Category Archives: Regiments/Units

The 10th Vermont Infantry at the Battle of Cedar Creek

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What was George Crook’s Command?

The command of Maj. Gen. George Crook in Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah consisted of two infantry divisions and a single artillery brigade. This command is often erroneously referred to by both officers within Sheridan’s army and historians as the Eighth Army Corps. The Eighth Army Corps was not in the Shenandoah Valley at all during 1864. That small corps served under the command of Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace and was responsible for the defense of Baltimore. Wallace commanded it at the Battle of Monocacy in July 1864. The Eighth Corps was so small that a division of the Sixth Corps comprised the vast majority of Wallace’s small command.

The force serving under Crook in the Shenandoah Valley was formally known as the Army of West Virginia. A number of its troops had been part of the Eighth Corps in 1863 under Robert Milroy and some even wore that corps’s official badge on the hats. For this reason, many officers and men of Sheridan’s army believed that Crook’s men were the Eighth Corps. Even officers referred to that command as such.

The veteran’s of Crook’s command often decried being called the Eighth in veteran newspapers and insisted on being referred to as the Army of West Virginia. This horror at being referred to as the Eighth Corps was especially strong among the men of Col. Isaac Duval’s (formerly Crook’s) division, which had no connection to Milroy’s disgraced command. Instead, they pointed to their proud roots in the Kanawha Division which served proudly at South Mountain and Antietam in 1862.

Most telling was the pride these veterans had in their commander. One of them wrote that he was satisfied at simply being called one of “Crook’s men.”

For more information on Crook’s command, see my latest book, “The Last Battle of Winchester.”

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The 151st New York, Third Division, Sixth Army Corps in the Shenandoah Valley

The Orleans American.
ALBION, N. Y.
Thursday Morning. Oct. 13, 1864.
Interesting Letter from the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia.
CAMP NEAR BERRYVILLE, VA.
September, 17, 1864.
BRUNER BROTHERS:— We are in camp on or near Clifton Farms. We know very little about the place, but suppose it to be one of the great, broad possessions of Virginia aristocracy. We came here the 3d inst. This is the longest rest we have had since the pulling up of camp near Culpepper, May 3d. Here there is no firing oftener than once in two or three days. Day before yesterday there was a reconnaissance by the Cavalry supported by the 2d Division of the 6th Corps. Yesterday morning they brought in an entire regiment of South Carolina prisoners.
Since you heard from us at Buckeye-stream, Md., there has been a continued active campaign. We were put on the cars at Monocacy Junction, our old battle-field, the next morning and came directly to Harper’s Ferry, and thence to Bolivar Heights. The army of the Middle Department, well organized under Gen. Sheridan, a brave and accomplished soldier, advanced up the Valley as far as Strasburg; and then back again to Hoeltown, near Bolivar; out again beyond Charlestown; back again to near Harper’s Ferry; and, after a season, another forward movement as far as this place. During the time there has been several little skirmishes but with small loss to the 3d Division. The morning we were ordered from Monocacy Gen. Grant was there. He was at Gen. Hunter’s head-quarters near by the railroad, and as the troops passed by they cheered him grandly. The movements that have been made since then have taught us what he knew then and we did not. Now this morning the Corps Officer of the Day has passed along and reported that Gen. Grant had arrived and was now at Gen. Sheridan’s headquarters.
Inspections are prevalent, and affairs begin to assume a shape that indicates active operations again.
It is singular how soon after an engagement soldiers forget their sorrow for loss of friends; forget their hardships and trials and suffering. After getting in camp and rested, all hands are jubilant. All the little amusements and sports that can be invented, are indulged in. They are very innocent, and certainly beneficial and desirable. Such sports as pitching quoits, playing duck, jumping, cock-fighting &c. We go into a battle and perhaps one sees his best friends cut down by his side. This is grievous and cannot be blotted from the memory in an instant, but it does no good to brood in a melancholy mood over the matter. The hopeful and cheerful spirit is everywhere prevalent in the army. One regiment of our Brigade goes home one week from today. The 87th Pa. are brave soldiers and have done three years good service. We are rejoiced to see so many left to go home. The Brigade is having some recruits, conscripts and substitutes sent to it. Substitutes are usually poor soldiers, however. This Valley is an excellent country, but it should be entirely cleaned out and not a citizen be allowed to stay in it at present. The armies here are using up the substance of this section most effectually.
Occasionally there is a letter published in the Northern Rebel papers reported to be from soldiers. Do not believe this. There was one the other day quoted as being from a soldier in the 151st and dated at Strasburg, the 26th ult. The author ought to be a little more careful in regard to dates. We were not at Strasburg, at all at that time. Seymour, Vallandigham, Pendleton & Co., need not flatter themselves that the army is disloyal, or even partisan. Occasionally, to be sure, a sour, selfish misanthrope may talk venomously, but as a general thing the great mass speak, and will vote for Union and the suppression of the Rebellion by force of arms. The only safe Platform before the people is that of the Union. The nominees of the Baltimore Convention are satisfactory. Everything looks bright and promising.
Wise men told us, even in the days of greatest gloom and doubt, that all would be well. Gen. Grant is rapidly bringing the campaign to a successful and satisfactory consummation. We are all anxiously looking forward for the end of this awful war. But, be assured, none in the army are anxious to have it close till it is done honorably and effectually. The 8th Artillery are really unfortunate. It is sad to see so large a regiment cut down so rapidly. You may remember that out term of service expires Oct., 22d 1865. We trust, by the kind protection of God, to come home safely and honorably.
HARRISONBURG, Va. Sept. 26th.
Since I wrote the above there has been no mail; and there has been so much greater events that all else is made insignificat; nevertheless you have it.
We received marching orders the next day, (Sunday 18th,) but after getting packed up the orders were countermanded. At night, however, about ten o’clock, orders came to march at 2 o’clock, Monday morning. After marching about seven miles in the direction of Winchester we met the enemy. A battle ensued, the first of two great engegements and Victories during last week. The details of these battles are probably already familiar to you. A Cavalry fight occurred in the morning, and then infantry skirmishing till 11:40. At this time a grand charge was made of all the line. The enemy were driven and bitterly punished, but under his withering fire our forces were obliged to fall back a little. This was owing in a great measure to an accidental halt in our lines. But it was only for a short time, and our boys again recovered all the ground the had taken and held it by persistent fighting for four or five hours. The lines were again formed to good order and another charge made which night alone ended. The enemy were driven and dispersed and hosts of prisoners captured together with several cannon.
Our forces occupied Winchester and camped that night on the south side of the town. The 151st were on the skirmish line in the forenoon and consequently did not have to go forward in the first charge, and their loss is not so severe as that of other regiments. The greatest loss was in the first onset. Cannonading was kept up during the brisk skirmishing in the forenoon and many were killed and wounded. Capt. Williams was wounded while skirmishing. He is a very brave officer. Col. Emerson, commanding Brigade, and Lieut. Col. Fay, commanding the Regt., have acquitted themselves gallantly. They have had many narrow escapes. The loss of the regiment is only about 25. That of Brigade 289. This is out of about 900 or 1,000 fighting men. Our in prisoners is nothing. I inclose a list of casualties among the Orleans Co. boys. The lost some of its finest field officers. Major Dilingham the 10th Vt., son of the Lieut. Governor of that State, and Maj. Medenburgh of the 14th N. J., are both among the killed. Both these officers were commanding regiment. Gen. Russell commanding the 1st Division of the 6th Corps was killed early in the engagement.
Tuesday morning this army marched forward up the Valley, reaching Strasburg the same day, and found the enemy in his old intrenched position. The following day our Corps moved to the right and advanced on the enemy, but darkness coming on suspended further operations. During the night fortifications were built, but not used, for early the next day skirmishing began, and an advance was made. The 3d Div. of the 6th Corps was legitimately in reserve, but actually in front. Orders were given that the 8th Corps should take the main works while the 3d Div. of the 6th were to carry a certain crest. But as soon as the charge was ordered, the whole army pushed irresistibly and frantically forward carrying everything before them. Darkness ended the charge but it did not end the exultation—cheers, huzzas and yells. A constant and heavy fire was kept up all day and caused some occasional loss, but it was trifling in comparison with the great achievement. The enemy were behind strong works and a great slaughter was expected if not a repulse, but by the superior strategy of Gen. Sheridan the “Johnnies” were completely routed and lost at least 21 guns, and hosts of prisoners. Gen. Sheridan has made himself everywhere conspicuous during the recent engagements, riding up and down the lines in the hottest of the fire; infusing his troops with the greatest enthusiasm. Officers and soldiers were wild in their pursuit of the retreating foe, but the rebels run so like sheep it was impracticable for infantry to continue further. So cavalry and flying artillery followed as well as they could in the darkness.

