The experiences of Charles H. Witham Co.E 28th Regiment Maine

A 19 year old man from Surry,Maine


this was taken from a letter to Adj General Selden Connor State of Maine on July 31st, 1896.Mr.Charles H. Witham had sent to the Adj General telling of his experiences with the 28th Maine.


While 4 companies of us were stationed at Plaquemine, LA on the Mississippi River, our company by order of Lieutenant Colonel Hadlock who was in charge, was assigned to provost duty under a Capt. Albert Stern of the 171st New York Regiment Was Provost Marshall at the time. One of our duties was to visit every steamer that called, and see that nothing was landed without passes for same period .

On the afternoon of April 17, 1863,I visited a steamer bound up the river, and the Capt. told me that he had landed some freight on the other side of the river about six miles below that he believed there was something wrong about it but the parties had passes to land it and he could not refuse. I reported the same to Capt. Stearns, and he told me to send a guard right over to take charge of it and he would go over in the morning early and see to it. I sent Sgt. M.P.A..Wilder and six men right over, about 9 o clock the next morning I called at the Marshall's office, and to my surprise found him there. I said how was this Capt., I thought you had gone over the river to look after that matter, he said he didn't feel very well and so didn't go. I said that would not do I can't have my men over there that way, if you are not going, I will go. Well he said I will tend to things here and I was soon off. After arriving on the other side I got a horse and saddle and was not long going down the river to the place where the freight had been landed [some six miles] and to my surprise I found no men there. I soon learned that the stuff landed was some clothing for the Confederate Army, and a company of them between 75 and 100 came on to them that morning, between daylight and Sunrise.

With Capt. Standley, of the other branch of my Regiment and several of his men in front of them that they were taken prisoner, on their way to this place, and they thought it was a company of Union soldiers as they approached until it was too late to resist, and were taken prisoners with the rest. The clothing was soon gathered up and the company with their prisoners was soon on the return.

I hurried back up the river to get back to report the matter to the Lieutenant Colonel; when I got back to where I had landed, the boatman had gone back. So I told the Planter to call his slaves and launch a small boat I saw along side of his house, for I couldn't wait for the other to return when the men got the boat to about halfway down I saw a squad mounted about half a mile down the river riding fast towards us, in a few moments they were in front of me, as I stood on the levy, a Lt. and 4 Confederates with guns leveled on me and three of them pulled their guns but only one discharged the others misfired. That was a charge of heavy buckshot one shot striking me in the left side of the face very close to the temple, one in the left shoulder, and two in the left arm above the elbow, and I fell to the ground unconscious, as they supposed to die.

I learned later that the Planters daughter came right out to where I lay and begged of the Lt. to stop the men from taking of my things and let me alone and let me die. So he made the men return my hat & boots which they had taken, but my watch and chain and my Revolver they took and when they joined the company again, showed the prisoners my revolver and told them I was dead.

But that dear kind lady, had the slaves take me to her house and soon after had them take me to the boat, lying on a mattress, with my head resting in her lap, an umbrella spread over me to keep the hot sun off, and a wet cloth lying over the wound in my head, she had the men take me across the river again, and would wet the cloth often in the river to keep it as cool a she could. My own mother could not have done more for me and the Lady and was entire stranger to me.

They raised a small sum of money there and gave the Lady for her kindness too me. The next day she returned the money, and said she wouldn't take it, that she had only done her duty and would not keep the money.

When our surgeon saw me he thought I could not recover, and doctors of the town that came to see me thought the same, later in the day the Medical Director from Baton Rouge called on his way to New Orleans, and came to see me, he ordered me sent to Baton Rouge and he would do all he could to save me, and he kept his word.

For lacking a couple of days of three-weeks I had recovered enough that he allowed me to leave the hospital and go back to my company, still stopping in Plaquemine; saying you must be very careful of your self and they can dress your wounds just as well as if you were here.

The shot remains in my head yet and the one in my shoulder, the upper one in the arm passed through and the lower one was taken out. In a few days after my return to Plaquemine I got a fine saddle horse and began taking rides everyday, the first day I rode out about a mile and was so weak that I almost fell off the horse before I got back, but the next day I felt stronger, and kept gaining nicely for sometime until other troubles came on.

