Unknown, Co. I, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2012

The Massachusetts Fifth in the Fight.

The following is an extract from a letter furnished to the Journal from a member of the 5th Massachusetts Regiment, and gives an interesting account of the gallant conduct of that regiment in the recent fight: -

Washington, July 26, 1861.

It will be impossible for me to give you a description of the battle of Sunday, as I saw it in a different light from others close beside me. I can, however, tell you the part our regiment took in the battle. Was, as you know, were in Heintzelman’s division and in Franklin’s brigade. Our brigade consisted of the 1st Minnesota Regiment, 5th of Massachusetts, and 11th of Massachusetts, and we marched in that order. We left Centreville camp at about daylight, with three or four brigades in advance of us. The battle opened about two hours before we reached the field. On arriving there the 1st Minnesota took a position out of our sight. We were told to go to the support of one of our batteries, playing on the rebels. We at once started on the double quick, and halted on the top of the hill, directly in front of the enemy’s batteries. We were flanked by the 11th Massachusetts on the left. Col Franklin ordered us to charge down the valley, on to the enemy’s batteries. Col. Lawrence told us to wait for his orders; we did. He then ordered us to charge to the brow of the hill by companies, fire and retreat to the rear of the regiment, load and await our turn. Before the entire regiment had time to follow his instructions, we were ordered to cross the ravine and support the Zouaves, who then were in the thickest of the fight. In as good order as any double quick movement was ever made, did our regiment countermarch and form on the left flank of the Zouaves, who, according to all accounts, were subject to a galling fire. We did this, then halted for the word of command, which did not come. (Col. Lawrence had fallen while we were changing positions.) After a few moments delay we rushed to the support of the Zouaves, and held our ground as well as any regiment on the field; three several times we charged and only retreated when the whole field in our rear was crowded with flying soldiers, cavalry, artillery and citizens. We were utterly astounded at the flight of those in our rear, and even while the Zouaves were hurrying from the field the men cried loudly for their officers to lead them forward. I tried to do my duty during the fight. I walked off the field slower than I ever walked State street.

Our regiment formed under Capt. Brastow and filed to the rear of the Rhode Island brigade, and marched in good order to our old camp at Centreville. We had been there and hour or more when Col. Franklin ordered us to retreat instantly to Washington. I have no desire to praise our regiment. I know that the Zouaves say we were the only regiment who supported them well. Adjutant Fairbanks, aide to Heintzelman, told Capt. Brastow that our regiment stood their ground as well as any regiment on the field; that if others had done as well we could have held our ground.

The New York and other regiments were praised very highly, but they did not lose as many men in proportion to numbers as we did. We had 531 fighting men on the field and lost fifty-nine, which is over 10 per cent. So you see we must have had some work to do. In reference to our colors, the State flag was brought from the field by our Sergeant Major, the stars and stripes by the Color Corporal. Our defeat was caused by the want of a proper and prompt reinforcement. We won the field and it was for the reserve to keep it. The regiments facing the batteries did not retreat until the forces in our rear were entirely and completely broken up. In changing our position we were subject to a terrific fire, directed to sweep the road.

In our charges the balls flew around us like hail stones, and God only knows how we ever escaped as we did. The army officers could not stand the fire, but hastened from the field. There was no order or regularity displayed by any one. I saw a whole regiment refuse to obey the order to support the Zouaves. We did our best, that is all I have to say. The Washington papers speak well of us. The men rallied around the colors and stuck to them to the last. Every man of the Fifth would have preferred to have died then and there than to have returned to Massachusetts without our colors. We expect to return within a few days. The boys would like another chance at the rebels, and I think most of them will reenlist after a visit home.

Capt. Brastow is recovering from his bruises. I thought we had lost the old hero at one time, when he was thrown down and rolled in the dust by a charge from the cavalry, but he was on his feet and at our head, sooner than you can read this. He inspired us all.

The army is nearly organized; but few stragglers can be seen. The Zouaves are nearly all in camp. Our regiment could be called out in thirty minutes.

Boston Daily Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2012

Letter From The Fifth Regiment.

We are permitted to publish the following letter from a member of the Massachusetts Fifth, giving his account of the battle of Bull Run: -

Washington, D. C., July 25, 1861.

