Sunday, October 20, 2013

August 12, 1863: Isaiah Albertson letter

On August 12, 1863, Corporal Isaiah Nelson Albertson, of Hope,  wrote to his sister Ella from Tilton Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was recuperating from his leg wound which he had received near the orchard of the Smith House on Emmittsburg Road in Gettysburg.  The letter was sent through the U.S. Christian Commission and Reverend E. Clark Cline, the chaplain of the 11th N.J. Volunteer Infantry Regiment. 

Albertson wrote, "Sister Ell: I just received a letter from you and I will write in reply now for you to get it this week.  The weather is a little cooler this morning, Wednesday, than it has been for ten or twelve days past, I don't think it is much warmer here than what it is at home, although tis hot every day from morning till night and at night, too.  I have a good appetite considering the weather and not much exercise.  My wound is about the same, but I could soon get it worse by going out in the hot sun too much so I keep shady and keep it well wet with water.  Our folks can come down just when they get ready for I am sure of not getting a furlo [furlough] for some time, as they were sent to Baltimore yesterday to be signed by Gen. Schenck, I found out that my name was not with them, although I asked the Doct. and he said we could not all go at once, so I will have to wait until the first returns and run the risk of going then.  The Hospital is on the corner of Ninth and Talnall Sts.  Go up Market to Ninth, then west three blocks to Talnall St.

"Ell, I am glad that there is some prospect of there getting a Melodeon at the Union, as it certainly won't make the singing any worse than it ust [used] to be and with a fair chance of improving it.  We have one here, I guess, and a small choir comes in to sing, as preaching twist [twice] a week, but tis the Episcopal form, which does not seem natural, but the Melodeon does sound natural.  Tell Grandmother I often think of her, and she must not be at all uneasy about me.  I believe the rebellion will play out sooner or later.  If the union army is managed right they can be wiped out this fall.  The rebel prisoners say themselves they can't raise any more men.  I suppose the harvest apples are all right about now.  From your Brother, Nels."

Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July 18, 1863: 54th Massachusetts attacks Fort Wagner, SC.

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (Colored) had trained at Camp Meigs in Readville for 100 days.  Although it was not the first African-American unit created, it was the first unit to be created in a northern state.  At the suggestion by Frederick Douglass, this regiment would consist of only freeborn, educated men of color. An enlistment bounty of $100 was paid to each recruit. 

Among the recruits were two Warren County, NJ men:  James Furman, of Washington, in Company E, and Isaiah [or Isaac] Cass, of Hackettstown,  in Company C.   By May 14, 1863, there were 1,000 recruits in the regiment. 

The regiment was commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and Lieutenant Colonel Norwood Hallowell.  Shaw had been a captain in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, and Hallowell had been an officer in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry.  Although all the commissioned officers were Caucasian, African-Americans served as non-commissioned officers.  The regimental Sergeant Major was Louis Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass. 
In June 1863, the 54th Massachusetts shipped out of Boston for Beaufort, South Carolina - arriving there on June 3.  The regiment was attached to Colonel James Montgomery's 2nd South Carolina Colored Infantry during the attack and pillage of Darien, Georgia.  After objections were made by Shaw to General David Hunter, the 54th Massachusetts was sent to St. Simons Island, where there was nothing to do but drill daily.  When Brigadier General Quincy A. Gillmore replaced Hunter as commander of the Department of South Carolina, Shaw complained that his men were not given combat duties in which to prove themselves.  
Gillmore was planning the siege of Charleston, South Carolina and the capture or destruction of the Confederate harbor forts.  On July 8, the regiment was ordered to join General Alfred Terry's division on Folly Island for an assault on James Island.  At dawn on July 16, the 54th Massachusetts and the 10th Connecticut Infantry Regiment came under attack by Confederate cavalry and infantry on James Island.  Federal pickets were forced back, but Company K of the 54th fought and withdrew in good order, slowing the Confederate advance.  The Federal line began to collapse around the 10th Connecticut, but the men of the 54th Massachusetts acted as the rear guard, retreating slowly while holding back the Confederates and preventing the 10th Connecticut from being surrounded. The 54th suffered 45 casualties: 14 killed, 18 wounded and 13 missing.  General Terry sent a message to Colonel Shaw commending the regiment for its conduct.
The Federal landings on James Island had been a diversion to pull Confederate troops away from the southern end of Morris Island - the objective of the main attack.  Confederate General Pierre T. E. Beauregard, commander of Charleston, had sent additional troops to James Island, which allowed General Gillmore's troops to capture the southern end of Morris Island.  However, Federal troops could not capture Fort Wagner on the northern end of Morris Island.  The 54th Massachusetts and other regiments were ordered to leave James Island and join the main force on Morris Island.  Federal troops marched across marshy James Island in the rain on the night of July 16. They waited on Folly Island on July 17 for transportation to Morris Island.  The 54th Massachusetts arrived on Morris Island late in the afternoon on July 18.
Colonel Shaw reported to General George C. Strong, a fellow Massachusetts soldier, who was commanding the Federal siege of Fort Wagner.  Strong offered Shaw the chance to lead the attack on Fort Wagner.  During the Georgian and Victorian periods, it was considered an honor for a unit to be the "Forlorn Hope" and lead an attack on a fort - even though high casualties could be guaranteed. For the survivors, there was glory and bravado in the sheer bravery of volunteering to be the "Forlorn Hope."  General Strong knew the men of the 54th had not slept nor eaten in at least two days and told Shaw there was no dishonor in turning down the offer.  Shaw said his men were "strong of heart" and could still lead the attack.
Shaw called up his troops to meet the general at the front.  General Strong told the men he, too, was from Massachusetts, and he expected them to bring honor to the state.  The general asked Color Sergeant John Wall to step forward with the National Colors.  In a loud voice the general asked, "If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry it on?"  Shaw replied, "I will."  The men of the 54th cheered their colonel.
Colonel Shaw said to Lieutenant Colonel Hallowell, "I shall go in advance with the National Flag.  You will keep the State Flag with you.  To his men he said, "We shall take the fort or die there."  Shaw went down the ranks talking to each of his men telling them this was the chance for them to prove to the nation that Americans of color can fight bravely and with honor.   
At 7:45 p.m., Colonel Shaw walked to the front with his troops.  He told his men to move forward down the narrow strip of land toward the fort in quick-time until they were within 100 yards of it and then charge at the double-quick.  The forward advance began when Shaw shouted, "Forward my brave boys!"  Following the 54th Massachusetts in the attack were the remainder of the 10 Corps: the 6th Connecticut, the 48th New York, the 7th New Hampshire, the 100th New York, and the 62nd Ohio infantry regiments. 
The narrow approach to Fort Wagner was approximately one mile from the spot where the Federal Army stood.  It was bounded by the sea on one side and marshland on the other.  Approximately sixteen guns and many muskets were trained on the sandy strip from fort Wagner as well as guns from Fort Sumter, James Island, Sullivan Island, and Fort Gregg, which was also on Morris Island. More than 9,000 shells were fired at the fort from land and sea by the Federal Army and Navy.  However, the majority of the 1,785 soldiers inside the sand fort remained safe inside a giant bombproof during the barrage and were ready to jump to their posts when the infantry attacked.  Federal intelligence reports had incorrectly estimated only 300 troops were inside Fort Wagner.
When the 54th was within a couple hundred yards of the fort, the Confederate gunners     and riflemen "welcomed" the Federal troops with a volley of exploding shells and mini-balls.  Large holes were blasted in the front ranks of the 54th, but the soldiers still advanced, while closing their ranks as best as they could.  At the double-quick, Shaw led his men through a ditch and abatis of the outer fortifications.  the men reached the 50-foot wide moat trench in front of the parapet. The moat was filled with water five feet deep.  The soldiers inside the fort began to throw grenades and lighted artillery shells      down onto the men of the 54th.  The men of the 54th crawled their way up the sandy wall toward the top of the parapet.  Shaw reached the top, pointed his sword toward the inside of the fort and yelled, "Onward Fifty-Fourth!!  Shaw was killed by a musket shot to his chest.
As Color Sergeant Wall was following Colonel Shaw with the National Colors, he was shot down by musket fire.  Sergeant William H. Carney, of Company C, grabbed the flag before Wall and the flag hit the ground.  Carney held the flag to his chest and rushed to the top of the parapet and planted the flag next to the Regimental Colors.  Carney was wounded in both legs, the right arm and in his chest, but he refused to give up the National Colors nor let them fall to the ground.
The 54th Massachusetts had gained a foothold inside Fort Wagner for at least an hour during heavy hand-to-hand combat.  However, reinforcements were still under cannon fire on the beach and did not arrive in time to help the 54th hold their position and take the rest of the fort.  Many of the officers were killed or wounded.  When Lieutenant Colonel Hallowell finally ordered his men to retreat, Captain Luis F. Emilio rallied the walking wounded and formed a battle line 700 yards from the fort.  Sergeant Carney staggered out of the fort and back to the new battle line - still clutching the National Colors to his breast.  Carney refused to let go of the flag until he reached  the field hospital tent, more than a mile away.  Carney collapsed from the loss of blood while still clutching the flag, and he said to the men in the tent, "The old flag never touched the ground, boys."  
Sergeant Carney never fully recovered from his wounds.  He became the first Black American to receive the Medal of Honor.
The walking wounded of the 54th Massachusetts held their battle line until they were relieved at 2:00 a.m. on July 19.  Of the 5,264 Federal officers and men who took part in the attack, 246 were killed, 880 wounded and 389 missing.  Of that total number of losses, the 54th Massachusetts suffered 34 killed, 146 wounded   and 92 captured or missing.  
Privates Cass and Furman survived the battle and served in the Federal Army until the end of the war in 1865.
The men of the 54th Massachusetts at Fort Wagner, along with the men of the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards and the 1st Louisiana Engineers of the Corps D'Afrique at Port Hudson; and the 9th and 11th Louisiana Native Guards and the 1st Mississippi Colored Regiment at Milliken's Bend in June 1863 had proven themselves in battle.  The Federal Government authorized the formation of several regiments of U.S. Colored Troops.   Recruitment began in 1863.  Warren County's recruits had to enlist in a federal recruiting office in Easton or at Camp William Penn in Philadelphia.
State and County records are very sketchy regarding Warren County's men in the U.S. Colored Troops.  the following is a list of those men we were able to identify, but it should not be considered a complete list.
The following men enlisted in 1863 and 1864: 3rd Regiment, USCT:Thomas McIntyre, of Belvidere, Company F;  8th Regiment, USCT: Abram Andrews, of Washington, Company I; 22nd Regiment USCT: Edward W. and Thomas Duncan, of Greenwich Township, Company B; Francis and Samuel Henry, of Vienna, Company F; Corporal Abram Smith, of Buttzville, Company D; William Townsend, of Belvidere, Company I [killed in action at Fort Harrison on September 30, 1864]; and Marshall White, of Washington, Company I; 25th Regiment USCT: Benjamin B. Andrews, of Washington, Company A; George B. Andrews, of Washington, Company E; Peter Campbell, of Washington, Company A & B [died at Fort Pickens, Florida on September 27, 1864]; Edward Kelsey, of Washington, Company A; and Jonathan E. Saunders, of Hackettstown, Company A; 26th Regiment USCT: Thomas Benjamin, of Asbury, Company H;  32nd Regiment USCT: John Jones, of Belvidere, Company A; and William H. Lee, of Hackettstown, Company F; 34th Regiment USCT: George E. Harris, of Hope [now Mt. Lake], Company E; 41st Regiment USCT: John DeHart, of Greenwich Township, Company B [was present at General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House]; 43rd Regiment USCT: Abraham H. Harrison, of Phillipsburg, Company B; 45th Regiment USCT: Sergeant John Fisher, of Phillipsburg, Company F; Thomas [James], of Mansfield Township, Company E; Samuel [Nathan] Hackett, of Phillipsburg, Company C; and John H. Young, of Harmony, Company A; and 127th Regiment USCT: George and Nelson Blankins, of Asbury, Company H.
Anson P. White, alias Thomas Jones, of Oxford Furnace, had two enlistment records        under two names, according to New Jersey state records.  On February 17, 1864, as Thomas Jones, he enlisted in Company B of the 32nd Regiment USCT.  He stayed in the 32nd, as Jones, through the war and was mustered out with his unit on August 22, 1865 at Hilton Head, SC.  However, the State contends White, while at Camp William Penn, also enlisted as Anson P. White, in Company I of the 43rd Regiment USCT on May 14, 1864 to collect an enlistment bounty and then deserted from the 43rd on June 3, 1864 before the 32nd Regiment moved out of the same camp.
The Belvidere Intelligencer listed another William Townsend, of Belvidere, in a list of recruits. The newspaper stated William Townsend enlisted in a "colored regiment" at Easton in March 1865.  There was no mention of the unit, and since the state records note William Townsend being killed in action at fort Harrison in 1864, it is an assumption that this second William Townsend was the son of the man killed in action. However, no records could be found.
Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards

