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Full text of "History of the 121st New York State Infantry"

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HISTORY 

of the 

121ST NEW YORK 
STATE INFANTRY 



By 
ISAAC O. BEST 



V3H jjF-s 



1921 

PUBLISHED BY 

LIEUT. JAS. H. SMITH 

3543 Cottage Grove Ave., CHICAGO, ILL. 



Price by mail, prepaid, $1.15 



1376806 



FOREWORD 

IN compiling a History of the 121st Regiment of 
New York Volunteers, the writer feels handi- 
capped by two facts: He is not an original mem- 
ber of the regiment, but was transferred from the 
16th N. Y. in the spring of 1863; and after his 
transfer, he did not serve in the regiment, having 
previously been detailed for clerical duty in the 
office of the Adjutant General of the Brigade. 
Consequently he never had that close personal 
relation with the members of the regiment that 
would give to his writing the intimate character 
of a fellow soldier. 

On the other hand, however, his position gave 
him the advantage of a close observer; for all the 
orders from the higher authorities and all the re- 
ports of the brigade and regimental commanders 
passed under his hand, and he was able to esti- 
mate more fully the character of the services 
rendered, and the estimation in which those serv- 
ices were held by the superior officers. 

The several sources from which this history is 
compiled are: the records of the regiment, the 
reports of regimental and brigade commanders, 
the diaries of several members of the regiment, 
and several books already published covering the 
same events. Of these the diary of Colonel Clinton 
Beckwith, notes by Lieut. J. H. Smith, the 
chapters in the History of Otsego County, prepared 
by Colonel J. W. Cronkite, the letters of Chaplain 
John R. Adams and the diary of Lieutenant Wood- 
cock have been especially useful. Col. Beckwith's 
diary is as it professes to be, the "story of his own 

v 



army experiences, and of his comrades and of the 
regiment from the enlisted man's viewpoint." 
That he has given permission to quote ad libitum 
from it is very gratifying to the compiler, as it 
will certainly be also to the readers of the history. 
Col. Cronkite's history of the regiment in the 
History of Otsego County is a condensed sketch of 
the most important facts connected with the serv- 
ices and exploits of the regiment; but as it may be 
be protected by copyright the facts and not the 
words, are freely used. 

The compiler bespeaks for his work the same 
kindly regard that has been shown him by the 
Regimental Association, in welcoming him to its 
membership, and honoring him with this privilege 
of writing its history. 

The task assigned to Lieut. Jas. H. Smith of 
collecting photographs of the officers of the regi- 
ment, and of having half-tone reproductions made 
of such as could be secured, for use in this volume, 
he has found a very difficult undertaking. It will 
be remembered by our surviving comrades that 
photography during our service was just emerg- 
ing from the daguerreotype, and the tintype, into 
photographic prints on paper, and that practically 
all photos made in those days were of the "Carte 
De Visete" size (2%x3% inches). Hence the 
necessity for the diminished size of most of our 
illustrations. 

It was found to be impossible to secure any con- 
siderable number of photos of the line officers 
(captains and lieutenants) hence we concluded 
to omit all such, and confine our efforts to securing 
for illustrations only those who served as com- 
manders of our Corps, Division, Brigade and 
Regiment, and the regimental field officers, and 
some of the latter we are also obliged to omit, as 
we were unsuccessful in every effort to secure the 

vi 



necessary photos. We wish, however, to thank all 
those who by loaning to us such photographs as 
they have, have thereby made our illustrations as 
complete as we could have hoped for at the pres- 
ent day. 

The red cross which appears on the cover of this 
book was adopted in 1863 as the emblem of the 
1st Division of the 6th Army Corps. It therefore 
antedates by many years the Red Cross Society, 
as well as its use as a hospital emblem. 



vn 



INTRODUCTION 

A S each individual of a family is distinguished 
-£*- from the rest by peculiar characteristics, and 
each family in a community differs from every 
other family, so nations and races are dis- 
tinguishable in like manner, the regiments, 
brigades and corps of an army acquire peculiari- 
ties by which they can be distinguished from all 
others. These peculiarities depend upon and are 
developed by several conditions. The character 
of the men composing the organization, the cir- 
cumstances under which it was organized, the 
ability and efficiency of the leaders, all combine 
to produce an esprit de corps which is capable of 
indefinite variety. In this respect the 121st was 
especially fortunate. Its original members were 
young men of fine personal character, the com- 
panies were recruited from neighboring town- 
ships, it was officered by the men who had 
conducted the recruiting, and was assigned to a 
brigade, division, and corps that had no superiors 
in the army. 

The Sixth Corps was commanded by Major 
General John Sedgwick, the First Division by 
Brigadier General H. W. Slocum, and the Second 
Brigade by Brigadier General J. J. Bartlett. Under 
these officers the brigade had acquired an efficiency 
and reputation that immediately affected favor- 
ably the newly assigned regiment. They were all 
officers of marked military ability, who thought 
little of mere display, and much of soldierly effi- 
ciency, whose effort was not to make themselves 
conspicuous, but to make the troops under them 

ix 



capable of the best service under every exigency 
of war. 

But the officer, to whom the regiment was most 
indebted for the development of its brilliant indi- 
viduality, was undoubtedly Colonel Emory Upton. 
He came to it soon after its entry into active serv- 
ice, a recent graduate of West Point, with a fine 
reputation, attained by efficient service during the 
previous campaign as an artillery officer. Eagerly 
efficient, strict, yet just in discipline, wise in ad- 
ministration, cool and fearless in danger, he was 
able to win and hold the respect and admiration 
of the men under him, and to mold them into 
the model fighting regiment that they became. To 
the present day, every surviver of the regiment is 
proud to have served under the command of 
General Emory Upton. 




Major General EMORY UPTON, 

Who served as Colonel of the 121st N. Y. Volunteers 

from October 23, 1862, to July 4, 1864. 




( JOLONEL 

EGBERT OLCOTT, 

Commander 
of the 12 1st X. Y. 

Infantry from 

July 4, 1864, to the 

end of the war. 



JAMES W. CRONKITE, 

Major ami Brevet 

Lieutenant Colonel, 

121st X. Y. Infantry. 




CHAPTER I 

The Organization of the 121st New York 
Volunteers 

WHEN on July 2, 1862, President Lincoln issued 
the call for 300,000 men, the war for the Union 
had reached such proportions, and the military 
situation was so critical, that the patriotic enthusi- 
asm that had characterized the organization of the 
volunteer army in 1861 no longer availed to pro- 
cure the troops necessary to fill the quota required 
from the State, and a systematic and earnest effort 
was necessary. This effort developed in two direc- 
tions: first, to fill up the older regiments with 
recruits; and second, to organize new regiments, 
one in each Senatorial District. Under the latter 
plan the 121st was recruited in the 20th Senatorial 
District comprising the two counties of Herkimer 
and Otsego. To supervise the organization of the 
regiment, Governor Morgan appointed the Hon. 
Richard Franchot, and also a committee from the 
two counties which should appoint County Com- 
mittees to prosecute the work in the several town- 
ships. The Senatorial Committee consisted of the 
following named persons: R. Ethridge, Wm. Gates, 
Ezra Graves, Amos H. Prescott, L. L. Lowell, H. H. 
Pomeroy, Thomas Richardson and Volney Owen, 
County Judge. 

It has not been possible to find the names of the 
County Committees, but under their direction 
patriotic meetings were held in the several town- 
ships, and recruiting officers appointed for the 
separate companies. 

1 



Headquarters were established at Herkimer, and 
the enlistment was pushed so energetically that by 
the middle of August a full regiment was assured, 
and the recruiting officers were ordered to report 
at headquarters with their men. 

The townships from which the several com- 
panies were recruited were as follows: 
Company A. Manheim, Little Falls, Salisbury 

and Dunbar. 
Company B. Winfield, Plainfield, Litchfield, Ger- 
man Flats, Columbia and Stark. 
Company C. Fairfield, Russia, Herkimer and 

Newport. 
Company D. Frankfort, Warren, Manheim, 

Schuyler, Columbia and Salisbury. 
Company E. Middlefield, Milford, Cherry Valley, 

Hartwick, Springfield, Otego and Roseboom. 
Company F. Edminston, Exeter, Unadilla, Otego 

and Maryland. 
Company G. Cherry Valley, Roseboom, Decatur, 

Middlefield, Westford, Worcester and Herkimer. 
Company H. Little Falls, Richfield, Salisbury and 

Otego. 
Company I. Milford, Laurens, Morris, Worcester, 

Pittsfield, Hartwick* and German Flats. 
Company K. Laurens, New Lisbon, Oneonta, 

Burlington, Otego, Butternuts, Pittsfield and 

Plainfield. 

A camp for the regiment was selected across the 
Mohawk River from Herkimer on German Flats, 
and named Camp Schuyler. 

The contract for this camp-site reads as follows: 

Headquarters Camp Schuyler 

August 29, 1862. 
This agreement, made this 25th day of July, A. D. 
1862, between Albert Story, on behalf of the State 
of New York, as Quartermaster, and Henry J. 

2 



Schuyler, witnesseth that the said Schuyler has 
leased for the season certain grounds, being a por- 
tion of his farm in the township of German Flats, 
for the purpose of allowing the same to be used as 
a military camp. 

The State has the authority and power to have 
as much land as is necessary and as they desire to 
occupy, and to put such fixtures on the ground as 
may be necessary; and they are to pay for the said 
land at the rate of $10.00 per acre. The State is 
to fix the fences that may be necessarily removed, 
and put them back as they were, or pay for the 
same being done. The State has the right to re- 
move the fixtures after this lease has expired. 

H. J. Schuyler. 

Albert Story, 
Quartermaster 121st N. Y. 
In presence of 
Amos H. Prescott. 

There is nothing on record about the physical 
characteristics or structural features of this camp 
to suggest beauty or interest, and the stay of the 
121st in it w T as so short after their muster in, that 
nothing worth remembering b} r the men seems to 
have occurred there. 

By a partial agreement among themselves the 
company offices were to be apportioned according 
to the number each had enlisted; and this agree- 
ment was so closely adhered to, that there was 
little dissatisfaction when the order of the Gover- 
nor was received, completing the organization of 
the Regiment. 



3 



General Headquarters, State of New York 
Adjutant General's Office 



Albany, August 21, 1862. 



Special Order 
No. 463 



The several companies of volunteers enlisted in 
the 20th Senatorial District of this State, in con- 
formity with General Order No. 52 from this 
department, having been duly organized, said 
companies are hereby formed into a regiment, to 
be known and designated as the 121st Regiment of 
New York State Volunteers. 

The following persons are hereby appointed 
field staff and company officers, and will be com- 
missioned when the complete muster rolls of the 
regiment thus organized shall have been filed in 
the office of the Adjutant General of the State. 
Colonel: Richard Franchot; Lieut. Colonel: C. H. 
Clark; Major: Egbert Olcott; Surgeon: Wm. 
Bassett; 1st Assistant Surgeon: N. S. B. Valen- 
tine; 2d Assistant Surgeon: David M. Holt; Chap- 
lain: J. R. Sage; Adjutant: Alonzo Ferguson; 
Quartermaster: Albert Story. 
Company A. Captain, H. M. Galpin; 1st Lieut., 

Jonathan Burrill; 2d Lieut., George W. Davis. 
Company B. Captain, Irvin Holcomb; 1st Lieut., 

H. C. Keith; 2d Lieut., George A. May. 
Company C. Captain, C. A. Moon; 1st. Lieut., 

Thomas S. Arnold; 2d Lieut., Angus Cameron. 
Company D. Captain, John D. Fish; 1st Lieut, D. 

M. Kenyon; 2d Lieut., Charles E. Staring. 
Company E. Captain, Douglas Campbell; 1st 
Lieut., Theodore Sternburg; 2d Lieut., Harrison 
Van Horn. 
Company F. Captain, Nelson O. Wendell; 1st 
Lieut, Byron T. Peck; 2d Lieut., Frank G. Bolles. 

4 



Company G. Captain, Edwin Park; 1st Lieut., 

Charles T. Ferguson; 2d Lieut., J. D. Clyde. 
Company H. Captain, John Ramsey; 1st Lieut., 
W. F. Doubleday; 2d Lieut., Marcus R. Casler. 
Company I. Captain, John S. Kidder; 1st Lieut., 

John D. P. Douw; 2d Lieut., Delavan Rates. 
Company K. Captain, Sacket M. Olin; 1st Lieut., 
Andrew E/ Mather. 

By order of the Commander in Chief 
(Signed) Jno. Hillhouse, 

Adjutant General. 

The regiment was mustered into service under 
the above named officers, and for a week occupied 
Camp Schuyler, numbering 30 officers and 946 en- 
listed men. Besides these there had been enlisted 
117 men who on August 20th were discharged by 
the Surgeon's certificate for disability. 



CHAPTER II 

THE defeat of McClellan before Richmond, and 
his retreat to Harrison's Landing so uncovered 
Washington to an advance of the Confederate 
army, that it became necessary to rush additional 
forces to the defense of the capital of the nation, 
and only a week was allowed for equipment and 
drill of the 121st at Camp Schuyler. On August 
30th the regiment left camp under orders to pro- 
ceed to Washington. The journey was made by 
railroad to Albany, by boat to New York, and by 
railroad through Philadelphia and Baltimore to 
Washington. The events of this journey are 
graphically told by members of the regiment. 
Colonel Beckwith's is the most explicit, and before 
quoting from his diary of this and future events, 
a sketch of his previous army experiences is almost 
a necessity. At the age of fifteen he went to Albany 
and enlisted in the 91st N. Y. Infantry, and with 
them went to Florida where he was unable to en- 
dure the climate, and was discharged for disability. 
Returning to his home in Utica, he so recovered 
his health that he determined to re-enlist, and after 
visiting several recruiting stations decided to enter 
the 121st. He was made a corporal in Company 
B. He has entitled the story of his war experiences, 
"Three Years with the Colors of a Fighting Regi- 
ment in the Army of the Potomac, by a Private 
Soldier." Passing over the very interesting ac- 
count of his previous experiences I quote from his 
journal, beginning at the departure from Camp 
Schuyler. "My life in camp at Camp Schuyler was 
thoroughly enjoyed by me and I never pass it now 

6 



without recollections of a pleasant nature surging 
to my memory. After we had been uniformed and 
equipped, we were sent to New York and Wash- 
ington, without special incident — feeding at the old 
cooper shop in Philadelphia, and getting a tough 
meal at Washington. We were marched with full 
ranks, one thousand strong, in review past the 
great martyred Lincoln, and received his kindly 
commendation and warm approbation; and on, 
out to the fort in the chain of defenses of Wash- 
ington, called after him, Fort Lincoln, in the 
vicinity of Hyattsville, Md., and near the famous 
duelling ground of slavery days." (The Colonel 
was evidently not a participant in the melon-patch 
episode just outside of Philadelphia, while the 
train was waiting on a siding for other trains to 
pass. Colonel Cronkite says that the tedium of 
the wait was relieved by a raid on a neighboring 
melon patch in which more than half of the regi- 
ment participated; and that, led by an officer, they 
returned to the train laden with a melon each.) 
The regiment in box cars arrived in Washington 
on Sept. 3d, in the morning and arrived at Hyatts- 
ville in the afternoon. Major Olcott, having been 
sent ahead to get instructions, was asked by the 
commanding officer whether the regiment was 
from the country and had good choppers in it. 
The major answered that it was from an agricul- 
tural and dairy section, and did not contain many 
axemen. There the matter ended. This journey 
from Camp Schuyler to Washington, made so 
quietly and orderly, so soon after the muster of the 
regiment, demonstrates the remarkable character 
of the officers and the men composing it. They 
were not adventurers, not mere enthusiasts, but 
sober, earnest American citizens, who realized the 
need of their services, and were patriotic enough 
to give their best to the country they loved. Their 

7 



good conduct was not the result of discipline and 
drill, but of the essential virtues of their character. 
It was prophetic of the admirable service it was 
destined to render, when perfected by months of 
well directed instruction in the tactics and practice 
of war. 

To resume Col. Beckwith's narrative, "Here for 
a little time we busied ourselves with the duties of 
soldiers in camp, and becoming familiar with com- 
pany and battalion movements, when all of a sud- 
den we were astonished by news that McClellan 
had fallen back from Harrison's Landing, Pope 
was falling back from Culpeper Court House, 
Jackson was on Pope's flank, and Lee was par- 
tially between Pope and McClellan, and Washing- 
ton. Everything was magnified in the most out- 
rageous manner." 

What really had happened was serious enough. 
McClellan's army was concentrated at Harrison's 
Landing, discouraged by defeat, the defeat of its 
commander, not of its constituency, destitute of 
equipment and supplies on account of the capture 
and destruction of artillery and trains. Pope, with 
the forces able to be gathered for the purpose, was 
not able to resist the attack of the victorious Con- 
federate army, in the series of engagers ?nts that 
constituted the second battle of Bull Run; and 
flushed with this further triumph, Lee was leading 
his forces forward in an attempt to capture Wash- 
ington. They were already in Maryland, Concen- 
trating in the vicinity of Frederick City. ' It was 
necessary to interpose a sufficient force between 
the advancing enemy and Washington to prevent 
its capture, and defeat the enemy. In this effort, 
little time was given to the newly enlisted regi- 
ments for instruction and drill. They were 
hurriedly assigned to organizations already in the 
field. The 121st was ordered to report to the Fifth 

8 



Corps, then located in Virginia, south of Wash- 
ington. When on the march to cross the Potomac, 
it was met by General Slocum, who was a friend 
of Col. Franchot, and by his influence the regiment 
was reassigned to the Sixth Corps. It was by this 
unexpected meeting of two old friends that in 
going to the front the 121st was "put into one of 
the choicest brigades of the army; and we were 
marched out by way of the Tenallyville road, to, 
and through Rockville, and by Darnstown and 
Sugar Loaf Mountain, and joined the brigade com- 
manded by Gen. Joseph J. Bartlett, with which 
we remained till the war ended." (B.) 

By all accounts this march to the front was un- 
necessarily severe. On the first day it was con- 
tinued until late in the evening, and the men were 
too weary even to eat, and as they had left their 
knapsacks behind and had not yet been supplied 
with shelter tents, the night was spent most miser- 
ably, and in many cases the health of the men was 
so shattered that they never recovered from the 
effects of their excessive fatigue and exposure. 
Many subsequent marches were longer and more 
difficult, but they were made under experienced 
commanders, with the men more inured to exer- 
cise, and with facilities to better take care of 
themselves. 

The ambition of Col. Franchot to report at the 
front as soon as possible, led him to resume the 
march at 2 a. m. the next morning, thus giving the 
men only three hours for rest and sleep. Many 
who had not been able to keep up on the previous 
day, were deprived of even that scant period of 
rest. 

Col. Beckwith continues, "We, in our inexperi- 
ence, clung to our knapsacks, blankets, overcoats, 
rubber blankets, and all the trinkets and 'what- 
nots' we had brought from home, and these made 

9 



such heavy loads that they wore many a poor chap 
out; and by nightfall he was many miles in the 
rear, hurrying to catch up as best he could, gen- 
erally with poor success. The weather was very 
warm, and the dirt roads, cut deep with the artil- 
lery, ammunition, supply and baggage trains, were 
shoe deep with powdered clay, and dust of a dark 
red color, and it would completely envelop a 
column of troops marching on each side of the 
roads, which were occupied by the cavalry and 
artillery portion of the army, because the infantry 
could go anywhere. So, loaded too heavily, and 
unused to the work, the men would pluckily keep 
up until overcome by heat, or choked with thirst, 
smothered by dust, discouraged and exhausted, 
they would throw themselves down, and many a 
fine fellow perished in this way. 

"In those days our ranks were full, our uniforms 
bright, our faces clean and untanned. We had, 
and wore, the sweetness of home. War, its suf- 
fering, misery, wounds, sickness and horrors were 
uncared for, because untouched." 

These were the days when the endurance of our 
men was tested to the limit. We had no tents and 
had to secure shelter nights such as the country 
afforded, a night camp in the woods being the 
best; a rail shed with brush or straw roof when pro- 
curable, next; then again rolled up in our over- 
coats and rubber blankets, with our knapsacks for 
a pillow, we could get a good night's rest. Two 
days out from Camp Lincoln, the regiment over- 
took the corps and took its place in the Second 
Brigade. According to Col. Beckwith the reception 
it received was not altogether pleasant. He says, 
"Another source of annoyance and hardship was 
the constant shouting and ridicule we received 
from the old regiments. We were called 'Paid 
Hirelings,' 'Two Hundred Dollar Men,' 'Sons of 

10 



Mars'; told we would get soft bread farther on 
if we did not like hardtack; asked if we liked 
army life, and a lot of stuff too foolish to speak of; 
but to us it was excessively annoying. Our men 
were an extraordinary body of troops and felt 
keenly this ridicule, but they bore it patiently, 
except now and then some hot blood would hit 
out and resent the insult. Such outbreaks were 
quickly quieted." 

Soon, however, a sincere friendship sprang up 
between the 121st and the 5th Maine, which 
deepened and ripened as the months went by and 
was continued for years after the war closed by 
the visits of delegates from each regiment to the 
annual reunions of the other. 

This attachment cannot better be described than 
it was by Lieut. Philip R. Woodcock at one of 
these reunions. He said, "Comrades, it is with 
sincere pleasure I arise to respond to this toast, 
'The 5th Maine.' However poorly I may do it I 
shall always feel that I have been honored by my 
comrades in selecting me for this pleasant duty. 

"There has been a close fraternal feeling, 
amounting to a strong tie, existing between the 
5th Maine and the 121st New York since we 
were brigaded together in September, 1862. It was 
cemented in the mingled blood of the two regi- 
ments as we went side by side, usually on the 
front line, as we passed through the successive 
campaigns of the war. The history of one is the 
history of the other, except that the 5th Maine 
commenced several months earlier, making a 
grand beginning, while the 121st continued on 
helping make history for the brigade, with an 
equally grand ending; both returning to private 
life with the highest achievements of honor, which 
was most pathetically shown by the thinned ranks 
of both returned regiments. 

11 



"This strong affection — and I may go farther and 
as Major Strout expressed it to-day — love, has con- 
tinued increasing as the years go on, and is even 
stronger to-day than ever, made so by the presence 
of the representatives with us to-day. It seems to 
me a great privilege to exchange greetings with 
them after over forty years since our separation. 
Our ranks are still more depleted and we can not 
muster in numbers by fifty per cent what we could 
on our return. 

"We are growing old. Time is showing its mark, 
and our bodies are getting more or less infirm, 
and year by year, with increasing rapidity, our 
comrades are dropping out and can not answer 
the roll call at our annual meetings. Sad as this 
fact is, there is an amazing amount of vigor and 
vitality left in us yet, and our patriotism runs as 
high as ever. 

"We are glad to learn and hear something of 
our comrades of the 5th Maine to-day. Their 
representative assures us that we are not forgotten. 
Conditions with them are about the same as with 
us. At their annual reunions they speak of us, 
as we do of them to-night. How well we remem- 
ber the old days, and how pleasant to recall the 
many thrilling incidents which connected us so 
closely ! With our two regiments on the front line 
facing the enemy, led by the gallant Colonels Upton 
and Edwards, we had that feeling that the Japs 
must have had when facing the Russians in the 
present Eastern war, 'that we can whip everything 
before us,' and we generally did it, too. 

We do not forget the life and services of the 
faithful Chaplain, John R. Adams, who remained 
with us after the return home of the 5th Maine. 
The death of this honored officer only increases 
our affection for them all. We love to let our 
memories run back to those days and call up in 
our minds those strong, sturdy Maine boys. By 

12 

2 



reason of their few months' previous service they 
were in a position to be very useful to us, as we, 
fresh from our homes, tried to get accustomed to 
a campaign life. We learned rapidly from them. 
They taught us just what a new regiment needed 
to know. We discarded our company cook, and 
they showed us how to do individual cooking, and 
how to adapt ourselves to the strange circum- 
stances. The marches were hard, we had some 
superfluous clothing, which they, in the most kindly 
and friendly manner advised us to throw away; 
but I always noticed a 5th Maine man wearing it 
the next day. 

Time is much too short to speak further of the 
close relations of our two regiments, but there is 
one thing more I ought to mention, yet I blush 
when I speak of it. Our regiment came from 
home a cleanly lot of men, but a few days' asso- 
ciation with the 5th Maine, and we found that we 
had caught from them that pest of camp life, "the 
army Greyback." This was a great trial, and we 
wondered what to do; but here the noble, generous 
spirit of the 5th Maine showed itself. They showed 
us how to get rid of them, or at least to prevent 
their accumulation and increase. 

The 5th Maine men were true and loyal, in every 
way, a credit to themselves and an honor to the 
brigade. All honor to such a brave regiment, and 
we feel proud and glad of our association with 
them." 

A similar attachment developed in the Shenan- 
doah Valley between the Sixth Corps and the Cav- 
alry Corps which led Sheridan to ask for the Sixth 
Corps in beginning his operations in the final cam- 
paign against the defenses of Petersburgh. 

In the advance of the army, to oppose Lee's in- 
vasion of Maryland, Col. Beckwith gives a vivid 

and somewhat amusing description of a physical 
prostration that he suffered. 

13 



It may remind others of a similar experience, 
perhaps not with the same outcome. "The day we 
marched around Sugar Loaf Mountain we were 
the last division of our corps. The day was hot. 
Wherever the road was in the open, a cloud of 
dust obscured the moving columns from view. 
We had passed through scrubby pine patches that 
were on fire, which added to our discomfort. Along 
in the afternoon the road ran along and around 
the base of the mountain, a massive sugar loaf 
shaped prominence. I had felt more than ordi- 
narily well during the day, the perspiration flowed 
from my pores profusely. We were talking and 
joking as we moved along. Suddenly I felt a sort 
of faintness come over me, the perspiration 
stopped and I said to Benny West, who was march- 
ing beside me, 'I feel very strange.' He asked me 
what was the matter, and before I could answer 
him I felt the sky grow dark, the world whirl 
round, and conscious that I was going to fall I 
made a last effort to reach the road side, and lost 
track of surrounding events. When I regained 
my senses I found Rounds and Tarbell, of my 
company, beside me and myself wet from the 
liberal supply of water to my surface. After a 
short time I began to feel better, and soon got all 
right again, and we started to catch the regiment, 
which I reached before the other two that night, 
and I was subject to considerable criticism on the 
part of Rounds and Tarball, who kicked because, 
being left behind to take care of a dying man, he 
came to, got well, and beat them to the camp the 
same night." 

In his quick recover} 7 and immediate return to 
the regiment Comrade Beckwith was especially 
fortunate, for according to Col. Cronkite, by the 
first two days' march, "Many strong constitutions 
were wrecked, and many brave soldiers, stricken 
with fever and other diseases, lost their lives from 
exposure during the first week of service." 

14 




Lieutenant Colonel JOHN S. KIDDER 




Major General 

JOHN SEDGWICK, 

Commander of the 6th 

Corps; killed in 

battle at Spottsylvania 

in 1864. 



HOBATIO G. WEIGHT, 

Major General, 

Commanding 6th Corps 

from May 12, 1864, 

to end of war. 




CHAPTER III 

AS the army advanced in Maryland, the mili- 
tary situation became more clearly defined. 
The Confederate army occupied the passes of the 
South Mountain range, that is the continuation 
north of the Potomac of the Blue Ridge and it 
became evident that to get at the main force of the 
enemy it would be necessary to wrest from him 
the passes of this range of mountains. To the 
Sixth Corps was assigned the attack upon Cramp- 
ton's Pass, the one farthest south and nearest 
Harper's Ferry. The head of the column was 
veered to the south, and passing through the village 
of Jefferson on the 14th of September, halted a 
short distance from the town. "Here the sound 
of cannon from the direction of South Mountain 
was heard by the men of the 121st. There was a 
feeling over us all, that a great battle was impend- 
ing. We knew from common report that Lee, 
with as great a force as he could muster, was not 
far away, and this conflict and the part we should 
take in it was thoroughly discussed as we hurried 
along. Of one thing we were determined, and 
that was, that no matter what occurred or in what 
position we might be placed, we would show the 
men of the other regiments of the brigade of what 
stuff we were made, and shame them for the 
gratuitous ridicule and abuse they had heaped 
upon us. At last the sound of cannon far off fell 
upon our ears and a rumor came down the line 
that the enemy held all the passes of the moun- 
tains we were approaching. The sound of cannon 
grew nearer and we seemed to quicken our steps; 

15 



and reports kept coming back to us that the enemy 
was in force a few miles off. In our front, ex- 
tending as far as one could see, from right to left 
was a range of mountains, and between us and it, 
a considerable valley, and nestling at its farther 
side, near the base of the mountain, was a small 
village, its tall church spire standing out clear and 
white against the foliage of the mountain side. 
Far away to the right, where the sound of the can- 
non grew upon the ear, the smoke of the guns 
became distinct and visible, and the faint rattle 
of musketry was heard. Our road seemed 
descending the side of a considerable declivity. 
Very soon a cannon opened in our front, and it 
was said to be a 'Johnnie' battery and some of 
the men pointed out the position of the enemy on 
the mountain side. As we hurried down the side 
of the valley we could see a line of our troops 
filing off in the fields towards the village of Bur- 
kettsville; and farther up the side of the hill, a thin 
line of men, skirmishers, were moving towards the 
wooded slope of the mountain side. These were 
soon fired upon from the timber and returned 
the fire, and we could see for a short time the puffs 
of smoke from their rifles. A turn in the road 
hid them from our sight, but we were interested in 
another feature of the entertainment. The battery 
which we had seen on the mountain crest farther 
up, evidently had us in view, for in addition to its 
report we heard a strange sound, a whistling, sing- 
ing noise in the distance, and a solid shot flew 
over us and buried itself in the soft earth across 
the creek along side which we were now marching. 
Instantly many inquiries were made as to what 
it was, and all about it, and we were told that it 
was a shot from a Confederate battery fired at 
us, and that we were now under fire and within 
range of the enemy's guns, and might be struck 

16 



at any moment or instant, with one of those pro- 
jectiles. One of our company said, 'Be gad, there 
couldn't be much harm in ut. It sung just like a 
little burrd.' A little farther along the road, one 
of General Slocum's staff officers came galloping 
along and rode up to the Colonel of the 96th Penn. 
and gave him some orders, and as we crossed the 
creek and halted, this regiment moved on quickly 
and passed us. We were front faced in line of 
battle, and moved forward a short distance and 
told to lie down, that we were in an enemy's 
country, and also told to keep out of sight and not 
expose ourselves to view, as the enemy were only 
a short distance in advance of us; and a battle 
would soon take place. We were also told that 
because of our being new troops, and undisciplined 
General Slocum had decided not to put us into 
battle unless it became necessary; although Colonel 
Franchot had appealed to him, to let his regiment 
take the lead, make the charge and do anything 
that brave men could be asked to do. Where we 
were, we could see nothing. Troops were passing 
along in rear of us in a steady, unbroken column; 
and although there were guards posted in front 
of us to prevent our moving forward, a lot of us 
moved along with the column past the regiment, 
attracted by curiosity and the increasing magni- 
tude of the infantry fire. I went along with the 
troops in the road as far as the village. A few 
cannon shots were fired at the column but did no 
damage." (B.) 

Of the part taken in this battle of Crampton's 
Pass by the brigade, General Bartlett's report is as 
follows: "My command after a march of nearly 
ten miles arrived opposite the village of Burketts- 
ville, and Crampton's Pass, about 12 m. with the 
96th Penn. Volunteers as skirmishers. The enemy's 
pickets retired from the town, and he opened an 

17 



artillery fire from two batteries upon my line of 
skirmishers. I was ordered by Major General 
Slocum to halt until he could move his troops and 
arrange the plan of an assault, that artillery was 
of no avail against it, and that nothing but a com- 
bined and vigorous assault of infantry would carry 
the mountain. It being decided that the attack 
should be made on the right flank of the road, 
leading over the mountain, I was ordered to lead 
the column under cover of the artillery fire, and 
as secretly as possible, to a large field near the base 
of the mountain, where the column of attack was 
to be formed, i. e., each brigade in two lines, at 
two hundred paces in the rear. About 4 o'clock 
p. m. I ordered forward the 27th N. Y. Volunteers 
to deploy as skirmishers, and upon their placing 
the interval ordered between the columns of at- 
tack and their line, I advanced at quick time the 
5th Maine and the 16th N. Y. Volunteers. My line 
of skirmishers found the enemy at the foot of the 
mountain, safely lodged behind a strong stone 
wall. Their entire line, being now developed, ex- 
hibited a large force. The front line advanced 
rapidly and steadily to the front under a severe 
fire of artillery from the heights and musketry 
from behind the stone wall and the trees on the 
slope above it. Halting behind a rail fence about 
300 yards from the enemy, the skirmishers were 
withdrawn and the battle commenced. By some 
mistake, more than a thousand yards intervened 
between the head of the column of General New- 
ton's Brigade and my own, and nothing but the 
most undaunted courage and steadiness on the 
part of the two regiments forming my line main- 
tained the fight until the arrival of the rest of the 
attacking column. On their arrival the 32d N. Y. 
Volunteers and the 18th N. Y. Volunteers were sent 
to report to me. The 5th Maine and the 16th N. Y. 

16 



having expended their ammunition, I relieved 
them and formed them twenty paces in the rear. 
The N. J. Brigade now arrived on the left and 
commenced firing by the first line and the 96th 
Penn. having joined my command, and been 
placed by me on the extreme right, it became evi- 
dent to all that nothing but a united charge would 
dislodge the enemy and win the battle. 

"A moment's consultation with General Torbert, 
commanding the New Jersey troops decided us to 
make the charge immediately at a double quick, and 
the order was passed along the line to cease firing, 
the command given to charge; and the whole line 
advanced with cheers, rushing over the intervening 
space to the stone wall and routing the enemy. 
The charge was maintained to the top of the moun- 
tain, up an almost perpendicular steep, over rocks 
and ledges, through the underbrush and timber 
until the crest overlooking the valley beyond was 
gained. The victory was decisive and complete, 
the routed enemy leaving arms, ammunition, 
knapsacks, haversacks and blankets in heaps by 
the roadside. I have the honor to report the cap- 
ture of one flag by the 16th N. Y. Volunteers. 

"The action of my own regiments and of the 32d 
and 18th N. Y. Regiments, who were under my 
command, recommends them to the highest con- 
sideration of their general officers. 

Very respectfully, 
(Signed) Jos. J. Bartlett, 

Colonel Commanding Brigade." 

The losses of the 16th N. Y. in this engagement, 
was twenty enlisted men killed and one officer, 
and forty enlisted men wounded. The unusual 
percentage of the killed to the wounded no doubt 
resulted from the fact that the enemy fired from 
above and their bullets took effect in the head and 

19 



upper part of the body of any one who was hit. 
It is worthy of note that in this battle, General 
Upton (then Captain) was in command of the ar- 
tillery of the division. At the close of the battle 
the 121st was brought to the front and the task 
assigned them of hunting up straggling Rebels and 
guard duty. What the task of gathering up the 
wounded means, is vividly described in General 
N. M. Curtis' History of the 16th N. Y. in connec- 
tion with this battle. Lieut. Wilson Hopkins was 
in command of the ambulance corps of the Divi- 
sion and this was his first service in that capacity. 
He wrote of it thus. "Most of our wounded were 
brought to the hospital by dark. We began to col- 
lect the wounded Confederates then, who were 
found from the base of the mountain, increasing 
in number as we ascended, to the very top. We 
carried them to the field hospital till midnight. 

"The surgeons, overcome by exhaustion, were un- 
able to care for more. We then collected all we 
could find and placed them in a group near the top 
of the mountain, gave them food and water, built 
fires to warm them, and I directed two Confeder- 
ates, found hiding behind the rocks and uninjured, 
to remain with their wounded comrades, attend 
to their wants and keep the fires burning. At sun- 
rise the next morning I went with my stretcher 
bearers to the camp I had made for the wounded 
Confederates and found the fires burned out, six 
of the forty dead; and learned that the two men 
I had placed in charge of them with direction to 
keep the fires burning, had, soon after I left them 
the night before, abandoned their charge and re- 
turned to the Confederate army encamped in the 
valley beyond. We carried the survivors to the 
hospital, leaving a detail to bury the dead. This 
was my first experience in gathering the wounded 
from a battlefield after it had been won. Many 

20 



have visited such places and reported the sicken- 
ing sights, but I can not describe their ghastly 
realities. Later I became more familiar with such 
scenes, yet I can never forget that dreadful night. 
Its horrors overshadow all spectacles I witnessed 
on other battlefields, and the memory of what I 
saw there will remain with me to the end." The 
Union dead were usually sought out by their sur- 
viving comrades by regiments, and buried together 
in orderly manner, and their graves marked by 
headboards, upon which were inscribed the name, 
regiment and company of the person buried. The 
burial of the Confederate dead at Crampton Pass 
is thus described by Comrade Beckwith: "I went 
over the line and position occupied by the Rebels 
for a considerable distance and saw many of them 
lying on the field dead. Those I saw had not 
changed much from life, but they lay in all shapes 
and positions. Many were shot through the head. 
I came along to a burial detail. They had dug a 
long trench on the mountain side. The dead 
Rebels were carried to it and laid side by side until 
one tier was made, when another was piled on top 
until all the dead in the vicinity were gathered up, 
when the earth was put back over the mound." 

During the first months of the war the care of 
the wounded was left entirely to regimental medi- 
cal officers. Each regiment was expected to gather 
up its severely wounded and take full care of them, 
until they were sent to general hospital. This 
plan did not work well, because in every battle 
some regiments suffered many casualties and 
others scarcely any. Consequently some medical 
officers would be overworked and others have 
nothing to do. On this account a reorganization 
had been made by which the medical force was 
consolidated in brigade, division and army corps, 
and thus the labor was more evenly distributed. 

21 



The hospitals were likewise established so as to 
give first aid at the front, transport the sick and 
wounded forward by stages, until they arrived at 
the permanent General Hospitals for final treat- 
ment. After a battle over ground so rough and 
broken by woods and thickets as this, some of 
the dead would not be found, and some would be 
so far from the trenches dug, that they would be 
covered where they fell, ever so lightly. Passing 
over this field a few days after the battle, the 
writer to avoid a bend in the road, took a short 
cut up the side of the mountain, and in passing 
by a thicket disturbed a young hog, which had 
rooted through the dirt on such a grave and was 
devouring the flesh of the man buried there. It 
was the first experience he had of the horror of 
war and prepared him somewhat for the terrible 
sights that the battle of Antietam had left to chill 
the blood of the one who passed over it, soon after 
it had been fought. 

The battle of Crampton's Pass was evidently that 
part of the Maryland campaign intended to relieve 
the siege of Harper's Ferry, but only two or three 
days before the victory there, made it necessary 
for the besieging troops to retire from their posi- 
tion on Bolivar Heights, as General Miles had 
cravenly surrendered. After the battle and victory 
of Crampton's Pass the 121st was left to guard the 
Pass and prisoners, and collect the arms and other 
munitions that had been left on the field. The rest 
of the Corps was ordered to follow the retreating 
enemy who were concentrating at Antietam, or 
Sharpsburgh. 

On the morning of the 18th of September, Cap- 
tain R. P. Wilson, Asst. Adjt. Gen. of the 
brigade appeared with orders for the regiment to 
report as quickly as possible at Antietam. On 
that date the battle of Antietam was fought, and 

22 



when the regiment arrived, it was detailed to col- 
lect and stack the arms on the field, on the day 
after the battle. Again quoting from the narrative 
of Comrade Beckwith, "We reached Antietam bat- 
tlefield on the 19th (of Sept.), and except some 
fighting at the river where Lee's army crossed, 
and an attempt by the Fifth Corps to capture the 
batteries covering the rear, resulting in the capture 
of four guns, the great conflict was over. The 
country around Sharpsburgh is admirably adapted 
to military operations and affords fine opportunity 
to maneuver troops under cover and near the front 
excepting cavalry, the ground being too broken 
for that arm of the service to operate successfully, 
and for that reason, I think, large masses of our 
infantry and the enemy's infantry came within 
easy range of musketry before opening fire, being 
concealed by the contour of the ground between 
them. The consequence was that those who used 
their arms most effectively and were the steadiest 
were the victors; and as a rule, our men in the open 
field were the victors. That the enemy suffered 
terribly from our fire may be gathered from the 
fact that for more than a mile I could have walked 
on their dead bodies, while in some places they 
lay in groups, and in others as many as fifteen lying 
in line close together. Mounted officers lay under 
their horses both dead. A great many dead horses 
were on the field. Near the church in the edge 
of the woods, by the sunken road and the edge 
of the cornfield, the conflict by its results seemed 
to have been the fiercest. All the dead presented 
a horrible spectacle, and it would have been im- 
possible to recognize a brother, they were so 
changed from life. The weather being extremely 
hot, the men, heated with passion, immediately 
after death, decomposed rapidly, gases formed, 
and the bodies swelled up to enormous propor- 

23 



tions. For instance, the eyes would bulge out 
from their sockets and look more like small blad- 
ders. Many had burst, so great was the pressure 
upon their tissues. The remains of the horses 
looked even worse than those of the men, and for 
such carrion decent burial was impossible; and 
so rude cremation was resorted to, and in many 
cases the ashes of heroic men, dumb brutes and 
fence rails mingled in one heap; and in the far- 
off home of the dead hero no thought exists today, 
but that their loved one sleeps in some National 
Cemeterv, to which his remains were removed 
from the field where he fell. 

I must confess that I had very serious com- 
munion with myself in those days. I had before 
these battles and their real story, no conception 
of the vast number of soldiers engaged, or of the 
magnitude of the battles, and how small an atom 
one little chap like myself was in the great whole, 
and what a very small loss my taking off would 
be, in the general result. Everything seemed quite 
different to me from what it did when hearing 
the war speeches, and the deeds of valor enacted, 
at home; and as I thought of the vast number of 
dead I had seen lying unburied on the field, and 
the myriads of wounded men, I felt the awful 
horror of war upon me, and I again felt thankful 
that we had been permitted to see and know what 
we were coming to. The abandoning of the dead 
seemed horrible to me, and I hoped if it should 
be my fate to perish in battle, my comrades would 
give me decent burial. 

"We saw on the battlefield the 13th N. Y. Vol. 
from our county, and a solemn and sad looking 
lot of men they were. They had been in the 
thickest and most fiercely contested part of the bat- 
tle, and had suffered a terrible loss, and many of 
the men who had fallen were well known to most 

24 



of our fellows. Joe Rounds' brother, Armenius, 
had been reported mortally wounded. He after- 
ward recovered, although pierced through the body 
and leg with Rebel lead. Joe belonged to our com- 
pany and was a sergeant, and our visiting with 
the 34th and our surroundings cast a gloom over 
the regiment that was only removed by departure 
to other scenes and new experiences. One inci- 
dent I will relate in passing, connected with the 
battle, because of its pathetic side, and the thought 
that its like was experienced in many more homes, 
both sides of Mason and Dixie's line. In going 
over the battlefield picking up arms, we examined 
the bodies and baggage of many of the dead. A 
great many had plunder which the} T had gathered 
from the rich and loyal country through which 
they had passed. Some had Confederate money on 
them — in demand there as souvenirs. One dead 
Confederate officer, a general, lying near the cor- 
ner of the fence by the cornfield had the gold braid 
cut from his uniform. Away over on the right in 
the woods, I came across a body lying near a tree 
and partially supported by it. In the right hand 
was a daguerreotype of a woman and a child, and 
this Rebel soldier, his duty done, shot to death, had 
made his way to this spot, taken out the picture 
of his wife and child, and with his thoughts upon 
them in their far Southern home, alone, the pangs 
of death clouding his sight, giving them in his 
terrible anguish, the unfathomable love of a dying 
soldier. I did not take the daguerreotype, but some 
one did; for passing back that way I saw it was 
gone. Afterward I was sorry that I did not take 
it, because some day it might have gotten to the 
wife and child. Perhaps it did. I hope so." 



25 



CHAPTER IV 

"T WAS very glad when we left the vicinity of the 
■*■ battle of Antietam, for its horrors sickened me. 
We moved away and in the distance of a few miles 
in the direction we took, no appearances of battle 
were present. The country took on a peaceable 
look. We reached our destination in the neigh- 
borhood of Bakersville, also near Dam No. 4 on 
the Potomac River, along the bluff bank of which 
we picketed in our turn with the other regiments 
of our Brigade." 

The encampment at Bakersville was protracted 
until the last day of October. During this period 
several important events occurred. First, the seeds 
of disease which had been sown in the bodies of 
officers and men by the overwork and exposure 
of the previous campaign began to bear fruit. No 
shelter tents had yet been provided for the men, 
and no hospital tents for the sick. Shacks and 
pens made of rails, and covered with straw and 
brush was all the shelter they had been able to 
obtain, and though such protection availed to ward 
off the heat of the sun, it utterly failed when rain 
came. Sickness increased, and death began to take 
its toll. The death of the first man in camp is 
thus described by the Adjutant's Clerk of the regi- 
ment, Charles W. Dean, in a letter to the Oneonta 
Herald, dated October 2d : "A man by the name of 
Helon Pearsons died last night of typhoid fever. 
He now lies back of the hospital tent covered with 
a blanket under the protection of a guard. The 
pioneers have made a board box and he is to be 
buried after battalion drill." Later he wrote, "The 

26 



funeral of young Pearsons just over. He was taken 
to the grave about forty rods from camp, under 
a large oak tree, escorted by three drummers and 
one fifer with about three hundred of the boys. 
In going to the grave the drums were muffled and 
the music was solemn indeed. After a prayer by 
the Chaplain the body was lowered into its 
last resting place and covered with a shovel 
full of dirt, then a volley of musketry was fired 
over the grave and we returned to camp, the band 
playing a lively tune. His death was caused by 
exposure. In consequence of our sudden march 
into Maryland, the regiment left their tents behind 
and are destitute of shelter from rain and weather. 
The hospital is made of rails covered with corn 
stalks, likewise the tents in camp. Our medical 
supplies have been short, and our First Surgeon 
resigned." Before any attempt was made to rem- 
edy this condition of the regiment, on October 1st, 
eighty men were sick in camp, over forty of whom 
were too sick to help themselves, and Captain 
Clark and sixty-one privates were absent on ac- 
count of sickness. In thirty-eight days the regi- 
ment had been reduced from 946 enlisted men and 
thirty officers to a membership of 744. On October 
30th the Adjutant's Clerk, Dean, reported the con- 
dition of the regiment as follows: Enlisted men 
present for duty, 722. Enlisted men present sick, 
123. Commissioned officers present for duty, 
28. Commissioned officers present sick, 4. Absent, 
4. Enlisted men serving in hospitals as nurses, 30. 
Enlisted men absent without leave, 9. Absent sick, 
28. One officer, Surgeon Basset, had resigned, and 
another, Lieut. Davis, had died. Of the sick, both 
officers and enlisted men, some died, some were 
discharged for disability, and others returned to 
duty with the regiment. 

The other important event during the stay in 

27 



camp at Bakersville was the resignation of Colonel 
Franchot, and the appointment in his place of 
Emory Upton. Colonel Franchot had shown abil- 
ity in the enlistment and organization of the regi- 
ment, and is to be honored for his patriotism and 
zeal in his service for the country. But his educa- 
tion had been wholly civilian; and military service 
was entirely new to him. He wisely decided to 
resign his command and return to civil life, and 
resume his place in Congress, of which he was 
a Representative. But before doing so, he used 
his influence to have Captain Upton appointed 
Colonel of the 121st, and for this he deserves the 
approval and gratitude of every member of the 
regiment. Colonel Upton was commissioned on 
September 25th, and being duly presented to the 
regiment was received with hearty cheers. The 
regiment was intelligent enough to soon learn that 
civilian officers were not generally fitted by educa- 
tion or experience for command in active warfare. 
After taking formal command Colonel Upton ob- 
tained a leave of absence for a few days, which 
left the command of the regiment to Major Olcott, 
Lieut. Colonel Clark being absent sick. Near the 
camp of the 121st was a large brick barn, the ap- 
plication for the use of which for hospital purposes 
had been refused. Major Olcott on his own author- 
ity took possession of this barn, and moved the sick 
from the cornstalk hospital into it. If over assump- 
tion of authority is ever justified, it certainly was 
in this case, and probably on that account Major 
Olcott escaped censure for his act. 

Immediately upon his return to duty, Colonel 
Upton began the system of discipline, and drill, 
that soon brought the regiment to the high effi- 
ciency for which it became noted and which 
placed it among the most reliable of the organiza- 
tions of the Army. Colonel Upton was a young 

28 

3 



man, twenty-two years of age, a graduate of West 
Point, who had won recognition for efficiency as 
an artillery officer in the Peninsular campaign. 
In discipline he was strict but just. In adminis- 
tration he was efficient. In action he was prompt. 
In danger he was cool. And under no circum- 
stances did he show fear or lack of decision. To 
these admirable qualities of an officer, he was 
strictly temperate, and decidedly religious in his 
conduct. He was not ashamed to keep a well worn 
Bible on his desk, and his conversation was al- 
ways clean and without profanitj r . It is therefore 
not to be wondered at that he won and held the 
regard and affection of the officers and men under 
him, and that time has only served to enlarge the 
esteem in which he is held by the survivors of the 
regiment. 

The advantages of a capable and competent 
leadership were immediately manifest. The health 
of the regiment was conserved by the regular daily 
drills, they were well fed, and tents and overcoats 
were secured for them. 

