from The Southbridge Journal, 13 July 1862 (Volume 2 #22), contributed by Mike Branniff
Army Correspondence of the Journal
From the Fifteenth Regiment

Within Two Miles of Harrisons Landing July 6th, 1862
Mr. Editor: The past ten days hav witnessed great changes in the movements of the grand army. The enemy have made several attempts to break through our lines in front of Richmond, previous to the above time; but we have always met and repulsed them. The Fifteenth was charged on Friday and Saturday last, from center to the right, from there to the left, a number of times, where most of the fighting was going on at those points. We went to work and made breastworks on the right flank, and finding the enemy satisfied with their loss, we went to our camp, confident that our generals had done well those two days, between the Chickahominy and James rivers, for they had foiled all the attempted assaults on us. We soon received orders to pack up everything, with the exception of the tents, which were left standing till nine o’clock, P. M.. we received another order to proceed quietly, to take down tents. Then, some strange emotion passed over us. You cannot imagine our feelings. The question was whispered around, can this be a retreat, or what does it mean? Oh shall I ever forget the inquiring look of the various countenances. The silence that reigned about us seemed to indicate that something was not quite right. yet we now see the matter in a different light.

We started on our journey, with an occasional caution from our Captain to proceed as quietly as possible. We arrived at Savage’s Station, and laid down to rest about one o’clock that night. There we staid, leaving Company E, under command of Capt. Watson, on the outpost on picket at Fair Oaks. We soon proceeded, at sunrise, to take a more elevated piece of ground where we could command the whole field. Our Regiment, the 20th Massachusetts and 69th New York, were detailed to go to the depot and destroy the ammunition and commissary stores. I tell you we worked lively for four hours. Then the cars were run back towards Fair Oaks, at the edge oif the woods, and set on fire. After a time they began to blow up. They then exploded in succession, five different times.

Our pickets then began to come in about five o’clock P. M. on Sunday. There we formed into battle line, the solid shot and shell began to fly around our heads, when our batteries opened upon them in good earnest. The engagement began to be general on both sides, with rifles. We could see that our boys were scattering, therefore Gen. Sumner ordered the 69th New York, and 15th Massachusetts to support them. We started with……………………………... in there when our boys drove them from their chosen positions. We stood in line till nine P. M.,………..then very quietly retreated about eight miles, through ravines and swamps, over the White Oakes Swamp. We secured a good position on an eminence for our battery, and we then lay down at two o’clock for the rest of the night. We arose early in the morning, on Monday. After marching and countermarching about two hours, we took a position in line … miles from the place where we stopped during the night, at two P. M.. Appearances indicated that the enemy were in strong force where we had just destroyed the bridge. Our batteries kept them back. Our Brigade was ordered back two miles to support them, in double quick time, through the hot and boiling sun. We stayed there for an hour when our Brigade was ordered back to the left in very quick double quick. Then occurred a scene that was witnessed of our gallant boys that were wounded in various parts of the body, returning to find the hospital. But nothing daunted we passed on double quick to the scene of the action. many of our boys fell down by the road sick and exhausted. Our color bearer fell among the rest. One of the Corporals clutched the colors and bore them gallantly on till we came into line. Our regiment then advanced in front to sustain our boys, which I can assure you was nobly done.

Among the gallant and heroic acts of that days action, we had the pleasure of hearing little Robert Steele, commonly called Bob, who was Quartermaster Sergeant raising his voice above the roar and din of battle, cheering and saying to us” Come On Fifteenth!, come on!”

It was truly a noble sight to see such courage. There are many incidents that we could mention of the days action. Lieut. Col. Kimball, when we were formed into line at the edge of the woods, supposing that there was a regiment in front of us that we were supporting, advanced into the woods alone some fifteen yards, but not finding the regiment , he came back and ordered our pickets in advance of us. We consider this a very bold and daring act.

We staid in line some three hours that night, when we took up our line of march about three miles, when we laid down to rest. We found the enemy were coming in full force, and were early on the opposite side of the field planting their batteries. we soon advanced, with our battery and infantry in position. Here is where we received the most damage from their battery, across our Brigade flank. We soon moved our position further to the right and rear in the woods. Our battery won after fighting four hours. General Carney succeeded in taking a number of pieces of cannon from them.

I forgot to mention that our Regiment was ordered to throw away its knapsacks at Savage’s Station, consequently we lost all, with the exception of what we had on our backs, therefore we have had no covering of any description from Saturday till now. We have erected temporary coverings of bushes to-day which keep the sun off of us. I think we marched about five miles to the landing on Wednesday. it rained all day, sometimes very hard. We found a nice field of wheat, and we took our knives and cut it down sufficiently to keep us out of the mud. We laid down perfectly exhausted, feeling thankful that we were under the protection of our gunboats. It was a sad sight to see, both officers and privates lie down that awful stormy night, and you might think that we could not sleep, but most of us were so exhausted that we slept considerably that night. We arose the next morning to look around us. Various were the remarks made about our sleeping apartments, some saying that they could call their fathers hog pen palace compared with it. We wallowed through the mud all day on Thursday, and took up our line of march one mile and a half back again to another field, planted with corn and potatoes, with a nice brook running through our camps.

General Sumner’s corps taking the rear in coming, General Sedgwick’s Division being in the extreme rear. We had a tough time. We are now resting while some other General takes the advance line. We know not what an hour or a day may bring forth. We may be called upon any moment, although we feel hopeful, for we know and realize they did not get the advantage of us in our retreat. Yet at times it looked rather dark to us in some of our engagements. we stopped quite a number of times in our retreat, and sometimes we moved very slowly, that is, in a very slow walk. The baggage wagons troubled us considerably on the way. Of course some of the boys could get impatient at the seeming delay, and would give vent to their feelings in some pretty loud words. I must say that it was somewhat exciting to see the teams start upon the run, to get out of the way of the advancing foe.

The Fifteenth regiment stood it nobly as a Regiment, and did what was required of it. Captain Joslin never was found missing in all the different engagements that we were in. I will close by giving a list of missing and wounded.
Captain Watson, Oxford, Co. E, wounded in hip;
Andrew Yeomans, Oxford, Co. E, missing;
Henry Hoyle, Sutton, Co. E, missing;
Elias Ellis, Co. E, drummer boy, missing;
Albert H. Slater, Webster, Co. I, missing;
E. D. Clemens, Webster, Co. I, missing;
L. O. Riely, Webster, Co. I, missing;
James Mahoney, Oxford, Co. I, missing;
Hiram Burnham, Windsor Co., Co. I, sick, gone to Fortress Monroe;
William Joy, Co. I, accidental discharge of gun at Fair Oakes, while lying down in tent the charge going through his foot.