Typo, Co. B, 5th Maine Volunteer Infantry, On the Battle

20 01 2020

ARMY CORRESPONDENCE.
———-

Alexandria, Va., July 25th, 1862

Mr. Cowan – Sir: – The events of the last few days seem more like a gloomy dream than a reality. Only a few days since a splendid and well-appointed army left the vicinity of this place with light hearts and light footsteps, convinced that their cause was right – confident that the right would conquer – to-day, the men composing that army (some, tho’, lay stretched on the field of battle) are here – as an army they are gloomy and sad – as soldiers they are disgusted with the incapacity of some of those to whom their lives and honor were entrusted.

I do not know whether an account of the unfortunate engagement fought on Sunday last, of which this state of things is the result, will interest you.

The 5th Maine regiment left their camping-ground, 1 ½ miles from Centreville, at 2 o’clock on Sunday morning. No drum beat the reveille, but the men were quietly awakened and formed by companies with as little noise and confusion as possible. As soon as the ranks were formed, every man assured himself that his musket was properly loaded and capped, and that his equipments were all in order. – This done, each company formed a hollow square, for the purpose of receiving a few words of instruction and caution from the officers commanding them. The Biddeford company was this formed, and Capt. Goodwin, in a few brief words, impressed upon his men the necessity of maintaining their ranks intact, and of paying the strictest attention to every order given.

The command “forward” was soon given, and the 5th, preceded by the 4th Me. and followed by the 3d, took up the line of march for Centreville. The men were in good spirits, and full of pleasant anticipations of victory, and of a first rate time in Richmond. A march of 20 minutes brought us to the foot of the hill, upon which the dirty little collection of houses called Centreville is located, and here we were ordered to halt, in order to allow some regiments belonging to another division to pass to the front. We remained halted about an hour, then resumed our march. As we reached the top of the hill, and cast our eyes to the right, to the left, to our front, and to our rear, it was impossible not to be forcibly impressed with the grandeur of the scene around us. – The country, so far as the eye could reach, appeared literally covered with troops, dressed in every imaginable variety of uniforms, from the bright, glossy colors of the zouaves to the somber gray of the volunteers; while the incessant glittering and flashing of thousands and thousands of bayonets and sabres in the morning sunbeams, was perfectly dazzling. It was a sight calculated to inspire every heart with confidence, and out troops must not be too much blamed for anticipating an easy victory. It is not to be wondered at that the men who saw those columns advancing with the steadiness of veterans, should feel confident that the sun, just then rising in the East, would set with the stars and stripes waving from the rebel entrenchments. They did not know they had no General.

On our way through Centreville we passed the building used as a hospital for those wounded in the engagement of the Thursday previous. Many of the poor fellows were at the doors and windows; their pale, wan faces looking bright in anticipation of (as they believed) the splendid victory to be achieved that day. – “We should like to be with you,” said one, “but – “ and as he uttered the last word, he glanced down at his leg which had been shattered by a grape shot.

Passing a short distance beyond the village, the troops filed to the left. Our brigade proceeded about 2 ½ miles down the road, when the word “halt” was given, and the men received permission to fall out and rest under the shade of the trees which skirted the roadside. We were then in front of the enemy’s position, and about half a mile from them. We had remained here, some three-quarters of an hour, when the report of a cannon towards the front told us that the ball had been opened. It was soon followed by another – and another. – In half an hour the cannonading had become general, and the stillness of the Sabbath forenoon was broken by the booming of the heavy guns – the dull explosion of the shells, and the rattling of musketry. Our brigade soon became impatient, and cries such as “What are they stopping for?” “Why don’t they move us on?” was heard on all sides. Some of our mounted officers rode to the front, among them Major Hamilton of the 5th. He soon returned, and stated that he had seen our mortars plant three shells in the midst of the “devils,” at the same time expressing his belief that our artillery was “using them up” rapidly. Shortly after a mounted negro came from the direction of the front. His mouth was distended with the broadest of grins, as he yelled that the seccessionsists had run up a flag of truce. From that time our men made up their minds there was not fighting for them. All they would have to do would be to pursue the rebels at the close of the fight, and secure the prisoners; and this impression was uppermost in the minds of the men composing the brigade, until their arrival, two hours afterwards, upon the field of battle, in rear of enemy’s position. There, they found, unfortunately, that the prisoners were likely to be made on the wrong side.

We received orders at 10 ½ A. M. to proceed by a circuitous route in rear of the rebel position. In order to do this we had to traverse a distance of nine miles. This distance was accomplished in less than two hours. The day was intensely hot, the road was of the worst possible description, the troops were heavily laden with their arms, ammunition, equipments and blankets; they were worn out with want of sleep, and want of food, and out of the 900 men that commenced the march, only 150 were able at first to form in line of battle, and those more than half dead with fatigue.