Friday, July 5, 2013

July 3, 1863: Battle of Gettysburg, Part Three

On July 3, 1863, Colonel Edward Livingston Campbell's 15th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment had secured their position on a rocky knoll on Cemetery Ridge after three hours of fighting.  The knoll was fronted by trees and was located approximately 1/8 mile from Little Round Top.  The 15th NJ was part of the 1st Division or the 6th Corps.  It's new position overlooked Emmittsburg Road and the ground on which many of the men of  the 7th, 8th and 11th NJ Regiments had died the day before.
Teenage veteran Jacob H. Cole, of Paterson, serving in the 57th New York Volunteer infantry Regiment, was a wounded prisoner of war with a shattered leg. He was moved to another knoll on Seminary Ridge so he could witness the soon-to-be famous charge of General George E. Pickett's Division. 
Cole recalled, "At one o'clock, two cannon shots in quick succession gave the signal, and instantly the Confederate position was for three miles wrapped in flame and smoke.  Nearly 140 guns opened at once on the Union lines.  The air was full of shrieking shells   and flying shot.  After an hour, the firing ceases, and for a time the stillness was oppressive.  Then I suddenly saw what it all meant.  Over the hill came a long line of skirmishers and behind them a line of battle, and behind that line another and then another.  I raised on my left elbow and watched eagerly the long lines of the enemy's infantry as they emerged from the woods on Seminary Ridge.  It presented one of the finest sights ever witnessed on a field of battle or anywhere else.  Its front was nearly a mile in length.
"With their rifles carried at a right shoulder shift, they moved steadily onward as if on a grand review, marched across the fields, on across the Emmittsburg Road, climbing over the two fences and so towards Cemetery Ridge.  Every battery in the union lines then opened fire.  The smoke after a while became so dense that I was unable to see anything further.  Just as the smoke began to lift somewhat, I was able to see again."
From their rocky knoll, the men of the 15th NJ witnessed "Pickett's Charge."  A report filed by an officer in the 15th NJ stated, "With strange emotion, we watched their coming; it was not fear, it was not surprise, but every man was silent, and grasped his weapon more closely.  When the enemy reached the middle of the plain, our batteries began to play upon him, cutting through his lines, but he came on with increasing rapidity, till the fire of musketry, which had been withheld, was poured into him.  He dropped rapidly, but nearer and nearer swept the charging columns.  Most of our batteries were out of ammunition and ceased firing, and it was left to the opposing bodies of infantry to determine the contest.  AS the charging column swept nearer, a heavier and more deadly fire stayed a body of North Carolina troops for a moment, when they broke and ran; a large number throwing down their arms and coming in as prisoners.  
"Pickett's Division had a less distance of open ground to traverse, and so great was the impetus it acquired that it passed directly over our outer-line of stone wall and rough works, and drove back the first line of troops, belonging to part of the Second Corps.  The rebel colors, indeed, were planted right on the breast works.  The critical hour of the day had come, but General [Winfield Scott] Hancock was equal to the emergency, and gathering troops from right and left, halting and re-forming the broken columns, a new line was formed, which, though bending back some distance from the former front, was a formidable barrier to the enemy's further progress.  Then from right and left, assailing either flank, was poured on a destructive fire, and our men came pressing closer, making the circuit smaller.  The fighting was short and decisive.  The rebels recoiled before the deadly fire, threw away their arms in token of submission, and on all sides crouched close to the earth in dismay.  Some thousands were captured  and moved away to the rear, our troops leaping the entrenchments, assaulted their flank and soon put them to flight, with heavy loss of killed and prisoners.  Before sundown the fighting ceased."
Cole noted, "At last I heard the Union band play.  The I knew that Pickett's grand charge at Gettysburg had failed and that the Union troops had won the victory.  After the repulse of Pickett's charge, the rebel soldiers scattered all over the field like a lot of sheep with a head.  Soon after, darkness fell upon the scene, while the Confederate troops were momentarily expecting the advance of Union troops, but no advance came, and thus closed the third day of the battle of Gettysburg.  In the early part of the night, the moon shone        very bright, and as I lay within the rebel lines, I ascertained that the rebels were about to retreat.  This I learned by overhearing General [Robert E.] Lee order General [James] Longstreet to leave a strong picket force and withdraw the troops under cover of the darkness."
Suffering from his wounds of July 2, Colonel Robert McAllister, commanding officer of the 11th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, returned to Warren County, NJ to recuperate.  Instead of going home to Oxford Furnace, the colonel and his family stayed at the Belvidere Hotel.  The McAllister family eventually purchased a house in Belvidere.  McAllister returned to his regiment on September 17, 1863 at Culpepper Plantation, Virginia.
Jacob Cole was finally found by Union troops on July 5 and was taken to hospital in Philadelphia.  he remained in hospital until April 1864, when he was released.  Cole returned to his unit in time for the second day of battle in The Wilderness.
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2, 1863: Battle of Gettysburg, Part Two

