from The Worcester Daily Spy, July 25, 1863(Volume 18 #175),
For The Worcester Daily Spy
Mr. Editor: The following concise account of the life and character of the late Lieut. Spurr was prepared for the necrology of Harvard college, but, for reasons which it is unnecessary to mention here, was not used in that connection. As the notice was prepared with considerable care it has been though worthy of preservation. I therefore send it to you to publish if you see fit.
Class of 1858. Spurr, Thomas Jefferson; Grandfathers. Gen. John Spurr and Dr. Dan Lamb of Charlton, Mass.; Parents. Col. Samuel Danforth and Mary Augusta (Lamb) Spurr. Both parents were born in Charlton, but moved to Worcester, say in 1832 or 33. The family at that time consisted of themselves and one daughter. Thomas Jefferson Spurr was born in Worcester Mass, Feb. 2, 1838. Col. Spurr pursued in Worcester the business of a merchant until his death, Nov. 3, 1842. Thus in his fifth year Thomas was left with his sister under the sole care of his mother, and it seems well to say here that perhaps the strongest point in his character was the love which he felt for his mother.
Fitted for college at the Worcester high school, he entered in his seventeenth year without condition. In college at first he gained a high place in the class, receiving one of the best Deturs, and having a part assigned to him at the first exhibition in the junior year. But at the end of the first term of this year he began to have trouble with his eyes, and although he came back to college at the beginning of the second term it was only to stay a fortnight.. He wrote at graduation “They “ (his eyes) “have been of no use to me since that time.” Finding that he could not study he made the voyage to Fayal and back. Spending two months in Fayal he returned to America in time to rejoin his class at the beginning of the senior year. He was connected with the class the whole year, conducting his studies by means of a “reader”.
After graduation, Spurr remained at home for a year in ill health. He spent the years 1859 and ’60 in Worcester in the law office of Devens (Gen. Charles) & Hoar, (Hon George F., his brother-in-law.) In September, 1860, he entered the law school in Cambridge. Up to this time he has pursued his law studies with a “reader,” but his eyes had gradually grown better since graduation, and were now in such a state that he could use them considerably.
April 1, 1861 Spurr sailed for Russia in barque Ethan Allen for a pleasure trip, returning to America in the early fall of the same year, through England. He remained in Worcester studying and drilling until the battle of Ball’s Bluff. Just after this battle he was offered a first lieutenancy in the 15th Massachusetts volunteers, by its commander, Colonel (now General ) Devens. Accepting the position he joined the regiment soon after Christmass, near Poolseville.
January 4, 1863, he was put in command of Co. G. He was the only commissioned officer with the company, the captain and first lieutenant both being sick and the second lieutenant having resigned. The 15th went to the Peninsula with Gen. McClellan. He returned with his regiment from the Peninsula and was present at the battle of Antietam. It was in this engagement that he received the wound of which he died. The battle was fought on the 17th of September. Lieut. Spurr died on the 27th at Hagerstown. “His thigh” wrote his brother-in –law” was shattered by a minnie ball on Wednesday the 17th of September. He lay on the field in rebel lines for three days, when he was removed to a farm, our troops having regained the ground where he has lain. On Monday he was removed to Hagerstown Md., and on Wednesday his mother and I, with Dr. Sargent reached him. He suffered terribly, until an operation, which took place on Thursday, somewhat relieved his agony. He was fully conscious to the last, and met his death bravely and cheerfully, thinking throughout only of others.”
As a soldier Lieut. Spurr was brave and faithful. “At the battle of Fair Oaks,” wrote Dr. Haven, the lamented surgeon of the 15th, “I chanced to be in close proximity to him during the severest of the engagement, and can bear personal testimony of his cool bearing and undaunted courage.” Similar was the testimony of other officers of his regiment. He was beloved by all his fellow officers, and, as soon as he had been with them long enough for them to find out his worth, by the men of his company.
It was hardly to be expected that he would be popular with the common soldiers at first, the circumstances of his appointment, having been such as to make them watchful to find fault with him and he having at times a certain loftiness of manner which led many to believe him to be somewhat proud or vain. But such was his real devotion to the interests of his men and his great fitness for the position which he held, that he won in time the love and respect of all. When wounded he saw that he must fall into the hands of the enemy, and generously bade some of his men who wished to bear him to the rear to leave him to his fate and seek safety for themselves.
His death was very beautiful. “Not in anger did he die, but in peace.” Surrounded by those he loved, he felt very grateful at being allowed to breath his last in the arms of the mother who was so dear to him. He spent his last few hours in pleasant communion with his nearest friends, and in prayer and thanksgiving; then, passed, with his mothers name upon his lips, through the door that separates earth from heaven to take his place among the glorified hero’s of our holy war. He expressed no regret at dying, but said that he had been fully aware of the chances of war, and hoped only that his early death might serve to inspire his companions to lead earnest lives.
Lieut. Spurr was an excellent scholar. At the grammar school at home he always led his class. He took a high rank in the high school and at college. He was good in all branches of study, but particularly fond of mathmatics. His reputation in the class for scholarship was such as to secure an election into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, although on account of the trouble with his eyes he had lost his rank in his class which makes a students election almost certain.
His mind was eminently practical. He delighted in facts rather than in poetry. He was good at business and handy in the use of tools. Although of a practical turn of mind he was quite fond of nature. His mind was strong and his judgment generally sound. He was able to walk alone, and yet ever ready to listen to the advice of any one whom he had a high respect for. He always showed great respect for things good and holy. He was a man of excellent taste. Conspicuous for honorable feeling and for elegance of dress and manners, he bore the mark of a gentleman and was one at heart. Somewhat diffident, he yet liked to make acquaintances, although cautious in choosing friends. I have spoken of his love of his mother. He was also very warm in his friendships.
Spurr was ambitious, intellectually and socially. He never however sacrificed friendship or strong convictions to his ambition. He was very persevering The possession of this quality by the steadiness which he manifested is fully proved in the pursuit of his studies and profession in spite of great obstacles. He was very fond of gymnastic exercises and out door sports.
Lieut. Spurr was not insensible to the attractiveness of military glory; neither was the life of a soldier disagreeable to him. Still he was guided by the purest motives in joining the army, and other motives which may have influenced him served only to increase the flame of patriotism which burned brightly in his heart and held sway there. He wavered long between the claims of a widowed mother and the claims of his country. Only the purest patriotism led him at length to decide in favor of the latter.
Spurr’s life was pure and noble, his death glorious. May his last wish be heeded, and his example fruitful in faithful, living and generous deed.