F[rederick E.] Cushman.

History of the 58th regt. Massachusetts vols online

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From tlie 15tli day of September, 1863,


By W: E. C



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To those who read this brief history, I would respectfully
say that it was written from no desire of pecuniary recom-
pense, or to attain note as a historian ; but simply with the
desire to furnish to each member of the regiment something
which he could produce in the future as testimony as to
his having served to some purpose in the ranks of the
Army of the Union, in the days of the great rebellion.

F. E. C.


The formation of the 58th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer In-
fantry commenced on or about the l^th day of September, 1863.
under the i^ersonal supervision of Colonel Silas P. Richmond, of
Assonet, Mass. (Colonel Richmond was in command of the 3d
Massachusetts Regiment in the nine months' service, and was a very
bi'ave and efficient officer. )

On the 25th of April, 1864, the regiment consisted of eight com-
panies, which had been mustered into the United States Service as
soon as they had respectively attained the maximum standard.

On the 28th of April, 1864, in compliance with orders received,
the above mentioned companies left their place of rendezvous, (Read-
ville, Mass.) under command of Lieutenant ColonelJohn C. Whiten.
Colonel Richmond was left in Massachusetts to recruit the other
two companies necessary to procure a regimental organization. The
route prescribed for us was by rail via Providence and Groten,
thence by steamer to New York, thence by steamer to Amboy, thence
by rail to Washington, thence by steamer to Alexandria, Va. Fol-
lowing the above we arrived at the last named place on the evening
of Saturday, April 30th. On the passage out, both on the trans-
ports and on the cars, we had excellent accommodations. This was
owing to the indefatigable perseverance of our Quartermaster, Lieu-
tenant Theodore A. Barton, of New Bedford, Mass., who had ihe
r-eputation of being one of the best Quartermasters ever furnished by
the Old Commonwealth, and time has brightened rather than
dimmed the reputation then established. At Alexandria all baggaLe
not deemed essential to active campaigning was stored.

Monday, May 2d, we took cars for Bristow Station, (distant from
Alexandria some 30 miles,) reaching there about *l o'clock in the
evening of same day ; at this place orders were received assigning
us to the 1st Brigade, 2d Division, 9th Army Corps, Colonel John
L Curtin, 45th Pennsylvania Volunteers, commanding; afterwards
promoted Brevet Brigadier General, for gallant and meritorious con-
duct in the field.


On the 4th of May the march for the front commenced ; made
Beatley Station, distant some 20 miles from Bristow, at "7^ in the
evening, where we camped for the night. During the march, owing
to the heat and the very muddy condition of the roads, the men.
being unused to marching, appeared to suffer severely. On Thursday
(May 5th,) broke camp at 5 J o'clock in the morning, crossed over the
Rappahannock river, at Rappahannock Station, crossed the Rapidan
river at Germania Ford and halted in woods for the night some two
miles west of last named river, having marched through ihe day
some 22 miles.

Friday morning, at 2 o'clock, the forward movement was again
commenced ; marched about 5 miles and halted in the vicinity of a
place known as Wilderness Tavern. At 9 o'clock A. M. we were
in line of battle participating in the ''battle of the Wilderness.'"
Our casualties were 1 enlisted men killed, 23 wounded and 4 miss-
ing. On Saturday (6th) the regiment was stationed on picket and
remained until 2 o'clock P. M., when orders were received to move
to a place designated as "Cross Roads;" here we remained under
arms until 1 o'clock the next morning, (Sunday,) when we pro-
ceeded to Chancellors ville, reaching there at 8| A. M.; remained at
Chancellorsville during the Sabbath and drew rations. About
noon on Monday again took up line of march towards Spottsylvauia:
marched until 11 P. M. and halted for the night in the vicinity of
"Mine Run." Tuesday, at 3 P. M., resumed our march in dirtction
of the place before alluded to, reaching it about 5j o'clock P. .M.
Immediately formed line of battle, deployed skirmishers, advanced
and halted on the opposite side of a small creek, where we remained
all night under arms.

