6th Vermont Infantry
Casper Honorus Dean (1841-1936)
Camp Near James River,
Saturday July 5TH, 1862
I now have time to write you a letter for the first time since you wrote me last. For the last 10 days I have seen some of the hardships of war. The 26ult - I was on picket guard and could plainly hear the Battle of Mechanicsville. We expect an attack on our line and made all calculations to repel the rebels. Had a strong line and we sat up nearly all night. No attack was made. At 9 o'clock the next day we went into camp. When I was going to camp, I thought from the movements of things that something was uncommon was up, and so there was. Soon after, there was a great deal of fighting on all sides of us. Our men were falling back on the opposite side of the Chickahoning. Hard fighting was going on over there.
I knew not the cause of their falling back but some thought that it was for the purpose of bagging a lot of rebels. I thought our side was getting the worst of it. - There were a great many shells thrown across the river from a fort near our camp. We received strict orders to remain in Co. Headquarters with cartridge boxes on and 3 days rations in haversacks. Late in the afternoon the rebs. opened upon the batteries in Smiths' Division with shell in a furious style, many flying in and over our camp.
Cannonading soon became general. One shell struck in our Co. street within 6 feet of me. Our Co. was in line and had been standing up. It would have hit someone on the head. Do not think anyone of us was hurt badly. The Vt. Brigade marched out of the range of the shells. Soon after getting out of range, cannonading stopped and the enemy attacked our pickets with infantry. One Regt. Of Hancocks' Brigade was doing the picket duty that day. The enemy did not succeed in driving the pickets though there was quite a little brush. The line was strongly supported. The Vt. 6th went out to fight- if the pickets were driven in. By the time we got there the rebels were repulsed.
Some of our Regt. got wounded while marching up in the line of battle. Our right supported the pickets at night and the next forenoon our Regt. And another Vt. Regt. Supported them. When I got back to camp I found that all the sick had been taken off the night before. Among the sick were Joseph Tracy and Moses Colt from Monkton.
About 12 o'clock of the 28thult, the rebels run a battery out of a piece of woods in front of us into an open field and commenced shelling our camps very briskly. The Vt. Brigade soon skedaddled down the west bank of the Chickahoming to get out of range. Many shells struck among us but did not kill any of us. Some were wounded. One shell struck a tree and dropped down on one man's knapsack while he was lying down. After being shelled a while, we rec'd orders to march back into the large piece of woods where we formed a line of battle. After shelling was over a detail of men was made to go back to camp to get the knapsacks and haversacks.
At 3 o'clock in the afternoon the Vt. Brigade marched about one mile to the left at which places we formed a line for the night. Before dark 10 of us volunterred to go back to camp to destroy what property there was left. We destroyed tents, ammunition, potatoes, the hard crackers and other things, returning to the right after dark. Early in the morning of the 29th we began our march to the rear. Marched to within 1/2 mile of Savage Station before halting any length of time. Rather expected a brush with the rebels before getting there. We threw out skirmishers a number of times. While the Brigade was resting, I went to the railroad to get some water. While there I saw a number of wounded soldiers who expected to fall into the enemy hands of the enemy soon after our passing that place. There were large piles of hard bread and other provisions besides a great deal of ammunition. Soon after getting back to the Regt. We started again and marched out into an open field near the railroad and halted a short time. Here I could see a great many troops marching toward James River. A great many were coming from the direction of Fair Oaks.
Our Brigade marched across the railroad and went into a piece of woods and rested quite a little while. When we were resting the Federals set a fire to the ammunitions cars, hard bread and other articles that would be of any value to the rebels. On we marched until the rebels overtook those that were in the rear. Marched by a number of Regts. Soon we heard cannonading in our rear and soon after we halted. We were now very tired, nevertheless we had to march back 2 or 3 miles to fight the enemy and in quick time too. Had to march by Regts. that were near to the rebels. When within 1/2 mile of the enemy, we formed in battle line and marched so, said distance through woods, some of time on double quick. The 5th Regt. Was in the hottest of the fight, they getting on the field first. The enemy was soon repulsed. By the time the fight was over, the most of us were so tired that we could hardly travel. Some fell out- before getting near the rebels.
As near as I can learn, Barney and Cox fell out. They not being very well and almost tired out. A great many threw away their knaposacks. I kept mine although it carried heavy. I helpt to carry off some of the wounded. Do not know the number killed and wounded. You will probably get the official report before receiving this. None of the Monkton boys were killed or wounded, though 1 or 2 maybe prisoners. Orderly Sergeant Elliot was wounded and taken prisoner. John Scarborough of Bristol wounded and prisoner, Corporal Henry B. Parker wounded and prisoner, Corporal John Parker prisoner, Mark Melon wounded. All of Co. A.- E.A. Barney I think must be taken prisoner and perhaps A. G. Cox. The fight closed just before dark. As soon as it was dark, we started again toward James River, leaving many of the killed and wounded on the field. After the fight we glad to get dirty and filthy water to drink.
On we marched slowly because there were many teams ahead of us to keep us back. When we had traveled half of the night Asa Green and myself thought we would fall out and have a little rest. We rested in the woods until daylight. Then marched until 8 o'clock when I woke in the morning there were many struggles going along. I was very much rested. Green and I soon packed up and started to join the Regt. The road was strewn with knapsacks, wagons and almost everything else. We found the Regt. When the sun was two hours high. It was very small I can tell you. At this time I had not heard one word from Barney., Cox, Tracy or Colt. I began to think that they were all prisoners. The Vt. Brigade had maneuvered around a good deal when Cox came along nearly tired out. About noon of the 30th ult. The Vt. Brigade was resting on a rise of ground on the opposite of a small stream from the rebel country when the rebels commenced shelling our Regt. in a terrible manner.
We were taken by surprise, some men being asleep. The Brigade soon shedaddled for the woods leaving knapsacks, guns and many articles of value to the soldiers. The rebels had overtaken us and planted many guns on the other side of the stream. The heft of the army had gone along. The Vt. Brigade was most exposed. Our batteries soon stopped the heft of the enemy guns when the shelling commenced. I was to a house after water, when the shelling was nearly over I went back where the Regt. was and got my knapsack, haversack, canteen and gun and went to where I thought the Regt. would rally. I must break off shortly and send what I have written. Will finish this letter in a day or two. My health is very good. The Monkton boys are all right except E. Barney and A. Cox. Have not heard from them yet. Think A. Cox will come around after awhile.Yours In Haste,
To C.S. Dean
Source: Photographs and letters courtesy of Alden Dean, Casper and Martha's great-grandson.