These are the letters home from
Sgt. Benjamin Freeman Smart
(February 9, 1840 - May 27, 1862)
who died during the Civil War
during the Peninsula Campaign
at a Battle in the Hanover Court House area of Virginia.
More specifically at the Battle of Peak's Turnout.
Letters home during the
Benjamin Freeman Smart
Born - February 9, 1840 Died - May 27, 1862
Freeman Smart died during a Civil War battle near Hanover Courthouse, VA at age 22.
(Also contains other Civil War background information, complied by D. L. Van de Water. This revised 3rd edition also contains information obtained during a site visit to Hanover County, VA, on October 3, 4 & 5, 1996, where much valuable information was obtained concerning the actual location of the battle, and where Freemen probably fell to his death. We have also obtained copies of the Bangor (ME) Daily Wig and Courier of June 5, June 10 and June 13, 1862 - where additional details of this particular battle were reported. This edition also contains several color photographs of the Hanover area, as well as much additional new information.)3rd edition Print date: Aug. 27, 2006
(Note on "RIN" - When you see the "RIN" reference, it refers to the "Record Identification Number" of the genealogical family records that are maintained by the family.)
Benjamin Freeman Smart's photograph
Information on the restored photograph of Benjamin Freeman Smart
The photograph of Freeman Smart, reproduced on the preceding page, was restored by the Van de Water's (with the assistance of an excellent San Diego photographic restoration shop,) from a very poor and badly etched 1 inch square tintype photo. The photograph was then digitized onto a computer disk, enhanced via Adobe Photoshop® (v.4.0), and then "placed" onto the preceding page. The signature was similarly copied from an original, and electronically placed on the page as well.
The original tintype was loaned to us by Dorothea Smart: RIN-1977. We thank her for giving us this opportunity to see what the man looked like.
"Sixteen years ago, civil war burst upon our land, the country was shaken from centre to circumference, and our school was summoned to do its duty. With the first months of the spring of 1861, many had left for the field, and ere the first blossoms had appeared we heard news of the fall of some of our fellow students. The 'East Maine Conference Seminary’ was taking position for participation in the bloody drama, and its luminous record began with the death of Sergeant Smart, at the head of his company, in the swamps of the Chickahominy. All through those summer and autumn months, our student ranks were depleting to swell the soldier ranks. Those who daily went to and fro on the hill, who declaimed 'Spartacus,' or 'Bingen on the Rhine' from the chapel platform, or laboriously conned Greek tenses and anathematized quadratics, followed each other from the school without a day's intervention; and in reply to inquiries about their empty seats, 'gone to the war' was heard. As they stepped over the threshold, their paths diverged, extending in a hundred directions, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. It is with most filial regard that I offer you a meager account of their war life. History it is not, - each had his own, which is most truthfully written in the hearts and affections of those who loved them; our tribute to the dead can add nothing to their honor."
Freeman Smart became a member of the Second Maine Infantry, May 13, 1861. He was immediately promoted to Corporal; then to Third Sergeant, October 1, 1861; and to First Sergeant, January 22, 1862. He participated in the first Battle of Bull Run, the siege of Yorktown, and the Peninsula campaign, 'till the battle of Hanover Courthouse, May 27, 1862, where he was shot through the left breast, dying in a few moments.
It is with peculiar pleasure, saddened by the necessity, that I am able to give some details of this sterling man's career. His father writes, "When Freeman was quite young, he manifested a strong desire to obtain an education; but not feeling myself able at that time to keep him in school, I took him with me, at fifteen years of age, and taught him the mason's trade. He worked his trade for four years, and he was then so anxious to go to school that I consented for him to leave this business. He selected the 'East Maine Conference Seminary,' where he intended to prepare himself for college, and where he spent the most time 'till the war broke out."
Freeman became a very close friend of mine, at the Seminary, in 1860 and 1861. His balance of mind was a constant wonder to me. His counsel was invariably wise. Some of us more hot- headed youths, were frequently kept from embroiling ourselves, by his "wait a little."
1860, he remained at this work, and after some half-dozen of us got settled in the ladies' part of the building, he said, "Now Webb, we've a fair field and we'll turn out the work." Walking to and from the neighborhood grove, or sitting on the steps, we have discussed every subject, and scores of his ringing, epigrammatic sentences remains with me to this day."
In our many fiery discussions in our rooms and in society meetings, upon the coming contest, when our zeal outran our discretion, his voice and manner was ever the beacon that gave us our bearings. Some thought him not so enthusiastic as one ought to be at such a time; but, when the hour came to try men's souls, he was not found wanting. He was an indefatigable worker at his books; always persistent to know the reason why, he never left a subject with any doubts in regard to its meaning or application. At the time of the small-pox scare at the Seminary, in the fall of 1860, he remained at his work, and after some half-dozen of us got settled in the ladies part of the building, he said, 'Now Webb, we've a fair field and we'll turn out the work.' Walking to and from the neighborhood grove, or setting on the steps, we have discussed every subject, and scores of his ringing epigrammatic sentences remain with me to this day."
His father further writes: "Soon after the first call for troops, Freeman came home and informed me that he felt called upon to leave his school and enlist. I very well knew that he would do whatever he thought was his duty, regardless of the consequences. He stopped at home but a short time, and the next we heard from him he was a soldier."
Of his military career, one of his commanding officers writes to his father, as follows: "From the time of his enlistment to the hour of his death, I was his most intimate associate, and I know better than any other person all the incidents of his military life. He came, late one night, to the headquarters of the regiment in Bangor, saying that he had been to Portland to enlist in the First Maine Regiment, but finding that the Second Regiment was likely to leave the State for the front sooner than the other, he had come to join us. He was assigned to Company H, and was immediately made a Corporal, and very soon after was promoted to Sergeant. It soon became evident to all that knew him, that he was a born soldier, and in his first battle, the terrible Bull Run, he showed that he was a born leader. All through that terrible battle, Smart, as we all used to call him, was as cool and clear-headed as if on parade.
"I shall never forget how your boy shouted out to the Major, who was just at our left, 'Major Varney, the order is to fall back, but I shall never fall back a step as long as that flag remains there!' meaning our regimental colors, which were just to our right. In this battle, Colonel Jameson selected Smart to take a message to General Keyes, the commanding officer of the brigade. This errand took him over a field swept by Rebel artillery; but he went straight on his errand and straight back again, seemingly without fear. Ever after that, Colonel Jameson was enthusiastic in his praise. On the twenty-seventh of May, 1862, the division to which our regiment was attached was ordered to Hanover Courthouse, to form a junction with McDowell's corps. On our march your son said to me that the bullet was not run yet that would kill him. The Captain and Second Lieutenant of the company were absent on recruiting service; Freeman at this time was First Sergeant, but he fully filled the places of the absent ones.
"The battle began about noon, and from then and on through the battle, he was cheering on the men, loading and firing, directing the stupid ones, quieting the nervous ones, in every way showing himself to be a brave and cool soldier that every former time of trial had shown him to be. About four o'clock in the afternoon, while the fight was the fiercest, Freeman was standing between Captain Currier and myself, when I heard a heavy 'thud,' as if something had been struck, and at the same time a smothered exclamation. I looked around and saw your son sinking down and then lying upon his back. His eyes were looking into mine with a sort of surprised expression. I said, 'Smart, where are you hit?' He laid his right hand upon a bullet-hole in his left breast. I directed some of the men to take him to the rear, which was immediately done. The men told me afterwards that he died quietly, without a struggle, before they picked him up. There was no look of agony or fear in his face, only the surprised look that I have spoken of. The next morning we wrapped him in his blanket, and laid him beside his comrades, and I never saw the earth close over a braver, truer soldier and friend than then; and we silently and sorrowfully marched away and left him in the enemy's land.
"For many days after, when we wanted to say a man had true courage, we would say, 'He is as brave as our SMART was.' His army life was only about a year, but I could write almost a book-full of incidents and sayings of his. If he had lived, he would have risen rapidly, for all his superior officers appreciated his worth and value to the country. While we were in winter quarters at Hall's Hill, Virginia, in the winter of 1861-62, he was offered a commission as Adjutant in the Fourteenth Maine, but he said it was more honor to be a Sergeant in the 'Grand old Second,' than a commissioned officer in a new regiment."
I originally compiled these letters and placed them in this format for our children, Mark, Nancy and Eric. It was for their information, both as a personal history of an ancestor who took part in a very turbulent time in our nation's history, as well as for their children as they learn of the civil war in this country. In addition, I have taken the liberty to add certain information as footnotes, which will clarify the letters that Freeman Smart wrote home to his parents, both before his enlistment and of his experiences during the Civil War. One of the areas of interest for our children, is just who are these people that are mentioned, and how do they relate to them. So in the footnotes, along with text clarification, are references to ancestors who are identified by RIN or MRIN numbers. These numbers are Record Identification or Married Record Identification Numbers from a genealogy computer-based program that I maintain. Each of our children has a copy of the complete family history, and these RIN and/or MRIN numbers will assist them in looking up information about any relative mentioned. For those reading this collection of Freeman's letters, who are not in our immediate family, a "Descendancy Chart" of Freeman's father is reproduced." " "
Letters HomeThe following five letters were all written prior to his entrance into the Civil War. It starts with this one on December 13, 1860, and concludes with one written on May 7, 1861 where he tells his family that he has enlisted to fight in the War. It is interesting to note that in his Feb. 18, 1861 letter he speaks out strongly against the war, but just a few months later, he enlists. There are no existing documents that might explain why he changed his mind.
Unless otherwise noted, all punctuation's, capital letters, underlines, etc. are those in the original letters.
Prospect, Maine - December 13, 1860
Dear Mother -
It is with great pleasure that I again write to you. It is with sorrowful heart that I inform you of the death of my Grandmother Smart which occurred last Saturday. She was sick about three weeks with typhoid fever. I read a letter from Grandfather last Tuesday. It was written Saturday. He sent for me to go to the funeral but I did not get the letter until Tuesday, and she was buried Monday.
I am in Prospect, as you can see by the date of this letter. I have been here nearly two weeks teaching school. I like it quite well. I have a very hard school, that is what people call it, but I do not think it is very hard although I have to keep school all of the time. The school is very large and a large number of large scholars. My number will average more than fifty of which twenty-five are nearly as large as I am, and most of the largest are good scholars. The large boys that have broken up the school the last three winters, I think I know just how to manage them. I have got two worst ones, so that they would fight for me in a moment. I tell you that a little encouraging and "soft soap" is just the thing for some, and I have others that I have straighten right to the mark. I think that I shall have no trouble at all. I have very boarding place. It is at Captain Daniel Killman's. Sarah knows his wife, she is a nice woman. The Captain is not at home this winter. There are quite a number of children, but they are very good. I was in Bucksport Sunday.
My school will be three months or more. Then I shall go to Bucksport and stop until summer. Teaching school is not going on to Hog Island Ledge, and staying all day with muddy fingers and boots. If I can but carry this school through in good shape it will be better for me than it would be to keep four common schools for it was thought that no one could keep it unless he was a Henson Saver's. I think that I shall go to Swanville next Saturday if nothing happens. I have not seen Smith yet. He was married about two weeks ago. He married Will Hazen's widow. I expect him here every day. I had a paper from Father the other day. It came from S. C. I shall expect to hear from him soon. I have not time to write more, so good-bye. I read a letter from Sarah the other day, and was glad to hear from you. I shall look for another soon.
From your son, B. F. Smart
North Prospect, Maine - Jan. 20, 1861
Dear Mother & Sarah -
It is with great pleasure that I again write to you. I received a letter from Sarah last week. Was very glad to hear from home. I should have answered it before but my eyes have been very sore for two weeks, so that I cannot read or write, but a little without glasses. Although it is very fortunate for me that they do not trouble much in the daytime, but as soon as night comes I have to close them and keep them closed most of the time when a light is burning. I have done everything for them that I could. I think that they are some better today. I have not even read my papers for two weeks until today. I have been reading and writing most all day but I have to wear my glasses all the time except when in the schoolroom. I read a letter from Father last week, was very glad to hear from him. I guess you heard the same time, for he told me that he wrote to you every mail. I answered his letter immediately. I wrote him all of the news. I also sent him Andrew's letter.
Monday, Jan. 21, 1861 -
I had to postpone writing yesterday on account of having company. Mr. & Mrs. Smith were here, and some others. He has a very nice lady for a wife. I like her appearance very much. I am getting along fine with my School. It is nothing but fun for me to keep what they call their hardest school. I call it fun but still it is work, but nothing like going on to Hog Island ledge every morning in an open boat. I think I may not find any business that I should like better. I think I may make it my business in the future until I can get better. I shall return to Bucksport when my school closes. That will be in five or seven weeks. They are talking about seven, but I want to keep but five. I have been keeping seven now. I like my boarding place very much. I have never enjoyed myself better. A young school teacher has a pretty good living in a place like this. I had a spelling school week before last. It was as still as a meeting. I enjoyed it much. I go to Bucksport quite often. I intend to go to Hampden before my school closes. Smith and I are going out to Grandfathers some Saturday. Alfred Nickerson is teaching in this town in Burdeans dis.(?) saw Andrew and Esther Hopkins about three weeks since. They are all well. My friend Ruggles is quite sick with a throat distemper. It has broken out in the Seminary at Bucksport, is not that hard. I hope I have not exposed myself to it. Mrs. Hillman sends her regards to Sarah. They all use me as well as they could a son. They doctor my eyes, do everything that I could desire. John Hazen is just alive, he cannot live long. I must close so to send this to the office. It is not written very well, partly on account of my eyesight. But Sarah can read it. I have written this in a great hurray. I will write more next time, and I will write often. Give my love to all of the younger, and not forgetting to keep a mothers share. Tell Lavonia to write.
