War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 18]


War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 18]


Bethel News, Vol. 2, No. 52


May 26, 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 xviii]

A talk by Col. Edwards to the Bethel boys who met at his home June 24, ’91.

Published by request of the members of the Company.

Comrades and Fellow Citizens:

Thirty years ago today, we, the surviving members of Company “I,” together with those of our comrades in arms who have answered their last earthly roll-call, were mustered into the United States service. We were assigned to the Fifth Maine regiment as Company “I,” and at once became a part of the Potomac Army, with which we remained throughout our term of service. On June 24, 1861, we numbered 98 men, officers and enlisted men. Three years later, the evening of June 23, 1864, found us at the expiration of our term of service, on the front line of battle on the left of Petersburg, with only sixteen men remaining of that heroic company to return to their homes and State they loved so well.

Of the sixty men who left the Bethel station early in May 1861, only seven returned with me in May 1864.

Before reviewing the events of those memorable years in our country’s history, go back with me in memory to the evening of April 26, 1861, and recall to mind the band of men, young and middle-aged, who were assembled at the post office waiting for the mail which would bring the necessary papers enabling them to enlist in their country’s defense. I received the recruiting rolls at this time from Augusta. The news from the South that Fort Sumter had been fired upon, and that a southern army was fast being formed, had aroused the loyal, country-loving citizens of our town. Men were eager to offer their services, and life if need be, for the preservation of the Republic. In six days the requisite number of men had been enrolled, and on the 4th day of May 1861, the company was organized and the election of officers held, Maj. William P. Frye, now our honored United States Senator, presiding at the meeting. At the organization of the company we numbered sixty, officers and enlisted men, but in a short time after going into camp at Portland, in what was then called Camp Preble, (and of which our company was the first in occupation,) orders were received from the War Department requiring us to increase our numbers to one hundred men. This was soon accomplished by receiving a part of a company which had been recruited at Bryant’s Pond.

After thirty years have passed away, how vividly we recall that bright, May morning we left yonder station; wife clinging to husband; mother to son; sister to brother; bidding each, what they knew might well be, and which for many was, a last goodbye. In my own case it comes back to me as if only yesterday, that loved and loving wife, (now sleeping with our first-born in yonder cemetery,) with our little ones clustered around her, with tears streaming down her cheeks, she bade me a brave goodbye. My emotions will not permit me to enlarge upon the scenes of that never-to-be-forgotten morning; you who were with me then share in these sacred, blessed memories.

As I have said, only seven of the sixty men who left the Bethel station that morning returned with us; some had been mustered out for disability; some died in camp; a few had re-enlisted, and five or six were left, wounded, in hospitals.

The first man in the company killed was Towle of Portland. At Crampton’s Pass, of those who went from this place, were killed Bryant of Stoneham, Lufkin of Rumford, Shaw of Biddeford. Bean of East Bethel was killed at Funkstown, Maryland. That brave and gallant soldier, Brown of Middle Intervale, was killed at Salem Church on that fatal third of May, 1863; on the same day, Sawyer of Raymond, Sturgis of South Bethel, Shaw of Raymond and Miller of Plymouth were killed. Five of our company were killed in two battles fought on Sunday; Sawyer in the tangled underbrush below Fredericksburg and the other four at Salem Church. At Rappahannock Station Bailey and Tubbs were killed, also Private Dennis Daley; on May 10, 1864, while charging the enemy at Spotsylvania Court House in a hand-to-hand fight, the giant Thurlow of Woodstock fell, also Lapham of Greenwood; two days later at Bloody angle, the brave Martin of Rumford and Andrews of Andover fell; in fact one half of our number were killed or disabled in the short space of two minutes. Of the sixty men who left Bethel with us, and who were always with us at the front, only one can say that he never received a wound or scratch in battle.

Fellow soldiers and comrades, your record is indeed a glorious one; your deeds will be remembered while the Republic lives, and a grateful people, long after you have gone, will cherish the spirit which animated you in the dark days of 1861 to 1865.

Of the many interesting incidents connected with our army life there is one of which I wish to speak at this time.

