War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 13]


War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 13]


Bethel News, Vol. 2, No. 44


March 31, 1897



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Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment.

By Col. Clark S. Edwards

number xiii

Before closing this account of the battle at Rappahannock Station, I will add an item or two of interest.

In the Mechanic Falls company were two brothers by the name of Frost, from Peru; one a file leader of the other at the time the charge was made. As we were advancing at a double quick, and were within a hundred feet of the enemy's rifle-pit, a terrible volley was received. Frost fell dead, shot through the head. His brother, who was directly in his rear, stepped over the fallen hero, and rushed forward with his comrades, who were determined to conquer or die.

A great cheer rent the air, as the men leaped forward. A moment or two later, we were within the enemy's works. The "rebs" threw down their arms and raised their hands, crying, "We surrender." Hundreds of prisoners were captured.

Soon after the excitement had ceased, young Frost came to me, saying, "Colonel, may I now go and take care of the remains of my dead brother?" I replied, "Yes, go and do your duty as your brother bravely did his when living, an honor to his family, state and country. This brother fell the following May in that dreadful charge at Spotsylvania, and the last and only remaining son of that widowed mother, fell in one of the battles under Sheridan. Oh! How sad, and yet how noble, for that mother to give her all, that our nation might live. The town of Peru should place over her grave a monument as lasting as the hills upon which should be engraved, "The Mother of Heroes."

In a very short time most of the boys had shared their rations with the hungry prisoners. I remember seeing two members of the Bethel company, tenderly caring for wounded Confederates, who were lying where they fell.

Canteens of hot coffee were freely given to friend or foe, for we all felt that we were brothers in spite of the stern realities of war. As the late hours of the night came on, everything became quiet, and the boys were soon dreaming of loved ones at home and the great victory that had been won.

I have often been asked, as I have told the story of Rappahannock, why I gave back to Godwin and Penn their swords after they had surrendered them to me. I will answer now as I did on the morning of Nov. 8, 1863.

While I was standing near the graves that the boys were digging for those who, on the evening before had given their lives, that our flag might wave over all alike, I saw General Sedgwick riding toward me, his orderly being a few rods in the rear. The old hero came within a short distance of me and beckoned me to step aside from my men. I anticipated a reprimand for the unusual thing I had done, but there was no escape for me, though my conscience told me that I was right. In a stern voice the General said, "Colonel Edwards, did you say to Colonel Godwin last evening when he surrendered to you, that he could retain his sword?" I raised my hat and replied, "Yes, General, I did. Colonel Godwin was the only officer on the line that showed fight and for this act I returned his sword to him." Imagine my relief, when the noble General, with hat in hand, and uplifted arm, said, "It is a gallant thing in you, sir, a gallant thing. I thank you, sir." Putting spurs to his horse he rode away. It is needless for me to say that this was one of the proudest moments of my life, and that the words of our beloved commander made an impression on me as lasting as life itself.

William A. Tubbs of Mechanic Falls was 2nd Lieutenant of the Bethel Company at this time. Tubbs was a native of Hebron. He was struck down by a bullet while making the charge at Rappahannock Station, and expired immediately. I promised Tubbs at Gettysburg that he should be commissioned when he had carried the flag safely through another engagement. While at Warrenton the day before the fight, I learned that his commission was on the way to the regiment. It did not reach us, however, till it was too late for the brave man to know of his promotion. The commission was sent, I think, to his widowed mother at Hebron. He possessed all the qualities which make up a true soldier, and was highly esteemed by all with whom he associated.

Published on Dress Parade Evening of Nov. 17, '63.
Head Quarters 5th Maine Vols.

Nov. 17, 1863.

General Orders. No. 31.

The commission as Second Lieutenant of the late William A. Tubbs, Orderly Sergeant of A. K. of this regiment, was received at these headquarters last evening. As is well known to this Command, Lieut. Tubbs fell at the recent battle at Rappahannock Station on the 7th of November, while gallantly, bravely, and nobly leading on the men of his company to victory, and in a struggle which resulted in a glorious achievement to our arms, and reflected so much credit upon the members of this regiment. And the Colonel commanding cannot allow the present opportunity to pass, without paying a slight tribute to the intrinsic worth of one who has thus nobly sacrificed his life—his all—upon the altar of his country.