Yours in haste,B. F. Smart
Prospect, Maine - Feb. 6, 1861
I have not heard from home or Father for some time, and being anxious to know if you have heard from him. Write me all of the news that you know about him. I am getting along fine with my school. I think I am giving good satisfaction, for the agent told me that he wished that there was money enough to keep me until March was gone. I am working hard for it is a hard school, but I like it well. There is trouble in all of the schools in this town with the exception of a few. Mine and Alfred's are numbered among those are regarded as the two that are entirely free from trouble. I shall close next week. I then return to Bucksport. I shall remain there until I can do better.
My friend Knight has been very sick with a throat disease. It was thought that he would die, but thanks be to God that his life is still spared, for Mother he is one of my very best friends. I love him as a brother, we intended to pass a considerable of our time together if nothing happens. My eyes have troubled me very much, but they are most well now. I shall go to Hampden and see people there after my school closes. I shall have three days to play after my school closes before the term commences at Bucksport. I have not time to write more. I will write you a long letter as soon as I hear from you. Do write soon if it is but one word.
Yours, B. F. Smart
Hampden, Maine - Feb. 18, 1861
Having finished my school, I embraced this first opportunity to answer your kind letter that I received last week. I was very happily disappointed in receiving it, for I had given up the idea of hearing from you again this winter. I wrote to Mother the day before your letter reached me to ascertain whether she had heard from you or not. I received an answer to that last Saturday. They to me that they wrote to you very often, therefore it will likely be unnecessary for me to write anything about home. You most likely have heard of the death of poor little Herbert Stephen's, Jane's only hope. She has lost her two children that she could every look to for any help - the other two may be good children, but their appearances were nothing alike. It seems to me as if Jane had more than her share of trouble. She was sent for before Herbert died, and arrived at Grandfather's only one day before he left this world. Well, Father, you will see by the date of this letter that my school has finished, but I cannot say that I am glad for I never enjoyed myself any better in my life. I enjoy teaching, but I like it better than any other than I have ever engaged in. I think I have given satisfaction to all in the district. They want me to promise that I will teach the same school next winter, but I will not promise, for I know they cannot afford to pay me as much as I must have if I keep again. I can have any school in that town. I assure that I have not lost anything in teaching that school. I will not say anything in my favor for fear you may think I am boasting. But one thing I will say that I am not ashamed to have any of my folks or friends enquire how I have succeeded in teaching. I did not have to whip any scholar to hurt them during my stay there, and I had some of the hardest boys in the county to deal with.
I am now at Mr. Simpson's. I arrived here this morning to find them all quite well. Mr. Simpson sends his best respects, also Mrs. Simpson. He says that he should have written to you a month before this time, but he thought that you would be here by this time. He will write to you soon, and send you papers. I have been at Grandfather's two or three times this winter. I was there last Saturday, found the people in Swanville well. Grandfather has become a praying man, and a good one, except his politics, in that he is a real black Republican. We were all pleased with your letters - it did not meet my views exactly - I believe that if the institutions of the South are not protected by the Government, they have the patriotic right of revolution. The right of secession, I will not argue with you about, for I do not believe that they have the right, but when a government fails to insure happiness to the people of said country, and the people are wholly unsatisfied with their position, and believe that they cannot endure the coming evil also know that the President-Elect assumed a position hostile to their most sacred interests, then I say they have a right to sever their connections with that government. But they fail in trying to prove Succession to be constitutional and just. But if they only call it revolution and declare themselves unable to endure the tyranny of an oppressive government and then Jefferson Davis and A. H. Stephen's, I will accept the position they now hold. I should be unwilling to take up arms against such true patriots, no Father, I would sooner fight against the Northern Abolitionist, the very ones that deserve to be bled, for it is they that have destroyed this glorious country, the only hope of the oppressed of all nations and the noble inheritance of young Americans. May the curses of their posterity be inflicted upon them. Father, you may think that I am hard, but I believe what I write. I pray that the Union may be saved, but it looks somewhat doubtful now. Although it can be done if the Republicans will but concede their rash and unconstitutional principles, I think that Mr. Seward has done very well if the Party will but follow the country may be saved. I could write all day on this subject, but I guess I have written as much as you will care to read. We are somewhat anxious about knowing where you are. I hope it may be God's will that you may not be long separated from us, and return safe to your beloved family. I hope if you have to fight, you will do your duty in full, but it would be hard for me to fight my Southern Brothers.
I shall go to Bucksport next Wednesday. The school commenced Thursday, I shall study hard this spring. I expect Andrew to arrive at Mobile every day. Did you make arrangements about your taxes in Swanville, if not let me know, and I will see to them.
I have not time to write more this day. I will write every two weeks hereafter. I shall expect a letter from you soon. Hoping that this will find you well, and in good spirits, I close. From your Son,B. F. Smart
The Civil War officially started on April 12, 1861 when General Beauregard bombards Fort Sumter in the Charleston, S. C. harbor. The following letters were all written after he enlisted.
Bangor, Maine - May 7, 1861
I write this evening in order that you may know where I am.
You will most likely be surprised to learn that your oldest son is a Soldier, but never-the-less it is so. I am a member of the Fourth Company of the Second Regiment which is quartering in this city. I left home, as you know. I came to Belfast and went to Swanville the same day, and found the people all well. I then went to Belfast and joined the Company under Capt. Bean of Brooks. I joined on the conditions that we were to get into the Third Regiment. I was to have a good office, but I soon ascertained that we could not go in the Third Regiment, and furthermore that we would have to go into the Sixth or Seventh as we all know that the Sixth will never be called from Maine until they want more than a half a million of men. So I erased my name and came to Bangor and enlisted. I have done what I considered my duty to do. The reason I considered it my duty, I shall tell you when I have more time to write. I am with one of the finest companies in the State. I have been in garrison a short time. I like it well, although it makes me a little tired when it comes night. We drill six hours every day. Live well enough and enjoy life.
Our constant prayer is that we may be called immediately from the State, and it is thought that we shall be, for we learned that the First Regiment had many sick members and that we were to take their places first. I really hope it is so. All I am afraid of is that we shall not have the privilege of helping fight the first battles. I find many of my acquaintances in the Regiment. I give here some of their names: Berthall Washburn, Hiram Grendall, T. Foster of Hampden, W. Stewart of H. and many others.
I have left my trunk at Bucksport that you may go and get it after you arrive in Swanville. The Boarding Master will give you all my things.
We get our uniforms tomorrow and I think I shall send my clothes directly to Swanville. I have not had time to state any particulars tonight, but dear Father and Mother, do not think that I have acted hastily, for I have not. I thought of the subject much, and with great coolness before I have done as I have.
Say to Mother that she must be reconciled to it, and that one thing she may rest assured on, is that her son will not disgrace himself, nor cause his beloved parents at all to be ashamed of him. If I get into battle, I am bound to distinguish myself. I can do it, and I will do it. If we are ordered to Portland next Monday, I will come and see you soon. We don't fear as those poor fellows did that were there when I was at home. I would like to write more, but I have not the time. Write me very soon.
Hoping that I shall be ordered away very soon, I remain your beloved Son,
B. F. Smart
Camp Strichland, New York - May 29, 1861
Glorious! Glorious! Glorious! is the news that has just reached us. Our Colonel has just returned from New York City, bringing the gladly received news that we are starting for Washington tomorrow at 2 o'clock. I have never felt happier in my life than I do at this hour. When those glad tidings reached our camp, each company immediately assembled, and sent forth a cheer until the whole enclosure seemed to resound with deafening applause. We shall strike our tents in the morning, and march about two miles to a small town where we will take the car for Brooklyn, from then to N.Y. There we shall most likely take the car for Baltimore, and so on to Washington. It is all we asked for. We are in the hopes that we can do something ere long to revenge the death of that most noble and soldier-like hero, Colonel Elsworth.
Yesterday we were mustered into the U.S. Service for three years. This is somewhat different from what many thought when they left Maine. About 150 refused to take the oath to serve three years but they were willing to serve the two they agreed to when they left home. But know most of them have returned and signed for the three years. Now dear Father, can you have thought that your oldest son was numbered among those that refused to serve his country for the three years. No! No! God forbid that he should be guilty of disgracing his name and parents by refusing to enlist, even for life, if my country wiles it. I am so excited that I can hardly write. Oh! Father, you can hardly imagine how happy I am this night. Happy, oh, I rejoice that I may have the privilege of serving my country and defending its banner.
I do not feel death, nor the hardships that we have got to encounter. I have got so that I can sleep on the ground and rest finally. I care not what the hardships may be, I would not sell out for any money. There are quite a number in this regiment that are sick with the rash. They will be sent to N.Y. to stay until they get well. Then they will come to Washington. I do not know what they will do with those that have been man enough, and refused to go the full time. It is quite late, and I shall have to stop.
Monday morning: Again I take my pencil to finish this hasty note. I never sent such a night before in my life. Jef Davis was burned in effigy last night, and all the officers and soldiers took part in the different performances. Our men were engaged most of the night in cooking provisions for our march. Every person was rejoicing. Many of the sick ones left their beds to mingle with the happy ones. I have not time to write more this morning. Good-bye. I will write again as soon as I arrive in Washington. Tell Mother not to borrow any trouble about me, for if I fall, it will be in an honorable cause in defense of the Stars and Stripes. Tell her to have no fears about my morals, for I have determined to be a man as well as a soldier. Tell all my friends that I go to serve my country, and for that I am willing to die if it happens to be my fortune to die for President Lincoln, not with a coward's brow, but with a soldier's heart.
My love to all of you. In great haste,B. F. Smart
Camp Seward, Washington - June 20, 1861
Your gladly received letter of the 10th has just reached me. I was very glad to hear from home and to hear that you are all well. I have been looking for a long time for a letter from you, but this morning I made up my mind that you had not received my letter, and I had intended to have written you today, whether I got one from you or not. But you must remember that I am just as anxious to hear from you, as you are to hear from me. I have received four letters this week, so you see that I have some writing to do, and I assure you it gives me great pleasure to hear from my old schoolmates and friends. I did not receive your letter while at Willet's Point, but thought it strange why you did not write. I still continue to enjoy myself about the same as ever. I would not turn back for the world, but I don't like to think that we are not a little further south, in order that we might have the chance to show ourselves. I think we may have it soon. I am anxious to be in an engagement. My courage is better than ever now, for I know that we are better fitted to enter such duties than we were when we left N.Y. for we have been drilling constantly all the time, and our Captain is putting us through. I have become quite a soldier and I think I have the confidence of my officers. I have never received an unpleasant word from one of them since I enlisted, and they have granted every request of mine.
I passed the day in the city last week and had a very pleasant time. I spent most of my time in the Capitol, and I assure you I enjoyed it very much. It is a splendid building containing many beautiful rooms. The Senate Chamber was where I passed the great portion of my time. The room itself is not as large as I supposed it was, but much nicer work than I ever dreamed of. I sat in the chair that was for J. C. Breckenridge a short time, and which is to be occupied by H. Hamlin before many days. I stood where that noble and energetic statesman Douglas has stood so many times and buffeted the fanaticism of all sections of the country. It was with a sad heart, that I could hardly control, for I know how he is needed at this perilous condition of affairs. But he is gone just as Webster and Clay went. Still, I believe he has left behind a principle that will live forever, and the only principle upon which our country can ever be saved. You speak of Republicanism, Father, I abhor even the name just as bad as ever you did, Sir. It is not that, that I am fighting for, but it is my beloved country, and for that I am willing to fight as long as my life is spared.
I think we have very good officers, and as such will lead us on to glory and to victory. The other night about 8 o'clock we were suddenly aroused by the report of guns and the sound of the drums. Soon the cry to "fall in" passed from one Company to another, and in less than ten minutes every man was in his place with all of his equipment on and his gun loaded, and in less than thirty minutes the Battalion was formed and we were all ready to march. There we waited for some time, but no order came, and at last the order came that it was a false alarm. It caused the boys to feel badly. I have never seen them so cheerful as they were when the order came for them to prepare to march. Still we look for the same order every night. One Regiment nearby was ordered out last night.
It is surprising to see what effect such orders have on the men. One of our company, who had not sat up for several days, got his cartridge box, and was putting his boots on, when one of our men went in and stopped him. He asked him what he was going to do - he said he was bound to go with the company. Another one who had been sick and off duty for three weeks, got his gun and loaded it, saying that if he could not walk he would shoot the first rebel that came near him. But we have not gone yet.
My health was never better in the world. I think I have gained ten pounds since I left home. The exercise, food andclimate I think agree with me. It is quite warm, as warm as ever saw it in Maine. I expect the Fourth Maine Regiment is in town. I shall feel a little bad to see them, for I could have got a very good office had I joined them in Maine, but I did not think that they would ever be called out, but I am content, for I am quite sure of the first chance in our company, for the First Lieutenant, has intimated it several times. Still I am willing to serve my country in any capacity whatever. (It costs soldiers nothing for postage, as you can see by this envelope), B. F. Smart
Headquarters, 2nd Regiment, V.M.M., Camp Seward, Washington, D.C. - June 28, 1861
I again comply with your request and write to you. It is the third I have written since I have heard from home, but fearing that my letters do not reach you, I write very often, for I know something about your anxiety to hear from me. I am very anxious to hear from you. I hope you will write often, and write all the news, etc. I am still enjoying perfect health, and am better contented than ever.
