’s farm and engaged Confederates in Bloody Lane, suffering 20 killed and 98 wounded. Among the regiment’s dead were well-regarded captains Jarvis Blinn and Samuel Willard.
September 18, 1862
I have found a few minutes to spend and I thought I would write as you might think I was killed in battle Wednesday Sept. 17. I was in the battle bringing off the wounded, the balls flying thick and fast. The nearest I had one hit me was one through my hat. Our regiment was cut up terribly. We did not muster but 300 men this morning and before we numbered 1,000. I have been to work all day long and been up all night helping the wounded and dressing the wounds. Our regt. Lost 2 capt that were thought of a great deal of. Their names were [Jarvis] Blinn and [Samuel] Willard. It was one of the biggest & hardest battles ever fought. Gen. Morris (our old col.) says it has been the hardest battle ever fought.
I will give you the names of some of our killed in our company. Company A Eldregg [Nathaniel Eldridge] was wounded in the leg and Frank Curtis of Startford had his shoulder all blown off. Philo knows him. Oscar Beers was not in the action. He staid back at Ft. Allen because he was sick. I am in good health and stand it very well. We have not received any letters since we left Hartford. The mail could not reach us. We were marching all the time day and night. If I could get home I would not care about coming again, not because I am sick of it but I do not like the looks of some of the wounds I have to see. You can’t imagine anything about it. See men wounded in the head, arms, hands, legs and all over their body.
One fellow had five balls in him and he did not stop fighting until a shell hit him and knocked his leg clean off. I don’t want to have you worry about me because I am all right and will take care of myself. I read a psalm every night and morning and read a verse in that book you gave me. Give my love to all the boys and girls. Tell them to remember old Lush. I have wrote to Charley Smith but have not received any answer. Give my love to my dear sisters and to [brother] Charlie. Tell him he must be a good boy and mind his mother.
On Dec. 13, 1862, the 14th Connecticut attacked an impregnable Confederate position at Marye’s Heights. The result was disastrous: 11 killed, 87 wounded, and 22 missing.
Camp near Falmouth, Dec. 18, 1862
(or Camp of Abomination, 25,000 miles from civilization)
We have been in a great battle. Our regiment went in the battle with 362 men and came out with 105. Our Lt. Col. was wounded and our major. We had 1 Lieut. killed and all the line officers except 4 are wounded. Our company lost two killed and considerable many wounded. George Carlock was killed. Fred Standish was wounded in the hand. We had a good time while we were in Fredericksburg, We rummaged the houses for …. sugar, butter, jellies, tea coffee and all the dishes you can think of. I made some slapjacks and I got some dried apples and made some apple dumplings and I found a piece of fresh pork and made a pork pie. …. We live high and slept in a cellar. I received your photograph and I never saw a better likeness in my life. I send you an old copper coin I found in Fredericksburg.
In response his mother wrote:
Dec. 23, 1862
My dear son
I received your letter last evening after waiting a whole week in the greatest possible anxiety. I had about concluded that you was either killed or taken prisoner. I hope if you are ever in another battle and escape unhurt you will try to let me know sooner if it is possible for you to write, for it is dreadful to be kept so long in suspense.
For my part I am full of gratitude to God for you again protecting you through so much peril and danger. I am afraid by your writing that you do not appreciate His goodness in sparing you through such scenes of carnage and blood. I wish that such scenes might have a tendency to lead you to repentance, so that if I should hear that you had fallen in battle I might have the fullest assurance that you had gone to be forever with the Lord, but I hope you will be spared to come home again.
Do Lucian try to be a good boy so that if you should live to get home you may make a good and useful man. My heart yearns over you lest you should fall into sin and temptation. I am inclined to think that war is a bad place for any one to live as they ought. You little know how many sorrowful and sleepless hours I spend on your account, how many prayers are offered for your safety and your good. There has been a great excitement here on account of the battle. A great many are ready to give up and think that this war is never going to be ended, but for my part I am not willing to believe that our armies can be conquered by the South. God forbid that we too should be slave to them.
Having lost his blanket, Lucian suffered frostbite on his toes:
Camp near Falmouth,
… I am nearly well with the exception of my feet and I hope this letter will find you and the family the same. I have had the best kind of care taken of me since I have reentered the hospital. My toes have turned black and scabbed all over and they pain me night and day. If I get them a little warm they will sting and it seems as though I should go crazy. My left foot is a great deal the worse. The toes are stiff as a poker.
His mother responded:
Jan. 19th, 1863
My Dear Child,
I just received your letter this morning and received your letter this evening [and] was glad to hear that you are better. I have worried myself almost to death about you. I was afraid you was worse and was not able to be sent on to Washington, and I have imagined a thousand things about you which have made me very anxious to hear from you, but thank God it is no worse. I am glad you have good care where you are …
Josie has just got home from Stratford. She and Philo and Gus spent the Sabbath there. They got a letter from Oscar which informed them that you had been very sick and that he thought you would get a discharge. At least he thought you had ought to for you looked so thin, so I had about made up my mind to see you walk in some day or rather to hear that you had been sent to New Haven, but it seems I shall be disappointed as you are not going to be sent on. I should think it would be a long time before you will be able to march on your sore feet. O dear what will you do?
Aunt Sarah tells me that when she was over to the Hospital that Fred Standish said that the drummer boys did not have to be much exposed in time of battle unless you are a mind to, but he says you and George Allen are always around.
