Harpswell Historical Society

Incorporated 1979

929 Harpswell Neck Road
Harpswell, Maine  04079

The Harpswell Historical Society is dedicated to the discovery, identification, collection, preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of materials relating to the history of Harpswell and its people.

Table of Contents

Historic Park 
and Museum

Gallery Links to 
related sites


Harpswell Historical Society
Letter: G. A. Ramsdell to Edward P. Pennell 1864
Transcript of a Letter from
 G. A. Ramsdell to Edward P. Pennell

 Line of battle near Noles Station   May 26th 1864

  Friend Edward,

        Yours of the 8th I read some time since, and should have answered it ere this but have been so busy for the past three weeks that, I could get no spare moments for such employment. We broke camp at Rappahannock Station May 1st crossed the river and went in camp at night 2 miles east of Brandy Station, and again on the 30th took up our line of march toward the Ripadan,, and on the morning of the 4th at 8 Oc. our division crossed the river, we being the first that crossed,, which we done without any difficulty as the enemy did not dispute our passage thus far,, but when we had arrived within 5 miles of Robinsons Tavern, we found the Rebs drawn up in line of battle ready to receive us, and to check our further progress toward Richmond.  On the morning of the 5th at 3 Oc. we hove up breast works, then after we got them completed, we advanced upon the Joneys(Johnnys), and then one of the greatest battles commenced that has been fought during the war,, Our brigade and regt. lost heavily,, this day and at night fell back to our works. Next day went into the fight and for four days in succession our brigade was kept to the front, each day losing many men. On the morn of the 8th at 1 Oc. AM. took up our line of march toward Spotsylvania Court House which road run along the left wing of our line. At 4 Oc. PM. our Regt. went into the fight 6 miles from said C.H.  Lieut. or rather Capt. Morrell was killed about dusk was shot in the head, we were relieved from front 3 Oc. of the 9th AM.  10th(,) went to the front 3 Oc. PM. very hard fighting on our right and left all day but our Regt. was not engaged. 11th(,) some musketry and very heavy artillery today. 12th(,) do. 13th(,) at 10 Oc. at night took up our line of march again toward Spotsylvania C.H. and arrived near said place 6-1/2 Oc. AM.(6:30AM) of the 14th and then build earth works. 15th(,) not much fighting today except pickets which was cept(kept) up at intervails(intervals). 16th(,) some cannonading today along the line but no general engagement,, built breast works today and lay in them during the night. 17th(,) went to the left and front at dusk and built more works all night and next morning of the 18th very heavy cannonading today, casualties light. 19th(,) Rebs attacked the heavy artillery boys on our right but were repulsed and drove back with heavy loss. 20th(,) weather today very warm no fighting. 21st(,) Took up our line of march 2 Oc. PM. toward the Fredricksburg and Richmond Rail Road the Rebs driving in our pickets as soon as we left but did not prsue(pursue) us far. We struck for the R. Road at 7 Oc. PM. 14 miles from Fredricksburg then marched 2 miles on road toward Richmond, then filed off to the right marched 2 miles and went into camp for the night. 22nd(,) Took up line of march at 11 Oc. AM. toward Hanover Junction, had slight skirmish with the Joneys(Johnnys), and went in camp for the night 15 miles from said Junction and had chicken stew for supper. Monday 23rd(,) took up line of march 8 Oc. AM. and passed Mt. Carmills Church at 12-1/2 Oc. PM.(12:30PM) and crossed the North Annie River at 4 Oc. PM. and our Div. had not farly(fairly) got across before the Rebs attacked us like so many hounds. but they found a warm reception and rather more than they bargined(bargained) for ---- ---- for the prisners(prisoners) we took said they intended to drive us all into the river but they were mistakin(mistaken) for once, and handsomely repulsed on equal advantages and position,,The fight was very severe indeed but did not last long. The trees all around where the fight took place were mowed down like grass by the artillery and then trunks completely peperred(peppered) with miny(mini or many) bullets. We took about 800 prisners(prisoners) in all and about as many next day. Built breast works all night and laid in them until 4 Oc. PM. of the 24th, then took up line of march toward the Oeang and Hanover(Orange and Hanover) Rail Road which we struck at 5 Oc PM. Then went in camp for the night. 25th(,) commenced (tearing) up the rail road which I believe is the Va. Central instead of the former name I gave it,, near Noles Station. Then at 1 Oc. PM. we went about one mile to the front and hove up breast works the rest of the day and until 12 Oc. at night. 26th(,) Today there is no general engagement taken place yet, but sharp picket firing. Have had 3 men wounded in our Regt. today one of them mortally, the bullet passing through the center of his body. Col. Chamberlain has command of us again. We like him very much and the boys have great confidence in him as a commander. Our Major was wounded in the last fight. He has had command of us all along but the boys did not like him at all. His name is Spear but we call him sorel-top as his hair is very yellow or rather red. Well Edward they have commenced shelling so I will bid you good day for the present by saying that my health is very good at present and I have come out without a scratch so far. Give my love to all the folks and write soon. From your friend

G.A. Ramsdell

                          to E.P. Pennell

words in parentheses are not as in the original document, but are inserted for clarity in reading.

  transcribed by Gerry York, Harpswell Historical Society, Harpswell, Maine.

  Addendum to the transcript of a letter from George Ramsdell, civil war soldier of the 20th Maine Infantry, to Edward P. Pennell.

George A. Ramsdell died October 16, 1864, he mustered into Co. K, 20th Maine Infantry on 29 Aug 1862. He was a resident of Brunswick, Maine and was not married. The regiment arrived in Washington DC. on 7 September 1862. The first engagement the 20th Maine fought was at Antietam later that same month. Then came Fredricksburg and Middleburg and, in July of 1863, Gettysburg. One record says George Ramsdell was wounded in the breast, I think, however, that this refers to the wound which he died from in October of 1864 as the letter above written to Edward Pennell dated May 1864 says he "...has come out without a scratch so far." He apparently was a Corporal at Gettysburg and by the time of his death he had been promoted to Sergeant. According to the Adj. Generals Report on the 20th Maine Regt., Ramsdell died of wounds on 16 October 1864. The report does not say where he died or what day the wounds were received but in September of 1864, the 20th Maine participated in a battle known as Peebles Farm where they assaulted Confederate earthworks and captured one cannon and seventy prisoners. Later, on the same afternoon, the regiment fought against a massive counterattack along the Boydton Plank Road. By the end of the day the 20th Maine had lost seven dead and fifty wounded. Ramsdell quite probably was wounded there as the regiment doesn't seem to have participated in any other engagements again until 27 October. By then George had died. I have not determined his place of burial at this time.

  sources: Maine at Gettysburg; Adjutant Generals Report on the 20th Maine Infantry;

  Pullen, The 20th Maine;

[town hist]  [bibliography]   [captain sinnett]  [Cundy's Harbor]   [early settlers]  [Hotels]  [Harpswell Neck Library]  [HN Yacht Club]   [John Darling
[G.A. Ramsdell]  [R. S. Melcher]  [Oral History]  [Cattle Pound]  [Old Meeting House[Teachers' Contracts]  [Timeline]  [Early Warrants]