UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS
A BOY'S EXPERIENCE WITH THE ARMY
OF THE POTOMAC
JACOB H. COLE
OF THE FIRST NEW YORK FIRE ZOUAVES AND THE FIFTY-SEVENTH
NEW YORK VOLDNTBERS.
Paterson, N. J.
NEWS PRINTING COMPANY.
TEE NE; YORK
A. .ou, Lr:.ia': and
B \^:n L
By JACOB H. COLK.
All rights resernjed.
HUGH C. IRISH CAMP NO. 8
SONS OF VETERANS
WITH THE HOPE THAT IN AFTER YEARS
IT MAY RECALL TO THEM AND THEIR
CHILDREN THE DEEDS AND SERVICES OF
THEIR FATHERS IN DEFENCE OF THE
UNION, THIS WORK IS RESPECTFULLY
DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR.
JACOB H COLE.
In sending forth this Uttle volume, the author does so with the
full knowledge that many histories of the Civil War have been
written, but he does not desire that this book should be looked upon
simply as history, but to be read and judged as the experience of
one who, when on that memorable day in April, 1861, the news
was flashed over the wires that the Stars and Stripes had been fired
upon at Fort Sumter, had all the blood in his veins swollen with
patriotism and love of country. Although but a mere lad, yet
when the call came for volunteers, he was one of the first to heed his
country's call. The scenes and incidents here mentioned was what
he witnessed himself. Had the author mentioned all the incidents
of which he was an eye witness, he could have filled a bookof greater
size and magnitude: but such has not been his desire. So many of
his friends have asked him to relate his experience while in the
army (a service that lasted almost four years), that he came at last
to the conclusion to put his experience in book form, and thus give
it to the world. It has not been the intention of the author to
criticise the acts of any of his comrades, or his superior officers, for
where all done so well, it would not be doing them justice to do so
at this late day, but of one he wishes to speak, and after the lapse
of forty years, he is still under the same impression as regards his
merits as he was when serving under him. That officer was General
George B. McClellan, the Organizer and First Commander of that
grand bod}' of men — the Army of the Potomac. That, as its Com-
mander, he was the greatest General of the times, and had he received
the support of the authorities at Washington when he entered upon
the Peninsular Campaign, the same as was afterwards given to
General Grant when he became Commander, the war would have
ended long before it did. In the following pages the author has
only briefly mentioned the names of Generals Richardson, Sumner
and Hancock, three of the bravest Generals in the Army of the
Potomac. He would have wished to add more to what he has written
in reference to those brave and gallant officers under w^hom he served,
but space forbids. And now after the lapse of years, he cannot
forget two of his officers — the brave Colonel Chapman, or that grand
fatherly officer, Colonel, afterguards General, Zook. Both of these
officers treated the author like a son, and when death claimed them
none mourned or revered their memory more than your humble ser-
vant. To the Sons of Veterans it is hoped that this book may
awaken and rekindle their patriotism and love of country, and that
should the occasion arise that they, like their fathers, will be willing
to rise in defense of the Stars and Stripes, the colors that never yet
turned its back to the foe, or ever was trailed in the dust by its
enemieSo So with the prayer that this book may accomplish all
that the writer intended, and with this view in mind, this book is
sent forth with the best wishes of
Opening of the War.— First Enlistment.— Death of Colonel Els-
worth. — Discharge from the Service. — Re-enlistment.— On to
Washington.— Foraging and Scouting.— Life in Camp.— Presi-
dent Orders Army Di\dded into Corps. — McClellan's Address
to the Army. — On to Richmond. — Arrive on the Peninsular. —
The Beginning of the Peninsular Campaign 1-22
The Army on the Move. — From Shippen Point to Grapevine
Bridge. — Scenes along the Route. — Anecdotes and Incidents.
— Playing Baseball. — The Sounds of Cannonading(. — Ordeirs
to Fall In. — March to Grapevine Bridge 23-31
The Crossing of the River. — March to Fair Oaks. — First and
Second Days' Battles. — Sleeping Between Two Dead Men. —
A Night Alarm.— The Enemy Defeated 32-44
From Pair Oaks to Malvern Hill. — The Seven Days' Fight. —
Jackson's Sudden Move from ^:he Shenandoah Valley to the
Peninsular.— McDowell's Army Bottled Up.— Scenes and
Incidents of McClellan's Famous Retreat 45-58
Battle of Malvern Hill. — Victory of Union Army. — Retreat to
Harrison's I^anding. — Visit of President Lincoln to the Army.
— General McClellan's Address to the Army. — Movement of
Troops toward Malvern Hill. — Lee's Advance toward Wash-
ington. — Orders to the Army to go to Washington 59-70
From the Peninsular to Antietam.— McClellan Left Without a
Command. — Buying Watermelons without Money. — Pope
takes Command of the Army. — March to the Second Battle
of Bull Run. — Defeat of Pope.— McClellan Again Called to
the Command of the Army to Save Washington. — Battle of
South Mountain 71-82
From South Mountain to Warrenton. — Battle of Antietam. —
Death of Generals Mansfield and Richardson. — After a
Victory, What? — Change of Commanders. — ^General McClel-
lan Relieved and General Burnside Assumes Command. —
McClellan's Farewell to the Army. — Anecdotes and Incidents. 83-102
From W^arrenton to Fredericksburg. — Incidents of the March. —
The Battle of Fredericksburg with Incidents of the Same. —
Lincoln's Address to the Army. — Anecdotes of the Twenty-
fifth New Jersey. — The Mud March. — The Army Again
Changes Commanders. — Hooker in Command 103-125
Private Letter from A. Lincoln to Major-General Hooker. —
Incidents of Camp Life at Falmouth.— March to Ohancellors-
ville and General Hooker's Address.— Battle of Chancellors-
ville. — Death of the Rebel General Stonewall Jackson. — The
Retreat of Chancellorsville.— JBack to the Old Camp at
Before Fredericksburg. — Situation of the Several Corps.— The
Army Breaks Camp.— The Race Between Lee and Hooker.—
The March to Geittyisburg and the iFirat Day's Battle. — The
Death of General Reynolds.— Anecdotes of the March 152--158
From Monocacy Bridge to Taneytown. — Hooker Relieved of the
Command. — Meade Appointed to Command Army of the
Potomac. — General Orders to Corps Commanders, Incidents,
From Taneytown to Gettysburg and the First Day's Fight. With
Incidents, etc 172-192
The Second Day's Battle.— Premonition of Death.— General Zook
is Killed. — Wounded and Taken Prisoner. — The Third Day's
Battle.— Pickett's Charge.— Retreat of the Rebel Army.—
Again Among Friends. — Sent to the Hospital. — ^Life in the
Hospital. — Rejoined My Regiment. — ^Death of Colonel Chap-
man. — New Faces and New Commanders 193--211
Battle of the Wilderness. — Return of the Regiment to Freder-
icksburg. — Burying the Dead. — Return to the Army. — The
Siegie of Petersburg. — Marching and Fighting. — Ordered
Mustered Out. — Return Home 212-225
Scenes and Incidents. — Anecdotes of Officers and Men of the
Fifty-seventh New York 226-236
The Close of the War. — The Grand Review, with a Sketch of the
Corps and their Commanders. — The End of the Army of the
The Assassination of President Lincoln 248-253
Author's Portrait Frontispiece
Ir Alexandria 3
Leaving Camp Lafayette for Washington 6
Portraits of William H. Cole and Jacob H. Cole 10
Crossing the Grapevine Bridge BD
Abraham Lincoln Calling his Cabinet after the Defeat at Second
Bull Run 49
Hancock at Antietam, taking Command of Richardson's Division.... 89
General McClellan's Farewell to the Army 99
Passing the 25th New Jersey in Fredericksburg 109
Portrait of Colonel D -rrom 116
Review by President Lincoln — Falmouth, Opposite Fredericksburg. . 129
The March to Chancellorsville 135
The Rout of the Eleventh Corps, Chancellorsville 139
Retreat Across the Rappaihannock.— United States Ford 148
In the Wheatfield at Gettysburg 198
Photo of Wheatfield where Jacob H. Cole was Wounded 202
The Final Charge at Gettysburg 205
Hospital Department 207
Crossing the Rapidan 213
Eating Supper in Peace 217
Sleeping on the Battle Field— Marching Through Swamp 222
Portrait of Colonel Zook Facing 236
UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Opening of the War. — First Enlistment. — Death of Colonel Elsworth. —
Discharge from the Service. — Re-enlistment. — On to Washington. —
Foraging and Scouting. — Life in Camp. — President Orders Army
Divided into Corps. — McClellan's Address to the Army. — On to
Richmond. — Arrive on the Peninsular. — The Beginning of the Penin-
The general election for President and Vice President of the
United States that was held in November, i860, was of the ut-
most moment to the country at large, as the South declared that
the election of Abraham Lincoln would be considered a menace
to the South and her institution of slavery, so that the result of
the election was looked upon with anxious fears on the one hand
and with hope on the other. When the election of Abraham
Lincoln, as President, w^as assured, the South at once com-
menced to talk secession and claimed the right of any State to
secede from the Union at any time, while on the other hand the
North, East and West denied such right to any State at this
time. I was but a boy, not quite fourteen years of age, having
been bom in the city 6i P^atersoH; Neiw Jersey, February 2 2d,
2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
1S47. and how well do I reiiieiiiber the wave of patrio:isiii that
swept over the city when tlie news caine that Lincoln had
escaped his enemies in Baltimore and had arrivevl in Washing-
ton in safety. Then, in a few days after his inauguration, came
the news that the rebels had tired upon Fort Sumpter, in Charles-
ton Harbor. Then came the call of tlie President for volunteers
to serve for three months. I at once i^boy as I was'i hastened
to obey the call, and enlisted in Company A. First Xew York
Fire Zouaves, under the command of Colonel Ellsworth, and
was swoni into the U^iited States Service on April J4th. 1S61.
and in a few days the regiment marchevi down Broadway in
New York, and left for Wasliington. D. C. Wlien we arrived
in Baltimore we marched through the city in a hollow square, as
all the regiment was not anned. The officers were placed
in the centre of the square and unannevi men were place^l in the
inside rank. We marched tlirough Baltimore on May Jp.d,
1861. just eleven da>-s after the memorable attack on the Sixth
Massachusetts Regriment. We arrived in Washington May
2nd. I So I. and went into camp in the Capitol. In a few days
we changed camp to the White House grounds, where we re-
mained until the 24th day of ^lay. On that moniing we
were early assembled and marchevi to the Potomac River,
and taking boats^ we floated dowti the river until we were
opposite Alexandria, Va., where we made a landing. Shortly
after landing, and while marching through the streets of the
city. Colonel Ellsworth saw a large Confe^lerate flag fl>*ing from
tlie roof of the Marshall House. The colonel, accompanievl by
some of his regiment, ascended to the roof and haulevl down
the flag, \\lien coming down the stairs, folding the t^ag. he was
met by Jackson, who, without warning, deliberately shot and
killeii Colonel Ellsworth. Hardly had he committed the cow-
ardlv act when he was shot and killevl ^v Serpen !it "Rrownell.
FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN. i
The regimeiVu reniaintrl in camp on the outskirts of Alexandria
until July 17th, 1861, when the regiment broke camp and
marched to Centreville, and from there to Chubbs Run, and then
to Manassas, where, on the 21st of July, we fought the battle
of Bull Run, or Manassas. The army, meeting with defeat, re-
treated to Washington, where we found that the city was filled
with stragglers on the retreat. The roads were filled with
carriages and baggage wagons. Under ihe excitement men cut
horses and mules loose from the wagons, jumped on their backs,
and smarted belter skelter for Washington. The roads were so
crowded that it was more like a mob than an army. When we
reached the Long Bridge to cross over into Washington there
was such a crush that it was impossible to keep any formation,
so it became a case of ever>^ one for themselves. When we ar-
rived in the city we found it filled with stragglers, and all was ex-
citement. After the regiment got into Washington and the ex-
citement began to cool, the officers found that there was about
two hundred men missing. When we reached New York we
ascertained the whereabouts of the missing men. Some had
. UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
been killed, others were prisoners, and still others had never
stopped retreating until they reached home. The regiment left
Washington for New York on August 4th, and was mustered
out of the service as a regiment August 8th, 1861. On the
nth day of August, 1861, I enlisted at New York City in
Company A, Fifty-seventh New York Volunteer Infantry,
Colonel Samuel K. Zooks commanding ; my captain being Al-
bert Chapman. I was sent to join my company, then in camp
at Scarsdale, N. Y. After a few days' stay in that camp, which
was known as Camp Scarsdale, we were ordered to move to
New Dorp, Staten Island, going by boat from the Battery.
Crossing New York Bay,, we arrived at Camp Lafayette, and
found that for our accommodation that rudely constructed bar-
racks had been built, and in these buildings the regiment was
housed and fed. A frightful change from the comforts of home.
These barracks, rude as they were, afforded us comfort and pro-
tection far beyond what was soon to come in tlie open fieUI.
But the novelty of the situation was interesting, and it took
more and longer than this experience to wear away the nev/
born enthusiasm that had been beating in every patriotic breast.
A soldier's life had thus far been all romance. A gala day wnth
flags flying, crowds cheering, and women smiling, save, perhaps,
the heartache in moments of separation, all had been bustle and
excitement. New comrades were comparing notes, showing
pictures of mothers, wives or sweethearts, telling of home, busi-
ness and friends left behind ; others talking of positions promised
them in their companies — lieutenancies, sergeantcies, and what
not — all of which turned out later to be like the morning devv
that soon vanishes away. People were constantly coming down
from the city to visit the camp, watching the drilling, talking
with friends and giving little presents of useful things for the
use of the soldiers — mementoes, or things to eat that were not
IN CAMP LAFAYETTE.
on the bill of fare at the barracks. When off duty the boys
would stroll around, get passes to the city, singing "Jo^^^
Brown's Body," and other songs of the day that were on every
tongue. However, our duties became more frequent and labor-
ious, drilling seemed to take all our time, discipline began to be
exercised and order to work itself out of confusion. The
boys had so many different kinds and colors of uniforms that,
when in line together, they looked like a crazy quilt. The
awkward squads were numerous.
''Shoulder arms," said the drill master.
"I will," said the recruit, as he laboriously raised his musket
to the top of his right shoulder.
''Stand erect !" is the next command, whereupon every man
swells out his abdomen to its fullest tension.
"Mark time, march!"
Hip, hip, long legs, short legs, little feet, big feet; will they
ever step together. The hardest man in the regiment to be
taught was a short young Irishman, who knew it all, and whose
movements were like those of a jack in a box. He had evidently
often gone through the manual of arms with a broom stick before
an admiring audience in his back alley.
We had been in Camp Lafayette two months or more, when
orders came to pack knapsacks and be ready to move at a
moment's notice. It was on Tuesday af-ernoon, November i2tli,
1 86 1, that we made our first march as a regiment, a distance of
about three miles from camp to the landing, where we embarked
on the steamer "Kill von Kull."
A multitude of friends had come down from the city to see the
regiment, and there were many sad and tearful good-byes, not-
withstanding the heroic attempts at laughter and g-ood cheer.
As the steamer left the wharf, about ten o'clock at night, the
^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
white handkerchiefs began to flutter, and not until we were be-
yond individual recognition did they cease. The clear moonlight
made the night almost as bright as day. Now for the first time
the face of the Fifty-seventh was set away from home and
towards the seat of war. Just a little it began to seem that
we were soldiers.
IvEAVING CAMP LAFAYETTE FOR WASHINGTON.
Having steamed southerly around Staten Island to the Nevr
Jersey shore, we disembarked at Amboy, where we boarded a
train of the Camden and Amboy Railway, and at about midnight
began to move toward Philadelphia, which place we reached at
ON OUR WAY TO WASHINGTON. ^
This first night out had been one of great beauty. The air was
full of balm and the moon kept bright until the greater brilliancy
of the rising sun put out its light. Everyone was full of good
spirits, very few of the men wanted to sleep, and those who did
could not for the fun that was going on. The ladies of Philadel-
phia were up early, and had breakfast ready by the time we had
crossed the river from Camden to Philadelphia. Of course all
were hungry and ate voraciously, while the mirth and laughter
were equal to a first-class picnic. From the dining hall we
marched to the railroad depot, and by four in the afternoon were
in Baltimore, where supper was served.
Before daylight the next morning — Thursday, November 14th,
1861 — the train pulled into Washington, D. C. At seven o'clock
the regiment fell into line and marched about a mile and a half
in a northeasterly direction from the Capitol, on the Bladensburg
road, and went into camp near the toll gate. This was Camp
Wilder. The ground was wet and in places muddy from pre-
vious rains. A not very inviting bed for the first night out. To
make matters worse, there were but three tents to a company,
and as darkness came on it began to rain and grow cold. This
night was like the last in one respect — it was sleepless, but the
cause was misery rather than fun. Now began that development
of the law of self preservation, which so distinguished the veteran
soldier and made him so superior to the untried recruit. The
boys began to shift for themselves. One of them found a large
box partially filled with knapsacks, and taking off the cover he
crawled inside, replaced the cover and burrowed out a comfort-
able place and slept for two nights as snug as a bug in a rug.
Then a movement to higher ground deprived him of his accom-
modation at ''Hotel de Box," as it was called. But a better
supply of tents furnished comfortable quarters for all.
g UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
While at Camp Wilder the boys were granted occasional
leave of absence to visit the city of Washington, and it was im-
proved in seeing the sights about the Capitol and public build-
ings. The dome of the Capitol building was yet unfinished, and
the mammoth sections of the Goddess of Liberty were lying
around, head in one place, shoulders in another, and feet in still
another, as though entirely unrelated. Pennsylvania avenue,
unpaved and dusty as a country road, was lined with stores and
dwellings, many of which could be called shanties. Washington
was essentially a southern city, without enterprise and improve-
ments, a by-word and a reproach among nations.
On Thursday, November 28th, 1861, we broke camp and
started for Virginia, crossing the Potomac by the Long Bridge,
the boys singing, ''I Wish I Was in Dixie" as we crossed into
Virginia. I could not help thinking of the other time I entered
Virginia, and of the death of Colonel Ellsworth. Upon arriving
on the Virginia side, we marched slowly westward five or six
miles on the Columbia turnpike to Arlington Mills, a station on
^the Washington and Ohio Railway. Here, near a brick yard,
we bivouacked at midnight, having lost our way and also our
rations. We had nothing to eat but some sweet corn we pulled
off the stalks and roasted in the fire. It had rained all day, our
clothes were wet and muddy, the ground was soft and uncertain.
Yet we had managed to get some sleep. When the reveille
sounded at daybreak in the morning we received our rations, an<i
after breakfast the march was resumed southward five or six
miles to v\^hat was afterwards known as Camp California.
When it became e\-ident that this spot vras to be our home for
the winter, streets were laid out in military fashion, each com-
pany being assigned to its place. Then began the pitching of
tents, the pairing of comrades, the building of bunks, putting up
of clothes racks, making tables, and getting to rights for general
WM. H. COLE. JACOB H. COLE.
Photo taken in 1861.
HOUSEKEEPING AT CAMP CALIFORNIA. j -j-
housekeeping. The company cook furnished coffee, bean soup,
boiled pork and salt beef. The sutler sold us pies, dried fruits
and other delicacies. Some of the boys had sheet iron stoves
that served for warming purposes, and, having movable ovens,
these stoves gave them an opportunity for fancy cooking, on
which some of the men prided themselves. The routine of a
soldier' slife that w^as commenced at Camp Wilder was continued
at Camp California throughout the winter.
In addition to the routine of Camp Wilder, there was many
additions added to our other duties, such as regimental and
brigade drills and picket duty. General French (or rather
''Blinkey" as we used to call him, not with any disrespect, but
because he always blinked his eyes when giving his commands),
seemed to have a passion for brigade drills, and would march
the boys all over creation until they were completely exhausted,
and then, by way of resting them, would order an extra move-
ment or two.
Edsall Hill on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, five miles
from camp, was our place for outpost duty. Standing guard at
Edsall Hill furnished illustration of the vividness of the human
imagination. A post on the brow of the hill looked down on
the clump of trees left bare of leaves by the winter's frost. The
sparrows making their nests in these trees are often restless at
night, and gave occasion for all kinds of suppositions on the part
of the sentinel. More than once the gun was cocked and the
trigger about to be pulled because of the supposed approach of
the enemy. In the dead stillness of the night, when one is alone
on the outer line, the least noise travels far and sounds near. The
very atmosphere seems to rustle, the trees and shrubs turn into
advancing skirmishers, creeping" cautiously upon the unwary
sentinel. There is no limit to the power of the imagination un-
der conditions like these.
J 2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Men in their quarrels would sometimes threaten to shoot each
other, but when their passions cooled they seldom thought of
carrying out their threats. Sometimes men would declare their
intentions of shooting an officer in the next battle, but when the
battle came they would have all they could do to take care of
themselves. It is quite improbable that such a thing was ever
accomplished in any regiment, but in the Fifty-seventh it cer-
tainly never was.
On Monday, March loth, 1862, at two o'clock in the morning,
the call was sounded, and the army of the Potomac roused from
sleep with orders to march at daylight. Three days' rations and
sixty rounds of cartridges were issued to each man. Blankets
and shelter tents were rolled together, lengthwise thrown over
the right shoulder and the ends joined under the left arm. The
haversacks were filled with rations and such articles for the
toilet as we had room for. At the appointed time all was ready
and the moments of waiting for the word to move were spent in
taking a last look at the old camp. It was not unnatural that we
were loth to leave a place which had become so much a part of
ourselves, a spot where we had become so nearly a part of the
Soon the expected orders came to fall in, and our regiment
filed out and took its place in the column. As we started the
clouds also started. It not only began to rain, but it continued
to rain. The tramping of many feet soon kneaded the soil into
dough, and then into slush, and the troops waded sometime^^
knee deep through mud and mire all day long with laborious
steps. The march continued until at sunset, near Fairfax Cou^'t
House, all lay down upon the soaked earth, weary and wet, for
refreshing sleep. At daylight a hurried breakfast was followed
by an inspection of arms, and the column pushed on through
Fairfax station to Sangster station, where the night of the
AT MANASSAS. j^
eleventh was spent. On the following day Union Mills was
reached, and the third night was spent on the Bull Run Hills.
