“4th”, 4th Maine Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat, With Regimental Casualties

16 01 2018

Military Correspondence.
———-

Camp Knox, Clermont, Fairfax Co.
Va., July 20, 1861.

Some one has denominated this “Happy Valley.” This was before we went to Bull’s Run – before we had sore feet – before we lost our baggage – before we were beaten – before we returned – before we had seen service. It was when we were “on our way to Richmond” – big with fight – hadn’t seen a rebel.

We are about twenty-six miles farther from “Dixie” than when at Bull Run,” i.e. nearer the undiscovered northwest passage. But we are here on the old spot again. Here we have collected the fragments of our regiment – have had the roll; and as the silent echo of some oft repeated name dies away in the deep shadows of the overhanging, forest, there often comes a long pause, which is followed by no response – “present.” Then the soldiers stand closer together – utter nothing – only look away vacantly, at the creeping shadows of the coming evening, seemingly straining the vision after some object which the imagination is pointing at. Others, with blistered feet – bruised, ragged – with no blanket or coat, too weary and worn to be curious about the living or lament the dead, are stretched upon the open field, in sweet repose, dreaming a happy hour away. In his dream the weary soldier continues the march till he arrives at home – till his lips move to give utterance to his thankfulness, or receive and give back the welcome salutation, — when he is aroused to answer his name, and finds, alas, that he is living and only dreaming.

This is not fancy. There are few instances of severer efforts than that of Sunday. For five days previous we had been almost constantly on the move — with little or nothing to eat save what we took from the enemy; sleeping in the open air, without tents, in sunshine and storm. From some cause our baggage train was always too far in the rear to bring up our rations, till the day of battle, when with the same excellent management and skill which had hitherto marked its movements, it did not stop till it found itself in the hands of the enemy.

You have had so many accounts of the battle that you will not expect it from me. Those eye witnesses who tan away at the commencement, have given a glowing account, picked up from straggling soldiers, all of whom were the heroes of the fight.

Up to Sunday morning (July 21,) our whole force was encamped in and about Centreville. Bull’s Run is a range of hills about ten miles in length, (some miles this side of Manassas Gap,) running southeast and northwest. The southeast point, or the right of the enemy’s lines is about three miles from Centreville. The northwest, or left wing of the enemy’s line, is about nine miles from the place above named. We were ordered forward at two o’clock Sunday morning. Gen. Tyler, (he who blundered into an attack without orders, on Friday,) went to the right to make a feint, while the main column under Gen. McDowell, went around to their left in order to turn them. This we reached by a newly cut road through a forest, and commenced the attack about 8 o’clock in the forenoon. Our brigade was held in reserve. After the enemy had been driven from one position to take up another on the brow of a hill, in a word, after the New York Zouaves had made an assault and were scattered in disorder, we were called upon. We went forward, under a perfect shower of shot and shell for more than a mile, over the dead and wounded, in double quick, till we reached a valley beyond. The enemy stood concealed by a thick wood. Here we formed our line. The 4th (our own 4th, we are proud of her,) together with the 2nd Vermont, were ordered forward to make the assault and support a battery on the hill above. When we arrived there our battery had been silenced, and we were received by the enemy from a concealed thicket with volley after volley of rifle, while on our right and left were batteries in position to rake our lines both ways. Nothing but their rapid, and consequently inaccurate firing saved us from being cut all up. We maintained out position in this situation, unsupported by a single battery, for more than three quarters of an hour, when we were ordered to retreat. The 4th was the last to leave the field, and acquitted itself, as I predicted it would, most nobly.

Many regiments…[significant missing text]…of our boys did nobly, whose names in due time, will come before the public.

I regret that Capt. Bean was wounded before we made our charge, by a spent cannon ball, which bruised his leg considerably. He is doing well. Lt. Burd was also slightly wounded in the head, and is taken prisoner. Lt. Clark of company G, was killed while retreating, and just before reaching Centreville. Sergeant Major S. H. Chapman was instantly killed by a rifle ball through the heart. He fell by my side, and I watched the death shadow as it passed over his face, driving the blush of life from his cheek, and mantling it with the hue of death. It was the work of a moment. He never spoke. He was a noble fellow, and popular with the regiment. E. O. Maddocks, of company I, was wounded in the leg and left on the field. We hope he was cared for. He was a brave fellow. R. H. Gray, also of company I, was wounded in the arm and side, and left within their lines. We hope he is safe. It was impossible to bring them off. These were all good men and true.

