War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 26]


War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 26]


Bethel News, Vol. 3, No. 15


September 8, 1897



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Full Text


Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment.

[By Col. Clark S. Edwards]

[No. 26]

Our last article left us at City Point near the boat landing. The next morning, June 24th, we boarded the steamer, John Brooks for Washington. Some time was spent in loading the horses, traps, etc. and in the afternoon we were steaming down the beautiful James past Fortress Monroe, thence along the Chesapeake Bay near Yorktown of Revolutionary fame, passing the York and Rappahannock Rivers, reaching the mouth of the Potomac late in the evening. Quite early on the morning of the 25th, we passed the sacred grounds of the home of Washington, (Mt. Vernon). The tolling of the steamer’s bell awoke us from our peaceful slumbers, which we were enjoying for the first time since leaving Hazel River, fifty-two days before, and during that period there were but few days passed that we did not hear the “zip” of minie or the screech of the shell, as it was sent forth on its death errand. We reached the wharf at the foot of Seventh St., Washington at about 9 a.m., and sent Adjt. Parsons to headquarters asking for camping ground. Soon he returned with orders to go into camp on the open ground between Seventh Street, and the navy yard and to prepare our papers to be paid off. The last part of that order was thankfully received, but the first part we utterly refused to obey. At once I sent Adjt. Parsons back with a note saying the grounds were unfit for the men to camp on, as at this time there were hundreds of cows, pigs and horses running at large over this field. He soon returned with the same order. It is needless to say that the war spirit was up again, not only with the commander of the regiment but with all the men; every man in the line was then fully equipped. We then gave the order, “Fall in,” and soon this little squad of war-grimmed veterans was keeping step in a course directed toward the White House. Soon we were opposite the Smithsonian, I decided to take the latter, which we did by filing in the left, and stacked arms and pitched our tents.

These were the first orders of my superiors I had ever disobeyed but I felt that we were entitled to better treatment. Three years before when we reached Washington, there was nothing too good for us, even the Capitol. They gave us one of the large hotels on Penn. Avenue for quarters, now after the many, many battles, and hard campaigns we had passed through, there was, seemingly, no place filthy enough for us! The city government of Washington, allowed us to remain here until paid off. Never before did the 5th Maine camp on such beautiful grounds. I thought at the time of the great contrast between this and the camp we occupied at Cold Harbor twenty days before! There, the stench of the decaying dead was dreadful to endure; here, the air was filled with the perfume of rarest flowers. We remained and made out our pay rolls and were paid what was due us at this time, then took the cars from Baltimore. In this place we again found trouble. The officials of the road attempted to place us in dirty cattle and emigrant cars.

We rebelled and were detained for some three hours. Again we were reminded of the elegant train placed at our disposal in Portland three years before, the finest the eastern road could furnish; at that time Pullman cars had not been built, and if the road had had a vestibule train, the 5th Maine would have enjoyed its luxuries in going to the front. We at last left Baltimore and reached Philadelphia a little past midnight where we found hundreds awaiting our arrival. This is called the “City of Brotherly Love” and rightly named as no city in the northern states kept up that kind of feeling and good treatment to the poor soldiers as this, and the longer the struggle lasted the more hospitality was shown the “Boys in blue.” Too much cannot be said of that patriotic city. We reached New York the forenoon of the 27th, where we received a hearty welcome; everything was done for the old “veterans,” to make their short stay here, a pleasant one. Hon. Benj. Wood, brother of the Mayor with his barouche hitched to four of the finest black horses with a colored driver took the field and staff around the city to many places of interest. I greatly regretted that the whole regiment could not have enjoyed these honors. After receiving refreshments the boys were escorted to the place of departure. The heroes of the 5th Maine will always remember with kindness the people of New York.

The next morning found us in Boston and here we received a fair reception but not like New York or Philadelphia. A few of the business men of the city stopped a moment to view the captured flags, that hung at half mast from the staffs, as we marched through their streets to the old Boston and Maine depot. While making a short stop here we called on Captain George P. Sherwood, the first captain of Company F in our regiment, who lost an arm in the first battle of Bull Run. We found him in his office on Blackstone St., in the recruiting business. He held his place as captain of the company till the first of ’63, some two years after receiving his wounds, and was then succeeded by Capt. Fred G. Sanborn, who has now passed on the higher life.