March 12th, the next day, we pushed on to Manassas, entering
that stronghold of the enemy on March 13th, with flags unfurled
and bands playing ''Yankee Doodle," "Star Spangled Banner,"
and other patriotic airs. It was hoped and expected that there
would now be a little rest, but it was not to be with our regiment
at least, for it was immediately detailed to support the brigade of
Stoneman's Cavalry in a reconnoisance to Cedar Run.
Early on the morning of March 14th we commenced to move.
Our line of march was along the Orange and Alexandria Rail-
road, but as the bridges over Broad and Kettle Runs had been
burned away, detours had to be made down the high embank-
ments, through the streams and into the soft soil of ploughed
ground, where with each step we sank to the knees in the mud.
Five miles beyond the fires of the retreating pickets were passed,
until the enemy was found in force behind Cedar Run. The regi-
ment was divided into four parts, each part taking a separate
position, so as to give the appearance of a brigade, and fires were
built along the line — a difficult task when every stick of wood
was soaked with water — yet accomplished by carrying coals from
one fire to another.
Captain Chapman was ordered to take his company and drive
off a cavalry picket stationed beyond a hill, which he succeeded
in doing. Following them to the run where they crossed, shots
were fired by both sides, but perhaps without hurt to any one.
During the skirmish firing quite an excited argument arose be-
tween William Conklin and George Williams about firing. They
both had an idea that in a line of battle they should fire the same
as when drilling. After considerable talk between them, Conklin
said to Williams, ''Why in thunder don't you shoot, so that I can
shoot," but Williams was so excited that he could not fire. Dtir-
j^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
ing the time they were arguing about firing, Daniel Haggerty
said to them, ''Say, you fellows, why don't you shut up and both
of you fire." During the time they were having their argument
I was loading and firing as fast as I could. Of course, to a cer-
tain extent they wxre excusable as it was the first time they had
been under fire.
Early the next morning, Captain Chapman had the men
drawn up in line and he made a short speech to them, among
other things he said : "Boys, last night during the time we were
engaged in driving back the enemy's pickets, some of you men
were arguing about firing. I did not at the time desire to inter-
fere, but I have called you together this morning to say to you,
one and all, that I believe you will get over this trouble when
you get into a battle. You will then understand that each man
must depend upon himself and in loading and firing he will do so
without thinking or waiting for the next man to fire first."
On the fifteenth the enemy's cavalry made an advance. The
Fifty-seventh was formed in line of battle on the brow of the
hill with Stoneman's Cavalry in the rear. They did not attack
this line, and soon retreated across the stream. It was here that
the regiment fired their first shots at the rebels.
The object of the reconnoisance having been accomplished,
the march back to Manassas was begun. Then it began to rain
again. Down, down, it came. Sometimes a fine drizzily fall,
and then again it would seem as though it was falling in buckets-
ful. But we were getting used to it, and was learning to pro-
tect ourselves from its worst effects. The walking between the
rails was not bad, but when we had to turn out for the broken
bridges, it did seem as though we would be buried alive in the
mud. The third bridge we had to cross on our return hung by
a single rail over a chasm fifty feet in depth, and the water
below was waist deep and in places up to our arm pits. The boys
AT MANAS SES. I^
looked long at the broken bridge and then at the stream below,
trying to decide which route to take. Nearly all waded the
stream, but some ventured on the single rail. One man crossing
thus missed his footing and scarcely saved himself from death
by catching hold of a swinging tie.
On reaching Manassas, we got into the vacant huts, built large
fires, ;i tripped and dried our soaked clothes and lay down to a
night of solid rest. On the i6th the Third brigade fell back
to Bull Run, only to return again to Manassas on the 17th of
March. On the i8th of March we again fell back to Bull Run,
where the following address was read to us :
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
Fairfax Court House, Va.
March 10, 1861.
Soldiers of the Army of the Potomac:
For a long time I have kept you inactive, but not without a purpose.
You were to be disciplined, armed and instructed. The formidable artil-
lery you now have had to be created. Other armies were to move and
accomplish certain results. I have held you back that you might give
the death blow to the rebellion that has distracted our once happy
country. The patience you have shown and your confidence in your
general are worthy of a dozen victories. The preliminary results are
now accomplished. I feel that the patient labors of many months have
produced their fruit — the army of the Potomac is now a real army, mag-
nificent in material, admirable in discipline and instruction, and excel-
lently equipped and armed. Your commanders are all that I could wish.
The moment for action has arrived and I know that I can trust in you
to save the country. As I ride through your ranks I see in your faces the
sure prestige of victory. I feel that you will do whatever I ask of you.
The period of inaction has passed. I will bring you now face to face with
the rebels, and only pray that God may defend the right in whatever
direction you may move. However strange my actions may appear to
you, ever bear in mind that my fate is linked with yours and that all 1
do is to bring you where I know you wish to be — on the decisive battle-
field. It is my business to place you there. I am to watch over you as
a parent over his children, and you know that your general loves you
^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
from the depths of his heart. It shall be my care — it has ever been— to
gain success with the least possible loss, but I know that if it is neces-
sary you will follow me to your graves for our righteous cause. God
smiles upon us; victory attends us. Yet I would not have you think that
our aim is to be obtained without a manly struggle. I will not disguise
it from you that you have brave foes to encounter; foemen well worthy
of the steel that you will use so well. I shall demand of you great, great
heroic exertions, rapid and long marches, desperate combats and priva-
tions. Perhaps we will share all these together, and when this sad war
is over we will all return to our homes and feel that we can ask no
higher honor than the proud consciousuess that we belonged to the army
of the Potomac.
GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
When we first arrived at Manassas we found the ruins of a
burnt hospital, and on searching the ruins we found the body of
a man which had been burned so that is was not recognizable,
and in a creek fifty feet away there were five bodies with their
hands tied behind them. As they were entirely nude, it was
impossible to say to which side they belonged and from their
appearance it was evident that their death was due to violence.
While in camp at Manassas we used the water from a well
that was near at hand. After we had been using the water for
about three days the bucket got fast, and after considerable
trouble we managed to pull it up, when we found fastened to it
the body of a dead rebel soldier.
While we lay at Manassas, a number of the boys went to a
brook to have a wash. When we were washing we were ap-
proached by a man that had every appearance of being an old
teamster or a wagon driver. We did not recognize him and
he did not tell who he was. He asked one of the boys to lend
him his soap so that he could have a wash, when the one he had
approached turned to him and said, ''You go to h — and get your
own soap, you old baggagemaster." Then he came to me and
AT GENERAL RICHARDSON'S HEADQUARTERS.
asked me to lend him a piece of soap that he might wash his
hands. I gave it to him. When he had finished he handed it
to me, at the same time thanking me for its use. After we were
through washing we made a fire, and while standing around it
the old farmer, as we supposed, sat down, and began to tell us
stories of his experience in the Mexican war. Some of the
boys asked him what he was doing down in the army. He
said he was working for the government, and that we would all
know him better after a while. We will have learned more about
war and what it is to share what we have with our comrades,
and before we get home again we will all be more willing to assist
one another, and if our comrade desires to borrow anything from
us we will be only too glad to let them have it.
Shortly after this some colored people, whom we called con-
trabands, came into our lines, and my brother, William H. Cole,
Dad Haggerty and myself were detailed to escort them to Gen-
eral French's headquarters. When we presented them to Gen-
eral French, he ordered us to take them to General Richardson's
headquarters. When we arrived at General Richardson's head-
quarters we saw a lot of well dressed officers. As none of the
three had ever seen General Richardson, we were at loss to know
which one was the general, so we inquired for General Richard-
son. One of the officers told us to go to another tent, which he
pointed out to us, and as we approached the tent we saw the old
teamster, as we thought, sitting alone. So I said to him, ''Could
you tell me where I can find General Richardson?" and he said,
''Well, I guess I can tell you where he is. Sometimes they call
me General Richardson and at other times they call me 'Greasy
Dick.'" I said, "I hope you will not try to fool me; you're the
man I lent the soap to the other day." He replied, "I am not try-
ing to fool you, my boy, but let it rest. You can bring the contra-
bands here and I will attend to them." So we brought the con-
jg UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
trabands up to the tent, and after he had looked them over he
gave me an order to lake them to General Summer's head-
We went with them to General Summer's headquarters, and
after saluting the general, I said : ''General, I received orders to
take these people to General , French, and he ordered me to take
them to General Richardson's headquarters. We did so, and
there saw a man we did not know, who gave us an order to bring
these contrabands to your headquarters. Here is the order, but
whether it was given to me by General Richardson I do not
know. All I know is that whoever the man was he signed his
name as General Richardson." So General Sumner took the
order, and as soon as he had read it, he said to me, "Yes, that is
General Richardson; you v/ill know more of him and will learn
to like him the more you see of him." So we left the con-
trabands with the general and returned to our quarters, and 1
said to the boys, ''Well, I know who General Richardson is now,
for I have seen him." And indeed, before we had been with him
long the words of General Sumner came true. We did indeed
love him because of his kindness to every one, as the following-
incident will show.
While we were on the march during the Peninsular Campaign,
General Richardson was riding along our line when he came to a
soldier that was tied to a tree by his thumbs. So he said to the
man, "Well, well, who tied you there?" The man replied, "There
was some general passing along here and he asked me what
command I belonged to, and he winked and blinked with both
eyes and drew his mouth in such a shape that I could not help
but laugh at him. He asked me two or three times the same
question, but as he asked the question he blinked so with his eyes
that I could do nothing but laugh, so he ordered me to be tied
up by the thumbs." So General Richardson got ofT his horse
FORAGING EXPEDITION. jq
and cut the man loose, and said to him, "You can return to your
command as I think I know who the general was, but the ne::r
time you see a man commence to wink and blink be sure you get
out of his way for he is getting ready to shoot."
Another instance of his thoughts for his men was when we had
to wade across the Chicahominey river. He got off his horse
and waded the stream with his men. At another time when
going into the battle at Antietam he said, "Men, follow me and
where I will not go I will not ask you to go." At another time
at the battle of Fair Oaks, the rebels brought out a gun mounted
on a railroad car that was known as the land Merrimac. One of
our batteries was firing on it but without doing any damage.
General Richardson noticing this, got off his horse, and after
the gun was loaded, sighted the piece and fired it himself, with
the result that the car was knocked ofi: the track and the Merri-
mac was put out of business for the time being.
At the battle of Antietam, General Richardson was killed, and
there was not one of the men in our division but regretted his
loss, for we had indeed came to love him as a father. There was
no fuss or feathers about him. plain in dress, unassuming in
manners, so much so that unless you knew him you would never
know that he was a general. Had he lived he w^otild have made
his mark before the war closed.
While we were laying at Manassas. Andy Wilson, Bill Hardy
and myself decided one day to go out on a foraging expedition.
To make up our minds was to act; so we started. After travel-
ing a considerable distance w^e came to a farm house where we
saw some chickens. It did not take us long to catch the chickens.
Just as we got them ready we saw^ some rebels coming, and.
taking the chickens we started back for camp, as the rebels were
gaining upon us. For safety w^e took refuge in a swamp, where
we were obliged to remain all night. In the morning we man-
20 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
aged to elude the rebels and got back to camp with our chickens.
Shortly after we returned to the camp, General Richardson sent
for the three to come to his tent. When we arrived at the tent,
General Richardson asked Hardy where he had obtained the
chickens, and Hardy said, "I got them from Jake." Then I was
called up with Wilson and asked where I had got the chickens
I gave to Hardy, and I told the general that I had bought thetii
from a farmer. The general saw the joke and laughingly said.
"li you boys will fight as you forage I am not afraid of your
going to Richmond."
On the 25th of March we advanced to Warrington Junction,
which was reached on the 27th, and remained one day, when we
fell back to Manassas and Bull Run. The main army about ten
days before had begun its return to Alexandria and were embark-
ing for the peninsular, so that on our return we, too, were or-
dered back, taking the cars at Fairfax station and stopping over
night at old Camp California.
The following morning, April 3rd, President Lincoln's order
of March 13th, forming the army of the Potomac into army
corps, was read to our brigade. Under the above orders the
army was divided into army corps and the following generals
were designated to command the several corps :
General McDowell was selected to command the first corps.
This general was still laboring under the disgrace of his defeat at
Bull Run in 1861.
The commander of the second corps was General Edwin V.
Sumner, a veteran officer of the regular army. General Sumner
was a veteran of the Mexican and of the Black Hawk wars.
Of General Sumner much may be said on either side of
the question. His record as a soldier and his services as an
officer was of the best. As colonel of the First United States
Cavalry he led the famous charge at the battle of Cervo Gordo,
FORMING ARMY OF THE POTOMAC INTO ARMY CORPS. 21
in Mexico, under General Scott. On the other hand, it is a
question whether with his mental habits and at his advanced age
he should have been designated for the command of twenty
thousand new troops in the field against a resolute enemy. He
was more of a cavalry officer than an infantry officer.
The commanders of the third and fourth corps respectively,
General Heintzelman of the third and Keyes of the fourth, it is
not necessary to speak, as they were shelved after a short trial.
In appointing the corps commanders, General McClellan should
have been consulted, in fact, it would have been far different had
he appointed them himself. General McClellan should have been
allowed his own choice in the matter. Nothing but disaster could
rationally have been expected in thus overriding the judgment
and will of the commander of the army. If General ^McClellan
was not capable of appointing the heads of his army corps, he
could not have been capable of commanding them when ap-
pointed, and in the light of future events, I have often thought
that had General McClellan made the appointment himself in-
stead of the President, that the results of the Peninsular Cam-
paign would have been far different. I do not think that General
McClellan would have been obliged to fall back to the James
river and eventually to Washington. They were most unhappily
chosen, and it has often been remarked that politics in one or two
instances was at the bottom of them.
Had General McClellan proceeded to divide his army into
army corps during the winter of 1861-62, he could have done so
without interference by the President or any one else, but the
long winter of inaction had so far alienated the President, and
Congress had created so many jealousies among the expectant
officers of high rank and had kept General McClellan so long
upon the defensive in explaining and justifying his position, that
when the organization of the army corps became a reality in
22 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
March, 1862, President Lincoln was able to impose his will upon
the commander of the Army of the Potomac in the matter of
the officers to be or that had been selected for those important
and responsible positions. General McClellan should have been
allowed his own untrammeled choice, and when the army began
its movements against Richmond by way of the Peninsular, he
should have received an ardent support. As it was he w^as only
supported in a half hearted manner.
After one night at Camp California the regiment marched to
Alexandria, and the following morning, April 4th, it embarked
on the steamer Ariel for Fortress Monroe.
The daylight ride down the Potomac v.as another excursion
full of pleasure, passing Mount Vernon and other points of his-
toric interest. The scenery was charming with no signs of war
to mar its general peace. At night, however, a different state of
mind ensued. To find a plank that had a soft side was an unsuc-
cessful search. The usual depressions found in the ground and
utilized so readily for the hips and shoulders could not here be
made, so there was nothing to do but lie first on one side and
then on the other until both sides became sore, and then sit up.
No one could walk around without tramping on something sensi-
tive. The second night out the steamer lay off Fortress Monroe,
but the next morning moved to Shippen Point.
AT SHIPPEN POINT. ^^
The Army on the Move. — From Shippen Point to Grapevine Bridge. —
Scenes along th© Route. — Anecdotes and Incidents. — Playing Base-
ball. — The Sounds of Cannonading. — Orders to Fall In. — March to
When we first landed at Shippen Point, there was no rations
for us. I bought some crackers and cheese from a sutler's
wagon, which I divided with my comrades. While we were eat-
ing a soldier stepped up and said, "I am mighty hungry, too, can
you share with me ?" and when I looked up I saw it was Thomas
Messenger, a cousin of mine and a member of the Seventy-firot
New York Volunteers, who also came from Paterson. When
we arrived at Shippen Point we waded ashore from the ship. In
the vicinity of Shippen Point the regiment spent ten days or
more building corduroy roads and repairing bridges and docks
From Shippen Point we went to Cheesman's Landing April
1 6th, 1862. After we arrived at Cheesman's Landing we found
a barrel of whiskey among some sutler's goods, but as whiskey
was contraband of war, the head of the barrel was knocked in
and those who wished got into line and dipped their ctips into
the barrel and taking away what they would hold. Several
drunks and some disorderly conduct followed this method of
upholding the regulations against the importation of spirituous
In our company was a private by the name of Joseph Aertz
who would never keep himself clean. So one morning Captaiti
2 A UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Chapman sent for me to come to his quarters, and when I re-
ported to the captain he ordered me to report to Colonel Zooks
at his headquarters, as he had a duty for me to perform, and
that I must not refuse to perform it.
When I reported to Colonel Zook, he informed me that I was
detailed with Andrew Wilson and William Hardy to take Joseph
Aertz down to the river and to strip and scrub him, as he refused
to do it himself. 1 told the colonel that I did not like to do that
duty as the man was from New Jersey, but the colonel replied :
''That is the reason why I detailed you and Hardy." So there
was nothing to do but to obey orders, which we did, and w^ien
we got through Joseph was the cleanest man in the company.
B'ut with all our efforts to make a man of Joe he never amount-
ed to anything. Every battle we went into Joe would always
manage to get taken as a prisoner until the rebels knew him so
well that they let him go as soon as he was caught. Upon our
return to Alexandria and at the second battle of Bull Run, he
was taken prisoner and did not join us again until just before the
battle of Chancellorville, and at that battle he was again taken
prisoner, and that was the last of Joe.
A large part of the time was spent in getting wagons out of
holes. A road would be almost impassable after a single train
had passed over it and whatever followed it had to dig its way
through. The nearer they got to the Chickahominy the worse it
became, and on the swamp lands corduroy roads had to be made
every step of the way. A wagon would get stalled and then
came the usual attempt to get the mules to pull together, the
snapping of the whip, the yelling of the drivers, the prying of
the wheels out of the hole with rails, the hitching on of an extra
team, etc., etc., meant that the wagon must move as it stopped the
whole train behind it. Sometimes it would take an hour to start
that wagon, and sometimes it would not start at all; then a road
FORAGING PARTY. 2 K
must be cut around it through the woods, so that teams could go
around. Advice is always cheap and abundant on such occasions,
especially if troops are passing and if stragglers are crawling by.
The latter would usually sit down (being as usual very tired)
and give advice, but they seldom took hold and lifted. During one
of the battles Colonel Zooks saw a lot of stragglers coming to
the rear and said to them, ''Where are you men going?" One of
them answered, 'We are all cut to pieces." The colonel re-
sponded, "There is a big lot of you left for having: been all cut to
pieces." These men along the road were "powerful weak" as the
colored people used to say, but they were never too tired to give
On the march from Shippen Point to Cheesman's Landing,
we remained two days at a place we called Camp Scott. During
the time we were in this camp a foraging party was sent out by
Colonel Zooks, under the command of Sergeant Jeremiah Wil-
liams. The detail was composed of Sergeant Williams, Dad
Haggerty, John O'Brien, William Hardy, Andrew Miller,
George Goodwick, Andrew Wilson and myself. Our orders were
to get supplies of any kind that we could, and if the people we
saw were willing to give us what we needed, then we were to pay
for everything we got, but if on the other hand they refused to
supply our wants, we were then at liberty to take by force and
no pay to be given. So we left camp with great expectations of
coming back with a load of good things.
After we had marched some distance we came to a farm house,
and on knocking at the door, the farmer and his son came to the
door. Sergeant Williams stated who he was and asked him to
sell us something to eat, telling him plainly that we were ready
and willing to pay him for everything he gave us. The farmer
said he did not have anything to eat, as he had been stripped of
everything by the rebel soldiers. We did not believe him and told
26 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
him so. Then Sergeant WilHams ordered us to search the house.
O'Brien and myself went into the cellar, and after we got there
I noticed the floor looked as though it had been recently dis-
turbed, so I remarked to O'Brien that I believed there was some-
thing under the floor and that I was going to see what there was.
So we got a shovel and commenced to dig. We soon uncovered
a lot of smoked hams. We each took two of them and (like
every one else we seized the largest ones) went upstairs and told
the rest what we had found. Then they went down in the
cellar and got some more so that each one had a ham to carry
During the time we were in the house we had taken no notice
of the absence of the son, much to our regret later. When we
had each got a ham, the sergeant said to the farmer, ''If you
had not lied to us about these hams we would have paid you for
them, but as it is we will not give you anything."
We also noticed a tree full of fine large peaches, and we said
to him as we are not going to pay for the hams, we will buy
the peaches from you. The farmer told us that they were nor
for sale as he wanted them for himself. His wife intended to
use them for preserving. As we could not induce him to sell
us some, we gathered a few without his leave and without pay-
ing for them.
While we were gathering the peaches, we saw the son coming
and with him a lot of rebel soldiers. Then we knew where the
son had been. As soon as the rebels saw us they immediately
opened fire on us. We managed to retreat to the woods with-
out any loss. Here we were able to defend ourselves for some
time. The sound of the firing aroused the Union troops
nearest to us, and a number came to our assistance. As soon is
they came up the rebels retreated. We then returned to our camp
with our hams.
FORMING COMRADESHIP. 2 7
I now began to realize that a soldier's life was not a picnic, for
hardships, trials and dangers were to come. So I thought it was
time to form comradeship. I chose the following members of my
company for comrades and tent mates : William H. Cole, Wil-
liam C. Conklin, Andrew J. Wilson, George I. Williams and
After forming our comradeship each was given a certain duty
to perform, one to carry water, one to carry wood, another to
cook the food, the other to put up the tent; thus every one had
his work to do. Thus we all kept together until some fell sick or
was wounded or killed in battle. Comradeship lasts but a short
time in war. Jeremiah Williams died near Richmond, George
Williams and William C. Conklin was discharged for disability
at Harrison's Landing. They all came from West Milford,
On April 29th we left Cheesman's Landing and moved to
Yorktown, which the enemy had evacuated on the 4th of May
without a general engagement. When we marched through
Yorktown we discovered that the ground had all been mined by
placing torpedoes in it, but we did not discover this fact until
several of our men had been killed.
On May 5th the battle of Williamsburg was fought by the
third and fourth corps, the rebels falling back towards Richmond.
Richardson's division, which had been separated from the second
corps, marched to Williamsburg and beyond, but was ordered
back to Yorktown. From there we took the boat up the James
river to a place called Elthan, about five miles above West Point.
