Acton Memorial Library
Cambridge Chronicle, August 2, 1902
MANY YEARS SECRETARY OF OVERSEERS OF POOR.
Col. David P. Muzzey Has Spent a Quarter of a Century in that Position
—lnteresting Career in Peace and War.
Among the employees of the city who have had interesting and varied careers, none rank ahead of the secretary of the overseers of the poor, Col. David P. Muzzey. There are many other Civil war veterans who are now serving Cambridge in one or another of its many departments, all of whom can relate interesting experiences of their army life, but for ability to tell of a chequered career in the world Col. Muzzey comes pretty near being in the top rank. The present time is a good one for writing a sketch of the colonel's life, since last May marked the 25th anniversary of his first assuming the duties of secretary to the board of overseers.
Col. David Patterson Muzzey was born Nov. 8, 1838, in Cambridgeport, son of Rev. Artemas B. Muzzey and Hepsibeth Patterson Muzzey. Farther back some of his ancestors served on the patriot side in the War of the Revolution, and one of them, John Muzzey, fell in the Battle of Lexington, and is buried under the monument on Lexington common. This ground upon which the battle was fought, in 1775, belonged to the estate of his ancestor, Niebur Muzzey, who afterward donated it to the town of Lexington, and it was set apart as the present Lexington common. Col. Muzzey served as aid on the staff of the chief marshal, Col. Tower, at the centennial celebration of the Battle of Lexington in 1875.
He was educated in Cambridge public schools, once attending the old Harvard school, and at Hopkins Classical school. He removed to Concord, N. H., March, 1854, and lived there until September, 1857, when he, with his parents, took up his residence in Newburyport. He then began the study of law in the office of his brother, Henry W. Muzzey, in Boston.
In 1860 Col. Muzzey was admitted to the Suffolk bar in Boston, and began at once to practise in this city, having an office in Judge Livermore's building, where Phillips Bros. furniture store is now located, until the completion of Buckley's building, to which he then removed. He was a member of J. P. Richardson's company of Lincoln Wideawakes in the fall campaign of 1860, and signed the roll of his company of volunteers subsequently, but was unable to go out with that organization.
He enlisted as a private soldier in Co. A, First Mass. Inf., on May 23, 1861 and went to camp with the regiment at Fresh pond, the only available quarters being the ice houses located there, which proved, as may be imagined, very damp and uncomfortable. An amusing incident occurred at this camp, showing the crudeness of the men's ideas as to what was in store for them. In order to be sure that they were well served a Boston caterer was secured, but his efforts to please them were unavailing, and so much indignation was caused by his inability to prepare the beans to suit their taste that Col. Cowdin was called to quell the revolt.
On account of the bad situation the camp was removed to a location on what was then known as North avenue and designated as "Camp Cameron." lt was an exceedingly hot 15th of June when the regiment was ordered to Boston, and Col. Muzzey remembers well that march, as the men were required to wear heavy overcoats, and he, himself, was burdened with a knapsack which had been packed to the extent of 60 pounds by the loved ones at home. From Boston he went to Washington, D. C., and from there to Georgetown, where was established Camp Banks. Here they remained until they went to Bull Run, Va., where Col. Muzzey got his first taste of active service. After the famous retreat the regiment returned to Washington and Bladensburg, where he left it on account of promotion to the second lieutenancy of Co. I, 23d Mass. Infantry, and was engaged with that regiment in the battles of Roanoke Island and New Berne, N. C., under General Burnside. At the latter city he was on provost duty several months with his regiment. He resigned his commission on July 17, 1862, and returned to Massachusetts.
He was commissioned as second lieutenant in Co. G, 41st Mass. Infantry, (afterward organized by war department as Third Mass. cavalry), Sept. 16, 1862, and promoted to first lieutenant in that regiment on Nov. 1 of that year. The 41st regiment was under the command of Col. Thomas E. Chickering, of the firm of Chickering & Sons, the well known pianoforte manufacturers of Boston, and acted as body guard to General N. P. Banks on board the steamer North Star until he relieved Gen. B. F. Butler at New Orleans. Upon arrival at the latter city Col. Muzzey went with the regiment to Baton Rouge where he was detailed with his company as provost guard of the city.