The following is a list of the killed, wounded and missing in the 4th regiment M. V. M., as correctly as I can obtain them:

KILLED.

Lieut. Clark, Co G.
Lt. Major S. H. Chapman, (Staff)

Co. A.

Privates Sanford Sylvester, Geo S Sylvester and Elisha W Ellis.

Co. B.

Privates Ashael Towne, W B Fletcher and C C Fernald.

Co. C.

Privates Chas Smart and Dennis Canning

Co. D.

Privates J E Sparkhawk, W B Foss, Joseph E Starbird and Thos Horne.

Co. E.

Privates E E Hall, F J Stetson and Enos Clark

Co. G.

Privates Jos Wright and Freeman Shaw

Co. H.

Privates G F Cunningham, Jos Trim, —- West, W Cooper, G W Anderson, Miles Jackson and H B Washburn.

Co. I.

Privates E O Maddox severely wounded and missing, R H Gray, do., [since escaped.]

WOUNDED.

Co. A.

Privates Wm Kenduck and —- Bullen.

Co. B.

Privates —- Titus, Chas Sawyer and —- Marshall.

Co. C.

Privates S P Vose, S Heath and S P Pease.

Co. D.

Privates J A Simmons and Jos Norton, Jr.

Co. E.

Privates E J Hilton and H A Calligan.

Co. F.

Capt. Bean, Lieut. Burd, H A Calligan and E J Barlow.

Co. G.

Privates Freeman Shaw, J. Clark, Lorenzo Brigdon, Edward Jones, Sewall Seavy and E. B. Carr.

Co. H.

Privates William Fointai, J L Young and D Clough.

Co. I.

Privates Frank Forbes, Roscoe Trivet, L Temple, Joan Malano, C C Grey, James Trimbell, F W Porter and J M Wiswell, (all slightly.)

Co. K.

Privates E Redman and —- Bisbee.

MISSING.

Patrick Black, —- Lamb, M G Gowen, W D Woodcock, Thos S Grey, C F Merrill, D J Melay, G W Chatton, C P Perry, L Richards, H B Story, H Haskell, A Robinson, F Hull, Geo Osgood, Wm Packard, Joseph Mahoney, R G Bickford, E H Rowell, H A Delano, S Marston, C R Brookings, S P Dickerson, J E Boynton, Freeman Shaw, Thomas Knights, Miles Jackson and H Washburn.

The above is a complete list of the killed, wounded and missing in our regiment. I have no need to write more. The result of the day you have read and had from a thousand sources. It was bad enough. Our loss would have been small in material, had not the panic seized our men. It was mainly got up by members of congress and senators, assisted by reporters for the press. We have suffered quite enough already from these gentlemen, and if we cannot put a stop to their further interference, we shall force them to stop at home. As soon as the battle grew thick, they began a retreat. This frightened the teamsters, and they cut loose from wagons, and soon the panic became general. On M. C. (Ely) was taken. If we could exchange the balance at Washington for the poor soldiers captured, I think it might be for the advantage of the country. Why do they not go home? I hope another expedition will not be started till they do, and leave Gen, Scott free to manage the campaign to his liking. If congress would adjourn and the N. Y. Tribune could be suppressed, we might go forward with some hope of success. Till then I will make no further prediction. A great feeling is arising against the present cabinet among the republicans, which may tend to a revolution in it.

It is unnecessary for me to say that McDowell blundered. This is the old story. If these blunders are to be often repeated we had better go home. Gen. McClellan is coming, and great confidence is reposed in him. We trust that matters will now take a turn.

4th.

Republican Journal (Belfast, ME), 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Samuel S. Hersey, Jr., Co. K, 4th Maine Infantry, On the Battle

10 01 2018

Military Correspondence.