On July 2, 1863, John Schoonover, of Oxford Furnace, Adjutant of the 11th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment was forced to take command of the regiment since Colonel Robert McAllister was wounded, Major Kearney  was killed,  and Captains Luther Martin, Dorastus Logan, Andrew Hiram Ackerman, W. H. Lloyd, and William Dunning were either killed or wounded.  With the regiment under continuous attack by Confederate troops, Schoonover had ordered the line of battle to slowly pull back toward the artillery battery near Trostle's Lane.
Schoonover reported, "At this time we neared the caissons, which were in line across the field to the left, when I was struck a second time, with a buckshot, and being nearly exhausted in my efforts to rally the men, and from the wound in my breast, was compelled to go to the rear.  A portion of the regiment was rallied some distance to the rear by Captain Lloyd - with the flag - and charged in line with the remainder of the brigade to a point near that occupied during the hottest of the action.  Remaining there a short time, it marched some distance to the rear and bivouacked.
"To mention some may seem to do gross injustice to others, but I cannot pass by the untiring efforts of Lieutenant [John] Buckley to rally the men.  Captain Lloyd and Lieutenant [Ira] Cory also deserve special mention for their coolness and bravery.  As an individual act of bravery, I desire to mention Corporal Thomas Johnson, of Company I, who, when two color-bearers had been shot down, I ordered to take the colors and advance twenty yards to the front, as the regiment was wavering, he did so and did not leave his position until ordered to the rear.  The services of Lieutenant Joseph C. Baldwin, on the 3rd, as Acting Adjutant were invaluable. 
"In the action on the 2nd, the regiment sustained a very heavy loss.  Out of the 275 officers and men taken into the fight, 18 were killed, 130 wounded and 6 missing, making a total of 154." 
It should be noted that Lieutenant Cory's Company H had been ordered by General Joseph Bradford Carr to direct its fire against General William Barksdale, who was leading the charge of his Mississippi troops by waving his sword and wearing a red fez on his head.  Barksdale was struck down by five musket balls from the 11th NJ Regiment.
When the fighting was the fiercest at Little Round Top, Devil's Den and the wheat field, the men of the 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment found they were under fire from behind their line of battle.  They changed their front to a position closer to Emmittsburg Road and Trostle's Lane.  Retreating artillery from the peach orchard ran through the line, splitting the unit in two.  The regiment came under heavy fire from the approaching Southern troops.  The regiment could not return fire because and could not lay down in the lane because the artillery temporarily blocked the lane.  Colonel Louis Francine discussed the situation with his field officers and decided that a charge was the only hope for the regiment.  Francine yelled, "Fix Bayonets!; Forward, Double Quick! Charge!"
The 7th NJ charged across the field of fire, cheering as they ran.  The 7th reached the line of the 2nd New Hampshire, halted and opened fire on the rebels.  Colonel Francine, his adjutant, and one third of the regiment had fallen dead or wounded during the charge.  Lieutenant Colonel Francis Price rallied the remnants of the regiment at the Trostle house.  When Price was shot, Major Frederick Cooper took command.
The losses to the 7th NJ were 114 killed, wounded or missing.  The men of Company E, from Belvidere, Hope, Harmony and Oxford sustained the following wounded: Sergeant Calvin J. Osmun, Sergeant James Roseberry, Corporal Edward Creveling (of Phillipsburg), Corporal David Rockafellow, William Pettit, James McKeever, John S. Gulick, Michael Barry, Robert Dalrymple, and Joseph Weaver.
Colonel Edward Campbell, of Belvidere, and his 15th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment were in Manchester, Maryland when the battle started.  The 15th NJ reached Gettysburg at approximately 3:00 p.m. on July 2, after a non-stop march of 35 miles in 16 hours.  At 7:00 p.m., after resting and eating, the 15th NJ and the remainder of the old 1st New Jersey Brigade, of the 1st Division, 6th Army Corps, were sent to the front.  They were sent to a rocky knoll fronted with trees, approximately 1/8 of a mile from Little Round Top.  In front was the ground on which many of the men of the 7th, 8th, and 11th NJ regiments had died.  It took almost three hours of fighting to secure the rocky knoll on the morning of July 3.  From their rocky knoll, the men of the 15th NJ witnessed "Pickett's Charge" on the 2nd Corps' line of battle.
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 1-2, 1863: Battle of Gettysburg, Part One