On the following June about the 3rd or 4th our Regiment was ordered to the front at Port Hudson and I began to pack up when my Capt. came along and said what are you doing, I said I want to go with you, he said you are hardly fit to be out of bed, much more than going to the front He called the Col., and the Col. Said, don't you think of it, but stay here till you get stronger, so I remained at Plaquemine, and I assisted the Provost Marshall what I could.

On the morning of the 18th of June just after returning to our quarters after trying to eat a little breakfast but was so sick with a bad case of jaundice, that I could not eat but a few mouthfuls and drink a cup of tea. When one of the men came running in and said, the Confederates are riding into town on every street. I told the men that were there to go get on their equipment as quick as possible and jumped for my own but before I could, a round of bullets were coming through the windows and doors.

One of the men named Kimball, grabbed his gun and returned their fire and shot one of their men who fell from his horse and died right there, but I quickly saw it was useless to stand out against so large a force and ordered the men to surrender, as we all were invalids and left their to recruit.

So we were taken prisoner, some 22 or 23 in all, among them was Sgt. Brown of my own company. We were soon formed in line and started on the march out-of-town. They burned one steamer that called there, while they were on the road they done other damage. As we were marching out of town, one of them said to me to your unwell, I told him that I was, and had been for some time [you see it was just two months before that I was wounded]. He stopped his horse and jumped off said here take my horse I am better able to walk then you are, another man just back of him said here is a horse with no one on it, and then he said well then take that one. It was the horse the man was shot off when they charged on our quarters, and some of the clothing taken from my Valise was hitched to the saddle; but I was glad to get a chance to ride I was so weak.

After getting well back from the river out of danger, reaching the balance of the Division that was on the road down the river, between three and five thousand of them, a short stop was made.There all the prisoners were paroled but myself, I being the only commissioned officer, and their orders were not to parole any of them if captured, so they took me along with them, and my case looked very dark, but I was pleased to see the others get paroled if I could not. We were soon on the move again with the rest of the Division as I said before down the river. The travel was rough over a broken country and rather slow.

In the evening two men that were in charge of me met with the commander of one of the Regiments and told him that I was very sick and could hardly get along with them, he said we can't be going much further tonight and he shall have my horse a part of the time before he shall walk, and see tomorrow what will be done with him.

We were on the move till quite late that night, and off again in the morning, and part of the time I was in the saddle, part of the time a citizen had me in the cart with him, then I would be on the forage wagon and so on as we moved on. The men were very kind to me seemed very sorry that they had not better conveyance and something better to eat, I didn't look for any such feeling as that and I felt very thankful to them for it I assure you.

On the afternoon of the 20th we made a stop on a plantation to clear a very heavy shower, and take lunch. As I went to the tank to get a drink of water I met a Sgt.Major who looked at me very sharp, and passed on, in a few moments he returned with the same officer I had met the night of the 18th and could see that he was a Lieutenant Colonel, as soon as I saw him coming towards me,he said why Lt. I did not know you was still with my Regiment, I thought you was with the other part of the Division; I am very sorry indeed I did not know it I would have some better conveyance than you had, extending his hand and gave me as friendly a shake as I ever got. He asked me to take a walk around the house with him. I thanked him and went with him, there he ordered lunch of us both, and also call for pen Ink and paper and began writing, in a few moments he handed me the paper, there he said is your release from our force you can remain here as long as you wish and no Confederate force will trouble you, unless you are found with arms in your hands.

One cannot imagine my surprise, and I thanked him very warmly I assure you.Then I learned his name as I read James Walker Lieutenant Colonel 2nd Regiment Lepas Mounted Riflemen. In our short chat together the Col. spoke of the war with a very deep feeling very sorry it had begun for and hoped it soon would be stopped. The Col. soon arose saying well I will have to leave you as my Regiment is already falling in, and again gave me as more my shake of the hand as warm a shake as one could have and bid me goodbye as he left the house.

I went to the front of the house and returned his kind salute of the hand as he rode by at the head of his Regiment. I remained at the plantation that night and the next morning I started back for Plaquemine part of the time on horseback part of the time on foot and such conveyance as I could get until I got back without any interference, and took the first steamer that called, for Baton Rouge, glad to get safe within our own lines once more and later joined my Regiment again.

Charles H. Witham