———-

[Letter from private Hersey, of Co. J*, to a friend, – interesting because the writer only tells what he saw.]

Bush Hill, Alexandria, July 27th, ‘61.

Dear Frank: Your letter came to hand day before yesterday at which time I was too much exhausted to reply. I will try now and give you an account of the battle, that is, what I saw of it. Our Brigade not arriving on the field until about three o’clock, I don’t of course know much about the first of it.

We were marched three or four days before hand to a field about one mile from Centreville, and there encamped. Saturday we were ordered to have three day’s rations in our haversacks, and be ready to march at 5 o’clock; this order was afterwards changed to 3 o’clock Sunday morning.

At 3, then, we formed in the road and took up the line of march. We were detained just this side of Centreville for two or three hours from some cause unknown to me, but at last we started at quick time and kept it up for about four miles. Then we were detained again waiting for the cavalry two or three hours more; all this time we could hear firing away off on our front and left. When the forward next began, the order came “Right shoulder shift arms” – “Double quick,” and the double quick was kept up until we reached the battle field; they would halt us a few seconds to breathe, and then came the dog trot again. When we got there the day was decided, but our officers were determined to have a hack at them. We marched up the road and formed the line at the foot of a long hill or ridge, and then went up the hill in line. When we reached the top our lines were broken by the retreat of our own cavalry, who went through us pell mell. One said, “For God’s sake don’t go up there for they have got a rifle battery posted so as to sweep the hill.” But we did go up, and from the top I got the first view I had of the enemy.

They were drawn up on our front and right in a body of woods; directly in front at about half a mile from us they had a battery of 6 pounders, while on the left of our front they had a large body of sharpshooters thrown out along a fence and lying behind it. Their fire was terrible, and for nearly an hour our Brigade alone and unsupported held them good play. Men fell at times like apples from a wind shaken tree.

Three times we were beaten back by the storm of iron and lead, and three times we charged back again. The general retreat began when we were beaten back the first time, but we did not notice that. In the last rally a little fellow in front of me was shot through the chest, another near me through the arm, still another in the hand; at the same volley a slug passed through my trowsers without touching me.

Our colors have five holes in them, and the standard bearer was shot through the hand. Our Brigade now joined in the retreat. I lingered behind, helping a wounded man, and that was the last I saw of the Brigade until the following Tuesday.

There never was anything so disorderly and disgraceful as our retreat. Had the enemy followed us with any force we should have been cut off. I came across half a dozen of our boys carrying our 5th sergeant, who was shot through the body, and stopped with them; we got him on a cavalry horse by the could not stand the rough motion, and at last we got him on a large white horse along with a fellow from Minn., who was shot through the neck. The enemy’s cavalry coming down the road we had to take to the woods.

At last our artillery formed at Centreville and drove them back. All our fellows kept dropping off, and at last I was left with the wounded man and a Minnesotian, who would not leave his chum. To make the story sort, I got him to the hospital – had the ball extracted, and the next day started from Centreville, and walked to Alexandria through the worst rain storm I have seen here yet, a distance of twenty miles.

That we were whipped, I do not wonder, for we had but 20 regiments in the fight, while detachments of men were coming to the enemies assistance about all the time; at any rate they numbered 90,000 men at the last action.

The Fire Zouaves fought like demons, I am told by witnesses. Once when the cavalry charged them they met them half way and drove them. They are splendid fellows, and fear is a word to them unknown. I tell you, Frank, there will be drafting in the State of Maine yet, and a good deal of it too. In my opinion this war will last a good while. The South is up as well as the North, and can make resistance, and will; our way will be contested inch by inch.

Yours truly,

Sam.