In my last I told you about how I stood with my officers, but little did I then think that they all had their eyes on me, but it was truly so. Last Monday morning, our Captain sent for me to appear at his quarters immediately. I went and entered. He turned and spoke thus: "Mr. Smart, you have attracted the attention of all of the officers on account of your good morals, close application to your business, soldierlike appearance, and close observance of all laws. You have hereby been appointed Corporal to fill the place of one who has been reduced to the ranks on account of unlawful conduct, which was getting drunk." I felt somewhat flattered by this talk, for I have never talked with him but very little, and have never intimated to anyone that I wanted the office. But I think it has given general satisfaction. It is quite easy to get such a berth when the company is first organized, but after that time, one has to excel all the others in the company. I was selected from among 70 men, and twenty of them were qualified to fill the place. One of the Lieutenants remarked the other day, that it was not half what that I deserved.
Tuesday I was again called for, and notified that I had been appointed officer of quarters in our company. My duty is to see that every man is up at four in the morning, make a report of the condition of all the men, list of the sick, etc., all disturbances in camp are reported to me, and all important ones I have to report to the Captain, others I settle myself. I also do have to see that the men keep their tents in good order, and the ground about them in the best of order, silence all the rows in the camp, and see that the lights are all out at 10 at night. I have performed that duty for most of a week, and have not heard a word of fault found with me yet. I have authority to call on any man in the company to assist me in whatever I undertake. Now when our company is on guard, I have nothing to do, and that is once in five days, except when appointed officer of the guard, and that happens once in twenty days.
I am determined to do my whole duty and nothing but my duty, and if God spares my life, I will lay a foundation in this war upon which I will build my future career. There are many sick now, but nothing dangerous. One of our Regiment died the other day. Twelve of our company are on the sick list. I think that the climate agrees with me finely, and I take the best of care of myself, and I am bound to do all of the time.
I was over to the Fourth Regiment yesterday. Saw many whom I was acquainted with. Marcus Dodge, son of William Dodge was one of them, Aaron Nickerson and a Batchelder from Swanville beside many others. They are all well. I find several of my schoolmates in the Maine Regiments. They all appear very much surprised to see me.
We have a Battalion drill of two hours every morning at 4 o'clock. We do not drill any now in the warm part of the day. We shall most likely remain here now until after Congress assembles and decides upon the course to be pursued. But still we are liable to be called at a moments warning to march to Virginia. I am ready for any call. I want my books to have good care of them. My letters be sure to preserve unmolested. These pictures that you most likely find in my trunk, be sure and take the best care of them, and keep them until I return, and if I never return, keep them forever. I dare say Mother will look after my clothes as they should be. Tell me in your next if you ever received the clothes sent from Bangor. My overcoat and best cloths including a pair of boots. Write as soon as you receive this. Give my regards to all. Tell Lavonia to write. Tell Mother not to worry a mite about me, for I have made up my mind fully to do just right and nothing else.
Yours in haste,B. F. Smart
Falls Church Village, Fairfax County, Virginia - July 3, 1861
You will see by the heading of this letter that I have changed my location. Yes Father, I am now in Virginia. Our Regiment encamped in one of the most beautiful spots of the state. We are the outmost post and right in front of the enemy. It is expected that we shall be in contact with them very soon. The Connecticut 2nd Regiment are next to us. They were in advance before we came. They have their Picket guard one mile outside of us. They send out scouting parties every day. They took four from a company of Calvary Sunday night. The Pickets saw the enemy only a half a mile off. We shall commence to send out scouts and scouting parties to-day, also station and Picket guard outside of any of theirs. I expect our company will be the first out, on account of our Captain, who is the best in the whole Regiment. I hope it will be so.
I have written you four times since I have heard a word from home. So you see, it will not be my fault if you do not hear very often. I think you do not get them, for if you did, I believe you would write me.
As I stated in my last letter, I have been promoted to Corporal and have discharged the duties of my office for ten days. I get along finely, and enjoy myself as well as usual and am in the very place I wanted to be. We are where we shall soon have to fight and I shall try to do my whole duty. I stand well with the officers now, and I am bound to stand better if we have a fight. I am bound to distinguish myself if possible. The place where the fight was the other day is between us and Washington, and the very ground we now occupy was in control of the Secessionists last week. Most of the inhabitants have fled from this place. There are a few who are Union men, left.
Report is that the enemy captured five of the Connecticut men who were on guard last night. Before that they had taken one Captain, one Sergeant and a Corporal. The Captain was enticed outside the Pickets by two women and they got him to a house and the enemy surrounded the house and took him. The Cavalry immediately rushed to the spot, but too late. The poor fellow is in their possession now.
It is talked that we may celebrate the Fourth of July according to the original way. I am ready and willing to do so.
The first day will be remembered by all on account of it being the day we marched from Washington. We were comfortably situated at Washington, just prepared to enjoy life or a soldier's life and I had passed the afternoon making a box to put our bread and other things in. We had made up our minds that we would not be called for until Fall. But we were gladly surprised at 5 o'clock PM to receive the order to march immediately. Two days rations were ordered to be cooked, but there was not time to do that, so we took nothing but hardbread with us.
At five, we struck our tents, and had hardly completed that job, which took five minutes, when it commenced raining in torrents, most of the men ran to an old shed, and to the house, but the order being to load in less than half an hour, so the Lieutenant had grit enough to stand it, and I did not flinch. There were a very few there who did not flinch. I think I have never seen it rain harder in my life. When we got the team loaded we were completely wet through. My shoes were full of water. At 8 we marched slowly down the street. Everything being arranged and ready, we passed through Washington. No man except the Field Officers knew where we were going. We soon learned that we were going south. We moved through Washington to the Potomac, and crossed on a bridge over which nothing but foot passengers pass. We passed on, and had to wait for half an hour for the officers to cross in a ferry boat. We then pushed along over Arlington Heights. There we saw that beautiful breastwork that was erected by the gallant 69th. We moved on, passing many Regiments, and after passing all, we arrived in this place after marching 15 miles through mud and water. We were wet and weary when we arrived. We went into the same church in which General Washington once quartered. There we stopped for four hours. It was daylight when we arrived. I assure you we were soon asleep, protected by the Cavalry of the U.S. and Companies from the Connecticut Regiments. We pitched our tents at 8 o'clock, all well, but nothing to eat but a little rice for supper. We later did get a few beans and had stew. A load of provisions came last night, consisting of hard bread and beef.
But still it is all for our glorious Country. Therefore I am the last one who will complain or wish myself out of it, for I am ardent to remain as ever. Do not worry about me, for if it is right for me to be shot, I am willing to go. It will be no disgrace to you to have your son die in defense of his country.
Direct your letters as usual to Washington. Write me very often, for I am anxious to hear. Perhaps before you get this I will be engaged in a fight with the enemy. I have not tasted liquor, nor smoked a whiff, or uttered an oath, and played a card or anything of this kind.
So good-bye, my love to all, from your son,B. F. Smart
Falls Church, Virginia - July 12, 1861
Having received a paper from you the other day signifying that you had received another letter from me, I thought I would write again. I wrote the 4th installment which you probably received ere this. I hope you get all of my letters, for if you do not you will not be wholly acquainted with my proceedings, but since I write two or three times to your one, I can not learn until to-late whether you get them or not. But it shall be no fault of mine if you do not hear from me often, although my chances of writing are very poor. Stationary is scarce.
When I wrote you last, I had just arrived here and expected to fight soon. We sent out our Pickets two miles, but have not discovered the enemy yet. We expect to attack Fairfax very soon, perhaps tomorrow. I hope it will be as soon as that. There are ten Regiments that can be in one body and one for the road for Fairfax in twenty minutes. We have been reinforced, and are under the command of a Colonel who is acting as a Brigadier General. He is a U.S. Officer, so we will have none of the games Pierce played with us. Then I believe that our Colonel has got the right grit. He has showed himself to be a smart man in getting the Regiment where it is. He is much better than he was a month ago. Our Regiment is to be filled up to the requisite number of 1,000 men soon, part of them came this week. 60 horses also came. They were rather pretty horses but not very large.
I like our officers better and better. They use me first rate. I can have anything I want, do about as I have a mind to. Our company was on Picket and last Sunday the officers requested me to take charge of the most dangerous point. The Lieutenant inquired why he put me there, he says that you know that it needs someone who is trustworthy and will attend to his business. The Lieutenant afterward told me about it. I felt somewhat flattered, but I was bound to do my duty. The post was in the edge of a dark thicket, where it was necessary to keep a sharp lookout. I assure you that I did not let my men sleep while on guard. I did not go a rod from my post, or sleep a mite during day or night. I allowed one of the men to sleep at a time, and two watch. We did not kill anyone, but still the duty was the same.
I was selected the other day to act as sergeant of the home, or camp guard. Our sergeant was not well. Our Captain was Officer of the Day, and our 2nd Lieutenant, Officer of the Guard. I entered my duty in the morning, and continued until the next morning. When we came, the Captain says that he guessed that he could trust us. So he went to his quarters. At 11 o'clock, three horseman rode up and the Lieutenant was off. Therefore I had to receive them in the usual manner. After the countersign was given correctly, I commanded them to advance. It was very dark, so that I could not distinguish anyone, but it proved to be the General and Staff. He talked with me for a short time, then rode off to the next encampment. His business was to try the guard, to see if he could pass, but he did not come his game with me. A short time before that, the Adjutant went out with the Officer of the Guard. Soon they came back - and our orders are to admit no one unless he could give the countersign - and was going to march in. The sentinel halted them, charged bayonet on them, and demanded the countersign.
The Adjutant said he had forgotten it, says "You know who I am. Come let me in." The sentinel called me. I immediately read their game, and slipped alongside the sentinel and whispered to him to do his whole duty, then I turned away. The Adjutant called me and said, "Are you the Sergeant of the Guard?" I said that I acted as such. He then asked me if I would not let him in. I told him that I had my orders, and that I had given them to the guard, and not one of them should be violated. When he found that we would not waver one inch, he gave the countersign, and walked in with a smile on his countenance. If I had let him in without the countersign, I would have been punished severely for it. So you can see what one gets by doing his whole duty.
I am perfectly contented with my position, and am bound to distinguish myself if possible. We do not drill much now, but keep our equipment in order, so that we can be ready to fight at a moment's calling,B. F. Smart
Alexandria, Virginia - July 23, 1861 (Tuesday, 7 AM)
After fighting one of the hardest battles that we ever fought in America, your son was not hurt in any way. It is true that we are defeated, and our army routed, but it was not the soldiers' fault, for never did the soldiers fight harder, or bolder than those engaged in that battle. I think I tell the truth when I lay it to poor Generalship. I am sorry to say anything about or against our General Tyler, but I believe, and it is the belief of many, that he worked for the interest of the South instead of the North. That is a hard saying, but I feel so. If McClellan had conducted that noble army, I believe we would have routed them, although their number was greater than ours. I will say for the Maine boys, that they did nobly. The enemy were entrenched and behind the strongest batteries that could be made, and that stronghold which is just this side of Manassas was what we endeavored to take. I feel proud to think that I am a soldier of the Maine 2nd Regiment. They fought like tigers, and made one of the boldest and most daring charges that was ever made. They were twenty rods nearer the battery than any other Regiment.
Now for a very short detail of our operations. At 1 o'clock Sunday morning we left our encampment at Centerville and moved on. We then halted and let every Brigade pass us. Our Brigade consisted of three Connecticut and the Maine 2nd under Colonel Keyes, a U.S. Officer. But soon the order came to advance without any load except cartridges and belts. We stripped for the fight, and marched onward. We soon came into Sherman's battery which was throwing ball and shell at a rapid rate. We then moved onward "Double Quick" for two miles. It was at that moment that we ascertained why we were kept in the rear. It was to be fresh for the boldest attack. We came within a short distance of the battery when we formed in the line of battle under a small hill. Maine boys attacked the front, and the Connecticut - each wing, and one Connecticut at reserve. The order came to forward march. Then came the order from our noble Colonel to forward guide center double quick march, Then came the tug of war.
One howl passed along the line, and the bold boys of the 2nd Maine dashed forward like lightning, firing as fast as possible. Our men began to fall like hail stones, but that did not discourage them. They rushed onward and were led by the most gallant officer that ever fought. We were quite near the battery, from which came ball, shell, grape & chain shot, also rifle and musket. Balls flew like hail stones among us, with every volley taking its number of bold men, but still unflinchingly the Maine boys dashed onward, showing neither fear nor cowardice. But our Brigadier General soon saw that the enemy was too strong for us. He rode to the left wing and gave the order to fall back to the woods on our left. This was our third charge, he gave the order twice before our heroic Major gave it to his men. I was on the right of the left wing, but when they turned toward the woods, I looked about. I beheld the Stars and Stripes and my beloved Colonel on the right. I said to myself - I never will leave that flag unprotected. I rushed for it, leaving my company there. I found our Colonel cheering his men he himself in advance of them all. Oh, Father, words are inadequate to express my love for the Patriotic hero, he deserves the praise of every living being in Maine, oh yes, and the U.S.
