Stop 9: Samuel Wilson and Samuel Rice
Our final stop involves the story of two young men named Samuel whose military service was tied to their friendships.
Samuel Edward Rice from East Greenwich, Rhode Island is described as “a soldier from a child.” He formed a company of his peers and served as their captain when they were very young and joined the Kentish Guards at the age of 16. When the Civil War erupted nineteen year old Samuel wanted to join the 2nd RI with many of his friends, but was dissuaded because of his youth. That did not last long, and he soon joined the 7th RI against the wishes of his parents. He was wounded in several places on May 18, 1864 at Spotsylvania and was taken from the field exclaiming “Boys go in! I can’t be with you any more! Tell them at home I die like a man!” He passed away a few hours after he arrived at the hospital.
Samuel B. Wilson was also very young when he mustered into the 100PA in 1864, in fact he was considered “under age” for enlistment. He joined with his best friend Dave Hutchinson, and both of their parents decided not to interfere in their decision despite their youth. The two boys were so close that neighbors said “If Davy gets his feet wet, Sam’s sure to take a cold.” The Battle of Spotsylvania , less than three months after their enlistment would prove disastrous for both families. Sam was killed in action on May 12, 1864 and Davy was captured, later dying of starvation in November.
Samuel Rice is buried in grave #1161; Samuel Wilson is buried in grave #1177.
Known burials from the Battle of Spotsylvania far exceed those from the park’s other three battles. Because the army stayed on the field for two weeks there were more opportunities for soldiers to bury their comrades and mark the graves. The Battle of the Wilderness fared slightly worse because the armies moved immediately to Spotsylvania at the conclusion of that battle, and fires destroyed the identities of many of the dead. In both cases, however, the arrival of the army the following year to begin the process of reinterring the Union dead meant that many more identities were saved from 1864 than the previous years.