[Extracts from other letters of young Hersey, private in company J]

Aug 1. “I couldn’t help laughing at the lady’s account, who said our regiment were trampled to death. Never believe that kind of talk again. Cavalry are not half as dangerous as they look, and they can’t do a thing in the woods, or on broken ground, or where fences are plenty. A body of cavalry, [Black Horse Cavalry,] charged on the Ellsworth Zouaves. The Zouaves opened their ranks and ”took ‘em in.’ Some went out alive. There cannot be anything imagined half so full of fight as a Zouave. They charged again and again, and piled up the rebels in heaps.” “Our regiment [the 4th] has now got its battery of six rifled cannon, and any kind of horses, so that we can lick blazes out of the rebels the next time.” “All the Grays got safely back, save sergeant Walker, who is wounded and prisoner. I see the Journal has got it that Bill Gardner is wounded, but that is a mistake. He was not in the fight, but was in the hospital at Georgetown. He is doing well.” “The rebels take as good care of our wounded as of their own, and as they captured a lot of our surgeons, they have doctors enough.” “If ever the 4th is in action in another fight, don’t believe every clock and bull story, for they will exaggerate.” “I found that old deed, [which we spoke of last week,] in a chest among a lot of old papers, evidently the accumulation of a century. Some of the documents were on parchment. I took only an old book on Masonry and the deed. The house must have been owned by some rich old chap, by the look of things. It is on the same street with the Marshall House, where Ellsworth was killed.” “We are now in the best of quarters.’ “one of their rifle balls passed through my trowsers leg just below the knee, but did not touch the hide.”

Belfast (ME) Republican Journal, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*The 4th Maine, like all Union infantry regiments, had no Co. J. Records for Hersey were found in Co. K.

Samuel S. Hersey, Jr at Ancestry.com

Samuel S. Hersey, Jr. at Fold3

Samuel S. Hersey, Jr. at FindAGrave.com (likely) 





Capt. Silas M. Fuller, Co. K, 4th Maine Infantry, On the Battle

9 01 2018

Military Correspondence.

———-

[Extracts from a letter from Capt. S. M. Fuller]

Bush Hill, Va., July 29th, 1861.

Lieutenant Carter with some men have gone this afternoon to build a bridge, as we are to have artillery and cavalry attached to our brigade. It probably will be some time before we make another push for the enemy. I hope so at any rate; and also hope that the Tribune and other papers will let Gen. Scott have his way, and not try to crowd more the troops into war, until everything is prepared. The rebels are well fortified with masked entrenchments and forts.

At the battle we had, the rebels rushed on, with thirty thousand troops against our two thousand, and our troops on the retreat too, when our brigade arrived.

If they had followed us up they could have shot or taken us all, as our troops were thoroughly used up. A few minutes after we left the hill, there was a perfect line on it, who discharged their guns, but without much effect.

It is said the picket guard of the enemy are very near us now. One of my men says he was out about three miles, and saw four men; one of them beckoned to him; he proved to be an Alabama Lt. with whom he was acquainted when in California. He talked about an hour with him; then they ordered him to come as his prisoner. He went with them a few steps, until he saw four more on horses, and he also saw a good chance to run, which he did for the thick wood, they firing some thirty times at him, and chasing him with horses. He thinks that when he fired he wounded the Lieut. When he returned he had a ball through his canteen, and his fingers hurt a little.

We have some five or six regiments camped about us. The third Maine regt. buried a man to-day, who died of diphtheria.

Wm. Gardner is at Georgetown hospital yet; he is sick with a fever, but is getting better. I have about ten sick to-day, but none dangerously. They will probably be well in a day or two. The rest are well.

I have heard nothing of Walker. Mr. Bisbee was promoted to-day to Sergeant Major.

Belfast (ME) Republican Journal, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Silas M. Fuller resigned as Lieut. Col. of the regiment March 1, 1862.

Silas M. Fuller at Ancestry.com

Silas M. Fuller at Fold3

Silas Fuller at FindAGrave.com (likely) 





Col. Hiram Berry, 4th ME Infantry, On the March to Manassas and the Battle

17 01 2012

[A series of letters from Col. Hiram G. Berry, 4th Main Infantry]

Headquarters 4th Maine Vols.,

Camp Knox, Fairfax County, Va., July 13, 1861.