In June 1863, the soldiers of New Jersey's nine-months regiments were mustered out of federal service and returned home.  The 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment's Company G, under the command of Captain Benjamin F. Howey, and Company I ["The Belvidere Infantry Company"], under the command of Captain Richard     Drake, arrived in Belvidere by train from Trenton on June 28.  They were welcomed at the depot by Captain George Washington Tunis and his Warren Guards.  Led by the Belvidere Brass Band and Captain Hendrickson's Band of Martial Music, the veterans were escorted to Garret D. Wall Park where they were welcomed with speeches. 
Meanwhile, opposing armies marched into Pennsylvania.  On July 1, Federal cavalry commanded by Brigadier General John Buford attacked an advancing column of Confederate infantry at Gettysburg, Pa.   The Confederates were seeking shoes, food and other supplies from Gettysburg and Hanover, Pa.  and had not planned to be in battle.  General Buford noticed his men were on the high ground with an excellent field of fire so he attacked. 
Troops from the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Federal Army of the Potomac rushed toward Gettysburg without stopping.  The main fight began on July 2.
The Confederate counter-attack on the Federal lines did not start at dawn on July 2, which was a pleasant surprise to the Union troops who had arrived in Gettysburg after a long, forced march.  However, once the attack began, it was very fierce.  General Daniel Sickles was in a hurry to get his Union Third Corps into the fight so he ordered his troops forward - ahead of the remainder of the Federal line. Sickles' advance placed his troops across the Emmittsburg Road  and into the woods - in an area occupied by half of the Confederate forces.  
Men of the 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment came under heavy artillery fire on their position at an orchard near Trostle's Lane. the 7th NJ had been assigned to give support to Union artillery batteries there.  The Confederate artillery were firing down on them from the top of Seminary Ridge.
Jacob Cole, of Paterson, a 16-year old veteran who served in Elmer Ellsworth's Fire Zouaves [11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment] at the First Battle of Manassas [or Bull Run], was serving in Company A, of the 57th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Cole recalled in his 1906 autobiography Under Five Commanders, "When about four o'clock p.m., the order came to move, the Fifty-Seventh fell in, filed left, went into the woods and was soon under fire.  As we pushed forward, a bullet struck my right arm and passed through it.  As we charged into the wheat field a shell exploded and shattered my right leg and killed two of my comrades.  when I was shot in the arm, the feeling was the same as though I had been struck on the elbow - a feeling of numbness came into my arm - and I turned to the comrade  by my side and asked him why he had hit me.  He said, 'I did not hit you, but you have been shot and you had better go to the rear.'  Shortly after I was injured by the shell.
"After my leg was shattered, I fell down, laying for a few minutes unconscious, and when I came to my senses, I found I was surrounded by the enemy, and a rebel officer was standing over me with one foot on my wounded leg.  I pleaded with him to step off my wounded leg. He said in answer to my pleadings, drawing his sword, 'You damn Yankee.  I will cut your heart out.'  And as he raised his sword, a ball came from the direction of Little Round Top and cut him through the throat, and he fell beside me dead."  Cole was later carried by Confederate soldiers to a small knoll overlooking Emmittsburg Road from where he witnessed the third day of battle and the famous "Pickett's Charge."
Colonel Robert McAllister's 11th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment was in the apple  orchard/wheat field area when Mississippi troops began to advance on it.  As Colonel McAllister, of Oxford Furnace, pointed his sword toward the advancing rebel soldiers to order his men to open fire, he was shot in the left leg by a Minnie ball and was hit in the right foot by a piece of artillery shell.  He gave his order to open fire just prior to being carried to the rear for medical treatment.  
McAllister reported, "We (the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers) were in front of the apple orchard at the Smith house, along the Emmittsburg Road.  During this heavy artillery firing - we not being actively engaged - I ordered my men to lie down.   the shot and shell played over our heads and through the apple trees in our rear, carrying the branches through the air like chaff.  The gunners and horses of our artillery  were rapidly cut down.  If the destruction of life could have been left out of mind, I would have considered the scene grand beyond description.  So exciting was it that I could not keep lying down.  I had to jump up and watch the grand duel.  In about half an hour, the artillery ceased and the first charge of the rebel infantry was made in my front.  We prepared to receive the charge.  I ordered my men to 'Fire.' I was on the right of my regiment.  As the rebels advanced, our pickets came into our lines, and we received the charge.  I was wounded while passing from the right to the center of my regiment - severely wounded by a minie ball passing through my left leg and a shell striking my right foot.  I did not see a single man in the regiment flinch or show the least cowardice under that terrific cannonading of the fierce charge which we met."
John Schoonover, of Oxford Furnace, McAllister's Adjutant, had his horse shot out from under him during the artillery barrage.  He reported, "A few minutes to the command, 'FIRE,' Major Kearney, then standing near me, on the left of the line, was struck by a Minnie ball and mortally wounded in the knee, and was immediately carried to the rear; at this moment, Battery K, United States Artillery, then stationed a short distance to the left and front of the regiment, opened a rapid fire. I then passed rapidly to the right of the regiment, in order to inform the Colonel of the absence of the Major, and learned that he, too, had been wounded and taken to the rear.  I immediately notified Captain [Luther] Martin, the senior officer present, that he was in command of the regiment, and again passed to the left of the line, when an order was received from Brigadier General [Joseph Bradford] Carr to slightly change the front by bringing the left to the rear; this being executed, the entire regiment opened an effective fire upon the advancing line of the enemy.  At this point, word was conveyed to me that both Captains Martin and [Dorastus] Logan were wounded and being carried to the rear.  A moment later, Captain [Andrew Hiram] Ackerman [of Belvidere] fell dead by my side.  The two former were killed before they reached a place of safety; and in justice to the memory of these three officers, permit me to bear witness to their unexceptional good conduct. Ever to the front, distinguished for personal bravery, they leave behind them a spotless record.
"By this time, Captain [W.H.] Lloyd had also been wounded, and Captain [William] Dunning being absent assisting the colonel to the rear, I assumed command of the regiment.  The fire of the enemy at this time was perfectly terrific; men were falling on every side; it seemed as if but a few minutes could elapse before the entire line would be shot down, yet the galling fire was returned with equal vigor.  Slowly and stubbornly the regiment fell back, keeping up a continual fire upon the line of the enemy which was still advancing, until more than one-half     its number had been either killed or wounded.  Up to this time, both officers and men nobly did their duty, but the ranks becoming so decimated, and mingled with wounded men, and the line in the rear, and having a short time previous been struck with a piece of shell in the breast, I found it impossible, under the circumstances, to longer keep the line together..."
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards

June 1863: The Capture of General "Rooney" Lee

In June 1863, after the battle of Brandy Station, Virginia, Lieutenant Charles Butts and Company I ("The Belvidere Company") of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry were raiding in Hanover Country, Virginia.  Jacob P. Wright, of Belvidere, filed a report for The Belvidere Intelligencer dated June 27.  Wright reported, "We left here [White House, Va.] with 1,250 cavalry, went within 12 miles of Richmond and found no force, but heard of some.  We passed through New Kent County, thence up to Hanover Court House, Hanover County.  Here we destroyed the railroad depot and bridge, captured a train of 200 wagons, and 200 mules, harnesses, &c.  We could only bring 35 of the wagons so we were compelled to destroy the remainder.  Our next point was the railroad bridge on the South Ana River, below Fredericksburg, so off we started, meeting with no opposition until near the bridge, where we captured the rebel pickets, and soon saw the enemy in pretty strong force at the bridge. 
"We found they had forts and breast works thrown up, and a block house erected on the bridge.  We advanced, dismounted a company of our riflemen, and while they engaged them in front, the Colonel swam two companies over the river below, and came in their rear.  We found part of a regiment there, and I do assure you they fought desperately, but they had the brave 11th to contend against, and when our two companies  charged them upon their works, after a severe hand-to-hand struggle with saber and pistol, those in the breast works were compelled to surrender.  Then we went after those who escaped from the inner breast works to the outer one and captured them.  Then we attacked and captured the block house.  Oh! It was exciting! Such shouting on both sides of the river you never heard, in which the Doctor and I were compelled to join.  We killed seven rebels  and left many mortally wounded, and brought away 81 privates and five commissioned officers. A Lieutenant Colonel was commanding.
"We then heard that General [William Henry Fitzhugh] Lee, son of R. E. Lee, who was wounded in the late fight at Culpepper [Brandy Station], was in the neighborhood.  A colored man led us to the house [at Hickory Hill, Va.], and sure enough, there we found him.  We put him in his splendid carriage, to which was attached a pair of matched horses, and brought him with us.  We also captured a Captain of the Navy, a surgeon, and a paymaster with $20,000 in Confederate bonds.  We then burned the bridge and turned our faces to this point where we expected a large force to meet us;  and here we are, after three days hard march through three counties of Virginia, embracing the most beautiful section I have yet seen - bringing us 400 head of mules, 35 wagons, a large number of contrabands and 100 prisoners, among whom is Gen. Lee.  We also captured several mails.  I send you some of the letters. General [John] Dix was up here to meet us."
General Lee was shipped by train to New York as a prisoner-of-war. On February 25, 1864, he was exchanged for Federal Brigadier General Neal S. Dow.  Lee returned to his father and the Army of Northern Virginia to continue his wartime service.
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards 

Friday, June 14, 2013

June 10, 1863: Col. Broderick Killed at Brandy Station

On June 8, 1863, the entire division of Federal cavalry was ordered to mount up and move out.  On the second day out, the Union cavalry approached a Confederate cavalry encampment and captured many of the rebel pickets as they approached.  When the 3rd Squadron ran into a brigade of Confederate cavalry, the biggest cavalry battle began.