Col. Muzzey relates that while on this duty there were several experiences of an interesting nature. On one occasion a prominent cotton speculator came from New Orleans provided with a government pass through the lines, and, upon examination, five hundred dollars in gold was found carefully packed in cotton in the soles of his boots. He was promptly returned to New Orleans. Another case of fraud was discovered by the colored woman employed, who found several contraband letters of information sewed in the skirt of the elegantly dressed lady who had secured a pass at New Orleans. She was also promptly sent back. He remained several months at Baton Rouge, until the Bayou Teche campaign on the west bank of the Mississippi, during which he took charge of the rebel prisoners captured by General Grover. He was also subsequently detailed as deputy provost marshal at New Iberia under Capt. Long, of the 31st Mass. regiment. From there he returned to Baton Rouge and took part in the siege of Port Hudson, where he was promoted to captain of Co. G, Third Mass. Cavalry, on June 17, 1863. Under the printed general order No. [?] headquarters Department of the Gulf, of Gen. Banks, calling for one thousand volunteers to storm the seven miles of rebel earthworks at Port Hudson, Col. Muzzey and thirty of his regiment volunteered, being promised, medals of honor. This was the famous "Forlorn Hope," which never got a chance to storm the fort as it surrendered first. The promised medals were never awarded on the ground that the "Forlorn Hope" did not actually storm the fort. However, the members of the group think that the intention should pass for the deed and try every year to get them.
After the surrender of Port Hudson the regiment was ordered to New Orleans, and became a part of the Fourth Brigade of Cavalry under Gen. U. A. M. Dudley, now living in Roxbury. Col. Muzzey was engaged in the battles of the Red River campaign, and then returned to New Orleans, whence he was ordered with his regiment to the Shenandoah valley, Va., where he participated in the battles under Gen. P. H. Sheridan, and served subsequently upon his staff several months.
In the spring of 1865 the regiment was ordered to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to join the expedition of General Connor against the Indians of Powder river, Montana. Here Col. Muzzey received his promotion to major on Aug. 15, 1865. After advancing 500 miles to Julesberg, Col., an order from the war department was received, directing the return of the regiment to Fort Leavenworth, as its term of service would expire on Nov. 1, 1865. On arrival at this post the muster out rolls were made, and Col. Muzzey left for Massachusetts with his command, the first regiment during the war to pass through Canada, arriving at Gallup's island, Boston harbor. While at this post he received the commission of lieutenant colonel of the regiment. On Oct. 8 the command was paid off and discharged from the service.
After the war Mr. Muzzey practised law for a year at Leavenworth, Kansas. He then returned to this city and fitted for the Unitarian ministry at the Harvard Divinity school; graduated in 1869, and was settled over the Unitarian churches of Littleton and Stow, Mass. He was appointed visitor of the overseers of the poor of Cambridge in February, 1877, and as secretary of the board in May of the same year, which office he holds at the present time.
In his work as secretary of the overseers, Mr. Muzzey has introduced a number of innovations which have proved extremely beneficial to the department. His method of cataloguing the cases which come up for relief is one instance of this. The valuable collection of old directories of Cambridge and neighboring cities which he has accumulated in a vault built in the office has been spoken of before in these columns, a full description being given in the Chronicle nearly half a year ago.
Col. Muzzey has always been an eager relic hunter and describes himself as somewhat of an antiquarian. In his possession, among other curios, is the identical knapsack which he took to the war with him in the days of '61. He also possesses a reminder of his first payday in the army, in the form of a one dollar gold piece. Private soldiers then received $11 a month and Mr. Muzzey's came in the form of a $10 bill and a $1 gold piece. He has been careful to preserve the latter to this day. The saddle that he used while on Gen. Sheridan's staff and which he had recovered by the general's saddler, is another relic of war times, while a fourth is a pair of spurs captured from a Confederate officer. The pipe which he smoked with much pleasure while before Port Hudson is yet in his possession and is a relic that is valued, indeed. Pictures and many volumes of military works go to make up his interesting collection. Col. Muzzey was married in Stow in the year 1876 to Sarah A. Turner. He has one son, Herbert Sprague Muzzey, who has recently been graduated from the architectural department of the Lawrence Scientific school. His residence is at 2 Clinton street.