Samuel E. Pingree (1832-1922)

Samuel E. Pingree was born in Salisbury, N.H. on August 2, 1832, son of Stephen and Judith (True) Pingree. Moses Pengre, his earliest American ancestor, was the proprietor of salt works in Ipswich as early as 1652, was selectman of that town, deacon of the First Church, and deputy of the general court in 1665, and from this worthy, Samuel E. Pingree is the sixth in lineal descent.

After the usual preliminary studies pursued in the academies at Andover, N.H., and McIndoes Falls, he entered Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1857. Selecting the profession of law, he studied in the office of Hon. A. P. Hunton of Bethel, and was admitted to the bar of Windsor county at the December term of 1859, after which admission he began to practice at Hartford with fair prospects of success. When the Civil War broke out, Pingree promptly responded to President Lincoln's call for troops by enlisting as private in Co. F, 3d Regt. Vt. Vols., and was soon chosen 1st lieutenant of that organization. In August, 1861, he was promoted to captain, commissioned major 27th of September, 1862, for meritorious conduct, and finally received the grade of lieutenant-colonel on the 15th of January, 1863. In his first important engagement, that of Lee's Mills, Va., he was severely wounded and confined for ten weeks in hospital at Philadelphia, but returned to his command immediately upon his recovery, and was present in most of the important battles in which the Army of the Potomac was engaged. In the second day's battle of the Wilderness, Lieutenant-Colonel Pingree was placed in command of the famous 2d Vt. Regt. (all the field officers of that regiment having been killed or wounded), and this honorable position he retained until that organization was mustered out of the U. S. service. After participating in the battles of Spottsylvania Court House, North Anna River, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and in the sanguinary struggle for the possession of the Weldon R. R., in which last affair he narrowly escaped capture with a portion of his command, he concluded his military service by assisting in repulsing the movement of General Early on Washington, arriving with his comrades of the 6th Corps just in time to save the capital of the nation from destruction. He was honorably mustered out of service July 27, 1864.

Pingree was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on August 17, 1891, for his gallantry at the action at Lees Mills, Virginia, on April 16, 1862. The citation reads: "Gallantly led his Co. across a wide, deep creek, drove the enemy from the rifle pits, which were within 2 yards of the farther bank, and remained at the head of his men until a second time severely wounded."

Captian Pingree described the action as follows: "On the 16th of April, 1862, General McClellan confronted the enemy, entrenched along the Warwick and south of Yorktown. No attempt to force the line had been made, although cannonading at long range and musketry firing at close quarters had been brisk. About the middle of the afternoon two companies of my regiment, supported by two others were selected to attack the enemy's line on the other side of the creek, and to capture and hold a crescent battery and the lines of rifle pits protecting it. My company, which headed the assault, was deployed quite closely. Unclasping their waist-belts, each held high his cartridge-box in the left hand and his rifle in the right. As soon as the batteries on the slope in the rear ceased firing, both companies started for the creek. The enemy at the same time opened fire from the rifle-pits across the stream. The water was breast high in the narrow channel, but shallower on both sides of it, about two hundred feet wide, mostly artificial flowage for a line of defense, and was further obstructed with felled trees. In spite of the deadly fire of the enemy, the two companies pushed on, and, without a halt on the other shore, dashed straight for the rifle-pits and battery, driving the enemy into the woods. Shout of triumph went up and signals of success were waved back to our lines. The two supporting companies followed us up and joined in holding the captured works. The line of the Warwick was broken. We anxiously waited for the arrival of the head of the division which was to follow us if we found the crossing possible, but no assistance came. The enemy rallied from their panic, and with several regiments hastened to attack our little party of less than two hundred rifles. We had lost heavily while fording the stream, and now the men were falling fast as the enemy rallied against us in overwhelming force. Messengers were sent back twice, explaining the situation and asking for re-enforcements or orders to fall back. As we rushed for the rifle-pits, I received a wound below the left hip, which for a few moments prostrated me and benumbed my left leg so that I could not rise, but I soon recovered, and, finding no bones broken, continued to lead the men on, as our orders were to capture and hold the works till re-enforcements came. It was a critical moment when the Fifteenth North Carolina came charging down upon us at a run, but the well-directed fire of the brave Vermonters checked and hurled them back, extending their confusion to the two Georgia regiments on their right. It was at this stage of the fight that my right hand was disabled by a shot which tore away my right thumb. While these attacking regiments were reorganizing for an assault on our position, the order came to fall back across the river, which we did, helping our wounded along. The fight had lasted forty minutes. Out of the fifty-two officers and men of my company, twenty--seven were killed or wounded, and of the three hundred and ninety-two men engaged, forty-five per cent were killed or wounded."

After his return to civil life Colonel Pingree resumed the practice of his profession at Hartford. In 1868-69 he was state's attorney for Windsor county and during his term of office Hiram Miller was indicted and tried for the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Gowan, and it was chiefly owing to the careful preparation and the efficiency with which Colonel Pingree conducted the prosecution that the accused criminal was duly convicted and suffered the extreme penalty of the law.

Though not an office seeker Colonel Pingree has never shunned responsibilities of official position. He was town clerk of Hartford for thirty-four years, and in 1868 was chosen delegate-at-large to the national Republican convention at Chicago. Two years later he was made president of the Reunion Society of Vermont Officers, before the members of which association he delivered an excellent and scholarly address in 1872.

In the fall election of 1882 Colonel Pingree was chosen Lieutenant-Governor of the state by the Republicans, his popularity being indicated by the fact that his vote was the largest of any cast for the state officials and two years later his merit was still farther recognized by his election to the office of Governor. His administration was characterized by the same efficiency and zeal which he has ever displayed as soldier, lawyer and citizen. Upon the establishing of a state railway commission ex-Governor Pingree was appointed chairman of the board.

Pingree was married Sept. 15, 1869, to Lydia M., daughter of Sanford and Mary (Hinman) Steele, of Stanstead, P. Q. He is buried at Hartford Cemetery, White River Junction.