Sold – Gettysburg Diary of the Color Bearer of the 20th Maine

The last entry was made on the afternoon of July 2, 1863 - "In line of battle before Gettysburg...there will probably be a great battle".

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On August 29, 1862, at age twenty-two, William T. Livermore of Milo, Maine enlisted as a private and color bearer in Co. "B" of the 20th Maine Infantry. He was promoted to corporal in 1863 and sergeant in 1864. Livermore was with the regiment at the great battles in which it...

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Sold – Gettysburg Diary of the Color Bearer of the 20th Maine

The last entry was made on the afternoon of July 2, 1863 - "In line of battle before Gettysburg...there will probably be a great battle".

On August 29, 1862, at age twenty-two, William T. Livermore of Milo, Maine enlisted as a private and color bearer in Co. "B" of the 20th Maine Infantry. He was promoted to corporal in 1863 and sergeant in 1864. Livermore was with the regiment at the great battles in which it took part, including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilder-ness, Spotsylvania, Hatcher's Run, Petersburg and Five Forks. After Chancellorsville, Col. Adelbert Ames was promoted to brigadier-general and Lieut.-Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain assumed command.

"The rebs stole a great many horses. Col. Chamberlain has returned to duty, he has been promoted to Col[7/2/63] In line of Battle before Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 1st, 5th, 6th, 11th, 2nd Corps are here, there will probably be a great battle tomorrow"

In June 1863, the 20th Maine marched north through Maryland and arrived at Gettysburg on the morning of July 2, reaching the hills southeast of town at 11 AM. After a while they were formed in line of battle, but being in reserve, the men had time to rest and write. They were probably in this posture from about 12:00 to 3:30, at which time Longstreet's assault commenced and men on both sides went into motion. Livermore kept a series of diaries, and some time during those few hours of waiting wrote his final entry in the one covering the period from March 16 to July 2, 1863. About 4:00 the 20th Maine was ordered to Little Round Top, where it formed the extreme left of the Union line, and by 5:00 the Confederate assault at that point was in full progress. Livermore stood by the colors at the center of the regiment's line during the attack, and said later that the rebels came within 60 feet of him.

In the Hands of Providence, a Chamberlain biography by Trulock, says "A terrible crossfire cut through the middle of the 20th's line causing frightful casualties in the center companies. Great gaps in the line invited an enemy breakthrough. The colors were still standing in the center; only two members of the color guard, Cpl. William T. Livermore and private Elisha S. Coan, were left to defend color Sergeant and his precious charge." The 20th Maine lost 137 men killed and wounded, and gained immortality as the regiment that saved the day at Gettysburg. Livermore's diaries are well known primary historical resources and are frequently quoted. He is the most referred-to writer from the enlisted ranks of the 20th Maine.

The Twentieth Maine, the standard regimental history by Pullen, quotes Livermore's diaries on no fewer than 11 pages. Livermore is also extensively quoted in With the Flash of His Sword by Styple, and in Stand Firm Ye Boys From Maine, author Tom Desjardin refers to this very diary no fewer than 21 times!

We offer Livermore's original diary, the one he had and wrote in at Gettysburg, identified within in his hand. Entries are in ink, and it is 120 pages, leather bound, with the binding loose but intact. We can only include a small amount of the important content. "[3/26/63] reviewed by Generals Meade and Griffin[4/7/63] reviewed on our parade grounds by Mr. LincolnPresident Lincoln followed by 50 or 75 Generals and staffwe gave him three hearty cheers. He took off his beaver and bowed gracefully…Mr. Lincoln looks care worn. But I guess he will be able to get us out of our difficultly all right[5/2/63] most of our officers have gone out to the front. Lieut. Lane went across the river near Fredericksburg, went to the 6th Maine, one of them was killed and another wounded[5/3/63] The first thing I hear in the morning before daylight was the bugle to strike tents.