Now Lucian if you love your mother for my sake do not expose your life unnecessarily, for we are commanded to use all means to preserve our lives and the lives of others. Remember that you have a precious soul which must spend an eternity in happiness or misery. You can’t tell how much I feel on your account surrounded by thieves and every thing that is bad and evil examples of every kind. Don’t you sometimes think you would like to be at home and have a quiet home life once more? I sometimes fear that I shall never see you again on earth. But if not I hope we may meet in Heaven.
Depleted by hard fighting since it had left Hartford in the summer of 1862, the 14th Connecticut barely had 200 soldiers at Gettysburg, where it suffered 10 killed and 52 wounded. In defending the Bloody Angle during Pickett’s Charge, the regiment captured the colors of the 1st and 14th Tennessee.
Camp on the battlefield
July 3 
I take my pencil in hand to write you a few lines hoping to find you in good health as I am at present. We are having a terrible battle here. Our regiment is being all cut to pieces. This morning there were ordered (four companies) to charge a barn that was occupied by the rebels. They done it – not a man faltered and they succeeded in reaching the barn. Out of the four companies two lieuts were wounded and about 10 privates. Pretty soon the brig. rode by and said he wanted the 14th to charge a house that the rebel sharpshooters occupied. They charged the house and had just (indecipherable) when rebel batteries opened on them. Still they stood firm. Here was when they got cut so. Then was some killed and a great many wounded. Just think — our regiment is now not as large as the Home Guards were when I was home.
I see Fred – he was in the fight but was not hurt the last I saw of him. The men fight nobly. Dr. Dudley of our regiment was wounded in the left arm. The second battery was engaged I believe. You must not feel worried about me. I will try and take care of myself. This is an awful fight. We have taken a great many prisoners. We are in Pennsylvania now at a place called Gettysburg. That is quite a large place and troops hold ½ of the town and the rebels the other. The troops will all fight tomorrow, it being 4th of July. The batteries from our side are mowing the rebels down with grape and canister and shell. They don’t seem to have a great deal of artillery here. At least they don’t reply a great deal. Their batteries seem to be all planted in one place while ours are all scattered around at different places.
I don’t think of much more this time. One thing I forgot to tell. Our line of battle extend about three miles and at present we are playing batteries all that distance and you can imagine what kind of noise it makes. Give my respects to Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Perry and all the rest of the neighbors. Give my love to Gus and Joe also Phil. Tell the children to be good and do all they can for you. Tell Father to write to me. Give my best respects to Father and my love to you and the rest. So good bye. Write soon.
On Oct. 14, 1863, Lucien was captured at the Battle of Bristoe Station (Va.). Before he was sent to a POW camp at Belle Isle in Richmond, Hubbard said he briefly met J.E.B. Stuart. The Confederate cavalry commander “treated me very well indeed,” Lucien told his mother.
Oct. 24th 1863
I take my pencil in hand to let you know that I am alive yet. I am a prisoner and am at Richmond. I was taken on the 14th but have not had a chance to write before this. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. If you have sent them things on to my regiment you had better send back after them. Or else try to sell them. If you write to the regiment direct to Franklin M. Bartlett Sargt Co. A 14th V.C. I was taken by some of Gen. Stuart’s cavalry. I was before the Gen and he talked and treated me very well indeed.
We were taken to Warrenton Jail and stayed there a while and then to Culpepper and then here. As soon as I can find out how to direct my letters I will write and let you know. I don’t know what place to have you direct to. What prison. You must not feel worried about me, for I will take as good care of myself as possible. You can write to the regiment if you are a mind to and tell them that I am a prisoner.
I guess we will not have to stay here a great while before we are exchanged. At least I hope not. I would like to get paroled and then I could get a chance to come home and see you once more. But I shall have a chance. Give my love to Sarah and Charley and Josephine and to all the rest of my friends. Tell father not to worry about me for I am all right. Tell him I aint but 15 years old. I can manage to get out all right.
At Belle Isle, a small island in the James River, Union POWs lived in tents or without any shelter at all because there were no barracks or other buildings to house them. Sanitary conditions were equally primitive. “The water in the river at this time was about two feet deep,” a POW at Belle Isle in the summer of 1864 wrote after the war. “This was the privy, as also the only place where we were allowed to get any water, to either drink or wash with…the river was full of filth from houses.”
In the spring of 1864, Lucian Hubbard suffered from chronic diarrhea. Severely weakened, he died from the disease on April 16, 1864.
Calista Hubbard doggedly pursued the story of her son’s death. On May 21, 1865, a soldier who was imprisoned with Lucien replied to her inquiry about him. “He often told me,” wrote Patrick Carroll, “that he was afraid he would never see home.”
The drummer boy’s final resting place is believed to be Richmond (Va.) National Cemetery.
My thanks to Rich Condon, who provided the Hubbard correspondence and images for this post via Lucian’s descendant, Emilie Bosworth-Clemens.
By John Banks, John Banks’ Civil War Blog
Editor’s Note: It is my conclusion that Lucian’s legal name was Lucian Wells Hubbard. This is how his Mother spelled his name. Lucian, however, spelled his name Lucien and it is carried that way in military records. We also know that Lucian’s friends often called him “Luch” or “Old Luch” for short.