Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 21, 1862: John Kinney & Wm. Mutchler buried with honors

On May 21, 1862, the Towns of Belvidere and Phillipsburg held town wide funeral processions in honor of two men who were killed in action on May 5 at Williamsburg, Virginia.  Private John W. Kinney, of Belvidere, and First Sergeant William W. Mutchler, of Phillipsburg, both of Company E, 7th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

John W. Kinney enlisted in Company E of the 7th NJ on August 24, 1861 at age 22.  He was killed in action on May 5th during an advance on Confederate fortifications. When word of Kinney's death reached Belvidere, Jacob Smith and Israel Harris went to Williamsburg to retrieve Kinney's body for burial in Belvidere.  On May 21, Smith and Harris arrived in Belvidere by train with Kinney's body.  On May 22, most of the residents of Belvidere joined in the funeral procession traveling from Kinney's home to the Presbyterian Church.  The procession to the church, and later from the church to the Belvidere Cemetery, was led by the Belvidere Brass Band and the Belvidere Infantry Company.

William W. Mutchler first enlisted in the Phillipsburg Garibaldi Guards, which was founded by his brother Valentine Mutchler in April 1861.  On August 24, 1861, he enlisted in Company E, of the 7th NJ at age 23.  He was promoted to First Sergeant of Company E.  Like Kinney, Mutchler was killed in action on the same day in the same fight at Williamsburg.  The Mutchler family had his body sent back to Phillipsburg. On May 21, the people of Phillipsburg turned out in force for the funeral.  The procession went to the Phillipsburg Presbyterian Church and then moved on to the cemetery.  He was buried in the Phillipsburg Cemetery with military honors conducted by the Phillipsburg Ellsworth Guards, including a volley fired over the grave. 

Copyright 1997-2012: Jay C. Richards

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 14, 1862: Lt. Anthony Heminover at Williamsburg

On May 14, 1862, Lt. Anthony Heminover, of Belvidere, of Co. H of the 7th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, wrote a letter to his friends and family through The Belvidere Intelligencer after the battle of Williamsburg. The 7th NJ Regiment was in camp near Kent, Virginia.

Heminover wrote, "Our own State is gloriously represented by the bravery of her sons.  They have won honors for the State that will never be forgotten and on their banner will be inscribed the battle of Williamsburg, long to be remembered by those who come out safe.  I will give you a short description of the battle, and the great disadvantage our men fought under.

"I reached camp fifty hours after the battle was fought, and was shown the different movements and positions of our men, and also of the enemy.  Our men had a march of 11 miles through a drenching rain and almost impassable roads, arrived in front of the enemies' lines in the night; slept on their arms and at daylight formed in line of battle.  Only one Division (Hooker's) advanced slowly, with skirmishers in advance on right and left.   It was not long before they found the enemy in numbers, driving in our advance.  Our line advanced steadily until the copper-skinned [tanned] heathens showed their heads from behind the trees and opened fire on the left of our line; the fighting soon became general along the line, more like skirmishing on their side, for they were behind trees and deep ravines, would raise and fire and then retreat.  The battle ground was dense woods with a thick cover of green bushes three or four feet high.  Whole regiments would lay under cover of these bushes and when our men got within thirty yards, they would fire and retreat in ravines, and draw our men on their chosen ground, where they had a number of very deep ravines that would cover thousands of men.  They showed their style of guerrilla warfare.  They would form in line and march up and pour a few volleys in our never-flinching soldiers and retreat, while up would come fresh Sepoys, or heathens.  Our men would be pressed hard, but they stood and fought like veterans three times their number, (you often have heard tell of big stories about fighting odds, but this I have from a rebel Lieutenant and have no reason to disbelieve it).   The enemy had over 12,000 engaged, and we had about 5,000 that stood under a most murderous fire all day, and so far have had no credit for their bravery and courage in any paper that I have seen.

