Article prepared 2015 by John Dudley
A Brisley Family Story – Susie (Vance) Frost,
grandmother of Irene Clarke Adams, told this story. Thomas Brisley’s family
wanted his father Benjamin to “testify at meeting’, but he refused. Finally he
said he would, so at the next meeting he stood up and said “Old Brisley has his
ups and his downs, and this is one of his downs.” And down he goes. That ended
his testifying at meetings!
Punctuation in the letters is hard to understand; periods and commas are feint and he appears to have written long run-on sentences. Also some punctuation may have been added over the years. Spelling errors were few and appeared to by just careless errors. The letters were to the Moses Leland family of Cooper. Moses [born ca 1825] and Hannah [born ca 1830] with their children Eugene, Rhoda, Mary and Hortense lived near Dead Stream where it intersects with the North Union Road. The house was on the north side of the road.
Augusta August 30th / 62
I supose you will expect me to fulfill my
promise of writing to you and here I am endeavoring to do so. I do not know if I
can interest you in anything I can write at present, but I will do as I said &
write things just as they are as far as I am acquainted.
encamped here at Augusta at present but I expect we shall leave here soon, at
any rate I hope so. Perhaps you may think of us Cooper boys and say to yourself
I guesf they will wish themselves back, & perhaps we may, but I tell you what it
is, we have to good times here to wish so. Yet, of course, we have
not seen the hardest of it yet & I do not know when we shall. We have a full
company of Maine boys for the 6th
Regiment and a hard set of fellows they are too, that is if one can judge by
appearances. There is all kinds of characters here from clergymen all the way
down to blacklegs and pickpockets. You can hear the singing of psalms to songs,
swearing & preaching, fighting or anything else you wish all at the same time,
but still it is here as any where else. If one minds there own business their is
no trouble. I am not sick of it yet at any rate. I’m bound to blow as long as I
can stand it. We 4 Cooper boys went together and I am in hopes that we shall be
able to keep together and all come home together, but we have to run the risk of
that. We do not expect to get sick of hard work or hard fighting. This is
sabbath morning and some of the boys have gone out to church. They go out in
squads and someone is put in charge of them. We had a sermon this morning in the
has just come off guard & is lying down in the tent making observations while
Joe & I are writing. We have to stand guard 2 hours on and 4 off making 8 out of
24, They are drawn in alphabetical order. This morning there were 20 detailed
out of our Company and I have to go on guard today at 1 O’clock. There is 1st,
second, & third relief & each relief has a Corporal, each relief stands 2 hours
& then they are relieved by the next in turn.
I have seen our Colonel, he was here on the ground. I tell you he is a hard looking old customer. We hear news hear as well as down east, one story today & another tomorrow. We had good news yesterday from the army, if it is true, that Gen. Pope has given the rebels fits. I cannot write much at this time. Perhaps the next time I can interest you better. I should be happy to hear from you if you can write to me. George says he wants me to tell you to write and we shall allways be glad to hear from our friends at home. Direct to Augusta, Me 6th Me Reg. Capt. Bafsfords Company.
Notes: Letter #1
“Us Cooper boys” were George W. Black, Jr,
Thomas Brisley, Joseph Reed and Hugh Robb, Jr. George Black, Jr whose family
lived on the East Ridge Road is watching Thomas and Joseph Reed write.. The
‘hard looking’ Colonel was Hiram Burnham, a lumberman from Cherryfield. Union
General John Pope eventually retreated from the Second Battle of Bull Run
[Manassas]. Captain Bafsford was Levi L. L. Bassford was of Calais. He had been
appointed a Captain by Governor Israel Washburn after July 19, 1862. He ended up
in Company B.
Camp near Bell Plain January 10, 1863
I once more take the liberty to write you a few lines as I have opportunity today. We have been out on Brigade drill this morning & have just come in & it rains sweetly, so it does.
Well, I have got to the Regiment again at last & I have no reason to complain as to my usage yet either in the hospital or Reg. When I got here, I got three letters, one that you wrote, I was glad to hear from you and I will write as I told you I would & state things as they are. My health is good now, only I am not so strong as I was before I was sick & I doubt if I ever am again.
I found the boys all well and hardy, there is six of us tents together. The greatest trouble is the want of tobacco or money. We have not been paid off yet, but I expect we will in a few days. I suppose you have heard of the Battle of Fredericksburg. Well I don’t know anything else to call it but a man killing trap; some may call it another glorious retreat. O yes it is evident that we lost a great many men & gained nothing, all is quiet now along our lines. I have been here a week and have not done any duty yet but I expect they will put me on duty soon. I am in hopes there will be no more fighting here, but yet it is hard telling anything about it, there is too much speculation.
I have had a chance now for a couple of months to see something of the ways things are managed – everyone that can make one cent out of the government will do it from an officer down to a washwoman, that’s so every time. If I had not enlisted, but come here on my own hook I would have made money hand over fist, but it is as it is, & there is no help for it now. I cannot write much now, but I will give you a sort of sketch at some future time. Write as soon as you can, give my best respects to all the folks and accept the best wishes of T. D. Brisley
After the Battle of Fredericksburg ended on
December 13, 1862, the Union estimate of killed and wounded was 12,700. The
Confederate loss was set at 5300.
