Echoes from the Sixties [Part 1]


Echoes from the Sixties [Part 1]


Bethel News, Vol. 5, No. 50


May 9, 1900




Full Text


Official Report of One of the Most Bloody Conflicts of the Civil War.

The following is the official report of the Fifth Maine at Fredericksburg, as given by Col. Edwards to General John L. Hodsdon. It has not been revised nor re-vamped, but is just as it came from the Colonel’s pen just 37 years ago today.

Headquarters 5th Maine Vols.
May 9th, 1863.

Brig. Gen’l John L. Hodsdon,
Adj’t Gen’l, State of Maine.

Sir:—I have the honor to submit the following report of the engagements in which this regiment has participated in the late movements of the army.

My regiment broke camp near White Oak Church, Va., on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 28, and bivouacked near the point selected for crossing the Rappahannock, a short distance below Fredericksburg, at about dark on the same day. Brooks’ division, of which my regiment forms a part, was to cross first in pontoon boats, and capture and hold the opposite bank of the river, while the bridges were being laid.

Everything being in readiness, a short time before daybreak, the boats were loaded with troops, and pushed boldly out into the stream. On nearing the opposite bank, a volley of musketry was discharged from the rifle pits of the enemy, killing and wounding several in Russell’s brigade; but nothing daunted, the boats moved rapidly forward, and in a moment the troops were landed, and, rapidly forming a line charged gallantly up the bank, and into the rifle pits, scattering the enemy in every direction. My regiment was among the first to cross and succeeded in reaching the opposite bank, and formed a line without losing a man. It was a bold undertaking; not a man flinched, but came gallantly to the work. In an incredibly short time, Brooks’ division was all over and deployed in lines of battle. The pickets of the enemy fell back rapidly, and our skirmishers soon occupied the wide plain in front of our position. Before noon, three bridges were completed, and some batteries brought over to assist in holding the position.

No advance was made until the morning of the 3rd instant at about 1 o’clock a.m., when the troops were ordered under arms, and moved forward to the centre of the plain, in front of our position, where a line of battle was formed, and halted until daylight. Upon receiving orders to advance, I moved forward by the flank and occupied a position at the point where the Bowling Green turnpike intersects a deep ravine.

About this time the batteries within the enemy’s works opened with shell, and were directly replied to by our batteries, announcing that the battle had commenced. My regiment occupied this position until near 7 o’clock, when orders were received to move down the turnpike to the left of the ravine to the support of a battery, which movement was executed in good order, amid a storm of shell from the enemy’s batteries, but without loss. From this position, I moved by the left flank to the right and front of the battery which we supported and formed a line at right angles with, and about one hundred yards from the road facing the ravine.

Immediately after this, I was ordered by Gen’l Bartlett to move forward up the ravine and occupy the railroad, connecting my right with the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers, who were deployed as skirmishers on the right of the ravine.

As soon as I commenced to carry out the order, the movement was discovered by the enemy, when they opened a rapid fire from a battery, with sharpnell or grape and canister upon us, at a range of two hundred yards, thinning our ranks at every discharge. Scarcely heeding it, my men pushed boldly forward up the ravine, through a thick undergrowth and over broken ground until my right had reached the left of the 96th Pennsylvania. Here, fell Adjutant Geo. W. Bicknell, while gallantly urging his men, severely wounded in the head.

Upon reaching this point, it was found that the railroad was occupied by the enemy in force, and that the position was commanded by his batteries, and it was deemed imprudent to attempt to gain the position.

My left companies were thrown out as skirmishers and the best marksmen employed as sharpshooters to pick off the enemy’s gunners. A sharp fire was kept up here for nearly an hour, when I was ordered to retire and occupy my last position on the flank of the battery.

The regiment retired in good order, bringing all the killed and wounded off, occupying the old position where it remained until near 12 o’clock m., when the heights in the rear of the city were carried by Howe’s and Newton’s divisions, and firing ceased. The loss of my command in this engagement was three officers and eighteen men in killed and wounded, as follows:

Adjt. Geo. W. Bicknell, wounded severely.

Capt. Edwd. M. Robinson, Co. C, wounded slightly.

2nd Lieut. Oren B. Stevens, Co. F, wounded slightly.


Private John F. Ward Co. E.
" James McPhilling " F.
Sergt. Joseph C. Sawyer " I.
" Geo. E. French " K.


Private Patrick Gleason Co. A.
" Frank Lord " "
" Wm. Brown " "
" James Gaddis " C.
Capt. George S. Berry " D.
Private Jefferson Smith " "
" I. G. Purington " E.
" Lorenzo D. Morse " F.
" John Godfrey " "
" Frank O. Dealing " G.
Corp. E. Whittemore, Jr. " I.
Private Daniel M. Stearns " "
" Charles Dunham " "
" John French " K.

Upon receiving orders I immediately joined the brigade on the turnpike, and moved forward through Fredericksburg to the Heights in rear of the city. Here a short halt was made, and then we moved forward on the Plank Road, towards Salem Heights. At a distance of about three miles from the city, the enemy made a stand, and opened fire from a battery, upon our advancing column.A line of battle was immediately formed, extending to the right and left of the road.My right rested upon the road and supported the 121st New York regiment. The line advanced in this position until near the woods where the enemy were posted, when I moved obliquely to the left and formed on the left of the 96th Pennsylvania regiment in the edge of the woods.My regiment was now on the extreme left of the line and without support. The right of the line had already become heavily engaged, and the heavy and continuous volleys, told us but too plainly, that the enemy were in large force, and that warm work was before us.

continued next week.