The 1st New Jersey Volunteer Cavalry and the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry charged together into the camp, and 150 prisoners were quickly captured. The Southern cavalrymen were quick to react and formed up a battle line on a hill near Brandy Station, Virginia. A New York light artillery battery set up and began to fire on the Confederates. A squadron from the 1st Maryland Volunteer Cavalry was ordered to support the artillery.
Brigadier General Sir Percy Wyndham, New Jersey's British gentleman cavalry leader, and Colonel Virgil Broderick, of Sussex County, the commander of the 1st NJ Cavalry, formed the brigade for battle.  Wyndham and Broderick led a saber charge into the Confederate lines.  The 12th Virginia Cavalry rallied and rode to reinforce their comrades.
The adjutant of the 1st NJ Cavalry reported to Harper's Weekly, "By Jove, that was a charge! They came up splendidly, looking steadier than we did ourselves after the shock of the first charge.  I did not know whether Wyndham was still with us, or if he had gone to another regiment; but there was Broderick looking full of light, his blue eyes in a blaze, and his saber clenched, riding well in front.  At them he went again, and some of them this time met us fairly.  I saw Broderick's saber go through a man, and the rebel gave a convulsive leap out of his saddle, falling senseless to the ground.  It seemed but an instant before the rebels were scattered in every direction, trying now and then to rally in small parties, but never daring to await our approach...I heard Broderick shouting in a stormy voice.  I tell you, it was a startling sight.  The fragments of White's Battalion had gathered together toward the left of the field and were now charging in our rear.  The 1st Maryland was there, and Broderick was shouting at them, in what their Colonel considered a 'very ungentlemanly manner,' to move forward to the charge.  At the same time two fresh regiments were coming down on our front.  Instead of dashing at White's men, the 1st Maryland wavered and broke, and then were charged at the same time front and rear...Gallantly our fellows met the attack.  We were broken, of course,  by the mere weight of the attacking force, but breaking them up too, the whole field was covered with small squads of fighting men.  I saw Broderick ride in with a cheer and open a way for the men.  His horse went down in the melee; but little Wood, the bugler of Company G, sprang down and gave him his animal, setting off himself to catch another.  A rebel rode at the bugler and succeeded in getting away his arms before help came.  As Wood still went after a horse, another fellow rode at him.  The boy happened at that moment to see a carbine where it had been dropped after firing.  He picked up the enemy weapon, aimed it at the horseman, made him dismount, give up his arms, and start for the rear.
"It was only when we got so entangled that we had to fight hand to hand that their numbers tolled heavily.  It was in such a place as this that I lost sight of Broderick.  The troop horse he was riding was not strong enough to ride through a knot of men, so that he had to fight them.  He struck one so heavily that he was stunned by the blow, but his horse was still in the way; swerving to one side, he escaped a blow from another, and warding off the thrust of a third, managed to take him with his point across the forehead; just as he did so, however, his saber getting tangled with a rebel's, was jerked from his hand.  He always carried a pistol in his boot.  Pulling that out, he fired into the crowd, and out spurs his horse.  the bullet hit a horse in front of him, which fell.  His own charger rose at it, but stumbled, and as it did, Broderick himself fell, from a shot fired within arm's length of him and a saber struck upon his side. I saw all this as a man sees things at such times and am not positive even that it occurred as I thought I saw it; for I was in the midst of confusion, and only caught things around by passing glimpses.  You see, I was myself having as much as I could."
Colonel Broderick died in battle at Brandy Station.
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 1863: 27th NJ Regt. Offers to Delay Discharge

In May 1863, the US 9th Corps, including Colonel George Mindil and his 27th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, were ordered to assist General [Hiram] U. S. Grant in the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.  As the 9th Corps marched toward the Mississippi River at Louisville, Kentucky on June 4, Major General Ambrose Burnside ordered the 27th NJ to be detached since its 9-month enlistment had expired on June 3.  Burnside said he needed Mindil's troops in Kentucky a few days longer.
On June 13, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mindil heard about Confederate General Robert E. Lee's troops entering Pennsylvania.  Reports stated the Pennsylvania Central Railroad might be in Confederate control, blocking the regiment's trip home to New Jersey.  Mindil called together the men of his regiment and told them of the situation.  Mindil told his troops he wanted to move forward into Pennsylvania to offer his services to General George Mead during this emergency  and asked who would go with him.  The entire regiment volunteered to go with him.
Burnside issued the following dispatch on June 15, 1863: "In withdrawing the Twenty-Seventh New Jersey Volunteers from the front, in order that they may return to their homes at the expiration of their term of enlistment, the commanding General desires to express his regret at parting from them.  In every position in which the requirements of the service have placed them, they have proved themselves brave, efficient and reliable soldiers, and have made for themselves in this command a clear record worthy of the gallant State whose name they bear.
"Should this regiment, in the event of a continuance of the war, again take the field, this commanding General will be glad to receive them as tried soldiers once more under his command."
General Samuel Powhatan Carter wrote to Mindil, "For yourself personally, Colonel, I entertain the highest esteem, as I do for your noble regiment, which has gained a most enviable reputation in Kentucky from the soldierly bearing and correct deportment of both officers and men.
"Will you be pleased to give to the officers and men my appreciation of their worth, and the regret I feel at parting from them.  It is a matter of pride with me that I have had the honor to command, for even a time, troops who have won for themselves such imperishable fame."
On June 17, Mindil sent the following letter by telegraph from Cincinnati to President Abraham Lincoln, "Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States: My regiment, eight hundred strong, whose term of service has expired, is on its way home for muster-out.  I hereby offer the services of the command for any service in Pennsylvania during the emergency. Please advise me of your intentions. George W. Mindil, Colonel, Twenty-seventh New Jersey Volunteers."
At the Soldiers' Home in Cincinnati, Major General Burnside honored the regiment with a bounteous dinner.  The regiment later traveled by train to Columbus, Ohio.  At Columbus, Mindil received the following telegram from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, "Colonel George W. Mindil, Twenty-seventh New Jersey Volunteers: You will accept for yourself          and express to your gallant regiment the thanks of the government for your patriotic offer, which is cordially accepted.  You will please proceed with your regiment as rapidly as possible to Pittsburgh, via the Ohio Central Railroad, in order that you may stop at Wheeling, if your services should be required there by General [William T. H.] Brooks, who will communicate with you on the road, and you can reach Pittsburgh by that line, if he should prefer to have you there.   E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War."
The 27th NJ Volunteers were ordered to hold the railroad junction at Uniontown.  On June 21, five companies were sent to secure the Morgantown Railroad line five miles from Uniontown.  The remaining six companies were sent to secure the National Railroad line at the Chestnut Ridge gap.  On June 24, the regiment reunited and proceeded to Turtle Creek Station on the Pennsylvania Central Railroad, twelve miles east of Pittsburgh.  On June 26, the regiment was ordered to Pennsylvania's capital, Harrisburg.  With fresh troops          guarding Harrisburg,  the 27th NJ rode the train to Port Elizabeth, NJ.  On July 2, 1863, the regiment was mustered out of federal service at Camp Frelinghuysen in Newark.  Colonel Mindil quickly headed by train to Washington, D.C. to offer his services to President Lincoln.  Lincoln personally asked him to return to New Jersey to reorganize his regiment, which became the 33rd New Jersey Zouave Regiment.  Mindil became a general by the time he was 21 years of age, making him the real "boy general" - not George A. Custer.  He was awarded two Medals of Honor: one for volunteering his regiment's services after the term of enlistment expired, and one for leading a charge into the center of the enemy lines at Williamsburg on May 5, 1862. 
Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 1863: Warren County & the 54th Mass. Colored Troops