There he stood like one that knew not fear. He dashed on with the remainder of the Regiment, and went very near the battery. Had we been reinforced at that moment, the battery would have been ours, but was then impossible. I rushed to the Colonel's side. He said: "Has the left wing of my Regiment fled?" I then told him how bravely they fought, and how they received orders twice from Colonel Keys before they fell back. A smile then lit up his countenance. He then drew his men together and fell back to the road which formed a breastwork for us. Our brigade was divided about 200 rods apart. All of the Connecticut Regiment, and the left wing of ours on the left, and the right wing of ours on the right, and not an officer of either part knew where the other was. The Colonel came to me and asked if I knew anything about the remainder, and it happened that I was the only one there that did know. He asked me if I could go and deliver a message to Colonel Keys. I knew what a dangerous undertaking, but of course your son said yes, and while the others lay concealed, I seized my gun, and rushed by the very cannon's mouth for 100 rods without any shelter. When I came to the middle of the field, the cannon and musket balls flew all around me. I don't see what saved me. Three cannon balls struck within three feet of me, and the rifle balls whizzed by me like a swarm of bees. It seemed to me that they saw me, and knew my errand. I neither paused, nor looked around, but dashed forward 'till I came to the left wing. The boys all cheered me as I went by. The Connecticut officers ordered me to lie down. They said I was exposing their whole Regiment. I said to them, "I know my business, and shall perform my duty." I dashed along to the left of their line. There I found the Commanding officer, and delivered my message. He cheered me, and gave me orders for Colonel Jameson, but would not let me go back as I came, but told me to go down a ravine and through a piece of woods. I asked him twice to let me go as I came, but he wouldn't consent for he said he didn't want me to get killed. I soon found the Colonel who was watching for me. He waved his hand when I came in sight. I sprang forward, and was soon at his side. I felt proud to think that I had done him a little good. The officers rushed to me as if I was a lion. The Colonel then ordered his men to follow him, and me to act as a guide. I led them around through the same ravine. Many of them said I must be going wrong, but the Colonel ordered them to follow. I ran ahead 'till I came to the main body of our Brigade. I then jumped up on a fence and waved my cap until they came to me. Then they found that I had led them just right. I then reported myself to the General. He ordered me to fall back and rest, for he saw that I was nearly exhausted. I asked him if I should not act my pleasure, and he said yes. Well, said I, I will be in the ranks in ten minutes. He smiled, and I turned away. I got some water, and wet my head and drank a little, seized my gun, and fell in my place. I feel that I did my whole duty, and my officers give me praise.
Our Regiment was cut up badly. I think half or more of those noble boys are gone. There appear to be but a handful of them left. Our Regiment retreated in fair order, but this whole Army was broken up. There were too many for us, as we were led by our General. But we will wipe them out yet. In retreat we marched 32 miles, and I am very weary, but I stand it finely. I am ready to try them again any moment. "By the eternal" I will fight them until they recognize the Constitution of the U.S.
Our Regiment is so broken up that it will take some time to recruit. Our Captain was injured, while crossing a bridge in the retreat, across the chest. I led him along until I found a baggage wagon. Then I put him into it, and stuck by him all night. He was very grateful to me for my kindness. When morning came, I secured a horse for him, and guarded him until he was safely landed in this place.
One of our Corporals is probably dead, and another wounded, and about half of our Company are gone. It is hard, but then it is honorable to die for one's country. All of our Field Officers are living. One or two Captains and several Lieutenants were killed or wounded. Some taken prisoners. I think our Chaplain and Surgeon are in the hands of the enemy, besides many others. I had no fear at any time. I was greatly excited and willing to do anything. I do not think there was a coward in the whole Regiment. We brought off all our flags in good shape. The bearer of the largest one was the first man shot.
I saw Major Nickerson yesterday, also Colonel Marshall and Captain Cunningham. They are all well, and send their regards to you. Captain Bean and Lieutenant Bird of the Brook Company were slightly wounded. Captain Sherwood was wounded in the arm, may lose it. Lieutenant Walker is all right. He behaved nobly, so say his men. I am going to see him soon. Mark Dodge and Daniel Nickerson are both well. Our Officers all behaved like patriotic heroes, and deserve the praise of all of Maine. Maine need not feel ashamed of her officers or men, for no others fought more bravely but the 2nd Regiment is ahead of all the others. No man behaved more heroic that Lieutenant Garnsey of our Company. I have not time to write more. Excuse the composition, spelling and writing, for I am so hasty that I think I have left out about half.
Yours in haste, from your son,B. F. Smart
Arlington Heights - August 4, 1861
Your very interesting letter of the 31st was read by me last night, and I was truly glad to hear from home once more, and learn that you are all well, and also to know that you had heard from me. I am now at Arlington Heights near Fort Cockren where we came from Alexandria. The hill on which we are now encamped was the place where Colonel Lee formerly lived - the same traitor who now commands a portion of the Rebel Army. I do not like the place very well. It is the poorest camp ground that we have had. We are here to guard Washington. I think it would be impossible for the enemy to take that little city, for the river is lined with forts and plenty of men to defend them. We feel confident that we shall be successful the next time, although many of our Regiment are homesick, others discouraged by our defeat, but thank God that I am not numbered with either of those classes, but with those who are bound to fight them until they are completely wiped out. If I knew that we were to fight another battle, and come off no better than we did before, and I could have my chance to engage in it, or return to my home safely, I would say:
In God I put my trust
Fight I will, fight I must
I will labor in the strife
As long as He spares my life.
Although there are not as many of our men lost as we expected, we still suffered more and lost more according to our number then any other Regiment in the Army. The "Fire Zouaves" lost one out every ten, making 100 out of their Regiment of 1,000. We lost one out of every six, making 100 lost out of our number of 600 engaged. There are 16 dead, wounded and prisoners from our Company, greater than from any other. The cause of that was on account of our being the left Color Company. I knew of but three that were shot dead. Our Captain was injured, as I informed you. He was resigned on account of it. I have fears of his recovery. We shall have the best Company Officers in the Regiment after that. Our Lieutenants are both heros and capable of commanding. Things are not straightened out here yet. I think I may have good news to write you when they are.
You seemed to be much pleased with my letters. Well I am glad you are, but it seems to me they are rather poor for I have no chance to write or to think. I mix my composition on account of it. I thought my description of the battle rather miserable. I wrote in a very short time, my object being for you to hear from me, rather than for you to peruse a well composed piece of composition. I wrote a long letter soon after that would bear examination and criticism. You may see it, and you may not. I sometimes write for papers, but do not allow my friends to know of my writing. You spoke of an affair in your last concerning me. Such a commission would satisfy my highest ambition, but it is not easily obtained.
I still have an eye in that direction, and if the opportunity should present itself, I approve of it. But you know that if a man does not distinguish himself in the Volunteer Service, he is not worthy of an appointment in the Regular Army. I have done as much in a short time as any other. I have already brought myself into notice of all the officers in the Regiment on account of my performing the dangerous duties of messenger while on the battlefield, also on account of my conduct in the fight, and remaining with my Captain during that lonely night. Furthermore, in my performance of my duty, and my morality is looked up to by all. I was one of four in my whole Regiment who did not taste of liquor when we arrived at Alexandria. I have not tasted of liquor since I enlisted, not even a drop of beer.
While in Alexandria I was passing by the hotel where the Colonel and other officers were stopping. My Captain called me in and addressed me as his brave Corporal, and shook my hand and thanked me kindly for my attention toward him. And as I was leaving, I had to pass the Colonels' room, he saw me and called me in. I found the room full of high officers, Colonels, Majors, etc. I removed my cap and bowed. The Colonel rose, took my hand shook it heartily, saying "This was my comrade in battle. He acted the part of a brave soldier and deserves the praise of all." Of course I felt very much flattered but had been in company enough to know how to appear. I held up my head and tried to act like a man. He then introduced me to all of the Staff Officers of our Regiment, and some others who were present, and then asked me to take a seat. Of course I did not take it, but withdrew immediately feeling well paid for my labor the day before. My dear friend Staples of Portland, who is Sergeant in our Company and is my chum and is a noble man, was near by and heard the talk. He said to me after we left, "You have distinguished yourself in quick time. I am glad for you. You will have no trouble whatever you want from the Colonel." He told the boys of it, and they thought it a great honor to be complimented in that manner by our noble Colonel. So you see, when the time comes, I shall have the influence of a higher officer than a Captain.
I got a pass from the Colonel the other day, and went to the Regiment, and had a fine time, then went to Washington and had the pleasure of seeing Congress in session. I enjoyed it very much. What I have written about myself, do not show to anyone because it is flattering me too much, but many here say that it is no more than I deserve.
I know nothing about John Chase, did not know that he was in the army, never have seen him at all. I have no chance to know about any other Regiments from Maine. Our Regiment is placed along side of the first Regiments in the country, therefore we are separated from all the other Maine Regiments, always holding a post of honor. Ellsworth's "Fire Zouaves" say they are bound to get a Brigade with us. Our Colonel is unwell at present. Prince Napoleon was here to see us this forenoon. I sent you a Washington paper the other day, I hope you get it. I received a paper from Grandfather, and was much pleased to receive it. Give my regards to him and all others. Tell him my highest aim is to always be a man. We number about 500 Veterans of Bull's Run and 150 Recruits. A few more such battles would nearly destroy the noble Maine 2nd.
Your son,B. F. Smart
Fort Cockren, Headquarters of the 2nd Regiment, Maine Volunteers - October 3, 1861
I again write to let you know how I am getting along. Well Father, I am enjoying first rate health and prospering finely. I have again been promoted and received quite a lift. I was before Third Corporal, and I am now Third Sergeant. They jumped me over three others, still it gives perfect satisfaction. I am well contented for I know the officers place full confidence in me. My Captain is one of the finest men in the Army. He and I had quite a talk last night. He told me that I was promoted, as I have told you, but said that it was not half that I deserved. Still it was all he could do for me now, but he hoped the time would come when he could put me in the place I was deserving of. Those are his own words. So you see that I am not destroying my character or bringing disgrace upon my parents. There is one thing very pleasant to think of - that to whatsoever position I may rise, I shall know that I am deserving it, for I started as a common soldier, and was the first in my Company to be promoted. I am now in a fair way to be something more than I expected when I left. I want to be in another engagement.
We are still at Fort Cockren, which was the last place that they will leave unguarded, although we have orders to prepare to move two times, but have not gone yet. It is believed that we will go tomorrow. I hope it is so. It has been nothing but excitement for the last week. We have the greatest army that was ever organized, and under the command of one of the best Generals in the World. There are over a 100 pieces of Artillery in this army - that is some different from what it was when we were under McDowell. I am sure that we shall have success and crush the Rebellion in Virginia.
I tell you Father, McClellan is a hero. He attends to his own business. There is not a Regiment but what he knows all about it, what they are able to do, and where to put them. Our Regiment received many complements from all of the commanding officers. This place is the most important on the Potomac, and it is considered a mark of honor to our Regiment to be placed in charge of it. Still, most of us are anxious to move. We will never again have to guard a camping ground or be so well situated. Nevertheless, I am willing to sacrifice all comforts to be in the next "Grand Battle." Most of my old schoolmates have enlisted, many in the 11th Regiment, and some in the 8th and 9th. The two latter are in Washington, and I am going to see them tomorrow, if we do not move. I might have been the same had I waited until now. But I had rather have a Sergeant's berth in the 2nd, than a Lieutenant's in any of the others. The Captain says that General Jameson will give me one of the very best recommendation for any position that I may desire, would I request him to do so. The Colonel and the Captain will do all they can for me, but they are not willing for me to leave the Regiment, although they will not object if I should get an appointment. If I could be in all of the battles that will be fought by this army, I believe that I can put myself there without much help. I shall either make a place for myself, or lose all in the attempt.
Still, if I could get it without running so great a risk, I would like it as well. I have no fear of death, and if we have a chance to take a battery, I assure you that I will not be the last one to see the inside of it. I am again completely carried away by the anticipation of having another battle.
Do not trouble yourself about my safety, for if it is right for me to die, nothing on our part will save me, and if I am to live, nothing will kill me. Consider this the right belief for a soldier to have. What say you? I shall expect a letter from you soon, also one from home. Write often, and tell all of the others to write. My regards to all.
From your obedient Son,B. F. Smart
Hall's Hill, Virginia, Headquarters of 2nd Regiment, also of General J. H. Martindale's Brigade - October 13, 1861
It's Tuesday, and I have been working very hard ever since daylight. Yesterday morning we struck tents and moved to this place. We are doing our best to make everything comfortable, such as lugging rough building blocks and other little fixings which isn't much, to our soldiers comfort. Although that we should not remain in this beautiful place. The reports are that we are to guard a Regiment that remains behind. They have sent a green Regiment there. I think we shall have a chance to fight before long.
I will write again very soon, yours in haste B. F. Smart
Camp Jameson, Hall's Hill, Virginia - October 16, 1861
It is quite late, and the Tattoo has been beat. Still I must write a few lines to you, as I am to leave early in the morning on Picket Guard duty. Lieutenant Staples and Sergeant Smart were selected by the Colonel to take charge of our Company. I went out on fatigue the other day in charge of the Company. I am constantly engaged in arduous duties. I hardly know why it is that they choose me for the most perilous duties, but I know one reason, mostly because I am always willing to do whatever duty they may require. I am perfectly satisfied with the manner in which they treat me. I care not how dangerous the place may be, I am just the one who will not flinch. The more chances they give me, the more I can do for myself, if I am not taken away. I like our new situation well. I cannot write more. I will write often as I return to camp, which will be in two days, B. F. Smart
Camp Jameson, Hall's Hill, Virginia - October 27, 1861
It has been more than a week since I last wrote you. I then told you that I would write you again immediately, but I have not had time from that day until this. I returned from Picket the next Sunday, and have been constantly at work ever since. We have been under marching orders during most of the time, but now, I understand, that the order is changed, and we are to remain here a short time longer, but how long no one can tell. We had a grand review yesterday by General McClellan. It was one of the most beautiful sights that I ever witnessed. There were about 12,000 Infantry, 200 Calvary and 18 pieces of Artillery. We had a sham fight with blank cartridges, which was splendid. The General was much pleased. I tell you, the 2nd Maine did nobly. They knocked the spots of all the other Regiments. We are the best drilled of any Regiment in this Division. We have the best band in the Army. I feel proud that I belong in this Regiment.
