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

16 11 2012

A Personal Account of Bull Run.

———-

[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





Joseph Leavitt, Co. G, 5th Maine, On the Battle (2)

12 05 2012

[Date & Place Unknown]

Dear Father–I will now try to give you A full account of the Battle of Bulls Run which you have been  trying to know about, it is and Old Story but as you have written A number of times about it in you Letters I will set down & try to give you a full account of the affair when we Landed in Alaxandria the only  Regiment that was here was Elmore the Fire Zouaves which was guarding the City with the third & fourth  of Maine the Maine Regiments started from Washington one night before we left & our Regiment went &  Camped about two miles from the City in A place which they call Clouds Mills & staid there about A week & then changed the Camp to A place called Bush hill which was owned by A man by the name of [Strate?] which he said he was A native of Maine but that he had lived Thirty Five years out here & he called himself sixty years old & I should think he was about that we had not been here no longer than three weeks before we had orders to pack up our knapsacks & be ready to march to the Field of Battle which we started the next Morning & we got as far as Springfield that night when we rested for the night & next morning have to start about three oclock for another days march & then every halfe hour throwing out an advance guard to see wether they could see anything of any Masked Batteries we kept on so till dark when the hold Army had to cross A stream of water on A plank which time they were crossing was about three hours & then have to march about Four miles further & then rest for the night the next morning Companies E & G was put on Guard of A thirty two pounder which we guarded till we got to Centreville but there was A great accident in Company E in which A member of that company shott & he died instantly all on that March there was nothing but killing of Cattle Which we eat at noe house we had & plenty of honey we had three hives each one weighing about seventy five pounds we staid at Centreville a week & on the morning of the twenty first of July 1861 which was Sunday whe started for the field of Action which was six miles from Centreville the Brigade in which my regiment was in was put on A reserve one in about three or four hours from the time in which they commenced to Fire we was all on which time we was going three miles was only fifteen minutes when we was the last Regiment to go on & the last to retreat so that you see that the Maine Fifth had A hard chance on the retreat to get off the Maine Fifth has not the praise it ought to have at that Battle & it has dishartened most of its members & there has gone home A great many stories that is not true about the Regiment that retreat was only one day day getting back to Alaxandria when we was getting there at Bulls run three days on the march so that you can see that was A kind of hard march for me but I held out I have gone as far on that old scrape as I can now I must close my letter, I am well & hope by the time you get this that it will find you the same & the rest of the Family give my love to Aunt Remick if she is at home & tell her that I should like to have her to write me A letter

From your affectionate Son

Joseph Leavitt

MSS 66 Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, as transcribed at 150 Years Ago Today

Joseph Leavitt at Ancestry.com





Pvt. Joseph Leavitt, Co. G, 5th Maine, On the Battle (1)

11 05 2012

[Date & Place Unknown]

Dear Father–I thought I would write to you & let you know that I was in the great Fight last Sunday & that we lost the Captain it is the first bit of powder that I ever smelt in battle I can say I am willing if it is the first battle, I can say that I am willing to go again I felt perfectly cool, since the fight we have traveled over 40 miles from Bull run to this place we dont know whether the Captain was taken prisoner or was shot any way whether he was shot or killed, he proved himself true to his Flag, I have had no time to write before. I feel so fatigued with the march that I want to get some sleep

I remain your son truely

Jos Leavitt

I want you to write as soon as you get this

MSS 66 Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, as transcribed at 150 Years Ago Today

Joseph Leavitt at Ancestry.com

 





