Tag Archives: Army of the Potomac

Joe Hooker takes command, and Maine boys notice, part II

The arrival of Joe Hooker at Army of the Potomac headquarters in late January 1863 stirred interest, trepidation, and many questions. Within weeks he instituted morale-building improvements that restored the army’s elan. “Never was the magic influence of a single man more clearly shown than when Hooker assumed command,” said Capt. Charles P. Mattocks of […]

Maine boys notice when Joe Hooker takes command, part I

Despite all the immorality-related baggage (drinking, carousing with prostitutes, etc.) historically associated with him, Joseph Hooker helped save the Union in winter 1863. Abraham Lincoln could have done worse than replace Ambrose Burnside with Hooker, at least in the months prior to Chancellorsville. In the regimental camps sprinkled across Stafford County opposite Fredericksburg, morale all […]

Help save 17 acres at Camp Letterman hospital site in Gettysburg: Part I

Buzzing inbound to Gettysburg on busy Route 30 (a.k.a. the York Pike or the York Road), visitors headed for Gettysburg National Military Park zip past a lonely monument located diagonally across the road from Hoss’s Restaurant and McDonald’s, about halfway between both driveway entrances. Backdropped by slightly rising fields, woods, Pennsylvania’s ubiquitous power lines, and […]

Quaker cannon has begun, no more shooting, no more fun

When I was young, we sometimes played “Quaker meeting has begun, no more laughing, no more fun.” Participants turned stone-faced and silent; the first one to crack a smile or laugh lost the game, which took its name from the stillness that Quakers allegedly practiced during their meetings. The tough 5th Maine Infantry boys played […]

Appomattox Road: “A heavy blow struck me just above the left breast” — Joshua Chamberlain at Quaker Road

  The end was approaching. By late March 1865, “we felt sure that he (Ulysses Simpson Grant) was preparing some great movement, and this must be still to the left, to cut [Robert E.] Lee’s communications and envelop his existing lines,” said Brig. Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th […]

Mud on the Mules

  Cold rain dripping from his campaign hat, Lt. Col. James “Jim” S. Fillebrown sat squarely in the saddle and watched the mucky chaos engulfing his 10th Maine Infantry Regiment on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1863. Until three days earlier, Fillebrown and his men had spent the early winter camping near Fairfax Court House in Virginia. […]

Lack of combat skills costs 1st Maine Heavies dearly at Harris Farm

  A few hours spent learning rudimentary combat skills could have saved many Maine lives near Spotsylvania Court House, Va. on Thursday, May 19, 1864. The modern Army’s concept of “Advanced Infantry Training” did not exist during the Civil War. The small pre-war Army primarily fought Indians in the far West, where parade-ground maneuvers drawn […]

Spotsylvania Part VI: A rooster’s crow unleashed the slaughter

Wandering amidst hell on earth after sunrise on Friday, May 13, 1864, Pvt. John Haley and other survivors of the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment gazed upon “more dead than we had ever seen,” he later told his journal. Raised in summer 1862, the 17th Maine belonged that spring to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, part […]

Spotsylvania Court House, Part II: “They were brutes”

  After Col. Charles Herring reached the expanding battlefield northwest of Spotsylvania Court House, Va. at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 8, 1864, Union generals kept maneuvering his ad hoc brigade hither and yon throughout the day to meet threats imagined and real as fighting engulfed nearby Laurel Hill. At 6 p.m., according to Pvt. […]

The Wilderness, Part III — Slaughter at Saunders Field

  For the 20th Maine boys hurrying west from their recently constructed breastworks near the Old Wilderness Tavern in central Virginia, the slaughter began sometime after 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, 1864. At noon Brig. Gen. Charles Griffin had received an order to probe westward along the Orange Turnpike with his 1st Division of […]