After the troops were reorganized and had cooked coffee they moved deliberately forward to Woodstock, 12 miles, where we made breakfast. After a few hours rest we went “onward” again, to Edinburg. The next morning early, marched again, overtaking the enemy at Mt. Jackson. But they were readily shelled out, and after that during the day their rear was constantly in sight. We marched with a skirmish line in front and the “Johnnies” were obliged to skirmish what they could with us in face of our artillery, all the afternoon, continually retreating. Finally, just before dark they made a strong stand about three miles this side of New Market, when night came and we camped. Yesterday the army marched to this place and have remained here to day. The enemy appear to have divided and a portion gone the other side of the mountains. This is most disgraceful retreat any army ever made. Several of their hospitals have fallen into our hands. There are four in this place.

The army, at least our Division, is well supplied with tobacco here. The soldiers are nearly subsisting off the country. This is a pleasant, fertile and fruitful section. The weather is excellent. We are some distance away from our base of supplies, and had hard work getting here, but who says we have not done a successful week’s work?
Yours truly, HOLLEY.

Note from Scott:  The 151st New York Infantry was armed with breach-loading Sharps rifles. Because of this, they usually served on the skirmish line for the Third Division, Sixth Army Corps.

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The Army of West Virginia at the Battle of Opequon Creek (Third Battle of Winchester)

The following is a letter from a staff officer of the Army of West Virginia detailing that command’s critical role in the Union victory at Opequon Cree on September 19, 1864.

Fisher’s Hill

October 10, 1864

 

Editors Intelligencer:

 

            In your paper of September 26, I find what purports to be an account of the battle near Winchester on the 19th of that month. The article was copied by you from the New York World and was maliciously written with the sole object of glorifying a single officer, who although never so gallant and brave, was, on that occasion, only one of a number of heroes whose noble and devoted efforts brought success o our arms in a complete and glorious victory.

            Justice to others requires that the friends of the officers and soldiers composing the Army of West Virginia should have a candid, truthful statement of the events… that I propose to address myself. It would be superfluous for me to given an account of that portion of the battle prior to the bringing up of the reserve, as it is not necessary to the object proposed. Suffice it to say the engagement had been of several hours duration-that the fighting, though obstinate, had brought us no very decided success-that the 19th corps had been several time repulsed, and wa unable to advance and that when the reserve, or the Army of West Virginia, was brought into the engagement, “the even scales in doubtful balance hung,” or rather preponderated against us.

            We had come to a dead lock, and could move the wheels no further with the means hitherto employed. In this posture of the affair, Gen. Crook disposed his gallant command for going into the

Maj Gen. George Crook

Maj Gen. George Crook

fight. The 1st Division, Col. Thoburn’s, was formed in an open field in the rear of a wood occupied by the line of the 19th corps, in two lines, the first consisting of the 1st brigade commanded by Col. George D. Wells, 34th Mass; the second of the 3rd brigade, commanded by Col. Thomas M. Harris, 10th West Va. The 2nd brigade of the 1st Division, commanded by Col.
Robert S. Northcott, having been detailed to guard the train was not in the fight. The 2nd Division, Col Isaac H. Duval’s, was in a like manner formed in two lines in rear of the 1st Division. Gen Crook went into the battle feeling that the fate of the day depended on the conduct of his command, amost earnestly did he labor, not only to impress his division and brigade commanders, but his whole command with the importance of unflinching courage and indomitable determination on their part; and right well did he succeed in that which is the truest part of a great commander, viz: infusing his own gallant determination into his command. These dispositions having been made, the next step was the deployment of the 2nd Division to the right of the 1st, and the whole command was moved as to throw it to the right of, though slightly overlapping the line of the 19th Corps, the object being to turn the enemy’s left.     

            Gen. Crook accompanied the 2nd Division in its deployment, superintending its movements, which were rendered somewhat difficult from the fact that they had to be made through a dense wood in part. It was further obstructed by a slough or pond, which, though not wide at any point, was in places deep and difficult to cross. In its direction in front, tt bent around to the right so that in the advance of the 2nd Division, its two lines were confronted by this obstacle.[1]

            The lines of the 1st Division having advanced through the woods behind which they had been formed to its opposite edge, which revealed the enemy’s position in our front behind stonewalls and hastily constructed works and in and behind buildings [of Hackwood Farm] and extending into patches of woods on our left. The 1st Division was halted for a time to await the getting into position of the 2nd Division. At length, the cheer from that division was heard, indicating that it had received the order to charge, and at this signal, Col. Thoburn, in conformity with instructions he had received from Gen. Crook, ordered the 1st Division to charge and drive the enemy from his position, a task which had been assayed in vain by the 19th Corps over the same ground.

            With bayonets glittering, the lines moved forward rapidly, the men cheering as only the Army of West Virginia knows how to cheer; over fences, through open grounds and through woods, right forward the line advanced in the face of a most terrible fire which strewed the ground with a dead and wounded. In a very short time, the 1st Division had driven the enemy from and had possession of his very first line of works. But so determined was the spirit of the command, and so unbounded its enthusiasm from this, its first success, that scarcely stopping to breathe, onward it went, driving the enemy from one position to another, until the lines now composed of both brigades, mixed up in the completest confusion, as a result of these various charges came within good range for grape and canister from the enemy’s batteries. The troops took advantage of whatever cover presented itself, and all seemed content for a time with merely holding the ground already gained.

            In the meantime, Col. Duval, in his advance encountered the obstruction referred to and found it so great an obstacle as to effectually arrest the advance of a large portion of his command. It was thus compelled to retrace its steps or rather by a march by the flank recross [Red Bud Run] near where the division had crossed at the onset of its deployment, and then came up in rear of the 1st Division. The Colonel Duval, who sees no obstacles, having affected a crossing, pushed forward with the broken and scattered portions of his command that had gotten over, and with the aid of our cavalry, that at this juncture made a charge which broke and drove back the enemy’s left, he succeeded in forming a junction with Col Thoburn who already held the advanced position.[2]

            The place of difficulty was now on our extreme right, where our line was much exposed in open ground, in good range of the enemy’s guns, as well as of his musketry. Here Colonels Thoburn, Duval, Wells, Hayes and man staff and other officers, labored for an hour and a quarter, under a most murderous fire, and labored successfully, to keep the men from breaking. They advanced them as individuals and in squads from one point to another, wherever the slightest cover presented itself to act as sharpshooters. In this way, a line of sharpshooters was finally established of sufficient strength to produce a manifest impression on the enemy’s fire, especially the artillery. Here Col. Duval was wounded after having his horse killed under him. Col. Thoburn had his horse killed and was standing by Col. Duval in consultation, or was near him when he was struck.

            Here the ground was literally strewed with men and horses, dead and wounded. Here, many gallant officers fell or were disabled and taken off the field.  Lt. Col. John Linton, commanding 54th Penn., Lt. Charles W Kirby, Adjt. 10th W. Va., and Lieut. O. P. Boughner, Adjt. 10th W. Va. And Assistant Adjutant General, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. At this juncture, our cavalry made its final grand and gloriously successful charge, sweeping over the plain from our right, round to our front; breaking the stubborn lines that were holding us in check, and capturing and bringing out many prisoners. Taking advantage of the confusion produced in the enemy’s ranks by the charge, our whole line advanced promptly, consisting now of the 6th Army Corps and the Army of West Va., the 19th Corps being marched by the right flank now appeared in the form of a reserve in our rear, supporting our right.

            In a very short time, we had possession of the enemy’s guns that had but a few moments before been dealing death to us with an unsparing hand. The enemy was routed. The sun was low in the western horizon, but as the result of these many hours of sharp and deadly conflict, the day was won.

            At the going in of the reserve and during Gen. Crook’s absence with the 2nd Division, Gen. Sheridan gave his personal attention to that portion of our lines formed by the 1st Division of Gen. Crook’s command, as being the point of the highest importance and interest. Sheridan expressed himself to Colonel Thoburn in the most enthusiastic terms of commendation of its conduct in this most arduous and successful charge or rather succession of charges. After the junction of the 1st and 2nd Divisions, Gen. Crook watched and directed the whole in the ablest manner.

            Where the conduct of all was so good, it would be invidious to draw comparisons, or descend to special references. Our glorious success on that ever memorable day was the result of wise combinations, a faultless disposition of our forces and the most sublime display of courage and indomitable determination on the part of the officers and men, and finally to the gallant conduct of the reserve, the Army of West Virginia.

 

E.

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[1] The slough or pond spoken of was Red Bud Run. While it bent somewhat to the right, it became an obstacle more so because Duval’s division wheeled to the left to strike the Confederate flank on the other side of Red Bud Run. Duval’s men were not aware of the nature of the slough until they stumbled upon it in the midst of their attack.

[2] The author of this letter being from the 1st Division is not entirely correct in his recounting of Duval’s advance. The latter’s division bypassed the obstruction by flanking to both the right and left of the miry stretch of Red Bud Run. Some troops attempted to follow Col. Rutherford B. Hayes across the “morass,” but only a handful succeeded. Most marched upstream and crossed at Hackwood a few hundred yards upstream or marched back downstream until they reached a point where the stream was fordable. In addition to encountering the swamp, Duval’s division met heavy resistance from Confederates posted on the south bank of the stream. The advance of Thoburn’s division on the south bank of the run and the Union cavalry farther to the rest forced those Confederates to fall back before Duval’s “straggling advance” as one of his officers termed it.

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Brig. Gen. William R. Cox’s Brigade at the Third Battle of Winchester

Captain Seaton Gales served on the staff of Brig. Gen. William R. Cox, a North Carolina brigade commander in the division of Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes. Gales relates the course of action for Cox’s Brigade on September 19, 1864 at Winchester and freely and accurately describes reasons for the Confederate defeat. He also expresses the grief felt throughout the army at the death of Rodes during the battle.

September 18, 1864: We tarried at Bunker Hill in the morning, while Gor

Brig. Gen. William R. Cox

Brig. Gen. William R. Cox

don moved to Martinsburg and repeated the comedy of ejecting Averell. We

returned to Stephenson’s depot at night, while G

ordon retraced his steps to Bunker Hill and bivouacked for the night, as after events proved a most lamentable error.

September 19, 1864: Early this morning a rapid cannonading in the direction and vicinity announced the enemy had evidently advanced in force. Ramseur was at the immediately menaced point, Breckinridge was a few miles off, we were lying at Stephenson’s Depot, five miles off, and Gordon was at Bunker Hill, twelve miles away. We were immediately and rapidly moved forward the noise of the incipient conflict increasing and deepening as we proceeded.

As the various divisions would reach the field, they had, of course, to be put in by detail. At a point about 1½ miles from Winchester, we first attacked the enemy, the left of the 19th and the right of the 6th Corps confronting us. The men went to their work in splendid style, and almost in the first dash, succeeded in driving the yankees in great confusion before them. Though our losses were quite heavy-not however to be compared to theirs. It was in this first collision that our gallant Major General Rodes fell, pierced through the head. I was quite near him when he was struck, and cannot describe my feelings of regret and dismay when I witnessed his fall. Cool, brave, cautious, sagacious and skillful, he commanded the full confidence and affection of his troops to the fullest extent. I regard his death as one of the severest losses which our cause has sustained during the war.

At almost every other point as our forces successively came up and engaged the enemy, victory seemed to incline in our favor. Towards noon there was a pause of several hours in the conflict or rather I shall say a cessation of general fighting, and we all began to fondly hope that the foe was too badly crippled and demoralized to resume it. But their great numerical superiority not only gave them the power of reinforcing their lines, and then by restoring confidence, but also to extend them beyond so far as to overlap our left, where we had cavalry protection alone. It is a well known principle or at least experience of warfare, that cavalry, even where the advance of numbers rest with them, are incompetent to cope with infantry, and accordingly when the enemy bore down in force upon ours, they were swept away like chaff, our left of completed turned, and the enemy came rushing in like an avalanche upon our flank and rear.

This of course necessitated a rapid falling back upon our part for new position and dispositions, almost inevitably engendering confusion-a confusion which was converted into a panic, and became with some few and isolated glorious exceptions, so general that all efforts to rally, reanimate and reform the men were unavailing. The army retreated in disorder thro and beyond Winchester, losing a number of prisoners, slowly pursued by the enemy, who however, were frequently confronted by our veterans, who, indignant at the flight of their comrades, would turn with heroic desperation and deliver a volley.

Our own brigade behaved as well as could be expected under such disheartening circumstances. At one moment when it was on the point of giving way, Gen. Cox seized the colors, and he and I, side by side, rode far in advance of the men, cheering them back by the example. God’s mercy alone prevented our being killed, as a storm of bullets greeted our conspicuous presence. Night soon intervened to prevent further pursuit, and we continued to Newtown, near which, we lay the greater portion of the night in line of battle, while thro the night, our stragglers were constantly coming in. And so terminated for the present, a most disastrous affair.

An incident of this fight dwells with most painful impression upon my memory. While engaged in rapidly transmitting orders, just as the retrograde movement commenced, a wounded officer, lying on the field most piteously besought me to take him up behind me on my horse, to prevent his falling into the hands of the enemy. To have stopped to do this would have involved almost certain death for both or at least would have delayed or prevented the communication of most important orders, and I was compelled as gently as possible to refuse his prayer. But I shall never cease to remember the imploring and agonizing express of his countenance.

Source: Journal of Capt. Seaton Gales, contained in Our Living and Our Dead,

Newbern, N.C., March 4, 1874.

To learn more about the Third Battle of Winchester or Opequon Creek, order a copy of my upcoming book from Savas Beatie. It calls upon 20 years of research using sources like Gales’s account to weave together the story of Third Winchester in detail for the first time.

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Book Review: Another Day in Lincoln’s Army: The Civil War Journals of Sgt. John T. Booth; 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Gen. George Crook

Marie Mollohan has done the Civil War community a great service by publishing this book. It is so much more than the title indicates. Aside from 21 pages of photographs, it is nearly 700 pages of raw Civil War source material from the soldiers of the 36th Ohio. You see, Booth was supposed to have written the regimental history of the 36th Ohio but never quite got around to putting it together. Like many of us modern day Civil War historians, he found it hard to stop researching and finalize his project. The result was a box of material known as the John T. Booth Papers at the Ohio Historical Society, a veritable treasure trove of detailed accounts of the Civil War by soldiers of the 36th Ohio. It includes Booth’s journals and those of other members of the regiment, letters, memoirs and newspaper clippings.

The 36th Ohio has never been mentioned in the same breath of more famous units such as the Irish Brigade or the Iron Brigade, but it was indeed a crack combat regiment that was melded together by no less a man than General George Crook. The regiment quickly became known as Crook’s Regulars and like their modest commander, the men never took to bragging about their accomplishments in the post war years. Their feats on battlefields as varied as South Mountain, Antietam, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Cloyd’s Mountain, Opequon Creek, Fisher’s Hilll and Cedar Creek make them a most unusual regiment to study as they do not fit into any of the normal eastern or western theater pattern of operations.

This book is great for anyone who loves to research and delve into primary accounts of the Civil War. The regiment’s diverse experience means that it will have something to interest almost everyone. I am also grateful that instead of writing the usual cookie cutter regimental history, Ms. Mollohan decided to share with everyone this fine collection of primary source material. In essence, she has let the soldiers of “Crook’s Regulars,” as the regiment was known, tell their own story. She has arranged it chronologically so that readers can easily compare the accounts of the same event by various participants. While this may not sit well with those looking to just sit down and read a story, this book is a researchers dream. The only drawback is that at nearly 700 pages, the cost is $50, but then again some publishers are selling Civil War books at higher cost than that for much smaller books.

Ms. Mollohan, you have nobly honored the fighting men of the 36th Ohio and fulfilled Sgt. Booth’s assignment to publish their story.

 

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The Battle of Manassas: The 8th Georgia Regiment in the battle at Stone Bridge

Below is an account from From the Richmond Dispatch, July 29, 1861 detailing the activities of the 8th Georgia at the 1st Battle of Manassas. It is interesting to read these letters written in the immediate aftermath of the battle. Unlike post-war memoirs and veterans articles, these accounts focus more on what the soldier actually witnessed as opposed to fitting themselves into the stories they have heard over the years.

The following graphic description of scenes on the battle-field, and the gallant conduct of the Eight Georgia Regiment, was written for the Dispatch by a gentleman who participated in the fierce conflict of the 21st of July:
Eighth Georgia Regiment.

On Thursday, the 18th inst., about 2 P. M., this Regiment left Winchester for Manassas, under command of Lieut. Colonel Montgomery Gardner. Colonel Bartow had been for some weeks acting Brigadier General of a Brigade, consisting of the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 21th Georgia Regiments, and a battalion of Kentuckians.

The 8th marched 27 miles over the mountains, fording the Shenandoah, to Piedmont on the Manassas Gap Railroad, arriving there about 12 M., Friday. The march was fatiguing in the extreme. After a delay of a few hours they left for Manassas on the cars, and a slow, tedious ride brought them to this point late Saturdaymorning. They marched three and a half miles to camp in the woods, without tents, and without food. Early next morning they were ordered to the fight, where they arrived after a circuitous, wearisome, and at times double-quick tramp of between ten and twelve miles.

Breathless, tried, faint and footsore, the gallant fellows were eager for the affray.

They were first ordered to support Pendleson’s Virginia Battery, which they did amid a furious storm of grape from the enemy’s.–Inactive as they were, compelled to be under this fire, they stood cool and unflurried.

They were finally ordered to charge Sherman’s Battery. To do this it was necessary to cross an intervening hollow, covered by the enemy’s fire, and establish themselves in a thicket flanking the enemy’s battery. They charged in a manner that elicited the praise of Gen. Johnston.

Gaining the thicket, they opened upon the enemy. The history of warfare probably affords no instance of more desperate fighting than took place now. From three-sides a fierce, concentrated, murderous, unceasing volley poured in upon this devoted and heroic “six hundred” Georgians. The enemy appeared upon the hill by the thousand. Between six and ten regiments were visible. It was a hell of bullet-rain in that fatal grove. The ranks were cut down as grain by a scythe. Whole platoons melted away as if by magic. Cool, unflinching and stubborn, each man fought with gallantry, and a stern determination to win or die. Not one faltered. Col. Bartow’s horse was shot under him. Adjutant Branch fell, mortally wounded. Lieut. Col. Gardner dropped with a shattered leg. The officers moved from rank to rank, from man to man, cheering and encouraging the brave fellows. Some of them took the muskets of the dead and began coolly firing at the enemy.

It was an appalling hour. The shot whistled and tore through trees and bones. The ground became literally paved with the fallen. Yet the remnant stood composed and unquailing, carefully loading, steadily aiming, unerringly firing, and then quietly looking to see the effect of their shots. Mere boys fought like veterans — unexcited, save with that stern “white heat,” flameless exhilaration, that battle gives to brave spirits.

After eight or ten rounds the regiment appeared annihilated. The order was reluctantly given to cease firing and retire. The stubborn fellows gave no heed. It was repeated. Still no obedience. The battle spirit was up. Again it was given. Three volleys had been fired after the first command. At length they retired, walking and fighting. Owing to the density of the growth, a part of the regiment were separated from the colors. The other part formed in an open field behind the thicket. The retreat continued over ground alternately wood and field. At every open spot they would reform, pour a volley into the pursuing enemy and again retire.

From the accounts of the enemy who stopped to give water to the wounded and rifle the dead, it seems that the 8th cut to pieces the 6th Massachusetts, half demolished the Rhode Islanders, and made deadly havoc among the Regulars.

But a horrible mistake occurred at this point. Their own friends taking them for the enemy, poured a fatal fire upon their mutilated ranks.

At length they withdrew from the fight.–Their final rally was with some sixty men of the six hundred they took in. Balaklava tells no more heroic tale than this: “Into the valley of death marched the six hundred.”

As they retired, they passed Gen. Beauregard. He drew aside, fronted, raised his hat, and said, “I salute the 8th Georgia with my hat off.”

Of all the companies of the regiment, the Oglethorpe Light Infantry suffered most.–They were on the extreme right nearest the enemy, and thus were more exposed. Composed of the first young gentlemen of Savannah, their terrible loss will throw a gloom over their whole city.

An organization of five or six years standing, they were the favorite corps of Savannah. Colonel Bartow had long been Captain and was idolized by them, while he had a band of sons in them. It is supposed that his deep grief at the mutilation of his boys caused him to expose his life more recklessly than was necessary. He wished to die with them, if he could not take them back home.

They fought with heroic desperation. All young, all unmarried, all gentlemen, there was not one of the killed who was not an ornament to his community and freighted with brilliant promise.

In sending them to Virginia, Savannah sent her best to represent her, and their loss proves how well that stood up, how well that city was represented upon a field where all were brave.

This company was the first one to offer its services to President Davis under the Confederate act authorizing him to receive independent companies, and had the honor of being the first received. They left home in disobedience to the orders of their Governor, and brought away their arms in defiance of his authority, so eager were they to go where our country needed her best soldiers.

They were one of the two companies that took Fort Pulaski. When there was a riot expected in Savannah, early in the year, they were called out to quell it, with another corps.

