On This Date (June 30, 1863)

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Lt. Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine (Maine State Archvies).

The 17th Maine passed June 30 in the Maryland town of Taneytown, and were even mustered in to receive their pay. That afternoon they marched to Emmitsburg, a town that apparently did not share the pro-Union sympathies that men had experienced earlier. “It has never fallen to my lot to see such a malignant set of countenances,” said Pvt. John Haley.

“I should not be surprised if we begin the month of July with a fight,” Lt. Charles Mattocks wrote in his journal. “We are now close upon the enemy, and I somewhat think there will be a few guns fired July 1st.”

On the night of June 30, XI Corps commander Oliver Otis Howard was about to go to bed at his headquarters at a Jesuit college in Emmitsburg when he received a summons from Maj. Gen. John Reynolds, who commanded one wing of the army, consisting of the I, III, and I Corps. He wanted Howard to meet him at Moritz Tavern, where Reynolds had stopped for the night. It was about six miles away, near Marsh Creek. Howard and his brother Charles found Reynolds in a small farmhouse that was nearly empty of furniture. “General Reynolds was a tall, vigorous man of quick motion and nervous temperament,” Charles Howard recalled. “That night he was somewhat paler than usual and seemed to feel anxious or at least to keenly alive to the responsibility resting upon him.”

There was one table in the room where they talked, and it was piled with maps and messages. The two generals went through the dispatches from headquarters and discussed the possibilities of battle. Howard left around eleven. He recalled thinking that Reynolds seemed depressed, almost as though he had received a foreshadowing of what was going to happen the next day. Back at his headquarters, Howard got only about an hour’s sleep before an orderly woke him with orders, directed to Reynolds, about the army’s movements. The I and XI Corps were told to move north to Gettysburg.

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Adapted from Maine Roads to Gettysburg, which is available for purchase now. You can find it on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com, or at any fine bookseller near you.

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On This Date (June 29, 1863)

We are only days away from the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It’s interesting to take a look at what Maine soldiers were doing on this date 155 years ago. The Army of the Potomac had been making some brutal marches as it made its way north in pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia. Many soldiers realized that a major battle was imminent.

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Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard (Library of Congress).

On June 29, 1863, Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard and his XI Corps reached the Maryland town of Emmitsburg, just south of the Pennsylvania border, after a “wearisome” march of some 20 miles on a rainy day over muddy roads.

When the 16th Maine, part of the I Corps, finally staggered into Emmitsburg on June 29, it had traveled 40 miles over the previous 26 hours. Fortunately for the exhausted men, their march of June 30 was just a short one, and they established a camp just north of Emmitsburg.

The 17th Maine, which belonged to the III Corps, established its camp on June 29 outside the Maryland village of Taneytown, where the locals treated the soldiers like a combination of conquering heroes and sideshow attractions. “Ladies and young girls distributed beautiful bouquets of flowers to the officers and soldiers; groups of fair damsels, bewitchingly posted in conspicuous places, sang patriotic airs, as the ‘boys in blue’ marched by, and the passage of troops being a novelty, the citizens turned out en masse,” recalled Edwin Houghton.Long after tattoo, groups of ladies and gentlemen were promenading through our camps, actuated by a curiosity to see how soldiers really lived in the ‘tented field.’”

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Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Library of Congress).

Like so many regiments in the Army of the Potomac, the 20th Maine of the V Corps made a series of exhausting marches as it followed Robert E. Lee toward Pennsylvania. On the morning of June 29 its still-untested colonel, Joshua Chamberlain, began leading his men north from Frederick. Sgt. Charles Proctor of Company H was carrying the regimental flag, but he had managed to acquire enough liquor to get belligerently drunk. He began spouting abuse at some of the officers, who took the flag away from him. Members of the rear guard had to hold Proctor up to keep him on his feet. They finally gave up and left him behind.

