Biography of Joseph Bridgham Curtis

From New England Families Genealogical and Memorial
William Richard Cutter, A.M., New York, 1915

Pages 1877 & 1878

Colonel Joseph Bridgham Curtis, fourth son of George Curtis and second child of Julia B. (Bridgham) Curtis, was born October 25, 1836, in Providence. He graduated with the highest honors from the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University in 1856. Returning to New York he began the profession of civil engineer and in 1857 became a member of the staff of engineers that engaged in surveying and laying out the Central Park. Upon the outbreak of the civil war he volunteered his services and in April, 1861, was appointed engineer with the rank of captain in the Ninth New York Volunteers, in September, 1861, upon the formation of the Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers, he became second lieutenant, and was promoted to first lieutenant in October, 1861. He served with Burnside's expedition in North Carolina and distinguished himself by his coolness and daring at the capture of Roanoke Island, February 7, 1862. In June of that year he was appointed assistant adjutant-general on General Rodman's staff. In August of the same year, at General Burnside's special request, he was promoted to be lieutenant-colonel of the Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers. His regiment joined the Army of the Potomac and fought in the succession of battles between the Rappahannock and Washington. At the battle of Antietam he assumed command of the regiment when the colonel was disabled by a wound. He seized the colors when the color-sergeant was killed, and although the regiment suffered severe losses, it maintained its position, until finally, after losing all but two hundred of its men, it was ordered to retire by the commanding-general. When this had been effected, Colonel Curtis, rather than retire, took a musket and a cartridge box from a dead soldier and fought throughout the rest of the day as a private in a Pennsylvania regiment. He again commanded the regiment at the battle of Fredericksburg, and was killed on December 13, 1862, at the age of twenty-six years while leading his men into action. His body was recovered from the field and lay in state in the city hall at Providence. A public funeral was accorded by the authorities, and he was buried with military honors in the North burying ground at Providence, Rhode Island. The state legislature adopted resolutions of sympathy, and a tablet to his memory is erected in the Memorial Hall of Harvard University.