BY GEORGE FJELD
FORESTDALE–Erastus Laird re-enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, after a 2-year stint and some time home. He had been home long enough that he and his wife, Priscilla, were expecting their first child. Present Middlebury and former Brandon resident, Mike Rowe, is glad they were: Erastus was Rowe’s great-great-grandfather. Erastus was also the great-grandson of Wm. Laird, who emigrated from Scotland.
Laird was a private in Company B of the 11th Vermont Regiment. In 1864, his regiment was involved in the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. According to Rowe, “field officers were thinned out and Laird took control of the men around him. He rallied them to charge over the hill. Laird took a Minie ball (bullet) in the forehead.” Rowe relates that upon hearing of his death, “Priscilla found 2 men willing to retrieve his body. She paid them $100 for train tickets, a pine coffin, and a new suit to dress him in. Upon returning, Priscilla insisted on seeing the body of her husband. She was surprised to find him naked. Apparently, the 2 men gambled away some of the money and didn’t have enough for the suit.”
Priscilla and Erastus Laird were residents of Forestdale, living just south of the Forestdale cemetery, where they are buried side by side. The headstone of Erastus was replaced by his family a few years ago because it had fallen into pieces and was being held together by some iron strapping.
The Lairds’ son George was named after his uncle and was a blacksmith in Forestdale. He ran the livery for the Silver Lake Hotel. He had 2 children, Karl and Elizabeth or “Lizzy,” as she was commonly known. Lizzy was Mike Rowe’s grandmother. She worked as a waitress at the Silver Lake Hotel. Her brother, Karl, drove the stagecoach from the railroad in Brandon up to the hotel. Karl was the progenitor of the Lairds in Rutland. Carleton Laird, sportswriter, is Karl’s grandson.
Erastus had a brother, George, who died from wounds suffered during the Civil War. Both of their names appear on the prominent monument to the Civil War in the center of Brandon. Interestingly, a 10’x 20’ painting of the Battle of Cedar Creek hangs in Vermont’s State House, although neither brother is specifically depicted.
We look forward to hearing more about our veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Please let us know if you have any information. News@brandonreporter.com