War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 17]


War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 17]


Bethel News, Vol. 2, No. 50


May 12, 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 xvii

A portion of Company I was inside of the rebel rifle-pits from half past six to quarter of ten o'clock in the evening, when we received orders from General Wright to move back to the position we occupied before making the charge. At this time there were at least three thousand of our troops within the rebel works that had been taken, and firing had ceased.

General Lee in his account of the battle says that the Union forces were driven back. I think, however, that he was mistaken. As proof of my statement, the following incident affords some evidence.

In the Bethel Company there was a private by the name of Patrick Farren who joined the company January 10, 1863. He tented with my brother for more than a year. Farren was educated for the priesthood, but becoming somewhat intemperate he abandoned his plans of being a priest. He was with the company as we charged through the second line of rifle-pits at Spotsylvania Court House. He was severely wounded in the leg and lay on the field of battle all night of May 10. On the morning of May 11, our pickets brought him to our headquarters, when he told me the following story: “I was with you at the time I was shot and fell just outside the second line of rifle-pits. For several hours I was unconscious. On recovering consciousness I wondered what had happened, whether or not you and the regiment had pushed on or fallen back; as I lay there with my shattered leg in the still hours of the night, I heard a slight noise and a moment later I heard someone whisper, ‘I wonder where the d--- Yanks will turn up next.’ Realizing that the enemy was near I lay as if dead as they crept by me; when they were gone I began to plan how to get back to the place where we had charged through their works. My gun was at my side on the ground; I took the strap from my gun and strapped my wounded leg to my sound leg and hitched myself back on my hands and elbows to the first rifle-pits. How I ever got over them I cannot say, but, Colonel, I am here.”

Our picket line was near the first rifle-pits. The pickets found Farren working his way back into our lines as described. To me this is strong evidence that General Lee was mistaken when he said that our forces were driven back and that the Confederates occupied the rifle-pits on the night of May 10, for on the 11th his skirmish line was back considerable distance from the lines we had captured. Had the Confederates been in possession of the rifle-pits, Farren would not have been able to reach our lines. He was taken to the hospital where his leg was amputated. The exposure through which he passed and the terrible suffering experienced while working himself back into our lines, so weakened him that death soon followed the amputation of his leg. Farren was an excellent soldier. He possessed many qualities so characteristic of his race. Of his early life I know nothing, but while he was a member of the Bethel Company he acquitted himself in a most commendable manner.

As we moved back from the works we had captured to the position we held before the charge was made, I, with fifteen or twenty men of our regiment, was the last to leave the captured lines. We at once went back to our shelter tents which we had left standing and there bivouacked for the night, though little sleep was had, for our hearts were too full of grief and sorrow for the poor fellows who had fallen. When the camp became still I took a candle and moved quietly from tent to tent, many of which I found vacant while others had but one occupant. We had lost, killed and wounded, more than one half of our regiment.

Of the twenty-one men reported missing in action in addition to the number known to be killed and wounded, I have no doubt that twenty were killed for we never heard from any of them. One of the number died of wounds in a Richmond hospital, we afterwards learned. Of the twelve “picked” regiments very few were taken prisoners, in fact, I know of none with the exception of R. M. Lapham who in some way fell into the rebel hands. Of the rebel forces nearly two thousand prisoners were captured by the “picked” regiments.

Richmond M. Lapham, who was mortally wounded at Spotsylvania Court House, was a son of Thomas Lapham. At the time of his enlistment he was living near South Bethel. He fell inside the rebel lines, having advanced farther than most of his comrades had, and was taken to Richmond.

The late Dr. William B. Lapham, of Augusta, who was his cousin, once told me that he found the name of R. M. Lapham on the records of the Richmond hospital, and that the surgeon in charge said that Lapham died a day or two after reaching the hospital. His death must have been about May 14, 1864. Many of the Lapham family are still living in Bethel.

The charge of the twelve “picked” regiments, the Fifth Maine being in the first line, was one of the most brilliant charges of the war; in fact, history records very few, if any charges, that equal it in valor. Its place in history is secure. It was there that Grant conferred upon the gallant Upton the well-merited grade of brigadier-general, for conspicuous acts of gallantry.

Bryce McLellan Edwards, son of Enoch and Abigail McLellan Edwards, was born in Otisfield August 20, 1820. He was mustered into the service July 25, 1862, and joined the Bethel Company while we were on the Maryland campaign a few days before the battles at Crampton Pass and Antietam.

During the march from Warrenton to Belle Plain on the Potomac, he contracted a severe cold from which he never fully recovered. His health was somewhat impaired, yet he remained with his regiment till it was mustered out, faithfully discharging all duties that were required of him. At the close of the war he returned to the old home in Otisfield where he and I had spent our boyhood days as brothers. He lived on the home farm till his death which occurred in September, 1894. In 1855 and 1856, he lived in Bethel in the house now owned and occupied by C. C. Bryant on the river road leading to Middle Intervale.

He was one of the eleven members of the company that visited me in June 1891. Of this number six have answered the final roll call and are now numbered with the great majority of their comrades in that “undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveler returns.”


Willoughby R. York, son of the late Urban York, was born in Bethel, 1835. He enlisted in the Bethel Company in April 1861, and was mustered into the U. S. service as a wagoner the following June. He was among the first to enlist from our town. His record was a commendable one; all duties being well and faithfully performed. He died in 1894 or 1895 at Lycnhville, where he was in business.


Barzilla K. Bean Jr. was born in Gilead in 1837. He enlisted in the Bethel Company in December ’61, and was mustered into the service January 3, 1862. He was discharged for disability September 18, 1862, his health having been much impaired during the Peninsular campaign. He was in the hospital for some time at Harrison’s Landing, but his health not permitting him to undergo further hardships as a soldier, he returned to his home at West Bethel near Pleasant River, where he resided till his death some three years ago. His widow is now living in Portland, and, I am glad to say, is receiving a pension from the government.


On the evening of April 26, 1861, there was assembled in our village post-office a crowd of young men anxious to get the news from Washington. I had just received recruiting papers from Augusta, and stepping to the desk I signed my name on the fourth or fifth line from the top of the paper. I then called for volunteers. No sooner than said, Stillman N. Littlehale rushed through the crowd saying, “I will enlist.” He placed his name on the first line and therefore headed the list of the Bethel Company, which with the exception of the Norway Company of three months, was the first company to enlist from Oxford County.


Stillman N. Littlehale is a son of Luther Littlehale and was born in Newry in 1837. He moved with his father to Riley Plantation more than fifty years ago and has since resided there. He was a soldier whose record on the front is one that sheds luster upon the American volunteer. He was slightly wounded at Gaines Hill June 27, 1862. While we were charging up the hill a rebel bullet passed through the top of his cap, inflicting a slight scalp wound. Had he been two inches taller, it is quite safe to say he would have been mustered out of this life to the higher life beyond. He has filled public positions at the hands of his fellow citizens, and at the present time is employed by the Androscoggin Water Company of Lisbon.

[These articles will appear once in two weeks. –Ed.]