Image: Pvt. William J. Rackliff, Co. F, 3rd Maine Infantry

12 09 2022
William J. Rackliff, Co. F, 3rd Maine Infantry (Courtesy Charles T. Joyce Collection)

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Unit History – 3rd Maine Infantry

15 07 2022

Col., Oliver 0. Howard; Lieut.-Col., Isaac N. Tucker; Maj., Henry G. Staples. This regiment responded to the first call for troops with promptness and alacrity. It was rendezvoused on the state house grounds at Augusta and was composed mainly of Kennebec lumbermen. The regiment was most fortunate in having for its colonel Oliver 0. Howard, who rose rapidly to the rank of major – general and gained for himself a name distinguished among the nation’s heroes. During the long three years’ service the regiment was successively commanded by Maj. Staples and Capt. Moses B. Lakeman of Co. I, Lieut. Col. Tucker having resigned to become brigade quartermaster. On the resignation of Lieut.-Col. Tucker, Capt. Sampson of Co. D, Capt. Lakeman and Adjt. Burt served as lieutenant-colonel in the order named. Succeeding Henry G. Staples as major were Adjt. Burt and Capt. William C. Morgan. Of the original companies of the regiment Co. A (Bath City Greys) had existed under former militia laws and the others were new organizations. The regiment was mustered into the United States service on June 4, 1861, and left the state for the front the next day. Perhaps no regiment from the state saw more fighting or rendered more distinguished service. From the first battle of Bull Run, until the battle of Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864, the regiment participated in most of the important battles and movements of the Army of the Potomac. The operations of the so – called “Stove- Pipe Artillery” commenced with this regiment. While encamped at Flag Hill, Va., they employed the ruse of mounting a stove- pipe on wheels, and drew 12 shots from the enemy at their cannon. The loss of the 3d in killed and wounded at the battle of Fair Oaks was nearly one-third of the men engaged. It was in this engagement that Sergt.-Maj. F. W. Haskell of Waterville so greatly distinguished himself as to win the commendation of his colonel and of the entire regiment. The 3d gave an excellent account of itself in the battle of Gettysburg. At the close of the second day’s fighting Gen. Sickles declared that, “The little 3d Me. saved the army today.” Its loss at Gettysburg was 113 killed, wounded and missing. On the return of the regiment to Augusta, June 11, 1864, only 17 officers and 176 enlisted men were left to be mustered out. Sixty – four of these men reënlisted , and together with the recruits were transferred to the 17th Me. Not one of the original field and staff officers returned with the regiment and only one of the original captains—the veteran Moses B. Lakeman – who returned in command of the regiment.

From The Union Army, Vol. 1, pp. 40-41

Albert*, Co. G, 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry**, On the Battle

12 04 2020

From Our Boys.

A letter received from a member of Co. G. has been sent us for publication, from which we make the following extracts: –

Alexandria, Va., July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: – The day following the date of my last letter to you, we left Camp Clermont and marched on Fairfax Court House, where we routed the rebels and took five or six prisoners. We rested one day and then marched towards Manassas Junction, halting within three miles of that place.

Our advanced guard attacked one of the batteries that day, but were defeated. We stopped there some two or three days until McDowell came up with his division; we were about 40,000 strong.

Sunday morning we were called out at three o’clock, A. M., here and took up our march for Manassas. Our Brigade was sent around to the north side to cut off their retreat; we marched until ten o’clock A. M., when we were ordered to the front of the battle ground. We then took up the ‘double quick’ and kept it up until about three o’clock, P. M., we came up in front of the batteries. It was very warm, and we could get nothing but muddy water to drink and sometimes none at all, and about one-third of our men dropped down beside the road exhausted. H. R. got tired out and was not in the battle. Of the Clinton boys in our company, there were only Horace Hunter, Phi, and myself in the battle.

As our troops advanced they came upon the enemy’s battery; Sherman’s battery was brought to bear on it, which soon routed them and took their battery. The rebels retreated some three miles, when, receiving reinforcements, they made a stand, and as we came up they opened fire upon us in every direction from masked batteries. Our Brigade was the last to get on the ground; when we got there the battle was the same as lost, but we charged on them and held them at bay for an hour.

