July 6th, 2013: Member Submission: Thomas Edgerly Mitchell

Posted on: 07/03/2013

150 years ago, with the country in turmoil, armies were made up of not just seasoned soldiers, but everyday citizens who were driven to defend what they believed in.  They came from many backgrounds and from different stages of life but all fought for what they believed in. Today we’ll discuss Thomas Edgerly Mitchell, as soldier in the 5th New Hampshire Infantry who 150 years ago today could mark his 32nd birthday.  Thomas’ descendant, Friends member Linda Myers of Wolfeboro, NH, was kind enough to send some information on his life and service, which we used to share his story today on Great Task.

Thomas Edgerly Mitchell was born on July 6, 1831 to William P. Mitchell and Lydia Libby Mitchell.  He was one of six children, only four of whom survived to adulthood.  His father died in 1845 at the age of 44 when Thomas was 14 and his mother passed away nine years later.  In 1853, Thomas married Lydia A. Perkins.  They had eight children from 1855 to 1878. 

Thomas enlisted to fight for the Union on September 10, 1861 and was mustered in on October 19 as a Private in the 5th Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers, Company H.  On November 19, 1861 he was promoted to Corporal but, for reasons unknown, that was rescinded on November 21, 1862.  On January 23, 1864, however, he was promoted to First Sergeant a rank that he held until he was discharged on November 14, 1864 in Washington D.C.

Above: Colonel Edward Cross.

The 5th New Hampshire Regiment was formed in Concord with men signing up for three year enlistments.  On August 27, Colonel Edward E. Cross was put in command of the regiment which consisted of men from all parts of the state.  They left New Hampshire for Maryland after receiving their colors in October.  They were involved in over 20 battles including the Siege of Yorktown, Seven Days Battles, Malvern Hill, Antietam (Sharpsburg), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, the Crater, and Sayler’s Creek. Under Cross, the 5th New Hampshire had a sterling reputation.

Above: Photo of men from the 5th New Hampshire on a bridge over the Chickahominy River during the summer of 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign.

150 years ago, Colonel Cross, leading the 1st Division, II Corps, was ordered to help defend the left flank at the Wheatfield on July 2.  Cross was mortally wounded by a Confederate sharpshooter and died at a field hospital on July 3, 1863.

The following Gettysburg after battle report by Major Richard E. Cross describes their involvement in the battle:

Report of Major Richard E. Cross, Fifth New Hampshire Infantry

Camp near Harper’s Ferry, W. Va.

July 16, 1863

Col.: I have the honor to transit the following report of the part taken by the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers in the action of July 2 and 3, and the pursuit of the 14th instant:

The regiment went into action, July 2, with 14 commissioned officers and 165 men; were under heavy fire for two hours, every officer and man doing his duty.  At the end of that time, having expended all of our ammunition, we were relieved by the Fifth Army Corps.  The regiment fell back, firing, in good order.

The loss of the regiment was 1 commissioned officer killed and 4 wounded; 25 enlisted men were killed and 49 wounded.

On the morning of the 3d instant, the regiment occupied the same ground which it held on the morning of the 2d.  The forenoon was spent in throwing up entrenchments, which proved of great benefit to the regiment, as the enemy opened a tremendous cannonade on our line at about 2 p.m.  During all this heavy fire we lost but 1 man, who was killed on the picket line.

On the 14th instant, the regiment was attached to Col. Brooke’s brigade, and acted as skirmishers, following up the enemy to within a short distance of Falling Waters, capturing some 50 prisoners, all of whom were turned over to the provost guard.

During all fourteen days of fighting, marching, and skirmishing, the regiment has behaved in the most gallant and satisfactory manner, enduring all their hardships without a murmur.

Among the officers who particularly distinguished themselves on July 2, I would mention the names of Capt. J.S. Ricker, Company C; Capt. G.F. Goodwin, Company D; Lieut. William McGee, Company E, and Sergt. E. H. Martson.

Col. E.E. Cross being in command of the brigade, the command of the regiment devolved upon Lieut. Col. C. E. Hapgood, who behaved in the most gallant manner, but who, I am sorry to say, we were compelled to leave behind at Frederick, Md., pm account of sickness, which prevented him from sharing the victory and hardships of the 14th instant.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully,

 

R.E. Cross

Maj., Comdg. Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers

Col. H.B. McKeen, Comdg. Brigade

Thomas Mitchell survived the Battle of Gettysburg as did his cousin, Alvin Mitchell, who was with the 12th New Hampshire Infantry, Company K.  Thomas and Alvin’s Great Grandfather,

John Mitchell, Sr. fought for independence in the Revolutionary War.  Soldiering was in their blood.

On June 16, 1864, Thomas Edgerly Mitchell was wounded at the battle of Petersburg, a wound which he survived.  He lived until March 11, 1905 when, at the age of 73, he died from a reported case of pneumonia.

Soldiers were not the only participants in battles.  Charles T. Moody, 16, was the drummer boy for Thomas Mitchell’s company and his younger brother, George, was a musician for the Company G of the 5th NH. Charles Moody joined the 5th New Hampshire in April of 1862 and was mustered out in April of 1865.

In one of his letters home, Charles writes:

August 5, 1862

Camp Near Harrison Landing

Dear Farther,

I write you a few lines as I have a little time. We are under marching orders. There was heavy firing to the front this morning on the hill [Malvern Hill] where we had our last fight on our retreat. 3 divisions went this morning and the firing is least. It means something.  We have got orders to march at a moment’s notice. We filled our Haver Sacks with 2 days rasions in them so to be ready to march but we cannot go great way without meating the enemy. I hope that we shall not go in another fight until hot weather is over because it is bad for a man that gets wounded.

Farther, I’m well at this time & have been more healthy than I was at home. George is some better & is getting along well. He is still in the hospital. I have hird nothing about him getting his discharge but I wish he might for he wants it bad enough.

Farther, I have got $10 dollars of Rebbles Money that I send to you so that you can see what kind of money they have. Farther, have you had green corn in the garden yet? How does your field corn look now? Are you going to have much if it does? Well, I hope you will.

Farther, have you got that 25 dollars we sent to you? As soon as you get it, write. Write as soon as you get this. Are you cutting lot of hay for yerself this summer? Is there a lot of apples this year? I hird there was going to be lots of apples. If you can send some in some box that is comming. There is no apples out here only once in a while a small one. Good by to all yours,

Charles T. Moody
Drummer in Company H

The 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry Regiment monument is South of Gettysburg on Ayers Avenue. It was dedicated 23 years after the battle on July 2, 1886 and consists of boulders taken from the battlefield and a slab of New Hampshire granite. Standing over six feet, it is meant to showcase the “hard, enduring, patient, and unmovable men who fought for New Hampshire, the Granite State. 

The 5th New Hampshire sustained the most losses of any regiment, infantry or cavalry, in the Union Army.  First Sergeant Thomas Mitchell and drummer boy Charles Moody were two of the lucky few surviving members of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry.

Many thanks to Linda Myers for sharing her ancestor’s story.

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