"The guard was left in charge of Lieut. Melcher, Maj. Gilmore took the 3 left Companies and went one way, we under Col. Chamberlain marched toward Falmouth. The cannonading commenced before sunrise on the left in front of Fredericksburg. As we passed we could see ours and the rebs batteries and the line of infantry but could not hear much of it as the wind blewWe marched to Bank's Ford…we could see the rebel rifle pitsthere was heavy cannonading near Fredericksburg till near 9 a.m. when a furious engagement commenced on the right which was just above us. We could hear the musketryrelieved the 19th Maine which were guarding the telegraph wire from Hooker's Headquarters across the river to FalmouthWe stopped to rest and saw about 200 rebs the 23rd Georgia regt…They were a dirty looking set. Some were very good looking men but some were very old and others were very young…

"Fredericksburg was taken and all the heights and works back of it. At 10 a.m. there was a terrible fight on the right, Gen. Berry was killed with many others reported which we do not know certain. At 4 p.m. there was an attack made in front of us by our menWe could see it plain, it was a terrible fight of infantry and artillery which lasted about 1 12 hours. The rebs fell back, the color guard stopped in a large building used for barn or stove horses, some wounded came along and 5 stayed all night. We made them comfortable as possible[5/4/63] I was roused from my sleep at daybreak by the roar of artillery which kept up for about half an hour which we learned was a rebel battery shelling our wounded…It is said we took the battery and some prisoners. Fredericksburg was retaken in the morning by the rebs

"There has been hundreds of wounded passed as we have been talking with them all dayThere was a desperate fight across the river in front of us just after dark, the 6th Maine was engaged and had a hard time. Some Regts. skedaddled, some swam the riverwere told some rebel prisoners were coming, we turned out and saw 500, there was 2 Cols., 2 Majors and some line officers.

"There are thousands of stragglers[5/5/63] found that the 6th Corps had retreated to this side of the Rapphannock. The batteries were passing and pontoons, ammunition wagon, some 32 siege guns passed. I saw one of the 6th Maine boysthey said they never saw a hard time till last night. They were attacked and driven into the river or under the banks, the only way of escape. They have suffered dreadfully, lost 200 in killed and wounded. The whole Corps is badly cut up. The rebs occupy the other side of the river, we can see their scouts and pickets cruising aroundWe may claim a victory [but]…we lay down feeling almost discouraged.

"[5/6/63] We moved our quarters into a slave house close to the planter's house. Col. Chamberlain came down from the right all tired out and lay down himself, he told us the sad fate of Moses Warren drummer of Co. A. Hepicked up an old gun barrel supposing it was not loaded, found some cartridgesbursting the barrel the whole length taking one hand all off and tearing the other so badly that both were amputated at the wrist [5/13/63]

"There was orders came around this morning from Hooker or Gen Butterfield Chief of Staff that Stonewall Jackson was dead[5/20/63] negroes got to fighting about 10 rods from us, they fought with knives and resulted in the death of one. It appears that two were against one but the one stabbed one of his opponents in the breast which entered his heart with a long knife killing him instantly and chased the other and stabbed him in the back but did not kill him. He then threw his knife and ran to the woods, they have not caught himThe Lacy House…cost $75,000 it is a brick mansionHis negroes houses were brick buildings and very nice.

"He was a major in the rebel army but has been killed in battle[5/21/63] Brigade now in command of Col. S. Vincent of the 83rd Penn. He is a fine fellow…Every house was pierced with from one to 50 cannon balls and shells. We went in to the Lacy House then went to the graves of the men that were killed laying the first pontoons in Dec. which were buried in a long rowthere was 30 or 40.

"[5/30/63] We walked up and down the river. The rebels lay on the other bank. They could have shot if they chose to. Col. Chamberlain was there in plain sight. Some of our boys went out half way across and shook hands with the rebs….[5/31/63] Our boys have been over to the rebs today… [6/1/63] We are on the Smith PlantationMrs. Smith and 3 daughters remain here. An old Negro woman spoke with us as we past her cabin. She has been sold 3 times, she has lived here 20 years. Her husband died 12 years ago, she has had 8 children and they have all been sold south but one and he was in a mill at Fredericksburg last fall and she has not heard from him since. She said she was about 100 years old, I should think she was 80 certain. She has a little grandchild here in the houseSome blacks and the women keep her out of sight fearing the soldiers will take her[6/14/63] It is evident the rebs are making an advance into Md. again and we expect to have a fight…[6/15/63] We struck the railroad in the morning near Catlet's Station above where we passed is where we had a fight last summer near the 2nd Bull Run. There was the ruins of the train of cars the rebs burned

