War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 9]


War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 9]


Bethel News, Vol. 2, No. 40


March 3, 1897



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Full Text


Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment.

By Col. Clark S. Edwards

number ix

As soon as the artillery duel ended came Pickets' grand charge. The left of our regiment at the time lay where we could see nearly the whole move, and at no time during the war did we ever witness so exciting a scene in battle. Our artillery from the time they emerged from the woods where they formed, were pouring death into their ranks, but they steadily moved on across the open field some twelve or fifteen hundred yards without a break. Our batteries were plowing through their ranks with shot and shell, but they would close up as steadily as on review. They showed courage that was worthy of a much better cause. Perhaps in no battle during the war did our artillery do as much to gain victory as at Gettysburg. At Melvern Hill on the peninsular it was quite as destructive, but then it was to hold the enemy in check until our army got in position at Harrison's Landing.

I copy the following from a letter written home from Petersville, Md. July 16th, 1863:

We left Fairfax Court House Friday, June 26th, and I have not slept under cover since, have lain down just where night overtook us. One night on the battlefield of Gettysburg I slept on the soft side of a large rock, and when I awoke the rain was pouring down in torrents, and my blanket was completely wet through. I have written so much about the different battles that I do not know as I can interest you in describing the last great battle of Gettysburg. I could tell you of things that would make your heart ache, as it has often mine. I will say this, that the more battles we go into the more the poor wounded soldier is neglected. Hundreds and perhaps thousands lay on the field from Thursday until Sunday without water, food, or any care whatever, exposed to the parching sun and the watery heavens, as it would rain one minute and perhaps the next the sun would be so hot you could hardly endure it. An awful thing took place just in front of our line of battle. July 3rd, one of our shells exploded in a barn that was filled with the wounded of both sides, and it was soon on fire. I do not know how many of the poor fellows were burned. Last Sunday morning we broke camp at four o'clock and marched toward Funkstown. The Sixth Corps was in front after arriving at Gettysburg, until the rebels crossed over the Potomac. As soon as we passed the village we formed in line of battle and moved on towards Hagerstown, skirmishing with the enemy until within sight of the town. At this time we met the 11th Army Corps coming up on our right, and soon Killpatrick came into the town with his cavalry. Our Corps halted, but I had leave from the commander and went into town, the first one to enter the place. I can truly say that I never saw happier people than they appeared to be, flags and handkerchiefs were waved from almost every door and window. A squad of rebels had been there for three weeks and they now felt they were out of prison. As we went into town the rebels fired a few shot and shell at us, but none were hurt that I know of. Sunday afternoon we were moved off about a mile to the left, and then advanced toward the front about a half a mile. We sent out three companies of skirmishers with about the same number from all the regiments of the Brigade. They had to advance up quite a hill under a heavy fire, but drove in the rebel pickets with but little loss. I lost but three men, Frank Bean killed, Liuet. Packard wounded severely in the hip, Private Wentworth of Company C., in the shoulder and back. Bean was a member of my old Company, and was from the lower part of Bethel. Lieut. Packard was Second Lieut. of Company "I", and was from Hallowell. I lost no men at Gettysburg, and had but four or five wounded, two of the last five were of my old Company. I sometimes think the whole company will get used up, but few of the boys that left Maine with me are now in it. About twenty have been killed in battle or died in camp, and twice that number discharged, but "such is war." Sunday night we held all the ground we had gained, and Monday morning pushed them a little further. We remained in this position until Tuesday morning, when we learned they had left us. We followed them up to Williamsport and captured a few prisoners, remaining here for the night. Wednesday morning, July 12th, we faced about and came back as far as Boonsborough and camped for the night, coming by way of Bakersville, Sharpsburg and Kerdysville, passing the old Antietam battlefield, and near the spot where poor Harlan Brown fell. This morning, Thursday, at four o'clock we broke camp and came on over the mountain, where Burnside fought his battle the same time we were fighting under Franklin at Crampton Pass, but could see no marks of war, nor do I believe he had as hard a battle as we had at Crampton. We then came on by Middletown, thence down the valley to Petersville and here have gone into camp. I have my tent up for the first time in three weeks. We were near Burkettville this afternoon in full view of our old battlefield, Crampton Pass, where three of my old company are buried, those that were killed on the 14th of last September. I shall visit the sacred spot on the morrow if we are permitted to remain here, and it looks now as if we would be here for a day or two until the bridge is completed and supplies forwarded so we can move on again into Virginia.