On the morning of the llth, (Wednesday,) advanced across a
meadow in line of battle to its outer edge and threw up breast-
works, the enemy's pickets and sharpshooters keeping up an inces-
sant fire during the movement. Towards evening of the llth we
were withdrawn a short distance to the rear, where we remained two
hours in the midst of a pouring rain storm. We then again advanced,
this time farther towards the right, halted in an open field and threw
up temporary breastworks. Here we remained all night under arms in
the midst of a cold storm. Our casualties from the 8th to the 1 1 th were

2 enlisted men killed and 1 missing. On the morning of the 12th, about

3 o'clock, moved by the right flank some two miles towards the

right, formed line of battle, were assigned a position, and received
orders to hold it at all hazards. The battle commenced at 5 o'clock
in the morning and lasted until 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when
orders came for us to retire to a ravine which lay a little to the rear.
Our casualties were 2 commissioned officers (F. Gilbert Ogden,
Adjutant of the regiment, and William H. Harley, Captain of Com-
pany H — both young men of more than ordinary ability and promise. )
and 11 enlisted men killed, 3 commissioned officers and 81 enlisted
men wounded, 2 enlisted men missing.

From the 12th to the 19th of May we remained in the locality of
fhe battle-field, during which time we built a line of breastworks,
and notwithstanding it was the second line from the enemy, so in-
cessant was the fire from their batteries and sharpshooters, that we
suffered considerable loss. On the 18th we moved a short distance
to the right and advanced to the front line of works, but shortly
aft€r we returned to our former position. Our casualties from the 1 2th
to the l'9th of May, inclusive, were 3 enlisted men killed, 1 com-
missioned officer and 5 enlisted men wounded, 3 enlisted men miss-
ing. At 1 o'clock, on the morning of the IDth, we stealthily, under
cover of impenetrable darkness, moved 4 miles to the left, in the vi-
cinity of Mine Bun ; here we halted, formed line of battle, ad-
vanced with caution to the outer edge of a narrow strip of woo ds,
built breastworks and remained until the 21st, (Saturday.) During
the alternoon we received orders to move. Just about sunset we en-
countered a battery of the enemy. We were advancing up the road,
and their guns being positioned on a high hill, had a fine and com-
manding range, we filed off by the right -flank into the woods, the
enemy's shell bursting over out heads continually, but fortunately
injuring no one.

The next day, (Sunday, 22d,) at 3 o'clock in the morning, we
again took up line of march, proceeding in the direction of North
Anna river- reached and halted at Guinea Station at 10 o'clock
A. M. for breakfast ; continued our march and halted for the night
near Bowling Greeai, distant some 15 miles from the locality we left
in the morning. Monday (23d) continued march towards North
Anna river, rea^ching the same at 8 o'clock ia the evening, having
marched some 18 miles since leaving Bowling Oreen. Tuesday,
(24th) the enemy were reported in force on opposite side of the river ;
crossed the bridge leading over the same under a heavy artillery


fire from the enemy, (they had planted guns in the morning so as to
completely rake the aforesaid bridge, but the accurate fire of our
artillerists confused and destroyed the nicety of their range,) which
luckily did us no harm. Upon gaining the shore a line of battle was
immediately formed and a forward movement made into some
woods, the enemy maintaining without intermission a sharp mus-
ketry and artillery fire. While we lay in the woods, the clouds,
which in the morning looked dark and portentous, assumed a
darker hue, and in a short time the rain fell in torrents ; the blind-
ing flashes of lightning, joined with the deep rumble of the thunder,
produced a scene of gloom if not of terror. As it grew dark the
firing had ceased, and it now seemed as if the powers on high alone
were in contention. Towards evening, the storm having abated its
violence, the line was advanced, breast works built and advance
pickets posted ; the enemy appeared next morning to be in strong
force, yet no attack was made by them. We remained at this point
Wednesday and Thursday, the enemy's main line not more than
70 rods distant, the picket line not more than 8. Our casualties
while here were 2 enlisted men wounded, 3 enlisted men missing.

Thursday evening, ('26th,) we recrossed the river, burning the
bridge after crossing ; marched about 4 miles and halted until 1
o'clock next morning, (27th;) then continued the march, moving
leisurely during the day, halting 2 hours at twilight ; at 8 o'clock
P. M. again moved forward rapidly until midnight, when we
camped. Saturday, (28th,) fell in at an early hour and marched
rapidly in direction of Pamunkey river, crossing the same at mid-
night on pontoons ; proceeded on about two miles after crossing: the
river and camped, having marched during the day some 25 miles.
(This day's march was one of the severest and most trying of the
whole campaign. Owing to the recent rains the roads had become
very muddy, and in man}' places the men sunk over their knees in
mud. The exigencies of the case were too pressing to admit of rests
being made, and the weather being suffocatingly warm, it is to be
wondered at that so many kept up on that trying occasion.)