Pvt. Hiram M. Cash, Co. H., 5th Maine, On the March and Blackburn’s Ford

19 04 2012

Washington, DC

7/18/1861

Mrs. Mary H. Cash

East Raymond,

Maine

Dear parents and friends

I received your letter with a beauquet in it in due time and was very glad to hear from you and also glad to hear that you was all well and getting along well. When I wrote to you last I believe I told you we were preparing to march. we took up our line of march the next day with three days provisions the first day we marched till 10 o clock at night we were intending to cast off the retreet from fairfacts court house with 13,000 troops we stoped the rest of the night and slept on the ground In the morning we started before sunrise to march when got to the place we were about 3 hours to late to stop the rebels. they have retreeted before us as fast as our troops come in sight we have taken a few prisoners that the rebels left on picket guard they fell trees across the road to stop us but we were not delayed much on account of it. We have now completed our three days journey and have arrived within 5 miles of Manassas Junction. We had a sad accident happen on our journey there was one man shot himself in our regt about noon the 2end day and one towards night one of them was from Co. H. His name is William McSellen from casco you all know him he went to knock an apple off from a tree with the but end of his gun and it caught in the limbs and went off taken effect in the left thy and broke the bone all to pieces and he lived about 3 hours and died, and was buried the next day under arms they fired three volleys over the grave the other man was from Lewiston I do not know his name he was shot through the side and died in a moment I did not see him buried. We all seem to be enjoying good health better than we did at Washington. Genl. Scott said yesterday that he thought we should be on our way home in 8 weeks if not before we have not had a chance to fight the rebels one division yet but the right has had a little fighting to do they have gained every battle bout one they engaged the rebels at Manassas junction with only 3 regts and got badly whipt Scott has arrested the commander because he went contrary to orders in making the attack Scott says we can take the place without the loss of a man if we are carefill and obey him. the weather here is comfortable not to hot nor to cold in the day time but we have cold nights we have about 100,000 troops here and more are coming on the way here they have proclaimed strict law in the army and we have to go straight

no more to write at present

Hiram M. Cash

Ancestry.com link

MSS 12916, Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, as transcribed at 150 Years Ago Today. Used with permission.





Unknown, 5th Maine, On the Battle

16 02 2012

Alexandria, Va., July 27.

Messers. Editors: I see no account of the Maine Brigade in the terrible affair at Bloody Run. The Maine Brigade was there, and fought – fought, as Russell, the correspondent of the London Times said, with such desperation as he never saw surpassed in the Crimean War. We were the last Brigade called into action. The tide of war was doubtful. T’was in the thick of the fight, and all the reporters had left Centreville for safer quarters. So had the members of Congress who had tone there to hear and see the conflict. That may explain the fact of no notice of the Maine Brigade. We were aroused at one o’clock, Sunday morning and marched with various delays to the woods just to the right of Centreville, and there were halted; why, nobody knows, until 12 or 1 o’clock; when we were marched at quick or double quick, nine miles through the woods. We accomplished the distance in an hour and forty-five minutes, the men carrying some 45 lbs vis: gun, canteen, blankets, haversack, with three days provisions, and belts across their body, impeding their free motion. Over half our men, from sheer exhaustion, dropped down in the roads, and were not in the fight. We had now gone some 14 hours without food and with such water as we fished up from brooks tramped through by thousands of men. In such condition we were called upon to ascend the last hill and came out upon the open summit, amidst a galling fire, of batteries of minnie rifles, front and right flank. Our men obeyed the order, marched up and fired, not an enemy in sight; and yet facing this terrible fire from our concealed foes, and fired until the order was given to retreat. We had the honor of retreating last from our part of the field, and Col. Howard brought off his brigade in good order. You will be pleased to learn that the Portland companies did their duty and that their Captains led them on the fields. The exhaustion of our troops was such, that the largest company of the 5th on the field was Capt. Thomas’, and that numbered but forty men. The next largest, Capt. Goodwin’s, of Bideford, had but thirty-two men. Capt. Scammon’s, a noble company, and perhaps the best drilled in the regiment, had 27 men. Some had but 12 or 15. I mention this to show the terribly exhausted state of our troops. Had the battle been delayed one day, Patterson with his fifteen thousand troops and four batteries could have co-operated with us, and the day would have been ours. Our pray is that God may send us such leaders as the occasion demands.

