from Stories of our Soldiers, War Reminiscences by "Carleton" and by Soldiers of New England, collected from the series written especially for The Boston Journal, Illustrated by J.S. Barrows, published by  The Journal Newspaper Company, Boston 1893.  Contributed by Bob Ducharme

(This account comes from a book entitled “Stories of our Soldiers” that I found in the research room of the Oxford library. The story was written by a soldier in the 1st Minnesota Regiment and tells of the Battle of Savage Station. He starts out by telling about burning a train as the Army was withdrawing from Savage Station. He goes on to state that on the 29th day of June 1862 -one of the eventful Seven Days- was pretty filled with stirring events. B. Ducharme)

It was in the dim light and fog of it's early morning that we had abandoned the works that we had built with so much labor and care. Retreating towards White Oak swamp, we halted twice to repel the attacks of the pursuing enemy reaching Savage Station about noon. I write of Savage Station since it calls up to memory the fire of this battle which forged one of the links in the David and Jonathan chain of friendship that the war wrought between the 15th Massachusetts and the 1st Minnesota. We had been together by the fortunes - or rather, misfortunes- of war on the upper Potomac in 1861.  

We had suffered a terrible baptism of fire at Bull Run , and they had been equally unfortunate at Ball's Bluff. Our mutual adversities may have attracted us toward each other. Be that as it may, we had "summered and wintered" together, been tried with one another on the march and in the fire of battle. Our experiences had brought mutual respect and confidence, and each faced the dreaded ordeal of battle more confidently if the other was supporting or covering a flank. Our division, the Second, Second Corps was masked in the open ground at Savage's Station when the Johnnies stirred up with a couple of shells. We supposed Heintzelman's troops.  

Burns’ brigade was sent to meet the attack deploying a regiment to the front at double quick, in fine style under a sharp artillery fire. I have rarely seen skirmishers take position with more regularity and promptness. When Burns neared the wood it was found that he could not cover the allotted space and the 1st Minnesota was ordered up to piece out the line. To reach our position we had to cross open fields. I recall that the sun was low down and shone in our faces We moved at double quick, exposed to a hot fire from the rebel batteries and a couple of our own batteries firing over our heads at an elevation just calculated to just clear them. How those shells did screech as they hustled past us. It was very trying to the nerves. Crossing the field and a hollow at a run, we came up standing at the edge of the woods.  

Some of the boys indulged in a yell " just to clear their throats" and were answered by the rebels that were advancing through the woods. The skirmishers were pushed into the woods, but had not gone 100 yards before a wild yell and a volley that sent them flying back upon us greeted them. The brush completely hid them from our view but as the bullets came with vicious spiteful force out of the woods it was evident that they were in easy range. We leveled our rifles into the woods, and in a "poetical language" of Captain Davis "we blazed away". On came a mass of the rebels yelling and firing, and the regiment on our right, and I believe the other was forced backward to the hollow.  

 Lieut. Col. Miller who commanded us that day -Col. Alfred Sully taking the brigade- first exited ridicule by rushing up to Gen. Burns and calling out," They are flanking us General! They are doing it now General! They won our admiration and respect by marching on foot close in the rear of the hard pressed right wing of the regiment and by command and entreaty kept us to the line.  

Once or twice a cheer that sounded faint and far off in the confusion of the fight had reached our ears from the hollow behind us. In a hasty glance in that direction, nothing could be seen through the smoke and gathering darkness save the lurid flash of our batteries on the hill, which were still throwing shells over our heads -and for that matter the rebel heads too. The rebels came swinging around our right, enveloping us front and flank in a deadly fire. In another moment we must retreat or be annihilated.  

But hark! The cheering is heard once more lose behind us. A good open mouthed ringing hurrah. No music ever sounded more melodious than that loud, defiant cheer to our battle-stunned ears. Then the 15th Massachusetts pressed up lose behind us shouting. "We are with you, Minnesota" Pushing to the front and extending to the right they opened a rapid fire, which soon drove back the rebels, who had passed our right, and the whole rebel line retreated rapidly into the woods.  

 There on the smoking field with the wild refrain of the battle still ringing in their ears, the "boys" of the 1st Minnesota and the 15th Massachusetts mingled together, shaking each others hands, and united in a good old Union hurrah. This fight though short was really a hotly contested affair. Company F, the right flank company losing 19 men killed and wounded out of 41.  

 Regiments, like individuals, formed strong attachments for one another. Perhaps there were no two regiments more closely united than the 1st Minnesota and the 15th Massachusetts . So long as they kept their organizations -in camp, on the march, and in battle- they stood loyally and faithfully together.

 This was only one of several incidents in their military life that tended to unite them the more loosely. Not the least interesting one, perhaps, was on that bleak morning in February, "64 when the "Old First" started home on its veteran furlough.  

 It had to leave the camp near Stevensburg , VA long before daylight, but we found the 15th in line with open ranks to bid us goodbye. No more sincere or kinder wishes or more fervent " God bless comrades" were ever uttered by manly lips to man that came to us from out of the darkness that winter morning as we marched out of camp.  They gave us hearty cheers "and the band played" not "Annie Rooney", but "Auld Lang Syne". As we marched to the cars we heard voices singing "Shall Old Companions Be Forgot?" They have not been forgotten. Whenever two men of those regiments meet, there is a hearty enthusiastic meeting. There was a notable meeting of the survivors of the 15th Massachusetts and a few fragments of the 1st in one of the public schools buildings of Boston in 1890 which showed that the memories and feelings of the old days where still fresh and vigorous after a quarter of a century.

 J.A Wright     



15th Massachusetts VI