Sunday, (29th,) continued the march at daylight in direction of
Tollopotomy creek. At about 2 o'clock in the afternoon we halted in
the woods and remained until next day ; at an early hour started
on — marched about 4 miles — halted, and built breastworks. Tues-
day, (31st, ) moved half a mile to the left and front and built breast-

works again ; we found the enemy in force and strongly positioned ;
no general engagement ensued, but in posting the pickets we ex-
perienced the following loss : 3 enlisted men wounded, 1 enlisted
man missing. At 4 o'clock A. M. we returned to the first breast
works which we had built, and remained there until 2 P.M. of same
day, when we took up line of march in direction of Shady Grove
Church, the enemy following closely. The casualties on the picket
line, which occurred while the pickets were being withdrawn were
7 enlisted men wounded, 1 enlisted man killed. Having marched
some 3 miles to the left of our former position, we halted and rested
for the night.

On the morning of the 3d, soon after daylight, we formed line of
battle, and passing two other lines of battle, halted in an open field
behind a low line of vacated earth works. Here we remained until
joined by the Tth Rhode Island and 36th Massachusetts, when we
unfurled the colors, crossed the earth works, and advanced towards
the woods for the purpose of dislodging the enemy. (The line of
battle advanced so steadily, guided so finely, and presented so even
a front, as to draw forth praise from all beholding. In this battle
our regiment so nobly executed the part assigned to it as to receive,
at the close of the day, compliments both of the Division and
Brigade Commanders.) Advancing to within about 15 rods of the
enemy's works, and finding them in force and strongly positioned,
we were ordered to lie down. By the aid of bayonets (to loosen the
earth) and tin dippers we were enabled to throw up a slight line of
earth works, which protected us in a small degree from the storm of
bullets which the enemy were firing at us, and aided us in maintain-
ing the advantageous position we had gained.

The battle commenced at 5 J o'clock in the morning and closed at
6 J in the afternoon. We nobly maintained our position, but at the
sacrifice of the lives of many of our best men. Our casualties were
3 commissioned officers and 15 enlisted men killed ; 5 commissioned
officers and 62 enlisted men wounded. The commissioned officers
killed were Major Barnabas Ewer, jr., of Fairhaven, Mass.; Captain
Charles M. Upham, Co. A, senior Captain of the regiment, and Cap-
tain Thomas McFarland, Co. F, If there ever were any officers who
possessed the love and implicit confidence of those over whom they
had command, Major Ewer was certainly of the number. He was
the universal favorite, both of the officers and men, and never did I


hear him spoken of save with feelings of the deepest respect and ad-
miration. When he was wounded and broughtfrom the battle-field
on a stretcher and placed in an old barn in the midst of the wound-
ed of our regiment, many of whom were dying, he, unmindful of
his own danger, in his sorrow and solicitude for them, gazed around
and exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, " poor boys, poor boys ! Oh,
this cruel war !" Soon after he inquired of the Surgeon, "Doctor,
is my wound mortal?" The Surgeon replied, " Major you cannot
live half an hour." Not a sign of fear was visible on his countenance
at this terrible announcement. The pa n from his wound was in-
tense, but just as the sun went down behind the distant hills, gild-
ing all around with his last bright rays, and tending to render the
scene more solemn, more sad, the Major turned on his side, closed
his eyes, and his goal was reached. His spirit had winged its flight
and attained its proper sphere in the beautiful land above, where
there is no war. He indeed was a true christian —

'* His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world — this was a man."

Believing the cause in which he was engaged to be just, he
was willing to sacrifice his life to gain the victory. He loved lib-
erty. Had he loved liberty less, and life more, he doubtless would
have been in existence now ; but as Dry den expresses it in the
following couplet, so even was it with him :

" The love of liberty with life is given,
And life itself the inferior gift of Heaven."

Captains Upham and McFarland were both highly esteemed for
their many brave and soldierlike qualities. Lieut. Col. Whiton was
slightly wounded in the early part of the day, and retired to the
rear. The next ranking officer was Capt. E. S. Horton, of Co. C. He
was wounded in the early part of the day (slightly,) and went to
the rear, but returned and assumed command of the regiment.