As we came on the battle-ground, we stopped to get a breath and prepare for a charge. I looked along the line to see who was missing. I saw Horace and Phi, they were just at my left. I went up to them and shook hands with them, each wishing the other good luck, and just as I got back to my own place, a cannon ball struck Horace in the thigh, tearing his leg in half, striking David Bates, the next man behind him, taking both legs nearly off. Bates is the man I used to march with in Waterville. As we advanced, another man dropped at my right side, a ball striking him in the head. We marched on, and soon came within musket shot of the rebels, and them we poured it into them. I fired twenty-three rounds. The rebels would not come out in the open field to fight; they were in the woods and behind fences, with masked batteries on every side. Cannon-balls and shells were flying in every directions, and men falling on all sides; I shall never forget the 21st of July.

But, thank God, I escaped, and shall have another chance at them yet, though I did not expect to come off the field alive. Those rifle bullets sounded like a swarm of bees round my head, and those cannon-shot – the sound is ringing in my ears now.

After I had fired my last shot, I looked around, and there was not an officer in the field; they had all gone, and there were only some half a dozen men of our company left on the ground, so we made out retreat. As I came over the hill, I found one of our men lying on the ground, wounded in the side; his name was Crosby. We took him up and carried him for nearly half a mile to the house where Horace was. They were firing on us all this time, cannon-balls striking both sides of us. I saw a ball strike a horse just in front of us, taking his head off. When we got to the house, we left the wounded and went to try to get an ambulance to bring them off, but could not as they were retreating at full. It is said the rebels charged upon the hospital after we came away, and fired a whole volley into it. Horace had his leg tied up, but we had to leave him on our retreat, and he is probably a prisoner if alive, but I think he is not alive. I barely escaped with my own life. We marched all night and arrived in Alexandria the next day at eleven o’clock. We were on the road forty-eight hours, with nothing but hard bread to eat and muddy water to drink. I drank water that day that you would not wash your boots in, but am thankful to come off as well as I did.

Camp Clermont, July 25

Here we are in our old camp again, and I feel as well as ever. Troops are pouring in here every day, and we shall soon have our ranks filled again, then we are going to march on and avenge our fallen comrades. We get good living while in our camps, but when we are on the march we fare pretty hard. My health is good, and I stand it first rate so far. Asher Hinds, of Benton, was wounded in the leg. He is in the hospital here, safe.

Your Brother,


Waterville (ME) Eastern Mail, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*There were five Alberts in Co. G – Ferbush/Furbush, Sibley, Smith, Harriman, Ross

** Co. G, 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry, was raised in Waterville.

G. S. A., Co, C, 3rd Maine Infantry, On Capt. W. E. Jarvis in the Battle

7 02 2020

Letter from the Third Maine Regiment.

We received, after our paper was ready for the press, a letter from a reliable source in the 3d Maine Regiment. We make room for the later and more important portion, omitting much that we would cheerfully have published, if received in season.

Clermont Place, Fairfax Co., Va.
Aug. 3d, 1861.

I wrote an account of the battle soon after the return of the regiment to Alexandria – but finding that your correspondent “Litchfield” had already sent an account of the battle, I threw my letter into the tent, and there it would have remained, had it not been for some of the iliesi that came back to us from Gardiner. In some of the letters that came to us to-night, from home, it is said that the report was current in Gardiner that Capt. Jarvis was not on the battle-field, and that he was in so great haste to get back to Alexandria, he run his horse over the retreating soldiers. So far as Capt. Jarvis himself is concerned, he needs no bolstering up by newspaper correspondents, but his friends “down East” may want to know the facts.

On that day, Capt. Jarvis acted as Lt. Col. of the 3d regiment, and I wish it understood at home, that if there is any man in the regiment who is always at his post, that man is Captain Jarvis. He was among the first on the field, and remained there until long after the flag was carried off. During the fight he was perfectly calm and always at his post.

In regard to running over men with his horse – I can dispose of that “double-quick” – Capt. Jarvis walked all the way to Manassas, all the way back to Alexandria. One thing is plain, the man who made the statement is either of the number, liars – or of that number who were unable to get on the field, and consequently did not know who was.

Capt. Jarvis stops in the tent of Co. C and is in good health and spirits, and one of the few officers of the regiment who asks no furlough to go home. He remarked to me yesterday, that he had rather lay his bones beneath the soil of old Virginia, than go home without whipping out secession. Capt. Jarvis can stand on his own bottom.

Wm. H. Peacock of West Gardiner, a member of Co. C, died yesterday in the hospital at Washington. He was one of our best soldiers – a man always ready to do his duty.

Rev. H. C. Leonard, our new chaplain, arrived Wednesday, and makes quite a favorable impression with the men. He lives on soldiers’ rations, and with his gray flannel shirt and plain clothes, he makes not a bad looking soldier.