I am well and doing well, but anxious for another brush with the Rebels. I cannot see why we do not move onwards. I am anxious to avenge the death of Baker and those noble Massachusetts boys who fell with him. It is now almost night, and I have got to write two more short ones, so you must excuse this. We have to drill so much now that we do not get time to do anything. Our General is bound to make us perfect. I shall have my hands full now the Recruits have come, as the Sergeants have to drill them, and they put most of that upon me. I will write again soon, from your Son, B. F. Smart
Camp Jameson, Hall's Hill, Virginia - February 6, 1862
Yours of the 3rd has just been received by me, and I was very glad to learn that you were all well. I am enjoying the same blessing. I can not write much tonight, but will write again very soon.
Our Company is filled with excitement and rejoicing. Captain Farnham (the man we all loved) resigned on account of being reduced by several fevers and unable to perform his duties. Tonight the commissions for our officers have come, and that is what has caused the excitement. Our officer now is Captain Garnsey, 1st Lieutenant Horatio Staples, 2nd Lieutenant J. B. Forbes, and Orderly Sergeant B. F. Smart. I feel proud of this rapid promotion of mine. I have jumped over everything that stands in the way, and what is still better, it gives me general satisfaction. I am in the place where I shall be sure of the next commission. My success has been better than could have been expected. My berth will be the hardest in the Company, have all the writing and business of the Company to do, and drilling of the Company. I will write all the particulars soon. This shows what can be done if a man has a mind to be a man and do his duty. Hoping that my success will be followed by yours, and we may congratulate each other. I remain your obedient Son, B. F. Smart
Camp Jameson, Hall's Hill, Virginia - February 22, 1862
Your very kind and interesting letter of the 17th was gladly received by me Thursday night, and I am glad to hear from you at home and hear that you are all prospering so well. I hope that you will succeed in obtaining a situation satisfactory to yourself. I am glad to know of Andrew's movements, hope he will prosper and do well. He is a good boy. May he prosper even more than myself.
I am quite weary, as I have been hard at work all day making out requisitions, drawing clothing and delivering it to the men. The Captain and I have our hands full all day and most of the evening. It is quite late and I have made my evening report, so I cannot write but a note to you. You must not expect as much from me now, for I am very busy most of my time. The pay rolls will be along soon, then I shall have a hard job. We have to make out four sets.
I must say that I like my situation first rate, and get along finely, have no trouble at all, have not had a word with a man yet, and what is still better is my superior officers seem well pleased. I hardly consider it worth while to say anything about the numerous great and glorious victories that have been gained so recently by our Army. May our Army continue to be victorious is my prayer. We shall give them a dig ere long that will wake up the whole world. I tell you there is a "Big Thing" to be done by the Potomac Army before the game is played out, that is what I am waiting for.
I cannot write more tonight, but will write as often as possible. Write me as often as you can. My love to Mother, and all of the rest.
From your SonB. F. Smart
Camp Jameson, Hall's Hill, Virginia - March 2, 1862
You may think it strange that I have neglected writing so long, but this is truly the first moment that I have had to myself for five days. Last Thursday, the pay rolls, or blanks, came, and I commenced work on them assisted by my Captain. Still I had to do most of the writing. You know what a job it is to make them out and have them perfectly correct! But I believe you did not have but two each month. We have five and every man's name has to be written twice, also where he enlisted, by whom, when mustered into the U.S. service, by whom paid last, and up to what time. It took three days to make them out, besides I had to make a monthly return of everything the Company had during the month, the number been sick, the number on detailed duty, condition of the Company, etc.
Wednesday night I worked until 10 o'clock when an order came for us to be ready to march the next morning with two days cooked rations. That immediately made work for the Captains and Orderlies, for the rations had to be drawn and cooked that night. So the Captain and I got everything ready by about two. By the way, our Regiment was on Picket and was to be called in the morning. But only a portion of the officers go on a Picket at a time with 400 men, and the Orderlies never go or do any guard duty. We turned in, and expected to move in the morning, but it commenced raining hard and made the roads so bad that the order was countermanded. We were then ordered to be in readiness at any moment, which we have been. But last night, an order came stating that we should not go for a few days rest. You see by the papers that there is something done soon. You may think it hard to have the news withheld from the public, but it is just what ought to have been done long ago. We will do the fighting, McClellan the planning, and in due season, those that stay behind shall know about it.
Now don't give yourself any uneasiness about me, if you do not hear from me for a month or any length of time, for the mails may be stopped. Tell Mother not to borrow any trouble at all. We may be in battle ere you get this & may not be in four weeks. But let that be as it may, when we do go, I shall try to do my part, and if it be God's will that I shall fall, He let it be. Mourn not, for it is a holy cause in which I am engaged, and an honor to die for one's country.
Death! It is a subject that gives me but little trouble or thought. If I am to die, so let it be. I shall not murmur or fret about it. But if I die, I am determined to die a man, not a coward. I am anxious for a brush as ever I was, and hope we shall be out of this before the week is gone. But enough of this.
I am well, and like my new situation first rate. I tent with my Captain, and we have good times. His tent is a large one, and we have room, much better than my small tent was. I like him first rate, and we get along without any trouble whatever. I have not had a word of fault found with me since I was promoted, neither from the officers nor from the men. I am perfectly contented, glad that I did not go with Colonel Nickerson.
I shall send you pictures of Generals' Porter, Martindale, Jameson, Captains' Farnham, Garnsey and Lieutenant Staples of my Company. I will send my own in a few days. I would like to have them all put in a frame and kept 'till I get home, and if that never happens, of course you will never part with them. I think a great deal of them all. Forbes does not want me to send the one that I have of him, he wants to get me a better one, I will send his soon. I have not heard from Andrew yet, don't see why he does not write. I shall write as often as I can. Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain your obedient Son,B. F. Smart
THIS WAS FREEMAN'S LAST LETTER HOME. HE WAS KILLED JUST OVER A MONTH LATER, ON MAY 27, 1862
Camp Winford Scott before Yorktown - April 26, 1862
Thinking that a short note from me today will be acceptable, as I well know it always is. I improve this opportunity in writing. I have but a few moments to spare, therefore I cannot write much. I am enjoying first rate and getting along as well as can be expected. It is a dark and stormy day, and everything is quiet along the line. Captain is not very well, and my dear friend Lieutenant Staples lies sick by my side. He is not dangerously ill, but so that he cannot do duty, therefore I have much to do and it keeps me busy nearly all my time.
I have not heard from Father for a week, I know not why. I write to him quite often, and to you or Lavonia as often as I can. I have not heard from Andrew for a long time, and I have heard from home but once except by the way of Father since I came here. Lavonia writes very nice letters, and I would be very much pleased to receive them often. She thinks that she can not write, but that is a mistake. She truly writes a good letter. I hope Andrew is well, and well situated.
You must not borrow any trouble about either of us, for it is of no use. We are both engaged in a good and holy work, and if we are fortunate enough to live through it, it will be a good thing for us all. But if we fail, it seems to me as if it must be consolation enough for any parent to know that their sons died while nobly defending their glorious and beloved country. Still I hope I may be fortunate to live in order that I may serve my country for many years to come. If possible, I shall always remain in the Army. I think it is the right place for me, therefore if I live through this struggle, I shall endeavor to secure a permanent situation in the Regular Army. I hope Andrew will get his appointment in the Navy. I believe him worthy of it.
I enjoyed myself finely while I was with Father at the Fort. I read all of his letters from home, slept in his bed two nights, which was the first time I had slept in a bed since I left home, and while there, I tell you, I had warm cakes scarce, for in Camp, we get but little except hardbread to eat. I think he is well situated, and enjoys himself well. His enemies have tried hard to kill him, but have failed, and if we all live, many of them will get paid for their trouble. He is now where they cannot reach him.
I have not time to write any more this time, but will write again soon, so good-bye from your beloved Son,B. F. Smart
Official Reports of Death, and historical information
Official Battle Report - Headquarters, 2nd Maine Volunteers - May 30, 1862
Colonel C. B. Robert's command having been engaged in the late battle at Peake's Station on Tuesday last, the 27th - instructed I submit the following report viz.
Agreeable to orders from Brigade Headquarters at about 4 o'clock on Tuesday morning the 27th in a drenching northeast rain storm - his command comprising in all Officers and Men 409, with but 330 rifles, two days rations, and 60 rounds of cartridges per man, were drawn up in line and ready to move. Between the hours of 5 and 6 o'clock AM, the order to march was received, and directly following the 22nd Massachusetts, Colonel Grove, the 25th New York, Colonel Johnson, being in the advance. After a forced march of fourteen miles in a northerly direction, between the hours of 12 and one o'clock, we arrived at Peake's Station, so called, located upon the Virginia Central Railroad.
Upon arrival here however, and just as his command had emerged from the woods which skirted the roadside into an open field, he found that Colonel Johnson, with his command on the right of the road were actively engaging the enemy. At this point, he was ordered by General Martindale to immediately form a line of battle with his command. Having done so, and then doubling column on the center, together with Colonel Grove's command, who were deployed as skirmishers, he advanced to the front towards the railroad on the left of the road which we had advanced during the day. Colonel Grove's skirmishers advanced as far as the railroad, and then deployed to the left, not crossing the Road. He then removed his command, still doubled on the center to the right of the Hanover road, so called, running easterly from the Railroad Station, and here he received orders to halt.
At this junction, a section of Griffin's Battery arrived, and they being stationed on our left between Colonel Grove and Colonel Robert's command, commenced shelling the woods across the railroad, and over the wheat field. While they were getting ready, however, to discharge more pieces, Colonel Roberts was ordered to send a company of skirmishers across the railroad and into the wheat field to ascertain if possible whether any of the enemy was in the woods beyond. For this duty, Colonel Roberts detailed Captain Sergeant's Company. While another party of his command were very industriously active in destroying the railroad and telegraph which in that locality was successfully accomplished by Captain Griffin's Battery now having opened fire, a reply was received from a small field piece which the enemy had stationed either on the railroad or in a ravine in the wheat field. Colonel Roberts' command then received orders to cross the railroad at once, into the wheat field beyond, advance and take the enemy's artillery. Colonel Roberts having advanced about 500 yards, the fire of the enemy ceased at this time, and his skirmishers from Captain Sergeant's command notified him that there was a strong force of the enemy, two or three Regiments, in the woods to his right. Our Colonel immediately halted his command, and notified General Martindale, that the enemy had changed the position of their artillery, and were in force on his right.
Colonel Roberts was then ordered to recall his skirmishers, and return across the road to his original position, when orders came from General Porter to advance at once toward the Hanover Courthouse.
At this time, all the force left was Colonel Roberts' own command, and several caisson's belonging to Captain Griffin's Battery. They being slightly embedded in the mud, Colonel Roberts was ordered to remain in the rear, also to assist in extricating them, which consumed some twenty minutes time. They finally moved on at a brisk pace up the Hanover Road, his command following in the rear. He had proceeded a few yards beyond where the road over which we had advanced intersects the Hanover Road, when an officer of the 5th Calvary, much excited, desired to know where General Martindale was. Colonel Roberts informed him, he at the same time, telling our Colonel that the Devils were after us in full force, and that we would be cut off. Colonel Roberts immediately, by order of General Martindale, moved his Regiment by the right flank into the open field on the right of the road, and there halted and changed fronts to the rear on the first company, then advanced in the line of Battle. Our right company being then thrown forward as skirmishers across the road leading to Peaks Station some forty rods, here came to a halt. Our skirmishers continually advancing were here fired upon by the skirmishers of the enemy, who were distinctly visible in the skirts of the wood in front some 400 yards from our main force. The 44th Regiment New York, Colonel Striker, having been detached, and acting as a guard to a section of Martin's Battery, opportunity arrived just in time. The Battery was then placed in position, our Regiment on the right, the 44th New York on the left. Some well directed shells were then thrown from the Battery into the woods in front also to the right and left which seemed to check the advance of the enemy's forces. At this time General Martindale hearing that they were attempting to flank our left an order to Colonel Striker to deploy his Regiment as skirmishers in that quarter. The enemy, however, before Colonel Striker could have done such execution appeared boldly in front advancing in perfect order, the colors of the right and left general guides also the stars and bars defiantly flying. Meanwhile, our skirmishers had returned. When they had advanced about 400 yards from us, they fired a volley. Before it arrived however, our Regiment by the Colonel's command, were on the ground, and most of their bullets passed harmlessly over us. Our Colonel, immediately gave the order to rise and fire by Battalion, at the same time directing the Battery to open fire upon them. We kept up a brisk fire upon them for about nearly twenty minutes. But they retreated to the left after our first volley. At this time, Colonel Johnson of the 25th New York, with but 175 men of his Regiment having been badly cut up in the earlier part of the day, was ordered to relieve us.
While we were being relieved, Colonel Roberts ascertained that the enemy were rapidly advancing on our right through the woods, informing the General commanding of the fact, he ordered our Colonel to meet them which he immediately did by giving the order to right face, and forward by file right, and had just time to get outside of a hedge fence on the side of the woods, when through the fence, muzzle met muzzle, and the fight waxing warm. In this position, we remained one full hour. The 25th New York from raking fire on their right, their force being small, and the Colonel wounded were obliged to retire. The Battery at this time was left by the cannoneers, the fire being too hot for them. The 44th New York, still remained on the left of the Battery, receiving grueling fire but not in a position to return it to advantage, their rifles bearing too great an elevation.
Our ammunition being nearly exhausted, many of the men having fired away their 60 rounds, we anxiously looked for reinforcement, when finally saw the 14th New York Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Skilling's coming to our relief. Then such a shout arouse from our men that the enemy gradually commenced to fall back, the 14th New York getting upon the ground, and opening fire, and a few shells from one of Captain Griffin's guns stationed in the rear dropping among them, a force also on their left advancing, they finally retreated, and the rout was perfect. Our Regiment was then relieved, and advanced a short distance, bivouacked for the night on the right of the road leading to Hanover Courthouse.