The 5th Regiment, after the battle, were quartered in Alexandria, and on Friday they moved on to Clermont, near their old encampment.

On Friday, Mr. Young, director of our Regimental Band, died. He was universally liked and respected. He had a pleasant word for every body and was a thorough mast of his instrument. The Mayor of Portland was with him in his last moments and generously furnished at his own expense the best metallic casket the city of Washington afforded to bear his remains to his family.

Portland Daily Advertiser, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





“Q”, 5th Maine, On the Battle

15 02 2012

Army Correspondence.

Alexandria, Va., July 26th, 1861.

Your readers have heard already enough about the battle at Bull Run, and yet they will be pleased to read still more. The writer is a member of the Maine Fifth, and will, therefore, refer to this regiment.

The Fifth was in the engagement with the Second, Third and Fourth, and was equally exposed to the fire of the enemy. The exposure continued, as the most say, one hour and thirty minutes. It was enough to satisfy any one, no matter how much he may have desired to behold a defeat of the enemy. Like the other Maine Regiments, the Fifth went on to the field with a largely reduced number in consequence of the awfully cruel march of six or seven miles at the double quick. No mortal can describe the scene presented. As we entered the field, we passed, for a mile, ambulances taking off the dead and dying. As we formed our column in the first ravine, prior to going on the hill, it was broken by the retreat of the cavalry, and then should our own forces have been allowed to retreat, and not exposed to the batteries of the enemy. But the object of this communication is to mention the names of some officers who were present in the field, or who took part in the fight on the hill. Col. Dunnell, Major Hamilton, and Dr. Buxton, were present and active in the fight. Dr. Buxton did not leave his post, but acted nobly his part. He was taken prisoner. Captains Thompson, Scammon, Thomas, Heald, Goodwin and Sherwood, were at their posts and rallied the men to duty. Capt. Sherwood was wounded in the left arm, but will soon be able to go to his friends in Portland. It is proper to say, that the above officers deserve much praise for their brave and heroic conduct in the hour of so great danger. Lieutenants Barrows, Co. C, Walker, Co. I, Bookman, Co. K, Moneon [?], Co. H, Sawyer, Co. [?], Kenniston, Co. D, and Walker, Co F, nobly met danger and bravely discharged their duties; most of the remaining officers of the regiment fell by the way completely exhausted by the fatigue of the march. The color Company, Co. D, Capt. Thompson, brought off our colors in fine style, and no officer can surpass Capt. T., in real bravery. Lieutenant Kenniston, of Co. D., has been taken prisoner. It is thought that Peter Horan, of Co. H, was killed.

Q.

Portland Daily Advertiser, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





H. J. E., 5th Maine, On the Battle

15 02 2012

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy





More On Handcuffs

29 12 2011

Chief Historian John Hennessy of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park sent Bull Runnings a note and newspaper clipping image yesterday, shedding a little more light on the origins of the Handcuffs Myth:

I recently came across this little notice from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which offers the only explanation I have ever seen for the handcuff legend. I haven’t looked into the details, but it seems plausible to me. Dunnell was colonel of the Fifth Maine:

The Mystery of the Hand Cuffs

The rebel reports of the Bull Run battle gave, among the list of articles taken, great numbers of hand cuffs. We always thought this entirely bogus, but, it appears it was true except as to numbers, and the explanation has finally leaked out. This is the story:

A Mr. Brady, of Maine, raised a company and was chosen Captain. The Governor however would not appoint him Captain, the election by the company not being binding. This incensed the company. The Adjutant General, Hodson, advised the Colonel  of the Regiment, Dunnell, by letter, to procure several dozen handcuffs, as he might want them, insinuating that there might be a bolt in his disaffected company. This letter fell into the hands of the rebels at Bulls Run and was published. They also state that they captured several thousand handcuffs. It probably all grew out of this singular letter, though the Portland (Me.) Argus says it was understood at the time that six dozen handcuffs were purchased for the 5th regiment, in which Mr. Brady’s company was.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/20/1861

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