Gardiner should raise another company for the war. They have all the material; but none are wanted unless they are able to endure some hardship, and live on soldiers rations. The least they can do is, to send twenty men, to fill the places of those unable to do duty in the companies at the seat of war.

All the rubber blankets presented to us by the citizens of Gardiner, were lost at Bull’s Run. They were left at Fairfax, and stolen by the negroes. We miss them much, as the men are obliged to sleep on the ground.

The citizens of Bath are going to send new ones to the two companies from that city – (Think the Gardiner folks will take the hint?)

Peaches, blackberries, tomatoes, and all kinds of fruit, are very plenty, and can be bought for almost nothing, from the negroes who come around our camp. The slaves in this part of the country live high this season. Their masters having gone to the war, they make free to sell whatever is wanted to the soldiers – and pocket the money.

Bye the by, the best joke of the season, was Beauregard’s order to his men. “Don’t shoot the officers, if you do they will get better ones.”

“Litchfield” will be at his post next week. He has been on special duty this week.

G. S. A.

Gardiner (ME) Home Journal, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Sgt. Lincoln Litchfield, Co. A, 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry, On the Campaign

8 01 2020

Letter from the Third Maine Regiment.

No. 4.

Clermont Place, Head-quarters 3d
ME. Reg.
Alexandria, July 26th, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – I presume your many readers are anxious to learn of our welfare after the ill-fated battle at Manassas.

We left here on the 16th (I presumed in my last) at one o’clock, P. M. The brigade, under command of Col. Howard, marched until one o’clock that night, and then halted four miles in the rear of Fairfax Court House, to cut off the retreat of the rebels, when attacked by the command of Gen. McDowell. Much to our sorrow the “birds had flown.” The next morning we started with the whole brigade of for Fairfax Station, where some eight thousand of the rebels were in stand. We had marched some three hours when we found our way blocked by trees fallen across the road to hinder our advance. These obstacles were soon cleared away. After a delay of one hour, we resumed our march and arrived at the station just one hour too late. Again we were doomed to disappointment; the rebels had left in confusion, leaving camp stores, &c. We camped down for the night, but not until we had cooked our suppers in the same utensils that the rebels had cooked their dinners in. We remained until late in the next afternoon, and then started for Centreville some six miles, which had been taken by our troops that day just before the defeat of Gen. Tyler.

Arriving at Centreville at 10 o’clock, we camped down in a field. At this place we remained two days. Here the grand army of Gen. McDowell was made up. On Sunday morning, 21st, at 3 o’clock, we moved in column of forty-five thousand infantry, one thousand cavalry, and sixty-five field pieces, in the direction of Manassas Junction. Part of the division passed on the let and commenced storming some masked Bull’s Run batteries, from which the rebels retreated in direction of Manassas. Our brigade halted some six miles from Manassas to cut off their retreat. We remained two hours and then marched in direction of Manassas, at which place our artillery had been storming a battery some hours. We arrived on the field of battle about 4 o’clock, and when we marched on, some of the regiments had retired from the field, who called to us as we passed, “go on, boys, the rebels are retreating,” with which we passed on still stronger running at the height of our speed, nor did any seem daunted at the sight that met our eyes as we came in full view of the field. Even the hum of the cannon balles seemed to impart new courage to the now exhausted frame.

Our brigade, while in the field, was exposed to the cross fire of two batteries which were concealed in a wood, as also were their infantry. Our men rushed on the edge of the wood, exposed to the balls and shells of both batteries, and made their discharges of musketry into the wood, in the direction of the enemy’s fire. – The cannonading on our side had nearly ceased when we went onto the field; and why our brigade was pushed on for two miles at double quick to face grape and shell, without any artillery on our side, is more than I can say. We had been on the field but a short time ere our batteries commenced moving from the field, and then the infantry were alone to withstand the charge of the cavalry, as ours had left us to cover the retreat. The rebels did not choose to make the charge until the order had come to retreat; then the Black Horse Cavalry of Jeff. Davis & Co. made a grand charge upon the Maine boys and some other regiments on the field. At this moment a cannon on the hill in our front gave them a dose of grape, at which they concluded to retire. The rebels sent shell and balls after us without effect. A perfect panic seemed to prevail in the whole army, and in one confused mass they moved on, exposed to a cross fire of the enemy, without any artillery to protect them in the rear. Such a sight was never seen on this continent. Each one was so sure of success at the commencement of the engagement, that a defeat was enough to turn the reason of the most calm. The cry arose that the rebels were going to cut us off, making the panic still greater, and each one aroused himself for the last great struggle. Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island troops were all in a confused mass; baggage carts upset; ambulances broken down; – yet the Black Horse cavalry were stopped in their advance by a telling shot from Sherman’s battery.