In April 1861, free black men in the North and the South volunteered to fight for their states.  Militia companies of African Americans volunteered to fight on both sides, but in the North, all were turned down by politicians and bureaucrats who felt it was a "White Man's War."  Several black militia companies volunteered their services to Virginia to defend their state from a Northern invasion.  The Commonwealth of Virginia thanked the volunteers for their patriotism but declined to accept them into the army.  The confederate Congress approved the War Department's plan to allow blacks to work in the war plants and to enlist in noncombatant roles in the army: cooks, teamsters, hospital stewards, ambulance drivers, engineering battalions, etc.  In 1862, free black cooks assigned to the army were authorized a pay of $15 per month.  In June 1861, the Tennessee Legislature passed a law allowing "all male free persons of color between the ages of 15 and 50"   to enlist in the military.  In April 1861, two "Native Guards" regiments of free African Americans, commanded by black officers, were created by 1,400 volunteers in New Orleans.  The "Native Guards" were incorporated in the Louisiana State Militia.  After New Orleans was captured by Federal troops, the "Native Guards" regiments were mustered into  the Federal Army by General Benjamin Butler as the Corps D'Afrique.  In 1862, Kansas began to enlist African Americans in their "Indian Brigades."  In South Carolina, Union General David Hunter armed runaway slaves and formed the First South Carolina Volunteers Regiment.

In December 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, effective on January 1, 1863, which freed slaves in the rebellious states.  However, there were still no official Union regiments of black troops in the Federal Army.  The Federal Government had no provision for raising black troops so it looked to the state militias.  Some states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania did not want to raise black regiments.  On January 26, 1863, Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton accepted the offer of  Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew to raise three black regiments: the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments (Colored) and the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment (Colored).

Governor Andrew realized the 54th Regiment, being the first black regiment raised in the North, would be the model after which other states could follow. Andrew and Frederick Douglass agreed the 54th Regiment should consist of only educated, freeborn blacks - no runaway slaves. The regiment was commanded by white officers and black non-commissioned officers.  Captain Robert Gould Shaw, of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was commissioned as the Colonel commanding the 54th.  Captain Norwood Hallowell, of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the 54th.  Louis Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass, was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of the 54th. 
Lacking a sufficient number of qualified volunteers in Massachusetts, it was decided recruiters would be sent to other Union states.  with the aid of Douglass   and Mayor George L. Stearns, of Bedford, $5,000 was raised to start the regiment.  Douglass led a group of recruiters throughout the Northern states, including New Jersey. An enlistment bounty of $100 was paid to each recruit. 
Three Warren County men accepted the call to arms: James Furman, of Washington, enlisted in Company E of the 54th.  Isaiah [or Isaac] Cass, of Hackettstown, joined Company C of the 54th.   John Richardson, of Blairstown, enlisted in Company B of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry.  By May 14, 1863, there were 1,000 recruits in the 54th Regiment.  the regiments trained for 100 days at Camp Meigs in Readville, Mass.
Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards      

May 25, 1863: Lt. James Prall after the Battle of Chancellorsville

On May 25, 1863, after returning from the battle of Chancellorsville, Lieutenant James Prall, of Company I (the "Belvidere Company") of the 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry, wrote, "Dear Father and Mother: It is with the greatest pleasure that I can sit down this Monday morning to write to you once more and say that I still are well, never felt better than I do this morning.  Now our breakfast has come up.  I will stop and eat.  We will have ham and eggs, good coffee, hard tack &c &c.
"Well now I have eaten a very hearty breakfast and I will try and finish the letter.  I would have written yesterday but was on duty and had not time.  On Friday we moved our Camp about a quarter of a mile.  We still have a very nice Camp.  We have had very warm and dry   weather here for some time.  It has been as warm here as I ever saw it in Jersey in July but last night it clouded up and got quite cool again and now looks as though we were agoing to have a storm. I hope it will rain for it is very dusty here and I think it much pleasanter if it would rain and lay the dust.
"The 137th Regiment Pennsylvania Vols. of our Brigade started for home this morning.  They are the first that goes out of our Brigade.  We will be home about the 18th or 20th of June.  There is no signs of any move here now.  Adjutant [John] Schoonover [11th NJ Infantry Regt.] was here yesterday.  He is looking well.  I have been looking for Mr. [Frederick] Knighton [Chaplain, 11th NJ Regt.] to come over for some time but he has not come yet. I hear he is going home [to Belvidere] soon.
"I received Clark's letter on last Thursday.  I was glad to hear that you was all well.  I received one from Rebecca the same day.  I was sorry to hear that she had not been very well, has had the Rheumatism.  She says Bartley was there when she wrote.  I have been looking for one from May.  I think I have not received any from her since I wrote to her. How does she like her new house?  I find by Clark's letter that he is down on [General Joseph] Hooker and thinks he displayed very bad generalship and says this was the greatest defeat of the war. Well now Clark, I think you are greatly mistaken.  It certainly was not half so bad as the [General Ambrose] Burnsides fight where he crossed the River.  I don't believe our loss was near what the papers say it was and I are well satisfied that the Rebs loss was far greater than ours and I think that Gen. Hooker displayed as good generalship as any general we hever had.  You can't tell by the papers any thing about it.  The whole army almost think the move was a good one and still have all confidence in him.  They did not come back in such a demoralized condition they did when they came back before.  He had various reasons for retreating back here.  I don't think it was because he did not know how to handle his men.  If he is left in command and of this army and it is still necessary to cross [the Rappahannock River] he will do it and if he gets ready before our time is out I are ready and willing to cross again with the army.  I for my own part have always been a McClellan man and you are but I don't think he is the only man. I should like to see him take command of the army once more and Hooker to take charge of a part of it for some of the troops think there is not more like Hooker.  But to finish up about this I will say that I think this war is nearing an end than any of us thinks for I think & hope it may in a few months more come to an end. 
"Father I had a letter last evening from John Wyckoff about buying out J. R. Dey's store.  He said he and Mr. Davis had talked to you about it (as I had requested).  Now the County and I think that Davis & Wyckoff both is good business men and if there can be any business there we can do it and if I do not make up my mind to come back here [to the Army] again I should like to have this place   but I will not say positively that I would take it until I get home for I may make up my mind to come back again.  This Rebellion must be put down and if the Government does except [sic] more Volunteers, and I think it will, I think there will be inducements to come back again.  I want to see the end of this war.  I would like to be out there to help end it.  I like the soldiers life and I would as soon be here as any where but I will not say any thing more about this now.  It will be time enough to talk about it when I get home.  Hoping this may find you well and enjoying the comforts of a good home of which the Soldier is deprived.  And so I close, James."
Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards 

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 1863: Lt. Charles Butts & 11th PA. Cavalry at South Qua