My regiment, the Fifty-seventh New York, was in Richardson's
division, and this division was the first division of the second, or
Sumner's corps. By the 20th of May the army of the Potomac
had concentrated near the north bank of the Chickahominy river,
and on the 25th the Fourth Corps, under General Keyes, had
28 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
crossed and taken a position at Seven Pines, within six miles of
Richmond. The Third Corps, under General Heintselman, also
crossed, and the two corps constituted the left wing of the army.
The centre and right wings, consisting of three corps, remained
on the north side of the river until the 31st. On that day, at two
o'clock, the enemy, having planned to attack the left wing in
overwhelming numbers (and to drive it into the swamps before
assistance could cross the swollen stream) began to swarm from
the woods along the Williamsburg road, and the battle of Fair
Oaks was on in dead earnest.
The heavy rains had so raised the river and flooded the swamp
that it was very difficult to move men and nearly imposible to
move artillery. Everything favored the success of the rebel plan
indeed, only a miracle could save the left wing if the Confederate
orders were carried out. But, as is usual in battle, the rebel gen-
eral did not carry out his orders fully as he was expected to do.
Leaving for a moment the scene of battle, we turn to Sumner's
Corps, just before the battle above mentioned commenced. Some
of the members of the Fifty-seventh New York had challenged
the members of the Sixty-ninth New York to a game of baseball.
While the game was in progress I was lying on the ground look-
ing at the game when I heard a rumbling noise, and I said to
Andy Wilson that there was fighting going on some where near
us. When we stood up it could not be heard, but when we put
our ears to the ground the sound could be heard very plain.
Andy said "I guess you are mistaken Jake." I again put my ear
to the ground and said, "Andy, our boys are fighting."
Hardly had I spoken before orders came to report to our regi-
ments at once. So the ball game came to a sudden stop never to
Let us see what Sumner was doing. The condition of the
atmosphere was not so peculiar that day but that the sounds of
SUMNER LED HIS DIVISIONS TO THE STREAM. 31
battle was borne straight to the ears of the old soldier, whose
command lay nearest to the imperilled left.
That sound went straight from his ears to his heart. Anxious
about the left, anxious about his swaying bridges, Sumner was at
once in the saddle, and summoned his troops to arms. A little
later word came from the headquarters of the army that the
Second Corps should be prepared to march at a moment's notice.
The troops w^ere at once drawn out of camp and moved toward
Too strict a disciplinarian to actually begin the crossing of the
river, Sumner led his divisions down to the very verge of the
. stream until the heads of the columns rested on their respective
bridges. Here he paused, awaiting the order to march. Both
bridges over the raging and fast rising torrent were in a terrible
condition. The long curduroy approaches through the swam.p
had been uplifted from the mud and now floated loosely on the
shallow waters. Of the condition of that part of the bridges
that crossed the channel of the river it w^as impossible to ascer-
tain, except by actual trial, but its timbers could be seen rising
and falling, swaying to and fro under the impulses of the swol-
^2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
The Crossing of the River. — March to Fair Oaks. — First and Second Days*
Battles. — Sleeping Between Two Dead Men. — A Night Alarm. — The
"March!" And each division tried to pass over its bridge,
Richardson below, Sedgewick above, at the so-called Grape Vine
bridge, but with different results. Richardson's bridge, which
would have been practicable in the morning, had now so nearly
given away that when French's Brigade only had crossed it be-
came impassible. Sedgewick's division had better luck, though
even Sumner's stout heart failed for the time, as the bridge
swayed and tossed in the river, but the solid column of infantry
loaded it with a weight which even the angry Chickahominy
could not move, soon pressed and held it down among the stumps
of the trees, which in turn prevented its lateral motion, and as
Sedgewick's rear passed over, the remaining brigade of Richard-
son's column coming up from below, entered upon the bridge,
and so the Second Corps crossed the Chickahominy to the rescue
of the broken left wing by a single submerged bridge, which held
together just long enough to allow their passage.
And now the cry is forward. Sedgewick's division is fairly
across the treacherous river and turning without a guide, it takes
the road that leads most directly towards the thunders of the
cannonade and the roar of musketry along the Williamsburg
road. There was enough in that sound to stir the blood of a true
THE SOUND OF BATTLE BURST NEAR. ^^
soldier. Every man in the ranks understood that the whole fury
of the most powerful assault which Johnston could deliver had
fallen and was still falling on the imperilled left.
"Step out, men. Swing your long legs to their full compass!"
was the order. ''You are setting the pace for the whole rescuing
column. Your comrades of the Third and Fourth Corps are
turning bloodshot eyes down the road to Sumner's bridge, await-
ing the gleam of your bayonets."
Well did the boys take and hold their pace that day and at
some turn of the road or some clearing on the left brought the
sound of battle in vehement bursts nearer and clearer to their
ears. Each man clutched his musket tighter and hurried faster
along the way to Fair Oaks.
The end comes at last, as the head of the column emerges from
a belt of timber a low ridge appears in front, crossing the road
at nearly right angles upon which are massed Couch's four regi-
ments with Brady's battery. Doutbless the men who were in the
advance had expected to come upon volleying lines reeling under
the shock of furious charges half hidden by the sulphurous clouds
of battle. But lo, all before is calm and serene. Are these the
men to whose rescue we have been rushing in furious haste?
Not even as yet deployed in line of battle, not a puff of smoke
visible, not even a cannon shot hurling over their ranks. But
Sully's men have short time for speculation regarding the posi-
tion. The moment Couch sees the advance of Sumner's column,
he begins the deployment of his own troops, while one of his
staff officers, galloping to the head of Sedgewick's division, de-
taches the First Minnesota and leads it to the right to the Court-
ney house, where Sully has been ordered to take position. And
not a moment toO' soon, for as the young staff officer is giving
that grim veteran of the regular army some advice as to the dis-
position of his force (which is received with outward courtesy
^ . UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
and probably with inward amusement) a crowded column in
gray bulges out of the woods close in front.
Have you noticed the instinctive recoil which always attends
the first emerging from the shade of the forest into the broad
glare of day? So this column, the advance of General Smith,
for the instant recoiled, and its leading officers, perceiving Sully's
men in front, fell back into the woods to form under cover for
the coming assault. Meanwhile at the Adams house, Kirby, v\-ith
his gleaming Napoleons, dashes upon the right of the two parrots
of Brady's battery, commanded by Lieutenant Fagan. Three
of Couch's regiments — the Sixty-second New York, Eighty-
second and Thirty-first Pennsylvania — Sixty-fifth New York
and First United States Infantry move toward the right and con-
nect with Sully while the space on the left of the road is rapidly
occupied by the eager troops of Carman. Up comes the Fifteenth
Massachusetts with a cheer, forms in support of the guns that
point up the Fair Oaks road. The Eighty-second and Thirty-
fourth New York in place on the left and we are ready.
But not a moment too soon — for in front, out of the woods
that hide the railroad from view, emerges a heavy body of the
enemy. It is the brigade of Whiting, which cannot pass to attack
Keyes' troops along the Williamsburg road until this threaten-
ing force upon its left flank shall be driven off.
Between Whiting on the Confederate right and Hampton on
the Confederate left, Pettigrew's. brigade is filling the woods in
our front; Hatton is fast coming up behind to support Hampton,
Hood crossing the Nine Mile road has halted to be in readiness
to support Whiting. It is too late. Half an hour ago this would
have done very well, but Sedgewick is up now and the men are
panting Avith the ardor of battle. Something more than one
slim brigade now holds the road to Grapevine bridge. The toll
is rising, it will cost Smith more than he has to get through.
BATTLE OF FAIR OAKS. ^ c
There is no delay in setting to work. Scarcely have the four
regiments of Sedgewick taken part with Crouch's four when tlie
storm bursts over against one-half our front opposite our left.
The ground is open nearly to the railroad, which we left an
hour ago. Here are two guns of Brady's battery with three
guns of Kirby — all that have as yet come upon the ground —
ready to sweep the open field with their fire or to turn to their
right and shell the woods in which the enemy are massing. Be-
hind the left of the artillery lies the Fifteenth Massachusetts.
Behind the right of the battery lie the Sixty-second New York
and Seventh Massachusetts, and on the left of the artillery are
the Thirty-fourth and Eighty-second New York. On the right,
extending along the inner edge of a dense woods, forming the
centre of our position, lie the Eighty-second Pennsylvania and
Sixty-fifth New York, both of Couch's divisions stretching along
the edge of the tangled woods. They have thrown down a rail
fence and piled the rails for cover. It is not high, but it will do.
Against that feeble breastwork is to be delivered a most desperate
and persistent charge. Beyond the Sixty-fifth New York the
right of our line is formed again in the open ground about the
Courtney house by the First Minnesota, to the support of which
Burn's Pennsylvanians are fast coming up. But for these the
enemy is not disposed to wait.
The attack at first took two forms. One, the most persistent,
that of seeking to pierce our centre by breaking out from the
woods over the line of Williams and Cochrane. Another, inter-
mittent and spasmodic, that of rushing out from the woods, dash-
ing across the Fair Oaks road, swinging around to right, and
charging up against Kirby and Fagan's guns. Later the enemy
made efforts to carry the position in the open ground on our right
about the Courtney house, which was held by Sully, to whom
two of Brady's guns were sent, and who was supported by the
^5 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Sixty-ninth and Seventy-first Pennsylvania of Burn's brigade.
Though these regiments were not engaged, the extent from our
left around the Adams house to our right around the Courtney
house was four or five hundred yards.
With this description of the ground and of the three phases of
the fight, let us return to the moment when the ball was opened
by Kirby's right piece. One of the Confederate brigades coming
across the railroad had been permitted to form line of battle in
the open facing the Adams house, under the impression that they
were some of Heintzelman's troops which had turned back from
the railroad upon finding Fair Oaks station occupied by the
enemy. As soon as this impression had been corrected, through
close personal inspection by an officer of General Courh's staft,
Kirby opened fire. Whereupon that brigade moved rapidly ofT
by its left and sought refuge in the woods, while Hampton,
already in position pushed his brigade forward close up to the
line held by the Eighty-second Pennsylvania and Sixtv-fifth New
York with the purpose of breaking out on Kirby's right and
taking his guns in flank. Hampton, however, was here met by a
fearful fire from the two regiments which lay behind the fence
rails along the inner edge of the woods. In this desperate as-
sault, which was continued with only slight intervals for an hour
and a half, Hampton was soon joined by Pettigrew, while Hat-
ton came in as soon as he could be brought up to reinforce the
attack at that point and to assail Sully across the open ground
at the Courtney house. Whiting's own brigade closed into the
support of Hampton, Pettigrew and Hatton's brigades losing
heavily. Hood remained further back near the railroad. The
advance of the enemy was made through the dense and tangled
woods with the utmost courage, and the men held their fire until
the advancing line was within twenty yards, when they opened
with a volley which threw the enemy back, leaving a w^indrov/
BATTLE OF FAIR OAKS. oy
of dead and wounded men to mark the line of their farthest
The enemy having all disappeared from the open ground, the
charge of Gorman and Dana's five regiments across the front of
our main line closed the action of the day. Not because more
fighting could not easily have been had out of Smith's column,
but because night had now come and the Confederates had in-
deed retired from our end of the woods. But .they still held on
to those nearer Fair Oaks station, which they occupied in force,
Hood's Texans having been called in from the right and Grif-
fith's Mississippians and Semmes' mixed brig^ade from the left
to support the four roughly handled brigades, which had done
the work of the later afternoon.
General Smith, and following him General Johnston himself,
have expressed the opinion that if daylight had lasted one hour
longer the Confederates, thus reinforced, would have won a
decided victory and driven Sumner and Couch into the swamps
of the Chickahominy. It is difficult, especially in war, to tell
what might have resulted if something had happened or been
done totally different from what happened or was done, but I
know of no reason for supposing that to have prolonged the day
of May 31st by one, two or three hours would have been dis-
astrous to the Union forces on the right. In the fighting up until
dark on that end of the line, had Hood's brigade been thrown in
on the right it would have been crushed between the brigade of
Birney, already in position along the railroad, supported by the
column of Hooker rapidly coming up the track, and the troops
at the Adams house, resting after their victorious charge. On
the other hand, Griffith's and Semmes' brigades attempting our
right would have found not only Sully's Minnesotians and Burn's
Pennsylvanians on the ground, but Richardson's brigades also
coming up the road from Grapevine bridge. People are often
^g UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
dreadfully mistaken in war, but ihere was no price which Sum-
ner, Couch, Sedgewick and Richardson would not have jointly
and severally paid for two hours more of daylight on May 31st.
Hence as seen from our side there was certainly some doubt
whether in one hour more General W. Smith would have driven
the Union forces into the swamps of the Chickahominy. By
eight o'clock Sumner had on the ground, available for action,
twenty-three regiments, including Couch's, against nine which
had actually encountered the enemy.
During the fighting of the first day, General Johnson, in com-
mand of the Confederate forces was wounded and at once turned
over the command of all the Confederate forces to General
Robert E. Lee, afterwards the Confederate commander-in-chief.
At night we slept with the slain and with the groans of the
wounded ringing in our ears. As the ground w^as wet, I went out
to gather brush to sleep on. The first I knew I was in the lines
of the enemy. I hurried back and informed General French that
the enemy was in force on our front. We expected an attack at
any moment. After seeing General French I took the brush 1
had gathered and threw them down as I supposed between two
of my comrades. In the morning when the men were aroused
just before daylight I was also aroused, and seeing these com-
rades, as I supposed still sleeping, I turned to one and given him
a shake told him to wake up. Then turning to the other I also
gave him a shake anci told him to hurry and get up. As they
did not move, I felt rather angry at what I supposed was iheir
laziness and gave them another good shaking. As they still lay
still, I took a nearer look and found I had been sleeping all night
between two dead rebels.
It did not lake me long to get up . The first movement on
Sunday, June ist, was by the Fifth New Hampshire regiment,
which passed to our left and formed line of battle along the rail-
GATHERING MAY APPLES. ^q
road. We could not see the enemy in our front crossing the road
beyond the station and going into position in the woods. Soon
after we also moved to the left, crossed the railroad, advanced
into the woods and near a creek, our right resting near the
Here we were sitting on the ground or standing around. J
w^ent to the rear of the regiment and was gathering May apples,
when I heard a voice say "They are prisoners," and then sud-
dently came a volley from the Confederate lines. It was like a
clap of thunder when the volley came. My body belt dropped
to the ground. I picked it up and hurried to my place in the
regiment. In my excitement I tried to buckle on my belt, but
could not. I then discovered that the buckle had been shot off.
When the volley came it threw the regiment into momentary
confusion. We knew we were on the line of battle and expected,
of course, that something would soon happen, but this was so
sudden that some of the men, and even officers, forgot for the
moment which way a soldier should face in the presence of an
enemy — a little mistake that cost one officer at least his commis-
sion. A private in his precipitate retreat fell into the railroad
ditch, which on top was covered with brush but underneath was
full of water, and with some difficulty was fished out of the
water by his comrades.
This was our first battle and it is not strange that it took a little
time to get down to business. All kinds of reports were going
the rounds. It was said we were within the enemy's line; that
we were firing on our own men ; and some one gave the order to
fall back. However, we held the ground and finally got into
fighting trim, so that as line after line of the enemy advanced
they were successfully resisted and driven off. General French
and Colonel Zooks were directing the movem.ents and encour-
aging the men. Finally we moved a little to the left and swung
.Q UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
around, took the enemy on the flank, drove him from his position
and advanced without opposition. This flank movement seemed
to turn the fortunes of the day in our favor, as no other attempt
was made by the enemy to renew the conflict.
During this movement our boys witnessed a pecuhar sight and
which at the time caused much laughter among the Union troops.
It seems that when the Confederate forces began to retreat the}^
went across an open field near to a farm house. The farmer
ow^ned a lot of bees, having the hives setting a short distance
from the house. When the rebels retreated they did not notice
the hives of bees until they had upset them. Then they noticed
them very quick, as the bees came out and no one but the rebels in
sight, the swarms made an attack on them, with the result that
the rebels did not stand on their order of going, but it was everv
one for himself. While they were willing to fight us, yet here
was an enemy that they feared worse than they did the Unio^i
The regiment was now moved about, first in a position to sup-
port the Irish brigade and then in support of a battery, and
finally settled down again near where it had done its fighting.
Much of the enemy's firing was wild, perhaps ours was no better.
Part of their ammunition was buckshot and a part rifle balls, the
former did little execution. During the afternoon and night the
troops on both sides were in a fever of excitement. An acci-
dental shot would set off a whole line of musketry. Especially was
this true after dark when the men trying to sleep were awakened
by the firing, and imagined a night attack. Sleep was very fitful,
and sometimes a man would spring to his feet, grasp his gun,
and find he was in a dream. Several times in the night orders
were given to fall into line and the boys, expecting to advance,
would examine their guns, see that everything was in shape for
action, and then be ordered to stack arms and lie down again.
FIERCEST ATTACK UPON OUR FRONT. . j
From three o'clock in the morning until daylight, everybody
stood in line, to prevent a possible surprise.
Whoever began it, the action broke out in a fury between five
and six o'clock on Sunday morning. General French's whole
line was instantly involved and that veteran officer fought his
command with energy and intrepidly. The Fifty-second New-
York suffered severely, both in front and from an attempt of the
enemy to turn its flank, losing one hundred and twenty men, in-
cluding eight officers. Further to the right Zook — the Zook of
Gettysburg — shook off the fiercest attack upon his front, with
the Fifty-seventh New York, supported by Pickney of the Sixty-
sixth New York. At the head of his own good regiment, the
Eighty-first Pennsylvania of Howard's brigade, fell the gallant
Miller. On the left Colonel John R. Brooks, leading the Fifty-
third Pennsylvania for the first time into a fight, displayed that
cool daring, that readiness of resources, that firmness of temper,
wdiich were to raise him high among the most illustrious of the
young soldiers of the Union army, while his splendid regiment
responded to every call with easy courage and prompt
The musketry had continued for an hour without an instant's
cessation, extending now toward the left to involve Hooker's
division of the Third Corps of which Sickel's brigade and the
Fifth and Sixth New Jersey, led by Hooker in person, came
enthusiastically into action on Richardson's front. The two
lines were at less than half smooth bore range, when Richard-
son, hearing that the regiments which had been engaged were
getting out of ammunition, directed Howard to relieve General
French. Howard, putting himself at the head of the Sixt3^-first
New York regiment, Colonel Barlow and the Sixty-fourth New
York, Colonel Parker, advanced up the railroad until he reached
the position of Brooks, when he moved to the front. Brooks'
^2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
men, whose cartridge boxes were empty, lying down to let them
pass, coming into action. Howard at once advanced as rapidly
as the dense, tangled and swampy woods would permit, until he
had pressed the enemy back across the road into Casey's camp
of Saturday morning. At this point Howard's horse was killed
and the general himself struck down by a blow that cost him his
good right arm. Giving to Colonel Barlow (who had already
shown in this, his first fight, those qualities which were so soon
to render him conspicuous in the sight of the whole army) orders
to hold his position until reinforced, Howard went to the rear,
there he turned over the command to Colonel Crose of the Fifth
New Hampshire, but that officer was soon severely wounded,
devolving the command of the brigade upon Colonel Parker of
the Sixty-fourth New York, even before taking the Sixty-first
and Sixty-fourth New York to the front. General Howard had
learned that Colonel Miller of the Eighty-first Pennsylvania had
been killed and that one wing of his regiment was left without a
field officer and had become separated from the rest of the regi-
ment, whereupon General Howard directed his aid, Lieutenant
Nelson A. Miles, to collect the companies of that wing and with
them hold the open field on the right of the railroad against any
advance of the enemy from that direction. General Barlow, find-
ing that his advance had carried him beyond his supports, soon
called up Brook's who, having replenished his ammunition, took
post with Barlow on the borders of Casey's old camp.
There was now a lull in the fighting. The enemy's troops
first engaged having apparently had enough and being well dis-
posed to remain quiet and await reinforcements. As it is pos-
sible to judge from ihe Confederate and Union reports, I under-
stand that Armstead's Confederate brigade had given way in
great disorder. General L. H. Hill also charged that Mahone
withdrew his brigade from action without orders and that Col-
FULL IN THE BATTLE. .^
ston when sent forward to take Mahone's place did not go into
action, as he was expected. Meanwhile General Richardson
took occasion of the lull in the battle to send forward the Fifth
New Hampshire, the Sixty-ninth New York, Coin" pi Robert
Nugent and the Eighty-eighth New York, Lieutenant Colonel
Patrick Kelly to relieve the Fifty-second and Sixty-first New
York and Fifty-third Pennsylvania on the front line. On the
left General Hooker made fresh disposition to push his advan-
tage and Birney's brigade, under Colonel J. H. Hobart Ward,
was brought up and advanced toward the enemy.
Scarcely were the changes completed when the attack was re-
newed with considerable vivacity by, it would seem, the brigades
of Pickett, Pryor and Wilcox. Two of the three brigades were
perfectly fresh, not having been engaged on Saturday, and be-
haved with extraordinary spirit and gallantry, but the action
now was nearly over. General A. H. Hill, disgusted with the
behavior of Armstead's brigade and offended by the action of
General Mahone and Colston, determined to withdraw his troops.
In this diversion Richardson and Hooker co-operated to the
utmost of their ability. On the left Sickels' Excelsior brigade
and the two New Jersey regiments under Hooker, on the centre
Birney's brigade under Ward, on the right the Fifth New Hamp-
shire and the Sixty-ninth and Eighty-eighth New York pressed
forward together to clear the ground. The Thirty-fourth and
Eighty-second New York, of Sedgewick's division, were sent in
to reinforce Richardson, while on the extreme flank Generar
French swung around the Fifty-seventh and Sixty-sixth New
York, both under Colonel Pinckney until they were formed most
at right angles to the general line, and then forward in person to
charge across the front of the other regiments of the division.