In this affair, I cannot but bestow upon Colonel Roberts, and our entire command, the highest praise both for bravery coolness, and a strict obedience to orders, and it would be doing a great injustice to mention any individual cases. Among those that fell, however, I will mention Sergeant B. F. Smart, Company H, one of the bravest and faithfulness of men in the Battle of Bull Run, and served with great valor. Also Sergeant Murch of Company B, whose only regret at dying was the leaving of his wife and five little children; Private Pollard of Company G, who at the Battle of Bull Run was wounded, and taken prisoner. Among the wounded Color - Sergeant J. H. Sylvester, Company B, falling at the first fire is deserving praise in delivering up the colors into the proper hands, then quietly crawling away to the rear; Sergeant Roe of Company E, severely wounded exhibited great coolness, also Sergeant Major Ellis. Great credit is also due to Surgeon Morrison and Assistant Surgeon A. C. Palmer, who amid the hissing of bullets, had a solicitous care not only for the members of their own Regiment, but also for those of the Division to whom their attention was repeatedly called. Saml. W. Hoskins, Regimental Quartermaster, although a noncombatant excelled in coolness. In conclusion, as some may have at one time reported the section of Captain Martin's Battery, I will add that such was not the case, furthermore, that the pieces were not polluted by the Rebel hands. The colors of the 44th New York floated over them continually during the action.
Concluded, Please notice an attached list of the killed and wounded.
Very respectfully your Obedient Servant, Adjutant, 2nd Regular Maine Volunteers
P.S. - No part of this must be published, as it would get me in trouble, until after the Official Report is sent in which will very nearly correspond with this. Written in haste.
Peake's Station Injured and Killed:
Company A - No casualties
Company B -
Captain Chas W. Tilden - Very slightly wounded in throat
Sgt. J. H. Sylvester - Severely wounded
Sgt. S. C. Murch - Severely wounded, since died
Pvt. L. W. Davis - Supposed to be mortally wounded
Pvt. Joel L. Thomas - Seriously, leg since amputated
Pvt. Crawford S. Ellis - Seriously wounded
Pvt. Benjamin. Griffin - Very slight wound
Pvt. W. B Haskell - Very slight wound
Company C -
Pvt. Joseph Phillbrook - Seriously wounded
Pvt. Albert J. Snow -
Company D -
Pvt. Joseph Burdell - Wounded
Pvt. Fred D. Nickerson - Killed
Company E -
Sgt. James L. Rowe - Seriously wounded, since died
Pvt. John Moores - Seriously wounded, since died
H. S. Prescott - Wounded
Joshua Roy - Seriously wounded
Company F -
Pvt. Issac Berg - Supposed mortally wounded
Company G -
Pvt. Henry Pollard - Seriously wounded, since died
Company H -
Sgt. B. F. Smart - Killed
Pvt. James Smith - Seriously wounded
James Durgin - Seriously wounded
James W. Wentworth - Seriously wounded
Walter P. Hammelt - Slightly wounded
Company I -
Pvt. Danl. Dyer - Seriously wounded, since died
Timothy Mahoney - Seriously wounded
Wm. Jordan - Seriously wounded
Chas. Farrell - Seriously wounded
Alex McKay -
Company J -
Jerry Murphy - Seriously wounded
Company K -
Pvt. Elijah Bridges - Severely wounded
Sgt. Maj. Chas J. Ellis - Seriously wounded
The following article was transcribed from a poor copy, in very small print, from reproductions of the newspaper from June, 1862.The portion relating to Sgt. B. F. Smart is printed in bold for your easier reading.
The following is from a news article that appeared in the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier of Tuesday, June 10, 1892:
The Battle at Hanover Court House. The following is an extract of a letter from an officer of the Second Maine, giving more of the personal incidents in the fight than have been given by any other letter yet published:
No more than two-thirds of the regiment had got around before the rebels blasted away at us from the woods. We got late lines on the side of the road next to the rebels, and sailed on in style. For one hour and twenty minutes we held them in check, pouring in the leaded storm. In the first fight in the road Smart was standing between Currier and myself, loading, firing and cheering on the men, when a ball struck him the left breast, and he fell back. I asked him where he was shot, and he put his hand to a great hole in his coat. I saw it was all up with him, and ordered some men to take him to the rear, which they did, and he died in a few minutes. Poor, brave Smart ! He was as brave a man as I ever saw. By cheering words and bold acts, he did much to encourage the men, and he died as he lived, doing his duty like a man. Shortly after he fell, Smith, of our company, was shot in the shoulder, the ball coming out of his back. Wentworth was shot in the leg rather badly and little Hammelt had a slight wound in the arm, but he kept on fighting.
Our boys did splendidly. I was proud of them. Not a man flinched or gave back an inch. If we had fallen back at all, they would have slaughtered every man of us, and taken two pieces of Martin’s battery, from which the gunners had been driven by rebel bullets. After fighting for more than one hour and twenty minutes, they gave back, skedaddled, leaving 25 killed in the woods, and some more in the field where they first came out of the woods, besides any quantity of wounded. Reinforcements them came up to us, and chased the flying rebels, taking many prisoners. While we were doing our fighting, the 25th New York were doing nobly. There loss is greater than ours - also the 44th New York, who were fighting in the woods to our left.
There were some narrow escapes in our regiment. Banborn of our company had part of the rim of his hat shot off. He looked up at me with that broad grin on his face, and says - Lieutenant look at my hat." Hanson had a bullet put through the top of his cap, which he thought was a close call for his brains. Johnny Jordan had his gun in front of him loading it, when a ball struck it just at the muzzle, where it stuck, which saved his life. Major Chaplain had his sward scabbard battered by a ball, and so did Captain Wilson. Captain Tilden had a ball crease his throat, tearing a small hole. Gen. Martingdale, who by the way did nobly, was struck in the foot by a spent ball, but was not hurt much, however. Charley Ellis, our Sergeant Major, was shot in the jaw and had his tongue torn terribly. I hardly think he will live. Sergeant Murch of Company B was shot dead. Thirty-one were killed and wounded in our regiment - six killed and twenty-five wounded. Sergeant Rowe of Company E, had his leg broken by a bullet.
The next day General McClellan rode by and shook hands with the Colonel and says, "Col., my complements to the 2nd Maine. You had a noble fight there."
Martingdale says we saved the whole left of the Division from being cut to pieces, etc. Complements have been pouring in all the time since the fight.
Well, we remained there two days, took about 1,200 prisoners, burned two bridges, and last night came back to camp, and thus ended the fieriest fight I ever expect to see.
Camp near New Bridge, VA - June 14, 1862
Dear Sir; Your letter of June 8th has just been received, and I hasten to answer it. The articles that belonged to Freeman, and which were in his pockets when he fell, I have made a package of, and sent them to you in care of Mr. Andrew, as he requested me to do. there are, as far as I can remember, a pair of pants, a watch, pocket purse, his knife, fork and spoon, pistol, and some letters, some of which have come since his death.
I buried him, as he used to say he would wish to be buried, that is with his uniform on. If it is possible for me to visit his grave while I am in Virginia, I shall certainly do so, and mark it so it can not be mistaken. However, as I may not be able to do so, I will try to tell you how to find it. Of course you may find the battlefield by inquiring of the people in the vicinity. Well, about 20 rods (DLV note: About 330 feet; 1 rod = 16 ˝ feet) this side of the woods, are two rows of graves. One is the 26th New York, the other ours. Freeman's grave is the first one that you come to just to the left of the road, and about 20 rods from the woods, along which runs another road leading to the Peake's Station on the left, and Hanover Courthouse on the right. (This latter road runs at right angles with the one that is near Freeman's grave.) Should his body be decomposed so that you can not recognize it, you will know it by the Orderly Sergeant's chevrons on the coat sleeve, a leather strap around the chin, his pants tucked into his boots, and the bullet hole in his left breast, just above the heart.
I know it will be painful for you to read these harsh cold particulars, but I know you will be anxious to take his remains away, so I have tried in my poor way to explain to you the exact locality. In regard to his last words, he did not speak after he fell. Those who took him off the field say that he died in their arms. His last voluntary movement was to place his hand to the hole in his breast when I asked him where he was shot. He did not suffer at all. His face showed no agony, but he looked as I have seen him asleep, calm and at rest. Yes, that noble soul is at rest up yonder - we shall meet him where it is said to such as he - "Well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
"Life's duty done as sinks the day
Light from its load the spirit flies
While Heaven and earth continue to say
How blest the righteous when he dies."
When I die, may my death be like his, doing my duty like him, my dying will be like going home.
Perhaps Freeman wrote you about a member of our Company C - Martin, who was shot in the leg while on Picket before Yorktown. Well, I have just heard from the surgeon at the U.S. Hospital a notice that he is dead. He was a fine young man, and greatly missed from the Company after he was disabled.
You will find in Freeman's purse, a due bill which I gave him for some money that he loaned me in April, I think, and when the Regiment is paid off, I will send you the amount. I would do so now, but unfortunately I have not the money with me.
Our Regiment has not been in any engagement since the one at Hanover Courthouse, but expect soon to advance against the Rebels again. I hope we shall do our duty.
Captain Garnsey and Lieutenant Forbes are both in Bangor recruiting. They were sent on that service on account of their ill health. Perhaps you would like to see them if you are in Bangor at any time. You will find Captain Garnsey by inquiring at the dry goods store of Stickney & Roberts. I am the only officer left in the Company, and fortunately I am in good health.
I will not write more, but if I am ever near your place of residence or business, I shall be glad to call upon you and tell you what I may have omitted to write. With my kindest regards to yourself and family, I will now close.
Respectfully yours, Horatio Staples
Treasury Department Second Auditor's Office - January 15, 1868
Enclosed please find a reply to my letter to the QM General respecting Freeman's body, which gives little additional evidence or information that it was identified. It is probable the head-board was removed before the body was removed to the U.S. Burying ground or Cemetery. Very truly yours, T. C. Smart.
Quartermaster General's Office, Washington, DC - January 13, 1868
Thomas C. Smart, Second Auditor's Office, Washington, DC
In reply to your letter of December 11, 1867, enquiring concerning the whereabouts of the remains of Benjamin Freeman Smart, late Sergeant of Company H, 2nd Maine Volunteers; you are respectively informed that Bv't Lt. Col. James M. Moore, Chief Q.M. 1st Military District, Richmond, Va. under date of January 6, 1868, reports that the mortuary records on file in his office make no mention of the name of B. F. Smart, late Sergeant, Company H, 2nd Maine Volunteers, as having been moved to any of the National Cemeteries under his charge (in Virginia.) It is probable that the body has been removed to Cold Harbor, and marked "U.S. Soldier, Unknown."
Very respectively, Your obedient Servant, By order of the Q.M. General - Alex J. Perry, Brev't Brig. Genl. & Q.M.U.S.A. - Bk. 44 M. 658, Cemeterial C.W.F.
Additional Information - Obtained during a site visit by Jean & Dave Van de Water - October 3, 4 & 5, 1996.
During early October of 1996, Jean & I made a "field trip" to the Hanover Court House region of Virginia, spending several days reviewing the countryside, and the local Civil War history records. The following photographs and text are the result of that experience. Note the following map - from James H. Mundy’s book - Second to None - The Story of the 2nd Maine Volunteers - "The Bangor Regiment" (page 135) Much of what follows relates to this battle map.
Current Photographs (Oct., 1996): The battle site where B. F. Smart was killed (Location - N. 37.45.784', W. 77.22.026'):
As can be seen on the map above, the battle was held along the Ashcake - Hanover Courthouse Road where it intersects with the New Bridge Road.
||The image to the left is what the NW corner looks like now New Bridge Road is going out of the picture, left rear, with the Ashcake Road in the foreground to the right. The Hanover Courthouse Road is out of the picture to the left.):|
The woods in the above image (to the left rear) is probably where the various NY troops retreated toward. From the battle reports we have, Freeman was probably killed to the right of this picture or along the roadway shown in the above two photographs. (Far left, or far right).
On the map, and from various references in the battle report texts, you will note several references to Peak’s Station. Below is what remains of this landmark.
To the right, a captured 12-pdr Howitzer Gun, captured on May 27, 1862 – the day of Freeman’s death
Also, on the map you will see a Hospital marked along the bottom. This home of a local physician at the time served as the local hospital for this battle.
You will recall in the letter to Freemen’s father, there was a description as to where Freemen was buried. By the time the Quartermaster’s arrived at the scene, after the war was over some years later, what they probably found is depicted as seen here:
The Slash Church was also mentioned in the text. The images below are what the Church looks like today, still in use.
Due to the lack of the present day "Dog Tags" - many were unidentifiable, as mentioned in the 1/13/1868 letter from the Quartermaster General’s Office, so were listed as "Unknown."
Benjamin Freemen Smart
February 9, 1840 - May 27, 1862
"In the first fight in the road Smart was standing between Currier and myself, loading, firing and cheering on the men, when a ball struck him the left breast, and he fell back. I asked him where he was shot, and he put his hand to a great hole in his coat. I saw it was all up with him, and ordered some men to take him to the rear, which they did, and he died in a few minutes. Poor, brave Smart ! He was as brave a man as I ever saw. By cheering words and bold acts, he did much to encourage the men, and he died as he lived, doing his duty like a man."
Ranks held by Benjamin Freeman Smart per the records received from the National Archives on June 11, 1991:
1) Joined on May 9, 1861 in Bangor, Maine for a period of three years - Private.