"One of the great disadvantages that our men fought under was they carried one hundred rounds of cartridges, and the powder was damp, as it rained all day, their guns became foul, the rammers would get fast and quite a number had to shoot them out and get other guns.  Just before night, they came up in force with a flag of truce and when within a few yards opened a terrific fire on our men  that caused them to fall back a little, as it thinned our ranks some.  They pressed on until they covered our dead and wounded, then they halted and rifled them of money, uniforms, and everything of account; the cowardly scallywags retreated and left for safe quarters under the cover of night.

"You may think that shot flew pretty thick where our line was formed, when I counted 29 bullet holes in a tree not larger than a man's arm.  The men are all buried just where they fell in line of battle.  It looks as if they had been formed for a dress parade.  Their graves have been marked with a neat little board, with the name, company and inscription on it, and a railing around the graves.  John Kinney, of Belvidere, was shot dead, fighting as brave as the bravest.

"Before I close, I will give you a short description of the chivalry soldiers, they have no uniforms and are badly clad in gray or coon color.  We were encamped just below Williamsburg, and just as soon as the chivalry ladies knew that we were coming through the town - which is a beautiful place - they made bouquets for these Sepoy chivalry, and all those that were able to get out of the hospital were posted on stoops with a bouquet.  Well there is no trying to give a description   of these miscreants, they are a mixture of Sepoy and Hottentot, and their cranium looked like a bushel basket filled with curled hair and bog hay cured, and the bouquets in such claws.  Why they couldn't tell a rose from a dandelion or a skunk cabbage.  To think that white men have to fight such barbarians.

"Our Division lost over 1,500 men, pretty badly cut up, but if they will only give us one more chance, we will stop some of the murdering and thieving.  They don't fight like soldiers, just as soon as one of our men falls, they drop their guns and rush for the stealings.  They are satisfied they can't fight, only murder and steal.  But thank God and the braves their time is short, they are about played out, and so is some of the boys' shoes, traveling over these bad roads; but that is nothing if we could only catch these apes; no, I won't call them that for I would have to ask the monkey species pardon for the comparison, or have all the monkey tribe down on me if I should class them with the chivalry Sogers.  Mud sill soldiers and those of the orangetang [orangutan] army.  They call us blue belly Jersey's.  Now the charge is a great compliment, but we will proceed to Richmond and collect our rents, then quit and come home.  I have ascertained that our Division lost 1,649.  I will close by subscribing myself yours &c. Tony."  [Heminover's use of the word chivalry may have been his misspelling of chivaree or chivari.] 

Copyright  1999-2012: Jay C. Richards 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 12, 1862: John VanAllen at Williamsburg, VA

On May 12, 1862, after the battle of Williamsburg, Medical Steward John J. VanAllen, of Belvidere, serving in Company E, 7th NJ Regiment, wrote to his family from the regiments "Camp on the March."

VanAllen wrote, "Dear Family: I am well, and wish I could have the same   good tidings from you.  I have not heard from you in sometime.  We are camped on a Secession plantation about 4 miles from West Point, a small town on the river 35 miles from Yorktown.  There the cursed rebels made a stand and gave our men battle.  But run as they did at Yorktown and Williamsburg, they cannot stand the forces of our Little Mac [Major General George McClellan].  We have them surrounded in a large swamp about 17 miles from our camp.  I think they will surrender to our Little Hero.  I think our commander is one of the best men in the world and his army knows it.  Let the Abolitionist squeal, he is all right, his work begins to show itself.  We will be in Richmond in one week.  Our march is slow but sure, and we  are bound to crush out the rebellion, in a short time, and then come home and blot out Abolition, and have good old Democratic times, with Little Mac at our head.

"Our battle at Williamsburg was a hard one, and many a brave man fell, our loss was heavy in the Jersey Brigade.  The 7th Regiment lost in killed and wounded about 178; the 8th, 200; 6th, 160; 5th, only 60, which makes 598 in our brigade.