On May 2, 1863, Lieutenant Charles Butts and the men of Company I ["The Belvidere, NJ  Company"] of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry Regiment were in the Blackwater area of Virginia on the road to Sommerton.
Lt. Butts' report to his major stated, "I was on picket on the Sommerton Road on Sunday, May 2nd, 1863. About 5 o'clock p.m. I ascended a large pine tree in front of the enemy, and with the aid of a marine glass [telescope], saw the enemy's pickets with knapsacks on ready to march.  I reported this fact to Colonel Foster, at 10 o'clock, p.m., Sunday.  Later in the night the enemy fired, which I took to be a signal gun.  Between 12 and 1 o'clock at night, a deserter came into my station and reported the enemy retreating.  I immediately sent the deserter with a statement of facts to Colonel Foster, commanding the forces in front of Sommerton Road.  I then advanced with my cavalry picket, consisting of 15 mounted men of Company I, 11th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, and found the enemy's rifle-pits at Brother's house deserted. 
"As I advanced, I found the road badly obstructed with timber, rails, and brush.  I removed them as soon as possible and had proceeded a short distance beyond this obstruction, when I came to a large fort across the road, a short distance this side of Mr. Wright's house, 5 miles from Suffolk.  I moved to the right of the main work and jumped the ditches and rifle-pits, and urged the horses over the parapet of the left wing of the fort. One horse fell into the ditch below but was soon got out;            then proceeded about one mile on the main road above the fort when I learned that the enemy from the Edenton Road had crossed over by way of Darden's Mill, and struck the Sommerton Road at Mr. Pitt's house, about 6 miles from Suffolk.  At this place I received an order to remain at the above mentioned fort until reinforcements came up.  Colonel Foster leading, ordered them forward.  I immediately fell back to the fort, leaving my pickets out, found the entrance and removed the obstructions, leaving the road clear for the column to pass through when they arrived. 
"About two o'clock, a.m., Monday morning, May 4 [sic], '63, Major Samuel Wetherhill, 11th Pa. Cavalry, in command of two companies, A and E of the 11th PA. Vol. Cavalry, came up.  The Major ordered me to take the advance with my 15 men, giving me 5 of Company A in addition, making 20 in all, and pursued the enemy as fast as possible.  I hastened my pursuit to Leesburg, some 15 miles south of Suffolk.  At this place the road forks, one going to Sommerton and the other to Holy Neck Chapel, here the enemy divided his force, sending the heavy artillery on the Sommerton Road for several miles, and then bearing to the right, came into the road leading to South Qua at Holy Neck Chapel.  All their wagons, light artillery and infantry took the direct road to Holy Neck Chapel, and from thence to South Qua, where they crossed the Blackwater River.  As it was necessary to send back dispatches, and, at different times, some prisoners, that I had captured, my force was reduced to five men; and as I had taken some prisoners at the last named place, I could not follow any further on account of not having any men to accompany me, as it would have been necessary to leave what men I had to guard the prisoners I had taken at this place. Here the enemy's rear guard was about ten minutes ahead of me; it consisted of one brigade of infantry, 4 pieces of artillery, and one company of cavalry. 
"I have the gratification to report that I captured, with my little command, 48 rebel soldiers, with all their arms and accouterments; 6 citizen prisoners, and one rebel sutler, with his wagon and two horses."
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 1863: Battle of Chancellorsville

On January 21, 1863, General Ambrose Burnside was replaced by General Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac.  After retraining the troops Hooker felt they were ready to take the offensive again in April 1863.  On May 1, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock river at United States Ford and approached Chancellorsville, Virginia.  Confederate troops rushed up from Fredericksburg and the battle began on May 2, 1863.

The Confederates engaged skirmishers from Belvidere resident Colonel Edward Campbell's 15th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment at a plain at the foot of Salem Heights.  The 15th NJ held the plain so rebel troops shifted their forces to the right of the Federal lines. 

Colonel Robert McAllister's 11th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment was held in reserve with the rest of 3rd Corps at this time.  The 11th NJ moved into the woods to form a line of battle late in the day.

The Federal 11th Corps was hit by a large Confederate force and was routed, pushed from the battlefield, and the Second Division of the 3rd Corps was called up to counterattack at the plank road.  Near dawn on May 3, McAllister and his men were ordered to form a line of battle with the 11th Massachusetts Regiment along the plank road to form a second battle line.  To the left of this line was the 2nd New Jersey Brigade, and in front was the 1st Massachusetts Regiment.  In the rear, the artillery batteries were firing over the heads of their infantry.

McAllister, of Oxford Furnace, wrote in his report, "The enemy made two attacks during the night but did not force our lines. With some changes at dawn of day, we waited the attack of the enemy...The attack was made half past four a.m. and increased in severity until eight and a half a.m., when the line in front gave way; also the regiments of our brigade on my right.  I then changed the front of the regiment slightly, and I returned the fire of the enemy briskly.  The battle was now raging with great fierceness; many of the officers were wounded; two had been killed; large numbers of our wounded men had gone to the rear; and both flag staffs had been completely severed by the bullets of the enemy.  The enemy now pressed my right so heavily that I was compelled  to change my front and form a line with the Second NJ Brigade on my left and General [Alexander] Hays' Brigade on my right.  We sustained this position for some time, losing heavily, when the line on our left gave way, and we fell slowly back under a withering fire of grape and canister.  I formed the regiment on the hill in rear of the battalions, and soon afterwards, with the corps in that vicinity, charged across the fields towards our earthworks, which the enemy had just entered."

After the battle had raged for approximately two hours, the left flank of the 1st Massachusetts began to weaken.  The rebels broke through and began to attack the 1st Massachusetts.  The Confederates attacked on three sides of the Federal lines.  The Federal right flank began to collapse, and the 2nd NJ Brigade began to pull back.  the 11th NJ Regiment held their line and prevented the 2nd NJ Brigade from being outflanked, giving the 5th NJ Regiment the chance to capture an enemy flag.  The artillery positions were lost to the Confederates, but when the Federal troops pulled back to the second line of battle, they counterattacked and recaptured the artillery positions.  The Confederate forces attacked again, gradually forcing the Federal troops to give up the artillery positions again.  
McAllister reported, "They were driven out, and a large number of prisoners taken, mostly of the Second NJ Brigade; our forces could hold it but a short time, when we fell back with the remainder of the troops and joined our brigade, which had fallen back some time before.  With the brigade we came within the entrenchments."
General Daniel Sickles, commanding the 3rd Corps, reformed the line of battle near his headquarters.  The 11th NJ stayed on the field of battle while the Corps pulled back to reform.  Among the last to leave the field were Colonel McAllister, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Moore, and Adjutant John Schoonover.  McAllister came to General Sickles and said, "Here I am with the remainder of my regiment; where my brigade is I cannot tell."  Sickles answered, "Fall into this line without reference to organizations.  You are all my men.  We must hold this line if every man of us should fall."
Sickles' 3rd Corps held the line for several hours of uninterrupted fighting.  McAllister's 11th NJ lost 20 men killed, 115 wounded and 11 missing that day.  The 11th Massachusetts was completely destroyed - only Captain Gammon and eight men survived.  The captain approached McAllister and said, "I am here with eight men and would like to fight with you."  McAllister welcomed the Massachusetts men into his regiment to continue the fight.
Sickles' Corps held off General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's Virginia Division and had repelled five bayonet charges.  The NJ troops of the 3rd Corps  had captured eight Confederate flags.
McAllister wrote, "Both men and officers of my Regiment acted nobly, stood well, and fought well; to praise some might do injustice to others; but I cannot pass without personally mentioning Lieutenant-Colonel Moore, who was of great assistance, and acquitted himself with honor; also, the heroic conduct of Captain Kearny and Adjutant Schoonover, who were of incalculable advantage in leading and bringing the men forward.  The color-bearer, Sergeant Albert DuPuget, displayed unusual coolness and bravery.  They all deserve  promotion for meritorious conduct."
On the other side of the battle line, Campbell's 15th NJ Regiment had charged to the turnpike with its brigade under heavy fire.  In a fight at the turnpike, the regiment lost three men killed and 20 captured.  At noon, the 15th NJ was moved to the extreme left of the battle line.  the regiment marched through the town and up to Salem Heights.  At 4:00 p.m. the regiment formed a line of battle and charged through woods against Confederate troops positioned behind a wall and ditch.  The fight raged until 8:00 p.m., when the regiment was forced to withdraw because of a lack of support     from other units.  The regiment lost 130 men killed, wounded or missing in action. 
Chaplain A. Haines, of the 15th NJ, wrote in his journal, "The Color-Sergeant Eugene Hicks, of Clinton [actually of Asbury, Warren County], a fine, noble-looking young man, whose name was on the list for promotion, fell with the colors in his hands, pierced with a bullet through the brain.  Corporal Samuel Rubadon seized the falling flag and carried it right forward through the rest of the fight."
The men of the 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert R. Honeyman, had moved up to support the 29th NJ Regiment on May 1.  Honeyman wrote in his report, "Friday, May 1st, occupied my position undisturbed.  Saturday, 2nd, firing commenced at eight o'clock a.m., from the enemy's batteries.  Sergeant Aaron W. Davis, Company G [from Hope] was wounded - struck above the ear with a piece of shell.  the firing was very heavy ans was directed principally at the batteries.  My position was held without difficulty until ordered to be evacuated.  After all the troops had fallen back, the enemy's fire slackened, enabling me to bring over the river our batteries and to effect a crossing without loss.  Rejoining the brigade near Falmouth Station, without scarcely any time for rest, we were pushed forward rapidly up the river throughout the remainder of this excessively warm day.  The endurance of both officers and men was wonderful, although a number gave out.  Late in the evening, encamped near United States Ford, crossing the river at this point at three o'clock a.m., Sunday, the 3rd instant.  At sunrise, having arrived at our position on the field, near the extreme right, I formed line of battle in support of an advanced line and remained here during the day and night, awaiting an attack - the firing part of the time being near and heavy.  Monday, p.m., 4th instant, moved half a mile further to the right, sent out four companies on picket under the command of Captain B. F. Howey [of Knowlton Township], of Company G, and threw up rifle-pits.  the enemy being reported near and in force, a general alarm was created soon after dark by the firing of one of the pickets, followed by the firing of the regiment next on my right, the firing becoming general, part of the regiment which was formed in rear of my command as support also fired.  That none were killed seemed almost miraculous, the clothing of some being riddled with balls."
Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