On October 3d the Corps was reviewed by Presi- 
dent Lincoln. 

Of the experiences in this camp Comrade Beck- 
with writes thus: "I think the regiment was 
stronger and better for the experience it had gone 
through — the weeding out of the unfit men, the 
retiring of incompetent officers, and the acquiring 
of a young, intrepid, and skilled officer for its 
commander, who, with heroic purpose, unlimited 
patience and matchless skill, made it one of the 
best regiments in the army of the Potomac, and one 
which in its long and bloody career, could always 
be depended upon to strike a deadly blow against 
me enemy, and whose every soldier, once told 
what to do, pursued that course to its conclusion. 

"At this time all sorts of stories were afloat, and 

29 



rumors circulated among the troops to the effect 
that McGlellan was to be removed or superseded 
by Burnside, and a campaign inaugurated that 
would not stop until our colors floated over Rich- 
mond. Most of the talk I heard among the old 
troops was greatly in favor of McClellan, and op- 
posed to the War Department and the President, 
because of the treatment McClellan had received 
at the hands of the Administration. In our regi- 
ment, while we had great admiration for McClel- 
lan, we yet maintained the opinion, that the 
President had acted with great skill, and we did 
not share in the opinion so commonly expressed 
among the battalions from the Peninsula, that 
their Commanding General had been badly treated, 
and so we did not enthuse for McClellan as did 
the other regiments of the Brigade. Our Brigade 
Commander, Joseph J. Bartlett, was an intense 
admirer of General McClellan, and I think his influ- 
ence was strong with the men of his command who 
idolized him. It was a strange sight to us to see 
these battle-tried veterans swarm to the roadside 
and yell and cheer and run after McClellan. Gen- 
eral Bartlett was a splendid specimen of a sol- 
dier. He was nearly six feet tall, straight as an 
arrow, of powerful build, with black eyes and hair, 
and sat in his saddle as though horse and man 
were one. He dressed in a tight fitting uniform, 
low cap with straight visor. As he rode by on 
his fine black horse, he gained the admiration of 
his command and he deserved it, for he was a 
splendid officer, skillful and brave, and there was 
not a man of our regiment who would not have 
followed him anywhere at this time. 

Our new Colonel came to us at this time and he 
made an instantaneously favorable impression. 
He was quite a young looking man, with a light 
mustache, rather high cheek bones and his cheeks 

30 



were thin and gave prominence to a strong square 
jaw. His mouth was small and his lips being 
rather thin, and tightly closed, made it look 
smaller. His brow, full and broad, but rather low, 
surmounted deep blue, deep set eyes, which seemed 
to be searching all the time. His hair was a dark 
brown, worn rather long, and his complexion dark 
but pale, gave him on the whole, the appearance 
of a man who was deeply impressed with the 
seriousness of warfare and had mastered its 
science. To this man was entrusted the for- 
tunes of the 121st Regiment of New York 
Volunteers, and its command, until he was called 
to other and higher duties. He took command 
without show or ostentation. From the day that 
Emory Upton took command there was a change 
for the better. The camp was newly ordered and 
cleaned up, inspections were more rigid, and the 
officers were promptly taken to task for any slack- 
ness on their part." 

When orders came on the 30th of October to 
march on the next day at 6 o'clock a. m., Company 
C was in command of 2d Lieut. Bradt, Captain 
Campbell was the only commissioned officer in 
Company E. Company I was in command of Or- 
derly Sergeant J. W. Cronkite. The following named 
Company Officers were unfit for duty and in hos- 
pital : Captain Moon, Fish and Kidder; Lieutenants 
Bates, Van Horn, Cameron and Quartermaster 
Story. Lieut. J. P. Douw had previously been 
detailed to duty as Ordnance Officer of the Divi- 
sion. 

The movement ordered for the 31st of October 
was the beginning of a campaign under General 
McClellan to force General Lee back from the line 
of the Potomac. It was conceived and begun under 
the principle that had controlled all of General 
McClellan's strategy up to this time, viz., that mili- 

31 



tary success consisted in strategic movements to 
force the enemy to abandon the positions he had 
occupied. If this could be done with little or no 
fighting all the better. 

This policy in so large a territory as inter- 
vened between Washington and Richmond 
amounted to little more than a game of hide and 
seek, so far as final victory is involved, and gave 
the defensive side all the advantage. When it 
was to be carried on by a commander whose 
imagination exaggerated the forces opposed, and 
whose caution magnified the danger to his rear, 
who never was willing to risk the use of all his 
army in an offensive battle, but thought it neces- 
sary to hold a large percentage in reserve against 
a possible reverse, the ineffectiveness of such oper- 
ations is to be expected. Avoiding a direct advance 
upon the Confederate Army, the march began back 
through Maryland, over the South Mountains to 
the Potomac River at Berlin, Md. There the Army 
crossed the Potomac into the same section of Vir- 
ginia in which the two battles of Bull Run had 
been fought and lost. Between the hostile forces 
the Blue Ridge interposed, and the passes were 
held by the Confederates. The advance was lei- 
surely with frequent stops, the first at White Plains 
where we rested for three days. Here for the first 
time Colonel Upton's strict discipline began to be 
felt. He ordered a Court Martial to convene for 
the trial of certain offenders against military order, 
and several men were convicted and punished ac- 
cording to the decision of the court. In this pro- 
ceeding he showed that he intended to enforce 
order, not by arbitrary personal authority, but in 
accordance with strict judicial procedure. It was 
this equitable dealing with them that made his 
men respect and honor him as a man, and readily 
obey him as an officer. He could not have won 

32 



the loyal admiration of the regiment, as he quickly 
did, if he had acted arbitrarily in his method of 
discipline. The records of the regiment show his 
manly self control, by the practice of which he 
was able to control the unruly element in the regi- 
ment, and win the approval of all, and their obedi- 
ence. 

During the march into Virginia almost daily 
firing was heard on the right where frequent efforts 
were made to seize the gaps opening from the 
Shenandoah valley into the Mannasas plains, but 
no general engagement occurred. On November 
9th an advance of four miles was made, and the 
Corps was reviewed by Generals McClellan and 
Burnside. The command of the army had been 
transferred to Burnside and this review was a sort 
of farewell to the departing General. This transfer 
of command had been made in spite of Burnside's 
earnest protests but it was persisted in because the 
authorities at Washington had become convinced 
that under its former commander nothing definite 
would be done as long as it could be put off. The 
change was resented by many of the old soldiers, 
and many officers, admirers of McClellan, resigned 
and left the service. The regiment remained in 
camp at White Plains ten days, during which a 
severe snow storm occurred, rendering the move- 
ment of troops fatiguing and difficult, but on the 
15th camp was struck and the march resumed, first 
to Cattlet's Station and then to Stafford Court 
House. Here a stay of about two weeks was made 
during which Colonel Upton drilled the regiment 
diligently. The day's program was, Company drill 
in the morning; Battalion drill at 1 p. m.; Dress 
Parade at 4 p. m., and School of Instruction for 
officers at 6 p. m. Under this regime the improve- 
ment of the regiment was rapid and the officers 
and men caught the enthusiasm of their leader 

33 



and became ambitious to become a model regi- 
ment. It was no wonder that the regiment soon 
became known as "Upton's Regulars," and that 
General Meade on a subsequent occasion seriously 
inquired if they were regulars. During one of 
the daily parades the first promotion in the regi- 
ment was announced, that of Orderly Sergeant J. 
W. Cronkite to be Second Lieutenant of Company 
I. Other changes occurred during November. Dr. 
E. S. Walker was appointed Surgeon in place of 
Dr. Basset, resigned. Lieutenants Clyde and Fer- 
guson resigned and were honorably discharged. 
Lieutenant Cameron had died in camp at Bakers- 
ville. Lieutenant A. E. Mather of Company K was 
transferred to Company G, which by the resigna- 
tion of its two lieutenants had been left without 
a commissioned officer. Twenty-five men had been 
lost on account of sickness, and the regiment now 
numbered only 657 present for duty — not because 
of any loss in battle, but from exposure, much of 
it unnecessary, and the exhaustion of a strenuous 
campaign, for which the men were not inured by 
previous experience. But now the 657 men in the 
ranks were physically fit for anything that might 
be required of them. One day Colonel Upton set 
the men to felling trees to build winter quarters, 
but orders came to move the next day, at 6 o'clock, 
with three days' rations. The first day's march 
carried the regiment past White Oak Church, and 
the next day to Belle Plain Landing. This last 
day it began to rain as we left camp, became gradu- 
ally colder and colder, so that the rain soon 
changed to snow, the snow to sleet, and when we 
reached the Landing a keen, strong wind was blow- 
ing from the bay, and the halt was made and arms 
stacked on an open plain, so level that water stood 
in the hollows of the corn rows, with not a particle 
of shelter or fuel, and with clothing covered with 

34 



1S76806 

ice, and bodies almost exhausted by the difficult 
march, and quickly chilled to the bone by the 
strong, cold wind sweeping unchecked from the 
broad expanse of water. Colonel Cake was in 
command of the Brigade, and when Colonel Upton 
asked permission to take his regiment back to 
the shelter of a strip of woods through which it 
had recently passed, it was refused, and the men 
were compelled to shift as best they could on that 
dreary, desolate plain. The result was inevitable, 
another list of sick and broken down men and 
several additions to the death list. On this occasion 
the 16th N. Y. fared better than the 121st, for 
immediately after arms were stacked the Adju- 
tant of the regiment rode up and said: "Men, 
go anywhere you please, take anything you can 
get except Government property, but report back 
here promptly in the morning." It did not take 
long for part of the men to get back to that strip 
of woods and to the low side of it, where a rail 
fence was found, and soon a roaring fire, a com- 
fortable shack, a warm meal and a comfortable 
bed were prepared, and a most comfortable night 
spent. On reporting in the morning we were told 
that at least one man had died during the night 
of the cold. The next day the men of the 16th 
set to work to build winter quarters, and consid- 
erable progress was made during the two days we 
were there. Colonel Cronkite, however, saj's of the 
121st, that they were compelled to lie in this exposed 
position two days and one night without fires. 
On the 9th of December orders came to return to 
the Corps, and the Brigade marched back to the 
vicinity of Fredericksburg and bivouacked for the 
night with the rest of the Corps, not far from the 
Rappahannock River. General Burnside had reor- 
ganized the army of the Potomac into three Grand 
Divisions, and placed General Franklin in com- 

35 



mand of the Left Division to which the Sixth Corps 
belonged. The first corps also belonged to the 
Left Grand Division. General Hooker commanded 
the Central Grand Division, and General Sumner 
the Right. 

Of this Belle Plain experience Comrade Beck- 
with has this to say, and in the discrepancies be- 
tween his account and that of Colonel Cronkite, 
the members of the regiment may decide which 
is correct. "After a short stay at Stafford Court 
House, we marched to Belle Plain, reaching there 
at dusk of a day that will always linger in the 
memory of every one of us who participated in 
that march. First it rained hard, then it turned 
to snow of the large, soft, fleecy flake kind. This 
made the road deep with mud and slippery; and 
by the time we had slipped and slid through the 
miles we came over, we were wet with the rain 
and snow outside, and steaming from the perspira- 
tion of our bodies. As soon as darkness fell, the 
wind rose and it grew cold rapidly, and we were 
marched onto the low flat near the river, and 
ordered to go into camp and make ourselves com- 
fortable for the night. I was almost exhausted but 
I started with some others to hunt for shelter. 
There was no shelter except a few poplars and 
sycamores, standing along the river bank. The 
coarse, reedy grass of the low land came up 
through the snow. Finally we found the trunk of 
a large poplar, and cleaning away the snow from 
the sheltered side of it, we soon had a fire going, 
which soon augmented by the branches of wood 
gathered by others, made a fine blaze and gave 
out genial warmth which kept us from perishing. 
Working for several hours a good many of us 
succeeded in getting dry and cooking some supper. 
One squad who had cleaned away the snow and 
put up a tent on the other side of the log, was 

36 



burned out by the fire's burning through under 
the trunk and setting fire to their tent. They lost 
some baggage and a cartridge box blew up without 
hurting anyone. In the morning we were moved 
some distance to the hillside in the timber and 
there made ourselves comfortable with little ef- 
fort. To this day, I believe the march from Staf- 
ford Court House and the camping on the flats 
by the river at Belle Plain Landing was the cause 
of the breaking down of a great many men. The 
misery of it is beyond description. I caught such 
a cold that it made me sore all over and my joints 
ached and creaked when I walked. The next 
morning with some others I went down to the 
landing where there was a great assemblage of 
transports and supply boats, and on shore a moun- 
tain of food supplies. Mule trains were being 
rapidly loaded and moving off to their respective 
commands. With a little well directed diplomacy 
and strategy, and some of Uncle Sam's currency, 
I secured a supply of substantial food, and what 
was then of more consequence, some whiskey. All 
this came from the Post or Depot Commissary, 
and the official who served me has a Captain's re- 
ceipt for the articles furnished, which I regret 
very much to say the Captain has never seen. 
With a good load of provisions on my back I 
started back to camp. I took some of the whiskey 
that I had for my aches, some for my pains, some 
for the good I thought it would do me, and some 
to assist me with nry load; and when I reached 
camp I could give a very good illustration of a 
man who had drank too much. Some of the men 
of my company also partook of the Commissary 
whiskey, and started to clean up the forest. One 
well known member insisted on thumping the 
whole crowd, and the next morning declared to 
the doctor that he was crazy, but never knew one 

37 



of his father's family to be crazy before. This 
explanation of the previous day's eccentricities 
was accepted, and the culprit was discharged with 
a dose of whiskey and quinine to prevent a recur- 
rence of the attack." Of the return to the Corps 
he writes : "We broke camp in the woods near 
Belle Plain Landing, on the 10th day of December, 
and took up the line of march toward Fredericks- 
burg on the main traveled road. It had been so 
cut up by wagon trains that our progress was slow, 
and wherever it was possible to do so we marched 
by the roadside. 

"Long stretches of the road were covered with 
round pine poles laid crosswise of the road and 
covered with brush on which was thrown dirt 
taken from the roadside. The poles were held 
in place by longer poles laid lengthwise and pinned 
down by long crotched pins driven deeply into the 
ground. Most of the country through which we 
passed was heavily wooded with all the varieties 
of oak, and some of it very fine timber. Where 
the country was open there was here and there a 
patch of cornfield; but for the most part the old 
fields were worn out, unused tobacco ground, cov- 
ered with a growth of broom sage and old field 
pine — neither of which have any value except to 
make the corduroy roads described above, and fur- 
nish a little softer bed than the ground for a night's 
camp." 



88 



CHAPTER V 

The Battle of Fredericksburg 

"HPHE weather was cool and the air crisp, render- 
-l ing marching more agreeable, and we jogged 
along in eager anticipation of something better 
than that which we had left. We could see nothing 
ahead of us, but about noon the report of cannon 
was heard. During the afternoon we were passed 
by a lot of men having in charge a balloon which 
was up just above the treetops They were mov- 
ing rapidly toward where the sound of cannon 
came from. It was the first balloon we had seen, 
and created a good deal of comment. It was said 
that the balloon had been of great service to 
McClellan on the Peninsula, enabling him to dis- 
cover the movements of the enemy's troops, and 
locate their position, and that of their batteries. 
The next day when we reached the flat near the 
Rappahannock, we saw the balloon again up a 
considerable distance and occupied by an officer 
who was busily engaged in scanning the hills be- 
yond the river with a glass. The Rebels fired sev- 
eral shells at the balloon but they burst a good 
way from it, and did not disturb its occupant at 
all. 

"Off to our right there was heavy artillery firing 
and considerable musketry, and some also in our 
immediate front. The Rebel batteries answered 
ours occasionally but the range was evidently too 
great for effective work. We could see the spires 
of Fredericksburg and back of it a range of hills 
which reached from right to left as far as we could 

39 



see. The flats on each side of the river are much 
alike, and about the same width as those at Ilion 
and Frankfort. A road runs along the base of 
the hills toward Richmond, called the 'Bowling 
Green Turnpike.' Along this road and on the high 
ground above, could be seen masses of the enemy 
moving along. Their guns in battery on the heights 
could be seen to be protected by earthworks and 
on the fort, or redoubt, back of the city a signal 
station was located, and the wigwagging of the 
white flag with a square black center was con- 
tinuous." 

In reorganizing the army Burnside had assigned 
Major General Sumner to the command of the 
Right Grand Division, Major General Hooker to 
command the Central Grand Division, and Major 
General Franklin to command the Left Grand Divi- 
sion. These Grand Divisions consisted each of 
two Corps. The Right of the Second and Ninth 
Corps commanded respectively by Major General 
Couch and Major General Wilcox. The Center 
of the Fifth and Third Corps commanded by Major 
Generals Butterfield and Stoneman. The Left of 
the First and Sixth Corps commanded by Major 
Generals Reynolds and W. F. Smith. In the Battle 
of Fredericksburg the position of these Grand 
divisions was, after crossing the river, in the order 
of their names. The Right and Central Divisions 
crossed the river directly opposite the city on pon- 
toon bridges, which they had difficulty in building 
because of the sharpshooters concealed in the 
houses along the bank of the river. They were 
finally dislodged by troops ferried across in pon- 
toons, and the two bridges were completed on 
which the Right and Central Grand Divisions 
crossed. The Left Grand Division crossed a mile 
and a half below the city at the mouth of a stream 
called Deep Run, with little difficulty, and the 

40 



place was afterwards known as "Franklin's Cross- 
ing," and is so designated in all future references 
to it. The First Corps crossed before the Sixth, 
and the most vivid recollection the writer has of 
that crossing, is the fact that the surface of the 
bridge was carpeted with plajung cards, and the 
surface of the river was almost covered with cards 
that had been thrown away by those who had 
crossed on the bridges above. It was evident to 
all that a bloody battle was to be fought and few 
men wanted to go to certain death with gambling 
devices in their pockets. Since that time the writer 
has never doubted the essential wickedness of 
gambling. With death as the chief arbitrator there 
were no valid arguments in its favor. In the years 
since that day he has seen nothing to change his 
views on the subject. 

After crossing the river the First Corps bore 
off to the left and the Sixth advanced over the 
level plain next the river and entered the deep 
broad cut made by Deep Run, and followed it to 
within gunshot of the foot of the hills. Here it 
remained — or our part of it did — while the battle 
raged on the right and left, with disastrous results 
to the Union forces. The dreadful slaughter on 
the right in the effort to carry the Stone Wall, the 
repulse of Franklin's feeble effort on the left, and 
the repulse of Hooker's half-hearted attack on the 
heights behind the city, have been often described 
and much controversy as to the responsibility for 
the failure has resulted. The fact that General 
Mead's division of the First Corps broke through 
the line of the enemy's defenses, and if properly 
supported could have held the ground taken, 
throws no little responsibility upon General Frank- 
lin who tried to excuse himself behind the plea, 
that his orders were not to press the attack to an 
issue, but to feel of, and test the forces of the 

41 



enemy opposed to him. This General Burnside 
positively denied, and declared that Franklin's 
failure to press his advantage and General Hook- 
er's reluctant advance when ordered to do so, were 
the real causes of the failure of the attack. The 
part which the Second Brigade took in this battle 
was comparatively unimportant. 

The hills in front were too steep to justify an 
assault, and the banks of Deep Run furnished 
shelter from the artillery of the enemy, so that 
the chief duty of the regiments of the Brigade 
was to do skirmish or picket duty. Of this duty 
the 121st had its full share, as vividly described 
by Comrade Beckwith. 

"Our Brigade, as I remember, was commanded 
by Col. H. L. Cake of the 96th Penn., General 
Bartlett having another command temporarily, 
and the Division was commanded by General 
Brooks. We moved early on the morning of the 
12th, which was Friday, up towards the heights, 
crossing a deep gully along the bottom of which 
a little stream ran towards the river. The sun 
rose and dispelled the fog, which was heavy and 
thick and covered the flats of the river like a 
blanket, also concealing from view the hills in our 
front, at the same time screening us from the 
enemy's observation. Looking back towards the 
river, there was a mass of troops in motion, in- 
cluding infantry, artillery and cavalry, equal in 
number to an army corps. In our front the fog 
was slowly receding toward the heights and as soon 
as it revealed some of our moving troops, they 
were greeted with a shotted salute from the Con- 
federate batteries in our front. Almost at once 
Hexamer drove by on a gallop with his battery 
of three-inch steel Rodmans, and their sharp, fierce 
bark soon joined the chorus of other sounds; and 
this splendid, energetic artillery officer with his 

42 



able command soon quieted his adversaries in his 
immediate front. We remained several hours lying 
in the ditch or hollow at the roadside, which 
screened us from observation and sheltered us 
from the artillery fire of the enemy. I should 
think about 11 o'clock a battery of brass Napoleons, 
twelve-pound caliber, with brass handles or trun- 
nions, came rattling up the road. We were ordered 
to fall in and moved out of the road, and the bat- 
tery swung into position in front of us, on the 
highest part of the rising ground immediately be- 
fore us, and unlimbered and went into action, firing 
rapidly and continuously for some time. To this 
the enemy replied with equal vigor. I should 
judge from the number of shot and shell that flew 
over, around and about us through it all, that those 
battery men worked with precision and regularity. 
The officer, Captain McKnight I think, moved 
among the gunners giving orders and directions. 
Our Colonel, Upton, went up to the guns and had 
some talk with the officer in command. All the 
while we lay close to the ground, and we could 
see very distinctly the working of the battery in all 
its details and hear the commands. The fire of this 
battery was replied to by the enemy, but I do 
not think their fire did any harm to our battery. 
Their shells seemed to burst nearer to us than to 
the battery. Some of them flew away beyond us. 
Each shell seemed to have a different note or tone 
and none of them could be called musical. 

"Some were fiendish and seemed to say 'I've got 
you, I've got you.' Several burst near us and the 
fragments knocked up the ground considerably. 
Finally a fragment from one struck Oscar Spicer 
of our company in the head and killed him in- 
stantly. I don't think he realized what struck 
him. We carried him back after the battery had 
ceased firing, to the edge of the road, and near a 

43 



small cedar, a row of which grew along the road, 
we dug a grave for him and gave him as good 
burial as we could. I think Joe Rounds, Chet Cat- 
lin, or Tarbell, read the Episcopal or Masonic 
burial service, I do not remember which. Spicer's 
death threw a gloom over us. He was a fine fellow 
and well liked by all of us. At dusk we moved 
back into the hollow by the roadside, got our supper 
and slept on our arms. In the morning before 
daylight we were roused up, told to get our break- 
fast and get ready to go on the picket or skirmish 
line. We had scarcely time to get a cup of coffee, 
toast a cracker, and broil a bit of pork on a stick, 
before we were ordered into ranks. Levi Doxtater 
had gone for water and had a number of canteens, 
among which was mine, to fill. He was late getting 
back and his brother Jerome called to him 'Hurry 
up, Levi, we are going right away.' Levi said, 'I 
don't care, I ain't going to hurry. I am only going 
out there to be killed anyway.' Sure enough, his 
prediction or presentiment proved true, for he had 
scarcely reached the advance line when he received 
a mortal wound. 

"We moved up the creek that runs through the 
gully before mentioned, followed it a consider- 
able distance toward the enemy until we came to 
a point where it turned toward the right. Here, 
under the bank it made, and the shelter it af- 
forded, our picket reserve was posted. When we 
reached this point it was daylight and objects could 
be seen distinctly for some distance in the direc- 
tion of the enemy, but a considerable fog still 
hung over the low ground. We moved rapidly 
past the reserve and out into the unsheltered field, 
deployed as skirmishers from our left squad, which 
was my squad, and ran forward on a double quick 
to our line, which I could not see when I started, 
but which we reached in going seventy yards. The 

44 

4 



instant we got near them, the men on picket sprang 
up and began firing, and as we advanced beyond 
them they, the 15th N. J., which I remember 
as being the regiment we relieved, ran back under 
shelter, and we were left to face the enemy and 
hold the line that they had held. Nothing had been 
said to us, no orders had been given, and I doubt 
very much if our officers knew what was expected 
of them, or us. I stood where the Jersey men had 
left me for a little time. I looked in front of me. 
Along a sort of meadow ran a rail fence separating 
it from a piece of woods. From this fence sprang 
out puffs of smoke, and the instant hiss of a missile 
in our vicinity told us that we were the object of 
the rifleman's attention. Almost instantly I saw 
two on my right, Doxtater and Davis, tumble down 
shot, and on my left heard Delos Doxtater cry 
'I am shot.' I felt a fierce tug and numbness 
run along my left arm and side and felt I had 
been struck myself. Benny West sang out 'Lie 
down,' and seeing I had been hit, I dropped down 
on my face and hands. In the brief time I had been 
standing there I saw that we were in a bare, un- 
sheltered place, and several men of the regiment 
that we had relieved were lying in our front. I ex- 
amined my arm and side, but found to my "great 
relief that excepting a numbness, they were all 
right, and I immediately turned my attention to the 
fellows in our front who were seeking to assist us in 
shuffling off this mortal coil. We fired at them sev- 
eral times, but they returned our compliments with 
accuracy and earnestness. I got my tin plate out 
of my haversack for a starter and soon scooped 
out a hole which afforded some shelter from the 
sharpshooters in our front. In the meantime Delos 
Doxtater had crawled back to the reserve to have 
his wounds cared for. Word was passed down 
the line from my right that Levi Doxtater was mor- 

45 



tally wounded and Anabel Davis was killed, and 
one of Company G named Wilson, was killed. 

"Shortly after Colonel Upton rode along the line 
and ordered some of the men and one officer up 
to the line. The Colonel was fired at a great many 
times, but rode along leisurely and showed no 
concern or fear, and finally went out of my sight. 
The fact is, my attention for many long, weary, 
perilous hours was taken up by the attentions of 
the devils down there in the edge of that timber. 
Benny West and I fired at the puffs of smoke 
many times in turn, but only succeeded in getting 
the dust spattered about us where the balls struck 
from the return fire, and the ping pang spoch 
sounds made by the bullets were not pleasant to 
the ear. A little way off one of our men, breathing 
through the blood that was choking him to death, 
made an awful sound. There were besides myself 
in my squad, Charley Carmody, Joey Wormoth and 
Benny West, all boys in our 'teens. I think I was 
the youngest of the group, having just then com- 
pleted my sixteenth year, and here we were doing 
men's work and doing it well. I can recall now, 
as the continual flight of musket balls around, 
about and over us, and shells from the batteries 
on both sides passed over us for a time, what 
we did and said. First we wondered how long 
this thing would last, whether we would have to 
get up and charge those cusses in front, whether 
the rest of the fellows were in as bad a place as 
we were, and whether the battle would be fought 
about us. Then our attention was attracted by 
the terrific firing of all arms, both on our right 
and left — the terrific crash of musketry, the yelling 
and cheering of thousands of men, and the heavy 
thunder of artillery. The hours dragged terribly 
slow. After noon the firing in our front slackened 
and finally stopped, and after a time we hung up 

46 



a handkerchief in answer to one from their side; 
and we gathered and carried back our dead. Poor 
Doxtater and Davis were taken back and laid be- 
side Spicer near the Bowling Green Road. Of 
course as soon as the firing ceased the strain under 
which we had been so many hours was off, and 
the future and its concerns occupied our minds. 
I looked about me and got something to eat from 
my haversack and talked with the other fellows. 
Of course we lay low, for the reputation of the 
gentlemen in our front was of such a character 
as to prevent us from giving them too much of 
an opportunity to kill us, and we all agreed that 
we did not want any more picket or skirmish line 
work, especially where the enemy was under shel- 
ter and we were lying exposed upon a bare field. 
We were too much in the position of the chicken 
at the chicken shoot. Further along to the right 
the line diverged and our fellows got along com- 
fortably and had a chance for their lives. 

"Now I have often been asked how it feels to go 
into battle, and I think I can say without qualifica- 
tion that it requires more, a heap more, nerve and 
sand to occupy the position we young fellows did 
on that bright December day, exposed to a deadly 
fire from marksmen for many hours, than to 
plunge headlong into the shock and din of any, 
after, battle in which we participated. I am speak- 
ing for myself and at a distance. Only two of those 
five are now living, and the other can speak for 
himself. (This was written over twenty years 
ago.) 

"After the firing in our front ceased we got along 
quite comfortably, to what we had experienced, 
and took turns in looking after things in front 
of us. Around us growing among the grass were 
many little spears which looked like onions, but 
were called leeks. This vegetable was pungent 

47 



enough so that when eaten by cows it tainted their 
milk, and their flesh would taste of it when served 
to us as beef. 

"I had experienced the benefit of getting an over- 
coat and haversack at Warrenton. I could have 
gotten along much better during the day without 
the overcoat which I had on, the sun pouring down 
so fiercely. The knapsack with the blanket rolled 
on top served as a protection for my head until 
I could scoop up earth to reinforce it. When 
night came, and the moon came up and the fog 
rose from the marshy ground in our front and 
along the creek bottom, I had none too many 
clothes on to protect me from the penetrating chill 
of the damp, cold air and fog. We took turns 
watching the front. I do not think, a sound escaped 
our ears, and I was very much vexed at one of our 
fellows who was off duty snoring for a time. Major 
Olcott went the round of the line and asked me 
quite a number of questions when he visited my 
post. I was on duty at the time. 

"It was moonlight when the relief came, the 77th 
jN. Y., I think. They came up so quickly and 
silently that I did not notice their approach from 
the rear until they were quite near to us, and unlike 
our friends of the previous morning, I briefly ex- 
plained our position and gave them such advice 
as I thought would afford them some benefit. As 
we moved back and assembled in the rear of the 
reserve I was very glad the day's work was done. 
By da3 7 light we reached the ravine south of the 
road and made ourselves comfortable for the ex- 
change of the experiences of the day before, lis- 
tened to tales of the battle and the terrible slaugh- 
ter of our troops on the right and left flanks, 
and the report that the battle would be renewed 
during the day, and we had a part to take in it. 
But this did not happen. On Monday morning 

48 



we were over the river and in a camp in the woods 
back of the flats. While lying in the woods here, 
a single shot from a Rebel battery fell in our camp, 
and one of our boys got it so we all had a look at 
it. I think that but for its weight it would have 
been kept as a souvenir. The next day or two 
we moved back towards Belle Plain Landing. We 
were grateful when we filed off the road by the 
church at the roadside among the massive oaks, 
after which it was called 'White Oak Church,' 
keeping on the right of it till we reached the heart 
of a dense oak forest and there formed our camp 
and were told to build log shanties. We were 
greatly pleased, and it was but a little time before 
we had a fine camp with comfortable quarters 
and the anticipation of staying there for the winter. 
One of our company, Lonnie Coon, died in the 
camp of the 149th Penn., and a number of us 
went over there and buried him. Poor Lonnie 
had died from hardship, exposure and home- 
sickness. He never took kindly to army life, and 
at home had not lived or toiled to fit him for a 
soldier. During the winter his father came down 
and took up his remains and carried them home 
for burial. When disinterred he looked as fresh 
as when he was buried, except that where the 
blanket, which we had used to bury him in, had 
touched his flesh, it left the impress of its texture. 
"Here our Sutler came to us. He was Sam Miller 
of our own company. He had been First Ser- 
geant, then Color Sergeant, then Lieutenant, and 
then had been appointed Sutler after resigning 
his commission. He had Henry Underwood 
to assist him and we soon had a supply of 
good things. Among these was 'milk drink' 
which was a combination of milk in an air- 
tight sealed can holding about a pint, and 
somewhere in the composition some whiskey 

49 



concealed. Through the leniency of Lieut. Geo. 
A. May who knew of the great drought from which 
we were suffering, and the suspension of rigid 
orders by Sam Miller, and the currency with which 
I was supplied, I secured a liberal supply of the 
'milk drink,' and it was so deceptive and exhil- 
arating that I was soon suffering from a good 
resemblance to a 'milk drunk.' Its operation in 
this way, made it more difficult to get after 
that." (B.) 

In the Battle of Fredericksburg the 121st suffered 
a loss of eleven enlisted men, four killed and seven 
wounded. From Comrade Beckwith's account the 
most of this loss was in his company and squad 
on the picket line of which they held the mosf 
exposed section. That it was able to return to 
camp with so little loss is an illustration of the 
fact that up to this time battles had been fought 
by only a small portion of the forces available. 
The strategy of the Battle of Fredericksburg was 
the same as that of all previous battles in which 
the Army of the Potomac had been engaged. It 
was a battle of divisions and not of the entire army. 
Attacks were not made simultaneously, nor sup- 
ported by adequate reserves. The result was a re- 
pulse with great loss to parts of the forces engaged, 
and few casualties among the rest. 

That the failure to drive the Confederate Army 
from the Heights of Fredericksburg was a bitter 
disappointment to General Burnside, there is no 
doubt, and it was no less bitter to the President. 
It also had a depressing effect upon the Federal 
army, which showed itself immediately after the 
return to camp at White Oak Church. This was 
felt even by the 121st although it had suffered com- 
paratively little. Several officers resigned and 
some of the men deserted. The first site for the 
camp of the 121st at White Oak Church was not 

50 



satisfactory to Colonel Upton. Being in the middle 
of a dense wood it did not give opportunity for 
instruction and drill, so he had it moved to the 
edge of the woods, looking out into an open field 
upon which he resumed his careful system of drill 
of the men and instruction of the officers. 

The occupation of these winter quarters was in- 
terrupted by the movement of the Army which 
has ever since been called "Burnside's Mud March." 
This began on the 19th day of January, 1863. The 
weather was pleasant, and had been for several 
days. The ground was frozen hard, and the roads 
in fine condition. The evident intention was to 
cross the river somewhere above Fredericksburg 
and flank the Confederate army out of the strong 
position on the hills behind the city. The move- 
ment began auspiciously, but an immediate change 
in the weather made a ridiculous failure of it. 
Heavy rain, with a warm southern wind took the 
frost out of the ground during the afternoon and 
night of the first day, and artillery and trains the 
next morning found themselves sunk hub deep 
in the soft earth. By doubling up their teams they 
could scarcely pull these guns and wagons out of 
the fields into the road, and the roads were soon 
so deep in mud that further progress was impos- 
sible. The third day the question became im- 
portant how to get the army back into camp. Long 
ropes were used which, manned by men stationed 
along the road in difficult sections, were attached 
to the stranded gun or wagon to haul it upon 
firmer ground where the team could handle it. 

In this movement the 121st was one of the regi- 
ments that reached the vicinity of Bank's Ford, 
where the crossing was to have been made, and 
when the return to camp was ordered it formed 
port of the rear guard left at the ford to cover 
the withdrawal and observe the enemy. Every 

51 



one who took part in that movement must remem- 
ber the misery of the two nights spent in rain and 
smoke, for the air was so full of water that the 
smoke hung close to the ground and tortured the 
eyes, and with what relief the army straggled back 
into camps to shelter and rest. Of the condition 
of the army immediately following the "Mud 
March," or, as the Rebels humorously character- 
ized it on a barn door near the river, "Burnside 
stuck in the mud," the enlisted man's view of it 
is given in Comrade Beckwith's reminiscences. He 
says: "I with my squad was left behind (as guard 
at Brigade Headquarters Q. M. Dept.), and the 
first news we had of the result of the move- 
ment was the coming into camp of Mike Hart- 
ford, of my company, who gave us a description 
of the movement and the roads. I saw the engi- 
neers hauling the pontoon train by hand and soon 
we knew that the whole army was mired; and in 
a little while the worn out and exhausted battalions 
of our brigade came straggling by and continued 
to come for several hours. We made those of our 
regiment who came to us as comfortable as pos- 
sible. Only a few stopped, because it was only a 
short distance to our old camp and they pushed 
on for their homes, and in a short time the camp 
put on an animated appearance. 

"There is nothing on earth looks so dreary and 
cheerless to a soldier as a deserted camp without 
the white roofs on the shanties and the smoke 
issuing out of the chimneys. These soon gave the 
old camp a cheerful and comfortable appearance. 

"This was the last attempt to utilize the two-year 
men that winter, and we felt confident that no 
further attempt would be made to inaugurate a 
campaign until the roads got into good condition 
again. Up to this time we had received no pay, 
and some mischief breeding cuss circulated a re- 

52 



port that under the article, of war, troops could 
not be held to their contract unless paid once in 
four months. Five months had gone by and we 
had not been paid, and some were punished for 
refusing to do duty. When the officers became ac- 
quainted with the state of affairs existing in the 
ranks, the matter was soon subdued and we were 
made acquainted with what we must do, and do 
it without cavil. This made many disaffected, and 
they, being sick of war, argued that the private 
soldier could get no justice; the government did 
not keep its contracts, therefore the soldier ought 
not to fight; it was a blanked nigger war anyway, 
and they were not going to fight for the negro, 
or 'nigger' as they called him. Reports were cir- 
culated that there were men who made it a busi- 
ness to assist men north and would furnish them 
with citizens' clothes and money when once they 
got to the Potomac; and so, their minds heated 
with imaginary wrongs, filled with disgust for the 
war, homesick, discouraged and desperate, many 
deserted from the regiment, and made their way 
north and into Canada, and their names are today 
borne on the rolls of the company and regiment 
as deserters. I knew of one party that went and 
I was invited first, urged next, and damned 
last, because I would not go with them. It was 
said that one of them lost his life, being shot by 
a cavalry vidette, and one came back to the regi- 
ment, while the rest made their escape. While the 
camp at White Oak Church was well located for 
health, there was considerable sickness, many not 
being able to adapt themselves to the hardships 
of camp life, so that our regiment was greatly 
reduced in number, having less than six hundred 
men in the ranks. For example, my company, 
as T recollect, had lost by battle Spicer, Doxtater 
and Davis; by disease, John Murphy, John Bussey, 

53 



Whitmore and one other whose name I do not 
recall. Seven were on detail duty, four had de- 
serted and twenty-seven were away sick — leaving 
only fifty-five men present for duty. To add to 
our discontent, our officers who had been uni- 
formly kind and considerate, resigned. First Cap- 
tain Holcomb resigned, being followed by Lieu- 
tenants Keith and May. We were exceedingly 
sorry to have them go, and would willingly have 
gone with them had we been permitted. But that 
was out of the question. Colonel Upton had in- 
stituted a rigid school of instruction, and subjected 
the officers to severe tests based upon West Point 
tactics and practices and the result was that very 
soon a great many of the line officers of the regi- 
ment resigned. Lieutenant-Colonel Clark also 
favored us with his resignation and we got a new 
lot of officers. Marcus R. Casler was made our 
Captain, so long before spring we were trimmed 
clown fine enough to suit the critical eye of our 
Colonel. He worked constantly to improve the 
discipline, drill and military efficiency of the regi- 
ment, both officers and men. The results became 
so noticeable to the older regiments that they began 
to call us 'Upton's Regulars' and we soon became 
the best disciplined and best drilled regiment in 
the brigade. With the accession of 'Joe Hooker,' 
as he was called, to command in place of Burnside 
there came a better feeling among the men. 
Hooker's order assuming command was well re- 
ceived, and the almost immediate activity through- 
out the army betokened the business for which 
we were there, and that another effort to crush 
the enemy was soon to be undertaken." 

It is needless to write that Colonel Upton exerted 
himself to the utmost to provide the regiment with 
every advantage possible, both for comfort and 
health. Food and clothing of good quality and in 

54 



sufficient quantity were insisted upon and the 
regiment rapidly recovered from the effects of 
the "Mud March" and during the rest of the win- 
ter improved in every way. By persistent effort 
the Colonel secured a promise from the state 
authorities, that no officer not approved by him 
should be appointed in, or assigned to the 121st. 
The changes that occurred in the regiment during 
the winter were as follows: Lieut. Col. Clark, 
Captains Holcomb, Moon and Olin, and Lieuten- 
ants Clyde, Ferguson, Staring, Park, Kenyon, 
Bradt, Boole and May resigned and were honor- 
ably discharged. Also later Captains Campbell 
and Ramsay and Lieutenants Story, Kieth and Van 
Horn. Asst. Surgeon Valentine was dismissed for 
incompetency after trial by court martial. Cap- 
tain Angus Cameron died of typhoid fever, Major 
Olcott was promoted to Lieut. Colonel, and Lieut. 
Mather and Adjutant Arnold to Captains. Cleve- 
land J. Campbell of Cherry Valley was commis- 
sioned as Captain in the regiment, and Henry 
Upton as 2d Lieutenant. Lieut. Sternberg was pro- 
moted to Quartermaster, and 2d Lieutenants Cas- 
ler and Cronkite to 1st Lientenants. Lieut. Casler 
was transferred to Company E, that company be- 
ing without a commissioned officer present for 
duty. Sergeants A. C. Rice, Charles A. Butts, 
Thomas C. Adams, L. B. Paine, F. E. Ford, S. E. 
Pierce and G. R. Wheeler received Lieutenantcies. 
These changes had been made at different dates, 
the last being the resignation of Captain Douglas 
Campbell on April 28th from the hospital where he, 
for some time, had been under treatment for sick- 
ness. 

Changes had also been made in the organization 
of the army. General Burnside at his own request 
had been relieved from command and General 
Hooker appointed in his stead. The Grand Divi- 

55 



sion organization was abandoned and from that 
time the names of Generals Franklin and Sumner, 
no longer appear in connection with the Army of 
the Potomac. General Burnside quietly and pa- 
triotically resumed command of his old corps, and 
continued to do splendid service to the end of the 
war. The old corps formation was restored, and 
General Hooker did excellent work in restoring 
the efficiency and morale of the army. General 
Smith was transferred to the Ninth Corps, and 
General Sedgwick promoted to the command of the 
Sixth Corps. 

The letter by which President Lincoln trans- 
ferred the command from Burnside is one of his 
remarkable literary productions. It is easy to 
read between the lines his deep anxiety, his 
anxious solicitude, his fatherly sentiments toward 
the officers of the army, and his keen appreciation 
of the abilities and weaknesses of the different com- 
manders to whom he had to entrust the military 
affairs of the nation. The following is a copy of 
that letter. 

Executive Mansion 

Washington, D. C, January 26, 1863. 

Major General Hooker, 

My Dear General, 

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the 
Potomac. Of course I have done this, by what 
appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I 
think it best for you to know that there are some 
things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied 
with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful 
soldier, which of course I like. I also believe that 
you do not mix politics with your profession, in 
which you are right. You have confidence in your- 
self, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable 
quality. You are ambitious, which within reason- 

56 



able limits, does good rather than harm; but I 
think that during General Burnside's command of 
the army, you have taken counsel of your ambition 
and thwarted him as much as you could, in which 
you did a great wrong to the country and to a most 
meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have 
heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your 
recently saying, that both the army and the gov- 
ernment needed a dictator. Of course it was not 
for this but in spite of it that I have given you 
the command. Only those generals who gain suc- 
cess can set up as dictators. What I now ask of 
you is military success, and I will risk the dictator- 
ship. The government will support you to the 
utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor 
less than it has done and will do for all com- 
manders. I very much fear that the spirit which 
you have aided to infuse into the army, of criti- 
cizing the commander and withholding confidence 
from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist 
you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you, 
nor Napoleon if he were still alive, could get good 
out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. 
And now, beware of rashness, but with energy and 
sleepless vigilance go on and give us victory. 
Yours very truly, 

(Signed) Abraham Lincoln. 

On a subsequent occasion, just before the spring 
campaign began, in an interview with General 
Hooker, General Couch being present, Lincoln ex- 
claimed twice in admonition to Hooker, "Put in 
all your men. Put in all your men." This ad- 
monition showed that the President had come to 
realize that the strategy which uses only part of 
an attacking force is not sound. It invites defeat 
of the whole force in the defeat of its parts suc- 
cessively. 

57 



CHAPTER VI 
The Chancellorsville Campaign 

THE Army of the Potomac as reorganized under 
General Hooker consisted of seven corps, the 
First commanded by General John F. Reynolds; 
the Second, commanded by General D. N. Couch; 
the Third, commanded by General D. N. Sickles; 
the Fifth, commanded by General George G. 
Meade; the Sixth, commanded by General John 
Sedgwick; the Eleventh, commanded by Franz 
Siegel; and the Twelfth, commanded by General 
H. W. Slocum. All these were Major Generals and 
had won distinction in previous campaigns. It is 
safe to say that no army ever started out on a cam- 
paign better equipped, better officered, or in higher 
spirits than did the Army of the Potomac when, 
on April 27, 1863, it broke camp and began the 
Chancellorville campaign. General Hooker's order 
to move was couched in terms of absolute con- 
fidence. He was certain of sure and speedy vic- 
tory, so certain that when President Lincoln read 
it, he turned to those who were present and asked, 
"Why is the hen the wisest of all animals?" and not 
receiving an answer, said "Because she does not 
cackle until after she has laid her egg." 

In carrying out his plan, in order to deceive 
General Lee, Hooker ordered the First, Third and 
Sixth Corps to demonstrate on the left three miles 
below Fredericksburg, but not to bring on a gen- 
eral engagement. Meanwhile he, with the rest of 
the army, began the main operation on the right 
with the intention of fighting the enemy to the 

58 



south and rear of Fredericksburg. The three 
corps were under the command of General Sedg- 
wick. Before daylight on the 29th of April the 
First division of the Sixth Corps under command 
of General Brooks crossed the river in pontoon 
boats and drove the enemy from the rifle pits near 
the river. A bridge was quickly thrown across and 
the First Corps was soon over and took position 
to the left of Brooks' division. The other two 
divisions of the Sixth Corps did not cross that day, 
but when the First and Third Corps were ordered 
to join the army on the right, they were ordered 
to cross and the corps was united, and left alone 
to hold the crossing and threaten the enemy hold- 
ing the heights behind the city. The sound of the 
fighting in the vicinity of Chancellorsville was 
heard by us. 

Up to this point in the campaign, everything 
had gone prosperously. The enemy had evidently 
been taken by surprise, and deceived as to the in- 
tention of the movement. In supreme confidence 
of ultimate success Hooker ordered a message to 
be sent to the Sixth Corps expressing the surety 
of victory. The officer who prepared this message 
referred in it to the Divine favor in the success of 
the movement, but when it was read to General 
Hooker he turned to those present and said, "God 
Almighty can not keep the victory from me now." 
This was told to the writer only a few days after, 
by one who evidently knew what he was talking 
about. But before treating further of the general 
affairs of the movement let us turn to the more 
intimate story of the part so far taken by the 
brigade and the regiments in it. 

The duty assigned to General Brooks, to cross 
the river in pontoons, was one that required cour- 
age and secrecy, or great loss would be suffered. 
Fortunately the night was foggy, and nothing could 

59 



be seen from across the river. Every precaution 
was taken to avoid noise. Commands were given 
in a whisper, the muskets were left unloaded and 
without their bayonets. The teams drawing the 
pontoons were left out of hearing and the boats 
were brought down by hand and launched silently. 
As silently they were filled with soldiers, and 
rowed across the river rapidly. The first notice 
the pickets on the other side had of them, was 
when the boats grounded on the shore. Then a 
scattering fire was begun which caught those of us 
who were crossing in the second turn of the boats. 
It was not a pleasing sound to hear the bullets 
plumping into the water on all sides. 

Those of the pickets captured said that a regi- 
ment had been in the trenches along the river bank 
all night and had just marched away when the 
crossing began. The writer was in the first boat 
of the second brigade that crossed, and on landing 
followed closely after Colonel Seaver, who pushed 
his way up the bank, and roughly commanded 
several men who were crouching under the brow 
of the slope, "Get out of the way of my men," and 
immediately upon reaching the top threw the ad- 
vance companies into skirmish formation, and sent 
us out after the retiring enemy as far as the edge of 
the cut made by Deep Run — the same ground we 
had occupied during the previous campaign. 

The part taken by the 121st is best told by Com- 
rade Beckwith. "We crossed the Rappahannock 
at Deep Bottom, near the place of our former 
crossing, and the movement of troops on the op- 
posite side of the river from right to left made 
our position a mystery. We occupied some earth- 
works, and to our right and front there was con- 
siderable picket firing and a number of our men 
were hit by sharpshooters. The story went around 
that a woman would come out of a house near the 

60 

5 



Rebel picket line and expose her person to attract 
the attention of our men who as soon as they 
showed themselves above the rifle pits, would be 
fired on by the sharpshooters and often hit. This 
went on until an officer ordered the woman to be 
shot, which was done by our men, and the en- 
tertainment ended. 

"On Saturday morning, May 3, 1863, long before 
daylight we moved forward a little to the left. 
As soon as it was light enough to see we moved 
forward across the Bowling Green Pike and under 
the shelter of a small stream flowing through it, 
grown up with large and small timber, in front 
of us a short distance, and we were put into posi- 
tion. Hexammer's Battery came galloping up, 
unlimbered in our front and began firing with con- 
siderable rapidity. A little way in front, I should 
think about a hundred and fifty yards, there was 
a line of little pits in which the enemy's skirmish 
line was posted and they at once began to annoy 
our batterymen who were busy firing at a Rebel 
battery some distance farther back. Colonel Up- 
ton, who was up by the guns, noticing this, came 
back to our company and called for some good 
shots, and soon had a squad firing at the puffs of 
smoke from the rifle pits. I remember Sam But- 
ton's being complimented for a good shot he made, 
which it was said quieted one grey-coated chap 
who had been especially troublesome, and had 
wounded one of our batterymen. On our left 
there did not seem to be any business going on, 
but on our right the musketry firing was lively 
and the spherical case shot, crashing through the 
heavy branches and foliage of the ravine, wounded 
several men on the right of our regiment. On the 
right across the ravine in the fields a heavy skir- 
mish line of ours came falling back rather rapidly, 
but in fair order, evidencing that there was plenty 

61 

6 



of opposition farther up than they had been. 
Farther along to the right and back of the city the 
batteries kept up a constant fire, and about eleven 
o'clock the cheering of our charging men, the 
heavy volley of musketry, dying away into a con- 
tinuous rattle, enlivened with a volley near the 
end followed by a sudden quiet, told us that our 
men had carried the lines and forts of the enemy 
upon the heights, and we could see our flags flying 
there and we cheered them heartily. In a little 
while we were ordered into ranks and marched 
toward the city along the Bowling Green Pike, 
where Spicer and Doxtater and Davis and Wilson 
were buried, and not a thought given that before 
the sun went down on that day many a living, 
breathing body of our number would be as inani- 
mate as they were, without the privilege of sepul- 
cher being given them by comrades and fellow 
soldiers." 

The military exploit so briefly described was 
one of the most brilliant of the war. The sphere 
of operation was the same as that which saw the 
disastrous defeat of the assaulting force in the 
previous campaign. The same stone wall, the 
same steep ascent, the same redoubts and forts 
only strengthened, and the same determined re- 
sistance to be overcome. The movement was in 
compliance with an order from General Hooker 
received at 11 A. M., on May 2, ordering Sedgwick 
"to at once march on the Chancellorville road, and 
connect with the Major General commanding, to 
attack and destroy any force you may fall in with 
on the road; leave all trains behind except the 
pack mule train of small ammunition, and be in 
the vicinity of the General at daylight." The 
order was promptly obeyed so far as was possible. 
General Gibbons' division of the Second Corps, 
still under Sedgwick's command, was brought 

62 



across the river and placed on the right. And at 
3 P. M. when all was ready General Newton's 
division of the Sixth Corps advanced at double 
quick without firing or halting, drove the enemy 
from his first line of works, the famous stone wall, 
pressed forward to the crest of the heights and 
carried the works in rear of the rifle pits, captur- 
ing guns and prisoners. At the same time Gen- 
eral Howe on the left advanced and gained the 
crest in his front, also capturing guns and 
prisoners. Gibbons' division was sent in pursuit 
of the enemy retiring southward, with orders to 
hold the city. 

Without delay the Sixth Corps advanced on the 
road to Chancellorsville, carrying a succession of 
heights without halting, until the vicinity of Salem 
church was reached. Here a larger force of the 
enemy was encountered, in strong position, on both 
flanks of the church, the church itself being occu- 
pied by sharpshooters for whom holes had been 
made in its walls from which they could fire as 
well as from the windows and doors. The enemy 
had been reinforced by troops from in front of 
Hooker, who at this time had abandoned all ag- 
gressive action, and had drawn back his advanced 
divisions to a defensive. position. This virtually 
left Sedgwick with the Sixth Corps to fight the 
enemy alone. To reach the position now occu- 
pied by the rest of the army he would have had 
to break through the main Rebel army. Line of 
battle was formed of two divisions, General Brooks 
on the left and General Newton on the right. Two 
attacks failed to dislodge the opposing forces, and 
reinforcements rapidly coming up to the opposing 
forces the battle was quickly turned into the de- 
fensive. A division was sent by Lee to reoccupy 
the Fredericksburg Heights, which compelled 
General Sedgwick to throw his corps into the form 

63 



of a square, one side of which was filled by the 
Rappahannock River and the other three by the 
separate divisions of the corps. All day Monday 
was spent in resisting the fierce attacks of the 
enemy, and on Monday night the corps was safely 
withdrawn across the river at Banksford. The 
part which the Second Brigade took in this battle 
began after the first effort to carry the position 
had failed. The 16th and 121st N. Y. advanced in 
line until within musket range when it was found 
that a New Jersey regiment was in the immediate 
front of the 16th. It was ordered to move by 
the right flank across the road and advance 
against the enemy. This brought the New Jersey 
regiment between the 16th and the 121st, and 
when the New Jersey regiment gave way and 
the enemy advanced in pursuit, it resulted in 
the exposure of the left of the 16th and the right 
of the 121st to a raking flank fire. There were 
no troops to the right of the 16th, so that it 
was compelled to fall back to avoid being entirely 
cut off from the rest of the division. It suffered 
a grievous loss in killed, wounded and captured. 
It entered the fight with 30 officers and 380 men. 
It lost: 24 killed, 12 mortally wounded, 101 
wounded, not mortally, and 17 captured. 

It ought to be remembered to the credit of the 
16th N. Y. that it entered this battle within a few 
days of the expiration of its term of service; that 
when it was proposed to send a commission to 
speak to the two-year regiments appealing to their 
patriotism, and urging them to enter their last 
fight with their former valor, Colonel Seaver re- 
fused to let anything be said to the 16th, on the 
ground that it was not necessary, that the 16th 
would do its whole duty to the last, without any 
special urging to do so. Their conduct in this 
battle showed that the Colonel had judged his men 

64 



correctly. This, however, was not the case with 
all the two-year regiments. A portion of the 20th 
N. Y., under the leadership of a sergeant, refused 
to cross the river, and were courtmartialed and 
severely punished for mutiny. At its farthest ad- 
vance, the left of the 16th N. Y. was only the width 
of the road across from the church, and they suf- 
fered from the fire of the men in it, and the 
battery near it. On the following day the 16th sup- 
ported a battery with two companies on the 
skirmish line, and when the withdrawal was made 
in the evening, we of the two companies found 
ourselves at the extreme left of the line with orders 
to fall back gradually and hold the enemy in check. 
The writer was the man on the very end of the 
skirmish line, and when we got back to the plank 
road we were utterly bewildered. All our line and 
staff officers were gone, as was the case with the 
27th N. Y. that was on our left, with the same 
orders and in the same perplexity. We stood a 
few moments in doubt when out of the darkness 
came the voice of our Colonel, Seaver, "Where 
are my men?" "Here we are," was our eager re- 
sponse. "Well, get out of this as quick as you 
can," and he set us the example by wheeling his 
horse and galloping off at full speed. The left of 
the line happened to be just at the junction of the 
plank road and the road that led to Bank's Ford, 
so that the order "Right face, file right, double 
quick" started us on the way to safety. But it was 
a fagged out company of grateful men who late 
in the evening fell utterly exhausted among their 
waiting comrades, until their turn came to cross 
the river in the early morning. 

For the part that the 121st took in this cam- 
paign, Colonel Beckwith's account is both vivid 
and full. It is very fortunate for the friends of 
deceased members and survivors of the regiment, 

65 



that he has written so fully of these important 
events in the history of the regiment. 

He says, "When we reached the city evidences 
of the fierce nature of the struggle just ended were 
everywhere present. The street upon which we 
entered the city was the continuation of the Bowl- 
ing Green Pike, and along it the assaulting column 
formed. Forming on nearly the same spot as 
did French's division at the battle of Fredericks- 
burg, they charged over a portion of the same 
ground, defended by fully as good troops, in fact 
the flower of Lee's infantry and artillery. They 
carried everything before them and captured the 
heights and their defenders, and among the other 
batteries in the redoubt near Marye's mansion, cap- 
tured the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, 
the pride of the Confederate army. After a little 
halt in the street we moved on, filing to the left 
directly up the street and over the ground that the 
center of the assaulting column had passed over. 
At every step evidences of the deadliness of the 
enemy's fire accumulated and behind a ruined 
brick building, just on the outskirts of the city, a 
ghastly row of desperately wounded men had been 
gathered. Scattered at very frequent intervals 
from it, and until within a very few yards of 
Marye's Heights, hundreds of human forms dotted 
the ground. The ambulances were up and the 
stretcher bearers were bringing in the wounded. 
The dead were in every position, just as they had 
fallen. Reaching the redoubt occupied by men 
of different regiments that had participated in the 
assault, mostly men of the 6th Wisconsin and the 
6th and 7th Maine, we heard the terrible ex- 
periences through which they had passed, and the 
struggle in the redoubt, for the guns. Looking 
from Marye's Heights toward the city any soldier 
standing behind the breastworks, as I did, would 

66 



feel his ability to destroy any number of foes ad- 
vancing against him and I wonder that any of 
that devoted column had escaped death; and I 
ceased thinking of the pride and exultation which 
the survivors manifested, to the exclusion of 
thought for their comrades lying silent in death 
on the bare slope over which they had safely 
passed. Many times since have I thought of that 
stirring scene and compared it in my mind with 
other conspicuous deeds of valor recorded in the 
annals of war, and always ended with the opinion 
that it was as stout-hearted and cool-headed a 
piece of work as ever was done. 

All that I have described occurred in less time 
than I can tell about it. We moved over the ground 
without making any long halt. After moving up 
the road a little distance a battery in our front 
opened on us and a shot from it passed over us. 
A few minutes later the popping sound of mus- 
ketry in the distance attracted our attention and 
we could see our skirmish line pushing forward 
and the enemy's line opposing it, but falling back 
slowly. From here on we moved forward quite 
slowly, and at the next halt filed off from the road. 
Here we passed a staff officer whose horse had 
been wounded through the thick of his hind leg 
and the poor beast stood there with the blood 
spurting out at each pulsation of his heart. This 
officer stated that the enemy were deployed in 
line of battle ahead of us, that he had no earth- 
works and would not stand our advance in line 
of battle. We moved across the fields a long dis- 
tance in columns of fours and finally after getting 
up pretty close to our skirmish line, which did 
not seem to be pushing the Rebel skirmishers back 
very rapidly, we were put in line of battle and 
moved forward some distance by regimental front. 
The skirmishers in our front, a New Jersey regi- 

67 



ment, with white canvas knapsacks, which I re- 
member distinctly, were strengthened by the 
picket reserve having deployed, and moved for- 
ward to them, and they immediately moved for- 
ward more boldly and pressed back the Rebels 
who were then sheltered by the woods. In our 
front the skirmish fire became steady and well 
sustained, and the tone of the Rebel bullets in- 
dicated that they were not a great way off. In a 
few moments the Jerseymen disappeared in the 
woods, and we moved up to the rail fence running 
along the woods. This we quickly, by orders, 
took down and laid flat. Glancing back I saw a 
regiment coming up in line of battle, the officer 
riding at its right being the Colonel of the 96th 
Penn. I judged it was that regiment. To the right 
I could see very little. Rehind us there were no 
troops coining up, but General Rartlett and staff 
were a little way off. Captain Wilson, who was 
General Rartlett's A. A. General, and who for some 
reason had been nicknamed "The Spook," rode up 
to the right of our regiment on a gallop, which was 
his usual custom, and almost instantly we moved 
into the wood, which seemed to be mostly second 
growth and thickly grown up with underbrush of 
the oak variety. I can remember now a strange 
sort of quiet in the ranks. I had no idea, nor do I 
think any one near me had any premonition of 
any impending calamity. I was the extreme left 
man in the ranks of the regiment. Joe Rounds, I 
think, was the sergeant on the left of the company. 
We moved at an ordinary step forward into the 
woods perhaps seventy yards, with no sound ex- 
cept a growl from Eli Casler because some one had 
held a bush as he passed and let it fly back into 
his face. 

The firing seemed to be coming to us, and reach- 
ing the distance I have named we came nearly 

6-8 



up to our skirmish line and they commanded and 
received our admiration, for the plucky and per- 
sistent way in which they did their work. The 
officer commanding just in front of us was a brave 
man and understood his business thoroughly. He 
shouted to his men to move up and push forward 
on the right, and fired his revolver at something 
in front that I could not see. At that instant there 
was a yell of pain and Arthur Proctor, a young 
man from Mohawk, a little way up the line cried 
out that he was shot, and Herringshaw took hold 
of him and began to help him. A little farther off 
another was hit and we were immediately ordered 
to "fix bayonets and forward, double quick, 
charge," and we went forward on the run. What 
became of those skirmishers I could not see. I 
suppose they pushed their opponents as far as 
they could, and then lay down and let us charge 
over them. We moved forward on a run a dis- 
tance of not more than one hundred yards until 
we could see the clearing beyond the woods, when 
suddenly as if by magic, a line of men rose up and 
delivered their fire almost in our faces. The crash 
seemed terrific. I was paralyzed for an instant 
but continued to move on. Benny West who was 
next to me gave a terrible bound and pitched 
against me, shot dead. Hank King stuck his gun 
up against the side of my head, as I thought, and 
fired, and I pointed my gun at the men in front 
of me and fired, all the time moving forward and 
over a little ditch into the road. The men who 
were in the ditch and behind the brush fence 
through the gap in which I passed, jumped up and 
ran, some to their rear and some to ours. I loaded 
and fired up the road twice. Joe Rounds stood 
beside me doing the same. The fire from the 
enemy seemed to come from that direction, but 
it was so smoky that I could not see much. A 

69 



little way off I remember a fellow standing, who 
seemed to be holding something before him which 
seemed like a blanket. Joe said, "Let's get back 
into the edge of the woods," which we did. I then 
saw the 96th Penn. coming up to our rear and left. 
As I stepped back I saw Bill Wildrick and John 
Steinfort lying shot, and a couple of men who 
were wounded came there and asked to be carried 
back. Just then John Dain said he was hit. He 
mistook the water running from his canteen, which 
a bullet had pierced, for blood. I remember I 
laughed at the expression on his face at the time. 
I kept looking and firing in the direction from 
which the bullets seemed to come, and our fel- 
lows kept crowding down among our company 
to get away from the fire. After a time the smoke 
cleared a little and I could see some buildings, 
and from a brick building which we afterwards 
learned was Salem church, came the fire which 
was so destructive to us. There seemed to be 
men in the church who were firing from the win- 
dows, and our men were crowding away from it 
toward us to escape being hit. In front of us and 
to the left there were no Rebels that I could see. 
How long we would have stayed there I do not 
know, I suppose until we were attacked and driven 
away. I realized how useless it was for us to stay, 
but did not know enough to run, and it was well 
that Captain Wilson of General Bartlett's staff 
rode up and ordered us back, accompanying the 
order with the inquiry, "D — n you, don't you know 
enough to fall back?" I started to go back rather 
slowly. I think Yoeman and Pat McTague were 
near me then. A lot of our fellows were lying 
down. I remember Joe Rounds shouting, "Come 
on, we're ordered back," and then seeing Sile Good- 
rich and Benny West who had been shot dead, and 
having the thought come to me, "Why, these men 

70 



are all shot and dead." I went back through the 
woods helping along a Company F man who was 
wounded in the shoulder. Where I came out of 
the woods was farther to the left, and near where 
the 96th Penn. went in, and a little way out in 
the field was a pool of water where we stopped 
and filled our canteens. A great many men were 
scattered about in the fields all going back. I 
thought the 96th Penn. was still in the woods 
behind us, but found it was not so, when Captain 
Wilson came riding up and ordered us to go over 
to a house some distance away where our regiment 
was assembling. He said the enemy were now 
advancing through the woods and if we remained 
there five minutes we would all be captured. Well 
now, the way we got up and moved away from 
there must have convinced the Captain that we 
believed him. I went across the fields toward the 
house he had spoken of with a number of others, 
one of whom was an orderly sergeant. We kept 
to the left as the Piebels were firing some from the 
right, and got a canteen of good water from the 
spring near the house. A little while after I 
reached the regiment one of Company H's men 
was killed and he was the only man shot while 
we were there. The regiment looked but little 
larger than a company had looked in the morn- 
ing. After dark we moved back about half a mile, 
and that night slept on our arms. The next 
morning those who had got lost, and those who 
had been back with the wounded and prisoners 
came up and increased our number considerably, 
but there was an awful gap in our company, more 
than half had been killed and wounded. I had 
very fortunately escaped, and with the exception 
of a bullet hole through the visor of my cap tear- 
ing the cloth and scratching my head, I had no 
mark of the conflict upon me. There was great 

71 



inquiry for absent ones, and during the early part 
of the day we became convinced that Benton 
West, Silas Goodrich, Jacob Christman, John 
Steinford, and William Weidrick had certainly 
been killed and Frank Carron, Wilbur H. Cham-, 
pany, William H. Chapman, Tom Marriott, Wil- 
liam Coady, Arthur Proctor, Chester Catlin, An- 
drew Hubbard, Ed Yoeman, Levi Jones and Billy 
Applegate were wounded, and some were missing 
from whom we could get no report, but who, as 
afterwards was found out, were killed wounded 
or captured; because the wounded we left on the 
field who were able to be moved were sent to us 
by their captors, and then we got a complete 
record of the terrible loss we had suffered, which 
had seldom been equalled in the records of the 
Civil War. We went into the fight numbering 453 
men and of these lost 104 killed and mortally 
wounded, a percentage of 21 to the hundred. Our 
total casualties were 278. That is to say 61 men 
out of each hundred were placed "Hors da com- 
bat." But we could scarcely realize the terrible 
ordeal through which we had passed. Our dead 
and wounded were lying over in the woods where 
we were forced to leave them, and their terrible 
plight could only be imagined by us. Our doctors, 
hospital steward, and assistants were with them 
and it was only after they were sent back to us 
in our old camp near White Oak Church, that 
the full realization of our loss came to us. 

It should be noted also that only nine com- 
panies of the regiment participated in this disas- 
trous conflict. Company D was on duty on the 
skirmish line, and a considerable distance to the 
left, where it suffered no losses, at the time the 
battle of Salem Church was fought by the rest of 
the regiment. 

In the morning we formed behind a battery of 

72 



three inch rifled cannon near the road and lay 
there all day of the 4th of May. With the excep- 
tion of some skirmish firing along our front and 
some ways off, no struggle occurred near us. Some 
distance away the sounds of battle, loud, con- 
tinuous and approaching, which did not betoken 
success. The congratulatory order from General 
Hooker which had been read to us, stating that 
he had intervened his army between Lee and 
Richmond, and that Lee would have to fight him 
upon ground of his own choosing had raised our 
hopes: but the ominous sounds of approaching 
battle, and the somber faces of our own officers, 
always a barometer of success or defeat, filled us 
with anxious forebodings. But the day wore 
silently and listlessly away. Now and then the 
gallop of staff officers would awaken some com- 
ment and interest, until along about half past 4 
o'clock, the opening of a battery and sharp mus- 
ketry on our right, and the appearance of a strong 
skirmish line advancing in our front, immediately 
followed by heavier and continuous artillery and 
infantry firing upon our right, caused us to spring 
up and watch the scene before us. We soon be- 
came aware that the Rebels were making a general 
and vigorous charge along our whole line. Shortly 
a line of battle came out of the woods where we 
had gone in the day before, and the battery in 
our front opened with every gun and fired as 
rapidly as possible. We could see that the shots 
about, around and through their line of battle 
were making great gaps, but they closed up and 
came forward again. Our skirmish line made a 
fierce resistance and stubbornly contested their 
advance, but we expected it to give way and let 
the Rebel line come up and give us a chance to 
revenge our loss of the previous day. We were 
splendidly posted, although we had no shelter. A 

73 



deep ravine ran along our front, and no troops 
could have reached us without an exhausting climb 
down and up its steep sides. But we got no op- 
portunity to fire at them, and had to be content 
to see our skirmishers and artillery shoot them 
down as long as they stood up and advanced. But 
farther down towards Fredericksburg they were 
making ground. They came out of the timber in 
great masses, and charged our infantry and ar- 
tillery with fierce intrepidity. 

Here was posted General Howe's division, 
White Cross men, among which were the Green 
Mountain boys, the Vermont Brigade. A portion 
of our line gave way down near Fredericksburg, 
and shortly there was the rush of hurrying battal- 
ions, with batteries on the dead run to strengthen 
the threatened point. The yelling and cheering of 
charging thousands. The continuous rattle of 
musketry, broken by heavy volleys, and the in- 
creasing roar of the artillery indicated deadly, 
desperate work. The fever of battle began to 
communicate itself to us. Our officers were 
eagerly scanning the point of danger. Colonel 
Upton among the guns of the battery giving direc- 
tions and advice, seemed to be very much con- 
cerned as his practiced ear detected the movement 
of the battle, and as darkness began to make 
more distinct the flash of our guns, the quick daubs 
of light they belched forth at rapid intervals grew 
brighter, and the little streaks of light from the 
rifles grew more distinct, he said, "Thank God, 
they will have to light candles soon." And so it 
was. A great peril had been passed. The Rebels 
had massed a picked division of troops and hurled 
it at "Pop" Howe's division, intending to crush his 
left and interpose between us and the river and 
make us fight our way to and across it, or sur- 
render. But our gallant troops had successfully 

74 



resisted the assault and driven them back, in- 
flicting upon them a terrible penalty for their 
temerity. Our losses were appalling, but nothing 
like theirs. 

Years afterward one of their officers who was 
there and in the battle, told me that the troops 
engaged in the attack upon our left suffered the 
most terrible losses of the war upon the part 
of the enemy. Be that as it may, as soon as the 
sounds of battle had died away, we were ordered 
in line, cautioned to keep silent, and moved back 
toward the river. There was some firing on the 
picket line, and quite a rattle of musketry up the 
road on our right. We reached the high ground 
near the river after several hours crawl through 
the woods, no sound breaking the stillness except 
the lonely screech of the owl and the doleful 
screech of the "katydid." There we found our 
batteries posted, the guns so close together that 
there was scarcely room to work them, and we 
moved up close to them and lay down. After 
some hours we moved across the river, a few 
cannon shots bidding us a parting farewell. Our 
whole Corps came across except those who had 
been stricken in battle; and the gallant Sixth 
Corps, with the noble Sedgwick at its head had 
by its courage and gallantry, extricated itself from 
the grasp of Lee's army, and had inflicted upon 
it so terrible a blow that he was content to re- 
linquish his effort to capture it. As for us we 
began to feel the misery of our loss. Our dead 
comrades, our missing friends, were more missed. 
The absence of immediate peril gave time for 
reflection, but they were gone and we should 
never see them again. The Buck and Ball had 
torn through our ranks beyond repair, and for 
the first time we were complimented by the other 
regiments of the brigade and received their sym- 

75 



pathy. We camped in the woods near the river 
a day, and endured a heavy rainstorm. The storm 
over, we took up our march to our old camp and 
on May 6th or 7th filed down into our company 
streets with its row of log huts, where we im- 
mediately realized the losses we had sustained. 
More than half the huts were empty. We selected 
and used the best, tearing down and using some 
for firewood. In a few days we learned that 
our wounded had been sent over the river to us. 
From them, as we visited them in Potomac and 
Aquia Creek hospitals, our worst fears were con- 
firmed as to the missing. Very few had escaped 
the bullets of the enemy, and those borne upon 
the roll as missing were either dead, or wounded 
unto death. But no time was given us for brood- 
ing. We were put to work at once upon drill, 
inspection and target practice. A round of steady 
work each day kept us pretty well occupied. 
Then the 16th and 27th N. Y. Vol. went home, 
their time having expired, as did that of the 
18th, 31st and 32d of the Third Brigade (New- 
ton's) of the 1st Division; and the recruits to 
these regiments being held as three-year men, 
were transferred to the 121st. They were a fine 
body of men, thoroughly inured to army life in all 
its phases. They made a sturdy fight against their 
detention. Colonel Upton called them up, ex- 
plained to them their position and the position of 
the government, and his determination to enforce 
a rigid compliance to orders, and at the same time 
appealed to their pride and patriotism, and suc- 
ceeded in winning them all to a cheerful return 
to duty. After that they all worked with us, and 
never kicked or flinched in any field. They num- 
bered more than we did at the time of their join- 
ing us, and again made a strong regiment of us. 
They rivaled us in a friendly way in work and 

76 



duty, and soon many of them were wearing chev- 
rons betokening sergeant and corporal rank and 
a few had on shoulder straps." 

To give the facts in the case of the recruits to 
the two-year regiments and their claim, a full 
statement ought to be made. They were enlisted 
under a definite promise and understanding that 
they would be retained in the same regimental 
organization or discharged with the rest of the 
regiment. When the regiments were disbanded 
both of these pledges were ignored and they were 
ordered to report to the 121st at once. Their protest 
against this action was submitted to a Board of 
Investigation, and this Board reported in their 
favor, so they were organized into an independent 
battalion and assigned to duty as guard at Brigade 
Headquarters, until the report of the Board should 
be acted upon by the War Department at Wash- 
ington. When it came before Secretary Stanton, 
with his usual bruskness he dismissed the case, 
saying, "Might as well disband the Army." So 
the report came back disapproved on the ground 
that these men had enlisted for three years and 
that the government was not responsible for the 
illegal acts of its agents, or the false promises they 
had made. Of the other question, as to the deten- 
tion in the old regimental organization, nothing 
was said. We had supposed that in joining the 
old regiments we were doing the best we could 
for the army and the country; that the plan to fill 
up and retain the old organizations was the wisest 
policy and would be adopted by the War Depart- 
ment. In this, according to high military author- 
ity, we were right, and it is now conceded that 
the disbanding of the old regiments, and the or- 
ganization of so many new ones was a military 
blunder resulting in the unnecessary loss of thou- 
sands of men who had to enter upon hard cam- 

77 

7 



paigns and desperate battles with little experience 
and slight training, and no encouragement of ex- 
ample and precept from old and experienced com- 
rades. Of this mistake the 121st is certainly a good 
example. Raw men in companionship with vet- 
erans and under experienced officers become effi- 
cient soldiers much more quickly than can be the 
case with new officers and new men learning new 
things by hard won experience under unfavorable 
conditions. 

To resume Comrade Beckwith's narrative. 
"Our Brigade now reorganized and reformed con- 
sisted of the 5th Maine, the 95th Penn. (Gosling 
Zouaves), the 96th Penn. and the 121st N. Y., com- 
manded by Joseph J. Bartlett. 

"More than thirty years have elapsed since the 
battle of Salem Church, yet some of its incidents 
are as fresh and vivid in my memory as they were 
on that bright Sunday afternoon when so many 
of our fellows were shot near that little brick 
church, which bears today the marks of our rifle 
balls. All our dead it has been claimed were 
gathered up after the war and laid in that beauti- 
ful national cemetery near the city of Fredericks- 
burg, but when I went over the ground and 
through the cemetery a few years ago, I failed 
to find any of the 121st recorded on the head- 
stones, and except near the city from where the 
Light Brigade charged, I did not see one familiar 
spot. At home here I often see reminders of that 
awful five minutes, in the persons of men who 
were there, and whose shot scarred and crippled 
limbs attest more plainly than words can the effect 
of the enemy's fire. 

As before stated, the troops opposed to us were 
Herbert's and Firney's Alabamians, composed of 
four regiments, commanded that day by General 
Herbert, who afterwards was a member of Presi- 

78 



dent Cleveland's cabinet. They were armed with 
smooth bore muskets and used three buckshot and 
a bullet to a charge. This at close range is as 
effective as any ammunition in the world, and the 
only wonder to me is that any of us escaped. 

"Many years after the war I had occasion to go 
to the room of the Committee on Appropriations 
of the House of Representatives at Washington. 
With me was a gentleman, who, having been a 
newspaper man and a soldier also, had come in 
contact and become acquainted with a great many 
public men. As we entered the room the single 
person present, a fine looking portly gentleman, 
looked up and my friend said 'Good morning, 
General.' He replied, 'Good morning, Buell.' 'I 
was just looking over my mail, and I found among 
it a card from a little boy in Michigan who wants 
my autograph. Now I always like to please the 
children, so I am going to write him at once.' 
Buell said, 'That is very kind of you, General. By 
the way, you know my friend?' The general 
looked at me intently a short time and said, 'Why 
I don't seem to remember your face.' Buell spoke 
up and said, 'Why, General, do you not remember 
one Sunday afternoon up on Fredericksburg 
Heights, near Salem Church, during the war!' The 
general rose up, and grasping me by the hand, 
said, 'Why, bless my soul, were you one of Upton's 
men?' I said, 'Yes, General!' " He said, 'Why I 
didn't know that any of you got away but Upton, 
and he was as brave a man as I ever saw. Why, 
he rode through our line and back, and though 
we emptied a hundred rifles at him he escaped 
unhurt. We killed his horse and his men. Why 
we covered the ground with them after we drove 

you back .' I interrupted him and said, T 

beg your pardon, General, but we were ordered 
back.' 'Have it so,' he said, 'perhaps that is the 

79 



reason any of you escaped. However, after you 
had left, we gathered up your wounded and did 
the best we could for them, with the aid of your 
surgeons who remained upon the field. By the 
way, Buell, I must recount that affair. We were 
very short of entrenching tools, and so we utilized 
an old icehouse to bury those dead Yanks in. 
You know we constructed our icehouses, by sink- 
ing a pit into the ground deep enough to store 
the ice we needed; around the top we built a low 
wall and over that a roof, and when we filled them 
we used straw and chaff to pack the ice in. The 
icehouse I speak of was convenient and empty; 
so we took those dead Yanks and put them in the 
pit as close together as we could. There was over 
a hundred of them' (some of them must have been 
from the 16th N. Y. who were on our right and 
lost heavily). 'I thought if they were all together 
they could keep each other company as they had 
in life. The matter had passed from my mind, 
when happening to pass by there on my way to 
Gettysburg with my command I chanced to see 
smoke coming out of that icehouse pit, and going 
to it I found it was on fire, and undoubtedly so 
from spontaneous combustion. The incident made 
an impression on my mind and I wrote home about 
it, describing it and saj r ing that it was no use trying 
to whip the Yankees; that you could kill them 
and put them in an icehouse for a grave, and they 
would come to and set themselves on fire to keep 
warm. Our mail facilities not being good, some 
time afterward, lying wounded between the lines 
upon the Gettysburg field, I bethought me of that 
letter, and expecting to fall into the Yanks' 
hands, and believing they would search me and 
find the letter and reading it, not receive it well, 
I took it out and chewed it into paper wads and 
threw them away from me. A little while after 

80 



some of your troops came up and I was taken back 
and well cared for.' I said, 'General, did you re- 
gard the attack we made as well judged?' 'Well 
yes, it was timely but badly supported. I hardly 
think there was a single line of troops in the Fed- 
eral army that could have driven my men off, 
finely posted and sheltered as they were. But 
if Upton had had another line coming up fifty or a 
hundred paces in the rear I think we must have 
yielded, and if we had done so it would have been 
a very serious blow, because our lines were 
greatly extended and there were no troops near by 
to succor us.' Continuing he said, 'I knew the 
troops attacking us were unused to battle by the 
way they hung on. They ran over our line and 
took fifty or sixty prisoners on the right of the 
16th Alabama, and then stood and let us shoot 
them down like sheep.' 'Any difference in the 
fighting qualities of Northern and Southern men?' 
I asked. 'Well, yes, I think the Alabamians better 
than any other troops, but I must say that the way 
the New Yorkers fought entitles them to the respect 
of every soldier in either army. But after all the 
world will never again see such fighting as Lee's 
army did from Bull Run to Appomattox. My 
heart swells to bursting with pride and emotion 
as I think of and recall its heroic achievements. 
Think of the ragged, half starved, poorly armed 
battalions from the South successfully resist- 
ing for more than four years, all the efforts which 
the wealth, bravery and skill of the world hurled 
against them, and then at the last weeping and 
crying to be led by their old chief in a last charge 
to a glorious death. I think it the sublimity of 
bravery and heroism. But your men were brave. 
Yes, Grant was your best and most skillful general. 
He pursued but one plan in Virginia, and that 
was to keep his men in contact and wear us away 

81 



by friction, knowing that he had unlimited re- 
sources to draw from, and We had brought out 
our last available forces, and the loss of one man 
to us was equal to three of his, and that was the 
way he beat us, by constant grinding. Another 
war? Never, on any issue yet brought forward. 
The South wants and will have peace, even if it 
has to fight for it.' 

"After I left the general I could not help thinking 
of what he said about the burial of our men in 
the pit of the icehouse, and I asked Buell if he did 
not detect a tone of exultation in the general's 
voice. Buell answered, 'No, I think not. He is a 
splendid old fellow, as kind and tender hearted 
as a woman. He has a fine record as a soldier, 
which was cut short by his being disabled by 
wounds.' " 

The battle of Salem Heights, or Church, being 
its first real encounter with the enemy, must be 
vividly called to memory by this full and graphic 
account of Comrade Beckwith, both in its experi- 
ences and its results. And to all the friends of 
the men who took part in it both living and dead 
it will show that their ancestry who fought in the 
Civil War, were the peers of the brave and faithful 
of any generation. 

As to the Chancellorsville Campaign in general — 
its brilliant beginning, its gradual degeneration 
and its final disgraceful collapse, several causes 
have been given. General Hooker himself ascribed 
its failure to the tardiness of General Sedgwick 
in obeying his order, and the Congressional Com- 
mittee on the conduct of the war so reported (after 
Sedgwick's death). Hooker's friends ascribed it 
to the effect of a solid shot hitting the pillar 
against which Hooker was leaning, and that has 
been generally accepted, and appears in most of 
the histories of the war, especially the school his- 

82 



tories. As to the first excuse, the simple reading 
of the record of accomplishment of the Sixth 
Corps, during the first twenty-four hours after 
receiving the order to join the rest of the army, 
is a sufficient refutation. An advance of two miles 
in constant contact with the enemy, the fighting 
of two desperate battles, the last of them against 
great odds, and the successful withdrawal across 
the river, after an all day's conflict on the second 
day shows that the part which Sedgwick and the 
Sixth Corps took is the only really admirable 
feature of the entire campaign. 

As to the second excuse, the writer after the 
war became well acquainted with the bugler at 
Army Headquarters, and he ridiculed the idea 
that the solid shot had anything to do with Hook- 
er's condition at any time. He said that the brandy 
bottle was the real reason for the fiasco. And, 
certainly the simple fact that a brandy bottle was 
frequently resorted to, is a more reasonable ex- 
planation of successive developments of the con- 
duct and decisions of the commander of the army 
than any other can be. From energetic activity, 
through the different grades of intoxication to 
final incapacity, is the age old and certain effect 
of too frequent resorts to the bottle. But those 
were the days of ignorance of the real character 
of alcoholic drinks. They were accounted good 
and necessary by the great majority of people, 
and were used freely as medicine, as a harmless 
stimulant under trying circumstances, as an in- 
nocent social indulgence and as a creator of 
"Dutch courage" in time of battle. It was not 
until the close of the war that a realization of the 
harmful effect of the use of intoxicants began to 
be felt. 



83 



CHAPTER VII 
The Gettysburg Campaign 

THE reoccupation of its old position in the 
vicinity of Fredericksburg by the Army of 
the Potomac was of short duration. General Lee 
made that impossible by beginning another ad- 
vance toward Washington by way of the Shenan- 
doah Valley and to defeat this movement, General 
Hooker, who had recovered his energy, and had 
spent the intervening time in refitting and restor- 
ing the shattered morale of his army, began a 
rapid movement northward, (virtually over the 
same ground on which the advance had been made. 
The first feature of this movement was another 
crossing of the river at the old place, called Frank- 
lin's Crossing. This movement began on the 6th 
of June, and the crossing was made by Howe's 
Division on the 6th with little loss. The 1st 
Division crossed on the evening of the 6th, occupy- 
ing about the same ground as on the previous 
crossing. Rifle pits were immediately dug and 
preparations made to resist attack. But none was 
made. Several days transpired and then the Corps 
recrossed the river and prepared for the march 
northward by sending everything and everybody 
that were not needed to Washington. In the race 
with Lee's army for Pennsylvania and Gettysburg, 
the Sixth Corps brought up the rear and the rear- 
most position was assigned to the 121st. It was 
sent down the river several miles with orders 
to establish a picket line from the river towards 
White Oak Church. By the 14th of June it became 

64 




Brigadier General 

DAVID 

A. RUSSEL, 

Commanding 1st 

Division, 6th Corps, 

when killed at 

Battle of Opequon, 

1864. 



Major General 
J. A. BAETLETT, 

Commanding- 
id Brigade, 1st Divi- 
sion, 6th Corps, 
in 1*62 an, I 1^:\. 





Major A. E. MATHER 



evident that the Confederate army had crossed 
the river and was pushing rapidly northward, and 
the regiment was recalled and joined in the move- 
ment northward. The position of rear guard is 
always a wearisome one, because of the fact that 
the uncertainty of the movement of the troops 
ahead often leaves long distances between the 
different corps which must be closed by forced 
marching by those in the rear. But in this case 
the disadvantage was increased by midnight start, 
in pouring rain, and dense darkness, lit only by 
vivid flashes of lightning with accompanying peals 
of thunder. The roads were rendered difficult for 
both man and teams, and for two days the march 
was tedious and toilsome. To quote again from 
Comrade Beckwith, "Abandoned and burning 
camps along our line of march and the moving 
of the general field hospital, indicated a general 
movement, and our march was continued to Staf- 
ford Court House, to Dumfries, thence to Fairfax 
Station. Here a day's rest was very grateful to 
us, because we had been passing over ground 
which had been the continual scene of march, 
camp and battle, and had been stripped of every- 
thing that would sustain troops. The roads were 
deep with the red-clay dust which created a 
choking thirst, as it rose in a thick cloud from 
the tread of the moving thousands of all arms. 
Water that was fit to use was scarce, and difficult 
to obtain, and in consequence we suffered greatly. 
To relieve ourselves we threw away all our bag- 
gage not necessary to existence. The day's rest 
at Fairfax Station, and the rain of the night 
and early morning greatly refreshed us, so that on 
the 18th of June when we moved out again it 
was with lighter steps and more cheerful feelings." 
The march that day was only continued until noon 
and ended at Fairfax Court House, where a halt 

85 



of a week was made, and everything that could 
be spared was shipped to Washington, and the 
Corps was stripped to light marching order. On 
the 25th of June the regiment was sent in skirmish 
formation about three miles towards Leesburgh, 
through a rather difficult country and returned 
to camp very much fatigued. Colonel Cronkite 
calls this a skirmish drill, but it was probably a 
feeler to determine whether any large portion of 
the Confederate army was in the vicinity. If it 
was not near, evidently Lee had abandoned all 
hope of interposing between the Army of the 
Potomac and Washington, and had advanced into 
Maryland. "Here (at Fairfax Court House) we 
gathered some idea of what was going on from 
the Washington newspapers. A lot of Rebel pris- 
oners under a cavalry escort coming along, gave 
us information of a cavalry fight and confirmed 
the newspaper reports of Lee's movements. We 
moved on to Germantown, to Bristoe Station and 
Centerville, to Dranesville and on the 27th crossed 
the Potomac at Edward's Ferry and camped for 
the night near Poolsville, Md., and the next day 
marched beyond Hyattstown to near the defenses 
of Washington and began making plans to visit 
the city. But the next day we moved rapidly from 
camp by way of New Market to New Windsor. 
On the next day we moved with quickening steps 
from New Windsor to Manchester, and the first 
indications of serious business began to show. 
The men were urged and commanded to keep 
well closed up and in ranks, and mile after mile 
was passed over faster than a walk. Several 
hours we covered a distance of five miles an hour, 
as indicated by the milestones we passed, but 
we were now seasoned and more comfortable 
than at the beginning of the march. Jests were 
passed along the ranks about the officers horses' 

86 



playing out, and frequently a song would be started 
and taken up by several companies, and swing- 
ing along by its rhythm would make the distance 
seem shorter and the time pass quicker. Few 
thought of the morrow, or realized that our hur- 
ried steps were taking us rapidly to the fated field 
where the hopes of the South were to be shattered. 
"Going into camp near Manchester on the eve- 
ning of June 30th we prepared for a good night's 
rest in the thick cool woods. We had our supper 
and spread our blankets, and were lounging about 
and chatting till bedtime, when an order came to 
pack up, and in a little time we moved out into 
the road and started on the longest continuous 
march we made during the war. About an hour 
after we started, while resting in the road, there was 
a noise in the direction from which we had come, 
and someone said 'Look out for Rebel cavalry.' 
Instantly the whole column as far as I could see 
or hear, made a rush for the side of the road, and 
if there had been a squadron or two of Rebel 
cavalry coming along, they would have owned the 
road sure enough. On the evening of July 1st we 
rested a few hours and then marched all night 
long towards the field of Gettysburg. Passing 
Winchester, where we heard rumors of the day's 
battle and its disastrous result, we stepped off the 
weary miles which separated us from our com- 
rades at the front. The night was dark so that 
crossing a little stream I got my feet wet, and 
soon they began to hurt me like the mischief. 
The dust worked into the shoes and wet socks, 
and irritated the blisters, and to me the miles grew 
longer and longer and my misery more intense 
and I longed for the daylight. When it came I 
went to the first water I could find, washed my 
feet, put on my last pair of socks and for a while 
was more comfortable. As soon as daylight fairly 

67 



broke we began to see evidences of the battle in 
men along the roadside who had run away from 
the battlefield the day before; and reaching Little- 
town we saw a great many men wearing the 
crescent, the badge of the eleventh corps; and 
some wounded men had reached there from the 
field. From them we learned of the battle, of 
the fearful loss of the First Corps, and the 
skedaddle of a part of the Eleventh, and the saying 
of one member of the corps, 'I fights mit Siegel 
but runs mit Howard,' seems to have been verified 
in many instances on the first day at Gettysburg. 
We were rushed and crowded along, no time was 
given us to prepare anything to eat, and raw pork 
and hardtack was our bill of fare that day. 
Many men became exhausted and dropped down 
from fatigue in spite of the energetic efforts of 
the officers to urge them on. Orders were given 
the officers to shoot stragglers, and every man was 
impressed with the seriousness of the situation. 
As we approached Gettysburg the sound of artil- 
lery and musketry became more distinct, and from 
its weight and volume we knew a terrific combat 
was progressing. The roadside and fields along 
our route were occupied by various trains of 
wagons. Scattered along, there seemed to be a 
vast number of stragglers, and the wounded among 
them became thicker. Crossing a considerable 
stream called Pipe Creek we shortly after filed 
off the Baltimore pike to the left and in sight 
of Cemetery Hill where we could see our batteries 
at work. We moved over toward the left near 
Little Round Top and had a long rest." (B.) Not 
till its arrival at Manchester did the men of the 
Sixth Corps learn of the change of the commander 
of the army, that General Meade had superseded 
General Hooker. The change was a surprise to 
most of the men and created no little discussion, 

88 



but looking back upon the affair from the view- 
point of the present, it is not to be wondered at 
that the Government at Washington could not 
risk the destiny of the country, in so grave a dan- 
ger as was involved in the battle of Gettysburg, to 
a commander who had so signally failed in the 
crisis of the previous battle, and the event proved 
that the change was wisely made. The battle of 
Gettysburg decided the issue of the war, and ought 
to have ended it. The repulse of Pickett's charge 
was virtually the downfall of the Confederacy and 
insured its failure. 

At Gettysburg the 121st occupied an advanced 
position under cover of a narrow strip of woods, 
along which were scattered a number of large 
rocks. Behind these the men were comparatively 
safe from the fire of the enemy, and its only loss 
was two men wounded by stray bullets. "The 
next day little fighting was done on the left of 
the line but the culmination of the battle in the 
charge and repulse of General Pickett was watched 
eagerly by the regiment as by all the unengaged 
part of the army; and with infinite relief they 
saw the charging force, shattered and torn by shot 
and shell, fall back in confusion." (B.) 

The next day, the 4th of July, was dark and 
cloudy and the smoke of the previous day's battle 
settled down upon the field so as to hide the 
movements of the enemy, and the retreat of Lee's 
army was not observed. But on the 5th the Sixth 
Corps began the pursuit, the First Division having 
the lead, marching by the Fairfield road. The 
rear guard of the enemy was soon encountered 
and brisk skirmishing ensued, but no general at- 
tack was made. General Sedgwick decided to 
attempt to cut off the crossing of the Potomac by 
the enemy, by a flank movement over South Moun- 
tain and led the Corps by a steep and rugged pass 

89 



farther to the south. The march up the pass was 
very difficult and was rendered more so by a heavy 
rain, so that late in the night a halt had to be made 
to give the men time to eat and rest. They were 
worn out by fatigue and hunger, and could not 
continue the ascent until rested and fed. The next 
morning the ascent was completed and the corps 
descended the western slope and in the vicinity 
of Middletown rested and received the much needed 
supplies. The advance continued until near Boons- 
borough the enemy was again encountered. Prep- 
arations for attack were made but the enemy 
retired without fighting. Following at daybreak 
the next morning the advance soon found the 
enemy in position, and the 121st, or a part of it, 
was thrown out as skirmishers, and in the engage- 
ment that followed the enemy were driven back 
with slight loss to our forces. On Sunday, the 12th 
of July, the enemy was again found in the vicinity 
of Williamsport, entrenched and ready for battle 
with both flanks resting on the Potomac River. The 
Corps advanced, passed to the left of Funkstown 
from which the enemy had precipitately retreated 
before our cavalry, and we soon found the main 
body of the enemy. The deploying of the various 
commands for attack took considerable time and 
the little distance between the lines made the firing 
of the Confederate skirmishers exceedingly annoy- 
ing. They were located in a wheatfield behind 
the shocks, and along a rocky ledge. Three strong 
mortised fences and a field of standing wheat 
separated the opposing forces at one point. About 
5 P. M. Companies I and E of the 121st and a de- 
tachment of the 5th Maine were ordered on 
skirmish duty and Captain Cronkite, being the 
senior officer of the detail, reported for instruc- 
tions to General Wright then in command of the 
1st Division. The General led to the nearest eleva- 

90 



tion and pointed to the position of the enemy's 
skirmish line, said, "Captain, the sun is now an 
hour high, and you must occupy that ledge be- 
fore sunset." Some minor instructions followed, 
and immediately after the line was deployed and 
moved forward on the run with orders not to fire 
until the last fence was passed. The men were 
obliged to scale fences and run through the stand- 
ing wheat and on reaching the last fence were 
nearly exhausted. Here a halt was ordered to 
correct the line and then a bold sally followed, and 
the position was ours. Seven or eight of the 121st 
were wounded, five in Company E. Three Rebels 
were found among the slain. The above facts 
are from Colonel Cronkite's account of the affair. 
The next day was spent in skirmishing, throwing 
up rifle pits and preparing for an assault in the 
morning. But when morning came no enemy was 
there. General Lee had succeeded in again escap- 
ing across the river with his shattered army in 
spite of what seemed an insurmountable difficulty 
on account of the swollen condition of the water. 
A small detachment at Dam No. 4 was attacked 
and captured. 

Two changes were made in the staff of the regi- 
ment during June. Chaplain Sage resigned and 
was honorably discharged and Dr. John O. Slocum 
was commissioned and assigned to the 121st, vice 
Dr. E. C. Walker resigned. General Meade has 
been considerably criticized for not renewing the 
battle on the repulse of Pickett on the ground that 
the Sixth Corps had come up and had not been 
engaged in the battle, and so might have been 
used to Lee's utter defeat. 

To any Sixth Corps man it is sufficient answer 
to their criticism that General Sedgwick advised 
against such an attack, on the ground of the abso- 
lute exhaustion of his men by the previous forced 

91 



marches to bring them onto the field at all. The 
delay in attacking the Confederates at Williams- 
port was necessary in order to bring up a sufficient 
force to make the attack successful. Lee had his 
army in the same formation which the Sixth Corps 
held at Salem Heights: both flanks on the bank 
of the river, the three sides protected by earth- 
works of a formidable character, and manned by 
veteran infantry supported by numerous batteries. 
It is a serious matter to assail such an enemy in 
such a position except with an overwhelming 
force. When the necessary force arrived the foe 
was gone as if by magic. 



92 



CHAPTER VIII 
Meade and Lee's Game of Strategy 

THIS time however there was no long delay to 
refurnish and recruit. Lee crossed the river 
on the 15th of July. On the next day, the 16th of 
July, the Army of the Potomac hegan its advance 
into Virginia by the same route it had used after 
the battle of Antietam. The 121st, now reduced to 
fourteen line officers present for duty, with Major 
Mather in command, took up the line of march 
through Boonsborough, Middletown and Burketts- 
ville to the old crossing of the Potomac, at Berlin. 
Lieut.-Col. Olcott, Captain Gordon and Lieut. Bates 
were left behind sick. Captain Galpin and Lieu- 
tenants Paine and VanScoy with an escort of men, 
were sent to Washington to bring a squad of con- 
scripts to the regiment. Having crossed the river 
at Berlin on a pontoon bridge, the advance con- 
tinued past Lovettsville, Uniontown, Snickersville, 
and on the 23d of July Ashby's Gap was reached. 
The movement was continued through New Balti- 
more to Warrenton where a rest of a couple of 
days was enjoyed. Then the Second Brigade was 
sent back to New Baltimore five miles distant from 
the rest of the corps where it remained for some 
time. Its location rendered, picketing necessary on 
all sides of the camp, as Moseby with his guerrillas 
was known to be in the vicinity. An attack was 
made which Comrade Beckwith graphically 
describes. 

"On Sept. 4, a squad of Rebel cavalry broke 
through our picket line and attempted to capture 

93 
s 



General Bartlett, who had his headquarters near 
the picket line in the yard of a mansion about six 
hundred yards from our camp. A farm road ran 
from the New Baltimore Pike to this house and 
continued to another house a quarter of a mile 
farther on. We picketed this road between these 
two houses. About one hundred yards from the 
General's tent, near the house, and to the left, the 
brigade band was camped. In the orchard at the 
right the headquarters tents were pitched. The 
house and orchard were surrounded by a high and 
strongly built fence. The attack was made about 
two o'clock in the morning. The 96th Penn. was 
on picket duty. The squad rode boldly up to the 
picket on post. He halted them and asked who 
they were and their reply was, 'Cavalry men, 
friends, returning from a scout.' He ordered them 
to dismount, advance, and give the countersign. 
The leader rode up quickly presented his revolver 
at the picket's head and ordered him to surrender. 
Instead he leveled his gun and the leader fired into 
his face, jumped his horse on him, knocked him 
down, and with his company rode up to the house. 
Coming to the band tents and mistaking them for 
the General's, the attackers fired into them and 
one shot pierced the bass drum. Others of the 
party discovering the mistake rode round in front 
and made the General's tent their target. Roused 
by the firing he jumped up, seized his revolver, 
and running out into the orchard began to return 
the fire. By this time the camps were aroused and 
the long roll sounded. We all tumbled out and 
on a run made for headquarters, but the Rebs 
had made good their escape. General Bartlett, 
ready and intrepid soldier that he was, had seized 
his revolver instead of his pants, and fought his 
would-be captors in the uniform nature had fur- 
nished him. He got scratched up some with briars, 

94 



but next day laughed heartily over the adventure." 
As a participant in this affair the writer feels 
justified in correcting somewhat the Colonel's 
version of it. The officers' tents were located just 
behind the first row of trees in the orchard, three 
or four yards from the fence. The guerrillas did 
not any of them get inside the fence but fired into 
the tents from the outside. The General and 
several of the other officers took position behind 
the nearest apple trees and returned the fire. Cap- 
tain Richards, the odd genius of the staff, the night 
before, having declaimed his usual speech, "Han- 
ni-bul and SkIpI-6 were two great com-pe-ti-ters. 
They passed over into Af-rl-ca and wag-ged war 
against each other," took out his revolver and laid 
it on the stand at the head of his cot, exclaiming, 
"There, I am ready for the guerrillas when they 
come." His revolver spoke more than once in 
welcome to the raiders and in louder tones than 
did that of the General, who the next day lamented 
the smallness of his weapon, and declared that at 
every shot he felt more like throwing the weapon 
at them than firing it again. The writer was 
roused from sleep by the firing and driven out of 
his tent by a bullet passing through it, and with an 
orderly ran down to the yard where the horses 
were kept, and got there just as two of the raiders 
rode up to the gate. A couple of shots from the 
orderly's revolver convinced them that they did 
not want the horses, and they joined the band as 
they rode away. Whether any of the band was 
wounded we never knew; but the man on picket 
and one of the band were wounded. Two attempts 
were made to capture some of the guerrillas, but 
without success. In one of these expeditions 
Moseby's home was visited, located on the side of 
the mountain between Thoroughfare Gap and the 
New Baltimore Pike; and some of his turkeys were 

95 



captured, but severely settled for by Colonel 01- 
cott's orders. 

The seven weeks spent at New Baltimore were 
improved by daily drills and tactical exercises. 
It was here that Captain Wilson obtained the 
young puppy that afterwards became a feature of 
Brigade Headquarters, and attached himself to 
General Upton whenever he started out on any 
movement. 

On the 15th of September the army advanced 
beyond Culpeper to Stony Mountain, and after sev- 
eral days, to Cedar Mountain. Lee had retired 
behind the Rapidan where he remained until the 
beginning of October. On the 5th of October he 
began a movement to interpose his army between 
the Army of the Potomac and Washington by 
crossing at Germania Ford and pushing on rapidly 
to Centerville, the key to the old Bull Run battle- 
ground. 

To counteract this movement Meade maneuvered 
as if about to cross the river farther up. The 
Sixth Corps was ordered to build extensive fires 
as if a large force was concentrated at that point, 
but the corps was to be held in readiness to move 
at a moment's notice. The next night the fires 
were rebuilt, but the corps moved rapidly toward 
Culpeper, a force of cavalry being left to bring up 
the rear. All night long the march was continued, 
and with only a short halt for breakfast, was con- 
tinued to Rappahannock Station where at noon it 
crossed the river, and joined the rest of the army, 
advantageously posted for any attack that might 
be made upon it. The rear guard of cavalry was 
closely followed by a large force of the enemy. But 
no attack was made and thus the first move in the 
strategic game was won by Meade. General Lee, 
however, turned the head of his army to the left 
and attempted to pass the right flank of the Union 

96 



army in an attempt to thus gain the vantage point 
at Centerville. Meade crossed the Sixth Corps 
over the bridge at Rappahannock Station and it 
advanced toward Brandy Station in line of battle. 
This was the most spectacular movement the 
writer saw during the war. The country was open, 
and nearly level, the morning was fine and the sun 
shone brightly. The line of battle, extending about 
three miles, advanced slowly and steadily, the flags 
floating in the gentle breeze, the sunlight flashing 
from their arms, and the batteries in regular 
formation following close behind the infantry. In 
front of the advancing line a force of cavalry were 
in almost constant conflict charging and repelling 
the charges of a like force of Rebel cavalry, but 
constantly advancing until Brandy Station was 
reached. The writer followed closely after the 
cavalry, and was equally interested in watching 
the frequent charge and recharge of the cavalry 
and the steady advance of the beautiful line of 
battle. In the morning however he was wakened 
by a squad of cavalry, to find the brigade gone, 
and he alone of the foot soldiery at Brandy Sta- 
tion. The return to Rappahannock Station that 
he made was much more rapid than the advance 
had been. Meanwhile Meade had divined the 
purpose of General Lee and began a rapid race 
back to Centerville along the line of the railroad. 
The infantry used the railroad track as a road, 
leaving the dirt road for the trains and batteries. 
The route lay through Bristoe Station, Manasses, 
and Bull Run, and the head of the army filed into 
the old fortifications of Centerville just before the 
advance of the old corps of Stonewall Jackson 
came in sight of them. 

Colonel Beckwith tells of several experiences of 
this march that will interest other members of the 
regiment. We "passed Bristoe Station about 3 

97 



o'clock and crossed a stream, called Broad Run, 
on the high trestle that carries the Orange and 
Alexandria Railroad over the stream. I had an 
experience crossing that bridge that I shall never 
forget. We marched in double tile, stepping from 
tie to tie. Now and then the ties would be close 
together, making a gap of several feet to the next tie. 
This would make the men hesitate until the two in 
front had gotten fairly across and out of the way 
before the necessary jump was made, and those 
behind would crowd up to the waiting men. I got 
on all right for a time, but suddenly felt myself 
getting dizzy, and knowing that I should certainly 
fall to the ground and be crushed if I advanced 
farther, I crouched down to the track and placed 
my musket across the gap in the ties and made up 
my mind that I would stay there until I could go on 
safely again. The fellows behind were not suited 
with my partial obstruction of the bridge, but I 
paid no attention to their orders to get up and go 
on. After remaining there a short time and accus- 
toming myself to the distance, I got up and went 
on without trouble, thankful at my escape from 
sure death. It was reported that night that sev- 
eral persons had fallen and been killed. Ordina- 
rily I could have gone over all right, but the lifting 
of the foot of the man ahead confused me and I 
lost power to judge the distance. Just after cross- 
ing the bridge a considerable battle broke out in 
our rear and the musketry firing indicated that a 
large infantry force was engaged. This battle was 
between the Second Corps and the pursuing Reb- 
els, and resulted in their defeat. We encamped 
near a deep railroad cut, and one of the men ran 
headlong over it while escaping from a friend 
upon whom he had been playing some prank, and 
plunging down to the bottom was badly injured." 
The arrival of the Army of the Potomac at Cen- 

98 



terville, before it was seized by the Confederates, 
was the second victory of Meade over Lee in 
the strategic game. Lee withdrew and on the 
19th of October Meade began again to follow 
him, moving out toward Thoroughfare Gap, 
New Baltimore and Warrenton, which was reached 
on the 22d, and a halt of over two weeks was 
made. Camp was broken on the 7th of No- 
vember, and an advance made to the Rappahan- 
nock River, where Lee was found occupying a 
strong position along the south side of the river 
and with a considerable force on the north bank, 
at Rappahannock Station. The Sixth Corps 
arrived opposite the position at the station, and 
found the enemy stationed as follows: 

A strong redoubt on the bluff, at the point where 
the railroad had crossed the river on a high bridge, 
was occupied by a battery and a full complement 
of soldiers for a garrison, a line of rifle pits 
extending up the river until a bend in the river 
interrupted it. A pontoon bridge spanned the 
river just above the ruins of the former bridge. 
These entrenchments were occupied by the 5th, 7th 
and 54th North Carolina regiments and a Louisi- 
ana brigade formerly commanded by Stonewall 
Jackson, and a famous New Orleans battery. The 
railroad approached the river by an embankment 
of considerable height. The writer stood on that 
embankment and watched the battle as long as it 
was light enough to see. The charge upon the 
redoubt was made before it was really dark, and 
the approach of the attacking brigades under the 
partial protection of the railroad embankment, 
the rapid formation of the assaulting column, the 
desperate conflict on the ramparts and in the fort 
itself transpired under his full view. The assault 
on and capture of the breastworks to the left of 
the fort were revealed only by the flashes of the 

99 



guns. On the next day he had the pleasure of 
examining the records of the regiments and the 
battery that had been captured, and retained pos- 
session of several documents that seemed espe- 
cially interesting. 

The part taken by the 121st in this battle was 
this: General Sedgwick, determined to storm this 
position, had selected the First Division for the 
duty. The column of attack consisted of the 
Third and Second Brigades. General Russell 
commanded the Third and General Upton (then 
Colonel) the Second. General Bartlett had been 
assigned to temporary duty with the Fifth Corps. 
General Russell was to attack the redoubt and 
Colonel Upton the rifle pits. The men of the 
Third Brigade advanced late in the afternoon, 
protected somewhat by the railroad embankment, 
until within the immediate vicinity of the fort, 
w T hen the conflict became hand to hand; and the 
fort was taken at great loss to the assailants, and 
to the utter surprise of the defenders, who had 
boasted that it could not be taken from them. The 
Second Brigade was delayed somewhat by the 
character of the ground to be passed over, a strip 
of woods, a depression containing water, and a 
marshy hollow. As soon as the ground permitted 
the front line was formed, consisting of the 5th 
Maine on the right and the 121st on the left, con- 
necting with the line of the Third Brigade. Com- 
panies B and D were deployed as skirmishers 
under command of Captain Fish. Comrade Beck- 
with gives the best close-up account of the fight 
thus: "We moved forward briskly and soon dis- 
covered the Rebel skirmish line. They waited a 
good while, an age I thought, before they fired on 
us, and I knew somebody would get hit. Finally 
they let go and we started on a run after them, 
and they skedaddled. One fellow waited until 

100 



Jack Marden, one of our boys, got close to him, 
and then fired and hit Jack. But the ball, striking 
something in Jack's pocket, glanced off. The Rebel 
shouted, 'I surrender,' but Jack shot and wounded 
him badly. He said that he belonged to the 6th 
Louisiana, Hays' brigade, Early's Division, Ewell's 
Corps, and his name was Slidell. The artillery in 
the fort was now firing rapidly and the cannon 
shots flew over us and went after our fellows who 
were coming up behind. The Reb skirmishers kept 
falling back, but kept up a sharp fire. We con- 
nected on our left with the 6th Maine, and in half 
an hour after starting we drove in their skirmish- 
ers, they jumped over the breastworks and we 
busied ourselves firing at them. Just at sunset 
the reserves came up, the 95th and 96th Pennsyl- 
vania, and joined the line of battle behind us. As 
they started to advance Captain Fish ordered us 
skirmishers to charge, and going forward on a run, 
with a yell, we came to the rifle pits, and jumping 
on them the Rebels in them began to run. We did 
not fire until we got inside the rifle pits, and the 
fire of the enemy was not very severe. Captain 
Fish ordered everybody to surrender. Almost at 
the same time our regiment, and the 5th Maine, 
came up on our right and just ran over the troops 
in the pits. We were ordered to go to the bridge 
and prevent the Johnnies from crossing. We 
quickly ran down to the river and found the 
bridge and halted the Rebs as they came up. In 
the meantime our fellows got around them on the 
right, and the whole crowd surrendered. Our cas- 
ualties were Captain Casler, shot through the arm, 
and Orderly Sergeant Joe Rounds, shot in the 
arm. Hawley Piatt, one of the finest fellows in the 
regiment, a member of Company D, was killed. 
Our entire loss was four killed and twenty-two 
wounded. Major Mather was in command of the 

101 



regiment and gained the high opinion of the men 
for his coolness and ability. Colonel Olcott was 
away, nursing the injuries he had received from 
falling off his horse some time before." 

It has always been a mystery to me why those 
Johnnies did not kill every one of us, and how any 
of us escaped. Colonel Upton not only encour- 
aged his own men, but instilled fear into the hearts 
of the enemy by the little speech he made before 
ordering the final charge, after the short halt near 
the breastworks. He said: "Men of the 121st New 
York, your friends at home and your country 
expect every man to do his duty on this occasion. 
Some of us have got to die, but remember you are 
going to heaven. When I give the command to 
charge move forward. If they fire upon you, I 
will move six lines of battle over you and bayonet 
every one of them." The colonel of the 54th North 
Carolina regiment, who was captured, said that 
the Yankee officer who led the charge in his front 
was a smart fellow and fooled them. They 
thought there was a column in mass moving on 
them, as they had seen a great body of troops 
formed and moving on them before dusk. Some 
years ago the writer visited the flag room in the 
capitol in Albany and heard a like story from an 
officer of one of the Louisiana regiments. He was 
visiting the capitol on some official business and, 
having some time to wait, fell into conversation 
with the curator of the flag room, who was one 
of Upton's men in the battle. The officer told him 
that they were utterly discouraged by Upton's 
speech, and believing it was true, surrendered 
without much resistance. 

One of the 16th men told the writer of his expe- 
rience in this action. He was a skirmisher and as 
he leaped upon the embankment of the pit one of 
the Rebels fired at him, exclaiming, "I got you," 

102 



but missed, and the next moment was impaled by 
the bayonet of the intended victim. 

A second feature of the battle that deserves 
notice is the slight loss to the assaulting column. 
This seems to be due in large measure to the fact 
that the first volley of the defenders at the skir- 
mishers who first leaped upon the earthworks was 
fired almost perpendicularly and did little execu- 
tion, and before the rifles could be reloaded the 
main line was upon them. The confusion of it all 
was described to the writer by Colonel Edwards 
after the battle. He said that as he with a few men 
were gathering up the prisoners, and had more of 
them than of his own men, he came upon 
a Rebel colonel with his men drawn up in 
order. Upon his demand for the surrender of 
the regiment the colonel hesitated until Edwards 
turned to the motley crowd following him, 
and shouted, "Forward, 121st New York and 
5th Maine!" Upon this the Rebel surrendered. 
Too much credit cannot be given to the regi- 
ments of the Third Brigade for this victory. 
It was their magnificent valor in assaulting and 
capturing the fort and battery on the left that 
made the rest of the fighting so comparatively easy 
and bloodless. The loss of the 5th Maine in the 
affair was ten killed. Eight regimental flags were 
captured, four by the 5th Maine and four by the 
121st New York. 

In this battle Capt. Robert P. Wilson was 
wounded, a bullet passing through one of his 
wrists, but he came out at its close carrying one of 
the captured flags and riding a little iron grey 
mare, so familiar a sight to our men on every bat- 
tle field in which the brigade was engaged up to 
this time. This was his last battle, however. He 
returned to brigade headquarters after the wound 
had partially healed, but only to resign his office 

103 



and his commission and retire to private life. 
Comrade Beckwith sa) r s that the men nicknamed 
him "Snoop," but adds that he did not know why, 
and speaks of his profanity at Salem Church. But 
in both instances it is evident that the captain had 
risked his own life to rescue men who were not 
conscious of their own peril. The writer was inti- 
mately associated with Captain Wilson, as clerk 
in his office at brigade headquarters for over a 
year and a half, and had good opportunity to learn 
his nature and character. He was always kindly 
and considerate of others, was never profane or 
vulgar in his conversation. While not a strict 
abstainer, I never saw him intoxicated in the 
slightest degree. He was a quick and capable busi- 
ness man, and not a small part of the efficiency of 
the brigade as a fighting unit was due to his cour- 
age and cool-headedness. His weird signature 
was a revelation of the unusual character of the 
man. His equal did not succeed him as assistant 
adjutant-general of the brigade, though Capt. 
William P. Roome ran him a close second. Cap- 
tain Wilson entered the service as second lieuten- 
ant of Company D, 16th New York, was made 
adjutant September 20, 1861; promoted to captain 
and assistant adjutant-general of United States 
volunteers March 11, 1863, and afterward com- 
missioned as major of the 121st, which he 
declined. He resigned from the service February 
18, 1864, and died October 18, 1886. His grand- 
father was with General Washington at Yorktown 
on October 19, 1781, and to him was assigned the 
duty of transferring twenty-eight flags from their 
British bearers to American sergeants, and when 
the Army of the Potomac was in that vicinity in 
1862 Captain Wilson invited General Bartlett and 
the other brigade officers to accompany him to the 
field where this transaction had taken place. 

104 



The importance of the victory at Rappahan- 
nock Station is revealed by the fact that a special 
order was issued by General Meade expressing his 
own and the President's admiration and gratitude 
for the exploit, and especially mentioning the 
brilliant and successful charge made by the First 
Division. It is couched in these words: "To 
Major-General Sedgwick and the officers and men 
of the Sixth Corps participating in the attack, par- 
ticularly to the storming party under Brigadier- 
General Russell, his thanks are due for the gal- 
lantry displayed in the assault on the enemy's 
entrenched position at Rappahannock Station, 
resulting in the capture of four guns, 2,000 small 
arms, eight battle flags, one bridge train and 1,600 
prisoners. The commanding general takes great 
pleasure in announcing to the army that the Presi- 
dent has expressed his satisfaction with the recent 
operations." 

Gen. John B. Gordon of the Confederate Army 
says that he was sitting on his horse, not much 
more than a stone's throw from the river, when 
the charge upon the entrenchments began, and 
that neither General Early nor any other of the 
officers standing there expected the "brilliant suc- 
cess" of the charging force. Their confidence no 
doubt was based on the fact that the regiments in 
the fortifications were all veterans of many bat- 
tles. The North Carolina regiments had been in 
Pickett's famous charge at Gettysburg, and the 
Louisiana troops had won the title of the "Louisi- 
ana Tigers" by their previous savage fighting. 

On the same afternoon the Third Corps, a little 
farther down the river, had succeeded in forcing 
a crossing of the river and occupied the earth- 
works of the enemy with the capture of 400 pris- 
oners. 

The Fifth Corps, on the right of the Sixth, came 

105 



up to the river in time to prevent any escape in 
that direction, and it is worthy of note that the 
division of the Fifth Corps that connected with the 
Sixth was commanded by General Bartlett, whose 
transfer to that corps soon became permanent. 

A few days after the Battle of Rappahannock 
Station, November 9, a detail of ten men from each 
of the four regiments that had taken part in the 
assault, was made to carry the captured flags to 
army headquarters. Colonel Beckwith was one of 
the ten from the 121st, and thus graphically 
describes the event : "We went to army headquar- 
ters and presented the captured colors to the gen- 
eral commanding, George G. Meade, who receiving 
them commended us very highly for the great serv- 
ice rendered the country and the gallant and bril- 
liant achievement of the assaulting column. He 
ordered 'Rappahannock Station' inscribed on our 
colors, and assured us that another opportunity 
would be given us to distinguish ourselves. This 
last remark was the subject of some comment, and 
I heard a number of our men say that they were 
not particularly anxious to get into another such 
scrape, believing that the next time they would not 
escape so fortunately. From Colonel Upton's talk 
to us, from the newspapers, and from the inquiries 
of soldiers of other commands, we came to know 
that the affair at Rappahannock Station was 
thought to be a very brilliant one, had given us 
great renown, and many of our men were inclined 
to boast of it." 

In this third event in the game of strategy Gen- 
eral Meade certainly gained a decided success. 

The next day when the corps crossed the river 
and advanced to Brandy Station the opposing army 
had withdrawn behind the Rapidan, leaving its 
partially built winter quarters in our hands. The 
haste with which they had left their position was 

106 



indicated by the finding of freshly killed beeves not 
yet cut up. The estate upon which the 1st 
Division encamped at Brandy Station belonged 
to John Minor Botts, one of the rare Union men 
of the south. One day he approached the head- 
quarters of the 2d Brigade, but being clad in 
citizen's clothes, Captain Wilson's dog refused to 
let him approach, and had to be called off with 
stern reproof. 

The encampment at Brandy Station was main- 
tained only long enough to repair the railroad 
back to Centerville and bring up needed supplies, 
when another advance began. General Lee had 
distributed his army south of the Rapidan River, 
in positions favorable for winter quarters, and 
General Meade thought that by a rapid advance, 
he might attack and defeat the division that was 
encamped along Mine Run. In this movement the 
3d Corps, commanded by General French, moved 
very slowly and made several blunders as to 
roads, and so obstructed the 6th Corps following, 
that the 121st bringing up the rear of the corps 
did not cross the Rapidan until after daylight on 
the 27th. This delay enabled General Lee to con- 
centrate his forces behind the defenses of Mine 
Run, and greatly strengthen them. It was after 
sunset of the next day before the Sixth Corps 
occupied its allotted position in front of the Con- 
federate entrenchments. A council of officers was 
, called, at which General Sedgwick expressed his 
confidence that he could successfully assault the 
works in his front. But in the morning when 
the attack was ordered to be begun, General War- 
ren who was to begin it, hesitated, and waited 
for further instructions from General Meade, who 
revoked the order for the assault and directed 
the return of the army to its former camp on 
Hazel River. The position occupied by the Second 

107 



Brigade was a very pleasant one and the winter 
was passed without further effort to attack or 
repel attack. 

The Mine Run campaign though it did not 
result in the expected heavy fighting was not 
without incidents of great interest to the mem- 
bers of the 121st. When the Third Corps unex- 
pectedly encountered a portion of General Ewell's 
corps and a lively little battle ensued, the First 
Division of the Sixth Corps was sent to the support 
of the troops engaged, and the Second Brigade, 
leading the Division and moving up to the position 
designated, was waiting for further orders. General 
Sedgwick with his staff rode up a little distance 
from the regiment and dismounted for a few 
moments' rest, reclining on the grass. The bat- 
tle was raging in front and presently two men 
appeared, bearing on a stretcher an apparently 
wounded man. Just as they were passing the 
general, a shell burst killing one of the bearers 
and wounding the other. The one on the stretcher 
leaped to his feet and ran to the rear. This was 
an illustration of the craft displayed by some men 
to escape going into battle; but it also emphasized 
the fact that thinking men soon learned that the 
safest place for a man to be was where he ought 
to be; that the effort to escape danger by craft 
and cowardice was not often successful, and was 
likely to bring its penalty in some unexpected way. 

In maneuvering for position the location of the 
Sixth Corps was on the extreme right and on the 
night of the 30th it was moved very quietly under 
cover into a woods and formed into four lines. 
The Second Brigade was the first line, the place 
of honor but also of extreme danger. No fires 
were allowed and the night was very cold, so 
that the men had to keep themselves from freezing 
by running round and round in the snow. Colonel 

108 



Beckwith gives his personal experience. "We 
stacked our traps and left a guard over them. As 
soon as it was light our batteries opened, and the 
Johnnies replied showing that they were on hand 
ready for business. They threw a shot just over 
us, and we got it and examined it. It was a fine 
piece of English workmanship, nicely varnished 
and evidently of recent manufacture. We heard 
that General French had advanced, and found 
Mine Run too deep to ford, and that he had given 
up the attempt, and we went back to our original 
position. When I got my knapsack from the pile 
it had been opened, and with other things my 
diary was gone. I mourned its loss greatly because 
it had a full account of the events in the regiment. 
"That night I was wakened and detailed to go 
on picket. Barr and Baldwin were also on the 
same detail, and we went out and relieved some 
fellows who were nearly frozen, lying in the skir- 
mish pits without fire, and with very ljttle to eat. 
As soon as daylight came several shots in our 
front and bullets flying close to us, gave 
warning that our foes were alert and knew our 
exact position. So without fire, all through that 
cold winter da} 7 , watching for an advance, and 
dreading an order to drive their skirmishes, we 
lay there and suffered, and hailed with joy the 
friendly darkness of night, which permitted us to 
rise up and stretch and pound ourselves to restore 
our chilled circulation. Finally at midnight or- 
ders came to march silently, and assemble on our 
left. We were so benumbed that we could scarcely 
move. At last we reached the road and began 
moving toward the river. I kept along with the 
column until we came to what appeared to be 
a tannery which had been burned and was still 
a great mass of embers. Seeing it I made a bee- 
line for it, and the way I soaked up heat was a 

109 

9 



caution. Lying down on some bark I got a good 
nap before a cavalry man woke me up and said, 
'Get out of here, the Johnnies are coming and will 
gobble you up.' I started down the road and in 
a short distance, not more than a mile and a half, 
came up to our rear guard. Passing our picket 
line and reserves, and continuing I joined the com- 
pany in camp just across the river in the woods. 
On the next day we went to our old camp. While 
on the march a general rode by, and someone in 
the column set up the cry 'Hardtack,' which was 
taken up all along the line. This angered the 
general, and attaching blame to our regiment, we 
were severely reprimanded and given some extra 
picket duty." 

On the 23d day of December General Bartlett 
rode into the camp and was greeted with cheers 
and made a speech which Comrade Woodcock re- 
ports as follows: 

"Soldiers and Comrades in Arms: 

"It is with great pleasure I meet you here tonight. 
I have, even amid the cares of my office, often 
thought of the brave and gallant 121st. You have 
won laurels for yourselves and for our noble Em- 
pire State. From the first time you met the enemy's 
infantry in a fierce engagement and received that 
fearful baptism of fire and blood, I have ever 
thought of you as a regiment that can be relied 
upon. Your heavy loss at that time attests your 
bravery. Two hundred and seventy-three of your 
companions disappeared, some never again to re- 
join you, others to suffer in our hospitals. Certain 
death seemed imminent to you all, still with the 
valor of veteran soldiers you manfully stood your 
ground; only yielding when driven by superior 
numbers and at the point of the baynet. 

"When you first became identified with my 

110 



brigade you were untried, and at the first fierce en- 
gagement with the enemy I withheld you, and it 
was with a good deal of fear and anxiety that I 
awaited your first hour of danger. For the honor 
of our State I was anxious until you proved your- 
selves worth}'' of the State to which you, and I, be- 
long. I should not hesitate now, should I be called 
upon, to place you at the post of danger. Where 
I would trust an old and well-tried regiment I 
would trust you. Under any circumstances I would 
rely on you. The enemy acknowledged your 
superiority and all concede your efficiency as a 
regiment. But I have little time to speak. When 
I left the brigade, on that very day, under Colonel 
Upton, you won a name that will be imperishable. 
Your courage stood a stirring test, but you were 
not wanting. I allude to the battle of Rappahannock 
Station. You placed yourselves almost upon the 
very pinnacle of glory. You accomplished there 
what few regiments ever did. I was with you. I 
have but the gleanings left. Would to God every 
regiment would do as much! This accursed re- 
bellion would soon be put down." 

Three cheers and a tiger were given for General 
Bartlett, also for Colonel Upton, who protested 
saying, "Steady, steady men, place it where it 
belongs, upon General Bartlett." Three more 
cheers and a tiger were given to both General Bart- 
lett and Colonel Upton, and the men dispersed to 
their quarters in the best of spirits. 

Another event that deserves consideration was 
the breaking up of the Third Corps and the as- 
signment of the regiments to the Sixth Corps. 

The conditions of life in a winter camp are so 
well described by Comrade Beckwith that his de- 
scription ought to appear in the history of the 
regiment. He says, "We passed the winter of 1863 

111 



and 1864 in camp near Hazel River. We picketed 
out toward White Sulphur Springs, and our pickets 
connected with the cavalry pickets a line of which 
extended for many miles to our right and rear, 
covering the railroad which was our source of 
supply. Soon after our return from Mine Run, we 
got nicely and comfortably fixed in camp, and 
whenever the weather permitted some duty or 
drill was the order of the day, to keep the men 
occupied and fit. Our mails came regularly, and 
sutlers had an abundant supply of all sorts of 
good things. An amusement hall was built and 
an amateur troop gave interesting entertainments. 
Checkers, chess and cards were favorite amuse- 
ments in camp, and the festive and alluring game 
of poker, though forbidden, was extensively en- 
gaged in, the stakes being small on account of 
the scarcity of money. Many of our wounded and 
sick were returned to the regiment and it began 
to look like the old time solid battalion of the 
preceding winter. Boxes of good things from 
home, made life pleasant and cheerful, and camp 
life in winter quarters was voted by all the best 
thing yet in army life. So the winter passed away 
in pleasurable employment and amusement. The 
regiment became expert and noted for its efficiency 
in drill and discipline, and its dress parade had 
a large number of spectators from the neighboring 
commands." 

Hazel Run is a brook of considerable size that 
rises in the ridge of hills that form the watershed, 
between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, and 
flows into the Rapidan about half way between 
Mine Run and the junction of the two rivers. Gen- 
eral Meade retired from Mine Run across the 
Rapidan, and established winter quarters in the 
angle made by the rivers, the Sixth Corps being 
located along Hazel Run. He might easily have 

112 



retired down the left bank of the Rapidan and 
occupied the heights behind Fredericksburg, but 
that movement was forbidden by orders from 
Washington. 

On the 27th of February the Sixth Corps was 
ordered to support Custer's cavalry on a recon- 
naissance in the direction of Charlotteville. A 
disagreeable storm made the expedition a very 
trying one and the four days' absence from camp 
made the return to its comforts very enjoyable. 
But who of that weary muddy company will ever 
forget the sight of the innumerable mass of crows 
that had taken possession of the camp, and were 
literally covering the ground, in spite of the guard 
left to protect it from marauders! 

It was at this camp too that Chaplain Adams of 
the Fifth Maine became a familiar figure to the 
members of the 121st. He had previously minis- 
tered at the funerals of different members of it 
when asked to do so since the resignation of Chap- 
lain Sage, near Gettysburg, but now he was asked 
to conduct services regularly. The Fifth Maine 
had built a fine chapel and an invitation was given 
the 121st to worship with them. When the Fifth 
Maine was discharged soon after, Chaplain Adams 
received and accepted an invitation to become 
chaplain of the 121st, and after that the religious 
features of army life in the regiment were admin- 
istered wisely and efficiently, to the great advan- 
tage of the moral and spiritual interests of all. 
Doctor Adams' appointment was made by Gov- 
ernor Fenton at the earnest request of all the offi- 
cers of the regiment. 

During the winter also the regiment lost several 
of its commissioned and non-commissioned offi- 
cers, who were transferred to colored regiments 
and to higher commands. Major Mather and Cap- 
tain Hall were transferred respectively to the 20th 

113 



and 43d regiments of U. S. C. regiments as Lieuten- 
ant Colonels. Captain Campbell and Lieutenant 
Bates were made Colonels and assigned to the 
command of the 23d and 30th U. S. C. regiments. 
Lieutenant Gary and Sergeant Major Andrew 
Davidson were made captains in the 23d and 30th. 
Sergeants W. Ward Riee and Nathaniel Gano were 
also commissioned for service with the colored 
troops. These commissions were all granted after 
an examination by a board appointed for that 
purpose, and the result was creditable to the regi- 
ment and its commanding officers. Colonel Camp- 
bell's examination was so creditable that he was 
made a member of the Board of Examiners. Lieu- 
tenants Henry Upton and Henry B. Walker re- 
signed on account of wounds and were honorably 
discharged. Captain Fish and Lieutenant Morse 
were detailed to staff duty at brigade headquarters. 



114 



CHAPTER IX 
Under Grant in the Wilderness 

WHEN the winter was over and the campaign of 
1864 began the regiment was officered as fol- 
lows: Colonel Upton commanding the brigade; 

Lieutenant Colonel Olcott commanding the regi- 
ment; Major, H. M. Galpin; Surgeon, John O. 

Slocum; Asst. Surgeon, D. M. Holt; Adjutant, F. M. 

Morse, serving as Aide-de-Camp to Colonel Upton; 

Quartermaster, Theo. Sternberg. 

Company A. Captain Jonathan Burrell, First 
Lieutenant Win. H. Tucker, Second Lieutenant 
Samuel B. Kelley. 

Company B. Captain M. R. Casler, First Lieuten- 
ant Thomas C. Adams, commanding in the ab- 
sence of Captain Casler, wounded. 

Company C. Captain Lansing B. Paine, Second 
Lieutenant George W. Quackenbush, on special 
duty with Ambulance Corps. 

Company D. Captain John D. Fish, A. A. Gen. on 
Brigade Staff, First Lieutenant Daniel D. Jack- 
son, commanding company. 

Company E. Captain James W. Cronkite, Second 
Lieutenant James W. Johnston. 

Company F. Captain A. M. Tyler, on Division 
Staff, First Lieutenant Silas E. Pierce, command- 
ing company. 

Company G. Captain Frank Gorton. 

Company H. Captain Charles A. Butts, Second 
Lieutenant H. C. VanScoy. 

Company I. Captain John S. Kidder, First Lieu- 
tenant Frank W. Foote. 

Company K. Captain John D. P. Douw, First 

115 



Lieutenant Lewis C. Bartlett on Brigade Staff, 

Second Lieutenant Sheldon J. Redway. 

The many vacancies among commissioned offi- 
cers were fully compensated by the character and 
efficiency of the non-commissioned officers, who 
in the coming campaign were destined and proved 
capable of upholding the honor and reputation 
of the regiment. 

The 6th Corps as reorganized, under the com- 
mand of General Sedgwick consisted of three 
divisions. But in the breaking up of the 3d Corps, 
the regiments received from it were made the 3d 
Division of the corps, and the brigades of the 
old 3d Division were transferred to the 1st and 2d 
Divisions. The brigade transferred to the 1st 
Division was commanded by General Shaler. 
When orders came late in April that all unneces- 
sary baggage should be transferred to Washing- 
ton, every one knew that the anticipated move- 
ment would soon begin. On the 4th of May, 
reveille was sounded at 3 o'clock and an hour later 
the march began from the camp over the Hazel 
River on a pontoon bridge and pushing rapidly 
towards Germania Ford, where the Rapidan was 
crossed in the afternoon and the corps went into 
camp about two miles beyond. The next day the ad- 
vance continued on the Old Wilderness road, and 
the 2d Brigade was thrown out on the right flank 
on a road leading to Mine Run to protect the troops 
from a flank attack while passing that point. The 
5th Corps was in the advance and soon came in 
contact with the Confederate army posted in a 
dense thicket of second growth timber. General 
Lee had divined the intention of General Grant to 
pass his right flank and had disposed his army 
to thwart the effort. His army as usual con- 
sisted of three corps commanded respectively by 
Generals Longstreet, A. P. Hill and Ewell. The 

116 



5th Corps had struck the middle corps, A. P. Hill's, 
and was checked by its stubborn fighting. The 
6th Corps came up and formed on the right of the 
5th, thus coming into opposition to General EwelFs 
corps, and the 2d Corps passing on to the left of 
the 5th, faced Longstreet's corps. The new 3d 
Division of the 6th Corps was on the extreme right 
of the Union line of battle. The severest of the 
fighting on that day was by the 5th and 2d Corps 
until nearly sundown, when a brigade of Ewell's 
corps struck the right flank of the 6th, and caused 
considerable loss and more disorder. General 
Gordon in his reminiscence of the Civil War states 
that he was in command of the brigade which 
made this charge, and tells the circumstances un- 
der which it was made so successfully. 

Early on the morning of the 5th of May he was 
informed by his scouts that the right of the 6th 
Corps was exposed to attack without a picket, 
vidette or skirmisher to give warning of danger. 
He doubted the statement until he had made a 
personal investigation. Working his way through 
the bushes, until in full sight of the Union line, 
he found it to be true and immediately disposed 
his brigade, which extended two regiments beyond 
the right of the 6th Corps, so as to attack both on 
front and flank. It was just such an opportunity 
as Stonewall Jackson created, and took advantage 
of at Chancellorsville. Gordon had his disposition 
all made for attack by 9 in the forenoon, and 
urged General Early who commanded the division 
to let him make it. But Early refused on the 
ground that he was sure General Burnside with 
the 9th Corps was close at hand and the attack 
would be disastrous. It was not till towards 
evening that General Lee came to that part of the 
line, and hearing General Gordon's report, ordered 
the attack. Gordon states that the result would 

117 



have been more disastrous to the Union troops if 
there had been a little longer daylight — that he 
had to stop the advance because the flanking regi- 
ments in the darkness came under the fire of those 
attacking in front. He, with an orderly, rode into 
the confused mass of the Union troops and heard 
officers calling to their men to rally on certain 
points. He was discovered and fired upon but 
escaped by throwing himself by the side of his 
horse and galloping away. His orderly also 
escaped. 

The part which the 121st took in this affair was 
brief. At the outbreak of the firing General Upton 
had faced the brigade to the right, when Colonel 
Duffy of the Division Staff rode up, and called 
for a regiment to go with him. The 121st was 
ordered to follow him, and he led it so rapidly 
that it became scattered in the thicket and a por- 
tion of it ran squarely into the ranks of the enemy. 
One of the party, Baldwin, told the writer that in 
turning to escape, his foot struck a root and he 
fell flat upon the ground. He had presence of 
mind to lie perfectly still, and a Rebel passing 
kicked him saying, "He's done for," and passed 
on. But very soon the Reb and his companions 
came running back, and Baldwin escaped unhurt. 

During this scattered condition of the regiment 
a squad of five or six of Company D suddenly 
came face to face with about the same number of 
Confederates. The nearest of them were only 
about three or four yards away before they were 
seen by our men through the thick underbrush. 
Both squads halted when they discovered each 
other. Then the foremost of the Rebs deliberately 
dropped the butt of his gun to the ground and 
said, "Surrender, Yanks ! We promise to treat you 
well. There is no use of resisting for there is a 
full line of battle just back of us." The Second 

118 



Sergeant of the company happened to be in the 
squad, but made no reply, also J. H. Smith then 
ranking as Fourth Sergeant who promptly said, 
"Don't surrender, boys," and at once fired upon 
a Confederate who stood a little to the rear of 
their spokesman in a threatening attitude. This 
action resulted in the surrender of three of the 
Rebs who were taken to the rear by Frank Piper 
and another comrade. The others "retreated." 

Before the attack was checked, however, the 
headquarters of General Sedgwick had been 
nearly reached. It is related that an officer rode 
excitedly to General Grant and told him that the 
6th Corps had been cut to pieces and routed. His 
reply was a quiet, "I don't believe it"; but after- 
wards when he first saw General Wright he 
greeted him with the exclamation, "Why, I heard 
that you had gone to Richmond." After the 
fighting ceased Colonel Upton collected the scat- 
tered members of the 121st and re-formed the 
brigade. 

When this attack began the 121st was engaged 
in throwing up earthworks and the arms of half 
the regiment were stacked while the men worked. 
The other half stood under arms. When the alarm 
was given, the men at work were ordered in line, 
but before they could get to and seize their guns, 
the armed men were rushed to the scene of action. 
Colonel Olcott attempted to prevent this division 
of the regiment and did all he could to keep it 
together. Arriving at the point of danger, he faced 
the left companies to the front and rode to the 
right to get the right companies into line. But he 
was shot from his horse, a bullet striking him in 
the head, and was taken prisoner while uncon- 
scious. Captain Paine of Company C and Cap- 
tain Kelley of Company A in their effort to rally 
their men were made prisoners. Having rallied 

119 



on their colors, and being re-formed by Colonel 
Upton, the regiment charged the enemy and retook 
part of the earthworks. They held them till 
withdrawn, and formed on the right flank of the 
corps to prevent any farther advance of the enemy 
on the right and rear. About 10 o'clock the order 
came to move to the left, and the morning found 
the brigade in the vicinity of the Wilderness 
Tavern, where rifle pits were immediately con- 
structed. 

To give the human touch to this day's affair, the 
experience of Colonel Beckwith will suffice. "Soon 
after daylight on May 4, we were in line and 
marching toward the enemy having the advance 
of the corps. The 5th Corps was ahead of us. 
Soon after we started, picket firing and skirmish- 
ing told that the enemy had been found. We 
moved along very slowly and off" to the left of 
the road for some distance until toward noon, 
when the sound of the firing told that large num- 
bers of the infantry were engaged. We then marched 
in column of fours, the regiments being far enough 
apart so that we could swing into line of battle 
rapidly at the word of command. The 95th Penn., 
our extreme left regiment, struck the enemy in the 
thicket and Colonel Carroll who was leading, and 
some distance in front of his men, received their 
fire and was instantly killed. A portion of his 
regiment swung into line and charged, capturing 
twenty-five or thirty of the enemy. They also 
secured a good position and connected our corps 
with the right of the 5th, but the ground held 
was some distance in front of the 5th Corps' line. 
They had fought over this ground, and a good 
many wounded were scattered through the woods 
and thickets, which were on fire in front and on 
both sides of us. Many wounded on both sides 
must have perished in the flames, as partially 

120 



burned bodies were seen scattered about on the 
burned-over ground. The balance of our division 
was formed on our right, and by night our lines 
were formed. We lay in line of battle upon our 
arms, and shortly after dark when the firing 
slackened, the cries of the wounded between the 
lines, which were not far apart, was something 
terrible to hear. Some prayed, some cursed, some 
cried and some asked to be killed and put out of 
their misery. 

"We had notice to have our breakfast and be 
ready to attack at daylight the next morning. I 
unpacked my knapsack and took out what was 
absolutely necessary. I took off my shirt to put 
on a clean one, and just as I was putting it on a 
volley ran down the Rebel line and I thought they 
were about to charge. Well I hustled all I could 
to get that shirt on, but it seemed to stick over 
my head and shoulders and I was in a predica- 
ment. The men fell in but the enemy did not 
advance and in a little time I was dressed and 
readv for them. 

"I made my belongings into a roll and wore it 
across my body. In addition to being easier to 
carry, it afforded some protection, because a bullet 
would not have much force after passing through 
it. We were up and ready for business in the 
morning, but the order to advance did not come, 
and all day long the skirmishers and sharpshooters 
had their innings, and quite a number of men 
were hit, one of whom I remember was Michael 
Fitz james, whose hand was badly torn by a bullet, 
causing him excruciating pain. Just before dark 
heavy firing to our right indicated trouble over 
there, and in a very short time, Colonel Duffy rode 
up and ordered us to move to the right and restore 
our lines, which had been broken. The firing in 
that direction was pretty well maintained, showing 

121 



that the enemy was meeting with steady resistance. 
Colonel Olcott was at the head of the regiment 
and we hurried along moving by the right flank 
in column of fours. I do not know how far we 
went, but it was not a great distance when we 
came in contact with the enemy. They seemed 
to be coming from the direction in which we were 
going. I thought there were some of our troops 
in front of us, but instead we ran slam bang into 
the enemy. They ran over some of our fellows, 
and I fired into them. A bunch of them ordered 
us to surrender and fired a volley into us, which 
hit a number among whom were Dennis A Dewey, 
John H. Reynolds, and Wm. MacElroy. They 
immediately advanced and ordered us to sur- 
render and go to their rear. There was a general 
scattering. Some of our fellows stopped to take 
care of the wounded, and it seemed to me that 
some more of our fellows were coming up behind. 
The Rebels seemed to be in a hurry to get back 
and hurried us up. It was now quite dusky and 
you could not tell a man's uniform a little ways 
off. I ran a short distance in the direction the 
Rebs wanted me to go, expecting every instant a 
volley from one of our regiments. Finally some 
one, a Rebel officer I suppose, said, 'Throw down 
that gun.' I had it in my hands and dropped it. I 
went only a little distance farther and threw my- 
self down on my face. I expected to be punched 
every instant, but the balls were flying pretty 
thick, and it being near dark I was unnoticed. 
As soon as I thought it safe I jumped up, went 
and picked up my gun, and started right back 
the way I came, until I saw some of our men 
going to the rear; and following in that direction 
a few moments, I came to the edge of the woods 
and saw Goodman of our company leading Colonel 
Olcott's horse, and a Company G man told me 

122 



that the colonel was shot in the head, and a 
prisoner. As I came out of the woods a little way, 
I saw a line of battle was formed and the men as 
they came up joined it. I loaded my gun which 
I had fired only once during the affair. The men 
I had seen as I came back must have been Rebs 
hurrying to their lines. In this affair Matteson, 
Proctor, Tieny, Young, Conklin and Beals were 
taken prisoners, and were sent to Andersonville. 
They were not exchanged for months and did 
not return to the regiment until after Lee's sur- 
render. Shortly after we had formed in the field 
by the batteries, we were moved back into a line 
of entrenchments. About 10 o'clock the same night 
we marched back to the road, and following it 
some distance to the rear, moved off it again and 
went into line of battle near Wilderness Tavern, 
and threw up entrenchments. The same morning 
we marched to Piney Branch Church, and were 
given time to get breakfast. Here it was found 
that something like a hundred of our regiment 
were missing, and one-half of them were dead or 
wounded. Quite a number of the missing turned 
up that day and the next. I thanked my stars that 
I had escaped from capture, and pitied the fellows 
who were caught, especially Dewey and Reynolds, 
whom I knew to be wounded." 

The responsibility for the exposure of the right 
of the 6th Corps on this occasion, without scout, 
picket or vidette was never ascertained. Probably 
it was never investigated for the guilty officer was 
probably among the killed or captured. It was 
one of the usual misfortunes of the 3d Corps fol- 
lowing it into the 6th. Rut it is certain that it 
was never repeated, and the like had never oc- 
curred before. 



123 



CHAPTER X 
The Tenth of May 

FROM the 5th to the 10th of May the regiment, 
with the brigade, occupied several positions 
of importance, covering the left wing of the army, 
and on two occasions came into skirmish action 
with the enemy, and suffered several casualties. 
On the 10th of May the regiment formed a part 
of the first line of an assault on the entrenchments 
of the enemy, which was brilliantly successful and 
ought to have resulted in the utter rout of Lee's 
army. 

The account of this sanguinary assault is best 
begun by quoting Colonel Upton's official report 
of it: "The point of attack was at an angle near 
the Scott House, about half a mile from the 
Spottsylvania road. The enemy's entrenchments 
were of formidable character, with abatis in front, 
and surmounted by heavy logs, underneath which 
were loopholes for musketry. In the re-entrant 
to the right was a battery, with traverses between 
the guns. About one hundred yards to the rear 
was another line of works, partly completed and 
occupied by another line of battle. 

"The position was in an open field, about two 
hundred yards from a piece of woods. A wood 
road led from my position directly to the point 
of attack. The ground was looked over by General 
Russell and myself, and regimental commanders 
were also required to see it, that they might un- 
derstand the work before them. The column of 
attack consisted of twelve regiments formed in 

124 



four lines of battle, lying down in the piece of 
wood as soon as formed. The lines were formed 
from right to left as follows : First line 121st N. Y., 
96th Pennsylvania and 5th Maine. Second line: 
40th Pennsylvania, 6th Maine and 5th Wisconsin. 
Third line: 43d N. Y., 77th N. Y. and 119th Penn- 
sylvania. Fourth line: 2d, 5th and 6th Vermont. 

"Our position was so close that no commands 
were to be given in getting into position. The 
pieces of the first line were loaded and capped, 
those of the others were loaded only. Bayonets 
were fixed. The 121st N. Y. and 96th Pennsyl- 
vania were instructed to turn to the right and 
charge the battery. The 5th Maine was to wheel 
to the left and open an enfilading fire upon the 
enemy. The second line was to halt at the works 
and engage the front. The third line was to lie 
down behind the second and await orders. The 
fourth line was to advance to the edge of the wood 
and await the issue of the charge. All officers 
were instructed to repeat the command 'Forward' 
constantly from the commencement of the charge 
until the works were carried. 

"At ten minutes before 6, Captain Dalton brought 
me the order to attack as soon as the column was 
formed, and stated that the artillery would cease 
firing at 6 P. M. Twenty minutes elapsed before 
all preparations were completed, when at the com- 
mand the line rose, moved noiselessly to the edge 
of the woods, and then with a wild cheer rushed 
for the works. Through a terrible front and flank 
fire the column advanced quickly, and gained the 
parapet. Here occurred a deadly hand to hand 
conflict. The enemy sitting in their pits, with 
pieces loaded, and bayonets fixed, ready to impale 
those who should leap over, absolutely refused 
to yield the ground. The first of our men who 
tried to surmount the works fell pierced through 

125 

10 



the head by musket balls. Others seeing the fate of 
their comrades, held their pieces at arm's length 
and fired downwards, while others, poising theirs 
vertically, hurled them down upon the enemy, 
pinning them to the ground. The struggle lasted 
but a few seconds. Numbers prevailed, and, like 
a resistless wave, the columns poured over the 
works, quickly putting hors de combat those who 
resisted, and sending to the rear those who sur- 
rendered. Pressing forward and expanding to the 
right and left, the second line of entrenchments 
and the battery fell into our hands. The column 
of assault had accomplished its task. The enemy's 
lines were completely broken, and an opening had 
been made for the division that was to have sup- 
ported, but it did not arrive. 

"Reinforcements arriving to the enemy, our front 
and both flanks were assailed. The impulsion of 
the charge being lost, nothing remained but to 
hold the ground. I accordingly directed the officers 
to form their men outside the works and open 
fire, and then rode back over the field to bring 
forward the Vermonters in the fourth line, but 
they had already mingled in the contest and were 
fighting with a heroism which has ever charac- 
terized that elite brigade. The 65th N. Y. had also 
marched gallantly to the support of their comrades 
and was fighting stubbornly on the left. 

"Night had arrived, our position was three- 
quarters of a mile in advance of the army, and 
without prospect of support was untenable. 

"Meeting General Russell at the edge of the wood, 
he gave me the order to withdraw. I wrote the 
order and sent it along the line by Captain Gor- 
don of the 121st N. Y., in accordance with which, 
under cover of darkness the works were evacuated, 
the regiments returning to their former camps. 

"Our loss in this assault was about one thousand 

126 



in killed, wounded and missing. The enemy lost 
at least one hundred at the first entrenchments, 
while a much heavier loss was sustained in his 
efforts to regain them. We captured between a 
thousand and twelve hundred prisoners and sev- 
eral stands of colors. Captain Burhans of the 
43d N. Y. had two stands of colors in his hands, 
and is supposed to have been killed while coming 
back from the second line of entrenchments. Many 
Rebel prisoners were shot by their own men while 
going to the rear. Our officers and men accom- 
plished all that could be expected of brave men. 
They went forward with perfect confidence, fought 
with unflinching courage, and retired only on re- 
ceipt of a written order, after having expended 
the ammunition of their dead and wounded com- 
rades." 

In this engagement the 121st had one officer 
and thirty-two men killed and a large number 
wounded. Captain Butts was wounded in the ad- 
vance upon the works, and while being assisted 
to the rear was again hit and instantly killed. 
Major Galpin, Captains Kidder, Jackson and Cronk- 
ite and Lieutenants Foote, Johnson and Tucker 
were wounded. Lieutenant Foote was wounded 
while trying to turn the guns of the battery just 
captured upon the enemy. He fell into the hands 
of the enemy, and was for a long time supposed 
to have been killed. Lieut. Jas. W. Johnston, on 
mounting the parapet, had a bayonet thrust 
through one of his thighs when raising his sword 
to strike down the Confederate who had thrust 
the bayonet through him. The Rebel begged for 
mercy, was spared, and sent to the rear a prisoner. 

The reason given at the time among the soldiers, 
why the supporting division did not arrive as ex- 
pected was that the commanding officer was 
intoxicated. Whether the report was true or not, 

127 



it is certain that he did drink to excess, for on 
another occasion he was so under the influence of 
liquor that an enlisted man slipped up behind him 
and cut the roll of blankets from his saddle and 
got away with it. The writer heard the story from 
the man himself. 

Colonel Beckwith's account of this affair, gives 
the enlisted man's side of it. "About 5 P. M. we 
moved over the works down into the woods, close 
up to our skirmishers (the 65th N. Y.), who were 
keeping up a rapid fire, and formed in line of 
battle. Regiment after regiment came up and 
formed in line, we being in the first or front line 
and the right of the column, the 96th Penn. on 
our left and the 5th Maine on the left of the 96th. 
Behind us was the 49th Pennsylvania, behind it 
the 43d N. Y. and behind it the 2d Vermont. Be- 
hind the 5th Maine were in order the 5th Wis- 
consin, the 119th Pennsylvania and the 6th Ver- 
mont. The Rebel rifle pits were about two hun- 
dred and fifty yards in front of our skirmish line. 
They had no skirmishers out, ours having driven 
them in, but they were firing from their breast- 
works, on top of which they had logs to protect 
their heads. Our batteries (one on the right and 
three in the rear of us) were belching away at 
them, and they were answering but feebly. Oc- 
casionally the hum of a bullet and the screech of 
a shell gave notice that they were on the qui vive. 

"As soon as we were formed Colonel Upton, 
Major Galpin and the Adjutant came along and 
showed to the officers and men a sketch of just 
how the Rebel works were located, and we were 
directed to keep to the right of the road which 
ran from our line direct to theirs. It was a grass 
grown farm road leading to the main or Catharpin 
road, which was the road we wanted to get and 
hold. We were ordered to fix bayonets, to load 

128 



and cap our guns and to charge at a right shoulder 
shift arms. No man was to stop and succor or 
assist a wounded comrade. We must go as far as 
possible, and when we broke their line, face to our 
right, advance and fire lengthwise of their line. 
Colonel Upton was with our regiment and rode 
on our right. He instructed us not to fire a shot, 
cheer or yell, until we struck their works. It was 
nearly sundown when we were ready to go for- 
ward. The day had been bright and it was warm, 
but the air felt damp, indicating rain. The racket 
and smoke made by the skirmishers and batteries, 
made it look hazy about us, and we had to raise 
our voices to be heard. We waited in suspense 
for some time. Dorr I. Davenport with whom I 
tented, said to me, 'I feel as though I was going 
to get hit. If I do, you get my things and send 
them home.' I said, 'I will, and you do the same 
for me in case I am shot, but keep a stiff upper 
lip. We may get through all right.' He said, 'I 
dread the first volley, they have so good a shot at 
us.' Shortly after this the batteries stopped firing, 
and in a few minutes an officer rode along toward 
the right as fast as he could, and a moment after- 
ward word was passed along to get ready, then 
'Fall in,' and then 'Forward.' I felt my gorge 
rise, and my stomach and intestines shrink to- 
gether in a knot, and a thousand things rushed 
through my mind. I fully realized the terrible 
peril I was to encounter (gained from previous 
experience). I looked about in the faces of the 
boys around me, and they told the tale of expected 
death. Pulling my cap down over my eyes, I 
stepped out, the extreme man on the left of the 
regiment, except Sergeant Edwards and Adjutant 
Morse who was on foot. In a few seconds we 
passed the skirmish line and moved more rapidly, 
the officers shouting 'Forward' and breaking into 

129 



a run immediately after we got into the field a 
short distance. As soon as we began to run the 
men, unmindful of, or forgetting orders, com- 
menced to yell, and in a few steps farther the rifle 
pits were dotted with puffs of smoke, and men 
began to fall rapidly and some began to fire at 
the works, thus losing the chance they had to do 
something, when they reached the works to pro- 
tect themselves. I got along all right and there 
were a number of us in the grass-grown unused 
road, and several were shot, but I could not tell 
who, because I was intent upon reaching the 
works. We were broken up some getting through 
the slashing and the abatis. By this time the 
Rebels were beginning to fire the second time, 
and a rapid but scattering fire ran along the works 
which we reached in another instant. One of our 
officers in front of us jumped on the top log and 
shouted, 'Come on, men,' and pitched forward 
and disappeared, shot. I followed an instant after 
and the men swarmed upon, and over the works 
on each side of me. As I got on top some Rebs 
jumped up from their side and began to run back. 
Some were lunging at our men with their bayonets 
and a few had their guns clubbed. Jim Johnston, 
Oaks and Hassett, were wounded by bayonets. One 
squad, an officer with them, were backing away 
from us, the officer firing his revolver at our men. 
I fired into them, jumped down into the pits and 
moved out toward them. Just at this time, our 
second line came up and we received another 
volley from the line in front of us and the battery 
fired one charge of cannister. Colonel Upton 
shouted 'Forward' and we all ran towards the 
battery, passing another line of works, and the 
men in them passed to our rear as prisoners, or 
ran away after firing into us. Continuing we ran 
over the battery taking it and its men prisoners, 

130 



and on beyond, until there was nothing in our 
front, except some tents by the roadside and there 
was no firing upon us for a few moments, of any 
magnitude. I looked into the ammunition chest 
of the battery to see if I could find something to 
put in the vents of the guns to prevent their being 
fired again in case we had to leave them. There 
were several of our company there. I remember 
Jesse Jones and Dorr Davenport, Johnny Wood- 
ward, Judson A. Chapin and I think they took the 
wheels off one of the guns, and I broke off a twig 
in the vents of two guns, but we were ordered to 
go to the works and moved to the right. While 
moving as ordered, some Rebel troops came up 
and fired a volley into us. We got on the other 
side of the rifle pits and began firing at them 
and checked their advance. It was now duskish 
and it seemed as though the firing on our front 
and to our right became heavier, and the whistle 
of balls seemed to come from all directions and 
was incessant. I said to the man next to me 'I 
guess our men are firing from the first line. We 
had better go back there. I don't believe our men 
carried the works on the left.' (We had been told 
that Mott's division and a division of the Ninth 
Corps were to charge immediately after us if we 
carried the works in our front.) He answered 
'The fire is all from the Rebs.' In a moment a 
battery opened upon us and we fell back to the 
first line over which I got and came across some 
of the regiment. There were also some from the 
5th Maine and a number of other regiments. 
We continued firing. We could now see the flashes 
of the guns and knew they were coming in on us. 
A great many of our men were shot in this locality, 
but I thought the wounded would all have a chance 
to get back. I knew that we could not stay there. 
The wounded between us and the Rebs were in 

131 



terrible plight, and must all have been shot to 
pieces by the fire from both sides. 

"Colonel Upton asked for volunteers to make a 
rush on the Rebel battery, but did not get any. The 
undertaking looked too desperate. He asked for 
men from the 121st New York, saying, 'Are there 
none of my old regiment here?' But there were 
only a few of us there and our cartridges were 
running low. I do not know how long we re- 
mained there firing. It seemed like an hour, but I 
don't suppose it was. Finally word was passed 
along to fall back quietly to our skirmish line 
and back we started. Getting back into the open 
field, it was covered with dark forms lying on 
the ground, and many more moving back. I came 
at once across a group and recognized Tom Par- 
sons of the 5th Maine. He was shot through the 
wrist, both bones were crushed and he suffered 
terrible pain. Between him and another man was 
a wounded captain and Parsons said 'For God's 
sake help us back with him.' Giving the man my 
gun, I stooped in front of the captain, and catching 
him by the legs hoisted him as gently as I could 
upon my back, carried him to the edge of the 
woods, and under shelter of our skirmish line, 
and there left him with some of his regiment. I 
kept on trying to find some of our own fellows. 

"Reaching the works we started from, I found 
one of the company. Back of the works a little 
ways, in the edge of the pines where our men 
were assembling was the 95th Pennsylvania. Occu- 
pying these works less than an hour we began to 
get some idea of the awful loss we had sustained. 
I looked around for Davenport, made inquiries, 
but could get no tidings of him. I went to the 
brigade hospital, and saw many of our regiment, 
shot in all shapes, but Dorr was not with them. 
Just as I was starting back, a Company I man 

132 



said, 'One of your company is lying in the woods 
just where we started to charge.' I went out to 
the skirmish line again. There was some firing 
on the line by the Rebels. There were some 
wounded men out in the field, as we could tell 
by their cries and groans, and I went out a little 
way, passing several dead men, and helped bring 
in a badly wounded man. Realizing how hope- 
less it was to find Dorr, I came back, tired out and 
heartsick. I sat down in the woods, and as I 
thought of the desolation and misery about me, 
my feelings overcame me and I cried like a little 
child. After a time I felt better and went back 
to camp. I found the men, and talked over the 
charge for a long time. 

"On the morning of the 11th we mustered barely 
a hundred men. Captain Gordon I think was in 
command of the regiment. We changed our posi- 
tion a little on the 11th and as we glanced along 
the terribly thinned ranks and upon the shattered 
staff and tattered colors, we were filled with sor- 
row for our lost comrades, and deep forebodings 
for the future. A splendid regiment had been 
nearly destroyed without adequate results. In 
but a week's time, since leaving our pleasant camp 
on Hazel River, pitiless war had destroyed our 
bravest and best men. The loss of General Sedg- 
wick had been keenly felt. He had ever been a 
source of pride to us and his calm courage and 
masterly military skill was an anchor of hope, 
and an abiding confidence in our ability to whip 
the foe!" (Here it may be well to tell what the 
writer knows of the death of General Sedgwick. 
His brother was on the skirmish line and within 
a few feet of the general when he was shot, and 
heard his last words. The sharpshooters of the 
enemy were firing at the battery, when General 
Sedgwick came up as he passed the battery he 

133 



said: "Don't dodge, men. They couldn't hit an 
ox at this distance." He stepped forward a few 
paces, raised his glasses to look and immediately 
received the fatal shot that ended his brilliant 
military career, to the loss and sorrow of the men 
who had served under him.) Colonel Beckwith 
continues his narrative thus: "The weather too 
became bad, raining steadily, and increased the 
wretchedness of our plrysical and mental condi- 
tion. I think at this time we were consolidated 
into a battalion of four companies. Colonel Upton 
had been made a brigadier general upon the field 
by General Grant, and a popular and hard won 
promotion it was; and at this time after years of 
mature reflection I know of no officer, who ever 
came within my knowledge, for whom I have a 
more abiding admiration and respect. He was 
in my judgment as able a soldier as ever com- 
manded a body of troops, and I never saw an offi- 
cer under fire who preserved the calmness of 
demeanor, the utter indifference to danger, the 
thorough knowledge of the situation, and what was 
best to do, as did Colonel Upton. Since the war 
I have had the pleasure on many occasions of 
meeting the gallant soldier, who was chief of Gen- 
eral Wright's staff at the time of this assault at 
Spottsylvania under General Upton; and the fol- 
lowing account of the inception, organization and 
execution of the battle is from his own lips. It 
was told me by him recently in answer to some 
inquiries I had been making of him, why the as- 
saulting column was not better supported after it 
had carried everything in front and swept the 
enemy's lines on each of its flanks for some dis- 
tance. He said, 'I'll tell you why. On the 9th of 
May I rode with General Wright to army head- 
quarters. When we arrived there we found Gen- 
erals Grant, Meade and several others, and shortly 

134 



after our arrival General Meade informed General 
Wright that he had ordered a general attack along 
the whole line for 4 o'clock on the following day, 
and ordered him to attack on his front at the same 
time. But he wanted him to organize a column 
of assault, consisting of twelve or fifteen picked 
regiments from the Corps, making the attack at 
the point which he should select, and point out to 
him. He would carefully reconnoiter the enemy's 
line and have an engineer officer locate the most 
favorable point of attack. General Wright was 
informed that Burnside's Corps, Mott's division, 
and a portion of the Fifth Corps would cooperate 
with him on both his flanks, and to seize any oppor- 
tunity his success might afford to crush and drive 
out the enemy in his front. With this order and 
understanding General Wright rode away to make 
the necessary arrangements for the attack. He 
selected General Russell to take general charge of 
the entire movement, and at his chief of staff's 
suggestion chose Emory Upton, then colonel of the 
121st New York Volunteer Infantry, commanding 
the Second Brigade of the First Division, to lead 
the assaulting column. After selecting twelve 
regiments from different brigades and divisions 
of the Corps, he ordered his chief of staff to send 
for Colonel Upton to report to him early in the 
morning for orders and instructions. Colonel Up- 
ton reported promptly and the chief of staff met 
him, and taking from his pocket the list of regi- 
ments selected handed it to Colonel Upton, and 
said, "Upton what do you think of that for a com- 
mand?" Colonel Upton took the list, ran his eyes 
over it and said, 'I golly, Mack, that is a splendid 
command. They are the best men in the army.' 
He said 'Upton you are to lead those men upon 
the enemy's works this afternoon, and if you do 
not carry them you are not expected to come back, 

135 



but if you carry them I am authorized to say that 
you will get your stars.' Colonel Upton in reply 
said, 'Mack, I will carry those works. If I don't 
I will not come back.' The staff officer then 
told him of the troops and batteries that 
would cooperate with him in the attack, and 
of the general attack of the whole army. He 
described how enthusiastic and pleased Colonel 
Upton was, with the duty assigned him, and also 
said that he was one of the most enthusiastic sol- 
diers he ever knew. As Colonel Upton rode away 
he said, 'Mack, I'll carry those works. They can- 
not repulse those regiments.' 

"After Colonel Upton rode away, I was busy 
getting batteries into position and moving troops 
to positions assigned them, and everything in our 
Corps was going smoothly and as arranged, and 
all our reports, received from regiment, brigade 
and division commanders of the Corps, indicated 
that they were fully alive to the requirements of 
the occasion, and ready for the duty assigned them. 
Finally we opened our batteries on the Rebel lines, 
concentrating a number upon the point of Upton's 
attack, and I rode out and saw his column moving 
into position in the woods just in the rear of our 
skirmish line, which a little while before had 
driven, by a determined advance, the enemy's skir- 
mishers into their works. Riding back to General 
Wright I met Colonel Tompkins, chief of the Corps' 
artillery, and the general instructed him to con- 
tinue the fire of the batteries till 5 o'clock, which 
would give Colonel Upton ample time to form his 
column and prepare for the assault. 

"At the appointed time the attack began along 
the entire line and the thunder of the artillery and 
the crash of musketry was heavy and incessant 
on our right and left, but Burnside's men had not 
come up. Telegrams were sent to headquarters, 

136 



and staff officers dispatched to know the cause of 
delay, and ascertain where they were, but without 
success; and like all movements where the field 
telegraph was used, and written orders given, there 
was delay in their execution, and precious time 
was rapidly passing. It had been arranged with 
Upton that when the batteries stopped firing, he 
was to attack at once and the time had been set 
at 5 o'clock. As it was near 5 o'clock, officers were 
sent to delay the attack and continue the fire of 
the batteries, delaying as long as possible so that 
other dispositions could be made. As it became 
evident that we could not wait longer for them, 
and orders coming from headquarters to send 
Upton in, I rode out by prearrangement with 
Colonel Tompkins, and at a point where I could 
see him and Colonel Upton, I took out my hand- 
kerchief and waved it. Both Upton and Tomp- 
kins answered my signal, and rode — one to his 
batteries and stopped their firing, the other to 
the head of his column to set it in motion — and 
in a very little time the crash of the Rebel volleys 
and the cheers of our men told that the work was 
under way, and immediately the swarms of Rebels 
from the captured works rushing to our lines 
under a heavy fire, told that Upton had succeeded 
and the works were ours. I immediately galloped 
to General Wright and reported that Upton had 
got through and taken a large number of prisoners, 
and it was telegraphed to headquarters. At the 
same time General Wright received a dispatch 
stating that the attack had failed all along the 
lines. Shortly after, another dispatch was sent 
to headquarters, saying that Upton had broken the 
enemy's line, taken his men, works and guns, and 
asking if we should pile in the men and hold them. 
As this dispatch was on the way, another was 
received saying, that, as the attack had failed at 

137 



other points, you had better withdraw Upton, and 
the order was given to him to withdraw his men. 
Shortly after another order was received, saying, 
Tile in the men and hold the works.' But it was 
too late as the previous order had been partially 
executed and the opportunity lost, which would 
have resulted in our holding the works, forcing 
the enemy to fall back to a new line, and made 
unnecessary the assault of the 12th (two days 
later), and its terrific struggle and losses, without 
compensating results. Upton's formation, arrange- 
ment and conduct of the assaulting column was 
superb. There was not a single miscarry in the 
whole affair. The men behaved with splendid 
courage and skill, which had made them famous 
throughout the army. The Rebels fought desper- 
ately and were accounted as good as there were 
in Lee's army. 

"That night after we had corrected our formation 
and put our lines in order, for an anticipated 
counter attack, I met Upton at Corps headquarters, 
and found him much depressed over the result, 
of what had promised such a brilliant success, and 
he ventured the opinion that with a fresh com- 
pact body of troops, on each of his flanks, he could 
have swept the enemy's lines for a great distance 
each side of where he had broken through. He 
was also greatly grieved at the great loss his regi- 
ment and brigade had suffered. He took a special 
pride in his regiment, in which he placed unlimited 
confidence, and believed he could accomplish any 
undertaking with them. After some further talk 
he rode away. As I bade him goodnight I said, 
'Come over in the morning, Upton, I want to see 
you.' 

"After he had gone I hunted up a pair of brigadier 
general's shoulder straps, and wrapping them up 
carefully, put them in my pocket. I then went 

138 



to General Wright and said to him, 'General, you 
remember when Colonel Upton was selected to 
lead the charge it was the understanding that if 
he took the works he was to win his stars. Now 
I think he ought to have them. So with his per- 
mission, I telegraphed to General Meade, asking 
if he would not request the commanding general 
to promote Colonel Upton to brigadier general. 
The general responded, 'Certainly,' and wired 
Washington that night and received a reply from 
the President, that his commission was made out 
and signed. In the morning when I saw Upton, I 
said, 'Upton, you remember when I told you that 
you were assigned to lead the charge, and if you 
succeeded you were to have your stars, and if you 
did not you were not expected to come back?' He 
replied, 'Yes, I remember.' 'Well,' I said, taking the 
stars from my pocket and unrolling the paper, 
'Here they are.' He took them in his hand, looked 
at them, and at me in an inquiring way (as though 
I was joking), for some seconds. Seeing that he 
was incredulous or uncertain about my meaning, 
I repeated to him what had already been done 
by the president and commanding general of the 
army, upon hearing which his pleasure and grati- 
fication was funny to see. He remarked how proud 
and glad his men would be to know that their 
efforts had been so distinguished, and his pale 
face lighted up with animation, as he went over 
some of the incidents of the previous night, and 
he spoke of the desperate work of his men as 
they reached the enemy's entrenchments. He cut 
off his eagles and we got some thread and had the 
stars sewed on his shoulders, and he rode directly 
to his command to show them his preferment. 
The next day at the Bloody Angle he showed the 
stuff he was made of. He would not have been 
sent in there, but his brigade was in the advance 

139 



of the Corps, and the emergency was great, as the 
enemy had rallied, and with fresh troops had 
driven our men, in some places, away from the 
captured works. He saw the importance of imme- 
diate and rapid action, and double quicked one 
of his regiments right up and into the danger cen- 
ter, and immediately strengthened it with the rest 
of his command. There all day long, with bulldog 
courage and terrible slaughter, he held his ground 
against all attacks — the whole Corps at one time 
and another being engaged there. It was a great 
service he rendered that day, enough to win a 
field of stars. But Upton was easily the ablest of 
all the young West Pointers, who were just at that 
time distinguishing themselves." 



140 




T. 8. ARNOLD, 

Adjutant and Captain 

of Co. H. 



F. E. LOWE, 

Adjutant. 





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CHAPTER XI 

The Bloody Angle 

THE angle in the fortifications of the enemy was 
obtuse and turned back from the ridge along 
which the line to the left ran. This ridge con- 
tinued for some distance to the right from the 
apex of the angle. A tree of considerable size 
stood at the angle, and from it in both directions 
traverses were built at frequent distances along 
the rifle pits to protect their occupants from a flank 
fire. The works were of the most formidable char- 
acter, with the log on the top to protect the heads 
of the defenders while they were able to fire under 
them in comparative safety. Early on the morn- 
ing of the 12th under cover of a dense fog, the 
Second Corps had assailed and carried these 
entrenchments with comparatively little loss. 
Their defenders were so utterly surprised that 
many of them did not fire a shot, and the entire 
division occupying them was taken prisoners. Gen- 
eral Lee had made provision for just such an attack 
and had placed General Gordon with his brigade of 
Georgians, in the center of a circle within the 
angle so as to be equally distant from the sides, 
with instructions to be ready to attack and repel 
any successful assault that might be made on any 
portion of the line. When the Second Corps men 
were advancing with exulting shouts, confident, 
and disorganized, they were struck unexpectedly 
by this veteran brigade, and hurled back in con- 
fusion to, and in some places, over the works, 
they had so recently carried. It was this brigade 

141 

11 



of Georgians that had on the 5th struck the left 
of the Sixth Corps so staggering a blow, and nOw 
with quickly gathered reinforcements was attempt- 
ing to retake their captured works. General Upton's 
report of the all-day battle is as follows: "May 
11th the brigade made some unimportant changes 
of position. Early on the 12th it moved with the 
division toward the right flank of the army but 
to the left again at 7 A. M., arriving in the rear 
of the Second Corps at 9:30 A. M. The right flank 
of this Corps being threatened, General Russell 
directed me to move to the right at double quick 
to support it. Before we could arrive it gave way. 
As the 95th Pennsylvania Volunteers reached an 
elevated point of the enemy's works, about six 
hundred yards to the right of the Lendrum House, 
it received a heavy volley from the second line 
of works. Seeing that the position was of vital 
importance to hold, and that all the troops had 
given way up to this point, I halted the 95th 
Pennsylvania, faced it to the front and caused it 
to lie down. Its left rested near the works con- 
necting with the Second Corps, while its right 
lay behind a crest oblique to the works. Had it 
given way the whole line of entrenchments would 
have been recaptured, and the fruit of the morn- 
ing's victory lost; but it held its ground till the 
5th Maine and the 121st New York came to its 
support, and the 96th Pennsylvania passed on to 
its right. Shortly after, the Third and Vermont 
brigades arrived. A section of Gillis' battery of 
the 5th U. S. Artillery, Lieutenant Metcalf, came 
up and opened fire, but was immediately charged 
and lost nearly every horse, driver and can- 
nonier. The enemy charged up to his works within 
a hundred feet of the guns, but a well-directed 
fire from the infantry, behind the crest prevented 
his farther advance. At the point where our line 

142 



diverged from the works the opposing lines came 
in contact, but neither would give ground. And 
for eighteen hours raged the most sanguinary con- 
flict of the war. The point remained in our pos- 
session at the close of the struggle, and is known 
as 'The Angle.' " 

During this all-day conflict, the tree, a 
red oak, standing at the angle of the works was 
cut down by the bullets fired from both sides, 
but mostly by men of the 121st. Colonel Upton 
noting that the enemy kept seeking shelter be- 
hind it from which to fire upon the battery and 
our troops, ordered Captain Weaver with a part 
of the regiment to keep up a constant fire upon 
that point, and thus prevent the Rebels from put- 
ting their heads above the works. After keeping 
up this fire for several hours the men saw the 
tree begin to waver and it soon after fell with a 
crash upon those near it, inside the enemy's rifle 
pits. A section of the tree in the ordnance depart- 
ment at Washington is labled as having been "cut 
down by musket balls in an attempt to recapture 
the works previously captured by the Second 
Corps, Army of the Potomac, May 12, 1864. Pre- 
sented to the Honorable Secretary of War by 
Brevet Maj.-Gen. N. A. Miles, commanding 
First Division, Second Corps, Army of the Poto- 
mac." The dimensions are given as 5 feet high 
and 22 inches in diameter. So this must have 
been the stump of the tree below the point where 
it was cut off. The inference from this label is 
that men of the Second Corps are to be credited 
with the cutting down of the tree. But the fact 
is that the Second Brigade of the First Division 
of the Sixth Corps, occupied the position directly 
in front of the tree, and Captain Weaver and his 
men fired for hours directly at the Rebels seeking 
shelter behind it, until it fell. 

143 



For the particular part which the 121st took in 
this affair we may turn again to the narrative of 
Colonel Beckwith. "It rained all night and by 
the smoky pine fires we could scarcely boil our 
water for coffee, or scorch our pork for our break- 
fasts. Then we moved some distance to the right 
and halted in the pines. At this place an officer 
rode up with a yellow tissue paper in his hand, 
and as we stood at attention, he read a congratula- 
tory order from the general commanding; and we 
were informed that a Rebel division and twenty 
cannon had fallen into our hands that morning. 
While the men were cheered at the news, there 
was but little cheering. In a few moments we 
moved back, our company leading the regiment, 
passing on beyond our former position and in the 
direction of the heavy timber. Some of the boys 

said, 'D n those yellow paper orders. That 

means more fight,' and about 9 o'clock we came 
under fire again. Moving quickly forward we 
passed over an elevation that was swept by bullets, 
and rushed down to a line of works occupied by the 
95th Pennsylvania of our brigade. The fog, rain 
and mist, loaded with smoke, obscured our view 
partially. The enemy's fire came from our right 
and front, but we were partially protected by their 
works and we kept up a continuous fire. This 
was the point where the Second Corps had carried 
their works early in the morning. Where we 
were, the works were V-shaped, the point or bot- 
tom of the V being toward us. We held the works 
from the point down the left side of the V as it 
faced us, and the Rebs held the right side and the 
works beyond towards where we charged on the 
night of the 10th. The Second Corps had been 
driven out just as the 95th Pennsylvania came 
up and held the works, until our regiment and 
the 5th Maine came to their support. The ground 

144 



on which we were was boggy and swampy, and 
we sank in the mud up to our ankles. Here all 
day long we kept up a constant fire. The wounded 
had to take care of themselves, officers as well as 
men, and many were killed. Captain Adams of 
our company lost an arm, and several others of our 
officers and men were wounded. A little after we 
went in, the Third brigade of our division joined 
us, also the Vermont brigade and the 49th New 
York and the 119th Pennsylvania. Some of the 
Vermonters came in where we were, and a line 
behind us fired over our heads. Every time we 
were reinforced the Rebs seemed to put in a new 
line, and the firing would break out more fiercely. 
We nearly shot away the head logs on the works. 
A section of a regular battery, the 5th U. S. Artil- 
lery, commanded by Lieutenant Metcalf, came up 
on a run, unlimbered, and ran the pieces as close 
to the Confederate works as they could be used 
effectively, and opened fire upon the crowded 
mass of Rebels in the angle with cannister. The 
Rebels elated by their success in forcing us back 
for a short space from their captured works, 
vainly endeavored to take the guns, and for a 
time withstood the terrible slaughter of the com- 
bined infantry and artillery fire, but finally gave 
up the attempt and sullenly retired. Not however 
until they had shot the men and horses, and in 
fact disabled the guns themselves with musketry 
fire. 

"It was at this time that Capt. J. D. Fish of Com- 
pany D, 121st, then acting as acting adjutant gen- 
eral to General Upton, was killed while engaged in 
bringing up cannister to the guns of the battery. 
It was also at this time that the works on both sides 
were crowded with combatants and the killing 
and wounding of the closely crowded men was 
awful. The smoke from the guns and bursting 

145 



shells mingling with the mist and rain sometimes 
obscured the view of the Rebel works, close as 
they were. The accumulation of the dead and 
badly wounded increased the horror of the situa- 
tion and added to the desperation of the com- 
batants and their efforts to bring the battle to a 
conclusion. Where we occupied the reverse side 
of the breastworks, men would load and stick their 
guns over the head log and raising the butts of 
their pieces, fire down into the mass of men hud- 
dled on the opposite side. Now and then a soldier 
or an officer, crazed with excitement, would jump 
upon the parapet and fire down into the enemy, 
but they speedily paid the penalty of their reck- 
less daring, by being shot, and falling to one side 
or the other. 

"Batteries behind and in front of us kept the 
air full of the shrieking noise of their projectiles, 
and a mortar battery behind us sailed shell after 
shell over us, and dropped them on the massed 
Rebels in the trenches. The rain fell continu- 
ously. Occasionally a lull would occur in the 
firing for a little time, and many Rebels, taking 
advantage of it, would raise a white flag and sur- 
render themselves as prisoners. An incident of 
this kind would be followed by a burst of firing 
again, usually better directed than the preceding 
one, and so we stopped the white flag business, 
the last squad of surrendering Rebels, about thirty 
of them, getting the fire of both sides, nearly all 
being shot. So the battle continued. Ammunition 
was brought up on pack-mules, and served to us. 
Some of it would not fit our guns and the boxes 
with other emptied boxes, filled with dirt and 
placed in front of us, made some protection. 

"After noon the Rebels finding it useless to at- 
tempt to drive us back to our works, slackened their 
fire somewhat, but it was not till dark that the firing 

- 146 



diminished below the roar of battle. It was a 
day never to be forgotten for its fierce fighting, 
bulldog tenacity and terrible slaughter. 

"Just before dark we got word for Upton's men 
to assemble behind our rifle pits in the rear, and 
many went back, but I waited until after dark, 
preferring to stay where I was, than to run the 
gauntlet of the rain of bullets, that swept the 
ground up to the crest, or rise, in our rear. 

"This was the worst day's experience I ever had, 
and it thoroughly disgusted me with war. Finding 
the regiment after a short search, I found Baldwin, 
Chapin and Tucker of my company and several 
others were there also. Being nearly starved we 
got some hot coffee and cooked some pork and 
crackers. We were all covered with mud and pow- 
der and smoke and grime, hands parboiled with 
rain, and our clothing loaded with moisture. We 
presented a very tough appearance, but being very 
near exhaustion it was possible for us to huddle 
about the smoky pine fire with our rubber blankets 
over us and get some sleep, even though bullets 
and shells flew in close proximity to us, at frequent 
intervals during the night. 

"In the morning the Rebs were found to have 
fallen back from the 'Bloody Angle' during the 
night, and the firing had almost stopped, but sharp- 
shooters kept the curious, and carelessly inclined 
reminded of their skill." 

The writer though not a combatant, visited the 
scene of conflict during the 12th, and for a time 
watched the working of the mortar battery, of 
which Comrade Beckwith speaks. It was com- 
manded by a Frenchman who appeared greatly 
excited. He was never still. Dancing around the 
guns while they were being loaded, and spring- 
ing upon the parapet, when each was fired to 
observe where the shell fell, he seemed the incarna- 

147 



tion of activity. After visiting brigade headquar- 
ters, and not having anything else to do, I retired 
to a safer place and waited for the result. In the 
morning I went to the angle and surveyed the 
field. The wounded had been removed during 
the night but the dead lay strewn thickly over 
the ground, on our side of the breastworks, and 
along the ridge to the right. On the brow of this 
ridge, early in the day, Captain La Mont of the 
96th Pennsylvania I think, had fallen and all day 
from both sides bullets had been fired across the 
ridge, and there did not seem to be a square inch 
of his body that had not been penetrated by a 
bullet. But horrible as was the sight on our side 
of the works, that on the other side was far worse, 
for the gray clad bodies were piled in the trenches 
from three to five deep. Our loss was terrible but 
that of the Confederates was far greater; and if 
the importance of the victory of the morning is to 
be measured by the desperate effort made to retake 
the position captured, it certainly was a decisive 
victory. 



148 



CHAPTER XII 

From the Angle to Cold Harbor 

THE 121st came out of this engagement with 
four company officers and 185 enlisted men 
present for duty, and was held in reserve with 
the rest of the brigade during the 13th of May, 
but on the 14th the brigade was ordered to cross 
the Nye River and occupy Myer's Hill, an eleva- 
tion to the left, and in front of the Fifth Corps. 
At this point quite a sharp engagement occurred. 
The position was occupied easily, but being at- 
tacked sharply by a force large enough to flank 
the troops engaged, they were compelled to fall 
back a little distance until reinforcements arrived, 
when the enemy in turn retired and the hill was 
reoccupied and the picket line extended to the left. 
Colonel Cronkite who was not present, having 
been wounded on the 10th, speaks very briefly of 
this affair, but Colonel Beckwith describes it quite 
minutely. "On the morning of the 13th we moved 
to our left and early in the morning of the 14th 
crossed the Nye River, a narrow, sluggish, deep 
stream where we crossed, and moving a short dis- 
tance came to a brigade of regular troops which 
we relieved. We moved forward a short distance 
and were deployed in a heavy skirmish line, tak- 
ing down a rail fence and making a protec- 
tion of the rails as best we could. A little 
way in our rear was a line of log cabins 
formerly occupied by the slaves. On a con- 
spicuous eminence, called Myer's Hill, was 
quite a large mansion, and our line of battle 

149 



ran in front of it. On the right our line 
ran into the timber. In our rear a short 
distance, fringed with timber, ran the Nye 
River, dark and silent. As soon as we got our 
rail protection completed we began to build fires 
and get breakfast, and had gotten it nicely under 
way when word was passed along from the left, 
that the enemy was advancing. We rapidly got 
into our rail barricades, and swallowing what we 
could of our food in a hurry at the same time, we 
watched for the Rebs to appear. We knew we 
would be the first to be attacked because a piece 
of woods in our front reached to within 600 feet 
of our position, and the rail fence running along 
it would conceal and shelter the advancing force 
until they came up to it. In a few minutes word 
was again passed from the house, that the Rebs 
were advancing in skirmish line, supported by a 
line of battle with artillery accompanying it. In 
a few minutes their skirmishers appeared in our 
front and opened fire, which we returned so effec- 
tively that they seemed reluctant to come on out 
of the woods and into the open, where they would 
offer a fair mark. At the same time their battery 
opened on us, a few shells bursting very near 
but not hitting any of us. While we were attending 
to the enemy in front, the 96th Pennsylvania moved 
out in line of battle and advanced toward the 
woods. We expected to continue this advance, but 
the 96th had scarcely disappeared in the woods 
when they met the enemy, and immediately the 
battle broke out. The Rebels charged and drove 
our men out, their advance reaching to our front. 
The troops on our left gave way, and we ran back 
toward the river. Some of our men jumped into 
it to wade across, but the water was too deep and 
they were fished out, wetter and wiser men. Jack 
Schaffner was one of the waders. Moving along 

150 



to the right parallel with the river, we were met 
by Lieutenant Redway who ordered us to rally. 
A shell just then bursting near us, stopped his ef- 
forts, and we continued down the river. In a short 
distance we met General Upton who directed us 
to move onto the road and down to the bridge, 
cross to the other side and rally on the colors 
which we would find in the field beyond. The 
Rebels in the meantime had occupied the posi- 
tion we had just vacated, and were throwing shells 
into our ambulance train, which was hurrying back 
out of range of their fire. Just at nightfall we 
moved forward and reoccupied the position under 
cover of our artillery and skirmishers without 
serious resistance. The 15th and 16th we re- 
mained at Myer's Hill (dubbed by the men 'Upton's 
Run'). Just before dark on the 16th we moved 
forward in line of battle a long distance into the 
woods in our front, but did not find the enemy. 
Returning to our lines we were marched to our 
right, reaching and forming line of battle just 
to the right of the 'Bloody Angle.' 

"A little after daylight glancing around we saw 
that a heavy column was massed there, and saw 
troops on all sides of us. Heavy skirmishing in 
our front and a brisk artillery fire continued for 
some time and then died down. This gave notice 
that there was a hitch in the program, and a little 
later we learned that the enemy's position and 
works were of such a nature as to render the result 
of an assault doubtful, and it had been given up at 
that point. 

"An incident occurred while we were lying in 
line of battle, illustrating the pitiful fate of dumb 
animals under fire. A mounted officer had fas- 
tened his horse by the bridle reins to a stump so 
that the animal stood side to the front. A cannon 
shot passed under him cutting the covering of 

151 



his intestines, letting them run out. The poor brute 
stood for some little time looking pitifully around, 
until the officer, coining up looked at the wound, 
drew his revolver and killed him, removing his 
trappings after the death struggle was over." 

General Gordon in his reminiscences, speaks of 
this affair as a desperate effort of the Second and 
Sixth Corps to break through the Confederate 
line, and a disastrous repulse. The brigade moved 
back to Myer's Hill in the evening of the 18th and 
the next day moved to the right and rear of the 
Fifth Corps and threw up entrenchments. The day 
after it relieved a portion of the Third division 
of the Second Corps. General Ewell made an ef- 
fort to attack the right of the army by a flank move- 
ment, but ran into a regiment of heavy artillery 
that was coming to the front and was so badly 
handled by them that he gave up the attempt. The 
opportune arrival of these fresh troops, saved the 
brigade from another encounter with the enemy. 

On the 21st, the brigade again returned to Myer's 
Hill, and here the 2d Connecticut Heavy Artillery 
joined the brigade. It was a magnificent body of 
men, more than 1,800 strong and containing many 
veterans who had reenlisted. At about 11 P. M. of 
the 21st another movement to the left was begun 
and the brigade marched by long and tedious 
stages, to Guinie Station, Lebanon Church, and ar- 
rived at Jericho Ford on the North Anna River 
about midnight of the 23d. In the morning of 
the 24th the Corps crossed the river and took posi- 
tion in line of battle on the right of the Fifth Corps. 
The most of the day was spent in tearing up and 
destroying the railroad. Colonel Beckwith de- 
scribes the method of destruction in this manner: 
"We would form on the uphill side of the track, 
and taking hold and lifting turn the track com- 
pletely over, and removing the ties stack and cord 

152 



them, and setting fire to the piles, place the rails 
on top of the ties thus piled. The fire would 
heat a portion of the rails in the middle red hot. 
Then we would take the rails off the piles and 
wind them around trees or stumps or bend them 
double, and so effectually prevent their further 



use." 



The army of General Lee was found posted in 
an advantageous place, and strongly fortified, so 
that no attempt was made to assail him, and on 
the 26th another movement to the left was made. 
The division in this movement guarded the trains 
to Chesterfield Station, where Sheridan had ar- 
rived after his brilliant raid around Lee's army 
in which he had defeated the Confederate cavalry 
under Stewart at the outer defenses of Richmond, 
and inflicted an irreparable loss to the Confederate 
cause by the death of General Stewart, the most 
able and efficient leader of the cavalry of the 
South. Sheridan was in dire need of the supplies 
we brought him, both of food and ammunition. 
Resuming the march in the evening we reached 
and crossed the Pamunky River in the morning 
and pushed on by what seemed to be forced 
marches to Hanover Court House, and now having 
joined the other divisions of the Corps, we marched 
to Atlee's Station on the 30th and the next day ar- 
rived at Cold Harbor. 



153 



CHAPTER XIII 

Cold Harbor 

COLD HARBOR is one of the points near Rich- 
mond which General McClellan reached during 
the Peninsular campaign and from which he was 
compelled to retire at the beginning of his retreat 
to Harrison's Landing on the James. 

It is situated about directly northeast of Rich- 
mond, and almost within sight of the city. Gen- 
eral Lee having correctly interpreted the design 
of General Grant, had transferred his army to this 
point and was found occupying works advan- 
tageously located and very strongly constructed. 

The Sixth Corps arrived at Cold Harbor about 
noon of the 30th and at 5 o'clock in the afternoon 
was formed in line of battle, on the left of the 
Third division and the 121st were deployed in 
close order as skirmishers, and relieved the cav- 
alry skirmishers, who had suffered quite heavily. 

Let Beckwith tell the rest. "Word was sent 
along the line that the enemy's line was in the 
farther edge of the old field-pine thicket in our 
front, and that we should charge this line on the 
dead run as soon as we got into striking distance 
and run the Rebs into their rifle pits. This we 
did. They broke as soon as they saw us begin 
to charge and we kept them on a dead run until 
they reached their works. We continued firing 
at anything in sight on the pits, and also shot the 
battery horses as they galloped up with the Reb 
guns going into position. Lying down we were 
screened from sight by the clumps of scrubby pine 

154 



and broom sedge covering the old fields, but 
were very much exposed to the bursting shells 
from both sides, poorly timed and bursting prema- 
turely. Two men were wounded in this way, and 
several more on our right were hit near a cabin 
by the roadside. Among these Frank Lowe, after- 
wards our adjutant, who was shot through the 
body. We kept up a brisk fire upon the Rebel 
breastworks, and our batteries made it lively for 
them, the cannon shot throwing up the dirt in 
front of them very often. In about twenty minutes 
up came the line of battle behind us in beautiful 
order and four lines swept over us at a quickstep, 
and just beyond us the front line started on a 
running charge toward the breastworks, obliquing 
to the right where the Rebel breastworks were on 
a little eminence in the edge of the pine woods. 
The formation of our brigade was in four lines, 
the 2d Connecticut forming three of the lines. 
The 95th and 96th Pennsylvania, the 5th Maine, 
and the part of the 121st New York not on the 
skirmish line formed the fourth line. As soon 
as they passed us we were ordered to act as rear 
or provost guard to prevent any but wounded men 
from going to the rear. As soon as the heavies 
began to charge, the Rebel works were bordered 
with a fringe of smoke from the muskets and the 
men began to fall very fast, and many wounded 
began going to the rear. A little in front of the 
works there was a hollow, and as the column went 
into this it seemed to pause and the rear lines 
closed up. The Rebel fire was very effective and 
it seemed to us from where we stood that our poor 
fellows would all get shot. The ground over which 
the}' had passed was covered with men. We could 
see them fall in all shapes. Some would fall for- 
ward as if they had caught their feet and tripped 
and fell. Others would throw up their arms and 

155 



fall backward. Others would stagger about a few 
paces before they dropped. To us the suspense 
was horrible. We could not understand the pause 
before reaching the works and we said to one 
another, 'What are they stopping for? Why don't 
they go on?' But the agony was soon over. Their 
colonel had halted to bring his men into line for 
the final rush, and as soon as they closed up and 
filled the gaps in the line, they gallantly moved 
forward, and again met the devastating fire of 
the sheltered Rebels which they could not over- 
come. They were forced back after getting up 
to the works and their right crossing it and cap- 
turing some of its defenders, who were North 
Carolinians. 

"Our men could not get up to their works in 
line of battle because the trees had been cut and 
so piled together that in places men could not 
get through. In some places gaps or lanes had 
been left in the slashings, and it was in these places 
that our men reached the works. After a deter- 
mined and desperate attempt to take them they lay 
down in front of them and General Upton took 
a portion of the command to the right where the 
works had been carried, and moving down to the 
left, drove the Rebels out of the works in front 
of which our men had been repulsed, and were 
lying in their front. Here, occupying the outside 
of the Rebel works that had been captured, an 
incessant fire was kept up, for the enemy seemed 
determined to retake the works and kept up a 
scorching fire until after midnight. They inflicted 
but little loss upon our command, and finally fell 
back upon a second line of works, and we at once 
turned and strengthened the captured works. In 
this charge the 2d Connecticut lost their colonel, 
Kellogg, killed, and 386 men killed, wounded and 
missing. Although a new regiment they sustained 

156 



themselves without support on either flank for 
many hours. After the enemy had given up their 
attempt to regain the works, the 96th Pennsylvania 
went into the front line, supported immediately in 
the rear by the 2d Connecticut. Then came our 
regiment, then the 5th Maine. (The dead were 
buried where they fell in shallow graves.) We 
skirmishers assembled, and returned to our regi- 
ment, as soon as the charge was over, and lay on 
our arms in line of battle during the night. The 
next day we relieved the 96th Pennsylvania whose 
commanding officer, Major Lessig, said that in the 
continuous fire they had fired 90,000 rounds of 
ammunition. 

"We continued the firing, the Rebel line being 
but a short distance in our front, and we could 
plainly see any movement on their side. We fixed 
head logs on the works and built sheltered out- 
looks with ammunition boxes filled with dirt, 
rigged decoys for the Rebels to fire at and would 
fire at their puffs of smoke. This firing was kept 
up day and night. At night someone in a tone of 
command would shout 'Forward, double quick, 
charge,' and a volley would run along the Rebel 
rifle pits in our front in answer. The men not in 
the trenches lay in line of battle in rear of the 
works. In the pines occasionally a man would be 
wounded by a ball striking in the top of a tree 
and glancing down. One of our men, Webster, of 
Company I was wounded in this way. He was 
lying on his back against a pine, reading his Bible, 
when a bullet struck him in the eye, destroying 
it and passing through the roof of his mouth into 
it, from which he spat it out. Another was struck 
on the brass plate of his cross belt and seriously 
hurt. A number of others received lesser injuries. 

On the third of June we formed for a charge. 
We were in the trenches when Generals Wright 

157 

12 



and Russell, and some staff and engineer officers 
passed along the line of works and attracted con- 
siderable attention from our men as well as from 
the Rebels who frequently sent lead messages to 
them as they exposed themselves. They spent con- 
siderable time in the trenches to the left of us talk- 
ing to General Upton. Shortly after they went 
away, word was passed along that the order to 
charge had been countermanded at this place. 
Generals Russell and Upton deeming the position 
too strong to be taken. This was very welcome 
news to us, because had we charged a majority 
of us must inevitably have been shot. Every inch 
of that ground in front of us was commanded by 
sharpshooters and our works being farther ad- 
vanced than those on either flank we would have 
received a partially enfilading fire. On the 4th 
of June we made an effort, and got all we could 
of the poor fellows, who had been lying wounded 
between the lines, since the previous day's battles. 
But many were left, it being impossible to get them 
on account of the fire of the sharpshooters. The 
poorly interred corpses of our men within our 
line, and the dead lying between the lines had now 
become decomposed and putrid, and made an 
awful stench. The water was very poor and a long 
way off, and many of the men complained of 
being sick. On the 7th of June under a flag of 
truce we gathered the wounded between the lines 
that were still alive and buried the putrid bodies 
of the dead that threatened a pestilence to the 
living. The wounded were in a horrible condi- 
tion. One officer of the 106th New York I think, 
had a wound in the thigh that was infested with 
maggots. All the wounded yet alive could have 
survived but a little time longer. They had ex- 
hausted their water supply, and sucked their moist 
clothing to get the rain and dew from it. They had 

156 



scooped out holes in the ground to shelter them- 
selves, and put moist clay in their mouths to pro- 
long life. Imagine, if you can, their horrible pre- 
dicament, lying on a bullet-swept field, without 
ability to crawl, their wounds infested with mag- 
gots, and existing five days or more before being 
succored, and you can get some idea of the hor- 
rors of war. I think it was the 8th of June that 
the enemy brought up some Coehorn mortars, 
and began business with them. The first shot 
landed in the 5th Maine regiment and killed and 
wounded several men. They continued this prac- 
tice while we remained in the entrenchments, and 
we were kept busy watching and dodging the flight 
of shells. Fortunately we escaped being hurt by 
them. 

"The term of service of the 5th Maine had now 
about expired, and they were ordered to the rear 
for muster out. They had served three years, and 
had performed gallant and distinguished service 
on many battlefields, and we regarded them with 
a strong feeling of affection and pride. There was 
no elaborate leave taking. We were glad that 
they were going, and yet sorry because we should 
miss their gallant and effective support and coop- 
eration, in the future as in the past. And we real- 
ized that we should never see them again. If the 
State of Maine holds for them the pride and affec- 
tion that their comrades of the 121st New York 
have, it is something of a gratifying nature to have 
brought from the war. They went away, and 
the 2d Connecticut Heavy Artillery were installed 
in their place, with us. On the 10th of June a 
young engineer officer, Lieut. R. S. McKenzie, took 
command of the 2d Connecticut. When I saw him 
I immediately recognized him as the officer who 
had led us to the position from which we charged 
on the 10th of May at Spottsylvania. Being a very 
brave and skillful officer he soon won the confidence 

159 



and respect of the regiment, which had now be- 
come reduced to the size of an ordinary infantry 
regiment, by losses in battle and by the hard cam- 
paigning to which they were now accustomed. 
After the first few days, during our stay at Cold 
Harbor, we received fresh beef, soft bread and 
vegetables, of which we were in great need. This 
was possible because our base of supply had been 
changed to White House Landing. 

"On the night of the 12th of June orders were 
given to draw out of the lines. The utmost caution 
was enjoined. The picket lines kept up a con- 
tinuous fire to drown the noise of the withdrawal. 
The artillery wheels were muffled to prevent the 
rumble of their wheels being heard. Thus silently 
we moved away from the lines which had cost 
so many lives of brave men on both sides, to assail 
and hold. Our losses had been much greater than 
those of the enemy, as they had the advantage of 
entrenchments. At daylight we were some dis- 
tance from the works, the brigade all together, 
except those left on the picket line and the 5th 
Maine on its way home, and at dark we were across 
the Chickahominjr, crossing on a pontoon bridge 
at Jones' Bridge. We had not been followed by 
any force of the enemy, and no firing of any ac- 
count was heard until afternoon, when the faint 
sound of cannon and musketry told that the John- 
nies were after our rear guard, which consisted of 
Wilson's cavalry and the Fifth Corps. We were 
all glad to get away from Cold Harbor." 

Several personal incidents may be of interest 
to the reader. The writer's brother was a member 
of the 106th New York Volunteers, and was on the 
skirmish line at the opening of the first assault. 
He was severely wounded, a bullet having shat- 
tered the bone of his right thigh. Word was 
brought me that he was in the Corps hospital and 
I went to see him, taking a roll of blankets for 

160 



his comfort, I saw him placed in one of the baggage 
wagons for the journey over long stretches of 
corduroy road to White House Landing. He told 
me afterwards that several men died on the trip. 
Returning to headquarters I passed behind the 
house in which the surgeons were caring for the 
wounded. It was built on a side hill, the ground 
dropping away a full story to the rear. Out of the 
two back windows the amputated members were 
being thrown and the two heaps had already 
reached to the windows, and were continually 
being added to. 

I had a few days before stood on the dead strewn 
field of the "Bloody Angle," and been deeply af- 
fected by the sight there presented, but nothing 
struck such a chill to my bones as did those 
two heaps of mangled arms and legs. In returning 
to the front, I reached the works a little to the left 
of brigade headquarters, and in walking along 
just behind the entrenchments, on a little rise 
where a battery was located, a Rebel sharpshooter 
in a tree made me a target and his bullet barely 
missed my head, and struck the enbankment be- 
tween two men who were digging a pit for ammu- 
nition. They turned and looked at me a little 
wildly, and I passed on out of range. Cold Harbor 
was the only battlefield on which I heard the shriek 
of a wounded man. To the right and front of 
brigade headquarters a man had fallen near the 
Confederate works, and when night came his fre- 
quent cry of anguish pierced the air with a weird, 
heart chilling effect. Gradually it died away, 
growing fainter and fainter until it was a relief to 
think that the poor fellow was dead and out of 
pain. In our army this was a strange thing. Usu- 
ally our men endured the greatest pain with 
stoicism, muttering perhaps, and groaning, and 
grinding their teeth. If an outcry was made it was 
usually in the voice of a foreigner. 

161 



CHAPTER XIV 
From Cold Harbor to Petersburg 

IT is generally conceded that General Grant's 
purpose in the movement from Cold Harbor 
was not anticipated by General Lee. All his other 
movements had been accurately divined so that 
he was able to get to the position most advan- 
tageous to him before the advance of the Union 
army had reached it in sufficient force to hold it. 
This movement to the James River seems to have 
left Lee in perplexity as to where the Army of the 
Potomac was, and where it was going. The part 
which the 121st took in it, is of interest to us. The 
regiment, reduced by deaths, wounds and sickness, 
now numbered about one hundred men of the 
healthiest and hardiest of its members. Rut in the 
marches that followed these were tested to the 
utmost. The way was through a low and swampy 
country, the weather was exceedingly hot, the 
water was poor, and the roads thick with dust. 
To the brigade was assigned the duty of protecting 
the artillery trains. This made us the rear guard 
of the corps and the march was made with flankers 
thrown out on both sides to guard against any 
possible attack from either flank. The march con- 
tinued steadily till the 15th when the James River 
was reached at Wilson's Wharf. The brigade 
formed a line guarding the position on the river 
until the 17th when it was transferred by boats 
to Rermuda Hundred. Reckwith says, "Here we 
saw the first colored troops. Some of us going out 
after something to eat, found the roads picketed 

162 



by colored cavalry men, who good naturedly took 
our chaffing." 

The brigade disembarked at Point of Rocks and 
marched thence to Bermuda Hundred. We found 
that our Third division had already preceded us 
and were massed ready for rapid movement. In- 
stantly a report was circulated that we were to 
assault in front of Butler's lines and take and hold 
the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. We 
found the line occupied by Butler, elaborately for- 
tified — covered ways and bombproofs for the pro- 
tection of the men, redoubts and forts covered with 
mantlets covering the embrasures, and rapid fire 
guns in battery, the first of the kind we had seen, 
as well as many brass and rifled cannon. The 
place looked formidable. The lines were manned 
by Ohio State Militia, enlisted for 100 days. They 
were heartily sick of the job, and told us that they 
had not enlisted for fighting at the front, but to 
guard points held by old troops, so that the old 
troops could be sent to the point of danger. They 
told us that they were ordered to sleep in the bomb- 
proofs. Of course our talk with them did not 
improve our feelings. Many of our men were 
prejudiced against Butler, and thought it unjust 
for us to do his fighting for him, and that it 
wouldn't hurt the Ohio Militia to get a little touch 
of war. After dark we were moved out in front 
and formed in column, our brigade being on the 
right. The Johnnies drove in Butler's pickets, and 
General Foster who commanded in our vicinity 
called for help, and Ricket's division was sent to 
his assistance, but the attempt to retake the posi- 
tion was postponed, it was reported, until we had 
formed. Then a rush was to be made to seize and 
hold the railroad. As we after dark moved out 
to form in rear of the skirmishers, the militia 
stood by the side of the road which we passed out 

163 



upon, and we envied them their good fortune. 
Hour after hour passed away after we had formed. 
We could hear the sound of axes and the falling 
of timber in our front, the passing of railroad 
trains, and all indicating the arrival of troops, 
and we knew that we had a tough job before us. 
Just before daylight orders to charge were coun- 
termanded; and we returned inside the fortifi- 
cations, pleased that we were not going blindly 
into the crash of battle, without knowing anything 
of our position. Afterward we learned that the 
Johnnies had evacuated their works in front of 
Bermuda Hundred, on the Bermuda Neck. When 
our men discovered that fact they advanced and 
took possession of them, and also went out and 
took possession of, and for some distance, tore 
up the R. and P. Railroad, and the advance line 
occupied the Rebel works. But in the evening 
Longstreet's men came up and promptly attacked 
the feeble force holding the works and drove it 
out, and instantly set to work to repair the mis- 
chief inflicted upon them. We should have oc- 
cupied their works immediately upon our arrival, 
and awaited their attack upon us in them. After 
they had recovered the position and retaken their 
works, to attack would have been to assail strong 
fortifications manned by veteran troops with the 
same result as before. The line of assault had 
been formed with General Terry's troops in ad- 
vance, our Second division supporting him and 
the Second brigade on the right to act as a flanking 
column. 

As we marched out in rear of the works a sutler 
had just come in from the landing with some 
supplies, and although we had little money we 
began purchasing his wares. None of the men in 
the camp were awake and about, and after several 
deals not satisfactory to him, the sutler said he 

164 



would not sell any more goods, they were for the 
men of the regiment of which he was sutler. This 
did not suit some of our people, and in a moment 
each man who could get into the shanty was acting 
as clerk for himself, and it took but a few moments 
to clean out the whole outfit. The sutler begged 
to be left a comb to comb his hair with, but I doubt 
if his petition was granted. I secured some hot 
pies and some canned goods. An effort was made 
by some officers to discover who had perpetrated 
this outrage, as it was called, but without any suc- 
cess. 

"We remained at Bermuda Hundred waiting an 
order to attack. It was reported on the 18th that 
General Wright and General Butler had quarreled, 
but it had no influence upon our movements. 

"On the morning of the 19th we crossed the river 
and marched to the Petersburg front, to the 
vicinity of the Petersburg and Norfolk Bailroad, 
which position we occupied, relieving some of 
General Martindale's division of the Eighteenth 
Corps. At daylight on the 20th firing began on 
our front, and a battery just to our right kept up 
a continuous fire. Shortly after sunrise a Rebel 
picket came into our lines. He had a number of 
canteens and seemed to be confused and lost, and 
was greatly surprised when he jumped over the 
works. 

"During the day of the 20th a Rebel mortar bat- 
tery opened upon us, and for a little while made it 
very lively for us. Where we were posted the 
railroad had been torn up, the ties used to face the 
inside of the breastworks with a tie standing on 
end against the facing and another placed brac- 
ing the upright tie to hold all in place. The 
third mortar shell fired, I discovered, was 
coming into the works and I shouted 'look out, 
it is coming right into the works.' There was a 

165 



scampering to get out of the way by the men who 
were crowded around Hank King and Ben Jones 
who were issuing a cooked ration. The shell 
dropped close beside a sergeant of Company 
F who lay with his back against the breastwork 
and his legs sprawled out, fast asleep, unconscious 
of the danger. I jumped behind the upright tie 
and crowded myself into as small a space as pos- 
sible, and glanced around. I saw the shell sizzing 
away, and the men about it and the sergeant asleep. 
It seemed as though it would never burst, as though 
it were spellbound. Finally it went off and the 
sergeant was badly hurt, being hit by many of 
the balls it contained. Ben Jones also received a 
wound in the seat of his pants, and it spoiled our 
rations which were upset by the rush to cover. 
The Rebs continued their mortar practice for some 
time longer, but did us no more mischief. Several 
men were hit by sharpshooters during the day, 
among them Captain Mather, a rifle ball passing 
through his head, inflicting a serious but not fatal 
wound. A large body of colored infantry passed 
by us going toward our right. They had been re- 
lieved by our troops. Some of them had been in 
battle the previous day and had lost considerably. 
As they passed by us, they kept up a running fire 
of talk. One old fellow had his pants torn and I 
asked him how it was done. 'Oh, dere's war I 
got picked wid a piece ob shell.' 

"On the night of the 21st we were relieved by 
some troops of the Eighteenth Corps, and marched 
to the left of the army, taking position on the left 
of the Second Corps, in the thick woods covering 
the country. Just at evening we advanced a con- 
siderable distance to the front of our entrench- 
ments, and finally began to get careless, thinking 
as we had gone so far, the Rebs had left our front. 
Coming to a large tree that had blown down, its 

166 



roots with a large mass of earth attached formed 
a shield, reaching considerably above our heads, 
the trunk lying from us and obstructing the road. 
Lume and I passed to the right, and Barr with the 
96th drummer to the left. I had scarcely got 
around when I saw a Reb on a horse with his 
carbine leveled at me. Instinctively I crouched 
and shrunk myself together as he fired and missed 
me. I was so rattled when I fired that I missed 
him as he galloped away, the drummer on the 
mule in pursuit. The Reb vidette, for such he was, 
had dropped his Mississippi carbine as he fled. 
We rushed forward and in a hundred yards more 
came to the edge of the timber, and before us was 
a field of grain in which were picketed some Rebel 
cavalry, upon whom we opened fire. The way 
they hustled and got onto their horses, and gal- 
loped away was lively. We had fired but a few 
rounds when Colonel Lessig and his adjutant rode 
up and forcibly ordered us to cease firing, and fall 
back. This we did without any loss, except it 
was claimed that a man named Gotten was left 
behind, or taken prisoner. We reached our lines 
without other loss, bringing the vidette's carbine 
with us. I shuddered afterwards when I remem- 
bered the scare that Johnnie gave me. He was 
probably nervous because we were on both sides 
of him, and that affected his aim. 

"Returning to camp we made ourselves as com- 
fortable as possible. We had a hard task to get 
water. We had to dig wells or trenches quite 
deep in the clay into which the water would per- 
colate very slowly, but by digging a good many 
holes we managed to get a sufficient supply, of a 
milky color. The weather was beastly hot. The 
2d Connecticut Heavy Artillery was camped on 
our right and its regimental headquarters were 
back in the pines. We had cut down a wide strip 

167 



of pines in the rear of our works, and our shelters 
were in this opening. A guard patrolled up and 
down in front of the camp of the 2d Connecticut. 
As I lay in my tent I heard a groaning and dis- 
covered that it came from one of their men who 
was tied up by his thumbs to a pine tree. The 
poor devil was in awful agony and just ready to 
collapse. I stood it as long as I could and then 
said to one of our fellows, 'I am going to cut him 
down.' He said, 'You had better not,' but I took 
out my knife and getting as close to him as I 
could without attracting attention, when the 
guard's back was to me I ran up and cutting his 
cords said, 'run for the woods,' but the man just 
sank down in his tracks, as I bounded away to my 
tent for shelter. That caper cost me the corporal's 
stripes I wore, and some extra picket duty. I some- 
times think one of the fellows told who did it, but 
was never certain. For a number of days we 
were idle, but on the 29th of June we moved out 
to Ream's Station to help out Wilson's cavalry, 
who had been out on a raid, and had been cut 
off by Hampton, Lee, and some of Pickett's troops. 
We did not meet the enemy, but some of Wilson's 
men came to our lines, and we learned from them, 
that he had been badly used up and many of his 
men and guns captured. 

"On the 30th we returned to our old camp on the 
Jerusalem plank road, from which we returned 
on the 2d of July to the position on the left of 
the 2d Corps. Our sutler, Sam Miller, came to us 
here and we rapidly filled up with the stock he 
brought, among which was some alleged Herkimer 
County butter and cheese, the former in tin cans 
was melted and the latter soon developed 
skippers." 



168 




Dr. JOHN E. ADAMS 

The universally honored and beloved chaplain of 
the 121st X. Y. Infantry, from Sept. 16, 1864, to the 
end of the war. 




Rev. 

J. R. SAGE, 

< bajilain, 

1862 to 

September It), 

1864. 



THEODORE 

STERNBERG, 

Quartermaster, 

from January 5, 

1864, to end 

of war. 




CHAPTER XV 

From Petersburg to Harper's Ferry 

THE Fourth of July was duly celebrated along 
the lines in front of Petersburg and Rich- 
mond by a shotted salute of all the cannon along 
our extended line. It must have been a day of 
seriousness to the Confederate authorities and 
people. The war was evidently going against 
them, and the old flag was floating over the camps 
that were constantly encroaching on their narrow- 
ing lines of defense; and on the vessels closing all 
the seaports of Rebeldom. To break the tightening 
grip of Grant upon the defenses of Richmond, 
General Early had been sent down the valley of 
the Shenandoah to make a raid into Maryland 
and towards Washington. To meet the raid Gen- 
eral Lew Wallace gathered all the troops he could, 
but they were not sufficient to stay the advance 
of Early. It was determined to send the 6th Corps 
to the defense of Washington. 

On the 6th of July the 3d Division of the Corps 
marched to City Point and boarded transports 
and steamed away. On the 8th of July the rest of 
the corps followed. The night was very dark, 
and the first part of the march was through the 
cut over ground from which wood had been pro- 
cured, and the walking was execrable until the 
road was reached. 

The method by which a barrel of onions was 
secured from the pile guarded by a colored sen- 
tinel, the rough and tumble row between men of 
the 121st and 96th Pennsylvania on the boat to the 

169 



different sides of which they were assigned, needs 
no more than a mention in the histoiy of the regi- 
ment; the living participants will no doubt recall 
both transactions vividly. Colonel Beckwith did 
not forget any feature of it in writing his remem- 
brances. The name of the transport was the 
Transylvania and the speed she made caused a 
refreshing breeze which the men on board enjoyed 
exceedingly. The next day Washington was 
reached and the men of the corps, rested and re- 
freshed by the trip, but very hungry, disembarked 
at the Sixth Street wharf, and were quickly formed 
in rank and hurried up Seventh Street. Beckwith 
writes, "As we passed along we were greeted with 
clapping of hands, waving of handkerchiefs, and 
many remarks such as 'Bully for you,' 'Hurrah 
for the 6th Corps,' and we soon learned that the 
enemy were attacking the line of defenses on the 
Seventh Street road out near Brightwood, known 
as Fort Stevens, and that our advance brigade, 
Bidwell's of the 2d Division was already at work. 
Every man was ordered to keep in the ranks, and 
as we passed along water and ginger beer were 
given to the men and hundreds of people anxiously 
cheered us. The negroes were very demonstrative 
and saluted us with many quaint remarks one of 
which was, 'God bress Massa Lincum for the Six 
Co.,' and another, 'Dey's done got to clear 
out for dem red cross sojers. Wee's all saved 
now.' " President Lincoln was riding to the front 
while the 6th Corps was marching up Seventh 
street and was soon joined by General Wright, and 
together they went on to Fort Stevens, on the ram- 
part of which the President stood surveying the 
scene until urged almost imperatively by General 
Wright to leave that exposed position. 

Colonel Beckwith gives the best account of what 
immediately followed that I have seen. "The day 

170 



was exceedingly hot and that made the marching 
in the thick dust very hard after we had left the 
pavements of the city. When the sound of 
musketry reached us just before reaching Bright- 
wood, we saw General Wright stopping by the 
road side with a gentleman whom we immediately 
recognized as President Lincoln. He answered 
our greeting and cheers by raising his hat. In- 
stantly afterward we heard the sing of a bullet 
and we knew that the President was under fire. 
Moving up to the fort and deploying to the left 
in rear of our line of works, we found them swarm- 
ing to suffocation, with all sorts of people, invalid 
reserves, convalescents, clerks, citizens, marines, 
any and everybody who could or would be able 
to fire a gun. Among them was Hank Johnson, a 
Company D man of our regiment. He ran over 
and saluted his friends in that company. As soon 
as we were deployed, before in fact, General Bid- 
well rushed forward with the 7th Maine, the 61st 
Pennsylvania, 43d, 45th, 77th and 122d New York 
regiments, and swept back the troops of Rodes' 
division of Ewell's corps, then under Early, 
and pushed them down across Rock Creek and 
beyond Montgomery Blair's residence at Silver 
Spring, losing quite heavily at the outset, but in- 
flicting a greater loss upon the enemy. Under the 
eyes of President Lincoln, Secretary Stanton and 
a vast multitude of soldiers and civilians stand- 
ing upon the works, where they had for many 
hours fearfully awaited the advance of Lee's 
choicest troops, the superb veterans of Bidwell 
rushed upon their old time foes and pushed them 
from our front, under a devouring fire of mus- 
ketry, but stimulated by the cheering of the spec- 
tators. We were proud of our comrades, and 
glad that the President had an opportunity to wit- 
ness something of the terrible reality of war. 

171 



BidwelPs success, and darkness coming on, ended 
the day's fighting, and we were not engaged. The 
next morning we went down the road and over 
the ground where the severest fighting had taken 
place, and saw many of our gallant fellows lying 
cold and stiff in death, as they had fallen. Their 
dead also lay scattered about thickly showing the 
determination of our advance and the courage of 
their resistance. The wounded had been gathered 
up, and taken to the hospital. Our loss amounted 
to nearly three hundred killed and wounded. The 
killed were buried in an enclosure to the right 
of the road in front of Fort Stevens, now a national 
cemetery, over which float the colors for which 
they gave their lives." 

General Gordon says that the objects of this 
movement under Early were two, first, to draw 
some of Grant's troops from in front of Lee, and 
second, the release of the Confederate prisoners 
confined at Point Lookout. The capture of Wash- 
ington was not contemplated, and Early was per- 
plexed as to what to do, when his troops reached 
the outworks of the city. He might have entered 
before the arrival of the 6th Corps, if he had 
desired to do so, for a portion of the works in 
his front was bare of defenders. But all the facts 
seem to point to a different conclusion. Gordon 
goes on to say that the first of these objects was 
attained, but it was found impossible to free the 
prisoners, and no attempt was made to reach them. 

In the affair at Fort Stevens only two divisions 
were engaged. The 3d Division, which started 
from City Point the day before the rest of the 
corps, was disembarked at Baltimore and ad- 
vanced from that city to Frederick City, where it 
joined the forces of General Lew Wallace, and 
took part in the battle of the Monocacy. In this 
battle the small force of General Wallace, by suc- 

172 



cessful maneuvering and stubborn fighting, delayed 
General Early an entire day, and thus gave the 
time necessary for the 6th Corps to arrive at Wash- 
ington, before the Confederates could enter. 

General Early afterwards said that when he saw 
the banners of the 6th Corps in the works at Fort 
Stevens, he gave up all hope of taking the city. 
One of his officers said, "Damn the 6th Corps, we 
find it everywhere." These were the men whom 
the corps had fought at the Wilderness battle at 
Spottsylvania, on the 10th and 12th of May, and a 
part of it at the Monocacy. Gordon's Georgians 
had had a conspicuous part in all those terrible 
battles, and they knew the metal of which the 6th 
Corps was made. 

The day following the battle of Fort Stevens, 
the corps advanced and found that the enemy had 
retreated. This was rendered necessary from the 
fact that General Wallace had restored the morale 
of his defeated army, and was threatening Early's 
rear and flank. The advance continued through 
Rockville and Seneca on the river road to the 
vicinity of Poolsville, the 1st Division having the 
lead. At Poolsville the enemy was found, but gave 
way before the attack of our cavalry. The corps 
encamped there for the night. The next day by a 
long and dusty march, the cavalry leading, Ed- 
wards Ferry was reached. On the 16th the river 
was crossed and the advance reached Leesburg, 
and passed beyond to Clark's Gap. Here the 3d 
Division under General Ricketts rejoined the corps. 
They showed the effect of their hard fight at Mon- 
ocacy. Of them Beckwith says, "They gave us an 
account of their fight there, and spoke of the con- 
fidence with which the Rebels charged them, until 
they found out what troops were in front of them. 
Prisoners said that the Rebel officers told their 
men, that the troops in front of them were onlv 

173 

13 



militia and did not know how to fight, and would 
run at the first charge, but as soon as we fired our 
first volley, they knew mighty well that, 'You uns 
wan't no militia,' and the first thing they asked 
when they saw the crosses we wore, was, 'Where 
did you uns come from? Is you everywhere?' 
They told us that they were outnumbered and 
outflanked, and the new troops did not hold their 
ground. They made as good a fight as possible 
under the circumstances, (a fact that General 
Gordon fully acknowledges). If we had been 
there, we could have whipped the Rebels, and now 
that we were together again we were anxious to 
get at them and show them that we could." 

Part of the 19th Corps under General Emory 
joined us at Clark's Gap and a cavalry engagement 
of some importance was fought in our front. We 
advanced again on the 17th along the Snickerville 
Pike through the gap and to Snickerville Ford on 
the Shenandoah River. Here the 19th Corps, un- 
der General Emory, joined the army. Twice the 
regiment crossed the river and advanced without 
serious opposition some distance into the valley. 

The result of these observations convinced Gen- 
eral Grant that Early had been called back to 
Petersburg, by General Lee, and he ordered the 
6th and 19th Corps to report as soon as possible 
at Petersburg. This left the 8th Corps under 
General Crook in the valley. 

While the two corps were resting and being pro- 
vided with new clothing at Georgetown, Crook at- 
tempted to advance up the valley from Harper's 
Ferry, and was met with a stubborn resistance by 
a superior force and driven back. It was soon 
evident that Early with an increased force was still 
in the valley and bent upon more mischief. The 
6th and 19th Corps were therefore ordered back 
through the villages of Maryland, north of the Po- 

174 



tomac to Frederick City. A short halt was made, 
near the Monocacy battlefield, but the march was 
resumed and continued all night until Harper's 
Ferry had been passed and camp was made at 
Halltown. 



175 



CHAPTER XVI 
With Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley 

SOME of the troops of General Hunter after his 
disastrous defeat by Early, had by a circuitous 
route arrived at Harper's Ferry, and with the two 
corps returned there, constituted considerable of 
an army. General Hunter resigned and General 
Sheridan was sent to command the department 
constituted as the Middle Military Division, and the 
army was designated as "The Army of the Shenan- 
doah." It was Sheridan's first independent com- 
mand, and he was cautioned against attempting 
any general engagement until his army had become 
unified in operation, and more developed in 
morale. He took command on the 7th of August. 
The army consisted of the 6th and 19th Corps, and 
the army of West Virginia under General Crook, 
Averill's cavalry and the cavalry divisions of Tor- 
bert and Wilson, sent from the army of the Po- 
tomac. In all about thirty thousand men. 

A glance at the map, will give some conception 
of the conditions under which the succeeding 
operations were carried on. From Harper's Ferry 
the Potomac River bends to the northwest until 
only a narrow strip of Maryland lies between it 
and the border of Pennsylvania. Then it bends 
slightly southwest to the western limit of the state. 
This conformation of the country gave to the Con- 
federate army south of the river an advantageous 
field of operations. Under cover of the river, 
movements could be freely made to threaten Mary- 
land and Pennsylvania, and Early was a master 

176 



of strategy. He had the example of Stonewall 
Jackson's previous successful campaign, and the 
troops with whom it had been made. His army 
consisted of three divisions of veteran troops, com- 
manded by Generals Breckenridge, Rodes and 
Gordon, and they were operating in a friendly 
country, on familiar grounds. The task before 
Sheridan was three fold, to prevent another raid 
into Maryland, to keep so close to Early's army 
that none of it could be dispatched to Lee, and 
to keep from a general engagement. These three 
facts are needed to explain the complicated and 
erratic movements of the period from the 7th of 
August to the 19th of September. The itinerary 
of the brigade is given in a report made by the 
Adjutant General of the brigade as follows: 
August 10: Marched at 6 A. M., camped at Clifton, 

fifteen miles. 
August 11 : Marched at 5 A. M. and camped six 

miles from Winchester, southeast. 
August 12: Marched at 7:30 A. M. in rear of trains, 

camped at Middletown. 
August 13: Crossed Cedar Creek at 7 A. M., halted 
eleven and one-half miles from Strasburg. 
Enemy found in position at Fisher's Hill. Re- 
crossed Cedar Creek at 10 A. M. and camped on 
old ground. 
August 16: Commenced inarch to Winchester at 

10 P. M. 
August 17: Continued march, passed through 
Winchester at 8 A. M. Camped on Opequon 
Creek at 4 :30 P. M. 
August 18: Marched at 6 A. M. via Berry ville and 

camped two miles from Charlestown. 
August 21: Enemy appeared at 8 A. M. Skir- 
mished all day. 
August 22: Retired at 2 A. M. toward Harper's 
Ferry. Camped on former ground. At 12 M. 

177 



moved to Crook's left and remained in reserve. 
August 28: Marched at 1 A. M. and camped eleven 
and one-half miles from Charlestown, in posi- 
tion held on the 21st inst. 
September 3 : Marched to a position near Clifton 

and remained until Sept 19. 
September 19: Broke camp at 3:30 A. M., crossed 
the Opequon Creek at 9 A. M. 
To fill in the incidents of this period of appar- 
ently erratic movement, resort must be made to 
Colonel Beckwith's narrative. He writes, "While 
at Halltown, Colonel Olcott and quite a number of 
men, who had been away wounded and sick, re- 
turned to the regiment and increased its strength 
and appearance materially. On the 16th we started 
back down the valley, marched all night and 
passed through Winchester at 8 o'clock in the 
morning and got some pies and eggs with jewelry 
advertisements which the inhabitants mistook for 
greenbacks. On the 21st the enemy drove in our 
pickets and we were sent out on the skirmish line 
and skirmished all day. On the way out, when 
some distance, as we supposed, from the line, 
Captain Van Shaick commanding our (4th) com- 
pany, and Bob Topping were wounded, the Cap- 
tain seriously, and Bob slightly. Both were greatly 
surprised however, as none of us heard the shots 
fired that struck them. Going out in regimental 
front, we were deployed on the run in heavy 
skirmish order in front of a wood and advanced 
some distance to the middle of a field from which 
the wheat had recently been cut. In front of us 
were some farm buildings, stacks and rail fences 
along which the Rebs were posted, and they kept 
up a rapid fire as we advanced. We were finally 
told to lie down and hold the position. General 
Upton rode along the line and said to us, 'I want 
you to show the army, that no Rebel line of battle 

178 



can drive this regiment from its position.* We 
held our ground all day long, firing all the time. 
Wilbur Champany of our company was instantly 
killed by a sharpshooter posted near the stacks 
before mentioned. We had warned him to be 
cautious, as they had placed several balls very 
close to us, one lodging in the blankets of one of 
the boys, and another in Hank Cole's gunstock. 
But Wilbur said, 'I'll have another shot at him 
any way,' and was in the act of aiming when a ball 
pierced his head. He was a fine, fearless soldier, 
and had not been back with us long, having just 
recovered from wounds in both legs, received at 
Salem Church. At dark we carried him back and 
buried him. At 2 o'clock in the morning we were 
assembled and marched back to our old camp. 
After we had gotten some sleep and a meal we 
marched out to our left and lay in reserve behind 
Crook's West Virginians, the remainder of the 
day." 

On the 16th of September, General Grant visited 
Sheridan and after listening to his plans and ap- 
proving them, gave him the laconic order, "Go in," 
and returned to Petersburg, confident that Sheri- 
dan would give a good account of himself and his 
army. Nor did he have long to wait. On the morn- 
ing of the 19th of September at daylight the army 
drew out of camp in front of Berryville and took 
the pike leading direct to Winchester. Wilson 
with his division of cavalry was leading, followed 
by the 6th Corps in double column flanking the 
pike which was occupied by the artillery and 
trains. The crossing of the Opequon and the suc- 
ceeding battle is described, so far as the 121st and 
the brigade took part in it, more accurately by 
Colonel Beckwith than by any other writer so far 
read. He says, "We were well armed, carried ex- 
tra ammunition, four days' rations in our haver- 

179 



sacks, and had had a good long rest. Wilson's 
division of cavalry had crossed the creek and 
pushed the enemy back, fighting continuously over 
two miles of rough ground. The 3d Division of 
our corps moved up, relieving the cavalry. The 
2d Division following formed on the left of the 3d. 
The 19th Corps (Emory's) was formed on the right 
of the 6th. Our division was moved to the 
left of the pike and massed in reserve, ready for 
instant movement to any point. All this under a 
heavy fire of musketry and artillery. These dis- 
positions occupied a long time and it was nearly 
noon before a general advance was ordered. The 
roar of cannon and musketry told that it had be- 
gun, and the battle was on. For a time, things 
seemed to be going our way, and the enemy had 
been driven back a considerable distance by both 
corps. But in advancing, a gap had been opened 
between the right of our corps and the 19th which 
Getty's division could not close. Seeing this weak 
spot and an opening in our line, the enemy massed 
some troops of Rodes' division and made a gallant 
and desperate charge upon the left of the 19th 
Corps. It was at this time that we were sent in, 
moving by left of regiment at quickstep across 
the pike and for some distance through a field into 
a wood. There we were ordered to lie down, Gen- 
eral Upton riding out some distance to hurry the 
broken troops behind our line. The 65th and 67th 
consolidated New York passed to our rear and 
right and formed. The 2d Connecticut formed to 
the right of the pike a little to the rear. We could 
see the enemy coming up in line of battle, and some 
of the men said it was our own troops, and others 
said, 'No, they are Rebs.' I remember Wilbur 
Phillips making several such statements before 
being convinced. To our right we could see our 
line advancing and the enemy in retreat both fir- 

180 



ing, the color sergeants waving their standards to 
encourage the men. But our attention was fixed 
in that direction but a moment, yet that was of 
great encouragement to us. We could see a great 
gap in our line to the right and knew that we were 
at the point of danger and that perhaps the fate of 
the battle rested with us. General Upton ordered 
us to fix bayonets and not to fire until he gave the 
command, and the word was passed along the line. 
At last the enemy reached to where there could 
not be any doubt of their identity, and General 
Upton gave the order, 'Ready, aim, fire,' and crash 
went that volley of lead, and down tumbled those 
brave fellows. 'Forward, charge,' rang out Upton's 
short, incisive command, and away we went. 
Reaching the point where their line had stood we 
saw many of them lying there, not all shot how- 
ever. Some of them had dropped down to escape 
death and became our prisoners. But those who 
could get away fled for their lives, not stopping 
on the order of their going. At once out rushed 
our companion regiments in fine order. The 2d 
Connecticut advancing and firing, was compelled 
to withstand a severe fire from the right as well as 
front, and suffered severely. We reformed and 
were immediately moved forward and placed on 
the left of the 37th Massachusetts to close up a gap. 
This splendid regiment, armed with Spencer re- 
peating rifles, had charged in on the charging 
Rebels in the nick of time, and had saved our 
(Stevens') battery near the road, while we had 
reached their front and poured in our volley. It 
was about this time that we lost another of our 
famous and gallant commanders, Gen. David A. 
Russell, commanding our division. He was killed 
by a shell while moving up with his old brigade on 
the charge His command devolved upon General 
Upton, who shortly after 5 o'clock was also dis- 

181 



abled by a severe shell wound, and compelled to 
leave the field. The command of the division fell 
upon Colonel Edwards of the 37th Massachusetts. 
Captain J. D. P. Douw was commanding the regi- 
ment. Some little time after we had formed on 
the left of the 37th Massachusetts, the 15th New 
Jersey formed on our left and some other troops 
formed in our rear. We continued firing some 
until about 4 o'clock, and the 37th, being in the 
open, kept up a continuous fire. We being 
screened by small trees and brush, could not see 
anything to fire at, but we kept a few men in ad- 
vance a little distance to keep any one from steal- 
ing upon us. About 4 o'clock we advanced about 
a third of a mile to some heavy timber, where the 
enemy opened a heavy fire upon us. But we 
charged them on the run, and they did not stop 
running away from us till they got to the village 
of Winchester, and we advanced to the railroad. 
After leaving the last piece of woods they kept us 
dodging their cannon shots, from two batteries 
playing upon us as we advanced. It was a splendid 
sight to see our troops coming up on the right — 
Crook's and Emory's, I think they were, and the 
cavalry on the left closing in on them and charging 
over the open field, with their batteries on the hill 
back of the town, glistening in the rays of the sun, 
blazing away at our charging columns. To the 
fact of our drawing four days' rations and my 
haversack's being full I owe my life. On that day 
just as we reached the road, a shell burst in front 
of us (I was on the color guard), I just felt a shock 
and tumbled forward. A piece of shell had struck 
my haversack, passed through it and my rations 
of pork, hardtack, sugar, coffee and tin plate. 
Then it struck my folded knife, fork and spoon 
in my pocket and glanced off. In running up the 
haversack had swung around in front of me and 

182 



so received the piece of iron. I rolled over on my 
back surprised. Several of our fellows stooped 
over me and asked how badly I was hurt and if 
they should help me back. I said I would see, 
and very, very carefully felt for a wound, but to 
my great delight could not find one, and so told 
them, and that they could go on, I could get along 
all right. Except a numbness and a bad bruise, I 
was unhurt and soon got over it. I was somewhat 
lame, but managed to keep on the march, getting 
to our camp by the roadside shortly after the regi- 
ment. Our total losses of the day were two men 
killed, and one officer and 12 men severely 
wounded, several having slight wounds not being 
reported. As I remember, Charles Carmody was 
the only seriously wounded man from our com- 
pany." 

There is no doubt that the crisis of this battle 
was the check given to the charge of Rodes' divi- 
sion of the Confederate army, upon the left of the 
19th Corps. If Rodes had succeeded in driving 
through to the head of the ravine from which 
the road debouches, the army of Sheridan would 
have been cut in two, and the result would have 
been disastrous at that stage of the battle. Gen- 
eral Upton's quick perception of the danger and 
his prompt disposition of the brigade and es- 
pecially of the 121st New York not only checked 
the advance of the charging column, but also threw 
them into such confusion that they did not recover 
from it during the rest of the conflict. Due credit 
was given to General Upton, and the 121st New 
York in the official report of the battle. Rut Loss- 
ing, in his Pictorial History of the Civil War, gives 
the credit to General Emory instead of Upton and 
to 131st New York instead of to the 121st New York. 
The death of General Rodes at this crisis of the bat- 
tle was a severe blow to the Confederates, as was 

1«3 



that of Russell to us. Captain Weaver in giving 
an account of this special affair at the crisis of 
the battle says that Captain Cronkite rushed out 
alone and captured a Rebel flag. Neither Reck- 
with nor Colonel Cronkite mentions this in their 
accounts of the affair. Of the result of the battle 
Colonel Reckwith says, "We were all greatly en- 
couraged by the splendid victory we had won. We 
knew the men we had been fighting and we con- 
sidered them as good as any, if not the best, in 
Lee's army, but they were no match for us on open 
ground. It was voted a luxury to be permitted to 
fight on a fair field instead of in the jungle we had 
been in, from the Rapidan to the James, and it did 
us great good. We knew that the Louisianians of 
Rappahannock Station were there, the Alabamians 
of Salem Church, the Virginians and Georgians of 
the Wilderness, and Dole's and Rattle's men of 
Spottsylvania, and we did not fear them with a 
fair chance. Rut we were deeply depressed by the 
loss of Generals Russell and Upton. While it was 
reported that Upton's wound would not perma- 
nently disable him, we feared it would." 

Of all the battles in which the brigade had been 
engaged since the writer was detailed to duty at 
brigade headquarters, this was the first in which 
he had not been under fire. In crossing the field 
later in the afternoon he came to a point where the 
two lines of battle must have stood for some time, 
steadily firing at each other. Retween two thickets, 
probably twenty rods apart there was a row of 
blue clad dead lying close together, and fairly 
touching each other; and only a few yards in front 
of them a similar windrow of gray clad dead, lying 
as closely and straightly aligned as were their 
opponents of a few hours before. The wounded 
had all been removed. 

This battle cost the enemy, besides their dead 

184 



and wounded, 2500 prisoners, 15 battle flags and 5 
cannon. 

Sheridan's report of this engagement written in 
Winchester was, "We have just sent the enemy 
whirling through Winchester and are after them 
tomorrow. We captured 2500 prisoners, 5 pieces 
of artillery, 9 battle flags and all the Rebel dead 
and wounded. Their wounded in Winchester 
amount to some three thousand." 

According to promise the pursuit was taken up 
the next day, and on the 22nd of September Early 
was found twenty miles south of Winchester in a 
very strong position on Fisher's Hill. Sheridan 
immediately disposed his army to assail the enemy. 
He placed the 6th and 19th Corps in front of the 
Rebel works and sent the 8th Corps by a concealed 
and circuitous route to concentrate on the left 
flank of the Rebel works. When this was accom- 
plished, late in the afternoon the command was 
given to charge, and while the main force of the 
enemy was engaged in resisting the attack in front 
the 8th Corps broke over the works on their left 
flank, and another route, more disastrous than that 
at Winchester, resulted. The writer had found a 
good position from which to view as much of the 
scene of battle as possible, and with a companion 
was watching eagerly the battle, when a Rebel 
battery, evidently thinking him and his companion 
persons of distinction and authority, sent three 
shells in quick succession at us, but without se- 
rious effects. The fragments fell uncomfortably 
near us however and we moved down out of sight 
towards the front. 

Of this fight Colonel Beckwith gives the part 
taken by the 121st New York. "About 2 o'clock 
of the 22d we moved farther to the left, and then 
forward through some woods down a hill. Com- 
ing out of the woods we came to the railroad, and 

185 



could see across a ravine, the Rebel works. The 
gulf was spanned by a trestle work and a number 
of us started to cross it, but we had gone only a 
few steps when we discovered a gap burned in 
it, and we had to go back and go down the bank, 
cross the stream (Tumbling Run), and climb up 
the steep bank on the other side through the brush 
and briars. We used them to pull ourselves up 
by, but going up we were protected by the extreme 
steepness of the hill, from the Rebel fire. When 
we reached the top they were on the run, having 
left their breastworks, thanks to Crook's operation 
on the left. I do not think we could have carried 
their works in our front by assault. The ground 
was so rough that we could not have reached them 
in any sort of order, or in sufficient numbers at 
the same time, to have driven them out. Besides 
they had fine breastworks to protect them. That 
they expected to give us a very warm reception, 
was evidenced by the fact that they had arranged 
cartridges along their breastworks for rapid use. 
They did not take time to gather them up. They 
also left several cannon behind. We captured 
several prisoners and had only two men hurt in the 
whole affair. As soon as we got over their works, 
we formed and moved forward in pursuit. About 
this time Generals Sheridan, Wright and others 
with their staff officers rode onto the field near us 
and engaged in some congratulatory talk. We all 
believed that Early's army was completely broken 
up and pushed on after them with eager steps." 

General Gordon says of this battle that the posi- 
tion at Fisher's Hill was considered impregnable, 
and the battle was lost by the fault of an "unpro- 
tected flank." That term covers a large number 
of strategic disasters. At Chancellorville it was 
the cause of Hooker's disaster. In the Wilderness 
it made the 6th of May a sad date for the 6th Corps. 
In many other engagements it wrought evil to the 

186 



Union forces, and now in the valley it had twice 
brought disaster to the army of the Confederacy. 
And it was destined to nearly wreck the brilliant 
career of the army of the Shenandoah within 
another month after this battle of Fisher's Hill, lost 
and won because of an exposed flank. In other 
words the strategy that discovers and takes ad- 
vantage of the exposed flank of the opposing army 
is apt to be the successful strategy. 

To take up again the itinerary of the army of 
the Shenandoah from Fisher's Hill to Cedar Creek. 
September 22: Pursued the enemy all night. 
September 23 : Halted near Woodstock to issue ra- 
tions at 8 A. M. Marched again at 12 M. and 
camped at Cedar Creek. 
September 24: Marched at 6 A. M. Found the 
enemy in position at Mt. Jackson. Formed line 
preparatory to an advance, when the enemy 
withdrew. The brigade held the advance, con- 
stantly skirmishing with the enemy, till 6 P. M., 
when it camped for the night six miles beyond 
Newmarket. 
September 26: Marched without interruption to 
Harrisonburg, and camped on the hills east of 
the town. 
September 29: Marched to Mt. Crawford. 
September 30: Returned to camp near Harrison- 
burg. 
October 5: Marched to Mt. Jackson. Camped at 

6 P. M. 
October 7: Marched to Strasburg, camped on 
Shenandoah River at 1 P. M., and remained in 
camp till Oct. 11. 
October 11 : Marched to near Front Royal, camped 

at 4 P. M. 
October 13: Moved to Millwood, camped at 4. P. M. 
October 14: Marched at 2 A. M., reached our pres- 
ent camp near Middletown at 4 P. M. 
In this advance up the Shenandoah Valley and 

187 



return, frequent skirmishes with the enemy oc- 
curred. The country was beautiful and fertile, and 
the men lived high on what they were able to 
obtain in one way or another, but sometimes with 
not very pleasant results. Beckwith relates an 
experience he had which will stand for the manner 
in which like conduct was treated by some of the 
officers, not all of them: "On the 29th we were 
ordered into camp, and the officers had their tents 
put up. I thought I would take a stroll into the 
country and see if I could not gather some more 
of the luxuries with which it abounded, when we 
first got to a new field. So with Goodman who was 
a first rate forager, I went out to a little place called 
Bridgewater and secured a fine supply. We were 
not gone over two or three hours, but when we got 
in sight of the camping place I saw that the troops 
had moved. Going to where the regiment had 
camped we found our traps, and getting them on 
we started to catch the regiment, loaded down with 
our commissary supplies. We got to Harrison- 
burg and found the regiment in camp at its 
former location. We were pretty well tired out, 
but managed to get a hearty meal and a good 
night's sleep. The next morning at roll call the 
sergeant, Duroe, ordered me to report to Captain 
Douw, where I found several others. After read- 
ing us a sermon on the enormity of leaving camp 
without orders and enquiring about where I had 
gone and what I got, he said he must punish me 
severely as an example to other men and to pre- 
vent foraging. So my corporals cheverons were 
again taken from me, and I was compelled to do a 
lot of police work, which was clearing up the litter 
made by other men. It was pretty tough, but I 
stood it without a murmur. I made up my mind 
that when the opportunity came I would get even, 
but I never did, for in a short time I was promoted 
to corporal again." 

186 



CHAPTER XVII 

With Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley 

(Continued) 

Cedar Creek 

THE Army of the Shenandoah settled down in 
its fortified camp behind Cedar Creek with 
perfect confidence that it was secure from any suc- 
cessful attack by the forces under General Early. 
But that doughty warrior thought otherwise and 
planned to make one more attempt to win back 
his laurels as a fighter and strategist. His first 
plan was to make a surprise attack upon the right 
flank of the Union army. But General Gordon per- 
suaded him to make the attack on the left. 

Gordon led his men by a narrow path along the 
front of the mountain Front Royal, very quietly 
single file, in darkness and fog, and at dawn of 
day was ready to assail the unprotected flank, 
while yet the defenders were fast asleep. Of the 
confusion that followed and the utter rout of the 
8th and 19th Corps, many persons have written 
and our narrative involves only the story of the 
part, a portion of the 6th Corps took in the affair. 
It is enough to say of the entire corps, that it was 
not at any time disorganized, that it fell back to 
a more favorable position in good order, that 
General Wright had succeeded in rallying a large 
portion of the 19th Corps and considerable of the 
8th, and that there had been no serious fighting 
for two hours, when General Sheridan came up. 
No doubt his presence and words were cheering 

189 

14 



and inspiring to the entire army. A tried and 
trusted leader is always a source of courage and 
determination to an army, even in a time of ex- 
treme hazard. But the reputation and work of 
General Wright, commanding the army in the ab- 
sence of General Sheridan, have not received the 
credit that was really due him. 

Comrade Beckwith writes very interestingly of 
the condition of affairs in the camp on the night 
of the 18th. His description of the feeling of 
security and gaiety that prevailed among officers 
and men, reminds one of Lord Byron's descrip- 
tion of the care free gaiety in Belgium's Capital the 
night before the battle of Waterloo. 

He says, "In the interval between the 14th and 
the 19th we lay in camp at Cedar Creek. I went 
out one day with the teams for forage, and in ad- 
dition got some honey, apple butter, butter, apples, 
and mutton, also visited a cave in the vicinity and 
explored it with several others. 

"On the 17th we were paid, as I remember, and 
on that day, all who were voters had the privilege 
of sealing up their votes and sending them home. 
Each party had a representative in camp. I don't 
know how the vote stood in our regiment as I never 
heard it announced, except that it was said that 
President Lincoln had a majority. We also drew 
clothing and shoes, and the sutlers came up and 
opened a tempting display of their goods, which 
were eagerly sought after. Supplies and mails 
from home, and the exhilaration of our late vic- 
tories made life as pleasant, if not more so, than 
we had known it while in the service. The weather 
was delightful, the days bright, warm and pleasant, 
the nights cool, making a blanket comfortable. I 
remember I was corporal of the guard that day 
with but light duty, three guards in a relief, one 
at Colonel Olcott's headquarters, one at the com- 

190 



missary and one at the sutler's. One of the men 
in my relief had just come back to the regiment, 
and he entertained me with his experiences while 
away. When my relief was off, instead of going 
to sleep I played penny ante with Rowle Booth- 
royd, Judson Chaplin, Baldwin and some others 
until nearly time to go on my relief. There was a 
party also at the headquarters of the 65th New 
York or the 2d Connecticut, and our colonel was 
over there and they were having a jolly time. It 
was a bright moonlight night. Off toward the 
creek a streak of fog was rising, which in the dis- 
tance looked like a long, narrow streak of snow 
against the side of the mountain. Our camp was 
located to the right and rear of the army, between 
Meadow and Middlemarsh brooks, two small 
tributaries to Cedar Creek, which is quite a good 
sized creek, and is tributary to the north fork of 
the Shenandoah, emptying into the river a little 
over a mile from the left of the entrenchments, in 
front. 

"The entrenchments extended from this point to 
the right and to the Middletown and Strasburg 
turnpike. From this pike extending to Meadow 
Brook was entrenched the 19th Corps. A division 
of the 8th Corps occupied the entrenchments on 
the left flank of the army, commanded by General 
Thorburn. In rear of this division camped on the 
pike was R. B. Haves' division of the 8th Corps. 
Pickets and videttes covered the flanks and front 
along the North Fork and Cedar Creek. General 
Gordon says that the cavalry videttes were sta- 
tioned in the river itself and could be heard splash- 
ing through the water while traversing their beat. 
But the dense fog obscured their vision. 

"At 5 o'clock on the morning of the 19th I was 
called to stand my trick. The entertainment of the 
night before, had robbed me of some needed sleep, 

191 



and I was reluctant and slow about turning out. 
Finally I got out, rubbed my eyes and shook my- 
self, looking round to get my bearings. Everything 
was quiet, except the snoring of the men in the 
tents. I walked to the fire and crouched around 
it to get warm letting the corporal I was to relieve, 
growl for my not hurrying up. The rest of the 
relief by this time were up and ready, so we 
marched around and posted them and the relieved 
guard turned in. I asked where the officer of the 
day, and the officer of the guard were, and think 
that I was told that they were at the headquarters 
of the colonel of the 65th New York. I filled and 
lit my pipe and sat down by the fire, thinking I 
would take a walk over there as soon as I got warm 
and see what was going on. I had been smoking 
a few minutes by the fire and was getting sleepy. 
'This won't do,' I thought, and got up and 
stretched myself and took a look about. Looking 
towards the Belle Grove House, General Wright's 
headquarters and extending my gaze to the right 
over the line of camps, I noticed they were hid 
in a bank of fog, and that the moon had gone down 
or was obscured. The time could not have been 
over half past five, and all was as peaceful and 
quiet as though no sign of war would ever be seen 
in that peaceful valley again. Sheridan's army lay 
in quiet upon the beautiful fields, oblivious of the 
fact that a Rebel host in battle array was close 
upon it, and in an hour one of the most remark- 
able battles in the annals of war would be in pro- 
gress. 

"As I turned to the fire again, I heard a few shots 
down to the left. Then a few shots followed by a 
volley, then a volley to the right. Instantly I 
thought that some of Moseby's bushwackers, as 
we called them, had attacked our cavalry outposts. 
Immediately another volley was fired. I im- 

192 



mediately ran to the tents, and kicking the feet of 
the sleepers, yelled, 'Get up. There is an attack 
on the line.' On the left two or three came run- 
ning up, and I sung out, 'Wake up the drummers. 
Call the Colonel and the Officer of the Day.' In a 
moment the men came swarming around. In the 
mean time more musketry was heard, and the 
noise of the awakening camps grew on the ear, and 
the long roll of the drums broke out in the different 
regiments. The men rapidly got on their accoutre- 
ments, the officers came up, and before the long 
roll had ceased we were mostly in line, with our 
arms, ammunition, blanket-rolls, haversacks and 
canteens slung, waiting for orders. The roar of 
the battle increased, growing nearer rapidly. We 
moved a short distance in the direction of the 
sound, then filed abruptly toward the left and to- 
ward the Middletown pike, the left of the regi- 
ment in advance. For some distance the fog was 
so dense nothing could be seen, but enough could 
be heard to warn us that some dreadful calamity 
had befallen the army. Finally we were halted, 
faced to the front and advanced a short distance. 
The 2d Connecticut was on our left towards the 
pike, the 65th and 67th New York (consolidated) 
on our right and the 95th and 96th Pennsylvania 
(now consolidated) on the right of the brigade. 

"By this time the first gray of dawn began to 
show, and up from the fog in our front came men 
moving rapidly toward us, the continued noise and 
tumult of conflict growing nearer all the time. The 
first men to reach us were partially clothed and 
without arms, and pausing an instant under orders 
of our officers to halt and rally, they told us that 
they had been fired upon in bed, and had run 
away to prevent being taken prisoners, not having 
time to dress or get their arms. Following these 
came a disorderly mass of men, officers and 

193 



privates, as helpless and panic-stricken a crowd 
as ever was seen. They evidently had been aroused 
from sleep, and grabbing whatever they could put 
their hands on, had rushed away from the foe 
they had not seen, and kept on running until they 
struck our line. Our officers made strenuous ef- 
forts to check and compose them, but with no 
success. Colonel Higinbotham of the 65th New 
York begged and pleaded with them to shake off 
their fear and be men, but without avail. They 
were simply insane with fear, and so cursing them, 
we permitted them to continue their flight. And 
it was well that this was done, because they would 
have been of no use with us. They belonged to 
many commands and were only partially armed 
and clothed and there was nothing to organize. It 
was pitiful to see men who had behaved gallantly 
on other battlefields and performed heroic service, 
so lost to all sense of reason. But I suppose that 
almost any body of troops under like circum- 
stances, fired into as they were, while lying asleep 
in their beds, would have been panic-stricken and 
stampeded. 

"Finally our officers, seeing that there was no use 
in attempting to rally them, rode out in front into 
the fog and hurried them back behind the lines, 
so that they would not impede our action in check- 
ing the advance of the Rebels. We could hear the 
artillery and wagon trains along the road and near 
headquarters, rushing away in disordered haste 
to our left to reach the Winchester pike and get 
to the rear. The whistle of bullets began to be- 
come distinct in our vicinity. We were close to 
the road that runs from the pike to Hortle's Ford 
on Cedar Creek. There were no troops to the left 
of our brigade toward Middletown. It was re- 
ported afterwards that a brigade of the 19th Corps 
had been posted on our left when we first formed. 

194 



If there was we never saw them. At this time it 
was possible to distinguish a man fifty paces off. 
We had been in this position a short time and the 
men from the surprised camp had about all passed. 
A few brave fellows coming back kept firing as 
they retreated. We moved towards the rear a 
short distance, our regiment being posted along 
the top of a little ridge, with the other regiments 
in the road. Battery C (Lamb's) 1st Rhode Island 
was posted along the ridge with us. As the enemy 
came up we opened fire, and the onward career of 
Gordon's division was checked. His division con- 
sisted of Evans' (Georgians), of Terry's (Vir- 
ginians), of Hays and Safford's (Louisianians) 
whom we had met at Rappahannock Station. The 
tide of battle was stayed for a time, but they 
poured a withering fire upon our little brigade, and 
Lamb's gunners and our men were falling fast. 
We maintained our position for nearly half an 
hour, until the fog lifted and revealed our posi- 
tion to be perilous in the extreme. To our left the 
enemy had advanced past our rear, and on the 
right our line sagged away back to our old camp. 
As the fog lifted the enemy in our front saw the 
exposed position we occupied, and the fewness of 
its defenders, and charged for the guns of Lamb's 
battery. But our well-directed fire drove them 
back, and we, receiving orders to retire, withdrew 
in good order and brought the guns with us, haul- 
ing one by hand. 

"Here we lost heavily, Captains Douw and Bur- 
rell being desperately and fatally wounded and 
Lieutenant Johnston severely. W. H. H. Goodier 
was shot by my side. We made an effort to get 
our wounded back but the enemy was so close 
upon us that we were obliged to abandon the ef- 
fort and they fell into the hands of the enemy. 
However, Wilber M. Phillips of Company D, who 

195 



here lost a leg, was saved by comrades from fall- 
ing into the hands of the enemy. Falling back 
across the open ground we made a stand in a belt 
of timber about 800 yards distant and kept up a 
fire on the enemy to our left who were nearest us. 
Those in our front did not press us, evidently re- 
luctant to face any more of the music we had been 
giving them. To our right the enemy were push- 
ing our men back, and to our left, even after fall- 
ing back, we seemed to be as far advanced as any 
portion of our line, and we had a splendid view 
each way. We had no confusion in our ranks nor 
sign of demoralization. The stampede of the other 
troops and the spectacle they presented, I think, 
stimulated every one of us to do his share, and 
their's too if possible. Our officers had exhibited 
great heroism and daring, offering too fair a mark 
for the enemies' rifles, and many of them in the 
brigade had been shot down. After remaining a 
little while in the woods firing upon a battery 
which the enemy placed near the place vacated 
by Lamb's Rhode Island battery, an officer rode 
up and ordered us back, and we formed again in a 
field to the rear and right of the timber we had 
vacated, without the enemy's coming up to rifle 
range, although they still continued their artillery 
fire. We remained in this position for some time, 
and Colonel McKenzie of the 2d Connecticut took 
command of the brigade in place of General Ham- 
blin who had been wounded. Colonel McKenzie 
then deployed our regiment in heavy skirmish or- 
der, and we moved back again slowly for a long 
distance. The enemy did not follow us closely, 
and we advanced again about the same distance 
and formed line of battle in a piece of woods. Our 
brigade and the New Jersey brigade were formed 
in two lines with the 65th New York, the 95th 
Pennsylvania and the 2d Connecticut in the first 

196 



line, and our regiment and the Jersey brigade in 
the second line. Here we remained until about 
3 o'clock when we were ordered to advance. At 
this time General Sheridan rode upon the field and 
along the line from our left. There were a number 
of officers with him, among whom I saw Colonel 
McKenzie and Colonel Olcott. He rode rapidly 
along, making some remarks I did not hear, but 
we cheered him enthusiastically. A few moments 
after he had passed the order to advance was given 
and forward we moved. As the first line reached 
the edge of the woods they received a heavy volley 
and halted. Colonel McKenzie rode out in front 
and cheered them forward and they moved forward 
again some distance and again were checked. We 
were then ordered up and reaching our front line, 
charged forward and drove the enemy from the 
hill in front, and occupied it. Colonel McKenzie 
being wounded, Colonel Olcott took command and 
we held the crest for some time and kept up a 
continuous fire upon the Rebels who were posted 
behind some stone walls running nearly parallel 
to our line, about two hundred and fifty yards in 
front. The enemy opened some guns upon us from 
a high hill behind their line of battle, making our 
position very uncomfortable. Here James Jenks, 
our color sergeant, received his death wound. He 
was kneeling with the color staff in front of him 
when a shell burst and a fragment tore away the 
lower part of his face and lacerated both hands. 
Eli Oaks said, 'Carry him back, he is a dead man,' 
but the gallant fellow raised himself up and at- 
tempted to unbuckle his body belt, but we did it 
for him. Doctor Slocum said he had the greatest 
nerve of any man he ever saw, and if he had been 
in a hospital where he could have had extra good 
care, he believed he would have recovered. But 
he was so terribly wounded that he died several 

197 



days later. The noble fellow had lived through 
all the battles of the regiment and had borne the 
colors to the front on every field, ever since he had 
taken them from the hand of Sergeant Bain at 
Salem Church. No better soldier ever lived. The 
enemy along the stone wall kept up a severe fire, 
and a good many were hit here, and John Rowland 
of Company D was instantly killed by a solid can- 
non ball. One of those hit was Swartout, of Com- 
pany F, through the shoulder. He used to be our 
fortune teller. His predictions were all good 
whether they came true or not. After remaining, 
it seemed to me an age, we were ordered to charge 
and drive the enemy from his position. It looked 
like death to us all, but the moment we jumped up 
and advanced over the crest, the devils behind the 
wall broke and ran as fast as they could, and it 
was a race without any order, after them all the 
way to Cedar Creek. But before we reached it, 
the cavalry came in on the left. I stood on the 
bank and fired at the last of them, as the cavalry 
swarmed down upon them, and continued the pur- 
suit on horseback which we had begun on foot. 
They kept up the pursuit until they had driven 
the fugitives that escaped behind the fortifications 
of Fisher's Hill. All the captures of the morning 
except the prisoners were retaken and as many 
more of men and cannon. In the last charge Lieu- 
tenant Tucker was killed and Major Galpin and 
Lieutenant Howland were wounded. Our losses 
for one day had been one officer killed, two mor- 
tally wounded (Captains Douw and Burrell) and 
two wounded, nine men killed and thirty-eight 
wounded, seven mortally, out of a total of eight 
officers and two hundred and twenty-one men 
present for duty in the morning, nearly one-fourth 
of the entire command. The other regiments of 
the brigade had suffered equally. So in a blaze 

198 



of glory had ended the battle of Cedar Creek. The 
appaling disaster of the morning had been re- 
trieved and a brilliant victory won from the tried 
veterans of General Early. His beaten and dis- 
organized army, in apparently irretrievable dis- 
order was pursued by our relentless cavalry far 
up the valley, toward their mountain fastness and 
hiding places. 

"Coining back from Cedar Creek after the cav- 
alry had taken up the pursuit, we went over the 
ground the Rebels had taken, and it was an awful 
sight. They had stripped our dead and wounded, 
and many of their wounded still lay where they 
had fallen, although the ambulance corps men 
were gathering them up as fast as possible. Going 
to where we had the first fight in the morning, I 
saw several of our regiment dead and nearly 
naked. I remember Cady of Company A because 
he had a peaceful look on his face and appeared 
as natural as life. Captain Douw had an awful 
experience. He had on a pair of fine high top 
boots, and they had pulled off the one on his 
sound leg and attempted to do the same from his 
wounded leg, but could not because it had swollen 
so, and it caused him terrible pain. Finally a Rebel 
officer came along and made them desist, and 
covered the wounded leg with some straw. Roth 
Captains Douw and Rurrell were gallant soldiers 
and great favorites with the men, Captain Rurrell 
especially so. We buried our dead with simple 
ceremonies and visited our wounded at the division 
hospital on the 20th. We slept in our old camp 
the night of the 19th. It had been fought through 
and was a wreck, several dead men lying in it 
when we returned. 

"Much has been said and written about the bat- 
tle of Cedar Creek, but none of the Union writers 
have given to General Horatio G. Wright, our 

199 



corps commander, and the commander of the army 
during that trying and terrible day, the praise 
and credit due to his superb courage and skill 
which saved the army from utter defeat." 

(General Gordon, however, gives to General 
Wright the credit of having restored the morale of 
the demoralized corps and bringing the army of 
the Shenandoah into readiness to renew the battle 
before the arrival of General Sheridan.) 

"Buchanan Read's poetical description of Sheri- 
dan's ride from Winchester to the army on that 
day seems to have hidden the deeds of our grand 
corps commander, and deprived him of his just 
mede of praise. His own corps knew what he did 
and what they did, and gave him his just reward, 
by their admiration for the heroic part he per- 
formed at the battle of Cedar Creek on October 
19, 1864." 

After returning to the former location and again 
pitching his tent and setting up the desk of the 
A. A. General, the writer noticed a body lying un- 
buried a little way off and went to see why it had 
been left unburied. A bullet had torn the scalp 
from the top of the man's head and from the 
wound his brains were oozing out, but he was 
lying absolutely still and breathing as regularly 
and quietly as an infant. Another visit in the 
morning and again in the afternoon disclosed no 
change in his condition except a weaker action of 
his lungs; but the next morning he was dead, and 
they buried his body. 

General Gordon in describing the battle of Cedar 
Creek, says that when he arrived with his division 
in front of the 6th Corps he made preparation to 
attack it, but was restrained by General Early who 
assured him that the corps would soon retreat, and 
that he answered, "General, that is the 6th Corps, 
and it will not leave the field without a fight." But 

200 



Early was certain of a complete victory already 
won, and did not want to lose any more of his 
men in what he considered unnecessary fighting. 
He exulted in the conviction that he had avenged 
his defeat of a month before at Winchester. 

The cavalry pursued the retreating Rebels, fol- 
lowed and supported by the 19th Corps as far as 
Strasburg and Fisher's Hill. The cavalry pushed 
on to Edenburg keeping the Johnnies on a jump 
and gathering prisoners and spoils of war at every 
step. 

This virtually ended the services of the 121st in 
the vallev of the Shenandoah. 



201 



CHAPTER XVIII 
Back to Petersburg and Winter Quarters 

THE corps remained in the camp near Middle- 
town until November 9th, the men doing only 
picket and guard duty. Then it retired to Kerns- 
town where a slight skirmish with the enemy oc- 
curred on the morning of the 10th. Picket and 
guard duty continued until the 1st of December, 
when the corps broke camp and marching to 
Stevenson's Station entrained for Washington. The 
next day it embarked on steamers and arrived at 
City Point on the 4th. There cars were taken to 
Parke's Station. Here the railroad was left and 
the corps or a portion of it, relieved the 3d Divi- 
sion of the 5th Corps, and occupied their finely 
laid out, and well constructed winter quarters 
near the Jerusalem plank road, the position we 
had left five months before. The regiment now 
numbered not far from 175 men and was com- 
manded by Colonel Olcott. On the 9th of Decem- 
ber a reconnaisance was made to the vicinity of 
Hatcher's Run. Rain and then snow made farther 
operations impossible, and the corps returned to 
camp and went into winter quarters. 

Of these weeks of rest and recuperation, Beck- 
with writes: "We passed the holidays in pretty 
good shape, but the first lot of boxes of goodies 
that were permitted to be sent us had been rifled 
of their contents, much to our discontent, and it 
would have gone hard with the thieves, if we could 
have gotten hold of them. 

"However, others soon came, which consoled us 

202 




Surgeon JOHN O. SLOCUM, 

Who served from July 1, 1863, to 

tin' emi of the war. 



D. M. HOLT, 
Assistant Surgeon, 

from September 

2, 1862, to October 

16, 1864. 




Rev. 

ISAAC 0. BEST, 

the compiler and 

author of this 

history. 




CLINTON BECKWITH, 

From whose writings many 
extracts are used in com- 
piling this history. 



for the loss of the first. Some socks and mittens 
came to us from the Sanitary Commission. There 
were plenty of sutlers with the army, so we 
managed to pass the time away. The weather as 
a rule was bad and picket duty the toughest work 
we had to do. We had to keep on the lookout for 
the Johnnies constantly. Quite a number of North 
Carolinians came in and entertained us with a 
description of the condition of the Rebel forces. 
Their bill of fare, their clothing and their personal 
appearance bore out. the startling stories they told. 
They seemed glad to get away, and swore that they 
would not fight any more secession battles. The 
Union and the Old Flag was good enough for them; 
but they had been conscripted and forced to come. 
The months of January and February were but 
repetitions of December, without special incidents. 
Many men came back to the regiment, who had 
been sick, wounded and on detached duty, and on 
dress parade we made a very tidy looking 
battalion." 

At this point in his narrative Colonel Beckwith 
gives a very amusing account of his experiences 
while on furlough granted on the 25th of April, 
which he managed to prolong to the 14th of March. 
During the winter an effort was made to fill up the 
regiment so that the officers who had been com- 
missioned, but could not be mustered in, because 
the number of enlisted men was below the required 
standard, might receive their full rank. These 
were Lieutenant Colonel Olcott, Captain Cronkite 
and Captain Kidder, who had been commissioned 
respectively Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and Major. 
Several recruiting officers were sent home to Herki- 
mer and Otsego Counties to obtain recruits, but 
their efforts did not avail to fill the regiment and 
the 1st of March found the regiment still deficient 
in numbers. Application was then made to the 

203 



Secretary of War for the assignment of four hun- 
dred recruits to the regiment. This application 
was endorsed as follows: By General McKenzie, 
commanding the brigade. "Approved," by General 
Wheaton, commanding the division, "I think it 
greatly for the interest of the division that the 
121st New York Regiment be filled. Its services 
have been most marked and conspicuous, not sur- 
passed by any regiment I can name, and its gallant 
commander is entitled by continuous and valuable 
services to be mustered as Colonel, he having held 
the commission for more than a year, and has fre- 
quently commanded a brigade in battle, and with 
great credit." By Gen. H. G. Wright, commanding 
the corps, "Respectfully forwarded, with urgent 
request that recruits or drafted men sufficient to 
fill up this regiment be promptly assigned to it. 
And I hereby endorse all that has been said by 
Generals McKenzie and Wheaton in regard to the 
services and standing of the regiment, and the 
merits of its commander." General Meade for- 
warded it to Washington with this endorsement: 
"It is especially requested that this regiment may 
be specially designated to be filled up by assign- 
ment of men to its ranks, in consideration of its 
gallant reputation, and the distinguished services 
of its commander." This application, thus en- 
dorsed received consideration by the War Depart- 
ment, and four hundred additions were ordered 
to be sent to the 121st; but they did not arrive 
until after the surrender of Lee, and while the 
corps was at Burksville Junction. Then the officers 
were duly mustered. 

During the winter also changes were made in the 
field and staff, by appointment and promotion. 
Dr. James P. Kimball was commissioned Assistant 
Surgeon. Vice Dr. Holt resigned. Frank E. Lowe 
was promoted to be Adjutant, Sergeant Major J. L. 

204 



Morthon, Sergeant Newber, N. A. Armstrong, 
Thomas J. Hassett and Philip R. Woodcock were 
promoted to lieutenants. Morris C. Foote, of 
Cooperstown was also commissioned as lieutenant. 
Lieut. E. C. Weaver resigned on account of sick- 
ness and Lieutenant Kelly died of disease. 

The ordinary duties of camp life, drills, picket 
and fatigue, in trenches and forts, was broken 
once when in February 5th to 8th the brigade 
was sent to support the 5th Corps on an expedi- 
tion to Hatcher's Run. At one time the line of 
the 5th Corps was broken and some of the troops 
fell back in confusion. The brigade restored and 
stiffened the line and became lightly engaged. It 
crossed the Run to the front twice and lost seven 
men wounded. The weather was very bad, and 
the return to camp was a great relief. Perhaps 
some of the surviving members of the regiment 
remember what happened when they were sent on 
St. Patrick's day with the teams to get pine poles 
to be used for strengthening Fort Fisher, and failed 
to get past the Irish Brigade that was celebrating 
the day with races and games of all sorts. They 
had an enjoyable day, but the toting of a log of 
cord wood all night, and extra picket duty some- 
what cancelled the pleasant remembrance of it. 
Major Cronkite then in command of the regiment, 
did not escape denunciation by the transgressors. 

General Grant says in his memoirs that at this 
time he was in great anxiety lest Lee should leave 
his position protecting Petersburg and Richmond, 
and leaving only a thin line for the purpose of 
deception send or take the greater part of his army 
to the assistance of Johnston and overwhelm 
Sherman in his advance through the Carolinas. If 
he should do this before the roads became passable 
for artillery and trains, a great disaster to the 
Union cause might result. 

205 

15 



But General Lee determined to make one more 
desperate effort to break the vice-like grip that 
the Union army had on Petersburg; and so directed 
General Gordon with a chosen force to attack, and 
if possible break through the besieging forces at 
Fort Steadman. This attempt was made on the 
morning of the 25th of March. Fort Steadman 
was taken, but immediately was retaken by the 
Union forces in the vicinity. 

Upon the breaking out of the tumult of the at- 
tack on Fort Steadman, the 6th Corps, or the 1st 
Division of it, was ordered out and advanced 
rapidly towards the point of attack. But before 
it reached there, the affair was over, and the divi- 
sion returned to the rest of the corps. We had 
become familiar with one feature of General 
Grant's strategy, the relieving of an attack on one 
portion of his line, by an attack on some distant 
portion of the enemy's line, and were not surprised 
therefore when orders came to form line of battle 
and advance on the works of the enemy. Let 
Colonel Beckwith tell what was done. "About 
noon we marched back to camp, and then moved 
to the left and formed line of battle and charged 
the skirmishers in front. We ran over their skir- 
mish line for some distance, taking some prisoners. 
We then advanced on their main works, getting 
up to the house near them, under a heavy fire of 
artillery and musketry. We occupied this position 
until ordered back to the enemy's former skirmish 
line, but after a short time went forward to the 
top of the knoll and threw up breastworks. At 
midnight we returned to camp, leaving some of the 
regiment on picket in the new line we had built." 

Colonel Cronkite then in command of the regi- 
ment gives a fuller account of this affair. The 2d 
Brigade was on the right of the corps, and the 121st 
on the right of the brigade. The advance carried 

206 



the regiment to within seven hundred yards of the 
main work of the enemy, and the right of the regi- 
ment was exposed to a severe fire from front and 
flank. When the line had fallen back and thrown 
up the breastworks, it was within a hundred yards 
of the Rebel fortifications and the right flank was 
still exposed to an enfilading fire of artillery and 
musketry. An effort by a body of the enemy to 
turn the right flank of the corps was met by the 
two companies on the right changing front and 
opening fire on the advancing enemy, which drove 
them back to the shelter of their works. Beckwith 
continues: "The only man killed was Lieutenant 
Duroe, who commanded our company. He was the 
largest man in the regiment, and a brave and im- 
petuous officer. We brought his body to camp 
and gave him a soldier's burial. 

"We reached the conclusion that the enemy's 
lines were thinly held, else he would not permit 
us to peaceably hold the strong position we had 
taken and entrenched, within easy striking dis- 
tance of his main line." 



207 



CHAPTER XIX 

The Capture of Petersburg by 6th Corps 

HHHE 31st of March was spent by the 121st on the 
-*- skirmish line, and on its return to camp, or- 
ders were received to hold itself in readiness for 
moving at a moment's notice. On the 1st of April 
firing was heard off to the left, and it was rumored 
that the 5th Corps had already begun the antici- 
pated attack upon the enemy's works. 

At 10 o'clock of April 1st the 6th Corps, under 
orders to leave all unnecessary accoutrements un- 
der guard in camp, and to move as quietly as possi- 
ble in light marching order, moved quietly out 
of camp and formed in column of assault in the 
rear of our picket line. This was done so silently, 
as not to be detected by the pickets of the enemy. 
The position occupied by the corps was the one 
captured on the afternoon of the 25th of March, 
behind the picket line then formed, not more than 
two hundred yards from the works of the enemy. 
A fierce artillery fire had been opened along the 
whole line to cover the point of attack, and the 
roar of the cannon from both sides, and the flight 
of the shells distinguished by their burning fuses 
made the night one long to be remembered by 
those who saw and heard the grand duel of the 
artillery. The time set for the assault was 4 A. M., 
but on account of the darkness and fog the order 
was not given till 4:45. 

Colonel Olcott's report gives the part of the 121st 
in it: "The brigade being in two lines, the 
121st New York was on the right of the second 

208 



line. When the order to advance was given, the 
regiment moved rapidly forward, maintaining a 
good line till within about 200 yards of the enemy's 
works when the second line was moved a short 
distance to the left and then forward again. This 
together with the darkness and the character of 
the ground, divided the regiment somewhat. Most 
of the men with the colors entered the works 
farther to the right than intended and captured 
two guns. One of these was immediately turned 
upon the enemy, loaded and fired by Sergeant 
Redfield M. Dustin, Company F. Sergeant Dustin 
served for nearly two years in the 1st Massa- 
chusetts Battery, and is a skillful artillerist. These 
guns were carried off and receipt obtained for 
them. The portion of the regiment engaged in 
taking the guns mentioned, with a part of the 95th 
Pennsylvania, 2d Connecticut and 95th New York 
advanced along the enemy's works for nearly a 
mile, capturing all the artillery in them and hold- 
ing the works until ordered to join the part of the 
regiment to the left. The regiment in this charge 
captured about two hundred prisoners." 

The more circumstantial account of this affair 
given by Colonel Beckwith, is as follows: "About 
midnight we moved out of camp and marched to 
Fort Fisher, near the lookout tower, and moved 
out of the works. The strictest silence was en- 
joined. As we approached the line taken by us on 
the 25th of March, we formed in line of battle in 
rear of the 2d Connecticut and had scarcely gotten 
into position when we were ordered to lie down. 
At the same time the pickets began firing, as we 
supposed, to cover the noise of our forming, and 
we were treated to the sensation of lying upon a 
field for a long time exposed to the fire of the 
enemy's skirmishers without any shelter. Every 
once in a while some one would get hit with a ball, 

209 



and we could hear his cry of anguish as the lead 
tore through. Finally our men, by stopping their 
fire and crying, 'April Fool, Johnnies,' restored 
quiet, and for a long time we lay perfectly quiet, 
waiting for the time to come when we could move 
forward. The night was cold and damp and we 
were chilled and numb. There was some firing 
away to our right but not more than usual. Word 
was passed along, that when the battery opened 
at Fort Fisher it was the signal to charge. We were 
to advance without further orders and as silently 
as possible. It seemed to me as though that bat- 
tery would never open. Anson Ryder, who lay 
beside me, said 'I would rather charge than lie 
here in this suspense and misery.' As the first 
gray dawn began to show, out belched the guns, 
and we could mark the course of the shells as their 
fuse left a dim spark passing to the Rebel works. 
We were up in another moment, in closed ranks, 
feeling for the man on our right we plunged for- 
ward in the darkness. In another instant the Reb 
skirmishers delivered their fire and their battery 
in our front opened. Almost its first shot cut 
Jimmie Hendricks of Company A in two. A little 
farther on, and the Rebel works were marked by 
the jets of flame from their rifles as they fired upon 
us. Another instant and we were up to their abatis, 
and we got into a tangle looking for a place to get 
through. Finally some fellow to our left sang out, 
e Here's a road,' and a lot of us made for it and 
followed it on a run to the Rebel works at that 
point a fort. Climbing up the sides, it being now 
light enough to see a few paces ahead, I went in 
through the embrasure of the guns, one of which 
had been firing on us. The Johnnies had run back 
among the huts and were firing back at us. We 
ran down toward them and they ran back into 
the field. Quite a number hid in the huts, and our 

210 



fellows hunted them out. Afterwards a lot of us 
fellows charged over the field to the road, and 
fired into the running Rebs, and also into some 
wagons which were passing. We also twisted off 
the telegraph wires with our bayonets, continuing 
our firing at everything in sight. The Johnnies 
made it too hot for us in the road, as there were 
but a few of us, and so we went back to the house 
where a good many of our men had gathered and 
from which we were directed to move to the right 
along the enemy's lines. This we did for a long 
distance without much opposition, until we came 
to a fort, which commanded and enfiladed the line 
on which we were advancing. Our advance was 
checked until a division of the 24th Corps came up 
from the direction we had come, and word was 
passed along for the 2d Brigade men to move back 
and assemble, which we did. Getting back to Fort 
Fisher we found the balance of the regiment and 
the brigade. Some of the regiment had gone to the 
left when they got into the works. The friendly 
darkness had destroyed the Rebels' aim, and by 
reason of it many a man's life had been spared, 
but we had lost enough. Anse Ryder had been 
hit in the leg near the thigh, Robinson had lost 
one arm, Frank Lowe had been hit, and a number 
of others, I do not now recall. We had taken a 
lot of Johnnies prisoners, had killed and wounded 
some, and taken their guns; but we did not stop 
to bother with them — just told them to get to the 
rear and hunt up the provost marshal, which they 
were apparently very glad to do, and without 
escort at that. We dumped the brass guns over 
the fort and ran them towards our line to guard 
against accident. The wounded were carried back 
to the hospital near the observatory where we 
found Anse Ryder. Doctor Slocum said it would 
kill him to amputate his leg, and that he would 

211 



/ 



die if it was not done, and Anse wanted to die with 
it on; so the doctor fixed him up and sent him to 
the hospital, and he is living to-day with the Rebel 
bullet and the bone of his leg cemented together 
like old friends." 

"The brigade as soon as assembled was ordered 
to the right to support a portion of the 9th Corps. 
In this movement it passed by its camp, but was 
not permitted to stop for the accoutrements left 
there, but was hurried on to the vicinity of Fort 
Sedgwick and passing through entered the first 
line of the enemy's works that had been captured 
by the men of the 9th Corps, but they had there 
been checked. Many of the dead and wounded were 
still in these works, and it was by no means a 
pleasant duty to occupy them the rest of the day 
and during the night, until 3 o'clock, when the 
brigade was formed in skirmish order and ad- 
vanced on Petersburg. It thus happened that the 
2d Brigade of the 1st Division of the 6th Corps was 
the first organization of the army of the Potomac 
to enter the city of Petersburg, and unfurl its flag 
on a public building there. About the same time 
an officer of another corps had ridden in and 
placed a flag on another building, but he was not 
accompanied by a body of troops. It was with 
him an individual adventure, but our flag was 
raised in the regular course of official service." 

Our flag was unfurled on the Court House, the 
other on the Post Office. Beckwith continues: 
"We secured a lot of Confederate currency and 
postage stamps, and routed out a lot of stragglers 
and sneaks, hid about the city. At the Con> 
missary we secured some nice hams and some 
apple jack that was quite smooth, and under its 
softening influence we forgave a good many of our 
foes. Some of the women, whose houses we en- 
tered, to get the Johnnies the darkies told us were 

212 



hidden there, gave us a startling exhibition of their 
ability to blackguard us. About noon we were in 
line again and on our way to our old camp. Pass- 
ing along through the city we saw President 
Lincoln and General Grant, and gave them a 
marching salute. Soon reaching camp, we slung 
our traps, and the same night reached our division 
fagged out, but ready to push on after Lee's broken 
columns. On the morning of the third we were 
on the road from Petersburg to Burkesville. Our 
progress was not very rapid and we saw but little 
evidence of Lee's retreat. During the day we 
heard firing in our front but as we advanced it 
seemed to recede. After a ten-mile march we 
went into camp by the roadside near an old 
church." 

The 4th and 5th of April were passed in march- 
ing, sometimes slowly, at other times passing along 
rapidly as if to meet an emergency, and all along 
were evidences of the disorganized condition of a 
large portion of the enemy and the straits he was 
in. But General Longstreet's corps, which had 
occupied the works north of the James River, and 
therefore had not been engaged in the previous 
disastrous battles, had come up and now formed 
the rear guard of the fleeing army. His troops 
were still capable of strenuous Resistance and 
maintained a bold front against attacks of cavalry 
and infantry. General A. P. Hill had been killed 
and his corps assigned to the two other corps mak- 
ing the corps of Longstreet and Ewell by no means 
insignificant bodies of troops. Ewell had the ad- 
vance, and Longstreet brought up the rear. Ewell's 
corps was the one that suffered the most, because 
it was Grant's purpose to cut off the retreat of 
Lee and compel a surrender. The 2d and 6th 
Corps up to this point had been following the rear 
of the retreating Confederates. General Sheridan 

213 



had asked for the 6th Corps to be sent to him at 
Five Forks, but the 5th was nearer, and was sent 
instead. 

Lee's intention was to take his army to Danville, 
to which place Davis had removed the Capital of 
the Confederacy, and he was expecting to retain 
the control of the railroad to that point. But at Jet- 
tersville, a station on the railroad, he found that 
Sheridan had anticipated him. Quite a severe 
battle was fought at Jettersville in which the 
Rebels were defeated, and were compelled to turn 
the head of their column toward Appomattox. 
Of the next day's march Beckwith says, "On the 
morning of the 6th we marched at 6 o'clock in 
rear of our 2d Division, and in the expectation 
of hearing musketry firing break out in our front 
at any moment. For several miles we moved 
through the woods over a very rough country, 
crossing deep ravines, and streams through 
swampy bottoms and dense thickets, but did not 
find the enemy. About 10 o'clock we moved out 
to the road. We followed our 3d Division by way 
of Jettersville toward Deatonville. Everything 
and everybody now seemed to be in a hurry. 
Everything on wheels was halted in the open places 
except the artillery and ambulances, which were 
making desperate efforts to keep up with the in- 
fantry, and it became evident to us that at the 
rate we are going we should soon catch up with the 
enemy. Crossing Flat Creek we kept on with our 
rapid march, the sound of musketry and artillery 
increasing in our front. Finally coming to an 
open place we could see a road in our front cross- 
ing the road upon which we were marching, and 
we were told that it was the road along which the 
enemy was retreating, and that our cavalry had 
overtaken them and captured a portion of their 
wagon train and many prisoners, and that we were 

214 



close to Lee's infantry. As we came out of the 
woods into the open field that stretched down to 
Sailor's Creek, we could see the troops in our 
front, the 3d Division, deploying in line of battle 
to the right of the road and moving forward. 
Beyond on the opposite hillside we could see across 
the valley about a mile away, the enemy's line of 
battle formed and awaiting our attack. We in- 
stantly realized the work we had to do, and a 
tough job it looked to be. Rushing along we were 
soon in line of battle, with the 37th Massachusetts 
on our right and across the road along which we 
had come. The troops on our left had deployed 
first and we had to run to get into line with them, 
but we were on good ground and got along all 
right until we came into the vicinity of the creek 
and into the range of the enemy's fire, which now 
was rapid and heavy, but on account of the con- 
formity of the ground not very destructive. Here 
after halting for a short time to reform we were 
ordered to charge, and drive the enemy from their 
works. Forward on a run we went as rapidly as 
the steep hill would permit, and in a moment we 
were up to, and over their slight earthworks, the 
occupants offering no further resistance, after 
emptying their guns in our faces. On our right the 
37th Massachusetts did not get on as well. They 
were more exposed, had a farther distance to go 
and suffered very heavily. Colonel Olcott, find- 
ing the ground in front of him clear and the enemy 
holding on to the works on the right, half wheeled 
the 121st to the right and moved lengthwise and 
partly in the rear of the enemy's line and they im- 
mediately abandoned their works and surrendered. 
These last troops we encountered were Marines, 
or land sailors, and had never before been in battle. 
They were mostly boys and were commanded by 
G. W. Custis Lee who fell into our hands with a 

215 



large number of prisoners and several stands of 
colors. One of these was a beautiful silk banner 
belonging to the 8th Savannah Guards, whose or- 
ganization dated back to 1804. This was captured 
by H. S. Hawthorne of Company F and by him 
turned over to Colonel Olcott. The inscription on 
this flag was as follows: 

" 'To the Defenders of Our Altars and Our 
Hearths. Presented by the Ladies of Savannah, 
Ga., to the Eighth Savannah Guards.' 

"This indicates how complete was the miscon- 
ception at that time on the part of its donors, of 
the objects and purposes of the Union Army. It 
indicates that they regarded us as marauders, 
with no high or patriotic purpose, but bent upon 
the destruction of the sacred things of the family 
fireside. Our captures numbered at least 500, and 
our little regiment had again covered itself with 
glory. Our losses had again been very severe and 
left a great gap in our already thinned ranks. Our 
captain, TenEyck Howland, than whom no more 
intrepid soldier ever faced a foe, had fallen dead 
into the arms of his men, his heart pierced by 
a musket ball. Lieut. Tracy Morton had also been 
killed. My friend, Jimmie Norris, had suffered 
a like fate. The total casualties were two officers 
and seven enlisted men killed, and one officer and 
twelve enlisted men wounded, nearly one-fifth of 
those who entered the battle. After the battle we 
assembled on the top of the hill up which we had 
charged and stacked our arms in the open field, 
just outside of the woods. Here we built fires and 
some of us took off and wrung out our wet and 
muddy pantaloons. It was dark and we did not 
expect to move again until daylight. But I had 
just got ready to cook my supper, and had my 
pantaloons drying by the fire when a mounted 
officer rode up and enquired for Colonel Olcott. 
He not being present at the moment, Major Cronk- 

216 



ite announced his presence, and as being in com- 
mand of the regiment during Olcott's absence, the 
officer ordered the regiment to be moved to the 
right following the 65th New York loud enough 
to be heard. I said to Lume Baldwin who was 
at the fire with me, 'Did you hear that?' He said 
'Yes.' 'Well,' I said, 'I am not going any farther 
to-night, at least until I get my breeches dry, and 
something to eat. They will only move a little 
way to form a line and spend half the night to 
do it. We can catch them in the morning in a 
little while.' So I ran over to the stacks that were 
about fifty yards away, and feeling among the 
guns, found mine and took it out to take back to 
the fire. As I did so Major Cronkite had called 
for his horse, mounted and ridden around in 
front of the stacks and ordered, 'Fall in.' Just 
then there was a flash and a report to my right, 
and a cry from Major Cronkite that he was shot. 
Instantly men ran towards and surrounded him, 
and it was learned that he was seriously wounded, 
his leg afterwards having to be amputated. It was 
a very lamentable occurrence. Major Cronkite had 
borne a conspicuous part in the regiment, and 
was a gallant and skillful soldier, and this terrible 
accident to him was deeply regretted by all the 
men of the regiment. The accident was explained 
by the supposition that some man in taking his 
gun from a stack had knocked it down and one 
of the guns had been discharged inflicting the 
wound upon the Major." 

The report of Colonel Olcott of this battle is 
essentially the same as the account given by Com- 
rade Beckwith, except that he was given command 
of the first line consisting of the 121st New York 
and the 95th Pennsylvania, leaving Major Cronkite 
in command of the regiment. He also states that 
an effort of the enemy was made to get into the 
rear of the brigade, which was defeated by the 

217 



second charge of the 121st. Longstreet's account 
of the battle verifies this statement. He says: 
"Anderson crossed Sailor's Creek, closely followed 
by Ewell. As Anderson marched he found Mer- 
ritt's cavalry square across his route. Humphreys, 
who was close upon Ewell, waited for the arrival 
of the 6th Corps. Ewell deployed his divisions, 
Kershaw on the right, G. W. C. Lee on the left. 
Their plan was that Anderson should attack and 
open the way while Ewell defended the rear. As 
Anderson attacked, Wright's corps came up. 
Humphreys had matured his plan, and the attack 
of Anderson hastened that of the enemy upon the 
Confederate rear. Anderson had some success at 
first, and Ewell received the assaults with resolute 
coolness, and at one moment pushed his fight to 
aggressive return, but the enemy, finding that there 
was no artillery with the Confederates, dashed 
their batteries into closer range, putting in ar- 
tillery and infantry fire, front and flank, until the 
Confederate rear was crushed to fragments. Gen- 
eral Ewell surrendered, as did also General G. W. 
C. Lee. General Kershaw advised such of his men 
as could to make their escape, and surrendered 
with his division. General Anderson got away 
with the greater part of B. R. Johnson's division 
and Pickett with 600 men. Generals Corse and 
Hunton and others of Pickett's division men were 
captured. About 200 of Kershaw's men got away." 

General Lee being informed of this disaster 
rode back, with a portion of Mahone's division 
and when he saw the confusion of the retreating 
Confederates, he exclaimed, "My God, has my 
army dissolved?" 

The effort of Ewell to push "his fight to an ag- 
gressive return" was the fierce attack on the 37th 
Massachusetts, which was defeated by the flank 
attack of the 121st, by the right half wheel under 
the direction of Colonel Olcott. 

216 



CHAPTER XX 

Appomattox and After 

THE battle of Sailor's Creek to the 6th Corps was 
of special interest, for it settled by the capture 
of General Ewell and the remnants of his corps 
a long succession of bitter conflicts between them. 
They had met during the previous year, in the 
Wilderness, May 5th and 6th, again on May 10th 
in the charge led by General Upton that broke 
through their works. In the all day fight of the 
12th of May they had again been antagonists. The 
campaign in the Valley of the Shenandoah had 
been waged against Early's division of Ewell's 
corps, and now at the very close of the war the 
final conflict between them had resulted in the 
destruction of the corps, so long led by the veteran 
general of Lee's 3d Army Corps. 

The result was disastrous also to the Army of 
Virginia. After the loss of Ewell's corps no other 
route was left open for the retreat of the Con- 
federate army except to recross the Appomattox 
River at High Bridge, and make for Lynchburg. 
This was done and the bridge was burned behind 
the retreating Confederates. The 6th Corps fol- 
lowed at once but was compelled to wait at Farm- 
ville until a new bridge could be thrown across the 
river. The corps was massed in bivouac just out- 
side the village, and when the bridge was com- 
pleted it was about midnight, a dark moonless and 
starless night. When the corps drew out of its 
bivouac and had fairly entered the village, all 
the houses of which were closed and dark, a band 

219 



in the van struck up, "John Brown's body lies 
mouldering in the ground, but his soul goes march- 
ing on." The other bands took up the tune and 
the soldiers joined in the song; and such a volume 
of triumphant music has seldom waked the mid- 
night echoes of any town. 

The next day the pursuit was halted and our 
brigade bivouaced in the rear of the Confederates, 
several miles from Appomattox Court House. It 
was rumored that Lee was surrendering and the 
brigade waited in eager anxiety for certain in- 
formation. Late in the afternoon General Ham- 
blin was seen coming towards the camp, his 
splendid black horse on the dead run, his hat in 
his hands, his cheek bloody where he had failed 
to escape the limb of a tree, and as soon as his 
voice could be heard he shouted, "Lee has sur- 
rendered." And then what a tumult broke out 
among the troops. Cheers, shouts, laughter, hats 
and countless other things flung into the air. Some 
were too affected to cheer and stood with tears 
running down their faces. The excitement com- 
municated itself to the animals. The mules brayed, 
the horses neighed and the author's dog leaped 
up and with his fore paws on his breast barked 
joyously. It seemed as though all nature was 
glad. It meant to us all, no more fighting, no more 
long, weary marches, home, friends, peace, a saved 
country, a triumphant flag. 

But the 6th Corps was not permitted to see the 
surrender of the Confederate Army. It was 
marched back through Farmville and thence to 
Burksville Junction on Richmond to Danville rail- 
road. There the 121st received the 400 drafted 
men and substitutes that had been promised it, 
and the officers that had been holding commissions 
for over a year were mustered into the service. 
Lieutenant Colonel Cronkite immediately resigned 

220 



his commission in order that Major Kidder might 
be commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel. 

The itinerary of the march from Appomattox 
to Burks ville was as follows: April 11th through 
New Store and Curdsville to the vicinity of Little 
Willis River, April 12th through Farmville to 
Sandy River. April 13th past Rice's Station on 
the South Side railroad to Burksville. It was at 
Rice's Station that the battle was being fought at 
the time of our fight at Sailor's Creek, and being 
won by our forces, and which cut off any possible 
escape of the Confederates in that direction, after 
the surrender of Ewell. 

Colonel Beckwith gives his experiences with the 
citizens of Virginia in a very interesting manner: 
"We met a great many more of the citizens of the 
country than we had in the pursuit of Lee, and 
had opportunity to talk with them. They claimed 
that they had been impoverished, had no negroes, 
no stock and no seed to put in a crop, and saw 
nothing before them but starvation. Many of 
them availed themselves of the generosity of the 
government to draw supplies from our commis- 
saries. Most of them had been at one time or 
another in the Confederate army, and some had 
been disabled by wounds or broken down by dis- 
ease contracted in camp. These men were the 
most steadfast in their allegiance to the Rebel 
cause. Some went so far as to predict a renewal 
of the war, saying that the South was not con- 
quered, but worn out." 

A large and motley company of colored people 
assembled at Burksville Junction and these also 
were dependent upon the government for their 
sustenance. 

On the 13th of April the corps began an advance 
to Danville, one hundred miles south of Burksville 
and on the border of North Carolina. The object 

221 

16 



of the movement was to interpose between John- 
ston's army and Lynchburg. A great portion of 
the journey was made along the railroad track. 
It was a primitive form of railroad. Long sleepers 
were mortised into the ties and on the top of the 
sleepers heavy straps of iron were spiked, on which 
the cars ran. This march was one of the most 
remarkable the corps ever made. In four days 
and four hours from the time the head of the 
column drew out of camp at Burksville it entered 
the streets of Danville. While on the last day's 
march news was received of the assassination of 
President Lincoln and his death. "A thrill of 
horror and rage ran through the ranks, and it 
would have fared badly for any armed Rebels 
who fell into our hands at that time." (B.) 

Danville was a village of considerable impor- 
tance. A Confederate prison camp and hospital 
were located there, and it was one of the centers 
of supply for the Confederate army defending 
Richmond and Petersburg. Consequently there 
were gathered there large stores of every thing 
needed for the support of the army, the hospital, 
the prison and the inhabitants. All these fell into 
our hands, and the city was delivered up to Gen- 
eral Wright by the civil authorities to whom it 
had been turned over by the military officers. 

Johnston's surrender, rendered our stay at Dan- 
ville no longer necessary, and only three or four 
days were spent there. 

The 6th Corps arrived at Danville on the 27th 
of April. Johnston surrendered the same day 
and on the 1st of May the corps began its march 
northward to Washington and home. The 121st 
was ordered to take the train leaving Danville at 
8 A. M. for Burksville and there await further 
orders. 

The march from Burksville to Richmond 

222 



seventy-two miles, was made in four days and 
camp was pitched near Manchester. A delay of 
two or three days gave the officers and men an 
opportunity to visit the city and see its condition 
after so long a siege. The worst feature of it was 
the havoc produced by the fires set by the retreat- 
ing Rebels. Libby Prison and the Prison Camp on 
Belle Isle were places of special interest to those 
who had experienced their horrors. 

The regiment arrived at Manchester on the 16th 
of May and remained in camp seven days. On 
the 23d it began its march from Richmond to 
Washington and arrived near Hall's Hill on the 
2d of June, about five miles from Washington, 
and just outside of Georgetown. 

Hall's Hill will always be associated with the 
121st New York because it is the place given on 
the muster out rolls of the regiment. This part 
of the journey homeward was hard and tedious. 
Reveille sounded every morning at 3:30 A. M. and 
sometimes the march was prolonged till after dark. 
It rained frequently and the most of the streams 
had to be forded. The inarch was through the sec- 
tion over which the corps had fought during the 
entire war, past the battle fields of Cold Harbor, 
Chancellorville, Spottsylvania, The Wilderness, 
Fredericksburg, Bull Run — names that recall terri- 
ble experiences and bloody scenes. Chaplain 
Adams tells of a visit he made as follows : "I left 
the column while on the way and visited the battle 
ground near Spottsylvania Court House, where 
the terrible fighting occurred on the 12th of May. 
It still bears the marks of the conflict. It was at 
this point that two trees, one of twelve inches and 
one of twenty-three, were cut off by our minnie 
balls, for we had no batteries in play at that time. 
The trunk of one of these trees is now in the Patent 
Office at Washington. The trees in the vicinity 

223 



are dead, killed by the poison of the lead. I will 
not describe the appearance of the field as our 
men found it when they entered the works. I 
do not wish to recall the sights, they are too shock- 
ing. The 5th Maine and the 121st charged at that 
point; they fought bravely, but lost heavily, as 
they did also on the 10th, a mile farther to the 
right, near the spot where General Sedgwick was 
killed." 

From the 2d of June when we reached Hall's 
Hill till the 27th the time was spent in making 
out the muster out papers of the men and the trans- 
fer of the men whose term of service had not ex- 
pired to the 65th New York Veteran Volunteers. 
The total number of men discharged at Hall's 
Hill was 320, of whom 275 were original members 
of the regiment and 45 recruits and transferred 
men. 

The review of the corps took place on Thurs- 
day, the 8th of June, in the following order: 
1st: Major General Wright, Staff and Escort. 
2d: The 1st Division, Major General Wheaton 

commanding 
3d: The 2d Division, Major General Getty com- 
manding. 
4th: The 3d Division, Major General Getty com- 
manding. 
5th: The Artillery Brigade, Brevet Major General 

Andrew Cowan commanding. 
6th: Detachment of 50th New York Engineers, 
Brevet Major Van Brooklin commanding. 
Leaving camp at 4 o'clock in the morning, 
marching the five miles to Washington over Long 
Bridge, up Maryland Avenue to mass at the foot 
of the Capital grounds, was the first portion of 
the long and tedious process of the review. 