Since writing my last we have moved onward apace. We are now encamped on the east side of Alexandria and Manassas Gap railroad, near the town of Fairfax. I am well and never experienced so good a climate as this of Virginia. The country through which we have passed since we left Alexandria is one of the finest imaginable. The plantations are of the medium size, of about 1,000 acres on the average. Houses large, airy, comfortable and well arranged. Most of the people are to my mind secessionists. ‘Tis sad indeed to see so fine a country in so bad a fix; nevertheless, no help for it now but to fight it out. We move forward again in a day or two from five to ten miles. The whole line is some eighteen miles long, and advances at the same time. Our route is down the railroad spoken of above, on its eastern side, or its left flank.  We build bridges as we go along, and also a telegraph. The regiment is in fine health and works hard. I am at work from four in the morning till eleven at night, sleep on the ground and am as well as ever in my life. I dress in blue flannel, have also uniformed my entire regiment in same manner. All feel better since they put on flannel.  ‘Tis the only fit thing to wear in this climate.

———-

Headquarters 4th Regiment, Maine Vols.

Fairfax Station, July 15, 1861.

We are under marching orders and leave at three o’clock this afternoon with three days’ food in haversacks Baggage of all kinds, tents, everything left behind. The whole line, some 18 miles, advances today. We form its left wing. I hope all will be well with us, and trust in God it will be.

———-

Camp Knox, two and one-half miles from Fairfax Court House,

July 18, 1861.

(Written by camp-fire.)

We are now two and one-half miles from Fairfax Court House, on south side, having turned the enemy’s position and taken some twenty prisoners. They report the main column to have left over two hours before us. We have taken their camp, tents, 200 barrels of flour, bacon, sugar, tea, etc. — a pretty good show for hungry men. Captain Walker’s men took possession of these works, called Fairfax Station, in the name of the United States, and the 4th Regiment in particular. The works consist of three earth batteries or breastworks, with no guns. They were constructed to cover infantry, and in good style. My men are in excellent condition. We have fifty axe-men to clear the way, as the enemy have felled trees across the road, torn down bridges, etc. We clear the way, make the roads, scout the country for half a mile ahead, and advance main column. My men work like tigers, and are the admiration of all the army officers. We have one thirty-two and two twenty-eight pound rifle cannon, mounted on carriages, with ammunition, etc.  My men (under command, of course,) have dragged these guns the last twelve miles. The army men who had them in charge got them stuck in a dreadful ravine — hills one-half mile on each side — and gave them up. The Massachusetts 5th tried a hand and gave up also. Colonel Heintzelman said he would try the 4th Maine Regiment and they would bring them if power could do it. I got the request and dispatched Bean and Carver, with their companies, and went also myself. We manned the guns, made our arrangements, and in one-half hour had them at the top of the hill, and turned them over to Colonel Heintzelman in front of the earthworks of the enemy, having dragged them ten miles.

Long roll sounds to fall in. We are now only eight miles from Manassas Gap, and bound thither, enemy in front all the way, trees across the roads, bridges all burned, etc. Hard labor to clear the way. We shall take position in the rear of the enemy to cut off retreat. The left wing, in which we are, has to march in a circuitous road in consequence. I have not yet had an accident of any kind in the regiment since I left Portland. The Fifth lost two men by accident yesterday. Regimental organization stronger every day. New York Fire Zouaves are with us. They are a fine body of men, and the strongest ties of friendship exist between them and this regiment.

Morning — No more now; I am ordered to march.

———-

Alexandria, July 23, 1861.

I am here again with my regiment, acting under orders, having arrived last evening amidst a most pitiless rain storm. We broke camp at Fairfax, near a place called Claremont on Thursday morning at two o’clock, marched to a spot near Centerville, some fourteen miles and located. Stayed there Thursday, Friday and through Saturday.  On this last march we drove some 5,000 of the enemy before us. Sunday morning at half-past one o’clock, we broke camp and marched with the main column of some 30,000 men to attack the enemy at a place called Bull Run, some fourteen miles distant. The brigade my regiment was in was halted till two P. M. some six miles from battlefield to act as a reserve, to go when needed. At that time we moved forward to join our own division, which was having a dreadful light. We moved at double-quick time in one of the most melting of days. Men threw away everything except their guns and equipments, and arrived on the field in less than an hour. The ammunition of our artillery gave out, and also of the regiments which had been in action. The ammunition trains for some reason did not get up to us. We were ordered into position at once, and stood our ground until ordered off by General McDowell. We stood the fire about one hour, holding the enemy in check till the retreat of the main body took place, and we were ordered to move. Two full batteries of the enemy played upon us and if the shot had been well aimed, it would have been worse for us. As it is, it is bad enough — sergeant-major shot through the heart, twenty-five privates killed, three company officers wounded, (Bird, Bean and Clark,) two prisoners, sixty-odd wounded, some very slightly, one hundred and nineteen missing; most of these, however, will soon be in.