Andrew Tozier took Proctor’s place as color bearer. Tozier, then only 24, had already led a difficult life. Born into poverty in Monmouth, he had fled to a life at sea to escape an alcoholic and abusive father, and then he joined the 2nd Maine. He was badly wounded and taken prisoner at Gaines’ Mill, but returned to the regiment after his parole. Tozier was one of the mutinous men that Chamberlain had to discipline when they were transferred to his regiment. But he was now the senior sergeant, so the honor of carrying the regimental flag fell to him.

The 19th Maine belonged to the II Corps, and the regiment made its longest march of the campaign, 32 miles, on June 29, but was able to spend the next day relaxing and basking in the patriotic sentiment it found in the aptly named Uniontown, Maryland.

On June 29 Capt. George D. Smith of the 19th Maine told Edwin Burpee, “I think we are on the eve of a terrible battle and I feel that I shall be killed or wounded.” He was wounded on July 2 and died in the predawn hours the next day. Smith was eventually buried at Gettysburg’s National Cemetery.

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Adapted from Maine Roads to Gettysburg, which is available for purchase now. You can find it on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com, or at any fine bookseller near you.

Maine at Brandy Station

 

June 9, 2018, is the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest cavalry battle in North America. It was also the battle where the 1st Maine Cavalry felt that it “earned its spurs.” This excerpt from Maine Roads to Gettysburg tells a bit about the Maine horsemen’s experiences in June 1863.

The 1st Maine received orders to move out on June 8. Dust clouds visible in the distance showed that the Rebels were moving, too. The Maine horsemen bivouacked in the vicinity of Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock. That evening, the officers received an invitation to brigade commander Judson Kilpatrick’s headquarters. “General Kilpatrick loved a good, social time almost as well as a fight,” recalled Capt. Charles Ford of Company K. When the Maine officers arrived, they saw a mysterious object covered by a poncho near Kilpatrick’s tent. An aide whipped the poncho aside to reveal a vessel filled with whiskey punch. Realizing there were always “honorable exceptions” to their pledges of temperance, the Maine Puritans unbent enough to pass an hour of toasts, songs, and speeches. When it came time for the 1st Maine to offer a toast, an officer raised his glass and said, “Here’s hoping we will do as well at Brandy Station to-morrow as we are doing at the whisky station to-night.” Kilpatrick proclaimed it the best toast he had heard all evening.

Dawn had broken by the time the Maine cavalry finally saddled up and moved out on June 9. As they waited for their turn to cross the Rappahannock, they could hear artillery from somewhere upriver. Once across, they broke into a gallop down forest trails, the thudding hooves sending up clouds of dust that coated the whole command. Suddenly the horses emerged from the woods into a large field. In front of them was “a grand, moving panorama of war,” a chaotic confusion of charging horsemen and flashing sabers. “It was a scene to be witnessed but once in a lifetime, and one well worth the risks of battle to witness,” said regimental historian Edward Tobie. It was, in fact, the largest cavalry action to take place in North America.

The battle of Brandy Station had opened to the north—the sounds of firing earlier that morning had come from the area around Beverly Ford, where Brig. Gen. John Buford’s Federal cavalry division had surprised the Confederates in the predawn hours. They sent the Rebel cavalrymen dashing back in the direction of Fleetwood Hill, the eminence above Brandy Station where Jeb Stuart had his headquarters. The battle continued through the morning. Stuart managed to recover and rally, only to be surprised again by the sounds of battle to his south: Gregg’s division, including Kilpatrick’s brigade, had finally entered the fight.

Kilpatrick sent his first two regiments, the 2nd and 10th New York, charging forward toward the tracks of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad and Fleetwood Hill beyond. They collided with Rebel cavalry under Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton, and came reeling back. If Kilpatrick had been nourishing dreams of winning glory and promotion on this field, they were rapidly fading. He displayed considerable agitation when he rode up to the 1st Maine and its commander, Col. Calvin Douty. “Colonel Douty, what can you do with your regiment?” he demanded.