We wish we could describe that march, but we can’t – it was perfectly indescribable. For the first four miles not a man fell out, though the dust almost choked us, and our tongues were parched with thirst; but when, on entering a field that had been recently plowed, the order “Double quick” was given for the third or fourth time, men who had struggled hard to keep up felt that they could do no more, and soon a long line of stragglers was seen in rear of the column, slowly dragging their weary bodies along, while many others lay gasping and fainting by the roadside. In vain our Adjutant exclaimed, “You’ll all be shot down like dogs.” In vain Col. Dunnell cried, “Not another man leave the ranks!” The voice of exhausted nature demanded rest. We left the ranks with one or two others, about two miles from the battle-field. After a tedious search, we found a thick mud puddle. No mine of gold, at the moment, could have more delighted our eyes. No fears of cholera morbus prevented us from drinking freely of the putrid, stagnant fluid. How it refreshed us! By its aid we were able to join the main body of the regiment about half a mile from the battlefield. The main body of the 5th then consisted of about 200 men ! the 4th probably had 300, and the 3d about the same number as the 5th.

As we neared the scene of action we were met by the remains of a Mass. Regiment which had just been severely handled by the seessionists. We asked them eagerly “How goes the battle?” They replied, for what reason we cannot tell, “the rebels are retreating. We have them whipped completely.” You should have heard the shout that went up from our too credulous brigade, “Onward! Onward! we heard on all sides, Onward, or we shall lose them.” All fatigue was forgotten, all other thoughts swallowed up in the desire to get one shot at the enemy before they could escape. But we were destined soon to be undeceived. An ambulance wagon, full of wounded and dying men, followed by another and another until the number swelled to twenty, making all haste to the rear, did not seem to us a very conclusive token of victory. As we emerged from the woods on our left which concealed us from the battle field, another disorderly squad of New Yorkers met us. Their faces were smeared with blood and blackened with gunpowder. There was an expression of sadness on their faces as they said, “Hurry up boys, they want you badly there.” Another moment and we were in the field. It is a hard thing to describe a battle-field. We saw a battery on our right and on our left and one in front, or rather we saw clouds of smoke and flashes of fire where those batteries were planted.

Thick volumes of smoke, flashes of fire, dead and wounded men, strewn thickly round, broken gun carriages, bullets singing and whistling in all directions, musketry rattling, cannons booming, shells bursting – this is what we saw and heard as we crossed the field towards the cover of a little wood, where we were to form for the attack. There was a little brook near the wood; several of us went there to drink, while the remainder rested for a few moments. We looked around us, as we have said, there was a battery on our right, on out left, and to our front, all playing with the greatest regularity and precision, while all of our troops in sight appeared to be disorganized and in confusion. For our artillery we looked in vain, that was in the hands of the rebels. We could not help coming to the conclusion that the battle was lost irretrievably.

We wondered what our task would be, whether they would lead our brigade of 800 or 900 against those almost invincible batteries, or whether they would suffer us to remain there until the enemy got our range and mowed us down like so much grass. We were glad when the command “5th fall in,” was given, for we were impatient to see what would be done next.

The regiment was formed in close column at half distance. Company B. had 32 men, and all its officers. Company F. we believe, had six men. Company B. was, by far, the strongest in the regiment. Almost as soon as we were formed, a tremendous rushing and crashing was heard in the woods on our left, and in an instant they appeared alive with men, belonging to several regiments. They were retiring in the utmost confusion. A cry arose, “It is the enemy retreating,” and in an instant a dozen men had left our ranks and sent as many bullets flying among them. Several fell. It was a sad mistake – a mistake too often made in this unhappy war. The retiring troops were the Ellsworth Zouaves and the Mass. 5th. “For God’s sake don’t fire upon your own men,” they cried. The firing ceased and we asked them why they fled. “We can do nothing with them,” said they. They passed to our rear; the secession troops following them, until they saw us, when they opened fire upon us, they, however, retreating to the cover of the bushes.

At this moment, a company of u. S. Cavalry retired in disorder, and their so doing occasioned a panic in our ranks. The 5th regiment, no, the colors of the 5th, flanked on either side by about 70 or 80 men, formed a line and commenced their advance through the woods. The balls flew thick, but the rebels committed the common mistake of firing high, hence our small loss. We traversed the wood and reached the open field beyond, there we expected to meet the enemy – no enemy was to be seen. The enemy had retired to a wood on the opposite side of the field, and from thence they sent numerous but ill-directed volleys (fortunately for us.) We halted in the middle of the field, and for fifteen minutes poured a continual storm of bullets into the woods, but of course we are utterly unable to estimate the effect of our shots. At length a battery of rifled cannon on our right having got in our range, it was thought best to retire; the order was given, and we retired, not in good order, nor in any particular order, but pell-mell, every man seeking his individual safety. When we reached the place where we had formed, we saw a sight which made us sick. Imagine five or six thousand men spread over a wide expanse of country in an inextricable state of confusion with dozens of shells and cannon balls flying in their midst; imagine four or five hundred men bleeding on the field, and you will have the last grand tableau of the battle of Bull Run. An account of the retreat in my next.

