Nine Months Man, William H. Gay (1840-1919)
William Gay was born in South Dedham. He was a cabinet maker by trade and, at the age of 22, on September 12, 1862 he enlisted in the 43rd Regiment, Company D of the Massachusetts Volunteers during the Civil War, as a “Nine Months Man.” That meant that he had enlisted for a tour of 9 months. The Regiment was part of the 2nd Battalion Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, a unit dating back to 1798, known as the Boston Light Infantry, nicknamed Tigers. Thus, the 43rd Mass was known as the Tiger Regiment.
They trained in Readville, Massachusetts and left Boston on October 24, 1862, and were initially stationed near New Bern, NC. In December the regiment took part in the Goldsboro Expedition to disrupt Confederate supply lines by destroying the Goldsboro Bridge. The unit was used chiefly for patrols and reconnaissance missions, and they occasionally engaged Confederate troops. The regiment returned to Boston in July of 1863, having lost 14 men: 2 men were killed in action, 12 died by disease.
Gay left a diary of his Civil War experiences. Both the diary and a transcription of it are part of the Norwood Historical Society’s collection.
Gay was mustered out on July 30, 1863, writing: “We received our pay and discharge papers. We were paid for eleven months service and I come to the conclusion that to enlist for 9 months means eleven. But I am glad I went.” He was paid $200 for his service. Gay became an officer of the George K. Bird GAR Post in Norwood. He also joined the Orient Lodge of Masons, rising to become its Worshipful Master.
William H. Gay died 7 June 1919. The funeral service was held at his residence,
16 Howard St., Norwood.