Army Correspondence of the Advertiser.
Fifth Regiment Maine V. M.
Alexandria, Va., July 26th, 1861.
Of the battle of Sunday, and its immediate results, your readers are doubtless well aware; but perhaps the movements of separate regiments may possess elements of particular interest to many.
On Sunday morning, at half past 1 o’clock, the 5th and the other Maine Regiments, at Centreville, together with the 2d Vermont, started in “light marching order” for the Bull Run fortifications. Among many necessary delays we did not get into the main road until daylight. – After a somewhat tiresome march we reached the point where it was intended for us to turn into the woods, in order to attack the batteries in the rear. Here we were halted for two or three hours, and then were suddenly started on a double quick, which, with but few exceptions, was kept up until we reached the scene of action, at [?] o’clock P. M. This injudicious running, in the heat of the day, told with fearful effect on our men, and for the last two miles of our advance the road was literally filled with the weary and faint, who had been compelled from sheer exhaustion to drop from the ranks; it was all in vain that our Colonel sent request after request to the acting Brigadier General (Col. Howard) to spare his men and let them have at least one short rest. When we reached the field of action, our numbers were reduced at least one half.
At the hospital, about a mile this side the scene of battle, the fugitives and wounded became quite numerous; to the grand majority it was the first experience of warfare; and yet it did not create the terror I had expected. Our regiment went on without a moment’s hesitation, over the ploughed field where the battle had been commenced in the morning, by the Rhode Island regiments, and from which the rebels had been driven with immense loss, down into the ravine and across the brook where we formed. Our regiment was the third to advance up the hill, being proceeded by the Maine 4th and Vermont, 2d. Scarcely had the two advance regiments begun to move before they were charged by the rebel cavalry (the famous Black Horse Guards). They were broke and retreated to the brook where they were again formed and led up the hill. Our position on the hill was one of terrible danger. A new battery was now unmasked and poured its terrible fire into our ranks, but our men kept their position, and had it been possible to have supported them with artillery the fate of the day might have assumed a different aspect, but this was impossible, as the ammunition for the artillery had given out.
As it was, our men retained their position until ordered to retreat, which was performed with as good order as the circumstances permitted; and had it not been for the general confusion, the Maine regiments might have retreated in good order, as it was there was less confusion in our regiments, and the 5th in particular, than in any of the other regiments. We were the last to leave the field and the last on the retreat.
The retreat was one of the great confusion, the whole army were in complete panic, frightened at their own shadows, and believing every rumor – Ever an anon the cry would arise that the cavalry of the rebels were upon them, and then there would be a general stampede for the woods. They would not obey their officer; they paid no attention to their weak and wounded comrades, but each one hurried on unmindful of all else in the thought of self. The greatest proof of the havoc which must have been made among the rebels is the fact that such a disordered retreat was allowed without interruption, the three guns which were fired at the bridge being the only attack which was made on our disorganized forces. We retreated as far as the encampments, where supper was prepared, and around the camp fires were gathered in the silence of the July evening many an anxious group enquiring of one and another the fate of their comrades. There were many, who from fatigue, did not reach the encampment that night, which caused the reported number of the lost to be greatly exaggerated. At ten o’clock we again commenced our retreat to Fairfax. After a short rest at Fairfax, we again resumed our march towards Alexandria, which we reached at about 4 o’clock P. M., having marched about 40 miles since leaving our camp on Sunday morning.
Since arriving at Alexandria, one after another of our men have come in, which has reduced the number of our lost to a very low figure. Our men are rapidly recruiting, and will soon be prepared to again take the field with renewed courage and improved discipline.
H. J. E.
Portland Daily Advertiser, 8/1/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy