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