My regiment fought bravely and stood their ground manfully. T have no cause of complaint in that respect. We marched fifty miles without halting except to tight a battle — without sleep also. I have lost everything. No change of clothing — nothing. Lost one of my horses, the best one — killed. Say to General Titcomb that one of my flags was carried through the fight — the stars and stripes presented in New York. It is riddled with bullets. I have done my best and my whole duty, as I hope. I am sorry indeed to have lost so many, many men in a losing affair. Not less than 3,000 killed and wounded on our side and prisoners — say twice as many more of the enemy. The victory was ours up to one-half hour of our arrival on the ground. At that time the enemy was reinforced by 17,000 men, and that fact together with the failure of ammunition lost the battle. Our part was to fight, and cover as far as possible the retreat.

I am well, but exhausted, and my men are nearly so. I will mention names of men belonging to Rockland killed :

Company B — Asahel Towne, B. W. Fletcher, Chas. O. Fernald.

Company C — Dennis Canning, P. H. Tillson, S. P. Vose, Jarvis B. Grant.

Company D — J. A. Sparlock, Wm. B. Foss, Geo. C. Starbird, James Bailey.

Company H — G. F. Cunningham, James Finn, West W. Cook, E. W. Anderson.

 ———-

Claremont, Va.

Undated

My health is better than for the past two weeks. I feel quite the thing again. I have not been sick, but somewhat exhausted, growing out of the fatigues consequent upon the movements of two weeks ago. The regiment is now getting over in a measure its recent troubles. I hope they will soon be themselves again. Never was a braver set of men than those who went into battle under my command. They were perfectly cool, did exactly as I wanted, obeyed all my orders and behaved nobly. They should have the thanks of those they battled for and I doubt not will have them. As for my poor self, I tried to do my whole duty. Strange as it may seem to you I was no more excited than ordinarily when in earnest. I did not believe I should be hit in any way, and I did not think of it at all. My mind was occupied by my command entirely. Men fell all around me, killed and wounded. The ground was covered with men and horses, some mine and some of other regiments, who had passed over the same ground. Chapman left me only one minute before he was shot. He came for orders to my post by the Regimental colors; asked for orders with a smile. I gave them, he extended his hand, we exchanged blessings, he cautioned me against unnecessary exposure, and we parted for the last time. He was shot through the heart immediately on resuming his post.

I shall come out all right I have no doubt; shall do my whole duty, and I never again, probably, shall be placed in such a position should the war last for years as that at Bull Run.

You ask me if reports are true concerning carrying the flag, etc. I do not care to say much about myself; I leave that to others. My color-sergeant was shot in the battle. I did carry the flag throughout the entire engagement. It was my post in battle beside or near it. I at once raised it after it fell. Poor flag ! ‘Tis indeed a sorry looking concern for one so pretty when presented. Cannon shot and musketry have well-nigh ruined it, but torn as it is, it is the pride of the regiment. My labor has been to get the confidence of my men, their entire confidence on all occasions. I think I have succeeded, and whilst I am severe on them in the discharge of their duties, nevertheless I try to take care of them in all emergencies. I do not believe there will be any more engagements for some time, and then when they do come it will be principally with artillery.

Major-General Hiram G. Berry: His Career as a Contractor, Bank President, Politician and Major-General of Volunteers in the Civil War Together with His War Correspondence Embracing the Period from Bull Run to Chancellorsville, by Edward K. Gould, pp. 57 – 59, 65, 67-68.

Thanks to reader Terry Johnston