Their whole history is one of heroism.–First to seek peril, they have proved in their sad fate how nobly they can endure it.

They will inevitably make their mark during the continuance of this holy war. They have enlisted for the whole war, and not one will turn back who can go forward, until it is ended, or they are completely annihilated.

After the gallant 8th had retired with but a fragment, Col. Bartow, by Gen. Beauregard’s order, brought up the 7th Georgia, exclaiming, in reply to Col. Gartrell, of the 7th, who asked him where they should go–”Give me your flag, and I will tell you.”

Leading them to their stand amid a terrific fire, he posted the regiment fronting the enemy, and exclaimed in those eloquent tones so full of high feeling that his friends ever expected from him–”Gen. Beauregard says you must hold this position, and, Georgians, I appeal to you to hold it”

Regardless of life, gallantly riding amid the hottest fire, cheering the men, inspiring them with his fervent courage, he was shot in the heart, and fell from his horse. They picked him up. With both hands clasped over his breast, he raised his head and with a God-like effort, his eye glittering in its last gleam with a blazing light, he said, with a last heroic flash of his lofty spirit, “They have killed me, but, boys, never give up the field,” –emphasizing the “never” in his peculiar and stirring manner, that all who know him will so feelingly recall.

Thus perished as noble a soul as ever breathed. He will long live in remembrance. He met the fate he most wished — the martyred patriot’s grave. He was a pure patriot, an able statesman, a brilliant lawyer, a chivalric soldier, a spotless gentleman. His imperious scorn of littleness was one of his leading characteristics. His lofty patriotism will consign his name to an immortal page in this country’s history.

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Colonel Augustus Moor and The Battle of Piedmont

Colonel Augustus Moor

Colonel Augustus Moor has long intrigued me as a Civil War officer.  When I look at his picture, I see a man who would seem more at home relaxing on a stool at a beer garden in my hometown of Parma, Ohio after another loss by the Cleveland Indians than leading troops in battle in 1864.  Parma, for those not familiar with it, is noted for its strong Germanic and Slavic ethnic roots (read polkas, beer, sauerkraut, and kielbasa).  Moor certainly does not look the part of the prototypical “dashing and gallant” officer of either side with his stout build and clean shaven face.

However, looks can be deceiving and they certainly were for Colonel Moor.   Major Theodore F. Lang of Hunter’s staff observed that Moor was “an intelligent and efficient officer and gallant soldier who was well liked by officers and men.”  He had received military training at the Royal Academy of Forestry in his native Germany and was actively involved in revolutionary plotting against the monarchy. The latter activities resulted in an eight-month prison sentence and two-year banishment from the Fatherland.  Upon release from prison, Moor immigrated to the United States and settled in Philadephia to begin a new life. During the Second Seminole Indian in Florida, he served as an officer in a Philadelphia Dragoon Company.  He ultimately settled in Cincinnati where he opened “Moor’s Garden,” a popular bakery, coffeehouse and tavern.  He also joined the local militia and founded the city’s German Democratic Club, gaining prominence among Cincinnati’s burgeoning German population.  When the Mexican War broke out, he organized a company for the 4th Ohio Infantry and saw action under both Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, rising to the rank of colonel.  After the war, Moor returned to to his family and prosperous business in Cincinnati until the outbreak of the Civil War.

In 1861, Moor organized the 2nd German Regiment or 28th Ohio Infantry and led it through the 1861 West Virginia campaigns.  He rose to brigade command in 1862, but was captured while leading an advance patrol during the Battle of South Mountain.  After returning to West Virginia, Moor experienced his greatest tactical success of the war leading his small brigade in a victorious charge in November 1863 at the Battle of Droop Mountain, the largest ever fought in West Virginia.

Battle Flag of the 28th Ohio

In the spring of 1864, Moor arrived in the Shenandoah Valley and soon found his brigade broken up by Sigel in the midst of the campaign.  Sigel then sent Moor twenty miles in advance of the main army, a “great mistake” to Moor who dutifully followed orders.  Moor advanced and drove Imboden out of New Market (See Charlie Knight’s Valley Thunder) and held the ground, waiting for Sigel to arrive.  When finally showed up, he posted his main force beyond supporting distance of Moor.  The Confederates attacked and drove his outnumbered force from the field in confusion.  Although Sigel was a fellow German, Moor mockingly described Sigel’s efforts as a case of “butiful management.”

During the battle of Piedmont, Moor led his brigade against the Confederate infantry in several attacks.  The first drove back the advance Confederate line.  Moor attempted to follow up his success, but was stopped by Confederate infantry entrenched behind a rail fence.  Hunter ordered a third attack, and Moor complied expecting to be supported on his left by Colonel Joseph Thoburn’s brigade.  Thoburn concluded that his flank was exposed and did not advance in conjunction with Moor, whose brigade was again repulsed.  This time the Confederates counterattacked, but fortunately, Moor’s veteran regiment, the 28th Ohio, held its ground in the center of the battle line.  Moor’s Germans laid down behind the brow of a hill and opened fire at the attacking rebels.  Supported by Captain Alfred Von Kleiser’s artillery on the right, Moor repulsed the rebel effort.  Thoburn’s brigade withdrew to the support of the United States artillery until ordered by Hunter to conduct a flank attack.  This time the assault came off as planned, and Moor’s brigade joined in the attack that routed the rebels from the battlefield, with the 28th Ohio making a bayonet charge against the entrenched Southerners.  In this battle, Moor’s brigade bore the brunt of the fighting losing nearly 500 men killed and wounded.  Moor’s old regiment, the 28th Ohio lost 138 of those casualties and counted 72 bullet holes in its battle flag at the end of the day.