“I can drive the rebels to hell,” Douty replied. He ordered his men forward.21

“Oh, it was grand!” wrote Tobie, “and many a man who was in that charge has at times fancied that if he were allowed to choose, he would say, ‘Let me bid this world good-by amid the supreme excitement of a grand, exultant, successful cavalry charge like this!’” As they galloped across the field, the Maine cavalrymen could see a little house on the hill, with an artillery battery in front of it. They headed in that direction, driving the enemy before them. The Rebels, Kilpatrick reported, “could not withstand the heavy saber blows of the sturdy men of Maine.”

On the other side of the railroad, the Maine men smashed into the 4th Virginia. Amid the dust clouds, sabers slashed, small arms cracked, horses whinnied, and men cursed. The Rebels broke and fell back. The 1st Maine regrouped and renewed its charge, energized by the frenzy of battle. The riders reached the top of the hill, charged past the battery there, and galloped so far that Rebel forces began to regroup in their rear. Douty had become separated from his men in the fight with the 4th Virginia, so Lt. Col. Charles H. Smith took charge of reforming the regiment and readying it for a dash back to safety. The Northerners wheeled their horses and fought their way through the reformed enemy lines. At one point Smith was leading his men directly toward the battery they had charged beyond, and he could see the enemy gunners frantically reloading. At the last minute, Smith and his men veered sharply to their right, and the battery’s fire tore through empty air. The regiment made its way back to its own lines, but with a loss of some 46 killed, wounded, and missing.

After a long day of combat, Union cavalry chief Alfred Pleasonton was satisfied with what he had accomplished, and he sent orders for his forces to withdraw around five o’clock. He had not defeated the Rebel cavalry, which had fought tenaciously after its unpleasant surprise, but he had demonstrated that the Union cavalry was now a force to be reckoned with. Lt. Colonel Smith believed the battle marked the 1st Maine Cavalry’s “christening” because it marked “the first time it was ever solidly engaged, and the first time it had ever tasted, in any satisfactory manner, the fruit of victory.”

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Adapted from Maine Roads to Gettysburg, which is available for purchase now. You can find it on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com, or at any fine bookseller near you.

Notebooks, Not Guns

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The 10th Maine Battalion’s monument at Gettysburg is on the Baltimore Pike, near the park visitor center (Tom Huntington photo).

The remnants of the 10th Maine—which contained the 1st Maine within its regimental DNA—reached Gettysburg with Henry Slocum and the XII Corps. Not a single one of its soldiers fired a gun during the battle, although several of them contributed to the fight by wielding notebooks.

The two-year men of the 10th Maine had been mustered out in April, but some 240 or so still had time left on their enlistments. There were not enough for a regiment, so—amid much protest and grumbling—they were placed into three companies and designated as the 10th Maine Battalion and acted as the provost guard for the XII Corps. Its men served as guards, clerks, and orderlies—the kind of mundane tasks that kept the machinery of an army in motion, but rarely received mention in official reports. When the corps was on the march, the 10th Maine Battalion took up the rear, behind even the wagons with the hospital supplies. When the corps set up camp, the battalion pitched their tents near Slocum’s headquarters. “A detail into this guard would ordinarily be considered desirable by a soldier in search of adventure and a free and easy life,” noted regimental historian John Mead Gould.

In command was Capt. John D. Beardsley, who had joined Company D of the 10th Maine back in 1861. Many of the company’s soldiers were hardy lumbermen from Aroostook County, but there was also a contingent of British soldiers from New Brunswick. Beardsley was a bit of both. He had worked as a lumberman, but he had gained military experience in the provincial militia in New Brunswick. He was also handy with a broadsword. One of his men remembered that he “had a sabre as long as a scythe.” Beardsley had been captured at Cedar Mountain, but was exchanged.