2) Promoted from Private to Corporal - dated July 1, 1861
3) Promoted from 3rd Corporal to Temporary 3rd Sergeant - dated October 31, 1861.
4) Promoted from Temporary 3rd Sergeant to 3rd Sergeant - dated December 31, 1861.
5) Promoted from 3rd Sergeant to 1st Sergeant - dated January 22, 1962.
From AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BATTLES, by David Eggenberger, Dover Publications, Inc. New York
The American Civil War (1861-1865):
The issue of slavery, particularly in the new states being formed from the western territories, drove an ever larger wedge between the free states of the North and the slave- holding states in the South. When the Republican candidate for President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, won election on November 6, 1860, the situation reached a crisis. South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, declaring that its sovereignty now stood in jeopardy. Six other states followed suit from January 9 to February 1, 1861: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. On February 4th representatives from these states formed the Confederate States of America, with Jefferson Davis elected President. Federal forts and arsenals were seized throughout the South. Confederate shore batteries forced the surrender of Fort Sumter outside Charleston, S.C., on April 13. President Lincoln then called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the "insurrection" against the United States. From April 17 to May 20, four more states left the Union: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The Confederate government established its capital at Richmond, Va., and mobilized for war. Its chief aim was to force the North to recognize its independence. The 23 states of the North and West, under the leadership of Lincoln, sought originally only to restore the Union. However, after the President's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, freeing the slaves became an almost equally important objective.
For four years the United States was torn by bitter civil war. The major theater of operations was east of the Appalachians, especially in northern Virginia between the two hostile capitals of Washington, D.C. and Richmond. From the Appalachians westward to the Mississippi River an important secondary theater developed. The last two Confederate armies in the field surrendered on April 9 and 18, 1865. In the costliest war in United States history (in proportion of casualties to participants), the Confederate government was decisively defeated, the Union preserved, and slavery abolished. In all, the North mobilized 1,557,000 men, the South 1,082,000. Federal losses were 359,528 dead (of these 110,070 were killed or mortally wounded in battle), 275,175 wounded. Confederate casualties were 258,000 dead (including 94,000 battle deaths) and more than 100,000 reported wounded.
The Battle of Bull Run I - 1862
The popular view in the North that the Confederate forces could be easily crushed, led to a premature offensive in Northern Virginia. From Alexandria, General Irvin McDowell marched southwest to Centerville, reaching there on July 18 with almost 35,000 Federal troops. Alert to the Union advance, General Pierre Beauregard concentrated 20,000 Confederate soldiers at Manassas, a key railroad junction. Here he was joined by General Joseph Johnston, who had eluded the Federal commander, General Robert Patterson, in present-day West Virginia, and brought 9,000 Confederates by railroad. It was the first strategic use of railroad transportation in military history.
McDowell, whose troops were largely poorly trained militia, spent two precious days closing up to the stream called Bull Run. Then on the morning of July 21, the Federal commander attacked in a turning movement aimed at the enemy left (west). Three divisions crossed Bull Run upstream at Sudley Springs, driving the Confederate flank back to Henry House Hill. Here the brigade of Colonel Thomas Jackson (and other Southern troops) held firm. This led General Barnard Bee to encourage his own men with a shout: "Look at Jackson's brigade; it stands like a stone wall!" Thus both the commander and his brigade earned the name "Stonewall" for the duration of the war.
While the rest of the 14-mile front remained relatively quiet, both sides hurriedly shifted reserves to the west. By 4 PM, the Confederates had not only checked the Federal advance but had begun their own counterattack. McDowell ordered his exposed right to withdraw across Bull Run, back to Centerville. The retreat soon became a disorganized flight, with the entire army scurrying all the way back to Washington, D.C. Fortunately for the Union, the victorious Confederates could mount only a hesitant and confused pursuit that was soon called off. In this first major battle of the war, the Federal's lost 2,896 men killed, wounded, or capture. Total Confederate casualties were 1,982. To rebuild the Federal forces into what would become the Army of the Potomac, President Lincoln called in General George McClellan from West Virginia; McDowell would revert to a division commander.
Confederate General J. E. Johnston:
From Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol 2, PP 175-6, and 211. Based upon "The Century War Series" - Century, New York- 1887-88, copyright 1887, Edited by Robert Underwood Johnson and Clearance Claugh Buel of the Editorial staff of "The Century Magazine.
"On the 24th our calvary was driven across the Chickahominy, principally at Mechanicsville. This extension of our right wing of the enemy to the west made me apprehend that the two detachments (Anderson and Branch) above might be cut off. They were therefore ordered to fall back to Chickahominy. Near Hanover Courthouse the brigade was attacked by Porter's corps and driven off, escaping with a loss of 66 killed, and 177 wounded, as General Branch reported. A division was formed of Anderson's troops, under the command of Major-General A.P. Hill, was assigned. That evening, General Anderson sent word that his scouts, left near Fredricksburg, reported that McDowell's troops were marching southward. As the object of this march was evidently the junction of this corps with the main army, I determined to attack McClellan before McDowell could join him; and the major-general's were desired to hold their troops ready to move. But at night, when the officers were with me to receive instructions for the expected battle, General J.E.B. Stuart, who also had a detachment of calvary observing McDowell's corps, reported that it had returned to Fredricksburg. As my object was to bring on the inevitable battle before McClellan should receive an addition 40,000 men to his forces, this intelligence made me return to my first design - that of attacking McClellan's left wing on the Williamsburg road as soon as, by advancing, it had sufficiently increased its distance from his right, north of Chickahominy. On the morning of the 30th...."
Union General G. B. McClellan:
From the chapter entitled: "McClelland Before Richmond - The Peninsular Campaign - by General George Brinton McClellan" (From pages 175-176):
"Early on the 24th of May I received a telegram from the President, informing me that McDowell would certainly march on the 26th, suggesting that I should detach a force to the right to cut off the retreat of the Confederate force in front of Fredericksburg, and desiring me to march cautiously and safely. On the same day another dispatch came, informing me that, in consequence of Stonewall Jackson's advance down the Shenandoah, the movement of McDowell was suspended. Next day the President again telegraphed that the movement against General Banks seemed so general and connected as to show that the enemy could not intend a very desperate defense of Richmond: that he thought the time was near when I 'must either attack Richmond or give up the job, and come back to the defense of Washington.' I replied that all my information agreed that the mass of the enemy was still in the immediate vicinity of Richmond, and ready to defend it, and that the object of Jackson's movement was probably to prevent reinforcements being sent to me. On the 26th General Stoneman, with my advanced guard, cut the Virginia Central Railroad in three places. On the same day I learned that a very considerable force of enemy was in the vicinity of Hanover Courthouse to our right and rear, threatening our communications, and in position to reinforce Jackson or oppose McDowell, whose advance was then eight miles south of Fredericksburg. I ordered General F. J. Porter to move next morning to dislodge them. He took with him his own old division, Warren's provisional brigade, and Emory's calvary brigade. His operations in the vicinity of Hanover Courthouse were entirely successful, and resulted in completely clearing our flank, cutting the railroads in several places, destroying bridges, inflicting a severe loss upon the enemy, and fully opening the way for the advance of McDowell's corps. As there was no indication of its immediate approach, and the position of the Hanover Courthouse was too much exposed to be permanently held, General Porter's command was withdrawn on the evening of the 29th, and returned to its old position with the main army.
Union Major General F. J. Porter:
From a chapter entitled: "Hanover Courthouse and Gainess Mill" by Fitz John Porter, Major-General. (pages 319-323.)
"Under the direction of General McClellan, certain measures for the protection of the right flank of the army in its advance upon Richmond were put in my hands, beginning simultaneously with the march of the army from the Pamunkey. Among these were the clearing of the enemy from the upper Peninsula as far as Hanover Courthouse or beyond, and, in case General McDowell's large forces, then at Fredricksburg, were not to join us, the destruction of railroad and other bridges over the South and Pamunkey Rivers, in order to prevent the enemy in large force from getting into our rear from that direction, and in order, further, to cut the Virginia Central Railroad, the one great line of the enemy's communications between Richmond and Northern Virginia.
A portion of this duty had been accomplished along the Pamunkey as far as was deemed prudent by Colonel G.K. Warren's forces, posted at Old Church, when on the 26th of May, preparatory to an immediate advance upon Richmond, General McClellan directed me to complete the duty above specified, so that the enemy in Northern Virginia, then occupying the attention of McDowell, Banks, and Fremont, could not be suddenly thrown upon our flank and rear, nor otherwise strengthen the enemy in Richmond. I was allowed to adopt my own plans, and to select such additional forces as I deemed necessary.
At 4 AM on the 27th, General G.W. Morell, commanding the division consisting of J.H. Martindale's, Daniel Butterfield's and James McQuade's brigades, marched from New Bridge preceded by an advance-guard of two regiments of cavalry and a battery of artillery under the command of General W.H. Emory. At the same hour, Colonel George Stoneman, and regular infantry, under General George Sykes followed at a later hour, to protect our left flank and rear. The first two commands were to fall upon the enemy, who I had reason to believe were camped in strong force near Hanover Courthouse. The first command, under my immediate direction, was to take the enemy in front, while Colonel Warren, taking the road along the Pamunkey, was to fall upon him in the flank and rear. In a pelting storm of rain, through deep mud and water for about 14 miles, the command struggled and pushed its way to Peake's Station on the Virginia Central Railroad, 2 miles from the Hanover Courthouse, where we came in presence of the enemy.
At once a force of infantry (Colonel C.A. Johnson's 25th New York Volunteers and Berdan's Sharp-shooters), protected by artillery, was sent forward to hold the enemy in check, pending the arrival of Morell, who was slowly pushing along the swampy roads. Calvary and artillery were sent to the left along the Ashland road, to guard our flank and destroy the railroad and telegraph at the crossing. On Martindale's arrival he was sent in support of this force, and with, it soon became engaged with very persistent opponents. Butterfield was sent to the front, where, deploying in line, he moved rapidly upon the enemy, put them to flight, and captured many prisoners and one cannon and caisson.
As the enemy gave way, the troops were pushed on toward Hanover Courthouse in pursuit of the fleeing foe and to strike their camp, which I had been informed was near by, but which we found abandoned. Suddenly the signal officers notified me of a large force attacking our flank and rear, especially the troops under Martindale. At once the infantry were faced about, and at double-quick step hastened to the aid of their imperiled comrades. McQuade's brigade, on arriving opposite the contending forces, moved in the line to the attack. Butterfield, now in the rear as faced about, pushed through the woods and fell with vigor upon the enemy's flank. The united attack quickly routed the enemy, inflicting heavy losses in killed and wounded and prisoners.
Warren, greatly delayed by muddy roads, swollen streams, and the work of building bridges, arrived at about 3 PM at the close of the first battle, and was sent northward in pursuit of the enemy, and to destroy bridges and boats on the Pamunkey. He, with Rush, of the 6th Pennsylvania Calvary captured a company of North Carolina infantry just before reaching wagon road bridge, which they destroyed. Night put an end to the contest..."
Shelby Foote Quote
"I admire McClellan greatly, up to a point. He took over a totally disorganized and beaten army, after the First Bull Run, and molded it into a true army. Then he resisted all efforts by Lincoln and others, to make him move too quickly, as McDowell had done. Of course, when he did get the army formed to his liking and his plan of attack (was) agreed to , in the Peninsula campaign, he funked it. He was no good on the field of fight. He lacked the will to fight and lose a lot of men. ... So he was not a great general on the filed of fight, but he was a very great general in teaching men how to fight. There was not an officer in the Union Army who was loved as well as McClellan".
From the "Commanders of the Army of the Potomac," - Warren W. Hassler, Jr., Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge - 1962:
(page 46:) "By the last week of May, two-fifths of the army (the corps of Heintzelman and Keyes) was on the southwest (right) bank of the Chickahominy, while the other three- fifths (the corps of Summer, Porter, and Franklin) was on the northeast (left) bank. The furthest Federal advance was along the main Williamsburg Pike, where the Union outposts were one and three-quarter miles west of Seven Pines - which placed them some four and three-quarter miles from Richmond. McClellan's right wing, too, had been cleared on May 27, when Fitz John Porter won a skillful victory at Hanover Courthouse just a few miles to the north of the Confederate capital."
From "Military Operations in Hanover County, Virginia - 1861-1865", by John M. Gabbert
Chapter: "Operations near Hanover Courthouse (Kinney's Farm, Peake Station, Hanover Courthouse or Slash Church - Asland) Clearing the Way - May 27 - 29, 1862."
General McClellan, convinced Confederate forces in Richmond were equal to or greater than his own, requested Washington to dispatch General Irvin McDowell with additional troops from Fredricksburg. Together, he reasoned, he and General McDowell could launch an attack on Richmond from the north and east, overwhelming General Joseph E. Johnston, and end the war. However, McClellan had heard rumors, which later proved to be true, that General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was moving his forces from the Shenandoah Valley to join Johnston in Richmond. McClellan feared an attack by Jackson against his own right flank and rear, somewhat isolated north of the Chickahominy, McClellan also heard there was a large force of rebels already in the vicinity of Hanover Courthouse, which he felt would interfere in McDowell's efforts to join him.