My dear Father, – On Tuesday I sent you a few lines to inform you that I was still in the land of the living, which is something that I can account for but through the protection of Providence.  I was in the thickest of the fight; my company did nobly and charged the enemy three times. Our Colonel was cool, and well able to lead a regiment in the field. I cannot say as much for other field officers. Our Captain was like a tiger, in the fight. Your son endeavored to do his duty. The whole battle was, in my opinion, a poorly managed affair, and was fought against Gen. Scott’s wishes. I hope in future, they will let him alone.

To give you an idea of what was done in 24 hours, I will state, at 2 A. M., on Sunday, we left camp at Centerville (that is our division the third), marched ten miles through a circuitous route, to take a position on the enemy’s right flank. When we arrived, about 11 A. M., we halted only long enough to throw off our blankets and haversacks, then marched by a flank, double quick, about 1 1/2 miles to a swell of land and in front of Arnold’s Battery formed by company in close order and commenced firing by company, that is, the 1st company delivered their fire, advanced to the brow of the hill, then fall back, load and be replaced by the next company, and so on; Arnold’s Battery, as well as the enemy, all the time firing over our heads, and balls were thick enough to satisfy any one. Soon after the Mass. 11th were sent to support us on the left and the N. Y. 28th on the right. After being in this position about an hour, we were ordered to file off to the right to the road crossing the Bull Run, and support the N. Y. Zouaves and Rickets’s Battery. We had just got into position when the enemy made a charge on the Zouaves and the battery, driving them through our ranks and taking Captain Rickets prisoner. A good part of the Zouaves rallied on our rear, and with some of the Mass. 11th, we retook the battery and carried it off the field.

The battery had advanced to within 200 yards of the enemy’s works, which I think was wrong, as they (the enemy) had splendid batteries, and they were more rapidly served than ours. Their infantry were much inferior to ours. We drove them every time they made their appearance with fearful loss. We were at last obliged to retire to the hill where we had left our blankets; here we formed on the left of the Rhode Island boys, under Gov. Sprague and Col. Burnside, with a battalion of the 11th on our left, and endeavored to stop the retreat but it was too much for us, and what commenced as a withdrawal in good order soon became a mad flight. Gov. Sprague seeing there was then no hope of arresting it, marched around the right and on the outside of the woods in sight of the enemy’s batteries which was the only thing that saved us, as they, seeing us going off in good order, supposed the rest in the woods must be in like good order, and as they were evidently very glad to see us go, thought best not to trouble us. We have since understood that they were actually retreating when we were.

As we were coming out of the woods about five miles from the battle-field, one of their batteries opened on us with shell, doing great damage, and piling the road with ambulances and baggage-wagons, and preventing the artillery passing the bridge, and four of Arnold’s guns fell into their hands.

At about 7 P. M. I got into camp at Centerville, tired and hungry. There I found all the officers, three sergeants, three corporals, and twenty-five privates. I immediately threw myself on the ground, and went to sleep, not having eaten anything since morning. After about an hour’s sleep was called up by the Adjutant, and ordered to fall in as noiselessly as possible. An order had been given to fall back on Washington. For about three miles the regiment marched in good order by the flank, but after that the cavalry passed us, and the regiments began to crowd by each other and got mixed up, and some command was lost. My company kept their position with great difficulty until we arrived at Fairfax, when they dropped off from exhaustion by the road side.

I kept on with the hardy ones and before I reached Camp Mass. at 11 A. M., was overtaken by those that had rested. Here I found all but 18 or 20 of the Co. I took a cup of coffee and laid down to rest tired enough I assure you. I could not have slept more than half an hour when we were aroused by the order to fall in, it was raining big guns. Water and mud to our knees. Tired and hungry we marched to Washington a distance of 8 miles over a road that is bad enough in dry weather, and perfectly horrible in wet.

On reaching Washington, who should I meet but Dan —, John’s old friend who put money in my hands to get a new pair of pants and clean underclothes, my pants being covered with mud and cut in two places by shot. I then went to his room had a wash, took supper with him, and slept the night in his bed.

I do’nt care about breaking any of the articles of war, or I might tell a hard story about some of our high officers.