April 24, 1863: Lt. James Prall & the 31st NJ Regt.

On April 24, 1863, Lieutenant James Prall, of Company I, 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, wrote to his parents in Belvidere.  Some of this letter became illegible because of water damage.  

Prall wrote, "Dear Father & Mother: I once more this afternoon endeavor to write to you  another letter to let you know how I am getting along.    I are still enjoying the blessing of good health  for which I are very thankful...I got a letter from Marsh Summers.  He is getting better.  He say he is in Philadelphia.
[Marshall Summers, of Belvidere, enlisted in the 3rd New York Cavalry in December 1861 and transferred to Company G of the 1st New Jersey Cavalry in April 1862.  He was wounded in the face by two saber cuts at Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, was captured & paroled. He was killed in action at Culpepper Plantation, VA on October 13, 1864.]

"I have been telling you that we have been expecting to move for sometime.  I meant a forward movement of the whole army.  We have moved out of Camp. We moved on last Sunday morning before daylight.  We started about three o.c. in the morning and moved about three miles down the Potomac on a very nice plain along the river near where [we] have our Reviews.  Our whole Brigade is laying near us now.  Such weather as we have had this week ought to be scarcer this time of year.  We have had but one clear day.  Rained all the week and today it rains and blows...We are lying in our shelter tents and I do say I are not much in favor of shelter tents in stormy weather.  In dry weather they are about as good as any.  We are still expecting to move [and] still keep eight days rations in hand all ready packed, ready to move out at one hours notice but if it keeps on raining I don't think we will move very soon for the roads will soon be as bad as they were in the winter.  But I hope we will soon have nice weather again.  We have a fine view of the Potomac River here.  I suppose that we have about eight weeks to stay yet our time will be out on the Seventeenth day of June. That will soon slip away but we can't tell what that time may bring forth.  Governor Parker is down here in the army of the Potomac. He is to be here tomorrow.  I suppose he will Review this Brigade if it does not storm.  We have not received any pay yet nor we don't know when we will but I hope we will soon.
"Elijah Burd is in our tent now getting the mail ready to go out but I will not send this until tomorrow for I thought I will get one to night so now I will stop and finish this letter tomorrow.
"It is now Sunday evening.  I received Clark's letter of the 13th.  I was glad to hear that you was all well and I received a notice again from Washington that there was another letter there for me which I will have to send the notice to  [H.D.] Swayze again and he will send it on to me.  When you write to me again let me know whether you have the letters that you   send with money in Registered or not.  I think you must or they would not stop there.  The paymaster came down to day and I expect he will pay us tomorrow or Sunday.  You need not send me any more money now until I write for it again.  Col. Jonathan Cook from Trenton, the man that receives the money for the New Jersey Soldiers and sends it home for them, was here to day and will be here when we are paid and I will send what money I can spare with him the same as I did before.  I received a letter from Thomas Lommasson to night.  He is about the same as he has been for some time.  I will be glad for him when his time is out for he has had a hard time of it.  I will now close for this time and write you again as soon as we get our pay and let you know  what I send home.  Hoping this may find you all enjoying the same good health that I are, I remain your son, James Prall.  Write as often as you can, all of you."
[Thomas Lommasson (or Lomason), of Oxford (now White Township), was discharged by the regimental surgeon on May 31, 1863.]
Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 1863: 27th NJ Regt. loses the DeGraw brothers

In April 1863, General Samuel Powhatan Carter, the Union district commander, planned an expedition to drive the confederates out of Kentucky.  Carter assigned command of the cavalry brigade to Colonel Wolford of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, and Colonel George W. Mindil, of the 27th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was assigned command of the infantry brigade.  Mindil was now in command of the 27th NJ, the 2nd Tennessee Infantry Regiment, the 103rd Ohio Infantry Regiment, and Lieutenant Abram Calvin Wildrick's Indiana Artillery Battery of six rifled Rodman ten pounders.  The expedition was successful in capturing the town of Monticello and driving the Confederates into Tennessee on May 1.

The expedition started its march back to Somerset, Kentucky.  During this return, Joseph DeGraw, age 28, and his brother Lemuel, age 25, of Rockaway Township and/or Hackettstown, died.  One brother died of dysentery in camp on May 2, and the other drowned in the Cumberland River during a river crossing.  The State and Regimental records disagree as to which brother died in what manner. 

At Stigold's Ferry on May 6, the 2nd Tennessee and the 103rd Ohio crossed the Cumberland River without incident.  Most of the 27th NJ crossed safely, but the last flatboat containing 50 men from Companies A, B, C, G, and L were dumped into the river when the boat capsized in a six-mile per hour current.  Some men managed to swim ashore after freeing themselves of their heavy packs, and some managed to hold on to the ropes that strung across the river, but Captain John T. Alexander, of Company B, and 32 men were pulled to the bottom of the river by the current.  The regimental history states Lemuel DeGraw was the one who drowned.  however, the State of New Jersey's 1863 Register, printed by the Legislature, states it was Joseph DeGraw who drowned.

David DeGraw and the men of the 27th NJ did not have much time to mourn the dead because the 9th Corps marched toward the Mississippi River at Louisville on June 4.

Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 1863: E.A. Goodwin & the 99th NY Regt. in Virginia

In April 1863, Corporal Eugene A. Goodwin,  former Belvidere school teacher, was in Suffolk, Virginia with the 99th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  He had recently been promoted to Corporal of the Regimental Color Guard. 

In the 20th and 21st Centuries, color guards were formed to lead parades.  In the 19th Century, a color guard consisted of eight to ten corporals or sergeants whose sole duty was to guard the National and Regimental Flags with their lives.  When a regiment went into battle, the color guard stood under fire with the flags and did not fire their weapons unless the flags were in danger of being captured.  The color guards were expected to save the flags or die in the attempt. As a last resort, the survivors were expected to hide, bury or destroy the flags before they were captured.  Only the steadiest and bravest of the regiment were usually appointed to the color guard.

Goodwin had enlisted in the 99th NY Infantry in New York City in May 1861.  The regiment was assigned to the Naval Brigade.  On March 9, 1862, Goodwin and his regiment were on the shore of Newport News, Virginia and witnessed the battle of the Monitor (USS Monitor)and the Merrimac (CSS Virginia).  They were on shore the day before to rescue survivors of the USS Cumberland and USS Congress, wooden ships sunk by the CSS Virginia.  

A year later, the 99th was in Suffolk, Virginia.  The regiment lived in trenches  for protection against shots from Confederate sharpshooters.  On April 14, 1863, Goodwin wrote to The Belvidere Intelligencer, "I and eight more corporals are the color guard of the regiment, so that if I am killed, I shall die in protecting our dear old flag.  My desire is to have it come out of this war victorious over all its enemies."

Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards