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[90] five companies of the First Vermont. This they proceeded to do, and were gallantly and rapidly succeeding, some of my men being on the very brink of the works, when Colonel Townsend, of New York, peremptorily ordered a retreat. The Massachusetts men retired in good order, having had two men killed and one mortally wounded, and were drawn up on the same line they started from, where I soon reported to General Peirce, expecting to receive orders to go in again. I now learned that General Peirce—as brave a man as I have ever seen in battle1—had not ordered a retreat, nor did he intend to do so; but circumstances beyond his control compelled him to do so, and the five Massachusetts companies brought up the rear on the march back to camp, whither they returned in good order, and marched into Newport News with closed ranks and shouldered arms, feeling that they at least had done their duty, and with no reason to be ashamed of their part in this the first battle of the war.

Thus the Fourth Massachusetts, under my command, were the first troops from Massachusetts in the first battle of the war. I have been in many actions since; but never have I seen a hotter fire than that at Great Bethel. After this, until our departure from Newport News, nothing of consequence occurred.

The Fourth remained at Newport News until the 3d of July, when it moved to the village of Hampton. Adjutant Walker writes, ‘On our arrival at Hampton, we found the quaint old town deserted. Hardly a score of its former white inhabitants remained, although many negroes, especially old and very young ones, were still there. The troops had quarters assigned them in the various houses, and remained there undisturbed until Wednesday, July 11, when we marched over to Fortress Monroe, preparatory to embarking for home.’ Previous to leaving, their Springfield rifled muskets were exchanged for old smoothbores. On the eve of departure, the regiment was addressed by General Butler and Colonel Dimick. On the 15th of July, it embarked on board the steamer S. R. Spaulding, and in fifty-six hours arrived in Boston harbor, after an absence of three months. It was mustered out at Long Island, Boston harbor, on the 22d of July.

The Fifth Regiment arrived at Annapolis on the morning of

1 Major Whittemore was afterwards major and lieutenant-colonel of the Thirtieth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, and served three years.

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