Yours, &c.

Typo

Biddeford (ME) Union & Journal, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, Co. B, 5th Maine Volunteer Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

17 01 2020

ARMY CORRESPONDENCE.
———-

Alexandria, Va., July 22, 1862

Friend P. S. B. : – Without doubt you have ere this, hear of the battle that took place on the 21st, therefore I shall not be able to five you much news; but thinking you would like to know what I saw, I take this opportunity to give you some idea of the same.

We were encamped about one mile from Centreville, on the eve of the 21st we got orders to march the next morning at 2 o’clock, accordingly we prepared to do so. Our Brigade was composed of the 3d 4th and 5th Maine and 3d Vermont regiments under the command of Col Howard (of the 3d Maine) acting as Brigadier General. We did not get our Brigade ready to move as soon as we expected, but about sunrise we were in motion – we marched a short distance and were ordered to come to a halt, here we were delayed about one hour, for another Brigade to pass – then we passed on, and about 9 o’clock we could hear in the distance the booming of cannon. I cannot say that I was very much in favor of the sound, yet there is much in the sound that is grand and I longed to be with those of my Country’s brave sons who so noble stood the charge against such odds. We were at this time about 3 miles from the scene of action, on the east of the field, and here we came to a halt for one hour, after which we took up a line of march around to the north and came up the west side, a distance of about ten I should judge, and the last four miles we were marched double quick which caused on half to fall out from exhaustion. Each man had his blanket, gun and haversack with three days rations in it, and a canteen of water, making a luggage of over thirty pounds. A large proportion threw them away except their guns, but mine I hung to. You know that I am used to the double quick, therefore it did not use me up as it did many of our Co., who have never belonged to the Triumph Engine Co., of Biddeford. We were now within sight of the enemy, and from this place to the scene of action, the roadside was lined with men, some dead, some wounded, and some exhausted, it will be impossible for me to give you the faintest idea of what I saw from this time until our retreat was ordered, some were brought away in wagons, and some were led away by their friends, and many were left on the field, yet I hop and trust that they have the best of care, even if they have fallen into the hands of the enemy.

We now had to cross a hill where the enemy had a raking fire on us – they having guns on our right and left, and be assured if a soldier has any man about him he will require it at moment like that, for my part, there was a strife within between fear and courage, courage got the best of it, and I made up my mind if I was to die, to die like a Imani, and from that time I felt no more fear. While marching under their fire I saw many shots that took effect, and some cannon balls struck within a few feet of our company but not a man flinched one inch, but we did not stop under quick time and when we had crossed the hill and got into the valley, then we halted to form into a line of Battle. It was now found that there was but 500 of the 5th in the line. Company B. had the most of any company in the regiment, and that numbered but 32 men, company A. of Gorham next, and that numbered 24 men. How so many men stood this march is more than I can tell, for the day was very warm and not half of those that started in the morning were fit to go.

We were the last regiment that went into the field, after we had formed into a line the Cavalry came rushing down from the battle shouting for us to run, which caused the right of our regiment to flee, but the left stood fast, we had to clime a hill in order to get where could do some fighting, it was covered with a thick growth of scrub pines, which made it very hard to climb, and when we got to the top there was not a rebel to be seen, there being a piece of woods about one hundred yards beyond they fled into it. So we marched up within fifty yards and poured one volley into it, and soon we saw them come out on the other side in hot haste. If we had had some good field pieces at that time we would have cut them up in good shape, but we could not reach them with our guns – this was all the fighting that we did.

I will now speak of the conduct of our brave officers, and them I will give you a short account of our retreat. First, I will speak of Capt. Goodwin, he was well nigh used up before we got to the field, and was not able to take command, but he went into the field with us, and was with us until our retreat, and had our march been anything but such quick time he would have had command.

Lieut. R. M. Stevens, he is a perfect brick, he was as cool as ever, and took us into the field and stood in our column until we were twice ordered to retreat. I tell you he is a brave man. And he looked like a hero, while his voice could be heard above the din of the battle, plain and distinct.