At the same time Pettit advanced his guns to a point where he
. . UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
obtained an enfilade on the eneni}^, who were still resisting the
That settled it. The Confederates had at break of day scarce-
ly resolved in their divided councils whether to fight or not, but
as soon as the first gun was fired the brigades nearest at hand
turned, with or without orders, in all the surly courage of their
kind, to return the blow, b-ut the lengthening line of the Union
forces, as Richardson gave one hand to Sedgewick and the other
to Hooker and the increasing weight of our fire were at last
bringing into serious jeopardy the brigades of Pickett, Pryor
and Wilcox, actually deserted as they had been by some of the
troops designated to support them. While on their left Hood
had received positive orders to make no movement and only to
fight if he himself were attacked. Thus, though Mahone's
brigade and two of Colston's regiments have now been brought
up, the Confederates withdrew before our advancing lines. The
Fifty-seventh and Sixty-sixth New York, moving forward with-
out firing a shot, encounter only a single regiment, the Forty-
first Virginia, which easily gives way and the battle of June ist
BURYING THE DEAD. a^
From Fair Oaks to Malvern Hill. — The Seven Days' Fight. — Jackson's
Sudden Move from the Shenandoah Valley to the Peninsular. —
McDowell's Army Bottled Up. — Scenes and Incidents of McClellan's
On June 2nd, Andrew Wilson, William Hardy and myself
went outside the lines to bury the dead and to carry in the
wounded. We came across a wounded rebel officer and were in
the act of putting him on a stretcher when we noticed another
rebel coming out of the bushes. He carried his gun, but appar-
ently did not suspect we were Yanks until he was very near us.
Then he looked scared and I said, "Put down your gun and hejp
this man onto the stretcher." Seeing the wounded man referred
to was a rebel officer, the stranger stuck his gun into the ground
and I immediately took possession of it. W^e then secured the
new comer and took him into camp a prisoner.
The third day of the battle little was attempted by either side.
On the fourth we began to have the feeling that the battle was
over. Two regiments, the Second Delaware and the Sixty-
fourth New York, were now added to our brigade, making a
total of six regiments instead of four as previously. For two
weeks it rained incessantly, so that all the bridges over the
Chickahominy were carried away and the army for some time
was cut in two without possible communication between them,
part being on the north side and a part on the south side of the
river. The reddish clay soil and quicksands had become a vast
^5 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
morass, wagons and batteries sinking down to the hubs merely
by their own weight. Whenever work was possible ditches and
breastworks were dug or corduroy roads were laid, but the prin-
cipal occupation was an endeavor to keep out of the mud.
It does not fall within the scope of this narrative to describe
the miserable causes which led to the failure of the Peninsular
campaign. The successful efforts of the Confederate chiefs, so
to play upon the fears of the administration at Washington as
to prevent the reinforcement of McClellan's army by the power-
ful corps of McDowell numbering 35,000 men. The great raid
of Stonewall Jackson into the Shenandoah Valley and his suc-
cessive defeats of the petty armies under more petty commanders,
which the mischievous meddling of the politicians had caused to
be constituted, ostensibly for the defence of the Capitol. Of al)
this the army of the Potomac was to bear the consequences un-
aided. About June i8th, Jackson, leaving behind him 60,000
Union troops (who were to be as powerless to intervene in the
operations of the next fortnight as if they had never been mus-
tered into the service of the United States or born into the world)
turned his fateful footsteps toward the Chickahominy. With such
masterly precautions was his advance veiled from view that on
the 25th his column reached Ashland on the Richmond and Fred-
ericksburg railroad without warning having been given of his
coming, or even of his having left the valley. (The Seven Days
After the rain had ceased and the ground had settled some-
what. General McClellan began to put into execution his plans
for advancing. The centre at Seven Pines was pushed forward,
and the skirmish at Oak Grove resulted, General Hooker being
supported by the division of General Richardson. This move-
ment, however, soon ceased, as Stonewall Jackson had come
down from the Shenandoah Valley, and all the troops that could
STONEWALL JACKSON LEAVES THE VALLEY. .^
be spared from the south side of the Chickahoniiny were massed
at Mechanicsville in a grand attempt to destroy the army of the
Potomac by crushing its right wing first and then falhng upon
On the 26th, Jackson with his Valley troops crossing the
Chickahominy high up marched directly for the West Point rail-
way. A. P. Hill, at the head of a column of about equal
strength, drawn from Richmond, crossing at Meadow^ bridge
under the eyes of Lee and Davis, pushed back the Union out-
posts. Jackson had found no one to oppose his movements to-
ward the railroad and divining the situation from the sound of
Hill's gims, he had turned tow^ard Cold Harbor. Thirty-three
thousand Union troops were soon to be called to resist the united
Confederate columns numbering 60,000 men. Wliile across the
river seven divisions confronted Richmond, where General Ma-
gruder, with barely 25,000 men, was doing his best, with the
same audacity he had displayed at Yorktown to keep up the illu-
sion of McClellan that Lee had still in his entrenchments at least
At last the blow falls. Shortly before six o'clock on June 27th.
Jackson hurls his fresh troops into the fight. The Confederate
fire extends rapidly around our right. Everywhere the contest
rages with rekindled fury. Brigades, already thrice repulsed,
renew the assault and after a brief but desperate struggle the
Union lines are broken at all points and thrown into retreat.
Twenty guns have been captured, 6,000 men have fallen. Only
a little space intervenes between the victorious Confederates and
the river which runs behind Porter's beaten corps. Duane and
Woodbury bridges have been hopelessly lost, but it is a far cry
still to Alexanders bridge, for some gallant troops form upon the
last crest and face the foe with unfaltering resolution, forty
pieces of artillery turn their ugly muzzles north, while cool and
.g UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
collected as on parade Porter orders everything for a stern resist-
ance to the bitter end. And now cheers rises along the slender
Union line. It is the cheer of men (overweighted and worn)
when they learn that help is at hand. It is a reinforcement from
the Second Corps. Two brigades they are from the first division
and are commanded by French and Meagher. These brigades
advanced boldly to the front and by their example as well as by
the steadiness of their bearing, reanimated our own troops and
warned the enemy that fresh troops had arrived.
It was nearly dark when we reached the scene of conflict, and
advancing to the very front line, were just in time to check the
last charge. Double quick up the hill we went cheering and being
cheered, when General Doubleday cried out: "Whose troops
are these?" and was answered, ''French and the Irish brigade."
''To you, then," he responded, "belongs the honor of having
saved the army of the Potomac."
This day, during the night, all the troops were withdrawn
from the north bank of the river to the south side, the Third
brigade covering the rear and protecting the bridge burners.
Before daylight on the 28th we were again in our old position at
The day of the 28th of June was in general one of quiet and
silence. The broken corps of Porter had before dawn of day been
withdrawn to the left bank of the river. Slocum's division had
rejoined Franklin at Calding. French and Meagher's brigades
had returned to their camps near Fair Oaks. McClellan's whole
army had been concentrated on one side of the river. Communi-
cations with the Pamunkey and the York had been abandoned.
The movement to the James had begun so far as the passage of
the almost endless trains was concerned.
On the morning of the 29th, McClelland suddenly let go his
hold upon Richmond and the several divisions abandoning their
SEVEN DAYS' BATTLE. c ^
entrenchments fell back to their first defensive position of the
series that the army of the Potomac was to occupy during this
critical movement. The line thus taken up crossed the Williams-
burg road about the point where the Confederate advance on
May 31st had been stayed.
It is related that after the regiment had taken its advanced
position at Gaines Mill, some one from the rebel front came out
between the two armies and moved up and down as though
looking for something. The man came nearer and nearer to our
line, and was finally halted by "Who comes there?" He
answered, "A friend on the opposite side." When taken prisoner
he said he was the adjutant of the Thirty-eighth Georgia regi-
ment, that his regiment had been in the fight all day and that he
was out looking for the body of his colonel. He further said
that three lines of the rebels had broken at the advance of our
brigades and that there would be bloody work upon the morrow.
The day following the night march from Gaines Mill was com-
paratively quiet with us, but on the 29th the retreat to the
James river commenced. We abandoned our entrenchments at
Fair Oaks on Sunday, just four weeks after that battle, and
moved down the railroad about two miles and took position in
an open field near Orchard Station. When we left our entrench-
ments at Fair Oaks each man was furnished with a pick and
shovel in addition to his arms. This w^as done so that we would
be ready to throw up entrenchments when we arrived at our next
camp. I happened to look back after we had left the entrench-
ments at Fair Oaks and saw that the enemy had occupied them,
so I said to some of my comrades that I was not going to carry
a pick and shovel as I thought we would need to use our guns
instead from the closeness of the rebels and that I intended to
throw mine away. The captain heard my remark and he said,
"Boys, if you throw your picks and shovels away you will have
C2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
to pay for them." But that did not stop me. I threw mine away
and so did others.
When we got to Orchard Station we found Regan's battery in
position, and were immediately ordered into Hne to support it. At
nine o'clock the next morning the enemy found us and began
moving heavy infantry columns against our front and right. Re-
gan's battery at once opened fire upon them with deadly effect.
An hour afterwards the rebels opened fire from the north
bank of the stream with every cannon at their command. They
could not get across until the bridge was replaced, but they
acted as though they would tear us all to pieces with shot and
shell. General French called it the severest and most destructive
cannonading that had occurred in this campaign, and the yet liv-
ing members of the Fifty-seventh speak of it to this day as hav-
ing made a lasting impression on their memory.
At evening the brigade was stationed near the broken bridge
with orders to hold it at all hazards until the army had its posi-
tion at Malvern Hill. Our guns got perfect range on the bridge
builders and kept them so warm with bursting shells during the
night that slow progress was made with repairs. During the
same afternoon there was considerable fighting at Glendale on
our left, where Hill and Longstreet determined to break through
and cut off our retreat, but their efforts were not successful,
though the fighting was very bitter. Just before daylight we
started towards the James river and the same morning joined
Daylight of the 30th of June found McClellan's army across
the White Oak swamp with the ponderous siege train tenderly
cared for by the First Connecticut heavies ; the ammimition and
provision trains of the army, the long and pitiful procession of
the sick and wounded who could walk or crawl to a place of
safety, the long and shameful procession of men strayed or stolen
SEVEN DAYS' BATTLE. c i
from their regiments ^vith no stomach for fight but vast stomachs
for fresh beef, the lowing bellowing herd of 2,500 cattle, all these
under the protection of Keyes' corps, were already nearing the
James river at Haxall. Yet success still remained to be achieved.
Two more days must pass before entire safety is obtained. Mean-
while the moving column must remain exposed to assaults from
Jackson, following fiercely on the line of our retreat, and to still
more dangerous assaults from Longstreet, Magruder, Huger
and A. P. Hill, who, passing north of the White Oak swamp, wall
press down upon the long flank of the Union columns, stretched
from Frazier's farm to Malvern Hill, to retard Jackson's pursuit
and to resist the flank attacks of the other Confederate command-
ers, troops must be posted and bidden to stay in their places what-
ever odds shall be brought against them. Since a collapse at any
one point may be fatal, forty-eight hours must be gained for the
interminable trains to find a secure cover on the James river. To
earn those forty-eight hours will require the sacrifice of many
thousands of brave men.
To check the pursuit of Jackson down the road by which the
Union army had retreated, General Franklin was posted at
White Oak bridge with General Smith's division of his own
corps, Nagle's brigade of Keyes' corps, Richardson's division
of General Sumner's corps, and for a while two brigades of
Sedgwick's division. The position was a strong one and was
Jackson came up at eleven o'clock w^ith a force of infantry out-
numbermg Franklin and with greatly superior artillery. The
jaded troops had been massed on the ground beyond the swamp
without much regard to order or concealment, and had generally
fallen asleep where they were halted, fairly numbed with
fatigue. Suddenly thirty pieces of Confederate artillery opened
upon them from the other side. For a while there was a scene
rA UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
of dire confusion, and although the loss was small, many a sol-
dier of Smith or Richardson's divisions holds that unexpected
shelling at White Oak swamp among his most memorable ex-
periences. Soon, however, order was restored, the dangerously
crowded masses were rapidly deployed, and Jackson was con-
fronted by infantry and artillery as steady as his own, in spite of
his superiority of force. Even Jackson's splendid soldiership
was useless against the natural obstacles which opposed the
crossing. The action became largely one of artillery, and al-
though the Confederates had nearly twenty batteries, the cool and
steady firing of the Union guns under Captain — afterwards Gen-
eral — R. B. Ayres kept the Confederates' infantry at arms' length
until night. Thus on this, the most critical day of the seven,
nearly one-half the pursuing army was neutralized by a compar-
atively small force holding a commanding position at the cross-
ing of the great swamp.
From the first it was too late for Jackson to retrace his steps
and follow the other corps of Lee around the northern limit of
White Oak swamp with any hope of joininsr in the conflict of
the day at Glendale, and thus he was held in the mortifying posi-
tion of being completely blocked by a position which he could
neither carry nor turn.
Meanwhile the Confederate right wing, having been thrown
around the swamp, was engaged in assailing the flank of the re-
treating army. There were three points at which Lee's divisions,
hurrying down from Richmond, might especially have been ex-
pected to attack McClellan. The nearest on the Union line of
march was Charles City cross roads. Just south of this on the
Quaker road, leading thence to Malvern Hill, was Glendale.
where a large clearing, offering a field of battle unusually wide
for that section of Virginia. From Glendale southward along
the Quaker road, the flank of the Union army was more or less
SEVEN DAYS' BATTLE. c -
protected by swamps, but as the line of retreat approached the
James river it again became open to attack by troops coming
down the river road to cover the last named point.
McClellan, on the morning of the 30th, posted the corps of
Keyes and Porter, a force as it proved far more than sufficient
for the subordinate attack which the enemy designed to make
here. The Confederates, under Holmes and Wise, seemingly
surprised to find the Union troops in position, wxre driven off by
the brigade of Warren and the fire from Porter's batteries, posted
on Malvern Hill, but while thus at one end of the long Union
line Holmes and Wise were easily repulsed by a fraction of Por-
ter's corps and at the other end Franklin was enabled, through
the strength of his position, to prevent Jackson from crossing
the White Oak swamp, the main action of the day was fought at
Glendale where Hill and Longstreet attacked the division of
McCall, supported by Hooker and Kearney, and later by portions
of Sedgwick's and Richardson's division. This was in fact one
of the most severely contested action of the campaign. The
troops actually brought under fire on the two sides were nearly
equal in strength. McCall's division, after its brilliant repulse
of Hill on the 26th, and had lost fearfully at Gaines Mill,
bore the first onset of the enemy wiii fortitude, but repeated as-
saults finally broke the line of Seymour's brigade, which gave
way in confusion, and at the same time the division of Hooker,
which was on the left of Seymour, though with a considerable
interval of uncovered ground, was furiously assailed. To
Hooker was sent the Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania, which here won
from that general high praise. In the rear of the gap (between
Seymour and Hooker) on the Nelson Farm had lain since morn-
ing Burns' brigade, of Sedgewick's division, the other two
brigades, those of Dana and Sully, having been detached to sup-
port Franklin at the bridge as already described.
r5 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Just in the crisis of the fight at Glenclale. however, the good
troops recalled by Sumner's orders began to arrive upon the
ground, having come from the bridge on the double quick. With
impetuosity they advance into the space abandoned by Seymour.
The fire here was intensely hot, and although some of the regi-
ments, arriving in haste and thrown individually into action, be-
came somewhat disordered, especially with McCall's men break-
ing through their forming ranks, still the ground was never for
an instant yielded to the enemy. Burns and Dana's brigades sus-
tain the brunt of the action, the Seventy-second Pennsylvania of
the former and the Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts
regiments of the latter greatly distinguishing themselves and
suffering heavy losses. Hooker's men, too, push forward and
the line is re-established.
Finding our force too strong for him here, the enemy turns his
efforts against the right brigade of IMcCall's division, com-
manded by General Meade, on whose front is the famous Regular
battery of Randall. Blow upon blow falls hard and fast, and at
length, about six o'clock. Meade's men gave way, and Randall's
guns are taken. General Meade is severely wounded and borne
from the field. An hour later another desperate charge drives
back McCall's centre and captures Cooper's battery. Kearney
meanwhile is assailed with no less fury, but his magnificent divi-
sion, inspired by its peerless leader, and strongly supported by
Caldwell's brigade, which has been sent down from Richard-
son's division at the bridge, throws off every assault. Thus
foiled in their attacks upon Hooker and Sedgewick upon Kear-
ney and Caldwell, the enemy, late in the evening, desisted from
further efforts. A portion of the field wrested from McCall
was indeed held by the Confederates, and they pulled out of the
fight eight or ten captured guns, but the troops of the Second
and Third corps held their ground with plenty of force to spare
for just such another fight.
SEVEN DAYS' BATTLE. j.-
While at Charles City Cross roads, Slocum, having easily
beaten back the detachment that advanced against him, kept two
unattached brigades ready for any emergency, having sent one
brigade to Kearney in the crisis of the action. The disappoint-
ment of the Confederates at this result was extreme. Greatly
exaggerating the effect of their victory at Gaines' Mill, in which
they believed they had defeated the bulk of the Union army and
imagining a scene of general demoralization and panic along the
line of McClellan's retreat. They had thought to win an easy
victory, and by breaking through at Glendale to turn a flight into
a rout, take Franklin in the rear, and destrov the army of
the Potomac as a fighting force. Except their triumph
over McCall's weakened divisions, they had gained nothing.
The divisions of Hooker, Kearney, Sedgewick and Slocum re-
mained intact. Every blow that had been dealt had been re-
turned, swift, strong and sure. And they were only just ready
to begin fighting when darkness came.
The distant booming of cannon from the direction of
Frazier's farm gave every evidence that Franklin was still keep-
ing Jackson's fourteen brigades at bay. Couch, too, with his
fresh divisions of the Fourth corps was drawing near the battle-
field, coming up from Haxalls. Under circumstances like these,
it was plainly useless to persist and although it was doubly hard
for Hill and Longstreet to give up under the very eyes of Gen-
eral Lee, who had brought the President of the Confederacy
along with him to see the army of the Potomac cut in two.
The fighting died down and the battle was over. The night
of June 30th fell a pall over the hopes of the Confederate com-
mander. McClellan had indeed one day more of battle. This,
however, was not for life, but for a more desirable position
farther down the river, where supplies could advantageously be
landed at Haxalls. The army of the Potomac was already safe.
-g UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
that safety had been secured by the sturdy stand of Sumner at
Savages on the 29th, the prudent judicious disposition of Frank-
lin at the bridge on the 30th, and by the gaUantry and devotion
displayed at Glendale. It was now possible for McClellan to
withdraw Franklin from the crossing of the White Oak swamp
and Sumner, Heintzelman and McCall from Glendale. The
moment night fell all reason for occupying so long and so ex-
posed a line ceased. The last of the trains had now reached the
James river at Haxall and the morning was to see the whole
army drawn up in magnificent battle array on the f.amous
battlefield of Malvern Hih.
SEVEN DAYS' BATTLE. cq
Battle of Malvern Hill. — Victory of Union Army. — Retreat to Harrison's
Landing. — ^Visit of President Lincoln to the Army. — General McClel-
lan's Address to the Army. — Movement of Troops toward Malvern
Hill. — Lee's Advance toward Washington. — Orders to the Army to
go to Washington.
In the early morning of July ist the army of the Potomac was
drawn up in battle array, with General Porter on the left of the
line, occupying the position from which on the day before he
had repulsed the feeble attack of Holmes and Wise. His right,
composed of Morrell's division, rested on the James river road.
Here he connected with Couch's division, which since June 28th
had been detached from the Fourth corps. On the right of
Couch's (whose troops were arranged in a single line with but
one regiment in support) lay the corps of Heintzelman. Kear-
ney's division first, then Hooker's division next, on Hooker's
right lay the corps of Sumner and on Sumner's right the corps
of Franklin. The line was several miles in length and formed
a huge semi-circle, the two extremities resting on the river ; the
whole bristled with batteries, while the vast artillery reserve was
placed on the broad plateau behind. It is not necessary to re-
peat the oft told story of the victorious action of Malvern Hill.
The infantry attack fell upon the front of Morrell's and Couch's
divisions, although the artillery of Heintzelman's further to the
right, and that of the fleet from the extreme left, contribtited
largely to the destruction of the enemy's columns. As the
blows fall harder and faster, troops from other parts of the line
6o UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
were brought up until at last nine infantry brigades were active-
ly engaged. Yet these constituted less than one-third of the
army of the Potomac.
The successive assaults, the first of which took place at 3 p. m.
were made by the troops of Hugur and Magruder, who appeared
here for the first time since the battle of Savage Station. At 4 -.30
p. M., Couch, crossing the James river road to the front of
Morrell, and not finding that officer, assumed control himself,
and from that time until the close of the action remained in
charge of the whole infantry line, his horse being shot under
him as he was marshalling one of Morrell's regiments, which
had been momentarily thrown into confusion, and he displayed
everywhere the utmost coolness, courage, resolution and a readi-
ness to grasp every situation that came before him. The regular
batteries of Kingsbury, Seely and Aimes, and the volunteer bat-
tery of Weeden far surpassed the ordinary achievements of ar-
tillery which the Confederates sought to bring into action. Bat-
tery after battery on that side was driven from the field without
being able to fire a single shot out of their guns, while upon the
daring infantry lines, which pressed forward in the hope of
carrying the crest, they rained a fire which, for destructiveness,
has seldom if ever been exceeded in the history of war. The
participation of the Second corps, which was stationed far to
the right beyond the field of action and actual conflict, was
through the brigades of Caldwell and Meagher, of Richardson's
division. Caldwell was the first to arrive. After lying in re-
serve under a severe fire of artillery for about an hour, his
brigade was ordered into action. The Fifth New Hampshire
was detached and sent to General Howe to support a battery
on the extreme right of Couch's line. The Sixty-first New York
and the Eighty-first Pennsylvania, both under Colonel Barlow,
were put in between Palmer's and Abercrombies' brigades, being
SEVEN DAYS' BATTLE. 5j
drawn up in the open field, while the enemy occupied the edge
of the woods in front. Both these regiments bore themselves
with the utmost steadiness under a heavy fire and were handled
in the most able manner by their accomplished commander, who
had already won a high reputation at Fair Oaks and Glendale.
The Seventh New York, a German regiment, commanded by
Colonel Van Schack, which had joined the brigade after Fair
Oaks, fought on Barlow's left.
A little after nightfall there was a sudden cessation in the teas-
mg fire which the enemy still kept up, though the Sixty-firs l
Nevv^ York and Eighty-first Pennsylvania had long since ceased
firing, and in the lull Barlow heard the ominous clatter, which
told that bayonets wxre being fixed by the enemy. A moment
later there was a rapid rush out of the woods. Colonel Barlow
having been warned of the enemy's intentions, was not thrown
off his guard by the sudden charge, but holding his men firmly
in hand waited until the enemy was close upon his line, when
he ordered his men to fire. After the first volley the command
was given to fire at will, before which the enemy fell back to the
woods in the utmost confusion. Riding to the front of his line.