"This I know to be true for I was with the wounded all the time, and made a report to the Surgeons.  In [General Daniel] Sickles' brigade is the same, the rest of the brigades was lighter, the first brigades suffered the most; for they done all the fighting in the fore part of the day, the others came in about four 0'clock in the afternoon when the rebels fell back in our entrenchments and the field was ours; we lay on our arms in the field all night, thinking that we should have to fight them in the morning; but the cursed cowards fled and left their dead and wounded on the field.  And at Williamsburg, Oh, what a sight for me next day to go around and see the dead and wounded and to hear some familiar voice say, 'Oh! Van, can't you help me. I am in so much pain, my wound is not dry, can't you dress it for me?'  Yes. Yes, out comes the sponge, a basin of water and lint and a bandage, and at it I go, so on for two days and nights, every now and then some poor fellow a breathing his last.  You must judge for yourself how I felt; God only knows.  I don't want to see no more such work, but if I must, I will do my duty.

"I do say the Jersey boys made a glorious fight, and held their position for six hours, against double their number until our reinforcements came up; all day long the rain was coming down in torrents, our men were wet to the skin, but they kept their powder dry and trusted in God for victory and George B. McClellan for our leader.  Our men are in good spirits and ready for another fight, if the rebels will stand their ground.  I tell you I am more and more down on the cursed cowardly rebels since our fight with them.  They are a barbarous set of beings.  A regular set of cannibals. I do hate them, the poor deluded souls led on by leading set of office seekers, to seek revenge on the Northern States, for the faults of the cursed Abolitionists and Union sliders at the North.  I do think the army of the Potomac will have some battles to fight at home after their return, and then woe be unto the Union sliders.

"We are fighting now for the Union and the old Federal Government as it was, and the Constitution as laid down by the old Jeffersonian school, and when we will vote to put down those that say our union is a cursed Union and better that ten thousand such Unions slide than American slavery to exist.  Let them order out their negro leader, Gen. [Horace] Greeley and his black brigade, and come down South and fight for their dear beloved negroes.  We will fight for the Union Government and Little Mac. 

"9 o'clock at night all peace in camp, the boys are singing gay and happy.  Orders have been received to march to-morrow at 8 o'clock, with three days rations in haversacks, and sixty rounds of cartridges.  On to Richmond is the word that runs along the line.  Good night, as we lay down to dream of friends at home.  Love to all. J. J. VanAllen."    

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 5, 1862: Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia

In April 1862, the Second New Jersey Brigade, consisting of the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th NJ Volunteer infantry Regiments, was transferred to the Virginia Peninsula under the command of Brigadier General F. E. Patterson.  The brigade was assigned to  General Joseph Hooker's division. 

On the night of May 3, 1862, Confederate troops evacuated Yorktown and retreated to fortifications at Williamsburg, and Hooker's division was ordered to pursue them.  The center of the line of fortifications was Fort Magruder, located at the junction of the Yorktown and Hampton Roads.  On each side of the fort were a series of redoubts.  Within a half mile of the fortifications trees were felled to form abatis.  Between the abatis and the fortifications, a cleared fire zone of 600-700 yards was created and dotted with rifle pits.  Within the fire zone, in front of the fortifications, ditches were dug and artillery was zeroed in on them.  On May 4, when Hooker's troops arrived, the rain had been very heavy, and the ground turned into calf-deep mud and water.

General Hooker ordered two artillery batteries and the 5th NJ Regiment to move in on the right side of the road to set up an artillery barrage on Fort Magruder.  The 6th, 7th and 8th NJ Regiments were ordered to move on the left side of the road.  The troops slowly moved through the abatis until they engaged the rebel troops.  The artillery and 5th Regiment fought for ten hours.  The infantry of the 6th, 7th and 8th Regiments exchanged rifle and musket volleys with the fortified enemy for at least three to four hours before the Confederates mounted a charge against the entire Federal line.  The Federal line held against several attacks until its troops ran out of ammunition.

Among the Union dead were Major Peter Ryerson, of the 8th NJ, who was hit by three musket balls before falling dead.  Ryerson had assumed command of the regiment after Colonel Adolphus Johnson had been wounded.  Lt. Colonel Ezra Carman, of the 7th NJ, was also wounded.  Lt. Colonel John VanLear and Adjutant Aaron Wilks, of the 6th NJ, were killed. 

