from The Southbridge Journal, 19 Sep 1862 (Volume 2 #31), contributed by Mike Branniff
| Army Correspondence of the Journal
From the Fifteenth Regiment
Mr. Editor: We have tried to take up the pen to let our friends know our movements, but we have found it impossible, having been constantly marching from point to point, which finds us very much in the rear, to use the army phrase. And although we have been obliged to leave the Peninsula under the lead of our good General, we are not disheartened, but are willing and anxious to be lead forward under his lead, especially as he has now the power to proceed as he shall see fit, which looks well for him. Mr. Editor, you know, and we all know that he has been ill used by public men, as well as by individuals. Generals Banks and Burnside never criticize his movements; but the late appointment of him as commander of the forces here is sufficient proof of his skill. Laying aside all other considerations, query, where would Gen. Pope have been if Gen. McClellan had not been around here to help him? Query,No.2 Why do they keep Mc Dowell in command here, when his men are so unwilling to fight under his lead? we leave these questions for our friends to solve.
August 11th, the Regiment received orders to pack knapsacks and tents at Harrison’s Landing.. On the 12th, we took down tents, and cleared the camp of everything except rations and rubber blankets. We patiently waited until Friday, the 14th, when Company I was detailed to guard the Brigade teams. The Company left the ground and proceeded to Fortress Monroe in advance of the corps.
The Regiment formed into line at 5 P. M. and waited near our stack of guns until Saturday forenoon. we led the Division. We marched about 12miles a day. Having passed the Chicahominy river on our pontoon bridge, the whole Division improved the time in bathing. We can assure you it was a sight to behold the large body of men that were improving the short time allotted to them in cleaning their bodies.
On Tuesday morning, the 19th, we passed through Williamsburg, halting three times, giving us a chance to see the place. The main street is very well laid out, of good width, and shaded with large trees. It is an ancient place containing very few modern dwelling houses. There are a few modern public buildings. The college is said to be the oldest in the United States, with the exception of Yale. The place reminds us of our New England villages. We passed over the recent battle ground, and found to our surprise three large forts. The plain was more than a mile across. We spent the day in marching and resting.
We arrived at Yorktown Plain on Wednesday afternoon. The boys improved the time in gathering new potatoes, turkeys, chickens, fresh pork, meal, peaches, pears and apples. The recent order of General Pope, in regard to foraging is carried out to the very letter by the boys. We must say we never saw the boys in General Sedgwick’s Division in better health and spirits. There were not less than two thousand bathing and getting oysters from the water.
On Thursday Morning, 21st, we passed around the edge of Yorktown, over our old camp ground, thence onward to Big Bethel, when we encamped for the night. This was a hard days march. Quite a number fell out, it was so hot. Friday forenoon we marched five miles without resting. Here we received our long looked for mail. We had just time to receive it, when the rain poured down in torrents. Although we did not stop long here, we went four miles further, and encamped within two miles of Newport News. Gen, Gorman’s Brigade went to the landing Sunday night, the 24th inst. The Brigade slept in regimental line that night.
The 1st Minnesota, 15th Massachusetts, and34th New York, twenty-two hundred in all, went on board the steamship Mississippi. We left Newport News on Tuesday Noon. Passed Fortress Monroe, Sewall’s Point, Point Lookout and Fort Washington, and anchored within twelve miles of Aquia Creek at dark. On Wednesday morning we started on our trip. Our quartermaster sergeant Mr. waters, made arrangements to cook the salt meat for the whole regiment at once by the steam apparatus on the craft. It was the most palatable that we have eaten since we have been in the army. The whole Regiment had coffee made twice a day while on board, and although we were very much crowded for room, yet these conveniences counterbalance some of the inconveniences that we had on board.
After waiting for orders at Aquia creek nearly all day, we received orders to report to Alexandria, which we did on Thursday afternoon, the 28th. We passed the 34th Mass. Regiment, which was encamped three miles in the rear. On the following day and night, we marched to within a short distance of Chain Bridge, where we staid about six hours, when we ordered to report to Centerville immediately, which we did on Sunday morning the 31st. Monday morning, Gen. Sumner’s corps made a reconnaissance in force some three miles in front, captured some prisoners and returned to Centerville, when the army wagons were set in motion, and Gen. Sumner’s corps was preparing to evacuate the place. Gen. Gorman’s Brigade being in the rear, did not leave till 12 o’clock at night. We arrived at Fairfax village at six on Tuesday morning, September 2d. We stopped on the roadside for breakfast, when we found the rebels in large numbers on our left. We came to the rear about two miles, when gen. Sedgwick’s Division formed in battle line to receive them, and also to protect the rest of the army and baggage wagons that were retreating on the road to Alexandria. They fired some few rounds of railroad iron at us, which was silenced. We then moved toward Chain Bridge. After going some two miles, we were surprised by the firing of railroad iron once more in goodly aim at us. The column retreated in double quick time for a mile, when General Sedgwick ordered the 1st Minnesota and 19th Massachusetts Regiments, with two pieces of artillery, back to the scene to protect the column as they were passing toward the Chain Bridge. The 15th was held back as reserve in case it was needed, on a cross road. The Minnesota boys gave the rebel cavalry a good reception by firing a good volley[into?] their hiding place. Our grape and canister also made sad work among them. We were not troubled any more with them that night.
We passed over the Chain Bridge, and encamped near this village on Wednesday afternoon. The troops are constantly passing us for Edwards Ferry, Pooleville, Harpers Ferry and vicinity, although we were ordered to protect
Generals Pope and Banks in their retreat to this vicinity, by General Sumners judicial management we have not lost many men in this corps.
The following persons are missing from Co. I, Dyer D. Cady and Charles A Miller/ of Webster. Lannagan and E. Daley of Millbury,. We think they will turn up to the Regiment in a day or two.
The new recruits are now with us, which fills up the company to its maximum number. As we passed the new Regiments from Massachusetts on our marches. We were received with cheer upon cheer. The continents were copious in regard to the flag that had seen such hard service in behalf of our common country.