Frank Draper wrote a long connected narrative of his war experiences. Sixty plus pages of them are included in the Memorial which are colorful and revealing and sometimes humorous. In1862 he enlisted in the 35th regiment Co. D, after his graduation from Brown, with the hope of returning to studies to become a doctor in the future. After initial training in Lynnfield and Arlington Hgts, VA as a private, he successfully sought a position as hospital-steward. He did find being a hospital attendant or “bummer” was “more congenial, less irksome”, and he was not in the South Mountain and Antietam battles that soon engaged the 35th , where many of the regiment were killed. But he rejoined the 35th in Antietam where he saw the wounded, and the reality of the battles was clear. He said “Thus early did my resolution to do and die seem to become exhausted; while I in turn, determined to ‘do’ and keep others from ‘dying’”. Wm. Heard visited the Wayland boys of the 35th after this bloody battle, representing the town’s soldiers’ aid program.
Draper witnessed and described in detail the next major battle —Fredericksburg, which was a defeat for the North. Draper shows his loyalty to Burnside who is blamed, and faults three other generals for not carrying out their part of the plan for taking the town,. Draper had no use for McLellan, one of the generals, who more than once, showed great timidity and hesitation. The 35th and other divisions suffered great losses, and Burnside was relieved of his post. Frank’s father, James Sumner, came to visit Frank and his brother James at Christmas time 1862, laden down with good things (more on the gifts from home under the Soldiers’ Aid Society).
The 35th including Frank Draper was sent to the Department of Ohio with the 9th Army Corps under General Burnside who was reassigned. En route to Vicksburg, he encountered slaves in Kentucky that he noted were intelligent In this area along the Mississippi he notes that Charles H. Campbell joined “the band of Hospital Brothers”. he inspected Haynes Bluff with Campbell. In Vicksburg they were visited by General Grant, “the greatest chieftain of the age.” Numerous casualties resulted from the battles to overcome Gen. Johnston’s army and the successful takeover of the capital, Jackson. As ward master of the 9th Corps, he witnessed many surgical operations. Long marches in steamy weather without drinkable water caused great sickness. Draper was among those with serious dysentery and put on board a steamer for sick and wounded headed northward. In Cincinnati he rec’d good treatment and began to revive. On leave of absence for 30 days he returned to Wayland and “the re-union of dear ones.”
He rejoined the 35th in Lexington Ky. There Draper was seized with “a mania for promotion” and felt possessed of abilities for usefulness as an officer…” and decided to seek lieutenancy of a Colored Regiment in Feb. 1863. (The Emancipation Proclamation was declared in Jan. 1863) Back in Annapolis he rec’d the commission and became a capt in the 39th Regiment of Colored Troops, composed mainly of Maryland blacks. Draper grew into a new role in leading Negro soldiers in the southern front, again with the 9th Army Corps and Burnside. He did come from a patriotic family predisposed to abolition, so this move is understandable. (In Baltimore he rec’d a visit from his father a second time, bringing “good things and good wishes” to him and the Wayland soldiers at Annapolis.) Draper shows remarkable pride in the men who served under him who expressed “true manhood,” He outlines his views about slavery in a letter and his journal which are included in the “Slavery” readings.
Draper had this to say about the Emancipation Proclamation (p. 216:
“I hail the edict (emancipation) and the raising of negro regiments as the events of the age. It is a good omen. If you and your co-thinkers saw the wisdom and necessity of this earlier than I and others, I have only to envy you as living up to the times, while we were behind….That it was a fit time at the opening of this difficulty to abolish slavery, either as a measure of war or of humanity, I did not see. I am now willing to confess my error, and acknowledge my false judgment.” Letter Feb. 15, 1863,
One of Draper’s army letters reported on three of his Negro soldiers:
“My orderly-sergeant, Sam Bond, I would not exchange for any other on the line. He is trusty, obedient, and of excellent habits. Whenever I desire to have any thing done by Sergeant Bond,I know it will be done well. I am proud of him.
Joe Brown is the best-looking soldier in my company. He has a mulatto complexion, a bright eye, and Circassian lip (Caucasian?) with an ever-smiling face. He is straight, broad-shouldered, full-chested, and tough as a buck. He is a model soldier in appearance, and no less so in his performance of duty.
‘Siah Pharaoh is said to have been put together after everybody else had been made, and to be composed of the fragments that were lying round loose,” p. 221
Draper recounted one incident when two hundred Southern chivalry were captured and placed under guard escort, a detachment of blacks wearing the Union uniform. “It was a severe lesson to those haughty chiefs of the South to be thus placed under men, who, a short time before, were their abject slaves.”
His regt was in several battles around the Petersburg area, including the disastrous Battle
of the Mine. Again great blame afterwards when the Union plan did not work and the losses were heavy. But Draper writes about the “coolness of our negro soldiers:” when exposed to the speeding Minie-balls. When many of the troops were caught in a crater and fired upon by the enemy artillery, he saw something “glorious in the midst of destruction. To see that column of colored troops moving steadily in the face of such a fire was to me a grand sight…and I could only admire the conduct of our brave boys.” (225-26)
After the war, Draper did get his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and lived in Boston where he married and raised a family. He became an eminent doctor noted for his forensic skills.