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#135 Thomas Seaver, Class of 1859, Demonstrated Valor at Spotsylvania Court House

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Leaders & Legacy

Portriat of Thomas SeaverThomas Orville Seaver was born just before Christmas in the small town of Cavendish, Vt., in 1833, the eldest of eight children. After a year at Tufts University, he attended Norwich from 1856 to 1858. He left the university after two years and finally graduated from Union College in 1859.

Seaver was in training to become a lawyer when the Civil War broke out in 1861. He joined up with the Third Regiment Vermont Volunteer Infantry–one of 71 Norwich alumni to join Vermont volunteer units–and was made captain of Company F. Before going to the front, he traveled to Woodstock, Vt. to marry his sweetheart, Nancy Spaulding. The Third Regiment reached Washington in July of 1861, and Seaver was promoted through the ranks as he led his men through some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including Antietam, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania.

It was at Spotsylvania Court House that Seaver demonstrated the particular valor that would later be recognized with the Medal of Honor. He and his men held the Union line even as their ammunition ran out and the order to retreat came down the chain of command. His Medal of Honor citation reads: “At the head of 3 regiments and under a most galling fire attacked and occupied the enemy’s works.” He received this highest distinction in 1892.

Then-Colonel Seaver mustered out of the Army in July of 1864 and returned to his intended legal profession and to his home state of Vermont. After completing the studies that were interrupted by the war, he was admitted to the Windsor County bar later in 1864. He became a Windsor County judge in 1886. Norwich granted him an honorary master’s degree in 1910 in recognition of his military accomplishments as well as his career as a lawyer and judge in Vermont.