After the battle, Hunter’s army occupied Staunton. Moor, whose enlistment was expiring was tasked with escorting the 1,000 Confederate captives to the Camp Morton POW Camp in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Hunter was disappointed that Moor was leaving the service, but expressed “. . . his high appreciation of your [Moor’s]  soldierly qualities and services, and his regret at losing you from this command.  The masterly management of your brigade at the recent battle of Piedmont on the 5th instant, did no more than sustain the creditable character given of you by your former commanders.”  Hunter’s adjutant also informed Moor that Hunter “. . . trusts that the service may not permanently lose so good an officer at a time so critical and to this end has written a letter to the Hon. Secretary of War.”  Nevertheless, Moor and the 28th Ohio escorted the prisoners to Indiana and after a short stay there were mustered out of the service.  The Germans were welcomed Indiana as conquering heroes and greeted by bands and a lengthy speech by Governor Morton.  Fortunately, Lieutenant Henry Ocker noted that Colonel Moor halted the 28th Ohio at a German beer garden and treated his men “to a few glasses of beer.”

Moor returned home to his family and business, living in Cincinnati until his death in 1883. He was buried in Cincinnati’s  Spring Grove Cemetery a prominent resting place for veterans of the War of the Rebellion.  Also buried there is his son-in-law, Major General Godfrey Weitzel who married Moor’s daughter

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The 34th Massachusetts at the Battle of New Market

The 34th Massachusetts did most of its fighting in the Shenandoah Valley and Western Virginia.  It did not participate in the more famous battles such as Antietam, Gettysburg or Spotsylvania.  As a result, it has not received the historical recognition that it truly deserves.  The regiment was extremely well disciplined and drilled under the tutelage of its commander, Colonel George D. Wells, a veteran officers from the 1st Massachusetts Infantry.  Under his leadership, the regiment played important roles and endured heavy losses in battles at New Market, Piedmont, Lynchburg, Snicker’s Gap, Opequon Creek and Fisher’s Hill.  Wells was mortally wounded in a skirmish at Hupp’s Hill near Cedar Creek on October 13,  1864.  The regiment would go onto participate in the Battle of Cedar Creek where it was among the first troops attacked during Jubal Early’s pre-dawn attack on Sheridan’s Camp.

The 34th Massachusetts in camp

Head Quarters 34th Mass. Inf.

In the Field at Cedar Creek, Va.

May 17, 1864

At the date of my last letter we were in camp near Woodstock. saturday morning we sent out a train of eight wagons foraging with a guard of two officers and 60 men. Knox, our cook wanted to go with them to try and get me chickens; so he took the horse that I have been riding; about 11 o’clock in the forenoon we received orders to march immediately with all our baggage — it was raining quite hard at the time, as indeed, it had been more or less for several days. We marched through the town of Woodstock and about two miles beyond Edenburg, a distance of about 10 miles without halting. All along the road were dismounted cavalrymen, some with arms and equipments and some without. They informed us that they had been having quite a fight with Imboden at Mount Jackson. We pushed on towards that place, but before we arrived there we could hear the booming of cannon, and could see the smoke rising just beyond the town. We had marched about 18 miles at a very fast pace, most of the time in a drenching rain — I had walked most of the way and my feet were very sore. I had a hole in my shoe and the mud and gravel had worked inside of my stocking and raised a large blood blister — I hobbled along to the teams which were just ahead of our regiment and took out of my knapsack a dry pair of socks and another pair of shoes and staid in the wagon until after we had passed through and al.most four miles beyond Mount Jackson, and within about two miles of New Market. We were then nearly up with the contending parties; we could see the shells bursting in the air quite plainly; the wagon train halted there and the regiment kept on about half a mile further and then halted to arrange their equipment and load. I was in a good safe place and could have stopped there with perhaps just as much honor as to go ahead, but I could not stand it to see the boys go along without me — I had no arms except my revolver, but when I came up with the regiment I found in the rear several men who had just been taken with severe sick headache. I took the gun and equipments from one of them while the surgeon was recommending him to go home to his mother — and went along and fell in with my Company; it was the first time that I had carried a gun in the Company for about twenty months; my appearance then and there amongst them with a gun on my shoulder surprised many of the boys, for they had imagined that I had got a good safe job and would not “go in,” in case of a fight. More than a dozen (amongst them the Captain) held out their hands to me and welcomed me back to the Company.

We soon came near the town which is situated in a hollow with high hills to the north and south. The Confederates had their battery planted on the hill south of the town, and we had two planted on north side of the town. The Col. then moved the regiment around and under the hill in rear of the battery so as to support it in case it was charged upon; he then went up on top of the hill to take a look at the rebels. I followed him up a short distance and heard him direct the Adjutant to send us around to watch the ridge in front of our battery and notify him if any force appeared in front of our guns. I volunteered for the job — he gave me my instructions and went back over the hill — I could see the flash of the enemy’s guns and then hear the shell come whizzing along — if it was coming near me, down I would go to my face and there lie until it either passed or exploded. While in this position several burst near me and several pieces came as near as I wished to see them — one particular one I could hear coming directly towards me — and I was almost certain I was hit — down I went, flat on my face. I heard the Colonel laughing behind me, but I ad a chance to turn it in a few moments — the particular shell that I was dodging struck the ground in a direct line about two rods in front of me and burst ; how the mud flew — one piece of shell came so near me that I rolled over and picked it up. I put it in my pocket and have it now. The Col. stood laughing in which I heartily joined him but in another moment we saw the flash of the rebel gun. We stood waiting and listening for the shell. Finally it came. I saw it burst in the air in front of us. I glanced at the Colonel — down he went — thinks I to myself, “Follow suit or you may be trumped,” and again I ran my nose into the ground like a regular porker. One piece passed just over the Colonel — another just over striking within ten feet of me.

It was then almost dark and after one or two more rounds the rebels withdrew for the night. Our batteries fell back and the infantry was thrown forward and around to the right of the town. It had been raining a good share of the time and many of the boys had no blankets, and we were all wet through. No fires were to be built, but the rebels were in the woods all around and in front of us — we were tired and hungry and the rain still poured down — we had all got stretched out on the ground to pass the night as comfortably as possible when the picket line commenced firing. I was lying close to the Col. — we were speaking of the probability of being routed out — the shots grew faster and more of them until suddenly came two terrific volleys, the flash of the guns in the darkness fired within eight rods of us and the singing of the minnies through the trees, leading us to think a whole regiment was right upon us. Col. Wells came up on his feet in an instant, shouting “Up boys.” In less time than it takes me to write it, the regiment were in line and every gun was ready and bearing upon the spot where we expected the rebels to appear, but that was their last attempt that night, everything grew quiet and we lay down again. I slept sound with my head on my cartridge box and the rain pouring on me most of the time. At 3 o’clock we were routed out and stood to our arms until daylight.