The retreat was kept up until we reached Centreville, when a small force came to our relief, which gave the men new courage, and they then began to rally. Here companies proceeded to their various encampments. We had settled down for the night, when the order came to retreat to Alexandria; then came the weary march of seven miles, by night, without food or rest, to Fairfax Court House; at which place we arrived about 2 o’clock on the morning of the 22d. After two hours rest we continued the march to Alexandria, making the distance of the retreat twenty-seven miles. It was a hard march; some were lame from sore feet, others slightly wounded; yet life was dear, though in misery.

The wounded that were unable to get from the field were left behind with the dead, and many of them were slaughtered by the brutal enemy. – History does not record such outrages among civilized beings. They even threw shell into the hospital while a flag of truce was fling from the roof. I hope the time will come ere long when the brutes will be obliged to kneel and beg for life at the point of the bayonet, held in the hands of the sturdy son of the North. Still, I trust that humane feelings will prevail in the heart of each soldier, though many feel a revenge that must be satisfied.

The great defect and cause of our defeat, as near as we can judge, was a lack of ammunition for the batteries. Infantry could do but little in storming such fortifications. Again they had 80,000 men, nearly tow to our one. Their loss was very large, as out troops had driven them from three batteries with a large loss each time, and by their own account they were badly cut up.

The Maine and Vermont boys did honor to themselves. They stood a raking fire for one hour, and when the order came to retreat they were among the last to leave the field, – and for one mile were exposed to the shell of the rebels. The loss of the 3d Maine was light, when the exposed situation is taken into consideration. – Their officers acted coolly and bravely in leading on their men to the attack. I think the Maine troops showed true courage in the foolhardy contest, though the New Yorkers do not in their columns make mention of Maine troops. I judge it to be for this reason – that when our brigade went on the field the day was against us, and those who were not particularly engaged left – such as reports for instance. Company C. went on with as full ranks as any in the regiment, and the boys went into the work with a true will. – The officers behaved manfully, encouraging their men, and faced the same stuff of Southern export, in shape of shot and shell, that the soldier must face. We are happy to say that they brought off their swords, but their revolvers were empty. The boys are full of pride, and think after a few days rest, they can go in again.



Gardiner (ME) Home Journal, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

3rd Maine Roster 

Lincoln Litchfield at 

Image: Pvt. Charles Henry Howard, 3rd Maine Infantry, Howard’s Brigade Staff

29 01 2017

Pvt. Charles Henry Howard*, Col O. O. Howard’s Brigade Staff, On the Battle and Retreat

28 01 2017

The Maine Regiments in the Battle. In the absence of a letter from our correspondent of the Third Regiment this week, we copy the material portion of a letter from a correspondent of the Boston Journal, written by a member of Colonel Howard’s staff, giving interesting details of the part taken by the Maine regiments in the battle at Manassas.


The third night after leaving our encampment at Clermont – four miles from Alexandria – we bivouacked near Centerville, about one mile this side of the battle ground on that day, Friday.

Many of the officers got no sleep that night. All were awakened at 11 A. M. and marched at the appointed time. We were delayed soon after leaving camp for other divisions to pass, and did not leave Centerville till some time after sun rise.

Just after leaving Centerville, we passed Col. Keyes’ brigade, containing the Maine 2d. Many of our friends came to take us by the hand as we passed, and said there had been an unbroken column passing them since early dawn. About two miles further on we turned to the right in order to outflank the enemy’s position and attack in the rear. Gen. Tyler’s division, in which was the 2d Maine, attacked in front. By order of Gen. McDowell, our brigade halted at the turn and allowed Cols. Franklin and Wilcox to pass on. The Ellsworth Zouaves were the rear regiment of Wilcox’s brigade. The guns had now become quite frequent, and we saw the red-shirted and red-capped Zouaves disappear at double quick. We waited till noon, some improving the time to get a little sleep. An order then came to hurry us forward, and we marched at quick step for about four miles – then took a path through the woods – a shorter route than the others had taken. Messengers came back saying we were carrying the day, and at this point an order was brought from Gen. McDowell to go at double quick. This was unfortunate, for the men were tired and very much heated – but the order came from the scene of conflict and we pressed on. When we came neat the battle ground we began to meet ambulances with the wounded and dying. Col. Hunter was the first one severely wounded whom we met. We were then under cover of the woods where was a hospital. As soon as we came out the cannon balls began to fly about is in terrible profusion. Some of the officers left their horses here, preferring to be on foot. Col. Howard and aids rode at the head of the column – Maine 4th in advance, Vermont 2d next, Maine 5th, Maine 3d in the rear. The first two formed in line in a ravine and marched up a hill where there were some trees, but unfortunately the battery they were there to support retreated before they arrived, and met them as they came up. The 5th and 3d formed and awaited orders, but soon after a body of cavalry came dashing down the hill in retreat, and there a battery of the enemy opened nearly upon the right flank of the ravine. This accelerated the flight of the cavalry, and when the cannon balls began to strike among the ranks of these reserved regiments, they became somewhat scattered. The flight of the cavalry, which indicated a general retreat operated disastrously upon these men, but they afterward rallied, when Col. Howard returned for them to come up to the support of the two regiments already advanced to the brow of the hill. These two had fired about twenty rounds apiece, until their muskets became too hot to use. A part of the Vermont 2d had rifles, and their officers desired to halt, saying they could reach the enemy from that point. Col. Howard consented in this case, and the Vermont 2d were gratified to see a body of the enemy’s troops flee before their fire, and retreat along the road to Manassas Junction.