July 1 found the battalion at Littlestown, about 10 miles from Gettysburg. The night before, Beardsley had received about 50 Confederate prisoners who had been captured near York; in the morning he took the rebel officers to a hotel in town and got them breakfast. Once corps commander Henry Slocum finally reached Gettysburg later that day, he established his headquarters at Powers Hill, south of town on the Baltimore Pike, and the 10th Maine Battalion established a line across the pike and went to work gathering up skulkers and stragglers. That night, 30 men were dispatched to escort Confederate prisoners away from the battlefield, which required an all-night march.

Late in the morning on July 2, Slocum asked for six volunteers from the battalion for “dangerous duty.” They were told to leave their guns behind but take notebooks and advance as far as the Confederate lines, taking notes about the local farms, houses, and springs. If captured, their cover story was to be that they were searching for provisions. The volunteers ventured around the right of the Union line on Culp’s Hill, hiking through woods and sometimes climbing trees to get a better view. Four of them were approaching one house when Sgt. James F. Tarr spied Rebels lurking on the other side. He pretended not to see them, and casually warned his men to get ready to run. At a signal they all broke for the woods as rifle fire erupted behind them.

The members of the 10th Maine Battalion “never claimed more than they performed at Gettysburg or anywhere else,” said regimental historian John Mead Gould. “They simply did what they were ordered to do,” and they did it “promptly and well.”

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Adapted from Maine Roads to Gettysburg, which is available for purchase now. You can find it on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com, or at any fine bookseller near you.

1st Maine Cavalry

As the fighting at Gettysburg headed for its climax on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, another battle took place behind the Union lines, a clash of the Union and Confederate cavalries that had been contending with each other ever since Brandy Station. The 1st Maine Cavalry, which had fought many pitched engagements as it followed Lee’s army north, could take little of the credit for this battle, though. They were little more than spectators.

Some Maine cavalrymen did play small but sometimes vital roles during the three days of battle as orderlies, riding about and delivering messages. It could be very hazardous duty: Pvt. Edward Cunningham of Co. L was killed on July 3 while attached to Abner Doubleday’s staff. The 1st Maine’s captain, John P. Carson, served as an orderly for John Reynolds and was reportedly at the general’s side on July 1 when Reynolds was killed. Sgt. Ebenezer Johnson also served as an orderly for the I Corps. One of his fellow soldiers remembered him as a “marked character, made so by the fact that he was equally at home in leading a prayer meeting or a charge upon the enemy.” At Gettysburg he did such sterling service that both Colonel Richard Coulter and General John Robinson singled him out for praise. Robinson said Johnson’s “chevrons should be exchanged for the epaulette. When we make officers of such men, the soldier receives his true reward and the service great benefit.”

The 1st Maine Cavalry’s brigade finally reached the vicinity of Gettysburg very early in the morning of July 2. The Maine cavalrymen participated in a little skirmishing that afternoon—nothing even close to the scale of the slaughter on the other side of Cemetery Ridge—and that night were ordered over to the Baltimore Pike to take a position near the artillery reserve. The next morning they returned to the right of the Union line, but weren’t sent in to the fight against Jeb Stuart and his Rebel cavalry until the fighting was nearly over.

“About three o’clock Friday the enemy attempted to turn our right and a smart cavalry fight took place,” William B. Baker, a sergeant in the 1st Maine Cavalry’s Co. D, informed his parents. “Our Regt. was in reserve till about four when the enemy made an attempt to take our battery. The 5th Michigan broke badly and scattered all over the fields but as the rebs advanced our guns opened with grape and quick it was I assure you. When we went up in front and to the right of our battery the rebs sent shell over us quite briskly. Lieut. Hall of Co. H was knocked from his horse by the force of one as it passed near him. He was not much hurt. We expected to charge but did not.”

Stuart realized he had been checked and moved his troopers back into the woods. Baltimore Pike was safe. This part of the battle was over.

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Adapted from Maine Roads to Gettysburg, which is available for purchase now. You can find it on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or at any fine bookseller near you.