The regiment received its orders to go home for its thirty days' furlough January 9, 1864, those who had not re-enlisted remaining in camp at Tullahoma, Tenn. Movements by rail were slow in those days, owing to insufficient transportation, and it was not until the evening of January 18th that the regiment reached Boston. There was a great throng at the Boston and Albany station awaiting it, but no formal reception was given that evening. The men were marched to barracks on Beach Street, and quartered there for the night; the officers were entertained by Mr. E. R. Mudge at the United States Hotel, and many of them went to their homes for the night.
The next day, January 20th, was a fine, bright, winter day, not too cold for comfort. At about 9 A. M., the regiment filed out of the Beach Street barracks, and, under the escort of the Boston Cadets, began its march. It was an ovation from the start. The men had spent much of their time the preceding night in polishing their brasses and belts, and brushing up their well worn uniforms. Their rifles and bayonets were burnished to the last degree, and would have passed the inspection of the most rigid West point martinet. It is difficult to say too much in praise of the appearance of the command on this occasion. The men were veterans in the truest sense, and their whole appearance indicated it. Their march was the easy swing of the old soldier, but in perfect time and alignment, with every face set squarely to the front. Their faces, bronzed by exposure to the sun and the weather, had the expression of hardihood which only comes to men accustomed to meet dangers and privation. The officers were all young men, hardly one who marched that day being more than twenty-five years old, yet from the military point of view they were entitled to be called veterans. Colonel Coggswell, who commanded the regiment, was then in his twenty-fifth year; Captain Crowninshield, who had been three times wounded, was in his twenty-first year and was the youngest captain, but several other officers of this rank were only a year or two older.
The march was first through the West End of Boston, passing through Arlington Street to Beacon Street, — the reception proper really beginning on the latter street. The sidewalks were filled with a cheering multitude, and every window and balcony were crowded with friends, who gave the most enthusiastic greeting to the regiment as it passed. It was a stirring march, to fine martial music, and no one who marched with the regiment that day will ever forget this thrilling episode of his military life.
From Beacon Street the march proceeded through the business streets, where the principal stores had been closed by common consent. On State Street was another ovation from "the solid men of Boston," who filled the street and cheered most enthusiastically as the column marched by. When Faneuil Hall was reached the men filed in, and every inch of available room was immediately filled by the crowds which followed. The galleries were occupied by ladies and many of the immediate friends of the officers and men. The hall was handsomely decorated by flags and streamers, with the State arms and shield on each side of the clock.
The officers and color guard with their shot-riddled battle flag were on the platform, where Governor Andrew and his staff, Mayor Lincoln, General Burnside, and other distinguished men were assembled. Mayor Lincoln presided on the occasion, and after prayer by the Rev. Dr. Lothrop, a collation was served to the men. Mayor Lincoln then made an address of welcome, which he closed by introducing "His Excellency the Governor, who, in behalf of our honored Commonwealth, will formally tender you that welcome which your merits and patriotic services deserve."
Governor Andrew followed with an eloquent address, in which he recounted the services of the regiment and followed its career through its various campaigns. He referred by name to many of those who had fallen in battle, and told the story of the color bearers who fell one after another at Gettysburg, but who never let the flag touch the ground, in a manner which thrilled every one who heard him. In conclusion he said: “Now, Mr. Commander and soldiers of the Second, I have not attempted by words to declare how deep is the gratitude of the Massachusetts heart towards the living, — how sacred our remembrance for the memory of the dead. Brave and true men lean not on the speech, rely not on the assurance of the lips. Soldiers, you know that from the bottom of her heart Massachusetts admires, reveres and loves you all.”
Colonel Coggswell made a modest, well-spoken reply to Governor Andrew's speech of welcome, and was followed by General Burnside, who happened to be present in Boston at that time, and who made a few remarks suitable to the occasion.
After the exercises at Faneuil Hall were concluded, the regiment marched to Coolidge Block, Court Street, where the arms and equipments were deposited, and the men received their thirty days' furlough.
The officers scattered to their homes to enjoy this brief season of rest, although an active effort was made to secure recruits to take back into the field. This effort entirely failed, mainly owing to the unfortunate policy, then in effect, of creating and filling up new military organizations, rather than placing every recruit in the old regiments or other organized commands.
On Monday, February 22, the regiment assembled at Beach Street barracks, and the next day, at half-past four P. M., left Boston for Tennessee. An entire week was spent on the return trip, and the regiment finally reached its camp at Tullahoma on a dark, rainy morning, where it rejoined the comrades who had been left behind.
SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 217-9