War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 10]


War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 10]


Bethel News, Vol. 2, No. 41


March 10, 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 x

On the night of July 3rd, 1863 I received orders from Gen. Bartlett to send three companies from the regiment to bring in a portion of a battery we could see from Little Round Top. I obeyed and Maj. A. S. Daggett was placed in command of two companies that were deployed as skirmishers to protect the company that was doing the work. He moved out about six hundred yards, until he passed what was then remaining of Bigelow's 9th Mass. Battery, and then halted within one hundred yards of the enemy's line. I never saw so much destruction on so small a space. On the gun were six large, beautiful horses lying in their harness, the same number on each of the caissons, also two or four on each limber, making about twenty-five horses. One poor fellow was found partly beneath his horse with his clothing torn off by the struggles of the dying animal. We at once commenced cutting the harness from the dead horses to liberate the guns, caissons, etc., and were soon drawing back by hand one brass piece, two limbers, and two caissons, which we took to Gen. Sedgwick's headquarters. When we were cutting the harness I found holsters on the saddle of one of the horses that was wedged in between two fences that came together in V shape. I brought them away as a relic and kept them in the attic of my house for nearly thirty years. I looked for many, many years to find someone from that battery to give them to. At the second meeting of the World's Fair commissioners in Chicago, seats were assigned by lot and my seat chanced to be next to the commissioner from Florida, whose name was Joseph Hirst.

A brief sketch may be interesting to a few in this state, also in Mass. He was born in England, came to this country when a young lad and was educated in Lewiston, and told me he still remembered many who were in the same class with himself. His father was a clothier, learned his trade in England, and was one of the first overseers in the early history of Lewiston. In the fifties, he, with his family, moved to Lawrence, Mass., and was employed in one of the mills when Sumter was fired upon. He said, "I enlisted in the 9th Mass. Battery, known as Bigelow's, and was fully initiated in the battle of Gettysburg. My battery was driven back from the Trostle House toward the Round Tops, and in the field back of the house five or six fences came together. In the stampede of that portion of the battery we ran into a heater between two fences. The rebs were close upon us and we were obliged to abandon our horses and make quick time for the Union lines. My horse was killed and wedged in between the two fences so that he did not fall." I had been so much interested in his account that I had not spoken, but at this point I cried, "You are the man I have been looking for all these years! Those holsters taken from your horse are now in my attic at home and I shall be very glad to place them in your hands." At the Commissioner's meeting in November following, I carried them to him, and he seemed very grateful as it was all the relic he had from that battlefield, having lost everything but himself in the fight. Two weeks later he died of a fever, in Chicago. If this sketch meets the eye of any of the members of Bigelow's battery, they may know that Hon. Joseph Hirst died highly respected by every member of the Commission, and beloved by all who knew him well. The fire of patriotism in him was still burning in '92, and the love of his adopted country was as great as when he buckled on the belt in '61 and left the old Bay State to fight the battles of his country.

An item from a letter written home early in July '62, immediately after the battle of Gettysburg: "On the eve of July 2nd as the rebels fell back, our boys were eager to follow them up, but our general would not allow it; however, I obtained permission for a few of them to follow the retreating foe. One little fellow by the name of Larrabee, from Co. E, brought in three prisoners which he captured alone." Another extract from the same letter says: "As we were taking in that portion of Bigelow's Battery, I called into a house filled with the dead and wounded, all together. Such a sight I never wish to see again. I found one from the 4th Maine and a few from other Maine regiments. Nearly every state in the Union was represented. The floor was covered with blood and the stench in that small house was all we could endure. They had been there fully three days without any care."

We will close this article with a sketch of Sergeant Edwards.

Sergeant David Andrews Edwards, son of Lathrop Edwards, was born in Otisfield in 1830. He enlisted in the Bethel company April 27, 1861, and served the greater part of his enlistment in the field at the front, though he was for a short time in 1863 on detached service in Maine.

Sergeant Edwards was slightly wounded at Crampton Pass, Sept. 14, 1862, and severely wounded May 12, 1864, at or near the "bloody angle" at Spotsylvania. He was shot through the arm, the bullet entering his side. He was taken from the field to a hospital where he remained till his regiment was mustered out. I well remember sending Sergeant Edwards back to General Upton, at the time of the charge of the "twelve picked regiments" at Spotsylvania, for more troops; our regiment, having lost in killed and wounded during the battle more than one half its members, was unable to hold the position captured without assistance. General Upton sent forward the 7th Maine Regiment and later the 1st Vermont Brigade and three brigades of second division.

Sergeant Edwards was a brave and gallant soldier. No duty was too difficult for him to attempt. Fear was something that was unknown in his make-up. Soon after leaving the hospital he re-enlisted and was transferred to the 1st Maine Veterans. Since the war he has lived in Bethel, Albany, and Norway, though he now makes his home with a married daughter at Paris.

Milo C. Walker of Company I was taken prisoner Dec. 14, 1863, and was sent to Andersonville, Ga., where after suffering untold miseries of this prison pen, he died. Walker enlisted May 6 or 7, 1861. He came from Gorham, N. H., to Bethel, though his home, I think, was in Canada. He was a young man of only sixteen or seventeen years of age at the time of his enlistment.

Soon after the battle at Gaines Hill in 1862, he went to the hospital and did not report to his company till April, 1863. His health never permitted him to do much active duty. His remains, with those of Peabody and Whitman lie buried in the cemetery at Andersonville.

Alanson M. Whitman, who was captured near Hazel river, Dec. 14, 1863 was born in Woodstock, being a son of Zephania Whitman. He was among the first to offer his services and life, if necessary, in defense of his country. He enlisted in the Bethel company at Portland, May 21, 1861, being one of the Bryant's Pond squad, and was constantly with his regiment through all its campaigns and engagements till the time of his capture. His record is one to which his fellow-citizens may well point with pride, for his entire army career was one that commanded the admiration and esteem of all who knew him. Quiet and retiring in camp life, yet he was bold, fearless and forward where there was work to be done. He was of a kind and generous disposition. I well remember him sharing his last hard-tack with rebel prisoners at Rappahannock Station, and performing other acts of kindness for the enemy who had fallen into our hands. Well indeed may the Whitman Post of G. A. R., at Bryant's Pond, ever cherish the memory of Alanson M. Whitman, for he was a noble soldier and a true man.

[to be continued.]