\Woburn Weekly Budget - June 4, 1862
Headquarters 22d Reg. Mass. Vols.
Gaines Mills, Va.
June 4th, 1862
My last letter was hastily written just after returning from reconnoisance on the Richmond road, and I had not time to write all that came under my observation. The houses around which we bivouacked was filled with wounded rebels who received every attention from our surgeons that could be rendered. Thursday morning they were all removed to the floating hospitals on the Pamunkey. Some of the wounded men were conscripts and were glad that they had fallen into our hands, being heartily sick of the rebel cause. The majority of them however, especially the North Carolinians, claimed to have been Union men "as long as there was any use in it", but when the State went out they were bound to stand by her, and expressed a determiniation to reenlist if they get back home before the war is over. One young man told me that we might defeat them but they never could be conquered. He was badly wounded but was all fight, and longed for another chance to fight against his country. He presented a striking instance of inconsistency of the rebel cause, for his jacket was fastened with the old fashioned U. S. artillery buttons, two cannons surmounted with a bomb and the letters "U.S.", conspicuously displayed. Our men spoke to them of rebel atrocities, but they said "you never heard a N. Carolina man doing so!" evidently fearing we might retaliate if the point was not established. There was however an instance of rebel treachery even there, for one of our surgeons seeing a wounded rebel lying on the ground went to him dressed his wound, and laid him in an easy posture, when the wretch being enabled by this change of position to reach his pistol, drew it and shot the doctor in the shoulder. The rebels in their usual style opened fire on our hospital, and even charged on our ambulance train, and captured a portion of it. And these are the men whose property we guard, and the sentries have orders to shoot any soldiers who are seen taking a hen, or anything else belonging to a rebel. In coming in from West Point our wagon train was obliged to camp one night near one of these amiable F.F.V's, and when the teamsters went to his well for water he told them had he known Union men would have drank from that well he would have poisoned the water before we arrived! It is a fact which any soldier is well aware of, that in order to be treated with distinguished consideration a man needs only to be a rabid secessionist, and give our troops all the annoyance he can.
The rebel prisoners say there were seven thousand troops opposed to us under Gen. Branch, of N. Carolina. a portion of them have been in service a year and were at Norfolk until its evacuation. Others have just come up from their own State, and were in the fight at New Bern. They had been in the State but a fortnight and arrived at Peake's Turnout only the day previous. They say that when our regiment went upon the railroad and passed up, one of their regiments lay on the bank opposite and above us, but fearing that our coming out there so boldly was only a Yankee trick to cover some more important movement, they dare not fire lest their position should be discovered. It was well for us that they thought so. Several regiments in our brigade were furnished with Springfiled rifles a few days before the battle, and this proved a very fortunate circumstance, for had the 2d Maine been obliged to depend on the old smooth bores, they would have been badly cut up. I was wrong in stating that none of our regiment were hurt, for one of the stragglers who went into the fight with the 2d Maine received a slight wound but is doing very well. Col. Cass of the 9th Mass. was sick on Tuesday morning and did not start with his regiment, but he could not keep away, and started after them and reached the field in season to lead his men in a most brilliant charge. Early in the engagement they battery stationed near us blew up the caisson of one of the rebel guns, rendering it useless. We passed the wreck of it on the roadside as we went out to reconnoiter next day. The rebels left so suddenly after the final rout that they did not have time to take their knapsacks or any of their camp equipage, though they had nothing very valuable in that line. They don't have hard tack (pilot bread) as we do, but the flour is given out to the men and they cook in such form as best suits them, commonly hoe cakes; we found their fires burning in several places with cakes cooking. I don't know with certainty how many prisoners were taken by our forces, but heard it stated as 1000. A squad of the Regular Cavalry succeeded in capturing a locomotive, a hort distance down the road, the engineer of which succeeded in making his escape. They got up all the steam she would carry, and filled the furnace with wood, opened the valve and let her go! She was out of sight in an instant, on the road to Richmond, and was probably not many minutes in running over the fourteen intervening miles between that city and Peake's Turnout. Their officer reprimanded the soldiers for not blowing up the engine, but if she is good for anything after that last trip, and the probable smash up with which it closed, there must be pretty good mechanics in Richmond.
At one o'clock Thursday noon we started on our return to camp which we reached about dark same evening. Our brigade had marched over fifty miles, and fought a battle within three days since leaving camp and were glad enough to get home, and have a little rest. Next day not much was done, as the heat was quite oppressive. Towards night we had a heavy thunderstorm, during which three members of the 44th New York were struck by lightning, and one of them, the quartermaster sergeant, instantly killed. Saturday there was a fight at a place called "Seven Pines", not far from here. The noise of the firing could be heard and the smoke of the battle could be seen from our camp, but we were not called out. Sunday morning we were ordered to roll up our blankets, fill our haversacks and canteens and get ready to march. We left camp about 6 o'clock, not knowing where we were going, but expecting to see a fight, through we were satisfied that there must be some great emergency , or "George" would not have called us out on a Sunday. It seems taht the fight did not result so favorably to our side as could be wished, but Sunday morning, the tables were turned, and the enemy routed. We marched about a half a mile, and halted in the premises of Dr. Gaines. He has a large house with numerous outbuildings, with excellent barns and graneries. He is evidently a wealthy farmer of considerable enterprise, though a violent secessionist. He is still at home, though his house is used as a hospital. A portion of the division marched down into a small meadow in the rear of the house, deployed to the right and left and began to throw a bridge over the Chickahominy at this point. Rebels could be seen in small parties on the adjacent hills, and our batteries shelled them. We lay here till noon and returned to camp. Next day we were in readiness to go out again, but were not called on. Tuesday forenoon, we got ready and waited. Then we were ordered out, and had just gotten into line, when the order was countermanded. At four, we had our third orders, and this time went down to Dr. Gaines' meadow where the bridge is building. We found however, that all of us were not wanted and the four wing companies returned to camp. We had a heavy thunder shower while we were down there, and the rain has continued to fall ever since. Sunday and Monday were extremely hot, and heavy showers in the night did not cool the air to any extent.
Three of our regiment have died this week. Chas. E. Tolman, a member of our company, died Saturday night. He went with us to the fight of last Tuesday and the fatigue was too much for him. He was 18 years old; his parents reside in Milton, Mass. We went off so suddenly on Sunday and not expecting to return, that we obliged to leave the body to the kind offices of those who remained in camp. Our quartermaster, Lieut. H. A. Royce, superintended the burial, and read the Episcopal burial service. Our comrade is buried under a cherry tree on the summit of the hill where we are camped. Monday a member of Co. H died and was laid beside him, and on Tuesday a member of Co. C was added to the number. Others are sick, some dangerously, and it will be hard for all to get well with the narrow accomodations we have. One learns to appreciate the blessing of health here and sickness is more dreaded then the rebels.
We are laying here, in readiness to leave at a moment's notice whenever the impending battle shall begin. Little Mac tells us this is to be the decisive battle of the war, and we belive him. If the rebels pursue their Corinth tactics much further, we shall not have a very long campaign.
John Lord Parker