An Infantryman Listens to the Fight at Tom’s Brook

Some of the more interesting accounts of any battle come from unexpected sources. A researcher focusing on a cavalry battle would logically focus on primary sources written by cavalrymen, but during the fighting at Tom’s Brook, tens of thousands of infantrymen were nearby, and their recollections are just as welcome and sometimes just a valuable.

The National tribune September 27, 1906 Gould_on_New_Market_RacesJohn Mead Gould served in the 1st, 10th and 29th Maine Infantry Regiments. He and his “Down East” comrades saw action in both theaters and Gould himself remained in uniform for most of the war. He finished the job in 1865 as a major. Later, Gould wrote about life in the army from the perspective of an infantryman, and was among the first veterans to undertake a regimental history. He began almost immediately to gather materials and just six years after Appomattox, he published the History of the First-Tenth-Twenty-Ninth Maine Regiment: In the Service of the United States from May 3, 1861, to June 21, 1866.

In October 1864, he was an officer in the 29th Maine, and in a brief article written for a national newspaper, Gould sketches an overview of his experience from the 6th to the 10th of October 1864. Writing when in his early sixties in 1906, Gould can be forgiven for some small errors in facts. Most of his details–the movements and actions of his regiment, the strange sound of made by the artillery–are vibrant and help bring his anecdotes alive.

Three of his remarks are of special interest. While it is well known that the Federal Cavalry did most of the destroying and confiscating in the operation known as The Burning, Gould’s letter establishes that the infantry took a hand in the devastation as well. His reference to Custer offering $1,000 dollars for a cannon, refers to one of the guns in Lt. John McNulty’s Baltimore Battery. The Confederates took 12 pieces into the fight and lost 11 of them. An unverified story holds that Custer placed an advertisement in a New York newspaper offering a grand to anyone who captured the cannon. Finally, Gould closes his letter with a second-or-third-hand quotation from “a well-known Southern lady.” While the quotation might be spurious, it seems believable enough given that it mirrors the spirit voiced again and again in Confederate writings after the war. Southern Pride died a long, slow death after the war, if it died at all.

Source: The National Tribune (Washington, DC), September 27, 1906, p. 6, col. 3. See a PDF of the entire page here.

You can find more about Gould, including some portraits, here.

Duke University holds the John Mead Gould Papers, 1841-1944

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