To ascertain the validity of these rumors, a preliminary calvary reconnaissance of approximately 125 men of the 6th Pennsylvania Calvary, under the command of Colonel Richard H. Rush, was dispatched from their camp at Old Church on May 24. This unit was also known as Bush's Lancers, their nickname derived from the nine foot lance with an eleven inch, three- edged blade and scarlet swallow tailed pennant which they carried. Rush proceeded over the Hanover Courthouse - Hanovertown Road as far as Crump's Creek, some four miles from the Courthouse, before a confrontation with pickets of the 4th Virginia Calvary halted his progress. Unaware of the enemy strength ahead, Rush decided not to advance further, but to return to Old Church and report his findings to McClellan. Not completely satisfied with Rush's report, McClellan ordered a second calvary scouting party dispatched, consisting of members of the 1st U.S. Calvary of Lieutenant Colonel William N. Grier, which rode from Walnut Grove Church to within three miles of Hanover Courthouse on May 26. In conjunction with Grier's reconnaissance, Colonel Gouverneur K. Warren's 5th New York marched from Old Church toward the Courthouse over the route taken earlier by Rush. From residents along the way and a captured picket, it was determined that a "considerable force" had arrived a few days earlier and was stationed near the Courthouse.
This "considerable force" was Brigadier General Lawrence O'Bryan Branch's Confederate brigade of approximately 4,500 men, composed of six infantry regiments and a battery, which had moved from Gordonsville to Hanover Courthouse via Ashland between May 19 and 22. Branch's orders were to protect and maintain both the Virginia Central and Richmond, Fredricksburg and Potomac Railroads, vital railroads which ran northwest and north from Richmond, and to unite with General Joseph R. Anderson's brigade, which was south of Fredricksburg maintaining a surveillance of McDowell. Joining Branch's force near the Courthouse were the 45th Georgia Infantry Regiment of Anderson's brigade, and the 4th Virginia Calvary, which already had been on picket duty in the area prior to Branch's arrival. To better fulfil his orders, Branch relocated his Hanover Courthouse encampment to Slash Church, between the two railroads near Peake Station on the Virginia Central Railroad, on May 26.
It should be noted here that although Branch's report states that he relocated his encampment to Slash Church, Freeman states in Lee's Lieutenants, that in a 1942 interview with the late State Senator Henry T. Wickham, Wickham was certain that Branch's encampment was at Lebanon Church, not Slash Church. This would give Branch a much closer proximity to Peake Station and also would be on the main stage road from Hanover Courthouse to Richmond. However, one must also consider that if Branch's encampment was located at the much closer Lebanon Church, why it required three hours for the remainder of Branch's force to reach the battlefield after Porter's forces arrived and engaged Lane.
Still hopeful of Lincoln's dispatching of McDowell south to join him, and to further secure his right flank, McClellan, late in the afternoon of May 26, ordered Porter to move a strong force north along the road which ran nearly parallel to the Virginia Central Railroad from Mechanicsville to Hanover Courthouse. Porter was instructed to damage both railroads and drive away the Confederate forces in that direction.
The next morning in a pouring rainstorm, General Porter marched from his newly relocated encampment near New Bridge with most of Brigadier General George W. Morell's division of approximately 12,000 men, composed of three brigades of infantry commanded by Colonel James McQuade, Brigadier General John H. Martindale, and Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield. Two artillery batteries, Battery M, 2nd U.S. Artillery, and Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery, commanded by Captain Charles Griffin, also accompanied Porter. They marched in column, McQuade and Martindale leading the way at 4:00 AM, followed by Butterfield at 6:00 AM. This column was proceeded by an advance guard of two regiments of calvary, the 5th and 6th U.S. Calvary, and Captain Henry Benson's horse battery of the 2nd U.S. Artillery, all under the command of General William H. Emory.
Colonel G. K. Warren was to march from his encampment at Old Church over the Hanover Courthouse - Hanovertown Road at the same time Porter left New Bridge. However, Warren and his force of 2,615 men, consisting of Rush's 6th Pennsylvania Calvary, Captain William B. Weeden's 1st Rhode Island Battery, Colonel Robert O. Tyler's 1st Connecticut Volunteers, Warren's own 5th New York Volunteers, and Colonel Elisha G. Marshall's 13th New York Volunteers, did not depart Old Church until 6:30 AM. Warren was to destroy the bridges across the Pamunkey River along the way and then follow the road to Hanover Courthouse and support Morell's right.
Also that morning, Branch had dispatched Colonel James H. Lane's 28th North Carolina, accompanied by two companies of the 27th North Carolina, 890 men in all, and two guns from Captain Alexander C. Latham's battery, commanded by Lieutenant J. R. Potts to Taliaferro's Mill, in response to reports of Federal troop movements in the area. Branch also sent Colonel Thomas Hardeman's 45th Georgia to repair the rails at Peake Station. Lane proceeded to Taliaferro's Mill on Crump's Creek, where he was joined by part of the 4th Virginia Calvary. he waited there until it was reported that an enemy force was approaching the Courthouse over the road to his right. Lane immediately marched his men at double quick to Dr. Kinney's farm, two miles south of the Courthouse between the main road and the railroad, just north of the intersection of that road and the road to Peake Station. Lane's men began to arrive at this points about noon, just as Emory's advance column passed the road to Peake Station.
- MAP OF THE AREA -
Immediately upon the detection of Lane's presence, Emory sent Colonel Hiram Berdan's Sharpshooters against Lane's position under the cover of Benson's artillery, which had been set up to the right of the main road. Emory hoped to hold the rebels in check until the main column arrived. In an attempt to flank lane, Emory had sent Colonel Charles A. Johnson's 25th New York brigade through the woods east of Dr. Kinney's farm. Unfamiliar with the terrain, part of Johnson's force collided with the rear of Lane' force and were captured. Emory sent the calvary and remaining artillery on the road to Peake Station to guard the left flank and to destroy the telegraph and rails there. When Martindale arrived, he and two brigades of his command were sent in support of this small force which had encountered Hardeman's men at work at the station.
Butterfield, close behind, was sent to the front to relieve Berdan and Johnson, who had encountered a very stubborn Lane. When he arrived, Butterfield deployed in line and quickly moved forward, routing Lane's position. Butterfield captured an abandoned twelve pound brass howitzer and its caisson, many prisoners, and sent the greatly outnumbered rebel defenders, now cut off from the remainder of Branch's force, running toward the Courthouse. Butterfield's men cautiously pursued to the Courthouse. The remainder of Lane's force, separated at St. Paul's Parish just north of the Courthouse. Lane and the majority of his men continued to Taylorsville where they camped that night, while a portion fled north toward Littlepage's Bridge.
Warren, delayed by the muddy roads, swollen streams, construction of bridges, and encounters with rebel cavalry pickets of the 4th Virginia along the way, did not arrive on the battlefield until 3:00 PM, near the close of the engagement between Butterfield and Lane. His force was ordered to proceed north to the Courthouse in support of Butterfield. Porter and the remainder of Morell's force which arrived shortly after Butterfield, continued their march toward the Courthouse behind Warren, leaving Martindale, who had driven off the rebel work force, to complete his destruction of the station at Peake. Before Porter reached the Courthouse, however, signal officers notified him that a large enemy force was attacking Martindale near Peake Station. Porter immediately turned his force around and marched double time to Martindale's rescue, ordering Warren and Rush, after detaching their infantry and artillery to continue north in pursuit of the earlier rebel force.
The confederate attackers were two regiments of Branch's force, Colonel Charles C. Lee's 37th North Carolina and Colonel Robert H. Cowan's 18th North Carolina, responding to the sounds of the earlier encounter and the reports of Hardeman. These regiments found the 2nd Maine and the 44th New York posted across the road at Peake Station. Branch ordered Lieutenant Colonel Robert F. Hoke's 33rd North Carolina and Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Wade's 12th North Carolina to push through the woods and get close to the Federal battery's left flank. Lee was to go through the woods and close on the right flank, while Cowan was to charge the center, all under artillery cover from the remainder of Latham's battery. Hardeman's 45th Georgia and Colonel Reuben P. Campbell's 7th North Carolina were held in reserve.
Hoke and Wade were unable to perform their maneuver, having become involved in a sharp skirmish in the woods with Butterfield's men who had marched back from the Courthouse along the railroad. Branch then ordered Hoke to reinforce Lee, who was making slow progress through the dense underbrush. Branch's forces succeeded in forcing Martindale back to the main Courthouse road and captured a makeshift Federal hospital, before Porter appeared with his large force of reinforcements led by the 14th New York. Branch, in the face of overwhelming numbers, was forced to withdraw to the temporary safety of Ashland, where he was united with some of General Anderson's brigade which was marching south to Richmond.
Meanwhile, Warren, Rush, and the rest of the Federal Calvary continued north of Hanover Courthouse in pursuit of Lane. They captured a large portion of Lane's men and also destroyed Littlepage's Bridge over the Pamunkey River, before nightfall put an end to the action. They rejoined Porter's force on the battlefield near Peake where they encamped that night.
The next morning Morell, Emory, and Warren, advanced to Ashland, Rush's Lancers in advance, encountering only some resistance from the 4th Virginia Calvary. Once there, they found an abandoned camp, as Branch had left that morning and had moved south toward Richmond on Telegraph Road to join General A.P. Hill. William's 6th U.S. Cavalry destroyed the Richmond, Fredricksburg and Potomac Railroad bridge and track over the South Anna, while the remaining Federal forces destroyed track and telegraph at Ashland Station.
Colonel W.C. Wickham, in his home at Hickory Hill not far from Hanover Courthouse, recuperating from a severe saber wound he received in Williamsburg, also was captured during this operation. Having successfully completed their mission, McClellan, who himself had come to witness the victory, ordered Porter's forces to return to their camp at New Bridge, which they did the next day, May 29th.
The military operations around Hanover Courthouse resulted in Branch's loss of 73 killed and 192 wounded. Three of the Confederate dead were brothers from Company G, 37th North Carolina. A forth Robinett brother survived. This was "perhaps the only instance where three brothers were slain in the same day." Federal losses were 62 killed, 233 wounded and 70 missing or captured. The Federal's reported the capture of 720 rebels in addition to the gun and caisson, but this total more than likely represents the total number of prisoners taken during the entire three day operation. The way was now clear for McDowell to join McClellan, but fear of an attack on Washington, D.C. by a then invisible Jackson put an immediate end to this strategy, as McDowell was ordered to remain in Fredricksburg.
Rueben Staples Smart
Further historical information on Freeman's father - Reuben Staples Smart (Sep 9, 1814 - Jun 13, 1892) (RIN # 1043) a teacher and stonemason, was "elected" a Colonel by Maine Governor Edward Kavanaugh on August 5, 1843, in the 2nd Brigade of the Third Division of the Maine Militia, and a Brigadier General by Maine Governor John W. Dana on February 7, 1849, in the same unit. Mr. Smart spent his life building roads, forts and lighthouses up and down the coastline from Florida to Canada.
The following was written, in December, 1981, in a letter by 90 year-old Edna King (Edna A. Smart: RIN # 1746, daughter [2nd marriage] of Martin Wilbert Smart: RIN # 1060, who was the 6th child of Reuben S. Smart, a granddaughter of Reuben), and published in the Portland, Maine Press Herald newspaper on January 13, 1982 in a column by Bill Caldwell, titled "On Maine."
Before the Civil War, there was unrest between Canada and the United States. My grandfather Reuben was ordered to build a road between Bangor and Houlton for the passage of troops, if that proved necessary. He did so. The road was called Military Road and is still called that to this day.
The people in Maine became concerned when they heard (that) England was planning to send troops up the Penobscot River to Bangor. This they declared should not be. So a meeting was called to ascertain a proper place for a stand on the Penobscot River. They choose a knoll across from Bucksport, whence they could see the river in both directions. The people were ordered to bring arms and stack them there in an old building.
One day, a man saw three small sailing ships. When the ships came abreast of the knoll, the order was given to fire. Three men on the ships were killed, and they turned and fled down the river. The government realized this skirmish was the beginning of trouble, and gave grandfather orders to build a fort there by the knoll. It was named Fort Knox and was made of solid granite, hewn by hand from the quarries of Mt. Waldo.
A few years after the building of Fort Knox, grandfather was ordered to build a fort in Portland Harbor, patterned after Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C. Grandfather traveled south to ascertain the specifications of Fort Sumter, and there met and shook hands with Abraham Lincoln. This was the highlight of grandfather's life.
Note from DLV - Fort Know, now a state park and is famed for its handsome granite colonnades and remarkable spiral staircases. These were later imitated for use in the U. S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC. The location is being used now for many activities, including performances of Hamlet, and as a setting for a yearly fireworks display.
Back in Portland, grandfather then built this fort in the harbor, known as Fort Georges. When the granite wall rose above the water, and the fort was closed in, grandfather built two houses inside, one for his family, one for his oldest daughter, Valeria Smart Murch, who gave birth to a daughter inside Fort Gorges.
Note from DLV - Valeria Jane Smart: RIN-1056, the oldest child - the next born was Freeman.
Grandfather Smart later built another house opposite the main gate at Fort Preble in South Portland. While there, he planned Fort Williams on Great Diamond Island, which guards the old Portland post office (now torn down) and the Custom House which is still in use.
Reuben Smart , she writes, retired to Swanville in 1892, the year she was born. When she visited there a few years ago, she saw a brigadier general's pennant flying over her grandfather's gave.
Note from DLV - A family story, contributed by Dorothea Smart: RIN-1977. When the Army told Freeman's father to come to the location where that had all the hundreds of unidentified duffle bags of the dead, they told him that if he could pick out Freeman's personal belongings, he could take them home with him. It was said that Reuben was able to pick out the bag immediately.
The Descendants of Reuben Staples Smart
The following sheets are, in book format, a compilation of the information I have obtained concerning the descendants of Brigadier General R. S. Smart (1814 - 1892), the father of our Letters home author and subject Freeman Smart. As you will understand, as you read through the document, the chapters divide the generations, and the index lists all of the descendants alphabetically by last name.
Genealogy Descendancy chart on Freeman's father -
Copies of information received from National Archives Center, Washington, DC, in June, 1991.