Dr. John James Henry Love, of Harmony, was one of the leading surgeons to treat the wounded at Williamsburg.  Dr. Love had volunteered his services to NJ Governor Charles Olden and had requested permission to accompany the Second NJ Brigade to the Virginia Peninsula.  In July 1862, he was assigned to the 13th NJ Regiment as regimental surgeon, and in March 1863, he was appointed Surgeon-in-Chief of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division of the 12th Corps.  During the battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), Dr. Love was in charge of all Federal medical facilities.  In August 1863, Dr. Love was appointed Surgeon-in-Chief of the 1st Division of the 12th Corps.  He resigned his commission on January 28, 1864 and returned to his private practice in Harmony Township.

John Kinney, of Belvidere, in Company E   of the 7th NJ, and Alfred Deemer, of Carpentersville, in Company I of the 8th NJ, were among the soldiers killed in action.  On May 21, Jacob Smith and Israel Harris, of Belvidere, brought Kinney's body to Belvidere.  On May 22, most of the people of Belvidere joined in Kinney's funeral procession from his home to the Presbyterian Church.  the procession to the Church - and later to the Belvidere Cemetery - was led by the Belvidere Brass Band and the Belvidere Infantry Company.   

General Patterson, who had led the advance of the 2nd NJ Brigade - except for the 5th NJ - in the battle, wrote in his report, "The Sixth Regiment and the Seventh Regiment were deployed on the left of the road; the Eighth Regiment had not yet come up, a wood extended from the road, northwesterly to a line of field-works that extended perpendicularly across the road front.  The Sixth and Seventh Regiments occupied this wood by a flank march and moved to the front by the right of companies, about two thirds the distance to the line of field-works in front, when our skirmishers came upon the enemy's forces, as we could not see them, the woods having a growth of under-brush.  The skirmishers being re-called, the two regiments advanced until met by a warm fire, when the companies were formed into line and marched rapidly to the front, some hundred paces, halted and a file fire opened and kept up until the opposing fire was silenced, when we again advanced, and were again met by a heavy fire, and the command was ordered to lie down.  It was not patent that we were outnumbered, as, in addition to a heavy fire in front, it was spreading around our left flank.

"Colonel Johnson, with the Eighth, having come up, was deployed on the left of the regiments already in line, and for a time silenced their fire.  The heaviest fire that had yet occurred was now opened on our right; it was met by a direct fire from our right and an oblique fire from our center and silenced.  During this time, the commands of officers in a large column moving in our front         and to our left were heard, and the efforts to outflank us was continued.  There being no more men available, and having sent twice for reinforcements, Colonel Johnson was ordered to change front obliquely to the rear of his right company; this, for a time, preserved the flank.  Reinforcements had been twice applied for - none came - outnumbered five to one, outflanked, and out of ammunition, the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Regiments, numbering when they entered the field 1,767 men for duty, to avoid being surrounded, fell slowly back by my orders, before a division consisting of Pryor's Virginia and North Carolina, Gholson's Mississippi and Alabama, and Pickett's Virginia Brigades, forming a division of 6,000 men."

Patterson reported his brigade had "a loss of 117 killed, 184 wounded, and 235 missing, from the ground they had taken and held, within one hundred yards of the end of the woods, from 8:00 until half-past one o'clock to their original position on the left of the road... The Fifth Regiment was separated from the brigade and place, by order of the General of the division on the right of the road and removed from my observation.  Its loss was 8 killed, 70 wounded, including the colonel, and 37 missing... Recapitulation: Killed, wounded and missing, two colonels, two lieutenant colonels, one major, twelve captains, twenty-five subalterns [lieutenants], 456 non-commissioned officers and privates.  Aggregate, 488."

Four days later, after burying the dead, Patterson's Brigade was on the march again toward Richmond - to a place known as Fair Oaks, VA, the site of the Battle of Seven Pines.

Copyright 1997-2012: Jay C. Richards