Then at 9 o'clock passing down Pennsylvania 
Avenue at wheeling distance, past the reviewing 

224 



stand before President Johnson, General Grant 
and other dignitaries, and crossing Acquaduct 
Bridge march back again to camp, was the second 
part of the proceeding. All this on a hot day in 
July made this review an experience more pleas- 
ant to look back upon than to participate in. I 
have never heard an enlisted man enthuse over 
the memory of that review. 

On the 27th of June the regiment took the cars, 
baggage cars mostly, for New York, reaching there 
on the morning of the 30th and spending the rest 
of the day, Sunday, in the old armory, corner of 
Center and Grand streets. 

Beckwith says, "On Monday, July 1st, we 
marched up Broadway, having with us the stands 
of Bebel colors we had captured at Rappahan- 
nock Station and Sailor's Creek. We received a 
great ovation." 

Arrangements had been made and permission 
obtained from Washington for the regiment to go 
to Little Falls to participate in the celebration of 
the Fourth of July. This home-coming reception 
is described as follows by Lieut. Jas. H. Smith: 
"Most of the members of the regiment were in 
line, with their arms, and with the seven Con- 
federate regimental flags which they had captured 
during the preceding three years, and which the 
War Department had granted them the unparal- 
leled privilege of carrying as trophies of their 
valor, and their sacrifices, to this reception, given 
by the parents, wives, sisters, brothers and friends 
of this brave remnant of that noble band, nearly 
1000 strong, which they had bidden goodbye, and 
God speed, in 1862. At that time they heard their 
country's call, they realized its danger, they ac- 
cepted the personal responsibilities and duties of 
citizenship, with all its hazards, and all the sacri- 
fices due to the Republic from every loyal citizen. 

225 



Their work had now been done. The country's 
flag again floated freely as the undisputed emblem 
of authority throughout all our broad domains. 

"Before we took our departure from Camp 
Schuyler in August, 1862, we were presented with 
a beautiful flag, by the mothers, wives and sisters 
of our boys. It was presented with the admonition 
that it should be carried forward, victoriously 
and unsullied, that it should never be permitted to 
fall into treasonable hands, and that we bring it 
back an emblem of victory. How faintly did the 
donors of that flag realize the terrific cost, in 
suffering and in blood, which was involved in 
carrying out their admonitions. 

"We now bring back that flag, with every re- 
quirement of its donors for its care and defense, 
literally fulfilled. Shot and shell have pierced 
its folds, and its staff, until it can no longer be 
unfurled, but it has never been desecrated by the 
touch of treasonable hands. Would that we might 
also have brought back to this reception, every 
young man who three years before had marched 
forth, bravely and hopefully, in its defense. This 
volume tells us on the pages giving a list of our 
engagements and their losses that in following our 
flag through the conflicts where duty called, that 
275 of our men were called upon to pay that 'last 
full measure of devotion,' which is the glory of 
those who fall upon the battlefield for a righteous 
cause. Beside these there were 121 others, equally 
brave and devoted, who had died as a result of 
exposure and disease. We thus have a total of 
396 fatalities. Our ranks were still further de- 
pleted by the 450 wounded, a large proportion 
of whom were discharged for the disabilities they 
had thus suffered, and these added to the number 
discharged for disease made a total of 420 dis- 
charged. 

226 



"The value to our country of the services of 
the 121st New York Infantry is measured not 
alone by its losses in battle, unequalled tho they 
were, by those of any regiment from the state, 
and exceeded by but three of the more than 2000 
regiments which served in the Union Army during 
the war, nor in the seven Confederate regimental 
flags which it had captured, and which it carried 
as souvenirs of its valor, at its home-coming re- 
ception, but is based as well, upon its having cap- 
tured approximately 1500 prisoners from the ranks 
of the enemy. The exact number of these prisoners 
it is impossible to determine, but it is beyond 
doubt that they exceed the entire enrollment of the 
regiment prior to Lee's surrender. It had made 
for itself a record which its survivors believe was 
unsurpassed, if not unequalled by that of any 
other regiment which served in the Union Army 
during the Civil War. And here in Little Falls, 
New York, this small but devoted remnant of 
the 121st Regiment after parading through its 
streets with its original flag unfurled as far as its 
battle scarred condition would permit, and with 
its captured Confederate flags as trophies of its 
devotion, stood shoulder to shoulder, and after 
a bountiful banquet and addresses lauding its 
heroic services, gave a parting salute to the flag 
they had followed for three long years and for 
which so many of their comrades had fallen." 

The return to Albany and the final payment of 
all dues was the occasion of the dissolution of the 
regiment, the men as soon as paid slipping away 
alone or by squads to their homes, regretful at 
parting, but glad that for them there would be no 
more of the toil and danger and suffering and 
violent death that are the every day experiences 
of war. 

To the writer these last weeks of service brought 

227 



no relief from work in the line to which he had 
been accustomed. At Hall's Hill he was set to 
making out muster out rolls, and at Albany his 
time was employed in work on the pay rolls of 
the regiment. The day spent at Little Falls was one 
of the dreariest he ever endured. He had no 
musket, was not in the ranks, knew very few of 
the men of the regiment, and those he knew were 
eagerly visiting with their friends who had as- 
sembled from the two counties; and so alone and 
friendless, he wandered around, feeling like an 
Ishmaelite in a strange country. 

In spite of this, however, he could not help be- 
ing proud that his name was enrolled among 
those who had made the regiment worthy of all 
that was then and has since been said about it. 
As the years since that day have passed and he 
has become personally acquainted with so many 
of the "Onesters," his appreciation of, and pride in 
the regiment has been steadily increased, and the 
study of its records in the preparation of this 
history has aroused his admiration and made the 
work a "labor of love." To be in any manner 
associated with men who did so much and did it 
so valiantly, who suffered so much and suffered it 
patriotically, is an honor not to be despised. 



228 



APPENDIX 

The regiment left Fort Schuyler with 30 

officers and 946 enlisted men or a total of. . 976 

It received by transfer: From the 16th New 
York, 125; from the 18th New York, 31; 

total 156 

From the 27th New York, 3; from the 31st 

New York, 2; total 5 

From the 32d New York, 33; from other 
organizations, 63 ; total 96 

Recruits, including officers and men to Jan- 
uary 1, 1865 169 

Recruits, including conscripts and substi- 
tutes, after Lee's surrender in 1865 413 

A total of 1815 

A careful study of the records in hand convinces 
the author that an accurate list of the number be- 
longing to the regiment cannot now be made. The 
lists made differ so radically, both as to names 
and number, that it is impossible to reconcile them. 
For instance, the number transferred from the 16th 
New York differs from 125 to 137. Rut General 
Curtis in his history of the 16th gives the names 
of only ninety-nine who were transferred to the 
121st. Some on the other lists had been killed 
in previous engagements, some were among the 
missing in battle and some had been transferred 
to other organizations. 

The report of the Adjutant General of the United 
States for 1903 gives the names of 1897 enrolled. 
Rut this includes the names of 413 who joined the 



regiment at Burksville after Lee's surrender; and 
therefore do not really belong to the fighting record 
of the regiment. The only advantage of their 
connection with the regiment was that their pres- 
ence enabled the officers who had been commis- 
sioned a year before, to be mustered into their 
full rank. In the published report of the 300 fight- 
ing regiments, the number enrolled in the 121st New 
York is given as 1426. This is twenty-four more 
than the above table justifies if the 413 added after 
Lee's surrender are not counted. But for purposes 
of comparison let the figure stand at the latter 
number (1426), as the author believes it to be 
approximately correct. 

In the following table the casualties are given 
in the twenty-five battles in which the regiment is 
given credit in the army records at Washington 
as being present. The list of these twenty-five 
battles is given on the regimental monument on 
the battle field of Gettysburg, and is found under 
the head of the "Dedication of the Monument." 
The following is the list as taken from the records 
of the regiment. 







Mortally 








Name of Battle 


Killed 


Wou 


nded 


Wounded 






Off. Men 


Off. 


Men 


Off. 


Men 


Total 


Fredericksburg 


4 








12 


16 


Salem Church 


6 98 


1 


15 


3 : 


278 


Gettysburg 










2 


2 


Rappahannock St 


ation 4 




3 


1 


17 


28 


Wilderness 


2 34 




6 


l 


30 


73 


Spottsylvania 


3 46 


2 


12 


8 


84 


155 


Cold Harbor 


1 








6 


7 


Petersburg 


1 








8 


9 


Fort Stevens 


5 




2 


1 


18 


28 


Charleston 


2 






1 


4 


7 


Opequon (Winchester) 4 






1 


14 


19 


Fisher's Hill 


230 








5 


5 







Mort 


ally 






Name of Battle 


Killed 


Wounded 


Wounded 






Off. Men 


Off. 


Men 


Off. Men 


Total 


Cedar Creek 


1 14 


2 


3 


2 35 


57 


Newtown 








1 


1 


Hatcher's Run 






1 


3 


4 


Fort Fisher 


1 




3 




4 


Petersburg (Capti 


ire) 1 






1 24 


26 


Sailor's Creek 


2 6 






1 12 


21 


Totals 


15 220 


5 


45 


20 530 


734 



Adding the mortally wounded to the killed in 
action, the total fatalities amount to 20 officers and 
205 enlisted men or 285 in all. 

In making this estimate the number reported 
"Missing in action" is included in the list of the 
"Killed in action," on the ground that the battles in 
which they were lost were fought on fields retained 
by the enemy or immediately vacated by our 
troops, and as none of the missing reported, nor 
were reported as wounded or prisoners, and have 
never since been heard from, it is only right to in- 
clude them among those known to have been 
killed. 

It is possible that ten of them may be rightly 
deducted from the number in the above table, 
leaving the aggregate forty instead of 50. That 
would leave our fatalities in action at 275. 

Of the New York regiments included in Fox's 
300 fighting regiments of the Civil War, only one, 
the 69th New York, is reported as having a greater 
percentage of loss than the 121st. The record is : 
The 69th: enrolled, 1513; killed, 259; percent, 

17.1. 
The 121st: enrolled, 1426; killed, 226; percent, 

15.5. 

But giving the 121st due credit for its actual 
fatalities would put it among the very first of all 

231 



the regiments of the Union Army during the Civil 
War. Enrolled, 1426; killed, 275; an actual per- 
centage of 19.28. 

In making this statement there is no intention 
to take the laurels from any other fighting regi- 
ment, but simply to claim for the 121st, the stand- 
ing that rightfully belongs to it. Present in twenty- 
five battles, bearing the brunt of the fighting at 
Salem Church, The Wilderness, Spottsylvania on 
May 10, Opequan, Cedar Creek, the successful 
assault on Petersburg and the final battle with 
Lee at Sailor's Creek, suffering losses in eighteen 
different engagements, counted by superior officers 
the equal of any regular regiment, its surviving 
members are not willing to abate a jot from its 
rightful credit, and they glory in the fact that 
its place in every exigency of battle was in the 
front line from which it was never driven nor 
retired, except at command of its ranking officer. 

The officers of the regiment and their terms 
of service are given as follows: 
Colonels : Franchot, July 19 to September 25, 1862; 

Upton, October 23, 1862 to July 4, 1864; Olcott, 

April 18 to June 25, 1865. 
Lieutenant Colonels : C. A. Clark, August 23, 1862 

to March 24, 1863; E. Olcott, April 10, 1863 to 

April 19, 1865; John S. Kidder, May 22 to June 

25, 1865. 
Majors: E. Olcott, August 23, 1862 to April 10, 

1863; A. E. Mather, May 3, 1863 to February 4, 

1864; H. M. Galpin, March 31 to December 21, 

1864; J. W. Cronkite, December 24, 1864 to June 

25, 1865. 
Adjutants: A. Ferguson, July 21 to August 30, 

1862; T. S. Arnold, August 30 to October 19, 

1862; F. W. Morse, January 5 to July 29, 1864; 

F. E. Lowe, December 31, 1864 to June 25, 1865. 
Quartermasters: Albert Story, July 21 to Decem- 

232 



ber 30, 1862; Theodore Sternberg, January 5, 

1863 to June 25, 1865. 

Surgeons: Wm. Bassett, August 23 to September 
30, 1862; E. S. Walker, October 22, 1862 to April 
1, 1863; John O. Slocum, July 1, 1863 to June 25, 
1865. 
Assistant Surgeons: S. P. Valentine, August 29, 
1862 to January 21, 1863; D. M. Holt, September 
2, 1862 to October 16, 1864; I. W. Hotaling, April 
8 to August 22, 1863; J. P. Kimball, January 16, 
1865 to June 24, 1865. 

To this list must be added the following promo- 
tions for which commissions were granted, but 
muster in was delayed until the close of the war. 
By an act of Congress after the war, all officers 
were remustered from the time of their commis- 
sion, and these officers are fully entitled to the rank 
to which they were commissioned. 
Lieutenant Colonels: James W. Cronkite and 

Henry M. Galpin. 
Majors : Lewis C. Bartlett, John S. Kidder, Francis 
W. Morse and Robert P. Wilson. 

Company A 

Captains: Henry M. Galpin, August 4, 1862 to 
March 31, 1864; J. Burrell, April 18 to October 
26, 1864; S. J. Redway, November 30, 1864 to 
June 25, 1865. 

First Lieutenants: J. Burrell, August 4, 1862 to 
April 18, 1864; W. H. Tucker, March 31 to Octo- 
ber 19, 1864; S. J. Redway, September 11 to 
November 30, 1864; G. H. Snell, November 18, 

1864 to June 25, 1865. 

Second Lieutenants: G. W. Davis, August 4 to 
October 20, 1862; J. W. Cronkite, October 21, 
1862 to April 10, 1863; J. D. Gray, June 5 to July 
21, 1863; S. Burdett, January 1, 1864 to March 1, 

1865 (Lieutenant Burdett's name is not found in 

233 



the list of the Adjutant General of the State) ; 
Wm. H. Tucker, March 30 to March 31, 1864 

Company B 

Captains : E. Holcomb, August 13, 1862 to January 
20, 1863; M. C. Casler, May 3, 1863 to October 14, 
1864; Ten Eyck C. Howland, January 24 to April 
6, 1865. 

First Lieutenants : Henry C. Keith, August 13, 1862 
to January 28, 1863; M. R. Casler, January 28 
to May 3, 1863; T. C. Adams, May 3, 1863 to May 
10, 1864; T. C. Howland, May 12, 1864 to January 
24, 1865; G. H. Snell, December 20, 1864 to Jan- 
uary 1, 1865; F. W. Morse, March 23 to June 25, 
1865. 

Second Lieutenants: G. A. May, August 13, 1862 
to February 26, 1863; C. A. Butts, January 4 to 
April 10, 1863; T. C. Adams, April 10 to May 3, 
1863; F. C. Piper, April 17 to June 25, 1865. 

Company C 

Captains: C. A. Moon, August 23, 1862 to January 
17, 1863; C. J. Campbell, April 22, 1863 to March 
20, 1864; J. W. Johnston, November 18, 1864 to 
June 25, 1865. 

First Lieutenants : T. S. Arnold, August 23 to Aug- 
ust 30, 1862; A. Cameron, August 31 to Novem- 
ber 9, 1862; F. Gorton, November 10, 1862 to 
January 28, 1863; C. M. Bradt, February 20 to 
April 9, 1863; H. Upton, May 3, 1863 to February 
27, 1864; J. A. Heath, July 25, 1863 to December 

12, 1864; F. W. Morse, December 23, 1864 to 
March 23, 1865; J. T. Morton, March 25 to April 
6, 1865; Eli Oaks, April 30 to July 24, 1865. 

Second Lieutenants: A. Cameron, August 23 to 
August 31, 1862; C. M. Bradt, August 30, 1862 to 
February 20, 1863; S. Miller, February 20 to May 

13, 1863; H. Upton, April 15 to March 3, 1863; 

234 






G. W. Quackenbush, May 29 to July 9, 1864; 
J. W. Johnston, July 9 to November 18, 1864; 
J. H. Smith, April 29 to June 25, 1865. 

Company D 

Captains: J. D. Fish, August 23, 1862 to May 12, 
1864; D. D. Jackson, May 23, 1864 to May 17, 
1865. 

First Lieutenants : D. M. Kenyon, August 16, 1862 
to March 22, 1864; A. C. Rice, April 10 to Sep- 
tember 20, 1863; D. D. Jackson, February 27 to 
June 23, 1864; F. E. Lowe, May 23 to December 
31, 1864; L. C. Bartlett, June 22, 1863 to June 25, 
1865. 

Second Lieutenants: Chas. E. Staring, August 23, 

1862 to June 14, 1863; G. R. Wheeler, March 25 
to May 15, 1863; J. W. Johnston, May 14 to Sep- 
tember 30, 1863; D. D. Jackson, September 20, 

1863 to February 27, 1864; N. Post, April 16 to 
June 25, 1865. 

Company E 

Captains: D. Campbell, August 23, 1862 to April 
27, 1863; J. W. Cronkite, May 3, 1863 to Decem- 
ber 24, 1864. 

First Lieutenants: T. Sternberg, August 18, 1862 
to January 5, 1863; J. W. Cronkite, April 10 to 
May 3, 1863; L. R. Paine, May 3, 1863 to March 
4, 1864; F. W. Morse, July 29 to December 23, 
1864; L. Burton, December 21, 1864 to June 25, 
1865. 

Second Lieutenants: H. VanHorn, August 18, 1862 
to January 7, 1863; L. R. Paine, April 10 to May 
3, 1863; D. D. Jackson, June 20 to September 20, 
1863; J. W. Johnston, September 20, 1863 to July 
9, 1864; G. W. Quackenbush, July 9, 1864 to April 
20, 1864. 

235 



Company F 

Captains: N. O. Wendell, August 23, 1862; H. S. 

Hall, June 10, 1863 to March 20, 1864; L. B. Paine, 

March 21 to December 19, 1864; A. M. Tyler, 

June 5, 1863 to June 25, 1865. 
First Lieutenants: B. F. Park, August 23, 1862 to 

March 18, 1863; A. C. Rice, April 10 to September 

20, 1863; S. E. Pierce, January 26 to May 13, 1864; 

H. C. VanScoy, May 3, 1864 to January 1, 1865; 

C. H. Barr, January 1 to June 25, 1865. 
Second Lieutenants : F. G. Bolles, August 23, 1862 

to January 30, 1863; S. E. Pierce, April 10, 1863 

to January 26, 1864. 

Company G 

Captains: E. Clarke, August 23, 1862 to January 
12, 1863; A. E. Mather, January 4 to May 3, 1863; 
F. Gorton, May 3, 1863 to October 4, 1864; H. C. 
VanScoy, January 24 to June 25, 1865. 

First Lieutenants: J. D. Clyde, August 23 to 
November 24, 1862; F. W. Morse, December 15, 
1862 to January 5, 1863; A. E. Mather, December 
20, 1862 to January 14, 1863; L. C. Bartlett, June 

22, 1863 to ; S. J. Redway, July 25 to 

December 11, 1864; W. H. Tucker, April 17 to 
October 19, 1864; H. C. VanScoy, January 1 to 
January 24, 1865; M. C. Foote, March 26 to June 
24, 1865. 

Second Lieutenants: C. T. Ferguson, August 23 
to November 12, 1862; Henrv Upton, March 11 to 
April 15, 1863; F. W. Ford^ April 15 to May 3, 
1863; H. B. Walker, May 4, 1863 to Januarv 8, 
1864; E. Oaks, December 24, 1864 to Aprif 20, 



1865. 



Company H 



Captains: J. Ramsey, August 23 to October 20, 
1862; T. S. Arnold, October 19, 1862 to May 18, 

236 



1863; A. M. Tyler, June 16, 1863 to Julv 21, 1865; 
C. A. Butts, April 19 to Mav 10, 1864; T. C. 
Adams, May 10 to October 14, 1864; L. B. Paine, 
December 16, 1864 to June 25, 1865. 

First Lieutenants: U. F. Doubleday, August 23, 
1862 to May 3, 1863; C. E. Butts, April 10, 1863 
to April 19, 1864; H. C. VanScoy, March 15 to 
May 13, 1864; E. C. Weaver, May 19, 1864 to 
February 14, 1865; J. H. Heath, February 17 to 
June 25, 1865. 

Second Lieutenants: M. C. Casler, August 18 to 
December 31, 1862; S. Miller, February 20 to May 
13, 1863; H. C. VanScoy, May 20, 1863 to March 
15, 1864; E. C. Weaver, May 3 to May 10, 1864; 
N. A. Armstrong, February 10 to June 25, 1865. 

Company I 

Captains : John S. Kidder, August 18, 1862 to June 

22, 1865. 
First Lieutenants: J. D. Douw, August 23, 1862 to 

April 23, 1863; D. Bates, May 4, 1863 to March 

15, 1864; F. W. Foote, March 16 to September 
24, 1864; J. H. Heath, December 24, 1864 to Feb- 
ruary 17, 1865; P. B. Woodcock, February 22 to 
June 25, 1865. 

Second Lieutenants: D. Bates, August 18, 1862 to 
May 4, 1863; F. W. Foote, July 20, 1862 to March 

16, 1864; J. A. Taft, April 29 to June 25, 1865. 

Company K 

Captains: S. M. Olin, August 18 to December 27, 
1862; J. D. P. Douw, April 24, 1863 to November 
11, 1864; T. J. Hassett, April 29 to June 24, 1865. 

First Lieutenants: A. E. Mather, August 18 to 
December 20, 1862; M. C. Casler, December 31, 
1862 to January 28, 1863; F. Gorton, January 28 

to May 3, 1863; L. C. Bartlett, ; 

H. Duroe, October 25, 1864 to March 25, 1865; 

237 

17 



T. J. Hassett, March 21 to April 20, 18G5; S. J. 
Redway, June 1 to July 25, 1864 
Second Lieutenants: F. Gorton, August 18 to 
November 20, 1862; A. C. Rice, January 23 to 
March 13, 1863; S. J. Redway, April 19, 1863 to 
June 1, 1864; W. H. H. Goodier, May 22 to June 
24, 1865. 

To the list of line officers the following named 
are to be added as by act of Congress: 

Captains: F. W. Morse, Erastus Wheeler. 

First Lieutenants: John D. Gray, Charles Ham- 
man, Wm. H. House, Edward P. Johnson and 
Daniel Stark. 

Second Lieutenants: ' Dennis A. Dewey, John M. 
Edwards, Joseph H. Heath, Edward P. Johnson, 
John V. N. Kent, Elias C. Mather and Charles F. 
Pattingill. 

On September 15, 1865, the following brevets 
were granted for distinguished conduct on dif- 
ferent occasions : Major James W. Cronkite to be 
Lieutenant Colonel; Captains John S. Kidder, 
James W. Johnston, Daniel D. Jackson and Hiram 
S. VanScoy to be Majors; Lieutenants Frank E. 
Lowe, Morris C. Foote and Thomas J. Hassett to 
be Captains. 

On June 24, 1865, six officers and 448 enlisted 
men are reported as transferred to the 65th New 
York Veteran Volunteers. The officers were Sur- 
geon Kimball and Captains Hassett, Tyler, Rart- 
lett and Hall, and Lieut. Eli Oaks. 

Undoubtedly no event in the history of the regi- 
ment since the war has been of so much impor- 
tance and interest as the erection of the monument 
on the battle field of Gettysburg. An account of 
it belongs naturally in a published history of the 
regiment. 

238 



In 1886 an act was passed by the Legislature of 
the State appointing a commission to determine 
the location and the movements of the eighty-two 
organizations from New York that participated in 
that battle, and the next year another act was 
passed appropriating $1500.00 for the erection of 
a monument to mark the spot each organization 
had occupied. 

The commission requested that a committee be 
appointed from the 121st to assist in locating the 
position held by the regiment. This request was 
sent to Colonel Cronkite who passed it to the 
president of the Regimental Association, and he 
appointed a temporary committee, consisting of 
Comrades John S. Kidder, James W. Cronkite, 
Clinton Bcckwith, Douglas Campbell, Frank E. 
Lowe and George McClean. This committee re- 
ported at the next meeting of the association, and 
a permanent Gettysburg memorial committee was 
appointed as follows: John S. Kidder, James W. 
Cronkite, Clinton Beckwith, Timothy Dasey, An- 
drew Davidson, Elias C. Mather, Douglas Camp- 
bell, Herman I. Johnson, Frank E. Lowe, J. K. 
Tyler and J. M. Lovejoy. This committee met on 
October 7, 1887 and organized by electing as offi- 
cers, President J. W. Cronkite, Treasurer J. S. 
Kidder, Secretary Frank E. Lowe, Corresponding 
Secretary J. M. Lovejoy. Executive committee, 
Comrades Cronkite, Kidder, Beckwith, Lovejoy, 
Davidson and H. I. Johnson. 

The work of this committee was so energetically 
and efficiently done in canvassing for additional 
funds, that the monument might be worthy of the 
fame of the regiment, in selecting and contracting 
for the monument and in locating the position it 
should occupv, that the day of dedication was fixed 
for October 10, 1889. 

The location is on the north west slope of Little 

239 



Round Top. The monument stands on the spot 
where the flag of the regiment was placed. Two 
granite markers fix the position of the flanks of 
the line, and from the location a view of nearly all 
the battle ground is obtained. 

The monument is composed of four pieces of 
the best Quincy granite, surmounted by the figure 
of a soldier seven feet in height, made of American 
standard bronze. The base is six feet square and 
the entire height is fourteen feet and three inches. 

On the front is the legend, "The 121st New York 
Infantry (Colonel Emory Upton), 2d Brigade, 1st 
Division, 6th Corps, held this position from the 
evening of June 2d, until the close of the battle." 
There are also on the front the 6th Corps cross, 
and the coat of arms of the State of New York. 

The reverse side has a life size medallion of 
Colonel Emory Upton in bronze. On one side a 
bronze panel contains the inscription, "Organized 
in Herkimer and Otsego Counties; Mustered in 
August 23, 1862; Officers 30, Men 910; Casualties, 
killed and mortally wounded: Officers 14, Men 
212 (This total of killed and mortally wounded 
should be 275 as shown by preceding record) ; 
Wounded: Officers 27, Men 596; Died of Disease: 
Officers 4, Men 117; Discharged for wounds, dis- 
ease, etc.: Officers 37, Men 283; Transferred to 
other commands: Officers 12, Men 262; Mustered 
Out June 25, 1865, Officers 25, Men 283." 

The bronze panel on the other side contains the 
list of the battles for which the regiment is credited 
in the military archives at Washington as follows : 
"Crampton's Pass, Fredericksburg, Mary's Heights, 
Salem Church, Salem Heights, Gettysburg, Rap- 
pahannock Station, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spott- 
sylvania C. H., North Anna, Totopotomy, Cold 
Harbor, Petersburg, Fort Stevens D. C, Summit 
Point, Winchester (Opequon), Fisher's Hill, New 

240 




Our Regimental Monument, 

Located on the northern slope of Little Round Top, Battlefield 
of Gettysburg. Photo by Lieut. Jas. H. Smith. 




The Original Flag of the 121st N. Y. Infantry, 

Presented by the ladies of Herkimer and Otsego counties. 

Photographed about thirty years after the war 

by Lieut. Jas. H. Smith. 




The Guidons of the 121st N. Y. Infantry, 

Photographed about thirty years after the war by 

Lieut. Jas. H. Smith. 



Market, Cedar Creek, Hatcher's Run, Petersburg 
(Fort Fisher), Petersburg (Assault), Sailor's Creek, 
Appomattox C. H." 

At the Dedicatory Exercises held on October 10, 
1889, music was furnished by the Gettysburg band, 
prayer was offered and the benediction pro- 
nounced by the Rev. J. R. Dunkerly of Gettysburg. 
The monument was unveiled by Mrs. Maria Upton 
Hanford, an Oration was given by the Hon. A. M. 
Mills of Little Falls and an original poem was read 
by Prof. A. H. J. Watkins. 

Colonel Cronkite, who presided, read letters 
from Generals H. G. Wright, H. W. Slocum and 
Colonel Cowen, who commanded the battery fre- 
quently mentioned in the history. He also read 
a short speech made by General Upton when he 
entered Augusta, Georgia, on May 8, 1865. 

"Soldiers, four years ago the Governor of 
Georgia, at the head of an armed force, hauled 
down the American flag at this Arsenal. The 
President of the United States called the nation 
to arms to repossess the forts and arsenals that 
had been seized. After four years of sanguinary 
war and conflict, we execute the order of the great 
preserver of the Union and liberty, and to-day we 
again hoist the Stars and Stripes over the Arsenal 
at Augusta. Majestically, triumphantly, she rises/' 

The company that assembled at the dedication 
of the monument consisted of ninety-eight persons, 
comrades, their wives and sons. A picture of them 
clustered around the monument was taken. It 
may be well to add that the number of surviving 
comrades of the regiment at that date was re- 
ported to be 163, and the contributors to the 
monumental fund numbered 581. The cost of the 
monument and the two markers was $2,000.00. It is 
accounted one of the finest regimental monuments 
on the battle field of Gettysburg. 

241 



The surviving members of the regiment so far 
as known to the secretary at the date of this writ- 
ing are: 
Quartermaster Theodore Sternberg, Major U. S. 

A., retired, Kanopolis, Kans. 
Lieut. N. A. Armstrong, Warren, N. Y. 
Lieut. G. P. Borden, Brigadier General, U. S. A., 

retired, 330 W. 95th St., New York City. 
Lieut. Charles M. Bradt, M. D., St. Charles, Mich. 
Lieut. Dennis A. Dewey, Captain 108 U. S. C. T., 

West Winfield, N. Y. 
Lieut. Francis N. Piper, 148 Webster Ave., Syra- 
cuse, N. Y. 
Lieut. G. W. Quackenbush, 2746 S. Lincoln, Engle- 

wood, Denver, Colo. 
Lieut. James H. Smith, 3541 Cottage Grove Ave., 

Chicago, 111. 

NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND PRIVATES 

Company A 

Thomas Barnaby, West Chazy, N. Y. 

Rev. Isaac O. Best, Broadalbin, N. Y. 

H. S. Burnham, 507 Park Ave., Woonsocket, R. I. 

J. W. Chapin, 1731 Columbia Road, Washington, 

D. C. 
Albert H. Clark, Council Bluffs, Iowa. 
Lewis Dupee, East Beekmantown, N. Y. 
Jeremiah Gratton, 190 Webster St., Malone, N. Y. 
Lewis Gratton, West Constableville, N. Y. 
W. H. Jones, 407 Ballinger St., Herkimer, N. Y. 
Oliver King, Mooers, N. Y. 

Rev. Eli P. LaCell, 1404 4th St., Santa Rosa, Cal. 
George M. McCourt, London, Wis. 
Smith Pine, Keeseville, N. Y. 
Warren P. Smith, West Coxsackie, N. Y. 
Georga A. Vossler, 39 Harrington St., Pough- 

keepsie, N. Y. 

242 



A. Walrath, Atkinson, Neb. 

John H. Warmouth, Box 83, Oneida, N. Y. 

Company B 

Col. Clinton Beckwith, 108 Mary St., Herkimer, 

N. Y. 
C. C. Catlin, Melvin, Kan. 
Mydret W. Gardner, 1611 W. 19th St., Sioux City, 

Iowa. 
Philip Goodman, Soldiers' Home, Hampton Rbads, 

Va. 
R. A. Jackson, Boonville, N. Y. 
Josiah King, Soldiers' Home, Bath, N. Y. 
Ira D. Warren, Zumbrota, Minn. 
Leonard Ward, R. F. D. No. 3, Oneonta, N. Y. 
Damon O. Yates, R. F. D. No. 33, South Dayton, 

N. Y. 
W. W. Young, R. F. D. No. 1, Ilion, N. Y. 
Thomas H. Yoemans, Soldiers' Home, Bath, N. Y. 

Company C 

O. B. Austin, Norwood, N. Y. 

M. H. Doland, Milburn, N. J. 

William Joyce, County Hospital, Astoria, Ore. 

Timothy Kavenaugh, Middleville, N. Y. 

Edward Mabey, R. F. D. No. 1, Johnstown, N. Y. 

William Myers, 86 John St., Little Falls, N. Y. 

A. T. Orvis, Cold Brook, N. Y. 

James H. Smith, Philadelphia, N. Y. 

James B. Schaffner, 213 Mohawk St., Herkimer, 

N. Y. 
Thomas Topper, Avonlea, Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Company D 

Fred Bryce, Ilion, N. Y. 
H. W. Cadwell, Jordanville, N. Y. 
William Dubois, Atwood, N. Y. 
M. D. Elwood, 1109 City St., Utica, N. Y. 

243 



A. A. Gilespie, Duke Center, Penn. 

George H. Gilbert, Reed City, Mich. 

Levi Helmer, Dodgeville, N. Y. 

J. W. Hartley, Waterville, N. Y. 

J. H. Leonardson, R. F. D. No 7, Canastota, N Y. 

Charles Rice, 36 Winter St., West End Station, Me. 

Burrell Rice, Salisbury Center, N. Y. 

C. Thurston, Belfast, Me. 

Milo B. Tanner, 1046 Emerson St., Sheldon, Wyo. 

Company E 

James T. Clark, 37 Robinson St., Schenectady, N. Y. 

C. A. Farr, Osborn, Mo. 

E. M. Irons, Hartwick, N. Y. 

E C. Irons, Crandall's Hotel, Binghamton, N. Y. 

George M. Lemon, 1202 6th Ave., Watervleit, N. Y. 

Joseph Lockwood, R. F. D. No. 1, Alleghany, N. Y. 

W. G. Palmer, Lisle, N. Y. 

J. H. Smythe, VanHornsville, N. Y. 

Orville O. Seeger, 14 Beech St., Cooperstown, N. Y. 

Lorenzo Smith, 425 E. Lincoln Way, Kearney, Neb. 

Hiram Vanaram, Ausable Chasm, N. Y. 

J. H. Walrath, Johnstown, N. Y. 

W. H. Waffle, Kendall, Wis. 

Abram Woodruff, Springville, N. Y. 

Rev. Henry Wood, 215 E. 25th St., Kearney, Neb. 

Company F 

Fred Albright, Unadilla, N. Y. 
Otis B. Flanders, R. F. D., Woodstock, 111. 
S. D. French, Nashua, Iowa. 
David R. Harris, Delhi, N. Y. 
W. A. Johnson, Schuyler Lake, N. Y. 
Hiram Krill, 19 Austin St., Rochester, N. Y. 
W. G. Lobdell, Unadilla, N. Y. 
H. E. Morgan, Clarkton, Mich. 
Adelbert J. Reed, Oviedo, Fla. 
Edward Tillinghast, Box 686, Camden, N. Y. 

244 



Company G 

G. M. Boorn, Richmondville, N. Y. 

C. M. Butterfleld, St. Charles, Mich. 

J. H. Brandon, Prairie Depot, Ohio. 

Perry F. Cole, Afton, N. Y. 

Henry M. Delong, Soldiers' Home, Milwaukee, Wis. 

Harrison Hadsell, South Valley, N. Y. 

E. M. Hunt, Roseboom, N. Y. 

J. E. Hoover, 1514 Sunset Ave., Utica, N. Y. 

Joseph D. Lamb, Santa Rosa, Cal. 

John W. Manzer, Bellevue, Mich. 

H. W. Martin, Bedford, P. Q., Canada. 

J. L. Merrit, Cattaraugus, N. Y. 

Henrv V. Redington, Sidney, Neb. 

David H. Randolph, 325 E. Seneca St., Ithaca, N. Y. 

S. H. Sherman, Millford, N. Y. 

Peter Simmons, Cherry Valley, N. Y. 

David Wright, 56 Third St., Ilion, N. Y. 

Company H 

Warren E. Dockman, Lytle, Colo. 

Henry O. Eason, Schuyler Lake, N. Y. 

Willard P. Foote, Fremont, Neb. 

C. I. Haines, R. F. D. No. 2, Box 15, Ossining, N. Y. 

Joseph Lumbra, Montgomery, Vt. 

Wilson VanAuken, Bushkill, Pa. 

Charles VanHousen, Soldiers' Home, Bath, N. Y. 

Company I 

James Baker, 54 Upson Ave., Winstead, Conn. 
Robert Brundage, North Wolcott, N. Y. 
Edwin Butler, Box 168, Springfield, Vt. 
William H. Cole, Hobart, N. Y. 
H. J. Goodrich, Worcester, N. Y. 
G. W. Hubbard, Tustin, Cal. 

Ransome C. Luther, 2002 Madison St., Madison, 
Wis. 

245 



C. N. Merrill, East Worcester, N. Y. 

Charles Nichols, Morris, N. Y. 

Gilbert Olds, R. F. D., S. New Berlin, N. Y. 

Peter Russlo, Gatineau Point, P. Q., Canada. 

A. S. Tanner, Groton, N. Y. 

Austin Tiel, 147 Buena Vista Ave., Yonkers, N. Y. 

C. J. Westcott, 40 Elm St. Oneonta, N. Y. 

Charles Wilsey, Worcester, N. Y. 

Company K 

Hugh M. Brown, Bethel, N. Y. 

John Brucher, Bethel, N. Y. 

G. W. Wallace, Clay Center, Kan. 

The secretary reports thirty-nine others whose 
residences and condition are not known to him. 

The invitation given to all surviving members 
of the regiment to send the story of their lives 
since the war, so that a sketch of events that would 
be of interest to all might be given in the Appendix 
to the history, has not been responded to as fully 
as was hoped and expected. The author has not 
been acquainted with the political and economic 
history of the 20th Senatorial District, and so has 
no personal information to give of those who have 
risen to distinction, as private citizens. Therefore 
this feature of the history will be of meager in- 
terest. 

Sergeant Robert Chatterton responded to the 
request by sending a very interesting article about 
Robert E. Lee, and giving a fine picture of him as 
he appeared when a young man and an officer in 
the U. S. Army. 

An interesting letter from Mrs. Lillian Water- 
man Brady gives the record of her father's service, 
Perrin Waterman, and of his standing in the G. 
A. R. Post, of which he held all the offices in its 
gift. But the special item of interest in the story 

246 



is that he drove the ambulance in which the body 
of General Russell was taken from Winchester to 
Harper's Ferry. The wound in his hand received 
at Spottsylvania, disabled him from handling a 
gun, and he served in the Ambulance Corps to the 
end of the war. Colonel Solomon W. Russell was 
in command of the party, under orders to take 
the body of General Russell to his home at Salem, 
New York, for burial. A cavalry escort accom- 
panied the ambulance. 

W. W. Young wrote from the National Soldiers' 
Home, Virginia, that his health is very much shat- 
tered. Since the close of the war he has been 
Justice of the Peace, Post Commander, President 
of the Regimental Association, Delegate to the 
National Encampment in 1901, Delegate to the 
State Encampment three times, five times A. D. C. 
on the Department Staff, is a member of the Na- 
tional Association of Ex-prisoners of War and has 
a medal of honor given by the State of New York. 

It will be a pleasure to the readers of this history 
to learn of the after-war history of Colonel Beck- 
with whose narrative constitutes so large a part 
of the compilation made by the author. Politically, 
Comrade Beckwith is a Democrat, and in 1894 
was appointed by Governor Flower, Assistant State 
Engineer with the rank of Colonel, his commission 
being dated November 12, 1894. He was also ap- 
pointed by Governor Flower, a member of the 
New York Monument Commission on which he 
has served ever since. He "has had charge of the 
erection of a number of monuments and has 
designed several, among which are General 
Webb's of the 'Bloody Angle' at Gettysburg, and 
General Wadsworth at Gettysburg and Generals 
Doubleday's and Robinson's at Gettysburg, one 
at Knoxville, Tennessee, one at Vicksburg, one at 
Antietam, Maryland and a number of monuments 

247 



at other points on the battle fields of Gettysburg, 
Antietam, Lookout Mountain, Chicamaugua and 
in the vicinity of Richmond, all of which are an 
honor and credit to the State of New York." Com- 
rade Beckwith was also a member of the National 
Democratic Conventions which nominated for 
President Grover Cleveland, W. J. Bryan and Alton 
B. Parker. He was a member of the State Demo- 
cratic Committee for twenty-five years and when 
he retired he was the oldest by service of any 
member of it. He has been by occupation a con- 
tractor, and been engaged in some important 
works, as for instance, the Washington Aquaduct 
Tunnel and the New York Aquaduct Tunnel from 
Croton to shaft 12 B on the Jay Gould estate near 
Tarrytown, Westchester County and in many 
other places, where with partner, John V. Quacken- 
bush, were engaged in the construction of the 
four-tracking of the N. Y. C. & H. R. R. R. and in 
the construction of the West Shore, or N. Y. & 
Buffalo R. R. and many other contracts for the 
State of New York and the city of Boston. In 
civil life he has been Supervisor, President of the 
village of Herkimer and recently has been busy 
in public works. "Now, having reached the allotted 
age of man and being tired, I have retired from 
active service, having done my share, I think. 
But as long as there is anything for me to do of 
service to my country and people, and I am able, 
I will undertake it." 

Captain Davidson, after serving in the U. S. C. T., 
30th Regiment and earning a medal of honor, 
became editor of the Otsego Republican and after- 
wards was made Commander of the Soldiers' 
Home at Bath, N. Y. 

Dennis A. Dewey in the spring of 1864 went 
before General Casey's board and was examined 
for a commission in the U. S. C. T. He passed 

248 



with the grade of "Captain of the First Class," 
but when the order came to report to his regiment, 
the 108th U. S. C. T. in Tennessee, he was a pris- 
oner, having been captured in the battle of the 
Wilderness. Being paroled and in precarious 
health, he made application for the commission 
earned and it was granted. He was commissioned 
as Captain by special order of the War Depart- 
ment, and mustered in as Captain of the 108th 
U. S. C. T. and immediately resigned, and was 
honorably discharged from that regiment. He had 
been previously commissioned as Second Lieu- 
tenant in the 121st, but not mustered. The act of 
Congress afterwards passed, declared all such com- 
missioned men to be mustered into the service 
and entitled to pay from the date of their com- 
mission. 

The other transfers from the 121st to the colored 
troops were: 

Delevan Bates to the 30th Regiment. This regi- 
ment under the command of Colonel Bates dis- 
tinguished itself at the "Battle of the Crater" in 
front of Petersburg and Comrade Bates was 
awarded a medal of honor. Some of us remember 
his description of that fight, given at a recent 
reunion of the Association. 

Major A. E. Mather was transferred to the 20th 
Regiment, U. S. C. T, as Lieutenant Colonel. He 
had served in the 121st as first lieutenant, captain 
and major. 

First Lieut. J. D. Gray was transferred to the 23d 
Regiment, U. S. C. T., as Captain. He had served 
in the 121st as private, sergeant, second and first 
lieutenant. 

Elias C. Mather was transferred to the 20th Regi- 
ment, U. S. C. T., as Captain. He had served in 
the 121st as sergeant and second lieutenant. 

Cleveland Campbell, Adjutant of the 152d In- 

249 



fantry, was transferred as Captain to the 121st 
April 22, 1863 and on March 20, 1864, was trans- 
ferred as Colonel to the 23d Regiment, U. S. C. T. 
His examination was so excellent that he was in- 
vited to sit on the board of examiners. 

Lieutenant James H. Smith was mustered out 
with the regiment at Hall's Hill and with his sons, 
is now located at 3541 Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago, 
Illinois, manufacturing Victor Photographic Spe- 
cialties. He, at this writing, is commander of the 
Loyal Legion of Illinois, also of the Geo. H. Thomas 
Post of the G. A. R., the largest in the state. At 
the last reunion of the regiment he gave a very 
interesting lantern slide exhibition of the National 
Parks of the United States, of views, many of 
which he had himself taken, and therefore was 
enabled to vividly describe. The collection and 
reproduction of the illustrations of this history are 
his work, and the author wishes to express his 
appreciation of the help and encouragement he 
has received so generously from Comrade Smith. 

Lieutenant Philip R. Woodcock was mustered 
out with the regiment at Hall's Hill and became a 
successful business man in Rochester. As long as 
he was able he was a faithful attendant at the 
reunions of the 121st, and it became his recog- 
nized duty on each Memorial Day to place a wreath 
of flowers upon the grave of General Upton, in 
the name and at the expense of the Association. 

There are no doubt many other comrades of 
the regiment whose records would be interesting, 
and would add to the completeness of the History, 
but the compiler does not know them personally, 
nor can he divine the prominent positions they 
have held, or the noble work they have done; but 
he is confident that the men who met so bravely 
and unflinchingly the exigencies of war, have not 
failed to meet the demands of peace, with like 
fortitude and success. 

250 



In 1876 an Association of the Veterans of the 
121st New York Volunteer Infantry was organized 
and last year at its forty-fourth reunion at Ilion, 
the action was taken which assigned to the author 
the duty of compiling a history of the regiment, 
to be reported upon at the next meeting of the 
Association. The task has not been an easy one, 
nor has the time been sufficient to gather all the 
information that might be considered important, 
but the work has been intensely interesting to the 
writer and he hopes that it will be received with 
kindly tolerance by the veterans and their friends. 
In order to distribute the responsibility, he has 
requested Comrades Clinton Beckwith, C. J. West- 
cott and James H. Smith to act as a committee to 
examine and criticize the manuscript, ascertain the 
cost of publication and report to the association 
at its next meeting. 



251 



INDEX 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I 20th Senatorial District — State and County 
Committees Appointed by Governor — Town- 
ships in Which Companies Were Raised — 
Camp Schuyler — Muster of Regiment ... 1 

II Ordered to Washington — Col. Clinton Beck- 
witk's Story to Be Used — Reviewed by Pres- 
ident Lincoln — Assignment to Brigade — The 
5th Maine and 121st N. Y 6 

III The Military Situation in Maryland — South 
Mountain Range — Battle of Crampton's Pass 
— At Antietam the Day After the Battle . 15 

IV Colonel Franchott Succeeded by Colonel Upton 
— Upton's Previous Service and Character — 
Forward Movement under McClellan — Up- 
ton's Discipline — Burnside Succeeds McClel- 
lan — Reorganization by Bumside .... 26 
V The Battle of Fredericksburg — A Day on the 
Skirmish Line — The Mud March — Burnside 
Relieved by Hooker — President Lincoln's Let- 
ter to Hooker i < . . . 39 

VI Reorganization of the Army by Hooker — Cross- 
ing the River in Pontoon Boats — the 6th Corps 
at Fredericksburg — Capture of Marye's 
Heights — The Battle of Salem Church — Suc- 
cessful Withdrawal to Bank's Ford — The 

Brandy Bottle in War 58 

VII The Final March to Gettysburg — Position of 

121st at Gettysburg — Prompt Pursuit of Lee 84 
VIII Brigade Headquarters Attacked by Moseby — 
The Battle of Rappahannock Station — Adjt. 
Gen. R. P. Wilson — The Importance of the 
Victory — Mine Run — General Bartlett Visits 
the Regiment — His Speech — Life in Winter 
Quarters at Hazel Run 92 

IX Regimental Organization in May, 1864 — The 
Wilderness Campaign Begun May 4 — Lee's 
Army Organization — The Battle of the Wilder- 
ness — The Right Flank Turned — Restored by 
the 121st— The Woods on Fire 115 

253 



CHAPTER PAGE 

X May 10th Assault — Capture of Enemy's Works 
— Failure of Support — Orderly Withdrawal 
— Responsibility for Failure — Colonel Olcott 
Wounded and Captured — Upton's Promotion 
to Brig. Gren'l.— The Bloody Angle ... 124 
XI The Angle Described — Upton's Report of Battle 
—The Tree Cut Down by Bullets— The Ap- 
pearance of Field Next Morning .... 141 
XII Meyer's Hill Affair — Jericho Ford — Destroying 

R. R. — Sheridan's Raid Around Lee's Army 149 
XIII Charge of 2nd Conn.— Withdrawal— Shriek of 

Wounded Man 154 

XIV General Lee Mystified — At Bermuda Hundreds — 
A Sutler Comes to Grief — Arrival at Peters- 
burg—A Mortar Shell 162 

XV Ordered to Washington — Reception at Washing- 
ton — At Fort Stevens — Lincoln and General 
Wright — Pursuit of Early to Snickersville 

Ford— Early Advance 169 

XVI Sheridan Takes Command — Itinerary of Brigade 
in Valley — The Opequon Battle — General Rus- 
sell Killed — Upton Wounded — Battle of 
Fisher's Hill— The Exposed Flank .... 176 
XVII General Gordon's Strategy at Cedar Creek— The 
Successful Attack — Advance Checked — The 

Enemy Routed 189 

XVIII Return to Petersburg — Hatcher's Run — The 

Attack on Ft. Steadman — A Successful Charge 202 
XIX The Brigade Sent to 19th Corps — Skirmishes 
into Petersburg — The Pursuit of Lee — Bat- 
tle of Sailor's Creek — Colonel Cronkite 

Wounded 208 

XX Lee's Surrender — Sixth Corps Sent South to 
Burkesville and Danville — Receives Recruits 
and Officers Mustered to Full Ranks — Returns 
to Washington and 121st Is Mustered Out at 

Halls Hill, Va 219 

Appendix — The Number of Men in Regiment Uncertain 
— Table of Losses — List of Officers and Their 
Terms of Service — Transfers to 65th N. Y. 
Vet. Vols. — Gettysburg Monument — Roster of 
Surviving Members — Personal Mention — 
Transfers to U. S. C. T. — Regimental Associa- 
tion — Historical Committee 229 

254 















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