Camp near Belle Plain, Virginia March 9th 1863
I received a letter from home yesterday and mother wrote that you had lost little Hortense. It seems almost too bad, but it is the lot of all to die and although I cannot simpathise with you & Moses like one who has experienced such trials, yet I felt as sorry as if I had lost a near friend or relative, but there is one consolation and it arises from the thought She is free from evil and the consquences attendant in this life. I hope the rest of the children are well, give my love to them and tell them too that Thom often thinks of them and would like to see them all.
My health is good at present and the boys from
Cooper are all well and in good spirits. I don’t suppose that I can write
anything concerning the war that will interest you at present, but at some
future time I will write more war news. I want Moses to write to me again when
he gets home. I shal be glad to hear from you both as often as you are pleased
to write to me, Give my love to inquiring friends and accept the best wishes of
your friend T. D. Brisley
Camp Near Falmouth, May 11th/63
My Dear Friends
It is with pleasure that I seat myself to answer your kind letter dated May 2nd, which I received yesterday. I had given up the idea entirely of ever receiving another letter from you but was very happily disappointed & believe me it was not an unwelcome disappointment either. How quickly it seems to bring to mind old times & I sometimes think that, but for the hope of again renewing the acquaintance of old friends and scenes, I should feel perfectly indifferent as to my fate and I am in hopes after all to weather the cape and come out all right
You speak of having sympathy for the boys out here. I am glad of that, but you know nothing of the matter comparatively speaking and it is out of my power to explain the matter to your satisfaction. for instance, as in the charge made by our Regiment the other day on the enemy works. Imagine yourself being in that place with the steady roar of cannon & musketry and the bullets falling around as thick as hail and men droping all around you and you have but a feint idea of it at best. We charged three quarters of a mile double quick or rather on a run over the heights. And took them too. One rifle pit above another and the rebs pouring in grape and canister into us, but it seemed as though nothing could retard our progress which you may believe was not slow. The 6th Maine was the first to plant her flag on the heights, our loss was heavy, being about one hundred & seventy five I believe. our Major was killed and three Captains in our Reg. I received a slight wound on the right arm but nothing serious. So much for the war.
My health is very good this spring & I am in hopes to stand the hot weather this summer. The weather is very warm here now. I should like to be in Cooper this morning but I have signed the wrong paper for that, so I have.
So you have sold Nell, well I think you will
hardly replace her for the same money. There are some splendid horses out here I
I suppose that you are doing the big thing in the farming line this spring. Well I expect that farmers generally will put in all the crops they can & it stands then in hand to do so.
Give all my love to the children and to all
inquiring friends and accept the best wishes of T. D. Brisley
To, Mr. & Mrs. Leland
PS Excuse poor writing & write again soon is
the wish of Tom
Notes on Letter #4
In paragraph two, Thomas gave his description
of the battle at Marye’s Heights that took place on May 3. The Sixth Maine was
in the lead of the charge with the orders to not stop and not fire until they
had reached the Heights. Company K suffered one killed and nine wounded
including Thomas and John Waid who had lived briefly on Breakneck in Alexander.
“Our Major” who was killed was Joel Haycock of Calais.
1861 April 12 - At 4:30 PM the first shot of
the War was fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC harbor.
April 22 - Maine legislature authorized ten regiments. The Sixth came from the 1st
Military Division, that was the Penobscot River watershed and east. From the
west were companies raised in and named after Brownville [A], Corinth [H], Old
Town [I], Bucksport [E] and Ellsworth [B]. The down east companies were Machias
[C], Cherryfield [G], Pembroke [F], Calais [D] and Eastport [K].
During its days the Sixth Maine Regiment had quite a number of local men. Those from Cooper were Stephen Averill, Augustus Babcock, William Babcock, George Black, Thomas Brisley, Charles Clark, James Higgins, Ellis Hitchins, Rufus Phipps, Joseph Reed, Hugh Robb, Thomas Sadler and Thomas Sprague.
Cooper had 13 men in the Sixth. Its
neighboring communities all had soldiers in the Sixth. Township 19 had but one,
Crawford had five, Alexander had fifteen, Meddybemps had eleven, Charlotte had
fourteen and Plantation 14 had three. A regiment consisted of ten companies of
100 men each. Cooper and its neighbors contributed 61 men to the Sixth.
July – Thomas, at age 28, enlisted in Company K, 6th
1863 January 10 - letter #2
1863 April 8 – The Sixth is reviewed by
President Lincoln at Falmouth, VA
1863 – May 11 – letter #4
1865 April 9 – Lee and Grant arrange terms of
surrender at Appomattox, VA
1865 April 14 – Lincoln shot at Ford’s Theater
Thomas Brisley never came home, he was killed in action. Jane Hannah Leland wrote on his March 9, 1863 letter
Thy days are numbered
Thy work is done
The tall southern grass
CIVIL WAR ALMANAC from World Almanac Publications
LETTERS written by Thomas D. Brisley to Moses Leland family of Cooper ME. The letters were given to ACHS in July 1994 by Irene Clarke Adams.
NO RICH MEN”S SONS, The Sixth Maine Volunteer Infantry by James Mundy
WASHINGTON COUNTY, MAINE IN THE CIVIL WAR by Ken Ross