War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 20]


War Reminiscences of the Bethel Company, Company I, Fifth Maine Regiment [Number 20]


Bethel News, Vol. 3, No. 4


June 23, 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]

No. 20

At the close of our last number we were looking over that awful scene that was presented to our sight at “Bloody Angle” on the morning after the terrible fight of May 12, 1864. While here, General Upton came up and asked me how many men I had left of the Fifth Maine. I told him that I looked the camp over last night after the boys had bivouacked, and that I thought that there were fifty or sixty privates and four or five line officers. He said that he wanted someone to fill the place of Captain Fish, his chief of staff, who had been killed the day before, and that he also wanted an aid-de-camp. I think he selected Captain Sanborn for acting Assistant Adjutant General and Lieut. Patterson for an aid-de-camp. Captain Stevens at this time was an Ordinance officer on General Wright’s staff. Captain Nathan Walker was in charge of the Engineer Corps on General Russell’s staff. Soon after my conversation with General Upton, I returned to my regiment and ordered the morning roll-call which resulted as follows: Sixty-one privates and non-commissioned officers and one commissioned officer reported for duty. As I saw our greatly diminished number, I said to my self that in two days more of such fighting as we had seen on the 10th and 12th of May, not one of the regiment would be left to tell the story of the sacrifices made in this memorable campaign.

We remained near the battlefield May 13, though we saw very little fighting compared with the terrible carnage and slaughter of the day before. A few of our boys were on the skirmish line while others were engaged in the sad duty of burying their comrades who had fallen on the 12th. I remember sending some members of the Bethel Company in search of poor Martin, who had fallen while bravely fighting, and gave orders that in case his remains were found, his grave should be marked distinctly. The features of the dead changed so rapidly, that even in twelve hours after death, recognition of many brave fellows was impossible. Poor Martin was one of the “unknown” yet his friends may be assured that he fell while in front of the enemy, in one of the most terrible conflicts of modern times. On May 14th, we moved to the left and crossed the river some two miles from our last camp. Upton led this movement. When we reached the Anderson plantations near the river, he at once found his command in line ready to receive the enemy should they make an attack, though it was not expected that an attack would be made. The Fifth Maine was assigned the duty of guarding the left and rear, while the regiments were in line of battle.

We moved out on the broad open field and deployed as skirmishers, with our left on the rivers, and our right extending up the hillside, covering, as Upton supposed, his line.

About two o’clock in the afternoon I made a little reconnaissance around our left. To my great surprise I saw the rebels in large forces behind a clump of woods and in line, ready apparently for an advance movement. They far outnumbered Upton’s command, which at this time was all that was east of the river.

I at once went to headquarters and reported what we had seen. General Meade and staff, General Upton and General Russell were in consultation. They manifested no particular uneasiness over the news we had brought, though in a short time the rebels made their appearance on Upton’s front and right, striking his lines where he was least expecting an attack. So unexpected was the movement of the enemy that little precaution had been taken. The officers at headquarters, in their surprise, dashed across the field toward the river. As General Meade rode by, my servant Jimmy, who was leading my packhorse covered with camp kettle, coffeepots, etc. behind my second horse, his stirrup accidently caught in some of the trappings and the General narrowly escaped being thrown into the river. Upton’s loss in this engagement was slight. I speak of this fight for two reasons: It was the first time I had ever known the gallant Upton to be caught “napping,” and no mention, as far as I know, has ever been made of Upton’s fight at this time by any of the war historians. During the forenoon of the day of this engagement, not knowing but what we would be obliged to re-cross the river in a hurry, I thought advisable to learn where the river could be forded in case of necessity. I therefore made investigation and found that the river could be forded a mile or two below the place where we crossed in the morning; falling back, we crossed the river at this point without trouble. Near the ford was a large Virginia house in which we found some of our men who were wounded the day before. We sent an orderly to Upton to inform him that we were all right and were holding the pass, or ford.

An hour or two later, the head of the Sixth Corps came into view and in a short time General Wright and staff were at the ford. General Wright inquired minutely as to what had occurred. I gave him full information in regard to Upton’s fight, also told him where the rebels then were, pointing to the woods behind which I had seen them earlier in the day.