Col. Whiting, Vt. 2d, showed great coolness and courage as did Col. Berry, 4th. The Maine 4thhad halted in a line with the Vermont 2d, but the enemy were so sheltered and at such a distance their firing took little effect. The 3d and 5th came up, but advanced no further. No order to that effect had come from Col. H., but undoubtedly their officers supposed such to be the case. Col. h. made a strenuous attempt to move them, riding out in front and urging them on, but once halted it was impossible to advance them further, and they were exposed to a galling fire. Maj. Staples, commanding the 3d Maine, and Lieut. Burt, Brigade Quartermaster, conducted with heroic gallantry, leading on the regiment. Col Howard’s horse was shot, and shells were exploding about him. The fire of our musketry seemed so utterly useless and the ranks were so thin that no better course could be taken than to retreat, as all our forces were doing.

After we had reached the ravine again the battery began to pour down upon us a most destructive fire. We passed up the opposite hill. Troops were now flying in all directions, and our men started to run. Col. Howard distinctly said at this moment that he would not run away, he would be taken first. He therefore walked his horse with the few who still adhered to him, and a little further on we rallied all that could be found of the 3d brigade. The enemy now began to press upon the rear, and the order came to retreat to Centreville. Brave men regretted deeply this command, but it was transmitted to our brigade with the additional modification, “in good order.” A panic seemed to have taken hold of all our forces, and there was great confusion in the retreat. There was danger of our being cut off, and just before we reached Centreville another gun opened upon us; but evidently the enemy was too disabled and exhausted to secure the advantages which they might have had from our confused retreat had they been fully aware of our condition.

We found our reserve had had a battle at Centreville, but had succeeded in driving back the enemy, and now received our mass of flying soldiers in safety. Many kept right on toward Washington. Our brigade returned to their old camp, attended to the wounded we had brought away, made hot coffee, and the men for the most part went to rest. Our officers finding that the other troops were all leaving, were desirous of starting for Washington. There were rumors that the enemy were close upon us. Col. Howard, however, would not retreat further without orders, and sent to headquarters for instruction. The general order for retreat then came, and we set out in perfect order from Centreville. Our baggage had all fallen into the hands of the enemy, the train having attempted, by some misunderstanding, to follow too closely upon the column. The officers lost all except what they wore upon their persons.

We halted to rest a Fairfax Court House, but remained there only about an hour. Before daylight we were on our way again. Col. Howard determined to take the brigade back to our old encampment at Clermont, though all the other troops had gone either to Alexandria or Washington. After staying there a few hours, as there were alarming rumors, and many of the officers and men were anxious to come to town, Col. H. procured a train of cars and took them to Alexandria, where he obtained quarters for the four regiments. The 3d Maine returned to Clermont last night, and the others will do so immediately, as it is a healthy location, and much better than the narrow and filthy quarters afforded in the city.

The 3d Maine is farther advanced than any other regiment.

C. H. H.

Maine Farmer, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Charles Henry Howard enlisted as a private in the 3rd ME Infantry, and at that time was assigned as a clerk to the colonel of the regiment, his brother Oliver Otis Howard. When Col. Howard was elevated to brigade command, Pvt. Howard joined his brigade staff.

Charles Henry Howard at Find-A-Grave 

Charles Henry Howard at

“We Are in His Hands Whether We Live or Die”: The Letters of Brevet Brigadier General Charles Henry Howard