"We had one of the hardest marches we have ever seen…We halted at Manassas Junction at 12, 3 of the color guards fell out[6/17/63] It is reported that Lee is in Pennsylvania. I think he will find it hard as they did last fall…[6/18/63] Col. Chamberlain is very sick this morning…It is the effects of the sun on him yesterday…[6/19/63] relieved the 44th about one mile from the Brigade on the Leesburg TurnpikeAt night after 4 miles march here is where the cavalry fighting commenced…The Maine cavalry was dreadful cut up today, 5 officers were killed…

"[6/20/63] The 2nd Div. came up after dark, now our corps lay in line of battle facing the GapAbout 30 reb cavalry men went past here today prisoners, including 3 field officers

"[6/21/63] Our Brigade under Col. Vincent went to the left and marched about 1 12 miles through the woods near the rebels. At 8 12 our batteries opened on themOur Brigade then formed line of Battle, the 20th on the left and advanced to the edge of the field where we met the rebel pickets, dismounted Cavalry. Co. E were deployed as skirmishers in our front and advancing drove them back. Our brigade then charged the field which was fenced with high stone walls. As soon as we appeared the rebel battery opened on us sending their shells among us but on we went climbing stone walls and did not halt till we came to the Goos Crick close to the rebel battery and found we could go no farther and were ordered to lay low behind a thick high wall. They sent their grape and cannister & shells into us with but little injury. A cannon shot took away Corpl. West of Co. G's leg which killed him and wounded 3 more in the Regt. but as soon as our battery got a position they had to skedaddlethey had nothing but cavalry and artillery. They were afraid of our infantry & we had a heavy force of cavalry.

"At 6 p.m. we had driven them through Ashbey's Gap, our Brigade was the only engaged & we were on our feet all day

"They took our dead & wounded that they could but they left some on the field. I saw a Maj. dead on the field and there was a Capt. close by. We took two pieces of cannons and some prisoners[6/26/63] Crossed the river on a pontoon bridge and marched 4 miles into Maryland…[6/27/63] Marched at 6 toward Harper's Ferry…the whole line crossed at the same time…We halted after marching through Bucktown…Our whole corps lay here…[6/28/63] We are preparing to meet the rebs…

"[6/29/63] Our corps marched at 4 AM, went through Frederick City, marched by platoon, colors flying. The stars and stripes were flying from most every window. There was hundreds displayed. We took the Baltimore road…marched through Liberty which is quite a town. Some ladies waved their handkerchiefs, others wishing more to benefit the soldiers than to look pretty stood at the gates with water for us as we passed…

"[6/30/63] There was some reb cavalry here today. At 3 p.m. our Regt. let the 44th pass them which did the skirmishing. The people seem rejoiced to have us come, one Brigade seems large to them. The rebs took about everything they could get, in some cases they offered to pay in C.S. script which was considered worth nothing. We halted at Union Mills at 5 p.m. after a march of 25 miles some say 30. There was 7,000 rebels left here today, the last at 11 a.m. they have gone to Westminister. The rebels told the people that when the Yankees came along they would burn their buildings and kill their children as they did in Virginia. The people are very friendly, sell us all the milk, eggs, pies that they can spare reasonable. We are now 4 miles from Pennsylvania line. There was cannonading in the direction of Hanover, Pa. There is lots of guides, citizens that go with us. It is sport to hear the old people talk of the rebs, one old lady 70 years old came out to the road today, said the rebs had cavalry and two artilleries & right smart of men and guns.

"The rebs stole a great many horses. Col. Chamberlain has returned to duty, he has been promoted to Col[7/2/63] In line of Battle before Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 1st, 5th, 6th, 11th, 2nd Corps are here, there will probably be a great battle tomorrow" This famous last entry, quoted in Desjardin's book, was written on the inside back cover in pencil, as the diary was full. Livermore did not have to wait for the morrow for a battle. A few hours after writing these lines, the battle for Little Round Top commenced, a battle which would earn the 20th Maine a revered and unique place in history. This is an extremely rare opportunity to own an important primary historical resource.

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