Colonel Barlow found the dead and wounded of the enemy close
up to his line.
It was a late exegency of the battle which called the Irish
brigade to the scene of conflict. About six o'clock a powerful
column of the enemy advanced with extraordinary resolution
upon the position held by Morrell as if determined to carry it at
any cost. General Sumner, who had, at Couch's suggestion, al-
ready despatched Caldwell's brigade, now, on hearing the first
outburst which greeted this column, without waiting for any
further request sent the Irish brigade post haste to report to
Couch. The rising storm of battle quickened the steps of the
enthusiastic Irishmen hastening to take part in the conflict. Im-
52 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
mediately on their arrival at the West house they were ordered
to support General Griffin's guns. It was nearly dark and the
field of battle had become a scene of the most magnificent pyro-
technics. Jets of flame were darting from thousands of rifles.
Hissing fuses marked the flight of enumerable shells crossing
the plain from every direction, while the din of battle never for
a moment ceased. Moving across the road Meagher formed
column of regiments. The Sixty-ninth, under the gallant Nu-
gent, in front, advanced to the position of Martindale's brigade.
The two rear regiments were soon detached (as will be ex-
plained later) but the Sixty-ninth, supported by the Eighty-
eighth under Major Quinlan, pushed forward and encountered
the enemy with great spirit. Any one who has ever been in
action knows how easy it is to recognize the firing of fresh
troops, and the writer has never forgotten the outburst which
announced that the Irish men had opened upon the Confederafc
column, now half way up the slope. As soon as the Sixty-ninth
had exhausted its ammunition, the Eighty-eighth took its place,
while Nugent's men replenished their cartridge boxes. WHien
the Eighty-eighth had in turn exhausted its sixty rounds of am-
munition, the Sixty-ninth was again moved to the front. Scarce-
ly had the Sixty-ninth relieved their comrades when Nugent
discovered that a daring body of the enemy had mounted the
hill and was bearing down upon his flank. Changing front with
his left companies and sending back orders, which brought
Quinlan with the Eighty-eighth up on the left of the Sixty-ninth.
Nugent charged with both regiments and met the enemy in a
hand to hand encounter, which speedily resulted in the complete
overthrow of the attacking force and the capture of Lieutenant-
Colonel Waggaman, commanding the Tenth Louisiana.
While the Sixty-ninth and Eighty-eighth were thus engaged
the remaining regiments of the brigade had been sent to other
SEVEN DAYS' BATTLE. 5^
parts of the field. The Twenty-ninth Massachusetts, Lieutenant-
Colonel Barnes, had been at first held in reserve, but was later
sent to support Robertson's battery of horse artillery, which the
terrific outburst of the early evening had caused Porter to bring
forward in person with the greatest haste. Upon representa-
tions made by an ofihcer of General McClellan's stafY, the Sixty-
third New York was ordered by General Meagher to accom-
pany that of^cer and act as a support to a battery which was
going into action on another part of the line.
Night fell upon the field of battle, cumbered with the corpses
of the slain and the writhing bodies of the wounded. Over an
extended front the ground between the Union lines and the
woods had been tramped in repeated charges by the troops of
Huger, Hill and Magruder, and everywhere prostrate horses and
prostrate men bore witness to the gallantry which had carried
these divisions of the army of Northern Virginia across the plain
and up the fatal slopes of Malvern Hill.
Night fell indeed, but not in quiet. The cannons still boomed
at intervals, the shrieking shells could be traced through the
darkness by their burning fuses as they crossed the field in angry
retaliation, and as they burst lit up some little space with a lurid
and baleful glare. Now and then the rattle of small arms broke
forth as the uneasy lines of skirmishers pressed too closely on
each other and for a moment aroused the expectations of a night
Night fell upon the last hope of Davis and Lee and of their
lately jubilant people, as well as their army. They were certain
they would crush and destroy the Union forces. Until Glendale
hardly a doubt had entered the Confederate mind that this and
not less than this must be the outcome of the matchless valor
of their soldiers and the daring strategy of their commanders.
The close of that first of July day found McClellan's army
5^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
intact. Not a brigade captured or destroyed. Its base safely
shifted from the York to the James, with the navy at its back.
Its Hne of battle stern and defiant, its last assailants beaten back
to cover, the ground in its front strewn with the killed and
wounded of one of the bloodiest battle of the war, in which not
one inch of space had for one moment of time been yielded to
the most furious assaults. The losses in this battle were : Con-
federate killed, 2,823; wounded, 13,703; missing, 3,223, or a
total of 19,749. The Union losses were as follows: Killed,
1,734; wounded, 8,062; missing, 6,053, ^^ ^ total of 15,849.
Although the battle of Malvern Hill was in all respects a
victory for the Union army, the enemy having been repulsed at
every point with great slaughter without gaining so much as a
single trophy or occupying any part of the Union position for
the briefest space of time. The army of the Potomac that night
retreated to Harrison's Landing on the James river as a position
better suited for the delivery of supplies and stores.
On the fourth of July General McClellan issued the following-
address to the Union army:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
Near Harrison's Landing.
July 4, 1862.
Soldiers of the Army of the Potomac:
Your achievements of the last ten days have illustrated the valor and
endurance of the American soldier. Attacked by superior forces, and
without hope of re-inforcements, you have succeeded in changing your
base of operations by a flank movement — always regarded as the most
hazardous of military expedients. You have saved all your material, all
your trains and all your guns and colors from the enemy. Upon your
march you have been assailed day after day, with desperate fury, by men
of the same race and nation, skillfully massed and led under every dis-
advantage of numbers and necessarily of position. Also you have in
every conflict beaten back your foes with enormous slaughter. Your
conduct ranks you amongst the celebrated armies of history. No one will
AT HARRISON'S LANDING. ^^
now question that each of you may always with pride say "I belonged to
the army of the Potomac." You have reached the new base complete in
organization and unimpaired in spirit. The enemy may at any moment
attack you. We are prepared to meet them. I have personally estab-
ished your lines. Let them come, and we will convert their repulse into
a final defeat.
Your government is strengthening you with the resources of a great
people. On this, our nation's birthday, we declare to our foes, who are
rebels against the best interest of mankind, that this army shall enter
the capitol of the Confederacy; that our national Constitution shall pre-
vail, and that the Union, which can alone insure internal peace and
external security to each State, must and shall be preserved, cost what
it may in time, treasure and blood.
GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
The Malvern Hill engagement was the last of the seven days'
battle and it was a sorry day for the rebels, as by it we got fairly
even for Seven Pines and Gaines' Mill. Unbroken, and when the
enemy came we gave them as warm a reception as they could
ask. They seemed determined to accomplish their object and
hurled their battalians in masses on our lines, but with the only
result that they were mowed down like grass before a fire which,
for destructiveness, has seldom if ever been exceeded in the his-
tory of war. As the day closed, on fields populated with the
Southern dead, the enemy seemed disposed to believe that they
had found a foeman worthy of their steel.
As night settled again the line of march was taken along the
river road to Harrison's Landing and the seven days' retreat
had passed into history. When the landing was reached and
the long days of fighting and the longer nights of marching
were over the men fairly fell in their tracks and slept day and
night amid mud and rain, until the water literally ran into their
their ears. During these Richmond fights the soldiers got ex-
periences that was severe, but invaluable. Marching all night
56 UNDER FIVE COiMMANDERS.
and fighting all day tested their strength and courage and gave
excellent discipline. For the first time they found what it meant
to be forced back by the weight of advancing columns ; to receive
a charge; to see the lines ploughed with solid shot, raked with
double canister and melt away before the withering fire of in-
fantry; to hear the cries of the wounded, the groans of the
dying and to see the fields of scattered dead. The first sight of
so many killed was a shock to the nervous system and caused
white lips and trembling limbs, and death was expected by the
very next volley. But when volley after ^^olley came, and hours.
passed amid the rain of lead, those who lived began to be some-
what at home, and even showed signs of pugilism. The first
severely w^ounded man was a little German, shot through the-
abdomen and sure to die. Sitting on the g; round wi^^-" Hs hands,
upon his wound he was crying, ''J^sus, Maria; Jesus, Maria,"
with such plaintive lamentation that it brought the tears to the
eyes of those who heard him.
The month of June had made veterans of the Army of the
Potomac. And with such the rebels must reckon thereafter.
The losses of the Second corps during the seven days' battle
reached 2,420. The loss of the Fifty-seventh regiment was
52; 8 killed, i officer and 8 men wounded and 35 missing.
President Lincoln came down from Washington to Harrison's
Landing and reviewed the army. The Second corps was in line
July 4th, and at five o'clock saluted the President of the United
States and the commander-in-chief of all its armies.
When on Monday the army began its retreat an amusing in-
cident occurred among the wagons. The drivers were ordered
to unhitch and water their horses at a brook nearby, and while
watering their teams a rebel battery caught sight of them and
at once began to vigorously shell them. Such a skedadleing was
seldom or ever seen. Mules and drivers flew in all direction to.
AT HARRISON'S LANDING. 5y
the infinite amusement of both armies. It resulted in the aban-
donment of many ammunition wagons because neither the mules
or the drivers could be caught and returned to their places.
It was now the privilege of the army to have a month of solid
rest. Indeed no rest was more needed and no month was more
enjoyed. The army was here reinforced by -a multitude of re-
cruits called "Gray Backs." It is not to be understood that up
to this time there was none of these pestilent fellows in camp.
The severe marching had long before reduced many of the men
to a single suit of underclothing, and as wash day had been much
broken up by marching and fighting, the blessed duty of cleanli-
ness had been sadly neglected. This, however, was no great
disadvantage to the gray backs. Colonel Zook called the atten-
tion of Surgeon Mackin to the fact that the men were infested
with these vermin of which fact the doctor expressed his doubts.
Whereupon the colonel, in a few emphatic, though perhaps not
elegant words, replied : *'Why, the whole army is lousey. You
are lousey, I am lousey, McClellan is lousey." The colonel was
not far from right, though the men at first from very shame
would scorn the idea that it was anything but prickly heat that
ailed them. As time wore on, howxver, the disease wore on
also and from mere desperation they would go out into some
secret place in the woods for self examination. xA.s time wore on
shamefacedness disappeared and what could not be cured was
made an occasion of mirth. Some of the men, even though a
high private, commanded a regiment of their own, had regular
morning roll calls and battles in which the slaughter was fear-
ful. It was no uncommon thing to see the edge of a wood or the
bank of a stream lined with soldiers, half dressed, engaged in
these roll calls. One of the boys, in a moment of delirium, im-
agined that he was calling the roll of Fifty-seventh and his gray
backs that day answered to such immortal names as Zook, Chap-
^g UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
man, Parisen, Throop and Kirk. It was said of an old garment
that was missing that they had moved a httle way down the river
and were going into winter quarters. Whether this latter state-
ment be truth or fiction, the following incident is an actual fact :
An ofificer of the Fifty-seventh was leading his men into a battle
and at a certain point came under a fire of grape and canister.
A charge was made and this gallant ofhcer, for such he was, ran
out in front of his men, raised his sword high in the air with his
strong right arm, cheered and led on his men, but his left hand
had unconsciously gotten under his right arm and was there
digging away with energy sufificient to divert the attention of
his company he led from the hail of grape and canister that
On the 1 2th of July, Jeremiah Williams, a corporal of Com-
pany A, Fifty-seventh New York, died. There never was a
steadier or truer soldier than he, whom the boys most affection-
ately mourned. He was never behind on the march or in battle.
His body was embalmed (as were hundreds of others) by Dr.
Thomas Holmes, who had established an embalming depot in a
large barn at the landing, thus making it possible for friends
who desired to have the bodies of their dear ones sent home to
be buried in the family burying ground.
The 1 6th of July was a welcome day, for the paymaster had
arrived and the troops were paid for the months of March and
April. Brigadier-Generals Sumner, Richardson and Sedgwick
had been advanced in rank to major-o^enerals. and the order was
read on dress parade. These promotions were praised by the
entire army, as the additional star had been fairly won by each
of these capable officers on the field of battle.
Drinking water was very scarce and poor at Harrison's Land-
ing, and the Fifty-seventh, under great dif^culty, dug a well,
securing thereby better water. The diet was also improved by
AT HARRISON'S LANDING. 5q
the addition of cabbage, tomatoes and dried apples to the usual
army rations. It was on the last day of this month that the
following episode occurred, wherein a rebel battery, planting
itself on the south side of the James river and began vigor-
ously to shell Harrison's Landing. This battery was not long
in getting out of reach after the blue coats started for it, and
the position was thereafter occupied by our troops.
Much has been the wonder that the soldiers of the Army of
the Potomac, in reviewing the Peninsular campaign, did not be-
gin to doubt the ability of General McClellan to fight a large
army, but if any did they were few. Throughout the North
there was a howl of disappointment at the way the army had
been permitted to be beaten in detail and finally driven into a de-
fensive position. It evidently was not the fault of the Union
soldier, for at both Fair Oaks and at Gaines' Mill they with-
stood double their numbers and the seven days of retreat were
days of severe punishment for the enemy. It had become a
stereotyped declaration South that one Southerner could whip
six Yankees, but the Peninsular campaign demonstrated the
fact that this proposition would have to be reduced five-sixth at
least, so far as the men were concerned. Since all that had been
gained thus far by Lee's men was the result of superior general-
ship, the northern soldier in most unfavorable situations had
done as well as the Southern soldier had done in favorable
situations. It was not as much credit to the 60,000 gray coats at
Gaines' Mill to have driven 30,000 blue coats three miles in one
afternoon as it w^as to the credit of the blue coats that they held
their ground so long in the face of such odds and were not total-
The army remained at Harrison's Landing until about the
seventh of August, when General Hooker advanced with his
corps, supported by Sedgwick's division of the Second corps
yQ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
and Couch's division of the Fourth corps, toward Malvern Hill.
By this time there appeared unmistakable signs of a movement
by Lee's forces toward Washington by way of Manassas. The
whole army of the Potomac w^as at once ordered to move to the
Capitol. We marched down the James river to Charles City,
thence to Williamsburg, crossing the Chickahominy river at
Barrett's Ferry, thence to Yorktown and then to Newport News.
FROM PENINSULA TO ANTIETAM. yj
From the Peninsular to Antietam. — McClellan Left Without a Command.
— Buying Watermelons without Money. — Pope takes Command of the
Army. — March to the Second Battle of Bull Run. — Defeat of Pope. —
McClelland Again Called to the Command of the Army to Save
Washington. — Battle of South Mountain.
On the 25th of August we were aboard the steamer Spauld-
ing and anchored in Hampton Roads. At three o'clock the next
morning, weighing anchor, we moved up the Potomac river and
on the following morning after breakfast we disembarked at
Acquia Creek, but on the same afternoon we re-embarked, and
on the following morning, August 28th, we landed at Alexandria
and marched as far as old Camp California.
On the trip around from Newport News the company's books
were lost. All our baggage, clothing, etc., having been shipped
on a transport and in going from Newport News to Alexandria
the vessel was lost with all on board, so we never recovered
clothing or books.
The afternoon of the 29th found us on the Alexandria road
at Arlington Heights and the Acqueduct bridge. While we
were lying at the Acqueduct bridge, a lot of farmers came down
with watermelons to sell to the boys. As I had no money T
went to Captain Chapman and asked him to give me some.
He gave me a "twenty-five cent shin-plaster," as we used to
call them. It was the first time I had seen one. I took
the twenty-five cents and I went to the farmer and offered the
money, but he said it was no good. I then went back to the
captain and told him what the farmer said, and he told me 1
„^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
had better see the colonel. So I went to Colonel Zook and told
him the circumstances, and he told me to gfo back and if the man
would not take the money to take the watermelon anyway and
bring it to him. I went to the farmer and offered him the money,
which he refused, but I took the melon, and on my way to camp
I dropped and broke it, so the boys got the pieces and ate them
up. I went back. to the man and got another one, which I took
to Colonel Zook, who cut it in half and he took one half and T
the other. Shortly after eating the melon we were ordered to
We passed the residence of the Lees, whence the view of
Washington, Georgetown and the Potomac river enchants the
eye of the beholder. Resting overnight, the regiment moved
again toward Bull Run, reaching Fairfax Court House the same
night and Centreville the next day. But on the following day
we fell back with the rest of the army upon Washington. At the
court house a slight skirmish occurred, in which the enemy's
only part taken by the regiment in what was called the second
shells made themselves somewhat offensive. This was the
battle of Bull Run.
That both Franklin and Sumner might have participated in
the battle of Chantilly on the first of September there is no doubt,
for both of these commands were then up within striking dis-
tance and a new Malvern Hill might have been fought at Chan-
tilly. The rebel General Jackson had undertaken one of his wild
excursions into Pope's rear. Longstreet was far behind and
could not come up until long after nightfall. Kearney and
Reno's divisions actually sufficed to hold Jackson at bay. Hook-
er's division, the two divisions of Franklin, the two divisions of
Sumner and two brigades of Couch were all available to be
thrown upon Jackson's right and left. Such an attack would
have been simply fatal to Jackson. He had absolutely no way
FROM PENINSULA TO ANTIETAM. y^
of retreat, but it was not to be so. The campaign was destined
to end in humiliation. The braggart who had begun his cam-
paign with insolent reflections in general orders upon the army
of the Potomac and its commander, and with silly bluster about
his policy being attack and not defence, about discarding such
ideas as lines of retreat and bases of supplies, about looking
before and not behind, about studying the possible lines of re-
treat of his enemy and leaving his own to take care of themselves.
This braggart had been picked, cuffed, hustled about, knocked
down, run over and trodden upon as rarely happens in the his-
tory of war. His communications had been cut, his headquarters
pillaged, a corp had marched into his rear and had encamped at
its ease upon the railroad by which he received his supplies.
He had been beaten or foiled in every attempt he had made to
bag those defiant intruders and in the end he was glad to find a
refuge in the intrenchments of Washington. Whence he had
sallied forth six weeks before breathing out threatenings and
About four o'clock in the afternoon of September ist, from a
prominent point we descried in the distance the dome of the
Capitol of Washington. We would be there at least in time
to defend it. Darkness came upon us and still we marched. As
the night wore on we found at each halt that it was more and
more difficult to arouse the men from the sleep that they would
fall into apparently as soon as they touched the ground. Dur-
ing one of these halts, while the brigade commander was resting
a little off the road some distance in advance of the head of the
column, it being starlight, two horsemen came down the road
towards us. I thought I observed a familiar form and turning
to Captain Chapman I said, "U I did not know that General
McClellan had been relieved of all command, I should say that
he was one of that party;" adding immediately. "I do really
jA UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
believe it is he.'' "Nonsense," said the captain, "what would
General McClellan be doing out in this lonely place at this time
of night without an escort." The two horsemen passed on (to
where the column of troops were lying, standing or sitting, as
pleased each individual) and were lost in the shadowy gloom
But a few moments had elapsed, however, when Andrew W^ilson
came running towards Captain Chapman crying out, "Captain,
General McClellan is here."
The enlisted men caught the sound and those who were awake
aroused his sleeping neighbor. Eyes were rubbed and those
tired fellows, as the news passed along down the column, jumped
to their feet and sent up such a hurrah as the army of the Poto-
mac had never heard before. Shout after shout went out into
the stillness of the night and as it w^as taken up along the road
and repeated by regiment, brigade, division and corps, we could
hear the roar dying away in the distance.
The effect of this man's presence upon the army of the Poto-
mac in sunshine or rain, in darkness or in daylight, in victory
or defeat, was ever electrical and too wonderful to make it worth
while attempting to give a reason for it. Just two weeks from
this time this defeated army, under the leadership of General
McClellan, won the battles of South Mountain and Antietam,
and we had to march ten days out of the two weeks in order to
do it. From Chantilly we covered the retreat on the Vienna and
Langley railroad. On arriving at the Potomac we at first took
post on the Virginia side of the river, but on the next day, the
third of September, we were ordered to Tennallytown, Mary-
land, just outside the District of Columbia. The uncertainty of
Lee's movements at this time and the necessary disposition of
the troops to meet several possible contingencies, kept the whole
army on the edge of uncertainty. MeClellan was aware that the
mass of the rebel army had passed up the south side of the Poto-
UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS. yc
mac in the direction of Leesburg and that a portion of their
army had crossed into Maryland. But he had no means of
determining whether Lee proposed to cross his whole army with
a view of turning Washington by a flank movement down the
north bank of the Potomac, to move on Baltimore, or to invade
Pennsylvania. This uncertainty made it appear to him neces-
sary to march cautiously and to advance the army in such order
as to keep Washington and Baltimore continually covered and at
the same time to hold the troops well in hand so as to be able
to concentrate and follow rapidly if the enemy took the direction
of Pennsylvania or to return to the defences of Washington if,
as it was generally feared by the authorities, the enemy should
be merely making a feint with a small force to draw off our army
while with their main army they stood ready to seize the first
favorable opportunity to attack the Capitol.
September ist, 1862, was a dark day for the country. Not
only had the attempt to reach Richmond failed, but Pope's fol-
lowing campaign, conducted with such a profusion of boastful
and glowing despatches and proclamations, had resulted disas-
trously. The North was despondent; the South was exultant.
Lee had proved his strength to hold the Confederate territory
against all invaders. Now he proposed reversing the situation
and becoming an invader himself. It is doubtful whether when
he set his columns in motion from Richmond he intended to
carry the Confederate flag across the river that formed the divid-
ing line between the warring powers. It is certain that his army
was wretchedly equipped and poorly provided. Lee himself says
that thousands of his troops at this time were destitute of shoes,
but whether induced by incorrect representations of the popular
feeling in Maryland, which he thought would lead the people to
flock into his army as soon as he set foot on northern soil, or for
whatever reason, the whole Confederate army crossed the Poto-
^^ UNDEK FIVE COMMANDERS.
mac at Leesburg, by the fords near that place, in three days —
between the 4th and 7th of September, 1862 — and encamped in
the vicinity of Frederick. There the standard of revolt was
formally raised and the people of Maryland were invited by a
proclamation of General Lee to join the Confederate force.