About one o’clock June 28, we boarded the cars for Portland reaching Berwick about three o’clock where we met Mayor McClellan with all the city officials who escorted us through to the city we had left three years before, reaching the Eastern depot about 4:45. The regiment at once alighted and formed into line. Col. E. A. Scammon met us here with an escort, his line comprising the full city government, Military and Veteran Reserves accompanied by Poppenburg’s band which led the column as it marched through some of the principal streets. At every point we received a hearty welcome, manifested by the waving of flags, handkerchiefs, shouting of people, etc., etc. This was a proud day for the “Old Fifth,” and every one felt that we had not been forgotten by the people of the best city in the Union. On reaching Barnum’s we broke ranks, and the boys found the tables bountifully spread for the escort and themselves. Only once in a lifetime does one see tables loaded as were these. Everything one could wish for was there. We have partaken at many a banquet since that day but none ever “filled the bill” as did this one. Our appetite was like the tramp’s of the present day, as we had for three long years been living principally on “hard tack,” salt beef, side bacon and coffee. Chaplain Adams returned thanks, after which a little speech making was in order, and Gen. Upton’s farewell letter was read. A leave of absence was given each member for five days, and we took the evening train for Bethel, accompanied by one who had been waiting three long years for our return. Yes, she was there with our first-born. Both are now waiting “over yonder,” where we shall meet “by and by.”

Five days were soon passed and the boys met again at City Hall where arrangements were made for the final muster out, but again we found ourselves in trouble. Only two or three of the companies had line officers. Two of them had neither commissioned or non-commissioned officers—E, the Lewiston, and C, the Saco Cos., are the ones alluded to. I employed Parcher of the Quarter Master Department and Edwards of the Gorham Company to make the rolls of Company C, and a young lady belonging in Portland to do the best she could in making the rolls of Company E. I think she never received a cent for the many days and weeks she spent in looking up the members of that Company. I paid Parcher and Edwards twelve dollars for their labor, for which the state or nation is indebted to me at the present time. We spent four weeks in making these rolls for our final discharge, and even then it was largely guesswork as the company rolls were all lost in our last campaign. Our loss in the regiment was much greater than the report of the Adjutant General shows. We find in writing up the sketches of the Bethel Company, two that were killed and six or seven wounded, of whom no mention is made in his report, and the same is true of nearly every company. While waiting here in Portland the wires brought the news that Early was making a raid towards Washington. We at once called the men together and nearly every one offered his services for one hundred days, and four days later enough men had enlisted to make ten full companies ready to go to the front! These men were largely made up of those who had seen service. The government would not accept us for so short a time but it showed one thing, that the fire of patriotism still burned in the hearts of those who had faced death on more than thirty battlefields. Early was driven back to Lee’s main army, or our offer would have been accepted, in all probability. Monday, July 25, the regiment was called together for the last time and on the following Wednesday the command, numbering one hundred ninety-three, officers and men, were mustered out of the service by Lieut. J. H. Walker of the 14th U. S. Infantry, and the boys of this glorious old regiment were once more civilians and loyal citizens of the good old Pine Tree State, and as we turned our faces toward the hills of Oxford County, there were many wet cheeks at the separation of comrades. We had promised the mothers and fathers at the time we left the station on that memorable May morning, that we would look well after the interests of their darling boys, and we dreaded to meet this class as I could only say to some, “Your boy is now sleeping that sleep that knows no earthly waking, perhaps on the banks of the James or the beautiful Rappahannock or lower Potomac at Bakerville, Md. or at the “Bloody Angle” Va., or worst of all, in the horrid sands of Andersonville, Ga.,” in fact, we left some all along our route from Bull Run to Petersburg. Oh, how sad it was to meet the mother, father, brother, or sister of those we left! Time will never blot out the memory of those days ever so long ago. We now close this uninteresting article by saying that we will in some future time if able, conclude the sketches of the Bethel Company.

C. S. E.