Letter from the Regiment.
The following letter received on Saturday will be found of much interest. The incidents of the charge made by the gallant Second are given in some detail.
Near Fort Corcoran, July 29, 1861
To B. C. Frost and other friends, who generously contributed in making up the box to the B. L. I.’s.*
Comrades – We have received you generous donation, and wish, as far as words are able, to express to you our thanks. We did not, (as was you intention), receive it in season for the 4th of July, but it came to us at a time when of all others we most needed it…it came to us after the battle, when we were “war worn and weary.” It came just as we had returned from burying one of our comrades, (Chamberlain). We had been on our feet for thirty-six hours, had fought a hard battle, and marched in all a distance of sixty miles, soaked with rain, our clothes ragged, and some without shoes. If you could have seen the crowd that gathered around that box as it was opened, and could have heard the fervent “God bless the boys at home!” as the generous presents made their appearance, I know you would have been amply compensated!
I will endeavor to tell you a little of the part we had in the affair, as I have not yet seen in correctly stated in the papers. In most accounts which I have seen the Second Maine is put down as the Second Wisconsin. We were in Col. Keyes’ brigade with the three Connecticut regiments, and in Gen. Tyler’s division. We [?] our camp at 2 o’clock Sunday morning, the 21st, at Centreville, when we were halted while the whole column marched past us, leaving us in the rear as a reserve. About 10 o’clock the order came for us to march to the front, which we did, coming up to the point where Sherman’s battery was engaging one of the rebel batteries. Here we threw off our coats and packs, and marched by the right flank in double quick time through the woods, across fields, over streams and ditches, a distance of over three miles, coming up to the enemy’s battery on the flank, coming on right line we charged the battery up a steep hill. The battery had just been reinforced by the arrival of Gen. Johnston’s fresh troops, and as we charged up the hill, a storm of iron and lead came down upon us, which nothing but the overruling hand of God prevented from sweeping us from the face of the earth.
Twice we charged almost to the muzzles of their cannon, and twice we were driven back, when the order came to retreat. William Deane was among the first who fell, carrying the California flag which had been presented to us the day before. We got him on board an ambulance of the New York 69th, and I suppose he fell into the hands of the enemy. John F. Reed was taken prisoner in the cavalry charge, and Edward R. Chamberlain of Bangor, died of exhaustion, two days after reaching Alexandria. This is the whole loss of the B. L. I.
On the retreat, shot and shell flew thick and fast amongst us, but fortunately none of us were hurt. The enemy’s cavalry made a dashing charge upon our rear, but we formed the best lines we could, and kept them at bay. At Centreville, we dropped on the ground for a few minutes to rest, when the order came to retreat to Fairfax, and once more we took up our weary line of march, retreating a distance of 28 miles, without food or rest, the last three or four hours through a heavy rain, till we reached Alexandria. We stopped two days in Alexandria, and were then ordered to this place.
Poor Chamberlain died the day after we left Alexandria, and it was while Capt. Bartlett was there making arrangements for his funeral, that the long looked for box was found in the Alexandria express office. You can perhaps imagine something of our feelings upon receiving it. All I can say to B. C. Frost, Levi March, John Lowell, C. C. Prescott, H. E. Sellers, H. G. Thaxter, O. R. Patch, and all others who contributed in making “our box”, is, that a soldier’s blessing will follow you.
On my own behalf, and in behalf of the officers and members of the Bangor Light Infantry,
I am, Gentlemen, yours truly,
R. B. Wiggin
*B. L. I. – Bangor Light Infantry, Company A of the 2nd Maine Infantry Regiment.
Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 8/5/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy