The 5th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia was originally a peacetime infantry regiment that was activated for federal service in the Union Army for three separate tours. The second term of service lasted nine months, from September 1862 to July 1863 during which they were stationed in New Bern, NC, and participated in several expeditions.
In this 5 x 8, 4 pp, Civil War soldier’s letter written from Newbern, NC, November 20, 1862, our soldier who signs with his initials L.C. provides details of several battles involving with details on the deaths of soldiers and those who were wounded.
“…Since we left Massachusetts, we have been shifting from place to place and I have not had scarcely time to think even of home. I thank kind providence that I am spared through all my journeys…
“It would be useless [for] me to try to tell you of our passage here…for I suppose you have read the account of it in the papers but what I have read myself about the expedition is the most absurd thing I ever saw…I shall try to tell you the truth about it.
“It was on the 20th of October that we received marching orders and to take with us 10 days’ rations. On the 29th, we received our guns…It was rather hard on the boys to march before they saw their guns in the daylight. We left Newbern at 3 am, the 30th. We took the steamer at 6 for Washington [NC]. We had a pleasant sail on the Tar River. About 10, we passed the…blockade which Burnside crossed the time he took Newbern. There were 10 ships in the expedition. We arrived at Washington, NC, on the 31st…On Saturday night, we slept on the grass on the banks of the Tar River, a very pleasant place… Saturday night we slept in a cotton mill. The Monday night before, we arrived into Washington. The Rebels drove the pickets in and fired on a Union man’s house but did not kill any men. We left Washington on Sunday morning at 3 ½ for a long and dreary. About 11 am, we met and drove in the Rebel pickets. One of the General’s staff was wounded and his horse killed. About 4 pm we sent the Rebels our artillery fire…for an hour at which time the Rebels retreated. Our loss was two wounded men killed.
“After the battle was over, I took a walk over the battlefield which is close by the edge of the woods and I saw something and what it was I could not tell, and being dark I did not like to go into the woods alone. I got another fellow to go with me and we…found it to be a Rebel horse all bridled and saddled. Its rider I suppose was killed in the fight. We advanced about a mile from the men…The Rebels fought more desperate than ever for an hour and a half. The forty-fourth Mass. charged on them and the 5th were ordered to protect the cavalry. One of the boys got killed and 3 wounded and 5 of the Rebels were killed and 2 wounded. I saw those who were wounded and one who was killed and I never saw such a sight as before …A few minutes after supper, our artillery advanced about a mile when we were again and the 3rd time attacked by the Rebels. They were on the opposite side of the river…They fought still more desperate than ever but our artillery fought so bravely that the Rebels had to retreat to a rifle pit, which they were then digging. It was about the distance of a quarter of a mile…Our artillery were half way across the river when they were ordered to retreat. While…retreating one of the company left a piece of artillery but their captain ordered them to bring it with them…They advanced again, crossed the river, routed the Rebels…One of the artillery got killed. None wounded. I saw him lying by a tree. He was shot through the stomach. He got shot after he crossed the river. We slept on the battlefield that night…L.C., Co. G, 5th Regt, MA Vols., Newbern, NC”
Toning, folds, in pencil but very readable and fine descriptive Civil War letter.
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