Friday noon, We are still here in camp near Petersville, and do not know when or where we go next. It is raining hard today, and the mud is knee deep again. I slept with my clothes off last night for the first time in four weeks, so you can imagine something of how we have to get along. The Bethel boys are all as well as usual.

Camp on the field near Philemont, Va., July 21st, 1863.

Little did I think two years ago this day, that at this time I should be battling for my country. It was then we were at the first Bull Run fight; great changes have taken place since that time—then a few lives lost in battle and the country was in mourning, now the slain may be counted by the thousands, and in a few days or weeks at the most and it is forgotten. What a change in our regiment within this time; but few left in my old company that were then with me. Their bones are bleaching on almost every battlefield in which the Potomac army has been engaged. The proud old regiment has left her dead at Bull Run, West Point, Gaines' Hill, Charles' City, Cross Roads, Golden Farm, Melvern Hill, South Mountain, on Crampton Pass, as it is called, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Rappahannock Station, Funkstown and Salem Church, also participating in the Gettysburg fight, without loss of life and but few wounded. I think but few regiments can show a better record.

Orrin S. Brown, son of Simeon Brown, born in Bethel in 1841, enlisted in the Bethel Company April 29th, 1861, was one who left with the company in early May for Portland, and was "with the boys" when they were assigned to the Fifth Maine Regiment. This company was then lettered Co. I, and was mustered into the U.S. service June 23rd; he remained with his company until May 29th, 1864. At this time he was acting as orderly, and was left back as the regiment moved from Hanover Ferry on a reconnaissance toward Hanover Court House, skirmishing and driving back the enemy some six miles, when arriving at the county seat the Corps halted and went into camp. Orders were sent back to bring up the teams, spare horses, officers, baggage, company cooks, etc. Brown started ahead and was captured by a squad of Rossor's Cavalry. At this time he was in possession of my horse, saddle, and in fact one of my whole outfits, but what I missed most was one of my Colt's revolvers and my dinner, as we left camp early in the morning before eating. Nine o'clock that evening found me waiting for breakfast, dinner and supper; no Brown had yet appeared, and to say that I was hungry and cross would be giving it in mild terms. Not knowing that he had been captured, there were but two things I could do, one was to starve, and the other to hunt for something to eat. I chose the latter, and soon found Lieut. M. C. Kimball of the Fourth Maine Battery, who was fast asleep. I reluctantly awoke him, as it was a matter of life or death with me, and well do I remember him as he crawled from under his army blankets and brought forth the haversack which contained what remained of his supper. Thrusting his hand down deep in that bag he produced what he called a "corn dodger," a piece about the size of my three fingers. It is needless to state how good it tasted. I was then so much in love with the taste of it that I asked him to give me a receipt for making it; there being no secret in the matter, I will give it here for the benefit of humanity. First, take one quart of corn meal, ground coarse with the bran left in, as he said it was healthy. Second, one pint of Virginia brook water, mix thoroughly and let it remain until you find a flat rock, then build a fire, heat the stone—well, I have forgotten to hat degree, but hot enough to dry the mixture through in five minutes, then very gently turn it over (the dodger, not the rock), and let it bake four and one half minutes longer, and you have a dish "fit for a king." If any further information is desired I would refer to comrade Kimball, now of Malden, Mass. I will now close this sketch of O. S. Brown. He was taken to Gen. Rossor's headquarters, and relieved of everything except his bare clothing, was then sent to Richmond and afterwards to Andersonville, Ga., where he remained until the spring of '65. When he arrived at the station here his condition was such that his friends were fearful lest he might not survive the short journey to his home, but through the tender nursing of a good mother he rallied and is now in New Mexico, employed on the South Pacific railroad. He was in all the battles and skirmishes, in which the company was engaged until the time he was taken prisoner.

[to be continued.]