top of page

5th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment

Posted 05/29/23

The 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry Regiment mustered into Federal service to the Union on October 28, 1861, with a 1012-man membership in the regiment. The 5th New Hampshire, like so many northeastern regiments, made their first stop in Washington D.C. It was from here the regiment was assigned to General McClellan, after remaining inactive for a period of time. The  regiment received it's baptism of fire during the Peninsula campaign. At Fair Oaks, Virginia on June 1, 1862, the 5th New Hampshire experienced the loss of 30 killed, and 170 wounded that included their Colonel, Edward E. Cross, who was wounded in the face with a minnie ball. During the engagement, Cross was struck in his person and clothing seven times.  

The next battle for the 5th New Hampshire was by far one of the bloodiest the regiment would participate in during the entire war. On September 17, 1862, the regiment would find themselves in Maryland along the banks of Antietam Creek fighting in a country lane later dubbed the "sunken road" or "bloody lane." William Child, the Surgeon, and the Historian of the 5th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, reported that over one third of the regiment who were present for the battle were killed or wounded. One of those in the regiment who was present that day at Antietam, was Private Leonard W. Howard of Company B, 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry.  

Private Howard, a relatively small man at 5'4" was initially rejected for service by Union authorities due to his height. Not being one to be outdone by the establishment, Howard went home and put on different pair of shoes with higher heels which did the trick.  Howard enlisted in the regiment on October 9, 1861, and remained in the regiment until June 29, 1865. At Antietam, Howard was wounded according to Union military casualty sheets, in the chest, "slightly." Howard recovered from the wound and finished the war in the regiment.

When the war was over, Howard moved back to Wentworth, New Hampshire to a community in the town called Atwell Hill, a village in the northwest corner of the town. There, Howard had a young teenage neighbor named Charles Wright, known as Charlie Wright. As an inquisitive teenage boy in the early 1900's Charlie found out that his neighbor Private Howard was a Civil War veteran. No doubt, the questions flowed freely from Charlie's lips who wanted to know all he could of the Civil War from the veteran. Leonard W. Howard died in 1912 when Charlie was 15 years old. With Private Howard's death, went all the stories to be told of the war by Howard to young Charlie.

In 1958, Charles "Charlie" Wright authored "The Silent Neighbor" {New Hampshire Profiles, May 1958}. In that writing, Wright describes the wounding of Private Leonard W. Howard at Antietam as told to him by Howard. Wright quotes Howard; " At the time I was hit, my right arm raised. I was about to plunge the ramrod down when I felt a flash of pain stab through me like a red-hot poker. I fell, then I guess I must have fainted.

When I came to, it was dark. I was in awful pain. The ball had passed through my right lung and on through my body, lodgin just under the skin to the side of my backbone. I lay on the battlefield, right there in that ditch, for more than twenty-four hours. The stretcher bearers passed by me. No doubt they thought I couldn't live, so they didn't bother to pick me up.

My chum, Bill Coarson, hunted all over, tryin' to find me. At long last he did and gave me a drink from his canteen. He tried to get the stretcher bearers to help lug me off the field, but they refused. They said there was no use, I'd die anyway. So finally, Bill told a couple of stretcher men that he'd report them to Colonel Cross if they didn't take me off the field. They picked me up and then carried me to a set of farm buildin's.

The yard was filled with the wounded, as close together as they could lay. The house and barn and sheds were all full of wounded officers and men. The stretcher bearers couldn't find any other place to leave me, so they dumped me into a hog-pen. The hogs had been slaughtered by the soldiers, of course, but that pen was a mess-and swarmin with flies.

I had to wait a long time there, had to wait my turn. The surgeons were working like mad, hour after hour. But at last, my turn came, and when the surgeon slit the skin on my back, over the minnie ball, it dropped right out into his hand. Then he took a long probe, thrust a silk handkerchief into the wound, and rammed it clear through! Yes, he drew the handkerchief through my body. That was to clean out the wound.

I was then taken to a shelter tent. Later on I was sent to a regular hospital. And less than ten months after Antietam, I rejoined the Fifth regiment while on it's march to Gettysburg."

There are the detractors who say, and believe Leonard W. Howard embellished his story of the wound he received at Antietam. Perhaps, but maybe Charlie at 61 years old when he wrote his profile article embellished Private Howard's story, probably not. Could it be, and this is my belief, that the surgeon, who on the casualty sheet, wrote "slight wound to the chest" saw so much gore, terrible death wounds, blood, guts, arms missing, legs missing, and  artillery wounds, by the time he got to  Private Howard, and he saw that the chest wound was a clean through wound with a minnie ball falling out in the surgeons hand after slitting the Privates skin on his back. After the surgeon ran the handkerchief through, and finding no seriousness to the wound, decided to send the private on his way with the surgeons blessing to a hospital for rest and recuperation. Perhaps this is the case also, but there is one thing very sure, we will never know.  I think many questions arise in situations like this that historians and writers are to quick to judge at times. I certainly was not at the battle field with Private Howard, and neither was Charlie Wright. God only knows the truth, and I feel the truth lies in the story told to young Charlie Wright by Leonard W. Howard.

Years ago, Arthur Pease, a grand nephew of Leonard W. Howard, made inquiry with a medical technician regarding the wound of Private Howard. Eventually, a doctor was spoken to as well about the wound. The feeling is the bullet that hit the Private was probably a spent bullet that hit a rib and made its way to the back of the Private. Howard may have thought all the years after receiving the wound that the bullet went straight through. The cleaning of the wound with the silk cloth and probe could not be explained. Perhaps Howard wanted to tell a good story to the young lad. The probe and silk handerkerchief seemed to the medical personal consulted by Mr. Pease "medically improbable." 

Fifth NH.png

Seen here are the flags and finials of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry Regiment as displayed in the State Capitol in New Hampshire. The flags are in need of preservation very badly, and at my last check, the appropriations have not been made for this work by the state legislature. All the flags are in beautiful wooden and glass display cases.  

5th NH black.png

This very unique flagstaff finial is identical to the one seen in the New Hampshire flag collection on one of the flags of the 5th New Hampshire Infantry. This same style finial is seen on 22 other New Hampshire Civil War flags in 11 different regiments. The finial with the upper ferrule is 10" long, and 4.80" wide at the wings. The piece is very heavy brass. This particular finial came from a New York estate. This finial is found in the authors collection.


1.Arthur Pease, Lebanon, New Hampshire, Family Collection of Private Leonard W. Howard, Co. B., 5th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment

2. Tom Myers, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Images of New Hampshire Flags

3. Child, William, 1834, A History of the Fifth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the Civil War 1861-1865, 1893, R.W. Musgrove, Printer, Bristol, New Hampshire

4. Wright, Charles, The Silent Neighbor, New Hampshire Profiles, May 1958

bottom of page