At 6 o’clock our wagons came up and we had some coffee, bread and butter. We got our tent up, some good fires going and tried to warm up. They were hardly going when the sharp report of artillery, and the shrieking and bursting shells were heard. All this time shells had been bursting around us but providentially no one was injured. Only six regiments of infantry were brought into line on our side. Cavalry were in front of us. About noon three rebel lines, either one of them as large as our entire line came charging up over the brow of the hill. We could see all three rebel lines as they came on — as soon as they appeared in sight they opened fire, we replied from our batteries, and from where I was I could see the shells mow them down by scores. As soon as they came within range our boys opened with killing effect — by that time the “minnies,” “shells,” solid shot and railroad iron were whistling past and around us in a perfect storm. The first rebel line melted away, but the second and third still came on — thicker and faster came the iron hail — human endurance could not stand it — our line gradually ave away and we fell back across the fields. You can form some slight idea of the fire we were exposed to from the fact that of the 450 men in line of the 34th over 200 were killed and wounded within fifteen minutes, on an average five out of every six of our men bear the marks of bullets about their person. About the time we commenced falling back, Col. Wells was hit on the left arm and on the head. I gave him the horse I was on and then hunted up his boy and mounted one of the other horses. As I was mounting a minnie came close by my leg and hit the horse on the leg, but not so as to disable him. I mounted and kept along with the boys. As they fell back there was no running; they went at common time, occasionally a stand would be made until overpowering numbers would force us back again. The Colonel’s horse was shot from under me, two bullets passing clear through him, one before and one behind my legs. I succeeded in bringing the saddle which is a valuable one and the bridle safely off the field. The horse was a very fine one and was presented to the Col. by the citizens of Boston; they gave $500 for him. We fell back across the north branch of the Shenandoah which was much swollen by the rain. After all our troops were over we destroyed the bridge and took up our line of march for this place. We marched all night in the rain and mud; my feet were all blistered on the bottom. Our horses were mostly occupied by wounded soldiers. I picked up a good horse on the way back, but there was a poor fellow walking side of me who had his nose shot off and was quite weak. I put him in the saddle and led the horse for him. About 7 o’clock we halted, got some coffee, and slept until 2 o’clock when we again started reaching the creek about 6 o’clock last night. Lt. Col. Lincoln was wounded and fell into the hands of the enemy. Two Captains and one Lieut. were killed, and one Captain and three Lieuts. wounded. Six out of the eight color Corporals were either killed or wounded. Our total loss is 217 of killed wounded and missing; 29 men killed. In Company D two men were killed and wounded.

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Lt. Col. John P. Wolfe and the 51st Virginia Infantry at the Battle of Leetown, 8/25/1864 By Robert E. Wolfe

Battle of Leetown, Jed Hotchkiss Map, Library of Congress

The Battle of Leetown occurred on August 25, 1864 when Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early took the bulk of his army on a reconnaissance in force toward Shepherdstown and the Potomac River. Sheridan, who had just fallen back to the defenses of Harper’s Ferry, simultaneously sent two cavalry divisions on a recon mission of their own toward Early’s northern flank. With two large forces moving in the same direction, a clash of arms was inevitable. After General George A. Custer scored an initial  success against the Confederate advance, Early brought his superior manpower to bear upon the Federals and forced them back in confusion, although Sheridan’s cavalry had acquitted itself well in a toe-to-toe fight with the Confederate infantry. In the course of the fighting, Lt. Col. Wolfe was killed. The following story is told by his brother.

Early’s infantry was encamped in the vicinity northwest of Charlestown on the morning of the 25th of Aug. 1864. About 8 o’clock A.M., the whole army marched in the direction of Shepherdstown. At 12 M. Wharton’s division in front and his old brigade in front of his division with the 51 Va Regiment leading the advance. We halted at a brick church abut one mile from Leetown – remained here about one hour, and resumed the advance. We had not gone more than one half of a mile when we met our cavalry falling back. Col. Wolfe received orders to deploy his regiment (the 51st) as skirmishers on both sides of the turnpike and advance. This was quietly done and the regiment advanced at a double quick, the other troops being in column on the road.

This regiment charged a strong line of battle supported by artillery posted on an eminence in their front, driving them back upon their reserves one half mile beyond their first position. The enemy now began to flank with cavalry on the right and left of the skirmishers. On the right they were met and repulsed by the 45th Va Regiment sent by Col. [Augustus] Forsberg commanding brigade under direction of Gen. [Gabriel] Wharton. Col. Wolfe seeing the right of the regiment made safe, hastened to the left of the road into a cornfield, where he as shot and instantly fell dead. The regiment then fell back to the top of the hill from which they had driven the enemy, but not until the last round of ammunition had been expended.

By this time other brigades of the the division had been deployed and advanced and drove the enemy in great confusion across the Potomac before sundown. Our loss was chiefly in the 51st. This regiment was the largest regiment in Gen. Early’s command, and had no superior in the point of discipline and valor.

Some time after the battle, I spoke to General Early about the battle being fought by a skirmish line and the loss of my brother and he told me that according to the information he had received from our cavalry in front that there was but one brigade of the enemy present and that he knew that Col Wolfe could, with the 51st, whip any brigade of yankee cavalry on top of the earth. But at the time our cavalry fell back and the 51st advanced two other brigades of the enemy had reached the field, which was not known to him until after the battle was joined.

In this battle I had another brother [Peter Wolfe] wounded – disabled for life. I hope that you will forgive me for the length of this letter about Leetown or Kearnesyville as it is sometimes called. My loss shall be my plea.

The 51st Virginia Infantry lost 12 killed, 63 wounded and 27 captured at Leetown.

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