Lieut. S. M. Pilsbury is also all courage, he stood at his post and did not flinch one inch, but was as cool as ever. I do not think I could ever ask for more courage in officers than there is in company B., of the 5th. I have heard it often remarked since we have been here, that the coolest men in the field were our first and second Lieutenants and Major Hamilton, and I cannot pass further without speaking of him, of his coolness and bravery you will doubtless learn by the papers before you receive this, therefore I will just say that he rode into the field, dismounted and took his post, and stood there until he was ordered back with us, then he was the last to leave the field. The Brigadier-Gen. paid him his best compliments for his coolness and courage. I do not think that any account of other companies will be of much interest to you, therefore I will give you the account of our retreat.

We were ordered to retreat to Centreville, but the cavalry followed us so closely with their column that we were ordered to Fairfax. Our journey in the forenoon so nearly used me up that I felt as though it would be impossible for me to go so far, and the retreat was in such disorder that no company was together, and after going a short distance I found Lieutenant Stevens and Pilsbury, and we concluded to gas as far as we could and camp for the night, and on our way we found some of our boys and when we came to a halt we had fourteen in all. We had now marched about three miles and found that our retreat was cut off by the enemy, who fired upon us from a masked battery, but their shot did not take effect and there being a piece of woods near by we went into them, and come to the conclusion we would camp for the night. I threw of my blanket about one mile from the battle field, and when I returned I found it in the same place, and as we all had blankets we had a very comfortable nights rest. I woke up at 4 o’clock and found it was raining very hard, I woke up the rest and as we did not have any toilet to make, we were soon on a march to find our way clear of the woods, and after roving round to clear their guards and battery, we cam to a halt and held council, and came to the conclusion to send out a scout to learn if we could where we were. Lieut. Pilsbury and myself being decided upon we started, and went about one mile and seeing a man in the distance I left my gun with Lieut. And drew my trusty revolver and approached him, he proved to be a Slave, but was as bright as any white man I have ever seen; I asked him if he would show us the main road that led to Centreville, he consented to do so, and we went back where the rest of our little company were, and our guide came within on mile of Centreville with us and after a “God bless you” he left us. After we got to the village we went into a house and got some hot coffee which did us much good, altho’ we had hard bread with us yet we had no appetite for it. I think if I could have been seated at some of your tables in good old Biddeford I could have done justice to any amount of eatables.

We now found that all of our troops had gone to Fairfax Court House, a distance of seven miles, so again we started. From this place there was many on the road, some were wounded, and some were frightened. I saw one of the N. Y. Fire Zouaves that was wounded three times, once in his hip, once in his other leg, the ball passed quite through, and one of his arms was badly wounded, and yet he had walked 16 miles and said he should go to Alexandria, but he had the good luck to get a ride; I have seen him since and he is getting along well. We arrived at Fairfax in good spirits; but when we learned that our troops had gone to Alexandria it rather discouraged me, but we concluded to push on. Here at this place there was any amount of baggage all broken open, and the natives were helping themselves. We now had a journey of 14 miles before us, and after a little rest we started. We saw nothing on our journey that was of much interest, about 6 o’clock we arrived here after a march of 28 miles. It rained all through the day and we got almost as wet as could be. I cam to the conclusion if there was a feather bed in this town I would sleep on one. Lieut. Stevens being very footsore, he and I left the rest and went along together, and when we came to a house that we liked the looks of, we stopped and rapped, and soon found that we had made the acquaintance of a mulatto family of respectability, they gave us permission to stop with them, and the free use of anything that we wanted. We got a tub of water, soap and towel, and after we got through they had supper all ready, their supper consisted of corn cake, biscuit, boiled eggs, and hot coffee. And if ever I felt good it was after I got through with that mean. – Lieut. Pilsbury and Major Hamilton found us and we had a fine time with them. It still continued to rain, but we did not mind that now as we had got dry, and bout ten we retired and a better nights rest I never expect to have, and this morning I write to you in our little room the sun shines in and makes me think of days that I have spent in a room much like this far away. We are much better than many of our boys, for they had to take quarters in Halls and different places, but they could not play any Halls on me when I was hungry and wet.

Major Hamilton and Lieut. Pilsbury came up this morning and took breakfast with us, although they stop at a Hotel they like our place best, next time I write I will tell you more about this family that we are with. I do not think that any of our boys were killed or wounded, but if I had not had my haversack with me I should have been, I had it slung over my right shoulder which brough it on my left hip, it had three days rations of hard bread, tin dipper and tin plate in it, and a cannister shot took me fain in the sack went through the dipper, but the force was so nearly gone that the tin plate stopped it, yet it came very near knocking me down. I picked the ball up and put it into my pocket and shall send it to you with a Sharps Sabine Rifle that I took from the field with me belonging to some of the rebels, and if I should never return you can think of me when you see the gun. I have just seen to Orderly Sergeant of Co. B. and he says every man is safe or accounted for, and not more than twenty of the 5th is lost.

Biddeford (ME) Union & Journal, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

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.

———-

[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

Clipping Image

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 (1), 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

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy