The Trials and Travels of the

15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment

1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac, 1861 - 1864

compiled by Robert Ducharme and Susan Harnwell

.  A capsule history is available in the Reenactment section.

For the unit history of the 1st Co. Andrew Sharpshooters by Dave McGlaughlin, click here.

1861 1862 1863 1864

In 1861

April 12 Firing on Fort Sumter
April 15 Lincoln calls for 75,000 troops.
April 19 Original meeting to discuss formation of Dewitt Guards in Oxford.
April 22 Rally in Oxford raises enough men to form a militia company.
May 4 Dewitt Guards officially organized under militia laws of the state.
June 28 10 companies arrive at Camp Scott in Worcester.  (An article about the formation of the 15th appears in the Fitchburg Sentinal.)
July 1 Battle of Bull Run. Union troops routed. 15th Regt. Not involved.
July 15 General Charles DEVENS appointed commander of the 15th Regt. Mass. Vol. Inf.
July 17 Issued overcoats
July 21 McDowell relieved; McClellan put in command of the Army of the Potomac.
July 26 Issued Muskets
Aug. 1-7 Regiment outfitted. Uniforms issued.
Aug. 7 National and state flags presented.  Click here to read the report in the Worcester Spy, Volume 90 # 32.
Aug. 8 Company I is sworn in. 15th MVI strikes camp and departs for seat of war.  The departure was reported in the Worcester Spy, Volume 90 # 32.  Click here to read.
An article about insubordination in the Lancaster company appears in the Fitchburg Sentinel; (Friday, August 9, 1861; pg. 2, col. 3.) 
New York, Aug. 9.---The 15th Massachusetts regiment, Col. Devens , arrived at 11 o’clock this morning, and took dinner at the spacious depot of the Norwich and Worcester line, which had been prepared for the occasion by Mr. E. S. Martin, the agent of the line. They were afterwards transferred to transports and conveyed to Amboy, whence hey proceed on the route to Harper’s Ferry. By some oversight, the car containing the whole seven days rations was left behind, occasioning some grousing among the men about breakfast time. (reported in Volume 90, Worcester Spy, August 14, 1861)
Aug.11 15th MVI arrives at Washington DC where it joins the Army of the Potomac, with which it remains for the duration of the war.
Aug 14 Camp Kalorama, Washington, D. C August 14, 1861 (read article from the Worcester Spy)
Aug 16 Camp Kalorama, Washington, D. C August 16, 1861 (read article from the Worcester Spy)
Aug 20 Camp Kalorama, Washington, D. C August 20, 1861 (read article from the Worcester Spy)
Aug.25 Set out on march for Poolsville MD
Aug.27 Melvin HOWLAND dies. First death for the 15th MVI
Sept 17 Letter in Worcester Palladium complains of poor quality weapons issued.
Oct 4 Company H ordered to take Harrison's Island in the middle of the Potomac.
Oct 20 Harrison's Island is reinforced. Captain PHILBRICK crosses to the VA side of the river with a detachment to explore the Ball's Bluff and beyond. Later in the day, Col. DEVENS crosses with companies A,C,G,H,and I
Oct 21 Five remaining companies of 15th MVI cross by 11 A.M. Engaged in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, MD. A brigade of 1700, commanded by Col. Edward D. Baker (killed early by sharpshooter), was ordered by Gen. Charles P. Stone to cross the Potomac from MD to VA, towards Leesburg.  They tried to scale Ball's Bluff.  The Union forces were overwhelmed by superior Confederate force.  Union soldiers tried to return across the river in only 3 boats, resulting in debacle.  Of the 15th MVI, 653 engaged, 14 killed, 60 wounded, 227 missing and probably drown. Eventually 44 died as a result of wounds, bringing total casualty rate to 334 men.
Oct 23 Col. Devens writes his official Report on the Actions of the 15th MVI at Balls Bluff.  (Note:   Balls Bluff was considered a debacle and had considerable political fallout.   Access the official army records or read B. Farwell's excellent account. See Bibliography)
Oct 26 A poem in memory of the men of the 15th and 20th Regiments appears in Boston Saturday Evening Gazette, October 26, 1861, Pg. 2, Col. 5.)  
Oct 27 Col. Devens makes a request for more recruits from Worcester County, and also asks for supplies to be sent from back home to replace those lost during the battle.

Article from a Massachusetts newspaper, Oct 27, 1861, Letter from Charles Devens

.Oct 31 An account of the Battle of Ball's Bluff in the New York Times.  Controversy and political fall-out begin shortly after the battle.
Nov. 1 General Winfield Scott ("Old Fuss and Feathers") retires.
Article from a Cambridge Chronicle, November 2, 1861, Pg. 2, Col. 2.,  dated 23 Oct 1861, From the Fifteenth Regiment after the Battle of Ball's Bluff  
Nov 13 from the Worcester Spy (Volumed 90 # 45): Col. Devens of the heroic fifteenth regiment arrived in the eleven o’clock train Friday night. He was welcomed at the station by a great crowd, all anxious to grasp the hand of so brave a colonel. The appearance of Col. Devens on the platform was the signal for deafening cheers, which were not suspended until his carriage rolled away. Many of his personal friends found an opportunity to see him later that night. He is to remain away from his regiment one week, which time he will occupy in securing the recruits necessary to place his gallant regiment, in point of numbers, in the position it occupied before the battle of Ball’s Bluff.
Nov 18 Regiment receives 400 new Springfield rifles ( later issued to troops on Dec. 5)
Nov 23 From the Correspondent of Boston Journal. Article from Headquarters Fifteenth Reg't Mass. Vol.  Nov 23, 1861,  
Nov 27 Letter from one of the Hostages at Richmond, Nov 27, 1861, from Henry Bowman  
Nov 28 Article from the Boston Journal, Nov 28, 1861, Stockings for the 15th.
Dec 7 An article in Worcester Aegis and Transcript; December 7, 1861; (pg. 2, col. 3). reports that Chaplin Scandlin is making a recruiting trip through Worcester county. 
Dec 11 An article in The Massachusetts Spy; Worcester; December 11, 1861; pg. 2, col. 3. tells of miniatures found at Ball's Bluff being returned to a widow. 
Dec 13 15th MVI had only 350 men fit for duty.   The wounded Col. George Ward was tasked with recruiting duty during his convalescence. 
Dec 25 Two letters from POWs in Richmond are published in Massachusetts Weekly Spy; Worcester; December 25, 1861; (pg. 1, col. 3)
Dec 28 A letter to the editor of the Chelsea Telegraph and Pioneer, December 28, 1861, (Pg. 2, Col. 2). from Emerson BICKNELL of the 1st Andrew Sharpshooters. 

© Copyright 1997 by B. Ducharme & S. Harnwell 

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15th Massachusetts VI