Many of you will remember that our regiment supported the First Massachusetts Battery on the morning of that fatal 3rd of May. At that time a sharpshooter took our comrade Stearns for a target, being six or seven hundred yards away. At the time of the incident the battery was playing on a fort in front, and the regiment was lying down ready to defend. I saw the puff of smoke from the rifle of the sharpshooter and exclaimed, “Look out!” The next second I saw a commotion in the company—Sergt. Evans had unslung his knapsack, and upon examining his blankets found 42 holes made by the bullet; but the bullet did not stop at that; it had another errand to perform. Comrade Stearns sat beyond Sergt. Evans, and I saw he was examining his hand with a grave face, and as I knew something had happened, I said, “Dan, have you got it?” Turning his hand over, he replied, in his dry, characteristic manner, “No, it has gone through.” The boys of the company sought for the bullet, but it could not be found. Stearns went back to the hospital and nothing further was thought of the affair until about 1870, when one day, while working in one of the cotton mills at Lewiston, he felt a tickling sensation under the short rib, and later on he found a small bunch there which he thought to be a tumor. He consulted a physician, who advised him to have the bunch or tumor removed, and when the operation was performed to the great surprise of both surgeon and patient, the minie-ball which I hold in my fingers was the result. Think of a man carrying an ounce of lead in his side for six years without knowing it; in the language of the late Artemas Ward, he must be a “tuff cuss.” Long may he live.

Many interesting stories could be related of our own individual experience; much could also be said of the part taken by Company I in many of the great battles of the war; suffice it to say, that from the first Bull Run to Petersburg, Company I of the 5th Maine Regiment, participated in every great battle in which the Army of the Potomac was engaged.

As we recall Crampton’s Pass, Antietam, Rappahannock Station, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Gettysburg, and many other hard fought fields on which we faced the enemy our memories are filled with the recollections of the terrible scenes then witnessed, and in which we, as a company and regiment, acted no insignificant part. As great as was the sacrifice of life, and of money it was not in vain; all that we are today as a nation and as a people may be attributed to the success of the boys in blue. To whom then should the credit be given for preserving this nation? This, our country and its free institutions?

We frequently hear it said that pensions are too large; or that pensions ought not to be given. Such remarks as a rule, if investigated, will be found to be made by those brave and loyal men who preferred to turn their faces toward Canada rather than face the enemy that threatened the life of the nation, or by those who could pay the $300.00 and thus escape the dangers and sufferings of war, or by those who remained at home on account of dependent parents. Without doubt there were thousands of patriotic men who remained at home, who could not, for various reasons enter the service of their country; but it is not they who think the country will be ruined by the greedy soldiers, but rather those just mentioned. Do you think there is any danger in this direction? No—a thousand times No—The country cannot pay the soldier pay the soldier in dollars and cents for the services he rendered.

I see here before me, men who were receiving $26.00 to $40.00 per month in employment at home when the war began; do you think that these men enlisted, left home and all they loved, that they might receive the enormous sum of $11.00 per month? I believe that other motives prompted you to take your lives in your hands, as it were, and go forth to battle, and in recognition of what you did, and what you gave, no one is better entitled to the places of trust which you are able to fill and to obtain the income which may be connected therewith, than you and your comrades who spent the best years of your lives in defending the country against traitorous hands of secession. Let us then, comrades, meet with scorn any criticism passed upon the soldiers by those who preferred to remain at home in safety, or by those over the borderline, who were not loyal to our country, while we were at the front.

I welcome you to my home; in the future as in the past, you will ever find “the latch string hung out.” As our number becomes less, may our attachments and memories of the days of 1861 and ’65 bind us closer and closer together.

The incident of Stearns was published in a previous number.



Sidney D. Edwards, son of the late Bryce M. Edwards, was born in Otisfield in 1843. He enlisted in the Bethel Company, January 8, 1862, and was discharged for disability in the following May. On recovering his health, he re-enlisted in December 1863, in the Thirtieth Maine Regiment and served to the close of the war. He now lives in Oxford where he has resided for thirty years. He has filled several town offices with much satisfaction to his fellow townsmen, having been trial justice, selectman, and member of the school committee.


Robert Howe, son of Ira Howe was born in Greenwood in 1840, and enlisted in the Bethel Company May 3rd, 1861. He was mustered into the service June 23, at Portland and faithfully and gallantly served his country at the front throughout his term of enlistment. He was mustered out July 27, 1864. Howe was a soldier who answered the roll call daily for three years. He was always present and ready for duty, full of life, strength, and courage, through the hardships experienced while in camp at White Oak Church told severely upon his constitution. Like thousands of others, he today suffers untold misery as a result of his soldier life, during those memorable years of a third of a century ago. The least that the government can justly do for such a man, is to grant him a pension. This the government has done, I am glad to say, for a soldier richly deserves all he receives, after having sacrificed health and strength in behalf of his country.