On the following morning, (June 4th, ) it was found the enemy had
retired, leaving their dead unburied and their wounded uncared for.
At 11 o'clock A. M., Capt. Nathan S. Oakman, with Company I,
joined us, having just arrived from home. Depleted as our ranks
were, his arrival was hailed with cheers. At noon we withdrew


from our position, and marched some four miles ; halted for the
night, and drew rations. Sunday evening, June 5th, moved out a
short distance ; formed line of battle ; got into position ; threvs^ out
pickets, and built breastworks. The enemy soon after opened upon
us with artillery, but inflicted no damage. Tuesday, June *rth, the
enemy attacked our pickets, and captured a few men. Wednesday
morning, left our position and advanced half a mile; drove back
the enemy's pickets, and established a new line. Threw up breast-
works, and remained here until Sunday evening, June r2th. Our
casualties from the 4th to the 12th of June were — 1 commissioned
officer and 11 enlisted men wounded ; 2 enlisted men killed, and 16
enlisted men missing.

Sunday evening, June 12th, took up line of march in direction of
White House Landing. Marched rapidly all night, and halted at
daybreak near the Landing. Remained here until about noon ; then
continued march in the direction of James River. Halted at 5
o'clock P. M., for supplies, in a locality known as Baltimore Cross
Roads ; then continued the march until midnight, and camped. Fell
in at an early hour next morning ; crossed the Chickahominy River
at Jones' Bridges, at 10 o'clock A. M., and camped near James
River. (In the march from Cold Harbor we lost two enlisted men,
who fell out entirely exhausted, and were captured by the enemy.)
We remained in camp on Wednesday, and drew rations. At dark took
up line of march ; crossed the James River on pontoons, and
marched all night rapidly in the direction of Petersburg, resting
only at long intervals, and then only for a short epa«e of time.
Halted next morning (Thursday) at 1 o'clock for breakfast; then
continued the march, and joined the rest of our forces in front of
Petersburg at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, having marched some
ninety miles since Sunday evening.

Resting an hour or two in the woods, we moved forward into an
open field, and, under a galling fire of musketry and artillery from
the enemy's works, succeeded in throwing up breastworks. About
8 o'clock P. M. orders to fall in were received. We moved by the
right flank, under cover of the breastworks just built, until having
reached the desired position, we were permitted to lie down to rest,
with the announcement that at 3 o'clock next morning we were to
charge upon the enemy's works in our front. Accordingly, at the
time above stated, we formed line of battle, and advanced to the


works formerly occupied by the enemy, but recently vacated by him.
Here we halted until preparations were fully completed for making
the assault. Difficult as appeared the task to be performed, and
dubious the issue, all wearied and dispirited as seemed the men by
long and tedious marches, they went to the work with a degree of
zeal and enthusiasm truly surprising. The task was accomplished
with much more ease and less loss than was anticipated. The result
was the capture of two forts, or redoubts, (which commanded the
entire field across which we charged.) three guns, one stand of
colors, and 190 prisoners. Our casualties were as follows : 2 com-
missioned officers and 14 enlisted men wounded. Oar regiment upon
this occasion behaved splendidly, and received praise from General
Burnsides, Commander of the Corps.

On Saturday (18th) it was found the enemy were in force near the
Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. To gain possession of that road
was an object of paramount importance. At daylight we moved by
the right flank into a piece of woods in front of the railroad. We
then halted ; formed line of battle ; advanced into an open field,
and threw up temporary earthworks. The 2d Brigade then charged
upon the enemy ; drove him back, and gained the road immediately
in front of where he lay. Our brigade followed suit, and were
equally as successful. The part of the road we had just gained pos-
session of ran between two high banks, varying from twelve to
fifteen feet in height. On our right the enemy were still in posses-
sion of the road. At a point where it made a curve he had erected
a small redoubt, in which he had mounted a gun which had direct
range of that portion of the road where we now lay. Thus we were
fully exposed to a severe fire of grape and canister. It now appeared
as if the capture of the road was but of secondary importance, and
the prime object aimed at was the capture of the enemy's works in
our front. Halting in the road long enough to enable the troops
who were to lead the advance to move to the front and form, we
ascended the bank, formed line of battle, and pushed rapidly across
an open field. Upon reaching a small creek, the first line of battle
had halted and laid down. Passing this line, we rushed on with a
furious yell until we reached another small creek but a few rods
distant from the enemy's works. The firing had now become terri-
ble. The enemy's line bent round nearly in the form of a semi-
circle, and we were not only a target for those in front, but also on


the flank and in the rear. We received orders to lie down in the
creek, and screen ourselves as much as possible from the enemy's fire.

