The Historical Fifth

The Fifth Regiment was formed in Concord and commissioned by Gov. Berry on August 27, 1861. The men were a representation of every member of profession; farmers, mechanics, teachers, policemen and shopkeepers who came from the length and breadth of the state, Pittsburg to Nashua and Keene to Portsmouth. Its commander, Col. Edward E. Cross was adventurous and dynamic. Born in Lancaster, April 22, 1832, in 1858, as a business venture, he brought the first printing press into the territory of Arizona and began publishing its first newspaper. Edward Cross eventually left the newspaper business and accepted a commission in the Mexican Army.

When news of Fort Sumter reached Cross, he resigned his commission and returned to New Hampshire where Gov. Berry appointed him Colonel of the Fifth New Hampshire.  On October 28, 1861, the regiment was sworn into the service of the United States and departed for Washington on the 29th with 1,200 members. One of Cross’s first acts was to establish a school for his officers and NCO’s in which they were taught the principals of drill and military tactics.

Four hours a day of close order drill had helped to make soldiers out of civilians and an extra three nights a week for his officers and sergeants on practical and theoretical problems in military tactics and organization had prepared them for effective leadership. Cross set the tone as a strict disciplinarian from the start and expected the best from his men. Though sometimes harsh and impetuous, the men respected him and felt that he treated them fairly.

The first encounter with the enemy was on March 13, 1862 at Rappahannock Station. Men of the Fifth fired a few parting shots at the withdrawing Rebel forces and suffered no casualties. This would be the first and only time that the regiment sustained no losses in combat.