from The Southbridge Journal, 20 June 1862 (Volume 2 #18), contributed by Mike Branniff
| Army Correspondence of the Journal
From the Fifteenth Regiment
The Battle of Fair Oaks
15th Mass. Regiment,
Mr. Editor: As some of our boys were eating their dinner on Saturday afternoon last, at 2 o’clock P. M., we were startled with the roar of cannon and the brisk firing of volleys of musketry. We immediately and without much ceremony formed and took our place in Sedgwick’s Division, and marched in quick time to the log bridge which had just been built across the Chickahominy river. We found the meadow, after crossing, overflowed with water above our knees. We did not hesitate, however, but waded right through the water above our knees. Nothing daunted we pushed on up the steep hill, but did not find the enemy. The whole column moved forward about one mile, our regiment taking the double quick to an open field, when we advanced in Regimental line. The rebels had prepared themselves, in large numbers, to overpower the little Division of Gen. Casey, which was in advance of us. We soon formed in battle line, and the 15th Regiment was ordered to support the battery, while the 34th flanked across the field, and poured their deadly volleys across the enemy’s lines . The gunners did nobly with their pieces, and the engagement being general in our Brigade, we found that we had something to do to keep the enemy in check. After two hours fighting we succeeded in driving the enemy from the field. Our regiment filed around to the left of the battery, and took the place of the 34th New York, and advanced into the woods over the dead bodies of both friends and foes. We captured some prisoners and returned to the edge of the woods for the night, not to sleep, but to keep watch until morning. We could hear the moans and groans of the wounded men that lay there. That long night will never be obliterated from our minds. As daylight approached, the groans of the dying grew fainter and fainter, until some were heard no more; others appeared to be in the last agonies of death.
We left the edge of the woods and took a position more in the advance, in front of the battery, when we soon found the enemy in large force before us. They attacked the left of our Division, consequently the 15th was not drawn into the engagement that morning. Our forces were successful, and drove the enemy pell-mell across the railroad, General Meager’s men using the butts of their guns to force them along or to kill them.
Our duties have been very arduous indeed for the last seven days. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we were called into line a number of times during the day and night. on those nights, one half of the company would stand in line for the first part of the night, the other half would take their turn the latter park. We went at work and threw up breast works on Tuesday, which took about two hours for each Company.
Lieut. Col. Kimball called us into line on Thursday, to hear read some orders from Gen. McClellan and Brigadier general Gorman, the import of which was praise of us for our cool and daring courage, which was received with three harty cheers. Colonel Kimball made some appropriate remarks, praising us for standing up with such bold front under the enemy’s fire, and for cheerfully performing the duties required of us since the action, under the most trying circumstances. Such conduct was worthy of the regiment. He knew that we had done well. He thanked God that he was in command of such a Regiment, he felt proud of them. We gave him three hearty cheers, after which we were dismissed and sought our quarters.
It was lucky for this part of the command that we crossed the Chickahominy when we did, for the bridge was carried away by the flood on Sunday. No one can tell what would have been the consequences to our arms. We have had very bad weather the past week. It has rained more or less a large part of the time. We have had three very heavy thunder showers within a week; the rain poured down in torrents, wetting us completely through. We have had no blankets, nor overcoats from Saturday till Friday of this week so you see what patient soldiers we are.
Our pickets have been thrown out very strong on our lines. On Sunday afternoon we took a walk through the woods to see the wounded and dead men. Never, no never shall we forget that scene. Here was a man with his leg blown off; there was a man with his head split open; yonder one as he fell backward over a tree, with his legs caught on a limb, his head touching the ground; there they lay in different directions and in every posture, officers and privates, all mingled and mangled. I cannot describe the ghastly faces that I beheld in my wanderings. pen cannot describe the scene.
I counted in a tree that lay on the ground, fifty-nine bullets, without counting those among the limbs of the tree; another tree about nine inches through had forty-two balls init. You can judge how thick and fast we poured the volleys into the rebel ranks. I sent you a list of the wounded in Company I:
A part of our Division are now out on a heavy reconnaissance of the rebel lines, and we write this with all our equipment on, as well as haversack, canteen and rubber blanket over our shoulders. We can see the steeples of the meeting houses in Richmond from the top of a pine tree within our lines.
We have many little incidents that might be mentioned of the bravery of some of our boys. One or two we must mention before closing. While the bullets were flying in all directions, Captain Joslin stepped in front of our company in a very cool manner, and instructed us how to conduct ourselves, if the enemy came up to take the battery. He was very cool, and did not seem to know the danger that he was in. He called upon ten men to help lift the cannons out of the mud. There was no hesitation on the part of our men. They stepped forward and extricated the cannons from the mud twice during the engagement.
Company I being on the left of the columns, and directly behind the battery, could not fire a gun, but had to stand in the line and take the passing bullets. It is a wonder to us that more of us were not wounded, when we consider how the rebels made no less than six charges to take the battery, besides pouring such deadly volleys into us. Gen, Sumner was in front of us, near by the battery, nearly ten minutes. Such cool and unconcerned daring is enough to make men brave.
A friend at my left by the name of Clem, relates an incident which goes to show that the rebels are not all as bad as represented. As he was passing over the battle field on Sunday, he came across a young man lying in a pool of blood. He tells me that he cut a blanket off a dead rebel and secured another one which he took and placed under his body, and head for a pillow. He had a bible by his side, which he apparently had been reading, but his strength having failed him, he could no longer read. He asked me to place the bible upon his pillow. I did so, and gave him a drink from my canteen, learned his name, bid him goodbye and left him to die. His name was Charles Trumbull of the 11th Mississippi Volunteers, aged 16 years. He was pressed into the service and had been in it but three weeks.