Lieut. Tubbs fell while in the prime of youth. Brave, energetic, fearless in action, prompt in the discharge of his duties, diligent and studious in every sphere to which he was assigned, ever respectful and obedient to those in command, steady in his habits—in a word, a true soldier—most truly had he earned the promotion which honor, death, alone, has prevented him from grasping. For a long time he bore the standard of our nationality with this regiment, never faltering or failing under the severest fire of the enemy, or the most trying circumstances. His great ambition was, to do his whole duty—to himself—to his country.

Let us all emulate the glorious example set before us by our deceased comrade—each striving in the faithful execution of his respective labors.

By Order Col. C. S. Edwards.
(Signed) Geo. W. Bicknell,

Gen. O. O. Howard, after hearing of the affair at Rappahannock Station, wrote me a letter, and here it is.

Headquarters Eleventh Corps,
Lookout Valley

Nov. 21, 1863.


In reading the papers this morning I have got at facts enough to make me feel proud of the conduct of your troops. On Saturday, the 7th inst., you seem almost to have outdone yourselves. If I mistake not, you took more prisoners than you numbered, and this after a most remarkable and daring charge. With such enterprise, ability, and bravery as you of the old Fifth have displayed, aided by the Sixth Maine and other regiments of your respective brigades, I am delighted and rendered hopeful. The Union spirit is strengthened—the rebellion wanes. As a son of Maine, or better still, as a son of the Republic, I congratulate you and rejoice with you in the good name you have won, and pray that God may ever enable you and the regiment to do its duty thus nobly.

Yours sincerely,
O. O. Howard, Maj. Gen.

P.S. Lieut. Col. Millett is reported mortally wounded. I am in hopes he may be spared to you.

O. O. H., M. G.

Lieut. Col. Millett lived "to fight another day," and is now an honored citizen of the "Pine Tree State."

Lieut. Augustus J. Grenier joined the Bethel Company in Portland, and was mustered into the service June 23, 1861. He was appointed corporal, and a little later was made sergeant. Filling those positions in a most creditable manner, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in Company C, and in November, 1864, was promoted to 1st Lieut. and Adjutant in the 1st Maine Veterans. Lieut. Grenier was one of our best soldiers.

He was always with his regiment, ever ready to execute the orders of his superiors in rank. He was slightly wounded May 10th at Spotsylvania. For several years after the close of the war he was engaged in business in Chicago. Giving up active business he went to Washington and became a clerk in one of the government departments. He died in the fall of 1894 of a disease contracted while in the service. Lieut. Grenier left a brilliant war record, and his name is deserving a place on "Maine's Roll of Honor."

Among the wounded members of Company I, was Lieut. Peter Jordan Mitchell of Greenwood. He enlisted Nov. 4th, 1861, and was appointed Corporal. He gradually rose in rank till he became 1st Lieutenant in Co. H. At the expiration of the term of service of the 5th Maine Regiment, Lieut. Mitchell had five or six months to serve before completing his three years.

He was transferred to Company B of the 1st Main Veterans, and was with Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley where he was mortally wounded. He died Nov. 12, 1864. Lieut. Mitchell was promoted to Captain, but was not mustered in as such. He was a son of Stephen Mitchell of Paris, though his boyhood days were spent near Greenwood City. He was a true patriot, and his record was a brilliant one. His friends and relatives may well cherish his memory.

Among the commissioned officers of the Bethel Company who were discharged for disabilities before the expiration of the term of service was Capt. John B. Walker, son of the late James Walker, Esq., of Walker's Mills or South Bethel. Captain Walker enlisted April 26, 1861, and eight days later was appointed First Lieut. On Sept. 10, 1862, he was commissioned Captain. He was discharged June 17, 1863, the hard Fredericksburg campaign under Burnside having broken down his health, making longer service impossible. With great reluctance he left the Company for his home in Maine.

Capt. Walker was one of our best officers, and served with his regiment in its campaign faithfully and gallantly, nobly doing his whole duty. It was his good fortune to enjoy the esteem of his superior officers and the confidence of his men.

Before his enlistment in the service, he was in business in our village in company with Benjamin Freeman and L. T. Barker on what was once known as "honest corner." He was a thoroughgoing businessman, capable of filling most responsible positions in the commercial world. In 1864 or 1865, he went to Milwaukee, where he engaged in business. I spent several days with him 1871. At that time he was in poor health, in fact, he never fully recovered his health after his army service. He died August 27, 1878.

[to be continued.]