Here we remained until 8 o'clock in the evening, when, under
cover of darkness, we moved cautiously and quietly a few rods to
the left, and gained the friendly shelter of a bluff. At 1 o'clock
next morning (Sunday, 19th, ) we were withdrawn to the position we
occupied in the woods the day previous. Thus ended the work of
that day. The capture of the railroad was an achievement worthy
of note; but, owing to the force and fine position of the enemy, we
failed to dislodge him from his works, therefore the capture of
Petersburg was left to the future. Our casualties were two enlisted
men killed, twenty-two enlisted men wounded, one enlisted man

From the afternoon of the 18th day of June to the morning of the
30th day of July, the Regiment was engaged in no battles. We
remained in front of Petersburg, during that time, alternately occu-
pying the trenches at the picket line, and the breastworks at the
woods — 24 hours at each. We were under fire continually day and
night. Our casualties, from the 18th of June to the 29th of of July,
inclusive, were— one commissioned officer and four enlisted men killed;
nine enlisted men wounded. The officer killed, 2d Lieut. Franklin D.
Hammond, was a brave soldier, and was highly esteemed by all who
knew him for his very many manly qualities.

On the evening of the 29th of July, our Regiment occupied the
trenches at the picket line. It had been rumored for two or three
weeks previous that the 48th Regt. Penn. Vols., (of our Brigade,)
under the supervision of Lieut. Col. Pleasants, were engaged in the
process of mining a rebel fort, which was situated directly in fron'.
of our Brigade. For the past few days, it had been rumored, and
the rumor was generally credited, that an event of startling import-
ance was at hand It was our turn to be relieved. Nine o'clock,
the usual hour for relieving, had passed, and no relief had appeared.
At midnight a Staff Officer made his appearance in command of a
body of negro troops, who had come to occupy our places. Leaving
our position in the trenches, we moved as cautiously as possible to the
breastworks in the woods through the long coverfed way which led
from the trenches to the same On reaching the breastworks, the
men turned in for the night, as they supposed, but this supposition
was found to have been erroneous, for about 1 o'clock in the morn-


ing wc had orders " to t';xl! in," move to tl,ie left, and take position
behind a covered wa\- and wait fnrtlier orders. (The Regiment at
this time was under command of Capt. Charles E. Churcl ill, of
Bridgewater, Mass., a brave soldier and competent commander. Capt,
E. S. Horton, who had been in t-ommand from the 3d of June up to
the 20th of July, was suffering from ill health, and he, acting under
the advice of the Surgeon, who said to him, " Captain, if you do
not keep quiet you will become unfit for service in the field," reluc-
tantly gave up the command, saying, "I deeply regret that the exi-
gencies of the case compel me to do so.") It was then announced
that at 4 o'clock in the morning the fort above named was to be
blown up. The part assigned to us in the programme was for our
regiment to pass down the covered way as soon as the mine
exploded, cross the railroad, pass through the ravine to the left,
ascend the hill, cross the corn field, and pass into the fort through
the gap expected to be made by the explosion. As the hour
approached, every ear was listening to catch the first sound, and
every eye was straining to get a glimpse of the spot from whence it
was to come At the hour above stated, a dull rumbling sound,
followed by an immense quantity of earth, parts of caissons, such as
wheels, boxes, &c., thrown into the air to a height of 30 feet, was
proof positive that the great event so anxiously looked for had trans-
pired. At the instant of theexplosion, the artillery along the wliole
length of the line opened a terrific fire upon the enemy's works. The
sounds were perfectly deafening; the men became frantic with
excitement ; the mine had performed its duty, and now it remained
for the troops to perform theirs. Everything looked propitious for

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Online LibraryF[rederick E.] CushmanHistory of the 58th regt. Massachusetts vols → online text (page 1 of 3)