Boston, William, 1837-1915
Rank : Cpl.
Regiment : 20th Michigan Infantry Regiment. Co. H (1862-1865)
Service : 1862 August 19-1865 May 13
William Boston of Ann Arbor enlisted in Company H of the 20th Michigan Infantry, a company recruited mainly in Ann Arbor and Lodi and officered by graduates of the University of Michigan. The regiment was rushed to Maryland shortly after the Battle of Antietam, and was assigned to Willcox's Division, 2nd Brigade, IX Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Seeing minor action during the Blue Ridge Campaign of October and early November, 1862, Boston received a baptism of fire at Fredericksburg, when his regiment crossing joined in on the disastrous assault on Marye's Heights. In the battle, Boston lost a half-brother, John A. Sutton, who was serving in the 1st Michigan and his regiment sustained several casualties, but no deaths.
After suffering through the cold and disillusionment of the winter of 1862-63 at Falmouth and the frustration of Burnside's mud march, the 20th Infantry were transferred to Kentucky to face John Morgan. They participated in mop up operations after several engagements, including at Jamestown (April 30) and Monticello (May 2), and were engaged in a minor battle at Horseshoe Bend on May 10th, where they were one of 10 regiments pitted against three regiments led by Morgan. They lost 20 men, five of whom were killed in action. On June 7th, Boston's regiment was again reassigned to join in the post-Vicksburg campaign against Johnston's forces in Mississippi. Boston, however, was incapacitated with illness during most of the months of June and July, and was not completely better until after his regiment had been returned to Kentucky in August. From January through March, 1864, Boston was confined to the hospital a second time, this time suffering from erysipelas.
Once again transferred to the eastern theatre, the 20th Michigan served as support to an artillery battery during the Battle of the Wilderness. Boston was shot in the heel and wounded in the face with shrapnel and was left on the field. According to a family legend, Boston and several other wounded soldiers were overtaken by a Confederate cavalry unit, but when Boston flashed a Masonic sign to the Captain leading the unit, he turned away and ordered his men to follow. He was then able to crawl back to his lines and was sent to a hospital in Fredericksburg to recover. Boston's wounds were light enough that by May 16th he was serving as a nurse, and was able to leave hospital, though without rejoining his regiment, by the 22nd. While Boston lay at City Point, the 20th Michigan took part in the Siege of Petersburg and the Battle of the Crater. In mid-August, he finally rejoined his comrades at Petersburg and was present for the Battle of Weldon Railroad and the heavy fighting on the Petersburg front during the final two weeks of that month.
The 20th remained stationed near Petersburg over the winter, frequently exposed to Confederate shelling and sharpshooters. On March 25th, the regiment's positions at Fort Stedman came under assault by Confederate forces, but the 20th, in Boston's eyes, provided their best acquittal in battle to date, repelling the assault and capturing 300 prisoners of war, and nine days later, they entered the city when the Confederate defenses finally collapsed. The regiment remained in Petersburg until the middle of May, and was among the regiments that paraded in the Grand Review in Washington on May 23rd. Their last act as soldiers, on May 31st, was to intervene to break up a "fuss" among some of Sherman's soldiers.