Clark S. Edwards, 5th Maine, was 37 when the news of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter reached the small town of Bethel, Maine. He was on a ladder shingling his roof and he immediately climbed down, obtained permission to form a company of volunteers and set out to gather recruits from Bethel and surrounding towns. His 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 on Jan. 8, 1863. He was promoted to brevet brigadier general on March 13, 1865, for his gallant and meritorious service record.
In addition to Gettysburg, the 5th Maine’s battles include First Bull Run, West Point, Gaines’ Mill, Charles City Cross-Roads, Crampton’s Gap, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Salem Heights, and Rappahannock station, Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House and Cold Harbor. During the Battle of Rappahannock Station, the regiment captured four Confederate flags and 1,200 prisoners.
Henry R. Millett, who signed [free franked] the cover, was a 28 year-old resident of Palmyra, Maine, when he enlisted in the 5th Maine Infantry as a sergeant on June 24, 1861. He was promoted to captain on August 6, 1861, to Major on Sept. 24, 1862, Lieutenant Colonel on Jan. 8, 1863 and was mustered out of the service on July 27, 1864.
4 pp, 7 ¾” x 9 ¾”, Nov. 19th, 1862, Camp at Strafford C[ourt] House. With cover addressed in Edwards’ hand to his wife in Bethel, Maine, stamped Due 3.
“My Dear Wife,
“It has been all of four days since I wrote you last, but as I have had no true or convenient place to write, I think you will not find much fault about it. My last letter I think was dated at New Baltimore. We left that place at seven o’clock Sunday and came by the way of Greenwich and thence by Catlett Station. We passed the same spot that we were in camp on last Apr., the time we laid in the mud and snow. I think I wrote you from there but I will continue my route to this place. We went into camp about one mile this side of the station. We received orders at that place to leave on Monday morning at 6 ‘clock and were up at 5 o’clock, but as our whole corps was in advance of us we did not leave till one o’clock P.M. and then came about seven miles and went into camp for the night. We left in the morning at eight o’clock and came on by a little one horse place called Garrisonville and thence by on to the C.H. [court house] and halted a few minutes and then went on picket about two miles beyond the C.H. and there remained til twelve o’clock today Wednesday and then came back to the Brigade here near this place. We halted last night. It is evening now while I write and I have a little fire in front of my tent so I get along quite well. I had rather a hard time last night as it rained quite hard all night and as I had no tent to cover me from the pelting storm, also I had but little to eat as our grub was in the mess chest aboard the team. I will tell you what I had for supper. Jimmy found a few potatoes and boiled them in an old coffee pot which I made a supper on, but today our team came up with us and we are now in town again. I think the country between here and N. Baltimore is the poorest I have yet found. The houses are very small & poor & the fields look to be all worn out. I cannot praise this country as I have some other places we have gone through. I think the west part of Maryland is the best I have ever seen. I have not received any letters from you since I last wrote you so have none to answer. I am as well as usual, but not so fleshy as when at Bakersville. Dr. Manson tents with me, also Dr. Buxton when he is here but he is now at Washington. I get along finely with them. I do not get along so well with the Col. As I would like, but as I had trouble with one, you many think the whole fault is mine, but I shall never get tight or drink to make myself popular. The Adj. & Maj. and Col. Drink almost as bad as the old Col. ever did, and I will not go in with them for those times, and it gets up some ill feelings, but still I will do what I think is right, let the consequences be what it may. I do not think that a quart of Government whiskey per day is really needed, but certainly it is drunk by some that now is high in office in this Regt. The Col. and myself had a few unpleasant words in regard to some few things today, but I will drop that subject and write on something else. I expect you are still looking for me home and I now think I may go in a short time either on leave or resign. I care but little which it is. I feel I have done my part on fighting and am certain that no man has done more in this Regt. It is quite late and I will close this as I think we will not leave this place for a few days to come. Will bid you good night by wishing I was with you at home. I think if Kate was there she would hear something knock as she did last winter, that is if I was with you.
“Thursday Morning Nov. 20th:
“We are still in camp at our near the C.[ourt] House and I am of the opinion that we may stop here for a few short days at least, but if there is not a fight soon I expect the whole North will be indignant at Burnside. What will or what does the North say about the inactivity of our army. While at N. Baltimore at that time part of our army was on the south side of the Shenandoah, but as soon as Burnside took command the whole army stopped till the Rebel force was all, or near all, at Gordonsville, and then our course changed to this point. I hardly think we will have much fighting for some time to come but you will see by the papers all there is going on, so I cannot write you much news.
Light age toning. Some ink blotching. The 5th became engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg less than a month after this letter was written.
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