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5th Maine Infantry Letter

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Item Number: UL2026
 

 



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Written by Major Clark S. Edwards, future Colonel of the regiment

He commanded the 5th Maine Infantry during the battle of Gettysburg!

Promoted to Brevet Brigadier General for gallant conduct during the Civil War!

1862 eight page letter with original cover signed twice by Major Edwards with excellent content defending the Army of the Potomac and citing some of their recent battles!

"we had one hundred & fifty thousand men, the finest army the world ever saw, but where is it now. The remnants are here, but the largest half is gone, their bones are now whitening in every county, town and village on the Peninsula, and thousands of them are left at So. Mt., Crampton Pass, and Antietam."


(1824-1903) Edwards was 37 years old when the news of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter reached the small town of Bethel, Maine. He was high on a ladder shingling his roof and he immediately climbed down, obtained permission from the appropriate authorities to form a company of volunteers, and set out to gather recruits from Bethel and the surrounding towns. This group of men became Company I, of the 5th Maine Volunteer Infantry, with Edwards commissioned as their captain on June 24, 1861. He rose through the ranks and was appointed colonel of the regiment, on January 8, 1863, commanding the 5th Maine Infantry from that date forward. He was promoted to brevet brigadier general, on March 13, 1865, for his gallant and meritorious Civil War service record.

The 5th Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry was one of the first Maine regiments to be mustered into the Union Army. They fought in many battles from 1st Bull Run to Petersburg. During the battle of Rappahannock Station the regiment is credited with capturing 4 Confederate battleflags and 1,200 prisoners. Known as one of Maine's best fighting regiments, it captured more prisoners than the entire number of men who served in the regiment, and three times the number of battle flags than any other Maine regiment. After three long years of hard fought service only 193 men were mustered out of the regiment when their term of service expired. Among their battle honors are written the names of 1st Bull Run, Gaines' Mill, 2nd Bull Run, Crampton's Gap, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, Rapidan Crossing, Mine Run, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and Petersburg.

8 pages, 5 x 8, in ink, written by Major Clark S. Edwards, to his wife. Comes with the original envelope which has been signed twice by Edwards, once with rank. Addressed in the hand of Major Edwards to his wife, "Mrs. C.S. Edwards, Bethel, Maine." Edwards has franked the envelope at the upper right corner, "Soldiers Letter, C.S. Edwards, Maj. 5th Me. Vo[l]." Manuscript "due" is written below his signature for postage due on the letter. Docketed at the upper left edge as the letter was in route to Maine, "Keedysville, Md., Oct. 31st." The docket at the left edge of the envelope, "Oct. 30th/62" was written by Mrs. Edwards. It was her habit to write the dates on the envelopes that her husband's letters were written on. This made it easier for her if she was looking for a letter from a certain date or time period.

Thursday Afternoon, Near Bakersville, Md., Oct. 30, 1862

We are still on the old camp, but left it yesterday and went on picket at dawn [at] No. 4, but was relieved in the night by one of the Mass. Regts. and got into camp about midnight and I found a letter from you dated Oct. 21st, so you see it takes a full week for a letter to reach us. Our mail matters is very bad or irregular of late. I am very glad to hear the little ones are better. I am glad you have become reconciled to my staying a time longer or at least are willing. I should do what I thought for the best. I am sorry to hear you are breaking down or getting worn out. The little boys are old enough to do considerable in the way of chores. I am sorry to hear of Dr. Luce’s troubles, but it’s different from what it would have been if he had been killed in battle and left on here with our unknown as thousands are. In regard to his good wishes towards me I am thankful of them, but in regard to my next promotion I know nothing about it or no more than you do and I presume not as much. I am glad to hear that Mary is getting along well. What is her opinion about having babies now, not so very bad after all. Tell her she has got her hand in and she must keep it up. You think I judged wrong in regard to the Bethel folks feeling bad because no more is killed. I did not mean Bethel in particular, all the North. We of the Potomac Army are now called the stand still army by these Northern croakers. Is it not enough to raise the indignation of any people after going through what we have since the first of Apl. [April] last, than we had one hundred & fifty thousand men, the finest army the world ever saw, but where is it now. The remnants are here, but the largest half is gone, their bones are now whitening in every county, town and village on the [Virginia] Peninsula and thousands of them are left at So.[South] Mt. [Mountain], Crampton Pass, and Antietam, more than sixty thousand are left. We have marched and countermarched for thousands of miles and fought the greatest battles this country ever have, and still because the great object is not obtained, that is the taking of Richmond, why the Potomac Army has done nothing in the mind of those that is all the time finding fault. If Richmond had been taken in the first part of the season what then, why their army that has been opposing us would have been somewhere else to fight us where there would have been as much or more at stake. The Rebels loss in Va. & Md. the past season cannot amount to less than one hundred & twenty thousand. If Richmond was in our possession, what then? Why that is one place out of ten thousand. We hold more now than we can take care of. A large part of Tenn. & Kentucky we have lost within the past year, but I will say no more on the subject as I may say too much. In regard to the New York ladies I think they will not compare with the Maine women. I would not fear to have you come here and if we go into camp near the R.R. I will send for you.

Thursday Evening

As I have a few leisure moments I will close this. It is now seven o’clock and I am in my tent alone as the Dr. is out. We have orders to move in the morning at five o’clock, but I cannot tell you anything about where we go, but by the order about our baggage we are going on one of our long marches again, perhaps before this reaches you we will see more fighting, but the sooner it comes the sooner [its] over. Our camp is all alive as the boys are fixing up to leave at an early hour, but we little know what we are going into. I think we shall go into winter quarters within two or three weeks if the fall’s rains come on as early as usual, then as I have always write you. I will try to go home. I think you must be glad that I did not go at the time I first talked of. If I had gone then I should not been in the two last fights and you know it is an honor to anyone to be in a fight. You can see that by the way the 7th [Maine Infantry] was received in Portland. We are in a beautiful camp here and I do not like the idea of moving, but we go as we are bid to go. Our camp is in a beautiful grove and just outside the army tents is the grave of some poor soldier. I did not notice it till after I put up my [tent] and as it was hardly finished I had it fixed up and a stone put at the head & foot. It is within twenty feet of my [?]. I do not know the history of the poor fellow but as [the] Fourth Division was in camp on this ground I presumed it was one of them, perhaps one of that immortal 7th. We think but little of camping down with the dead. I find its any different from what I expected that is in myself in regard to these things, but after a man has been in the army a year & a half he can do most anything. I must close this soon as I have got some packing up to do so to leave early. I wish it was towards Maine and the whole Regt. was to go, but I do not know when that will be. I will write you again as soon as we get to a place so I can. I do not know how I will get along tomorrow as Mc [Mac] is lame and Findley, about every horse in the Regt. is at this time. It is a sort of a disease among the horses, something like the scratches only a good deal worse. You may say to [?] that I think they can have the sutlership of the Regt. I will write them as soon as I get time. I know they can make more money out of it, but it wants two to carry it on, one to buy & haul in, the other to sell. If they think of coming it must be done soon as we shall have a sutler as soon as we go into winter quarters. My love to all the little ones and regards to all.

Clark

Very fine 8 page letter. Excellent content with references to the recently fought battles that the Army of the Potomac and the 5th Maine Infantry had participated in, and much more interesting news! Comes with the original cover bearing 2 signatures of Major Clark S. Edwards, one with rank. The cover shows edge wear from when it was originally opened and some edge chipping.



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