Boston Daily Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Sgt. Frank L. Lemont, Co. E, 5th Maine Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2012

A Personal Account of Bull Run.

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[The following is an extract from a private letter from Frank L. Lemont, now 1st Lieut. in the Lewiston Light Guards in the 5th Maine.]

Camp Vernon, Alexandria, Va.

My Dear Father: – It occurred to me last night while walking out alone, and thinking of home, that a true account of my actions and feelings that eventful day of Bull Run, might not be wholly uninteresting to you. I will commence from Saturday night at our encampment near Centerville, and end Monday noon, the time I arrived at Alexandria. At Brigade inspection that night, our commanding Office, Gen. Howard, told us that it would probably be the last time we should parade on that spot and he wished all to join in prayer for our welfare and the success of our arms. He joined with our Chaplain, and the whole Brigade uncovered their heads. It was a solemn sight and there were solemn yet determined men there. I felt as though I would like to ask God to be my support for the next 24 hours, for during that time I felt that I should need strength, and such strength as He only can give. But I was very calm although I did not know as ever I should behold another sun go down. Our orders were to be ready to march at one the next morning. I lay down, had a refreshing slumber and awoke at the long roll, greatly refreshed, prepared my coffee, drank it and eat my hard bread with a good relish, and by that time we were ready for a start. We expected to be brought into action at sunrise, but we kept halting, and it was past eight o’clock before we left Centerville, then we had nearly ten miles to march although the enemy was only three from us.

The attack commenced about sunrise. It was one of the hottest days of the season, but I stood the march beyond what I had dared to hope. While hundreds of stalwart fellows fell out on all sides, I kept on hardly feeling fatigued. During our march, at regular intervals of a few seconds could be heard the booming of cannon, and, as we approached nearer the scene of conflict we could hear the cracking, snapping, sound of Light Infantry as they made their successive charges upon the masked batteries of the rebels. They were sounds that I pray to God the valleys and hills of Old Maine may ever be strangers too. At 2 o’clock our Brigade arrived at Sudley Church, or rather Hospital. The doors and windows were open and the body of it was prepared for the wounded, nothing remaining but the desk or pulpit. It was here that the battle commenced in the morning, and the enemy had been driven back to their masked batteries. Our course was obstructed by the ambulances, filled with the wounded mangled in every shape. We passed along double quick trampling over the wounded, sitting and lying by the way side, until we came to an opening directly in range of the Rebel guns. Then commenced our first great danger. We passed nearly a quarter of a mile by the flank with the six pound shots whizzing just over our heads and falling all around us. Still but very few of our men fell in this movement. We then filed to the left, and passed down into a hollow under the cover of a hill, but the shot and shell were thick. By the time we got to this place the most of the men had deserted us either through fatigue or, – but I don’t wish to cast any reflections. Suffice it to say we had but eight men in our company ready to go up over the hill beside Lieut. Daggett and myself.

Up to this time I had felt no fear but still I felt very uncomfortable. My strength had not deserted me and I think my cheek was not pale. While we stood waiting and taking breath, a shot sped by and struck a fellow in the forehead killing him almost instantly. He was standing about three feet from me, and I shall never forget the sound the bullet made as it struck him. He fell upon his back, ,threw up his arms, trembled slightly and was dead. He was the first man I saw killed that day. You may think that I have grown hard-hearted when I tell you that that sight did not move me, but I assure you it did not unnerve me in the least, but I did think of his mother, if perchance he had any, as he lay thus uncared for; his body at the mercy of a ruthless foe.

We now had to ascend a hill through a thick growth of scrubby oaks and firs, and then we came out upon a broad opening with  a wood in front and one in the rear, and the rebel cannon playing upon us at both ends of the fields. You can imagine our position slightly as we charged down upon a masked battery concealed in the woods in front. During all this time we were exposed to a galling cross fire, ball and shell coming both ways.

I noticed many dead bodies as we passed up through the woods on to the hill, and one I noted in particular. He lay upon his right side. He was killed with a six pound cannon ball. I entered the left arm near the shoulder, and, I should judge, went entirely through his body and I thought at the time that I could run my arm through his body. It was a terrible sight and one I never wish to see again. I stopped for a moment and thought of his friends at the north, perhaps at that very moment sending up a prayer to God for his safety not dreaming that he, around whom their affections twined, was already with his Maker. – Such is war!