As soon as the batteries came up General Wright ordered them into position. Firing soon began. For nearly an hour, seven batteries of six guns each poured shot and shell into the woods and upon the hillside beyond. It was now dusk or early evening. General Wright ordered me to go with him to the place from which Upton’s command had been driven; I, of course, did as requested. I remember distinctly, fording, or rather swimming, the river in company with General Wright. In the darkness I had driven my horse into the stream a little below the ford. To my great surprise I soon found my horse, old “Joe,” in deep water, but the river being narrow, we had no difficulty in reaching shore. General Wright made as careful a survey of the situation as darkness would permit and then returned to his troops, and at once the Sixth Corps started for Upton’s battlefield and bivouacked for the night.

On the morning of the 15th, we made another flank movement to the left, a half-mile or more. A part of the regiment went upon the skirmish line. This day twenty or twenty-five of those who had been wounded slightly in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania Court House joined us.

It was here that we met for the first time in this campaign the Seventh Maine Battery, commanded by Captain Adelbert B. Twitchell. How vividly I remember that Sunday afternoon and the happiness that it gave me! To meet old neighbors and acquaintances who had left their homes only a few months before, was an unexpected pleasure. Among the number were A. S. Twitchell, A. S. Chapman, Dr. Wm. B. Lapham, Lieut. Bundy, and A. M. Carter, I think.

Captain A. B. Twitchell was an old friend, true and tried, a friend in peace as well as in war. His battery was going into action on our left when we met.

Someone we met on the street said to me, “That was a wonderful company of yours, no poor soldiers in it.” Well, yes, it was a wonderful boy of men. Enlisted at a time when no large bounties were in sight, it was pure patriotism, love of home and our free institutions as well as country, and to save the nation’s life that sent them forth to win or die. Yes, I have seen some of those boys receive greenbacks for pay, instead of gold, when it had appreciated 2%. Those boys wanted to save the nation’s credit, as well as life. I will now speak of some of our Bethel soldiers.

Sidney T. Cross, son of Franklin Cross Esq.; was born in Bethel in 1837. He enlisted in the Bethel Company May 1, 1861, mustered into the U.S. Service the following June 23, and was discharged the latter part of August ’61 for disability. His schoolboy days were spent in North Albany on the little rise beyond the “Songo Pond school house,” now known as the Emery farm. Here he remained until he enlisted, and died a few years after the war was over, I think, in this village.

Lorenzo D. Russell, son of Ezekiel Russell was born in Bethel in 1837, enlisted April 30, 1861 in the Bethel Company, and was mustered into the service June 23, following. He was one of the company that left our station that May morning, when parting scenes were sad—mother, father and brothers were there to bid him “good bye.” He was one of those who always answered, “Here,” at the roll call. I am quite sure he was not absent from the time he entered it, until the evening of June 23, 1864 when he left the line of battle south of the Weldon R. R. with his regiment, and was always with his company until detailed to the hospital department in the winter or spring of 1864. He was one of the best shots in the company and was ready to volunteer to put himself in the most dangerous places. I well remember seeing him as he was climbing the bluffs at Crampton Pass and the rebels were retreating up the mountainside, in fact he was always in his place when fighting was the order of the day. He was one of the eleven who returned with the company in 1864, and was with us at the banquet given by the good people of Bethel, at the old Bethel House then kept by Wm. F. Lovejoy, who is our veteran hotel keeper at the present day.

After the war, he went into business at Hanover and manufactured doors, sash and blinds also long and short lumber. While here he married the daughter of the late Moses Coburn Esq. of Newry, a very estimable lady. From Hanover they moved to Lowell, Mass., remained there a few years then drifted west, and now live in Butte City, Mont., where he is a contractor of buildings. I could say many good things of him in his war record, but the boys of his company need not be reminded of his gallantry in battle nor his kind acts in camp, and may he live many more years to enjoy the blessings of life with that kind, good wife of his, in that beautiful home far, far away in the distant West.