War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 4]


War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 4]


Bethel News, Vol. 2, No. 35


January 27, 1897



The transcribed text below may include some minor changes in punctuation, capitalization, and spelling to improve readability.



Full Text


Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment.

By Col. Clark S. Edwards

number iv

General Hooker directed General Sedgwick to move with the Sixth Corps toward Chancellorsville, and he with the main army on the one side and Sedgwick on the other, would use Lee up. Brooks' division, in which was the Fifth Maine regiment, took the lead and advanced as far as Salem Church, passing through Fredericksburg on the Gordonsville Plank Road.

When a short distance from the city, we halted and ate our hardtack, having had nothing to eat for twelve hours. After a rest of half an hour or more, for the other division to come up, the order came to fall in. We were soon in line and advancing, though we had gone but a short distance when the enemy was encountered. A line of battle was at once formed. The rebel pickets were driven back and the battle begun in earnest on the extreme right. The Fifth Maine was in the front line on the left in Bartlett Brigade.

Gradually the fight came toward us, and it was not long before we were hotly engaged, our line having been swung around, so that we were within seventy-five or a hundred yards of Salem Church, in a thick growth of small timber. While waiting here, the order was given to lie down flat upon the ground with muskets loaded and capped ready for the terrible storm that was about to break upon us.

Such a murderous fire was poured upon us only two other occasions, May 10, 1864, Spotsylvania Court House, and on May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania, Bloody Angle. As that noble regiment, the 121st New York, fell back, there remained on our right but one small regiment, the 96th Pennsylvania.

In a short time the Fifth Maine was the only regiment on line of battle. As we lay there, we could distinctly hear the rebel forces running to get round our left flank. Realizing the great danger of this movement, we gave the order, "Up! Fire low! Ready! Fire!" A deafening volley was discharged. The next order was "Load and fire as fast as possible." A minute later Adj. General R. P. Wilson, of General Bartlett's staff, rode up to our line, saying, "For God's sake, Colonel, get your men out of this as quickly as possible, for you are nearly surrounded." As he turned to ride away his horse was shot from under him.

The order was given to fall back, which was promptly obeyed, though a sharp fire upon the foe was kept up till the main line was reached. The regiment fell back thirty or forty rods. We then rallied and reformed our lines, opening fire on the enemy, who had followed us across an open field, driving them back into the woods, where they were shelled by our batteries of 24 guns for forty-five minutes or more, in the vicinity of Salem Church. During the engagement, so hotly and severely contested, when excitement was at its height, more than one soldier neglected to withdraw his ramrod from his gun, firing it with the bullet.

To say that the men of the Bethel Company with others performed this day deeds of which our people may well be proud, but partly tells the story of the bravery and heroism displayed. During the day the regiment lost one third of the members with which we started in the morning, the loss being one hundred and one.

As night came on we fell back nearly a hundred rods and bivouacked for the night, with no covering but that of the heavens. The few survivors of the Bethel Company will ever remember that fatal 3rd of May, and the battle of Salem Church. It was here that Edward G. Sturgis of Walker's Mills was killed. Sturgis joined the Company in November 1861. As many of our people may not know who he was, I will say that he was a brother of the wife of the late Hosea Ripley at Walker's Mills. Sturgis was a good soldier and bravely did his duty.

James Miller of the Bethel Company was killed in the second line of battle. He joined the Company while in camp at White Oak Church, Va., soon after the first battle Fredericksburg under Burnside. His native place was Plymouth, Mass. I remember him as a boy of sixteen. He was always ready to do his part in camp or battle, and it was a mystery to me why he should leave that old, old town in Massachusetts, to enlist in a company made up so largely from the hills of Oxford county. Among the many who were severely wounded at Salem Church was Charles Dunham, who enlisted in the Bethel Company, May 1, 1861. He was living in Mason at the time of his enlistment, though we regarded him almost as a Bethel boy, he having been in my employ in 1857, when the Greenwood road was built. Dunham was a soldier who bravely and cheerfully did his duty. Soon after the close of the war, he accepted a responsible position in the light house department, and was stationed near Boston for several years. He is now living in Mason on the road leading to North Albany. His wife is the daughter of N.G. Mills of Mason.

At Salem Church Samuel N. Peabody[1] and two or three other members of the Company were slightly wounded.

On Sunday morning, this third of May, Brooks' division numbered 7000 men for duty, at seven o'clock; twelve hours later, the division could not have mustered 4000. I still mourn for lost ones who fell that fatal third of May, one of whom I will speak of in my next number.

While in camp near Fort Lyon, Corporal Anger J. Mitchell[2] of Mexico died Sept. 2, 1861, being the first man to die in camp from the Company. Mitchell joined the Company in Portland, being one of the men selected from the Bryant's Pond Company. He was a stout, robust fellow at the time of his enlistment, but one of the first to break down. He did very little duty after the battle of Bull Run. At the time of his death, I went to Washington and got permission of General Mansfield, who was in charge of the Transportation Department, to have his remains sent to his home in Maine.

Albert K. Perry, son of Samuel Perry of West Paris, was the second man of the Bryant's Pond squad to die in the hospital. He was sick for some time at Mount Eagle, and was finally carried to Washington, where he died Sept. 13, 1862. He was a young man of seventeen or eighteen years of age at the time of his death. He had excellent habits and exemplary character, giving promise of a noble manhood, had his young life been spared.

On August 7, 1862, the Company lost James C. Ayer, who died in the camp hospital near Harrison's Landing. Ayer was a son of Timothy Ayer, who lived near the old church at Bean's Corner. Camp fever was the cause of his death. He was one of the first men to enlist in the Bethel Company, and was ever ready to respond to the call of duty. He was a true and trusted soldier, and was deservedly popular among his comrades. He was buried near Fortress Monroe, if I am not mistaken.

The next member of the Company who died in the hospital was Aaron F. Jackson. He came from Gorham, N.H., with Milo C. Walker and Nelson Rice, May 6th or 7th, 1861, and was one of our members when we left Bethel. His home was near Quebec. He cheerfully did whatever was required, either in camp or battle. He died in the Lincoln hospital Jan. 3, 1863.[3]

Sergeant Levi W. Dolloff of the Company died at Fairfax hospital, Camp Franklin, Va., early in 1862.[4] He was a native of Rumford, though he was working for the Grand Trunk Railroad Co., at Gorham, N. H., I think, at the beginning of the war. He came to Bethel with three or four others, and joined the Company, being one of the number who left our station on that memorable May morning in 1861.

Permission was given me by General Mansfield to send his remains to his home in New Hampshire. Many of our people attended the funeral at Gorham, where he was buried.

Dolloff was a man who made many friends. His comrades were deeply moved by his untimely death. Had he lived through the war, his record would doubtless have been a brilliant one, judging from the faithful and heroic service that he rendered while with us.

[to be continued.]

[1] Probably Samuel A. Peabody of Gilead.

[2] “Anger” is also the spelling given on the Adjutant General’s Report for 1861, but in other places, the spelling is “Angier.”

[3] According to an entry on the website findagrave.com, Jackson was born in Andover (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=33636148&ref=acom). Official records give his precise death date as January 4, 1863.

[4] More precisely, on January 16, 1862.