Prepared by John Dudley

Robert K. Thistlewood was enlisted into the Union Army at Calais on August 13, 1862 by G. W. Dyer. He was 23 years old. He mustered at Augusta on August 20 into Company B of the Sixth Regiment, Maine Infantry. He shipped south and saw his first battle at Sharpsburg or Antietam, Maryland. The Battle of Amtietam fought on September 17, 1862 is considered by many to be the bloodiest single day of the war.

The North suffered 2108 killed, 9549 wounded, and 753 missing, while the South had estimated loses of 2700 killed, 9024 wounded, and 2000 missing.

At the second Battle of Fredericksburg (May 3, 1863), the Sixth Maine ''pushed ahead with a wild and indescribable frenzy, and swarmed over the last and strongest redoubts and fortifications at the summit… I do not think that the Sixth Maine fired a single musket until we were inside the enemies last line of works. Our success was glorious, but we had paid for it dearly. In the less than five minutes which elapsed from the time we started upon the charge until our flag floated in victory... we had lost more than one-third of our officers and men in killed and wounded.'' (1) This charge was across an open area called the 'Slaughter Pen' after a tragic charge of Marye Heights by Union troops here in the first Battle of Fredericksburg. One Union soldier then described the battle site where 18000 fell dead or wounded in a few hours on December 13, 1862 as it was a great slaughter pen... they might as well have tried to take Hell.'' The 1863 victory described by Clark was short-lived.

''From June 10th to July 2nd (1863), when we arrived on the battlefield of Gettysburg and took position on Little Round Top, we were marched and counter-marched through intolerable heat and dust. Our last tramp before arriving on the battlefield was some thirty miles, without a halt long enough to make coffee. None the less, the men came into position in buoyant spirits and faced the confederates with a resounding yell of defiance, as our lines were formed just in time to repulse the attack which was surging up against Little Round Top...''(2)

The Sixth Maine was engaged in many more battles including: Funkstown in Maryland, and these Virginia sites; Rappahannock Station, Locust Grove, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spottysylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. By August 1864, the Sixth Regiment had lost so many men (153 killed, 366 wounded, and 102 dead of disease) that it was disbanded. Robert, with 237 of his fellow soldiers transferred to the First Regiment Maine Veteran Infantry.

On September l9, 1864, the Union Army of the Shenandoah under the command of Philip Henry Sheridan, attacked the Confederates at Winchester, Virginia. ''Sheridan is able to bring a larger number of his troops to bear against the Confederate breastworks. By the end of the day, the Federals are forcing Early's troops into a full retreat. Union losses are 653 killed, 3719 wounded, and 618 missing. The southern Army leaves 3000 of their wounded in Winchester as they flee the city and suffer the loss of another 2000 taken prisoner during the day. (3)

A great day for the Union, but a sad day for Robert ''was wounded through the left leg-just above the ankle by a piece of shell, breaking the bone badly. 15 pieces of bones came out at different times'' (4) He was hospitalized at University Hospital at Baltimore and then furloughed home to Maine from November 5, 1864 to March 3, 1865. He then reported to Cony Hospital at Augusta and from there was discharged on April 3, 1865 with a ''Surgeon's Certificate of Disability's.”

Records indicate that Robert applied for an ''Invalid Pension'' on April 4, 1865. This Was apparently granted as he filed ''Claimant's Affidavits in 1886, 1887, and 1898 requesting an increase in that pension. These were supported by Affidavits from Thomas Butler, E. E. Wiswell, W. H. Vickery, George Gooch, and Isaiah Bailey. Bailey wrote on June 29, 1886, “I was well acquainted with him before he entered the Army in the War of the Rebellion and knew him to be a stout able bodied young man and entirely free of disease of which he claims an increase of pension - that since his return from the army he has constantly complained of being troubled with... rheumatism, heart disease, pains in the head and dizziness as results of the sunstroke. That I have worked with him in the haying fields when he was so troubled with lameness in the back, and dizziness in the head that he was unable to perform our work....''

We do not know if Robert's foot was amputated as a result of his wound as was common practice at that time. We do know that Robert suffered for the rest of his life from conditions brought on by his service to his country.

l. Campaigning with the Sixth Maine by Charles Clark; pages 33 and 34

2. Ibid.; page 43

3. Civil War Almanac by Henry Commager; page 224

4. Application for an Invalid Pension filed by Robert K. Thistlewood Civil War material supplied by Fran Swanson was used for this article.