But I was unharmed and received not even a scar. I stood in my place in the company while they discharged 8 or 10 rounds and discharged my pistol once, when it occurred to me that I might get into a tight place and need the other charges, 5 in number. When we went up the hill, I put up my sword and took out my pistol, for I thought that would be the most effective, but I only fired one barrel for the reason I have above mentioned.

Our regiment retreated in the same manner that it went up, except that they did not keep together after a short time, all breaking up and mixing with other troops. The scene then became one which passes all description. You can imagine what it was, when I tell you that there were between twenty-five and fifty thousand men panic stricken, every one for himself rushing in greatest confusion, cavalry running down Infantry, field pieces dismounted, horses dashing away without riders, baggage wagons bottom side up, &c. Lieut. Daggett and I left the field together, and had retreated a short distance, when we heard a rushing sound of air, and before we thought what it was, a shell burst just above our heads, and for a few seconds the pieces flew lively. I do not know what saved us for doubtless it was aimed at us, for they tried to pick off the officers, and they saw our sword-scabbards glitter in the sun. After that we watched for the coming of those fellows pretty sharp. As we were passing over the brow of a hill, a few moments after, I cast my eyes in the direction of the enemy and to my surprise I beheld the main body of their Infantry sweeping down over the very ground we had occupied but a few minutes before. I turned round and for a few moments I was lost in the grandeur of the spectacle. They presented to us a mighty front, extending to the right and left, almost out-flanking our army. I saw their banners wave and the glittering of their bayonets in the sun. It was a sight I have longed to see, for it was to me something of a novelty to see a body of rebel troops. I had but little time to look at them for they were almost upon us and we had to leave as fast as our weary legs would carry us, and by that time I was nearly beat out.

Just then George Hamilton came up with us supported by two men. They delivered him up to me. He was nearly given out and I took his gun, lugged it a few steps and stuck the bayonet in the ground, and for aught I know it sticks there now. He gave out and laid down and I had to leave him behind. But the most trying scene was yet in store for me. I had passed on but a few steps when the cry came that the “Black Horse Cavalry” were charging upon us. I looked back but I could see nothing but smoke and men flying in all directions for shelter. It was a broad level field without a shrub or anything to secrete man or beast except a wood some quarter of a mile distant, and it was my aim to reach the cover of the wood, but how to accomplish it I did not know, for I was well nigh ready to fall, when Lieut. Daggett came up and said, we must run for our lives, and I confess that moment I felt the sensation of fear, but believe me when I tell you that that was the only time during that engagement I had any such feelings. We could but just totter along slowly with nothing but our swords to defend ourselves with, our company having all left us and just behind us 150 mounted devils, armed with carbines and swords, following up our weary men and cleaving off their heads without resistance. The idea of going as far as I had been that day and getting out so far and so well, and then having my head cut off was anything but pleasant. By some means we reached the cover of the wood. I sat down on a stump to pull of my boots in order to help me along, but I was so weak I could not get one leg over the other without taking hold and lifting it up, but I managed to get them off somehow or other, and that aided me considerably.

From that time we were not in much danger from shots from the enemy. We arrived again at Centerville after sun down, having been absent from that place nearly sixteen hours, during which I tasted nothing and hardly sat down. We went back to our camp and made a little coffee and lay down to rest for a short time, expecting soon to be on the march again for Fairfax. I laid down in the open air and slept about an hour, when the word came “the enemy are right upon us.” We sprang for our equipments, formed, and were soon on the march. We arrived at Fairfax Court House, at midnight and halted for a short time but were soon on our way again. After I left my boots I went in my stocking feet until I could scarcely walk. Just before I got to Fairfax I was lucky enough to find an old pair of shoes without strings, out at the toes and otherwise injured but I was then clear into Alexandria. We got into Alexandria at noon on Monday having been without sleep for 36 hours and nothing but hard bread to eat and in a tough battle three hours. I was unable to reach Alexandria on foot; but I got within a mile before I finally gave out.

Lieut. Frank L. Lemont

Lewiston Daily Evening Journal, 8/12/1861

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Frank Lemont at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy








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