Lee was disappointed when no recruits came. The ragged
and shoeless condition of his troops operated strongly to quench
the enthusiasm for service in the cause of the Confederacy. But
there he was, across the border, and the moral effect, as well as
the military necessities of the campaign, required that he should
hold his position. He could not retreat without at least measur-
ing strength with the powerful army which he knew must be sent
to repel his invasion. So it was that the Maryland campaign
came into existence. When the shattered battalions that sur-
vived General Pope's disastrous campaign in Northern Virginia
returned to Washington, President Lincoln requested General
McClellan to resume command of the Army of the Potomac,
which was increased in numbers by the addition of other corps.
McClellan's reappearance at the head of the army had the most
beneficial effect on the army, whose morale immediately under-
went an astonishing change. Heterogeneous mass, made up of
the aggregation of the remnants of the two armies and the garri-
son of Washington, was reorganized into a compact body. A
work that had mostly to be done while the army was on
the march and as soon as it became known that Lee had crossed
the Potomac, McClellan moved toward Frederick to meet him
It was Lee's plan to dislodge the Union forces from Harper's.
Ferry before concentrating his army west of the mountains, and
his arrangements and orders were all made for this> enterprise,,
but through a stroke of good fortune a copy of Lee's order for
the movement of his troops fell into McClellan's hands on the
day of McClellan's arrival at Frederick. This gave McClellan
FROM PENINSULA TO ANTIBTAM. ^^
an inkling of his enemy's plan, of which he was not slow to take
advantage, and at once there began a race for Harper's Ferry,
The South Mountain had to be passed by the Union, the two
principal passes known as Turner's Gap and Crampton Gap,
were held by the rebel General McClaw, under orders not to per-
mit the passage even if he lost his last man in doing it, and he
held it well, but the forces under General Hancock advanced
along the left of the road through the steep and narrow pass,
drove back the Confederates from their positions at the base of
the mountain, where they were protected by a stone wall. The
crest was carried and 400 prisoners taken.
The battle of South Mountain was not won soon enough to
save Harpers Ferry. On the 5th of September we moved from
Tennallytown to Rockville, Clarksburg and Urbana. All along
this route the boys in blue were greeted with cheers and sent for-
ward with a ''God speed." The country itself was different
from that part of Virginia through which we had previously
passed. The fields were highly cultivated, the stacks of hay were
many and high, the stalks were full of corn, the homes tidy, the
barns large. It was a welcome change also to be greeted with
smiles instead of frowns. Probably no soldier who entered
Frederick City on the morning of September 13th will ever for-
get the cordial welcome with which the rescuing army was re-
ceived by the loyal inhabitants. For five months the Second
corps had been upon the soil of Virginia where every native
white face was wrinkled with spite as the invaders passed,
marching through or encamping in a region which to a northern
eye was inconceivably desolate and forlorn, barren fields afford-
ing the only relief to the dreary continuity of tangled thickets and
swampy bottoms. Here in the rich valley of the Monocacy, shut
in by low mountains of surprising grace of outline, all nature
was in bloom. The signs of comfort and opulence met the eye
^g UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
on every side, while as the full brigades of Sumner, in perfect
order and with all the pomp of war, with glittering staff and
proud commanders, old Sumner at the head, pressed through the
quaint and beautiful town, the streets resounded with applause
and from balcony and window^s fair faces smiled and handker-
chiefs and scarfs waved to greet the army of the Union. Whether
the ancient and apocryphal Barbara Fritchie had sufficiently re-
covered from the sentimental shock of a poetical shower of im-
aginary musket balls to appear again on this occasion may be
doubted, but many an honest and many a fair countennce of
patriotic men and women looked out upon the brave array of
Sumner's corps w^ith smiles and tears of gratitude and joy.
Amid all that was desolate and gloomy, amid all that was harsh
and terrible in the service, that these soldiers of the Union were
called to render that bright day of September 13th, 1862, still
that gracious scene of natural beauty and waving crops that
quaint and charming southern city, that friendly greeting form
a picture which can never pass out of the memory of those whose
fortune it was to enter Frederick town that day.
We rested beyond Frederick over Saturday night, and on
Sunday morning pushed through Middletown toward South
Mountain. All day long we could hear cannonading; indeed,
the evening before it was quite distinct. Now, also, was visible
the puffs of smoke from booming artillery along the mountain
summit. Some of the boys amused themselves by measuring the
seconds that intervened between the flash and the report of the
cannon, thus calculating the distance between themselves and the
battlefield. It was a beautiful landscape that lay off towards
Turner's Gap looking south and west along the valley, with its
cultivated fields and wooded mountain sides ; the view from the
mountain tops, whence could be seen beautiful valleys spreading
away as far as the eye could reach ; of the long rows of towering
FROM PENINSULA TO ANTIETAM. ^g
peaks of Sugar Loaf and Blue Ridge, of the Middletown and
Boonsboro Valley all adding their mite to make a picture of un-
rivalled beauty and grandeur. We ascended mountains until lost
in the clouds, followed forsaken paths and crossed rich green
plains that resembled gardens decorated with flowers. Such
were the scenes we passed through on our march towards Tur-
ner's and Crampton Gaps. There is no doubt that this is the
most beautiful part of Maryland, and a spot hardly to be sur-
passed for natural scenery and cultivation. After leaving Fred-
erick and going west, the ascent of the Catoctin hills is made.
From these hills the valley in which Middletown lies is spread
out until South Mountain is in view. It was here w^e got our
first view, and saw the smoke of the South Mountain battle.
After passing through Middletown the roads could be traced
by their barrenness and also by the dust from the canvas covered
wagon trains, while the course of the creeks was told by the long
winding streaks of shrubbery. Singular experiences come to a
soldier sometimes from what to him is usually ordinary causes,
to see men lying around dead in every shape and in every degree
of repulsiveness torn to pieces, black and bloated, is nothing
to a man of battle. Yet such a sight coming in an unexpected
manner or out of time has all the shock natural to such an ex-
perience. The soldier will sleep soundly amid the dead and the
groans of the wounded and dying companions. It will not keep
him aw^ake if it be on a battlefield, but let him lay down among
the dead at the hospital and he is likely to feel cold chills creep-
ing over him. He will be restless, will rise and seek companion-
ship. So at South Mountain. A soldier is climbing through
the woods with head down, slowly dragging his weary limbs
after him, when suddenly his thoughtless sight rests upon the
form of a dead oldier with bulging eyes and swollen face lying
directly at his feet. The shock stuns him, the blood rushes to
go UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
his heart and his Hp quivers. When he turns out and goes on,
he instinctively looks back to see if the man has moved. Of such
stuff are mortals made.
The battle of South Mountain was a victory for our forces,
but the Second corps came up too late to have a part in it. At
the three gaps — Turner's, Fox and Crampton — the battle raged
on the morning of the 14th of September. The enemy held these
positions, but were driven at nearly every point, though not
without hard fighting and after a determined resistance. The
success of Franklin on the left endangered Lee's communica-
tions, thwarted his purpose to push into Pennsylvania and com-
pelled him to give battle near the Potomac. It also gave the
Union army that espirit de corps which victory always bring.
South Mountain was only a forerunner of what followed at
At night when we reached South Mountain and just after wc
had halted a detail of eight men from each company was chosen
to guard the outer line against an attack of the enemy. I was
one of the eight from my company. Our orders were to let no
one enter our lines. Just before daybreak orders were given us
to advance, as the enemy had commenced firing on our right.
I was in the advance on the skirmish line. It was very dark and
could hardly see where we were going, when I suddenly stumbled
and fell between two rocks, but found that there was some one
ahead of me, as I fell on top of a man. Neither one could recog-
nize the other until we had asked and answered questions. I
then found that he was a rebel and he found that I was a Union
soldier. The rebel said to me, "Well, Yank, there is no use for
us to kill each other; let us make a bargain," to which I agreed.
Our agreement was that if the Union troops were successful
then he was to be my prisoner ; but if on the other hand the Con-
federate troops were successful then I was to be his prisoner.
FROM PENINSULA TO ANTIETAM, gj
But, as it turned out, the Union troops were successful he be-
came my prisoner, and I escorted him to the regimental head-
quarters, while the boys all cheered me as I passed along the line.
I was short in stature, while my prisoner was a man at least six
feet tall. It has always been a question with me as to which was
the most surprised when daylight came and we could see each
other. But as we had made a compact we kept it.
A detail of the regiments that w^as sent to scour the woods at
South Mountain after its evacuation by the enemy, found many
stragglers with grey coats, some trying to hide and others trying
to get to their regiments. They were taken as prisoners of war
and sent to the rear under guard. Their guns were broken over
stumps and thrown away. Many rebels were thus picked up
later on, others were found hiding in houses along the slope or
in the valley and received the same treatment.
From South Mountain to Antietam was a constant running
fire between the two armies, the one falling back and the other
pursuing. The light artillery would mount a hill and fire at the
advancing blue coats, holding its position as long as it dared,
and then limbering up, would run to the next eminence and re-
peat the maneuver. So the day of the 15th passed until the night
brought its partial but welcomed rest. Passing down the west-
ern side of South Mountain, Richardson's division comes to
Boonsboro and Feedysville, and finds the enemy massing his
forces behind Antietam Creek. It is now evening twilight and
the Fifty-seventh takes a position behind an embankment in sup-
port of a battery which is shelling the woods beyond. Before
dark one man in Company B is killed by a piece of shell. During
the night the men slept well and awaken on the i6th greatly
refreshed. It is Tuesday. A very heavy fog covers the ground
and everything is quiet. We cook our coffee and toast our pork.
After breakfast we fall in line and take our position on the
§2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
battle line along the creek, our left resting on the Sharpsburg
The 1 6th of September was spent by General McClellan in get-
ting his army into position, while General Lee was hurrying his
scattered forces together. Four divisions being twelve hours
away, we had much the larger force present, but little Mac never
took the initiative in battle if he could help it, but General Grant
always did. General Hooker crossed the creek on our right and
found the enemy posted on the Heights near Sharpsburg. He
attacked Stonewall Jackson and drove him some distance, hold-
ing the advanced position during that night.
FROM PENINSULA TO ANTIBTAM.
From South Mountain to Warrenton. — Battle of Antietam. — Death of
Generals Mansfield and Richardson. — After a Victory, What? —
Change of Commanders. — General McClellan Relieved and General
Burnside Assumes Command. — McClelland's Farewell to the Army.
— ^Anecdotes and Incidents.
The real battle of Antietam began at daylight on Wednesday,
September 17th. General Hooker had crossed all his corps during
the night, the Twelfth corps following in support. These at-
tacked the Confederates with headlong impetuosity. The action
was furious, the losses monstrous. The advance, however, was
met by fresh troops and brought to a stand. From daylight until
nine o'clock one corps — the First — had done all the fighting, the
centre and left of our line being inactive. General Mansfield had
been killed and General Hooker disabled.
The Second corps now crossed the creek in the centre of our
line. Sedgwick's division moved across the Hagerstown road
and was seeking the enemy near the Dunker church when a rebel
brigade came upon his flank and turned it so effectually that it
was doubled and broken and got to the rear with great loss.
Next came General French's division, and began its attack near
the Roulette house, driving the enemy back to the sunken road,
taking several colors and 300 prisoners. Our division crossed
the creek at about 9:30 a. m., the Irish brigade in the lead, and
moved into action. The Irishmen advanced steadily and rapidly
under a heavy fire until they had nearly reached the crest of the
g^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
hill which overlooks Piper's. Caldwell's brigade formed on the
left of Meagher's brigade, and took their place when they fell
back for ammunition. Caldwell then pushed ahead and carried
the crest of the hill overlooking the Piper house. Just beyond
is the famous sunken road in which was a determined force of the
enemy, and Caldwell can go no farther, but soon an attempt is
made to turn his flank, and Brookes puts in the third brigade.
We are lying behind the hill that overlooks the field of action,
every moment expecting to be ordered into action. The bullets
are whistling over our heads and our hearts are beating as fast
as the lead is flying. Whose head will be the first to come off, we
are asking each other, when shall we rise and move forward?
The worst part of a battle is this waiting to go in.
''Fall in !" The word has come at last. We jump up, get into
line and march steadily in battalion front to the brow of the hill.
Now we are in it, and the minnies are plenty. As we pass the
Sixty-ninth, or what is left of them (about a hundred men)
with colors in tatters, they cheer and we return it. Down the
side of the hill toward the sunken road the Sixty-seventh and
the Sixty-sixth charge together, and over the ditch they go,
stepping on the bodies of the rebel dead. Yet another charge
and we have taken the Piper house and are in the cornfield be-
yond. All along the path of this charge our men have fallen
killed or w^ounded, but victory is ours. Earlier in the day several
attacks have been made upon the sunken road, but without suc-
cess. It afforded great protection for the enemy, and to take it
was like taking a fort. In charging forward we captured
several prisoners and a stand of colors belonging to the Twelfth
Alabama. It was said that the words "Captured by the Fifty-sev-
enth New York Volunteers at Antietam, September 17th," would
be painted on the flag and that it w^ould be deposited wath the
THE BATTLE OP ANTIETAM. gc-
W'ar Department for safe keeping. The position of the regiment
in the cornfield was not attacked by the rebel infantry.
In the official reports of the Confederates upon this battle it
appears that the rebels fell back to a new line, made necessary
by the loss of the ground taken by the First division. A battery,
however, stationed on a hill not far in our front, seems to have
had no notion of retiring, for it poured into the standing corn-
stalks such a pelting storm of grape and canister that each ex-
plosion seemed like a rushing mighty wind and a driving hail. It
was our office now to hold the position gained, and as no firing
was done, the boys protected themselves by hugging the soil. It
is surprising how readily they dug their noses into the dirt.
The order now came to correct the line, and the regiment fell
back a little out of the cornfield to the brow of the hill in the
rear, the same guns helping us up the hill by their grape shot
adding now and then a shell. In the corner of a fence was dis-
covered a pile of potatoes which the boys insisted should also
fall back. It was only a temporary break in the ranks, a mo-
ment of time and this charge also was successful, every potato
being captured. We were no better off on the brow of this hill
than we were in the cornfield. Here under our eyes battery after
battery had been broken into pieces by the perfect range of the
rebel guns and we lying on the same spot began to receive sim-
ilar treatment, it was interesting to watch the waving of the line
as the shots came and passed ; strong men felt inward tremblings
and weak men looked backward as though they would run. One
man at least found his legs cowardly, though his heart may have
been brave. An officer near, seeing the danger that in such a
critical situation if one man were to break all might follow,
ordered this waverer to lie down twice. This was done and a
third time he arose. Then the officer threatened to shoot him if
stirred. As now it was death to run and as he might live if he
36 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Stayed, he took the chances and remained. However, he never
forgot that incident. It seemed to rankle in his breast, and
months after one night he came into his quarters half intoxicated,
and as he lay in his bunk kept muttering, first low, and then loud
and with bitter accents, "Lie down, lie down, lie down, or Fll
shoot you." Poor fellow, he was but mortal, and under such a
storm of iron how could any mortal stand it.
Shelling does not last forever, and for some reason this bat-
tery ceased firing and left us in peace. This advanced position,
including the sunken road and Piper's house, was held by our
division through the rest of the battle, no further effort being
made by the enemy to retake the lost ground. There was fight-
ing enough on our left where Burnside had crossed the creek and
threatened Lee's communications, but in the centre there was
quiet the rest of the day.
General Richardson, affectionately called "Fighting Dick,"
while directing a battery on the hill near us, was struck with a
piece of shell and mortally wounded. He was carried to General
McClellan's heaquarters at the Pry house, and despite every
effort to save his life, died there the following day, November
5th. He was only forty- three years of age. The July before his
death he had been promoted to major-general of volunteers. He
was a good tactician, was prompt and brave, and well deserved
the sobriquet of "Old War Horse," given to him by his men. It
was with a feeling of a personal loss that we parted with General
Richardson. He was not a fuss and feather soldier. He usually
wore a soft hat and fatigue dress, and looked oftenest like a uni-
formed farmer, but a study of his features revealed intelligence.
determination, a quiet force of character and fatherliness, that
made his men believe he was one of them. There has always
been a halo around his head since Antietam, for the double reason
THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM. g-
that he, a general, was killed in battle at our side, and also that he
was the first general officer thus lost to us.
F. W. Palfry, a reporter of the New York Herald, gives the
following description of the movements of the Second corps on
"Richardson's division of the Second corps, which is known
as the First division, comprising the brigades of Meagher, Cald-
well and Brooke, crossed Antietam Creek at 9:30 in the morn-
ing of the 17th, at the same ford where the other divisions of
the corps had crossed it, moved southward on a line nearly par-
allel to the stream in a ravine behind the high ground overlooking
the Roulette house. The command was formed with Meagher's
brigade on the right and Caldwell's brigade on the left and
Brooke's in support. Meagher's brigade advanced nearly to the
crest of the hill overlooking the Piper house, and found the
enemy in strong force in the sunken road in its front. After
some sharp fighting, with considerable loss on both sides, Cald-
well's brigade was marched up behind it and took its place, the
two brigades breaking by company, the one to the front, the
other to the rear. Meagher's brigade went to the rear to replen-
ish its cartridge boxes, and Brooke's brigade remained as a sup-
port to Caldwell's brigade. When the smart push on Kimball's
left before referred to was made by the Confederates, Brooke
hurried into action three of his regiments, the Fifty-second New
York, Second Delaware and Fifty-third Pennsylvania and they,
with some troops from the left of French's division, the Seventh
Virginia and the One Hundred and Thirty-second Pennsylvania,
dislodged the enemy from the cornfield on their right rear,
Brooke moved forward the Fifty-seventh New York and the
Sixty-sixth New York. Caldwell and Brooke thus united, pressed
forward and gallantly gained possession of the Piper house. This
was the end of the serious fighting on this part of the line."
SS UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Mr. Palfry, in the same article, makes particular and honor-
able mention of the Fifty-seventh New York.
The musketry fire ceased at about one o'clock. Richardson,
still holding the Piper house, withdrew his line to the crest of a
hill, and at about the same time received a mortal wound. Han-
cock was placed in command of his division. Our losses in this
battle were very severe, besides losing Lieutenant-Colonel Pari-
sen, three officers and sixteen men were killed, six officers and
sixty-four men were wounded, of which number nine died from
their wounds afterwards. Three men being missed, the total loss
being loi. This loss of nearly one-third of the effective men of
the regiment was about the largest that came to the regiment
from any previous or subsequent battle during the war. Yet we
may not say that the loss in proportion to our numbers was
greater, since the strength of the regiment constantly decreased,
and later losses may represent a larger proportionate loss.
General Winfield S. Hancock now comes upon the scene as
our commander, a relation in which he is sustain to us until
nearly the close of the war. He was called by General McClellan
from the command of a brigade in the Second division of the
Sixth corps, to be the commander of Richardson's division of
the Second corps.
Night closed the long and desperately contested battle of the
17th of September, 1862, nearly 200,000 men and 500 pieces of
artillery were for fourteen hours engaged in this memorable
battle. We had attacked the enemy in a position selected by the
experienced engineer then, in person, directing their operations.
We had driven them from their line on one flank, and secured a
footing within the other. The army of the Potomac, notwith-
standing the moral effect incident to previous reverses, had
achieved a victory over an adversary invested with the prestige of
recent success. Our soldiers slept that night conquerors on a
THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM. qj
field won by their valor and covered with the dead and wounded
of the enemy. Thirteen guns, thirty-nine colors, upwards of
15,000 stands of arms, and more than 6,000 prisoners were the
trophies which attested the success of our arms in the battles of
South Mountain, Crampton's Gap and Antietam. Not a single
gun or color was lost by our army during these battles.
During the night the men wanted water that could only be
procured from a spring near where we lay, but unfortunately it
was covered by the guns of the enemy's sharpshooters. So a
certain number of men was detailed to take all the canteens and
go to the spring and get some water. We would start one at a
time, and running across the open ground, try and reach the
spring before we were noticed. I was one of the men detailed
for the service. On one of my trips, as I was returning in com-
pany with a couple more men, carrying as many canteens as we
could, my hat was knocked off my head. I picked it up and at the
same time said to the men behind me in rather forcible language,
"What are you doing; knocking my cap off?" He replied, "I
did not do it." I picked up the cap and when I got to the camp,
I examined the cap and found a bullet hole through the peak of
it. So I found out who knocked the cap off my head.
The day after the battle, September i8th, we lay in the im-
mediate presence of the enemy. Couch's division had come up
late in the evening of the 17th, and Humphrey's division of the
Fifth corps arrived on the morning of the i8th. On that morn-
ing men were detailed to go out under a flag of truce to bring in
our Avounded and bury the dead, but the rebels did not honor our
flag of truce, but at every opportunity fired upon our men. To
those who do not know how the dead are buried upon a battle-
field, I will explain by saying that we would dig a trench about
twenty feet in legth, seven feet wide and about six feet deep. In
this we laid them, one on top of the other until the trench was
Q2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
nearly full, and then we would cover them over with the dirt.
We buried as many as possible, and brought in all the wounded
we could, but as the rebel sharpshooters continued to fire on our
flag of truce it was impossible to bury all our dead or get all the
wounded. Between the two armies there was hundreds of the
slain that lay covered by the rifles of the opposing skirmishers,
under the pretence and doubtless in part from a sincere desire
to secure the burial of these and the recovery of the more desper-
ately wounded, but in part to alleviate, if possible, all the suffer-
ing they could.
Unauthorized arrangements were, during the i8th, made at
several points between the Union and the Confederate pickets,
arrangements, which caused much embarrassment to the com-
manding general. In regard to the necessary movements of
troops, the Confederates complained of these as in violation of
the flag of truce. At last it became necessary to send word
through the lines that all such arrangements were unauthorized
and must be regarded as abrogated.
When it was found that the Confederate army had retired from
the battlefield of Antietam and was making its way into Virginia
General McClellan immediately put in pursuit the Fifth corps,
following closely upon the advance of the cavalry, towards Har-
per's Ferry. It was soon discovered that Lee's retreat had been
well provided with protection at every available point and for
every possible emergency. Confederate batteries crowned the
heights west of the river in such a position as to command all
the fords. An attempt was made to dislodge the enemy, but it
was only partially successful. Lee gradually withdrew his army
towards Winchester. The Second corps marched to Harper's
Ferry and occupied Bolivar Heights on the west side of the river.
Here we arrived October 5th and remained until the 30th of
October. We were greatly in need of clothing ; our food also had
AT BOLIVAR HEIGHTS. g,
been scarce and poor. Consolidation among the smaller com-
panies was begun. Colonel Zook was put in charge of the Third
brigade and General Sumner, asking leave of absence, was suc-
ceeded by General Couch, who assumed temporary command of
the Second corps. General Sumner seems to have been in poor
health and in need of rest. He was away but a short time, hovv'-
ever, and on his return took command, not of his own corps only,
but of two corps, the Second and Ninth, and was called the
Right Grand division. We remained so long at Bolivar Heights
that it seemed that we were to remain all winter. Therefore
some of the boys carted bricks from an old house in the neigh-
borhood and began to lay a foundation for winter quarters, but
in the midst of the most interesting part of this w^ork, on October
1 6th, orders came for the Charlestown reconnoissance.
General Hancock marched the division to Charlestown, drove
off the rebels after a considerable artillery duel, and pushed on
two miles beyond the town, the Fifty-seventh taking a position on
the left of the road beyond a patch of woods, with a clear field
before them. The gallows on which John Brown was hung w^ere
still standing, and the boys on seeing the gallows, struck up the
song of John Brown's body, giving particular emphasis to the
line ''But his soul goes marching on."
General Hancock's instructions were not to bring on a general
engagement, but to find the enemy's position. This having been
accomplished, orders were given to return to Harper's Ferry.
Before leaving our position, a sergeant, without weapons of any
kind, who had been strolling along the road beyond our lines,
started back through the woods. He met a stranger, who evidenr-
ly was a spy, dressed in citizen's clothes. It was an embarrassing-
situation for both of them, as neither was in a position to capture
the other. If the spy had captured the sergeant, he could not
have taken him far, since he was within our cavalry outposts, and
QA UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
the sergeant could not take the spy, as he had nothing more
dangerous about him than a jack knife. Under the circum-
stances, they were both of one mind, and conckided to let each
other pass with the time of day.
When we got back to Harper's Ferry, we found President
Lincoln at General Sumner's headquarters. He honored the
Army of the Potomac with a visit and remained several days,
during which time he went through the different encampments,
reviewed the troops and went over the battlefields of South
Mountain and Antietam. On the 30th of October, the Second
corps, forming the head of the infantry column, consisting of the
First, Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth and Ninth corps (the Twelfth
corps being left to guard the line of the upper Potomac), cross-
ed the Shenandoah, and passing around the base of Loudan
Heights into the valley, moved nearly to Hill Grove and along
the Blue Ridge Mountains. On our march we were ordered to
search the neighboring houses. As the men entered one of these
houses, they were accosted by the housewife with the question,
"What do you want?"
The officer answered : "We are looking for Johnnies, madam."
**Well, there ain't none in this house, and you had better clear
''It is our orders to search every house, madam, and we cannot
leave until we have searched yours."
''Search my house! I'd like to see Yankees do it."
"You shall have that pleasure," was the reply, as some of the
troops went down into the cellar and others examined the ground
"Now we will go upstairs," said the officer in command.
"Well, if you will, you must," said the woman, "but you won't
find nobody up there but a poor old sick one."
"Is it a sick man?" was asked.
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. gc
**No, it ain't. It's my husband's Aunt Betty," was the reply,
who has been sick going on ten years."
''Where is she?"
Up they went and there, as the woman said, they found a bed-
ridden crone, but the form which the bed clothes outlined was
more extended and ample than the shape of an old woman would
warrant, and modestly turning down the coverlet, they disclosed
an armed Confederate lying at length with his boots on. The
boys named him at once ''the sleeping beauty," and gathered him
in. From him it was learned that the rebels were crossing the
mountains. It was then a race betw^een the Union and rebel
troops to see who could reach Snicker's Gap first. The race
seemed to be with us, as we arrived first, and when they arrived
we drove them back and held it until the main army came up.
November 3rd, on the following day, we reached Upperville.
On the 6th we arrived at Rectortown; on the 8th we were at
Warrenton. The weather was cold and gloomy. The boys had
to sleep spoon fashion in order to keep warm, and even then did
not succeed particularly well. It was on this march that "sheep
mania," as it was called, attacked the army. Orders were issued
strictly forbidding the stealing of sheep, but the lambs would
follow the army in spite of protests. It is said that a whole flock
of sheep disappeared in one night. A special affection for this
article of diet had developed in the Irish brigade, and many
stories are told of the innocence of these men who, being from
the Green Isle, were especially green concerning the presence of
sheep's clothing found in their camp. There was a good reason
for this epidemic of sheep winning. The rations had been poor
and at best the army rations (of the day I am writing) were ex-
ceedingly monotonous, while fresh meat was scarce; hence it was
the greatest of luxuries.
g5 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
One day General Hancock, having observed some soldiers of
the Irish brigade, after falling out of the ranks upon some pre-
tence, steal around a piece of woods, manifestly bound on plun-
der, determined to make an example. Accordingly he left the
column with his staff, and galloping rapidly around the woods
from the opposite side, he came upon the group, gathered around
an unfortunate victim, on which one of the number was just pro-
ceeding to make an anatomical observation. The less guilty
members of the party being less closely engaged, caught a
glimpse of the coming doom in time to climb over a high stone
wall and escape, but upon the principal offender, taken in flagrant
dereliction of orders, Hancock pounced with drawn sword and
eyes flashing fire.
Down on his knees went the wretch, scared by the general's
aspect. "Arrah, dear General, don't be the death of me. I didn't
do it, indade, I didn't."
''You infernal liar," shouted the general, ''what do you mean
by telling me that? I saw you, you scoundrel. I'll teach you to
disobey orders. I'll teach you to kill sheep." And with this,
crushing out the last hope of poor Paddy, he flourished his sword
as if about to begin execution, when in a most opportune moment,
up jumped the innocent subject of the controversy, and giving
vent to its feelings in a quavering "baa," ran off, while amid the
shouts of his staff the general put up his sabre and rode off.
It cannot be denied that the Fifty-seventh had some touches of
this fever for foraging, as will be seen from the following true
"Two comrades and I started out one evening after a halt with
irresistible cravings in our stomachs and blood in our eyes. Tha
cry was "Fe, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of fresh mutton ; dead
or alive, I will have some." We travelled a long distance before
we came to a house. Here we found no sheep, but were satisfied
GENERAL McCLELLAN RELIEVED FROM COMMAND. ny
with a large goose. On the way back we stopped in a secluded
spot and undressed the gentleman. Then reaching camp, which
we found in midnight slumber, we put on the pot, cut up the
goose, and poked up the fire. The boiling continued all night,
yet the meat was not tender. At breakfast the comrades enjoyed
goose broth with crackers and coffee. The meat was then put
in the haversacks and carried to the evening camp. It is a long
pathetic story, and must be shortened by saying that the goose
was cooked three nights in succession w^ithout yielding an inch of
ground and then the discovery was made, so the story goes, that
on his left leg was discovered a brand which, when it had been
deciphered, was found to spell Noah ; so it was understood that
the goose was one of the birds that went into the ark with a man
named Noah, who was supposed to have lived in the time of the
The order from Washington releasing General McGellan
from the command of the army of the Potomac reached us all
Warrenton, and caused great sorrow. Aside from the necessities
or merits of the case, the men loved General McClellan. He was
their first commander, had just led them through a victorious
battle, and now had their fullest confidence. In the grief and
indignation with which at Warrenton the soldiers received the
nevrs that the commander in whom they delighted was again
taken away from them, in this the Second corps fully shared.
The following orders from the War Department was read to
us on dress parade, and is as follows :
GENERAL ORDERS NO. 182.— WAR DEPARTMENT.
WASHINGTON, November 5, 1862.
By directions of the President of the United States it is ordered that
Major-General McClellan be relieved from the command of the army of
gg UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
the Potomac, and that Major-General Burnside take the command of that
By Order of
THE SECRETARY OF WAR.
E. D. Townsend, Asst. Adj.-General.
At the same time as the above was read to us, General McC^ 1-
lan's farewell address was read to the troops :
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
Camp Near Rectortown, Va.
November 7, 1862.
Officers and Soldiers of the Army of the Potomac:
An order of the President devolves upon Major-General Burnside the
command of this army. In parting from you I cannot express the love
and gratitude I bear to you. As an army you have grown up in my care.
In you I have never found doubt or coldness. The battles you have
fought under my command will proudly live in our nation's history. The
glory you have achieved, our mutual perils and fatigues, the graves of
our comrades fallen in battle and by disease, the broken forms of those
whom wounds and sickness have disabled, the strange associations which
can exist among men, unite us still by an indissoluble tie. We shall ever
be comrades in supporting the Constitution of our country and the nation-
ality of its people.
GEORGE B. McCLELLAN.
Major-General United States Army.
On the 1 0th of November, the three divisions were drawn up
on the left side of the Centerville Pike in columns of regiments
with intervals sufficient to give place for sections of a battery. On
the right of the pike stood the Fifth corps in a similar formation.
Between these two gallant corps, so long his comrades, slowly
and sadly rode their beloved chief, taking a last farewell of the
army who had been with him on many a hard fought battlefield.
Every heart of the 30,000 men was filled with love and grief,
GENERAL BURNSIDE IN COMMAND. jq^
every voice was raised in shouts expressing at once sorrow, devo-
tion and indignation, and when the chief had passed out of sight
the romance of war was over for the army of the Potomac. No
other commander ever aroused the same enthusiasm in the troops.
Whether in degree or in kind, the soldiers fairly idolized him
and were never tired of looking at him. The sight of him would
bring cheers spontaneously from every lip. His voice was music
to every ear. Let military critics or political enemies say w*iat
they will, he who could so move upon the hearts of a great army
as the wind sways along rows of standing corn, was no ordinary
man. Nor was he who took such heavy toll of Joseph E. John-
ston and Robert E. Lee an ordinary soldier. How sweet to him,
as he passed up the road in his banishment and unmerited dis-
grace, w^ere the cheers of those 30,000 comrades, rising and swell-
ing upon the air. Himself the very soul of manly gentleness,
courtesy and kindness, the acclamations which drowned even the
roar of the artillery, and which follow^ed him far out of siglit, it
was a farewell which no heart could more fully appreciate or
more fondly cherish.
General Burnside was now the commander of this magnificent
army. An army that would make a worthy command even for a
Napoleon or a Wellington. Thus Burnside, at Warrenton, was
deliberating where he should deliver his blow. Two courses lay
open to him. The one was to move directly forward, crossing
the Rappahannock (as Meade was to do a year later) to fight
Lee at Brandy Station, or at Culpepper, should he be found there
in force ; or failing in that to cross in turn the Rapidan and take
the direct route to Richmond.
The other course left open to him was to move to the left and
seize Fredericksburg on the right bank of the lower Rappahan-
nock before Lee could apprehend his design. It was the latter
course which Burnside resolved to take. Its success required
JQ2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
three good stiff (though not excessive) days' marches on the part
of at least the leading corps.
With prompt cooperation from Washington in the way of
providing rations, beef, cattle, and above all pontoons at Acquia
Creek, of these latter needs General Halleck at Washington ^\as
FROM WARRENTON TO FALMOUTH. jq^
From Warrenton to Fredericksburg. — Incidents of the March. — The
Battle of Fredericksburg with Incidents of the Same. — Lincoln's
Address to the Army. — Anecdotes of the Twenty-fifth New Jersey. —
The Mud March. — The Army Again Changes Commanders. — Hooker
With the Second corps in advance, we left Warrenton on tiie
15th, and marching steadily, but with all night rests, reached
Falmouth (a small town on the left bank of the Rappahannock
and nearly opposite Fredericksburg) on the 17th. The fc;w
pickets of the enemy who were on the bank of the river, hastily
retired as the head of the corps came up. Fredericksburg was at
this moment occupied by a regiment of cavalry, four companies
of infantry and a light battery. The guns of the latter were to be
seen in position on the northern outskirts of the city, the drivers
and cannoneers lying idly about in groups, apparently expecting
our approach, but also expecting a fair notice. It pleased Gen-
eral Couch, however, to order Captain Pettit to take his guns by
a round about way through some deep ravings, well to the rear
of Falmouth, and to climb from behind a steep hill of considerable
height exactly opposite the Confederate battery. The result of
this movement was soon developed. As soon as Pettit's guns
were in position he at once opened fire, throwing solid shot and
shell in among the enemy's guns and gunners before they had the
faintest idea that the ball was about to open. Gallantly they
sprang to their guns, but it was of no use. Pettit with his parrotts
I04 UNDER FIVE COiMMANDERS.
had the advantage in elevation. His guns were six to their four,
and besides, he had cannoneers who could hardly be matched in
any battery of the regular army. Within five minutes every man
had been driven from their pieces and had taken refuge behind
the adjacent houses and walls.
There stood the four guns abandoned in plain view. It was a
tempting sight. Both Couch and Sumner, who had watched the
contest from among Pettit's guns, fairlv ached to throw across
some infantry and secure the prize, but the pontoons had not yet
been heard from. The Falmouth ford was unknown and General
Sumner conceived that his instructions precluded him from cross-
ing until bridges could be laid.
Meanwhile some of the Confederate artillery men, more braver
than the rest, dashed out from cover with a prolange, and attach-
ing it to the nearest piece, dragged it behind the house. In vain
did Pettit send one shot after another to save the gun, which he
had regarded as his own personal property, but it was useless.
The enemy, under General Longstreet, arriving on the opposite
bank, took not a little interest in the change of Union command-
ers, saluting our pickets along the river with such enquiries as
these: "Where is little Mac; wasn't he black enough for you?
Hope you'll find some one with long enough heels by and by."
Time passed monotonously during the weeks following. The
troops commenced, though without any system, the construction
of winter quarters, and fortifications were constructed on our
side of the river as if we anticipated an attack from the enemy.
Of the position before us little was known beyond what could
be seen, although General Burnside had occupied the city and
the country beyond in August with the Ninth corps, coming up
from North Carolina. He was without information to build his
plan of operations upon ; and even regarding the field apparently
within our view, even regarding the fatal plain so soon to be
LAYING PONTOON BRIDGES. jqc
drenched with the best blood of the army. A strange lack of
knowledge existed, a remarkable instance of which, out of the
writer's personal experience, will shortly be related.
On the night of December 9th, 1862, the army before Freder-
icksburg slept peacefully under their canvas roofs, as they had
done many nights before, and though there was some activity,
yet no intimation had been given of the very near approach of
the terrible struggle that was so soon to begin.
The organization of the army was now divided into three
grand divisions. General Sumner commanding the right grand
division. General Hooker commanding the centre grand division,
and General Franklin the left grand division. The army was now
for the first time to be fought under another commander other
than General McClellan.
We were hardly asleep on the night of the loth of December
before orders came to fall in and we marched to the Lacey house,
and then down to the shore of the river, where the engineers
were laying pontoon bridges. Here we wandered around, or sat
in groups discussing the coming battle, while others lay down on
the ground to sleep.
Just before the light of day men could be seen running the
streets of Fredericksburg. This seemed to be a regiment getting
into position for an attack. Soon after, out from the opposite
bank, flashed a long line of light, followed by the report of mus-
ketry. Nearly every man on the bridge had fallen and many of
those on the shore. Immediately the fire was returned by the
Fifty-seventh New York and soon the artillery on the Heights
above began to beat down the walls and buildings in which the '
enemy were concealed.
At daylight a mist yet rested over the river and hindered efifec-
tive shooting, though the fire of the enemy was silenced except
as sharpshooters plied their trade from hiding places. From
I06 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
five to eight o'clock in the morning these men worked their wills
with little danger to themselves, but with fearful havoc to us.
We were entirely unsheltered and at each report wondered whose
turn had come, but did not have long to wait before knowing.
Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman stood upon his horse, and an order-
ly said to him,''Colonel, please do not expose yourself unnecessar-
ily." Just then a bullet struck the orderly on the right side, cut-
ting his suspenders and touching the flesh, like as if it had been
marked with a hot iron. He turned and said that was a provi-
dential escape. "Yes," said the colonel, and the next moment he
was struck, fatally it was thought at the time from the location
of the wound, but in his breast pocket were a package of letters
and a blank book and through these the ball passed before reach-
ing the body, thus breaking its force sufficiently to save his life.
Captain Bell was struck in the head with a piece of shell, Cap-
tain Mott was severely w^ounded in the right arm, Lieutenant
Brewster had his right arm fractured. Lieutenant White was
severely wounded, two men w^ere killed and twenty-three were
wounded. These losses were entirely independent of the battle
of Fredericksburg itself, which occurred on the thirteenth, and in
which the regiment again lost heavily in officers and men. Our
position on the bank of the river was entirely unoroterted, and
as we could not get near the enemy or they near us, it seemed a
useless sacrifice of life, thus to expose men. We could have
done some execution perhaps, if we had been stationed higher up,
whence we could look down behind the stone walls that hid the
sharpshooters of the enemy, as it was, a man did not have half a
chance for his life.
At eight o'clock my regiment was relieved by the Seventh
Michigan, and we marched back to our camp. Then about 2
p. M. we joined the brigade near the Phillips house and remained
there over night. The nth of December was a day of bombard-
BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG. jq^
ment such as soldiers rarely see. One hundred and forty pieces
of artillery was posted along Stafford Heights and belched forth
fire, thunder and shot, while every discharge or bursting shell had
its quadruple echo among the dwellings of the city. It was great
amusement to us to watch a solid shot tear through a building,
beat down a wall, topple over a chimney or rout out a nest ot
In the afternoon troops were sent over in boats to clear the
city, that the engineers might finish the bridges, which were
about two-thirds across the river. Why this was not done in the
first place does not appear. Had it been done, the Fifty-sev-
enth would no doubt have formed part of the crossing party. By
night the city of Fredericksburg was in our possession and four
pontoon bridges spanned the Rappahannock. The troops, on the
morning of the I2th, began to cross, with Franklin on the lower
bridge and Sumner opposite the city. It was about noon that
the Third brigade passed over and took their position on the west
bank of the river near Water street. Here we lay the rest of the
day, watching the crossing of the rest of the army, and dodging
pieces of bursting shells. That night gave the last natural sleep
of life to many a brave soldier.
On Saturday, December 13th, 1862, the fateful battle of Fred-
ericksburg was fought and lost. It seems to have been General
Burnside's plan to do the principal fighting on the left, where it
was thought was the w^eakest point in the enemy's line, and when
an advantage had been gained there to assault Mary's Heights
in the rear of the city. General Franklin began his advance on
the left at 9 a. m., and gained some ground bv noon He had
taken a portion of the enemy's works and had captured 300
prisoners. The fighting continued here until dark, but the whole
attack of Franklin failed, seemingly because he made use of but
part of his force. At noon the attack on Mary's Heights was
jQg UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
begun by the division of General French, the old commander of
the Third brigade. Hancock's division followed French's, the
Third brigade taking the lead. We filed by the right flank along
Water street, then by the left flank out one of the streets leading
west to the open ground beyond the buildings. As we turned
west the fun began. The rebel artillery had exact range of every
cross street, and as our troops appeared they opened fire, raking
the line from front to rear. A shell would strike in the midst of
a body of men and in a moment the air would be filled with pieces
of flesh, clothing and accoutrements. One shell struck a man in
the back, cut him in two and sent his entrails flying in all direc-
tions. When we came within rifle range the boys involuntarily
pulled their hats down over their eyes and leaned forAvqrd as if
breasting a storm. This hail came not from one line of rifle pits,,
but from one above another, and from fifty pieces of artillery.
Fifteen hundred yards of open plain had to be crossed with
intervening ditches, broken bridges and rail fences. At one of
these fences the Fifty-seventh halted for a moment and hesit-
ated, as though asking whether it were possible to go farther.
It was a momentarily hesitation only, and when some one cried
"Forward !" the boys climbed over the fence and advanced to the
knoll within thirty yards of the stone wall. This was the farthest
point reached during the day. What was left of the regiment
held this line and kept up the fire for more than three hours.
When their ammunition gave out the boys used cartridges from
the boxes of the dead and wounded comrades.
On this knoll occurred many instances of heroism, marking
an utter disregard of danger under the very nose of long: lines of
rebel infantry. At times there were hardly enough blue coats
to form a respectable picket line. Yet the line was held and be-
came an objective point for the new battalions constantly coming
into the fight. The remark of Captain Alcoke that only one man
BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG. jjj
got closer to the stone wall than he and that man was dead, shows
how bravely the regiment faced the danger, how persistently it
pressed forward, and how manfully it did its duty. The part
taken in this battle by the Fifty-seventh is graphically portrayed
by General Walker, in his history, wdiich he describes in these
''Hardly had French's last brigade risen above the sheltering
ridge when Hancock's leading brigade takes its place and awaits
the orders to charge. It is the brigade of Zook's. And no man of
all the thousands, who from either side watched its advance when
at last the word came, will ever forget that peerless example of
valor and discipline. Over the crest they swept. Brooke, with
his renowned Fifty-third Pennsylvania, Bailey with the Second
Delaware, Paul Frank with the Fifty-second New York, the
Fifty-seventh New York under Major Throop, the Sixty-sixth
under Captain Wehle, and Bostwick with the Twenty-seventh
Connecticut. Forward as steadily as when on parade in old camp
California, this magnificent brigade moved to its hopeless task.
Will they succeed ? Success in its true sense is impossible against
tier upon tier of blazing musketry. Zook's men bent themselves
as men who breast a furious gale. The brigade has struggled
forward to the last of the fences ; the stone wall less than a hun-
dred yards away; the killed and wounded fall like leaves in
autumn, while hundreds of men, brave among the bravest, lie
down beneath the storm of lead.
''The attempt to take Mary's Heights in front, with all the
conditions so overwhelmingly adverse, was a gigantic folly, and
only a miracle as great as the folly could have made this battle
any other than it was — the most disastrous and unnecessary dis-
grace of the war."
If the Fifty-seventh must sacrifice itself in such an ill-planned
and ill-starred battle, surely it could ask no higher words of
112 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
praise than those given above, especially as they are from the
pen of one who, as a historian, knew the regiment only by its
Three hours after we had made our charge upon the heights,
there was only six men of the Fifty-seventh with the regimental
colors left on the advanced line. The reasons why there was
only six men was this. When it became apparent that we could
not advance any nearer to the enemy without sacrificing every
man in line, it became a question with the commander how to
get the men away with as little loss as possible. To do so in a
body would make it appear to the enemy like a retreat, and on
the other hand if the regiment fell back in a body the chances
was that one-half of the men would be killed while so doing. It
was decided to order the men to fall back by twos and threes
until all would have retreated, but that the colors and the color
guards should remain until the last. This movement was made
and the men fell back as ordered, by twos and threes, so the read-
er will now understand why there was only the six men and the
colors left on the line. The names of the six men were : Sergeant
G. Fredericks, Corporal George Taylor. Private^; William
Hughes, William H. Hardy, Andrew J. Wilson and Jacob H.
Cole, and with them it became a problem how to get the colors off
the field. It was planned that they should go in twos, the first
couple to take the colors, and if they fell, then the next couple
perhaps would be spared to carry them further, but if the second
ones should also fall, then the third couple would be near at hand
to carry them back to the regiment. Though the fire was yet
fierce, it mercifully happened that the time of starting was oppor-
tune and only one of the number. Corporal Taylor, was seriously
wounded, and he was carried off by those w^ho followed.
The rest formed in line, and as they marched down Water
street cheer after cheer greeted us along the way, and the remarks
BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG. jj^
made 'Is that all that's left of you," told too nearly the truth of
the bloody sacrifice of the faithful Fifty-seventh on that fateful
thirteenth day of December.
The climax of cheers, however, was reached when the remains
of the regiment, scarce forty men, who had gathered on the shore
of the river beheld the dear old flag floating aloft, yet in the hands
of its defenders. Cheers and tears wxre mingled together with
an earnest thanksgiving for its deliverance from a calamity that
no true soldier ever forgets.
Night was a welcome visitor to the broken hosts that lay along
the Rappahannock river on the evening of December 13th, 1862.
The w^ounded who were able crawled ofif the field, and many who
were not able were carried off on stretchers. We lay on the shore
during the early evening, watching the Confederate shells, with
burning fuse, sail through the air above like lighted balloons,
until we saw the flash and heard the report that marked their
explosion. Sometimes bursting directly over us the pieces would
strike the ground uncomfortable near us, or splash into the river,
or bury themselves in human flesh. All of the 14th and 15th of
December we lay on our arms, expecting a new attack, and when
on the latter night, about ten o'clock, we were ordered to front,
supposed it was for a night surprise, but found it Avas to cover
the return of the army across the river. Here we stumbled in
the darkness over muskets and haversacks, striking now and
again a tin cup, whose hollow sound would bring a chance shot
from the enemy. Finally we lay down among the dead and re-
mained until about two o'clock, when we were awakened and
ordered to the rear. Then came the shocking experience of try-
ing to wake up the man close to whom we had been sleeping only
to find that he was a dead one. Silently we stole away to the
city and river, crossed the bridge, and soon after daylight, on the
jj^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
1 6th, entered again the camp that we had left on the night of
After a night of soHd rest came the usual muster and account-
ing for absentees. In addition to those mentioned as having been
wounded on the eleventh was : Lieutenant Paul M. Pon was
killed; Major Throop, who led the regiment into action, was
mortally wounded and died the following 12th day of January;
Captain Alcoke lost his left arm. Our total loss on both the nth
and 13th, as corrected by the later returns, was: One officer and
seven killed, eight officers and seventy men wounded, and one
man missing; making a total of eighty-seven.
Under a flag of truce Colonel Brooks, with a detail of men
crossed the river on the morning of the 17th for the purpose of
burying the dead. He found and buried 913 dead soldiers and
brought across the river the bodies of five officers. Nearly all
these had been stripped by the enemy of clothes and valuables and
left entirely naked. The bodies that were found nearest the rebel
works belonged to the divisions of French and Hancock. A
search was made for the body of Lieutenant Pon, but without
The regiment on dress parade listened to the following fatherly
words from President Lincoln :
WASHINGTON, D. C, December 22, 1862.
To the Army of the Potomac:
I have just read your commanding general's report of the battle of
Fredericksburg. Although you were not successful, the attempt was not
an error nor the failure other than accident. The courage with which
you, in an open field, maintained a contest against an entrenched foe,
and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and re-
crossed the river in the face of the enemy, show that you possess all
the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of
PJ-joto taken 1862.
TWENTY-FIFTH NEW JERSEY. j-,.^
the country and of popular government. Condoling with the mourners
for the dead and sympathizing with the severely wounded, i congratu-
late you that the number of both is comparatively so small. I tender to
you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.
At the time my regiment was at Harper's Ferry, I received
a letter from my aunt in Paterson, and among other news that it
contained was the information that her son, Louis Messenger, a
cousin of mine, had enhsted in the Twenty-fifth New Jersey, and
that three of the companies in that regiment were from Paterson.
So many events happened after I received my aunt's letter that I
had partially forgotten all about my cousin having enlisted, but
on the morning of December nth, 1862, we then lying in front
of Fredericksburg, I had the fact recalled to my mind in this
wise: On that morning after we had been relieved from duty (we
having been guarding the engineers who were laying the pontoon
bridges) as we arrived on the bank of the river, some of our
boys cried out, "There goes the Twenty-fifth New Jersey," and
then I remembered what my aunt had written in her letter. As
soon as I was able to do so, I went to General Zook and asked
him for a pass that I might go and find the Twenty-fifth New
Jersey, which had just passed us, stating that my cousin was a
member of said regiment and I would like to see him. The gen-
eral gave me a pass and I found the regiment lying in the valley
to our left.
The first man I met was Colonel Derrom. The question he
asked me was ''What regiment do you belong to?" I told him
that I belonged to the Fifty-seventh New York, and stated that I
had been in the fight that morning protecting the engineers, while
they were laying the pontoon bridges, so that the army could
cross. At the same time I showed him my rifle, which I had not
had time to clean. The colonel at the time had on a pair of white
IlS UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
kid gloves, and as he grasped hold of my rifle, the powder left its
mark. He smiled and I laughed. He said he was satisfied that
I had been in the fight that morning. He also remarked that
there was terrible fighting going on now and that he would like
to be in it. I replied, "That, Colonel, is only heavy cannonading
between the two armies, and I think that tomorrow you will get
all the fighting you want. I asked him for permission to see
some of his men, as I had heard that three of the companies were
from Paterson. He gave me permission, at the same time stating
that he was also from Paterson. I then walked over to a lot of
men and found a great many whom I knew. Among them were :
William H. Hand, Robert Stalter, Jerry Stalter, Abe Shay and
Gin Snyder of Long Pond Forge, Louis Messenger, John Struck,
J. R. Spittle, James Stone, Louis A. Piaget, Amiza P. Dodd,
George Kindall, George Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Joseph
Mosley, James Riley, A\'illiam Reed, Andrew Doremus, Albert
Doremus, George Burton, David C. Bogert, John H. Riker,
George Vanatta, Philip Alentnech, John McKiernan, J. T. Hil-
ton, P. H. Van Riper, James J. Inglis, John Reid, A. J. Rogers,
S. G. McKiernan, Cornelius Bogert, Henry Kimble, George
Preston, David Ackerman, Henry Proll, George M Torbet, and
many others whose names I cannot at the present moment recall.
When I first met the boys I found them eating crackers and
molasses. I said, ''Boys, you will pay for what you are eating."
They all laughed and made fun over what I told them, and one
made the remark that he had always eaten molasses and it never
had ever hurt him yet, and he did not think it would hurt him
now. I said ''All right, boys, but wait until tomorrow." And it
was just as I told them. The next day every man of them had,
at various times through the day, very urgent business in the
rear, and if the enemy had been after them, they could not have
moved any quicker. My time being up, I was obliged to hurry
back to my regiment.
rrWENTY-FIFTH NEW JERSEY. j^q
On the 1 2th of December, the army of the Potomac crossed the
river. We crossed early in the morning and lay in Water street
near the river. The Twenty-fifth crossed with the Ninth corps
and lay in the street above us. The boys from the Twenty-fifth.
New Jersey came down to cook their coffee with us, and while
they were cooking their coffee the Confederate artillery com-
menced to drop shell upon us, which caused the boys of the
Twenty-fifth to hurry back to their command. One hour later
I went up to see the boys of the Twenty-fifth where they lay in
the street. Jerry Stalter told me that they had found a keg of
whiskey in a cellar and wanted me to have a drink. I told him
that I was temperate, but if they would give me a canteen full I
would take it down to the boys when I returned. Before I re-
turned to my regijiient I found Colonel Derrom and the officers
of the regiment had established their headquarters in a house,
and while I was talking to the colonel a shell struck the roof of
the house and exploded, which caused a scattering of the officers,
and I hurried back to my regiment. Shortly after I returned
we were ordered to advance in the line of battle. We were in
the battle all that afternoon, and I did not see the boys of the
Twenty-fifth until the battle was over, and then I visited the
Twenty-fifth again and found that a lot of the boys had been
wounded and some of them killed.
I again had an interview with Colonel Derrom, and asked him
if he had had all the fighting he wanted, to which he replied that
he had. The friendship thus formed between Colonel Derrom
and myself at Fredericksburg lasted as long as he lived. The
Twenty-fifth New Jersey was a good regiment and Fredericks-
burg being their first fight they did nobly.
It seems strange, though perhaps it is natural, that when
events of a very trying nature and of serious moment are occur-
ring if anything ridiculous happens it is likely to bear the same
I20 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
extreme, and be as supremely ridiculous. No doubt human
nature has provided these vents of mirthfulness to relieve the
excessive pressure of serious action, just as volcanoes give outlet
to the burning masses at the centre of the earth. So in a battle
little things take on the grotesque and many a funny incident is
told after the battle, which but for the intensity of the hour
would hardly have been noticed.
Amid the death hail of Hazel Dell a soldier trips and creates
a laugh. As a ball removes another's hat the boys remark about
his politeness. The utter abandon of the situation even makes
fun out of the most serious casualties.
On the morning of the nth, while supporting the bridge lay-
ers, some one was shot and immediately began to yell as though
he was being murdered. Above the roar of the firing his voice
could be heard, crying, "I'm shot, I'm shot, take me off, take me
off; I shall die, oh, I shall die." Sympathetic comrades rushed to
his assistance, lifted him up and asked where he was hit. 'Mn
the arm," he shouted, "take me off, take me off ; I shall die."
It would hardly be possible for the skilled artist to reproduce
the look of disgust that came over the faces of these would-be
helpers. It certainly would not be in place to reproduce their
language here, yet leaving out the expletives, and softening the
expressions, it might be summarized somewhat as follows : "You
crazy fool, if you are only shot in the arm get up and walk. Any-
body would think that your head was shot off."
At a dock where the regiment lay while in Fredericksburg,
cases of tobacco had been sunk by the inhabitants to save them
from falling into our hands. Their presence, however, was
somehow discovered, many cases fished up, and the tobacco users
got five or six plugs of good navy tobacco.
While moving out of the city to charge the heights, after the
railroad had been crossed and the lime kiln passed, a shell struck
PROVOST DUTY AT FALMOUTH.
Albert Taylor, of Company I, and scattered his body so that a
piece of his skull struck Corporal Lawrence Floyd and knocked
him senseless for several minutes.
While on the knoll near the stone wall, a little fellow was seen
crawling along on his hands and knees and dragging behind him,
by a thread of flesh, his broken leg. He seemed unconcerned
until spoken to, then, yielding somewhat to the pain, asked the
way off the field. ''Cheer up, my brave boy," said the stranger
comrade, ''follow along that fence and you w^ll get off all right."
On the boy crawled, leaving a trail of blood behind him, but
whether his strength gave out or a new shot took his life is not
known. Such instances are a necessary part of war and are too
frequent to stir the emotions, yet their impress on one's memory
never fades away.
The Fifty-seventh New York and the Fifty-third Pennsyl-
vania were assigned to provost duty at Falmouth, under the
command of Colonel Zook. We were quartered in an empty
house and barn. Companies B and C, for example, occupied the
hay loft of a barn in which bunks were improvised and coverec^
with straw. An old stove was secured and set up, and the boys
began light housekeeping. On Christmas day one of them made
apple dumplings, using crushed crackers for flour, pork grease
for lard and dried apples for stuffing. They were pronounced
both elegant and excellent. The ingress to these palatial quarters
was by the same route that Jack took to get to the top of the bean
There was considerable picket duty to do along the river, the
usual drills and parades and plenty of fatigue work. A baker
kept a store near our quarters, selling what we called "India
rubber pies," made of flour, water and dried apples. These he
sold for twenty-five and thirty-five cents each. It happened that
an army sutler had smuggled some liquor into camp, and some
J 22 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
of the boys, having stolen it, carried it into the baker's shop for
concealment, and there, with the baker, they got happy and care-
less. The baker became so good natured that he told us to help
ourselves to anything we wanted. We did not want much, but
did succeed in carrying off a barrel of flour, nearly as much sugar
and more of dried apples, but not to be too hard on this benevo-
lent lover of his country's protectors, we left him the barrels and
some other things we could not use.
About this time boxes of good things began coming to camp
from friends at home, but owing to the delay in reaching us,
most of their contents was stale and could not be eaten, while
that of others were in good condition. One box sent by Wash-
ington friends contained a ten pound turkey, stuffed with oysters
and packed in sweets. Everybody on the floor got a taste from
While the Fifty-seventh was yet at Falmouth, some officers
were seen to go regularly into a certain store, so it was surmised
that there must be something in the store worth going for, al-
though what they bought and carried out was not visible to the
naked eye. Some of the men became over curious to know what
it was and determined to investigate. The most singular part
of it was that two diff'erent parties, one from the Fifty-seventh
New York and the other from the Fifty-third Pennsylvania had
decided to investigate (unbeknown to each other) on the same
night. One entered by the front door and the other by the back
door without meeting or disturbing each other. The Fifty-third
boys carried away a stove and the Fifty-seventh a bag of potatoes.
In the morning the burglary was discovered and the quarters of
the two regiments were searched. The stove was found, but no
potatoes were in sight. The saddest of all is that the Fifty-third
boys got the credit for both thefts, had to give up the stove, and
do extra duty, but had not even a taste of the potatoes.
PROVOST DUTY AT FALMOUTH. J2^
This provost duty ceased about the last of January, when we
moved to a position some two miles distant from the town, and
put up log huts for winter quarters. One of these huts is de-
scribed as eight logs high, covered with canvas, having a fire
place and chimney at one end. A bedstead was made as follows :
Four crotched sticks were driven into the ground for posts; on
these lengthwise were laid two stringers and crossing them were
smaller sticks, which formed the spring part of the bed ; on top of
these several inches thick was laid pine boughs, which took the
place of feathers, and the whole was covered with the army
blanket. No Dives ever slept sounder or more comfortable on
his bed of down than these soldiers slept here.
About this time General Burnside reviewed the army, but
there was a great contrast between this review and the last one
of McClellan. As the latter was accompanied with incessant
cheering, while in this not one cheer was raised.
The mud campaign began on 20th of January, but the Second
corps did not leave its camp. This was Burnside's attempt to
cross the Rappahannock at the upper fords, and attack Lee on
his left flank. It failed on account of the condition of the roads,
but it would have been a greater failure had a battle been fought,
because of the lack of sympathy with the movement, as it was
undertaken against the judgment of most of the generals.
Stonewall Jackson once said, "I can whip any army that is
followed by a flock of cattle," meaning that hungry soldiers will
fight desperately for food, and judging from the way that the
rebels foraged and stripped our dead after a battle, Stonewall
Jackson was right.
General Orders No. 8, issued January 23rd, by General Burn-
side, dismissed General Hooker from the service on account of
insubordination, subject to the approval of the President. But
the President did not approve. By the same order General
124 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Franklin was relieved of his command in the army of the Poto-
mac. Two days after the following- order came from the War
WASHINGTON, D. C, January 25. 1863.
The President of the United States has directed that Major-General
Burnside, at his own request, be relieved from the command of the army
of the Potomac. That Major-General Sumner, at his own request, be
relieved from duty in the army of the Potomac. That Major-General
Franklin be relieved from duty in the army of the Potomac. That Major-
General Hooker be assigned to the command of the army of the Potomac.
By Order of
THE SECRETARY OF WAR.
Townsend, Ass't, Adj.-General.
It was everywhere known that General Hooker was insub-
ordinate not so much that he would not obey orders, as that he
talked openly against his superior officer. It was also believed
that General Franklin was hike warm in his attack at Fredericks-
burg, and this feeling caused his removal. General Sumner was
not well, as events proved, as he died two months later, much to
the regret of the men whom he had commanded while in the
army of the Potomac.
General Couch now became the commander of the Second
corps. He came to us from the First division of the Sixth corps,
and of him it was said by several writers that our great war had
brought out a great wealth of manly valor, but in all the Amer-
ican armies on either side rode no man across the bloody spaces
of the battlefield more calm and resolute than did General Couch.
Danger never depressed or dulled his faculties. We only knew
the man ; it was only necessary to hear his voice or to look into
GENERAL HOOKER IN COMMAND. j 2 c:
his eyes during- a crisis of some terrible fi^lit to at once liave our
confidence restored. General Couch is U) l^e our commander now
until General Hancock succeeds him in June, 1863. He has
already been at the head of the corps since Octo?jer last, though
only temporarily assigned to it. He has led us since Antietam,
but now assumes the permanent command.
The retirement of General ]^>urnsifle was not regretted. The
men had no confidence in his ability to learl them to victory. They
had much more confidence in ''l^'ghting Joe Hooker," who now
became commander of the army of the i'otomac, for they had
fought by his side and knew that he was able and brave. Whether
he could command so large an army remained to be seen. CJne
thing we found out, and that was that he was a thorough discip-
linarian. Everything had to be done just so and always
The .slaughter of Fredericksburg was followed by the fiasco
of the mud march, and then General l>urnside, having offered
the President the alternative of accepting his resignation or at
once removing a number of his corps commanders, was promptly
relieved of his command and General Hooker, or ''Fighting Joe
Hooker," as he was called, was put in his i)lace at the head of the
army. General Hooker at once proceeded to straighten out the
tangle in which Burnside had left the army, spent the wet months
in reorganizing it, and in April had it in good condition to move
on to another day of glory or another day of defeat.
UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Private Letter from A. Lincoln to Major-General Hooker. — Incidents of
Camp Life at Falmouth. — March to Chancellorville and General
Hooker's Address. — Battle of Chancellorville. — Death of the Rebel
General Stonewall Jackson. — The Retreat from Chancellorville. —
Back to the Old Camp at Falmouth.
When General Hooker assumed command of the army of the
Potomac, President Lincoln sent him the following letter, which
was of a private nature and was dated at Washington, D. C. :
WASHINGTON, D. C, January 26, 1863.
GENERAL: — I have placed you at the head of the army of the Poto-
mac. Of course, I have done this upon what appears to me to he suflBcient
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 skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also
believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are
right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an
indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which within reasonable
bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General
Burnside's command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambi-
tion 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
ofRcer. I have heard in such a way as to believe it, of your recently say-
ing that both the army and the government 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 success can set up dictators. What I now
ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The
GENERAL HOOKER IN COMMAND. 127
government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither
more nor less than it has done or will do for all commanders. I mucH
fear that the spirit you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticizing
their 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 alive again) could get any good out of an army
while such a spirit prevails in it, and now beware of rashness, but with
energy and sleepless vigilance, go forward and give us victories.
Yours Very Truly,
To General Hooker belongs the honor of having introduced
the plan of designating the several army corps with distinctive
badges. The germ of the idea was the happy thought of the gal-
lant Phil Kearney, who at Fair Oaks ordered the soldiers of his
division to sew a piece of red flannel on their caps so that he
could recognize them in the tumult of battle. Hooker developed
this idea into a system which proved most useful during the war.
The honored badge of the Second corps was the trefoil, or clover
leaf, and it was about the prettiest badge of them all, and the
red was the prettiest of the trefoil. We became quite vain of this
badge before we were through with it.
The pickets along the river had become, by this time, quite
familiar and used to keep up conversations and joke about mat-
ters very freely. It was a long while before the rebels got over
twitting us about our little Napoleon (referring to General
McClellan) and about our stick in the mud campaign. Little
boats with sails and rudders were made, and in these were put
newspapers, tobacco, coffee and other exchangeable articles and
passed back and forth.
The weather during the winter of 1862 and 1863 was very
severe on the army that lay in front of Fredericksburg and none
suffered more than those whose duty it was to stand on picket
guard along the river front. My regiment was frequently called
128 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Upon to do picket duty along the river; about every other week
we were called upon for this duty, and when it rained or snowed
we would have our clothes frozen on us, as we were not allowed
to have any fire on the line. Many nights during the severest
weather I would take my musket and turning it upside down,
stick the bayonet in the ground, and then slapping my hands
would run up and down my beat to keep warm. At such times
as these it is that a man's thoughts will go back to the loved ones
.at home and to scenes of his boyhood days, and it was so with
me. Many nights, when solitary and alone on the picket line, I
have imagined I could see the folks at home. At other times
I would let my mind wander back to my boyhood days, among
the mountains around Greenwood Lake, or as it was then known
as the long pond, or of the days spent at Sloatsburg.
While we lay at Fredericksburg, the regiment received a large
number of recruits. They were divided among the different com-
panies, and to teach them their duties they were placed under
the care of the older members of their company. It was the
same on picket duty. One of the new men was placed on picket
with me. His beat joined mine, and during the early part of the
night, I endeavored to instruct him in his duties — among others,
how he should act when the grand rounds would come around
about midnight. I done this several times until he assured me
he understood it perfectly. It was but a short time after my
last caution to him and while I was at the other end of my beat,
I was startled to hear him challenge some one with the words
''Halt! who goes there?" The answer was "The Grand Rounds."
Instead of saying ''Halt, Grand Rounds! Advance sergeant,
and give the countersign," the recruit said "Oh, h — , I thought it
was the relief." Fortunately for the recruit it happened that the
Grand Rounds that night was the colonel of our regiment, and
when he came to me, said: "Jake, what kind of a man is that
.% Ah, ,«£
REVIEW OF THE ARMY BY PRESIDENT LINCOLN. 131
sentry ?" I said he is one of the new recruits. The colonel said
"I thought so. If it had been an officer of another regiment he
would have been court martialed."
At the beginning of April, signs of a new campaign became
visible. Supplies of every kind poured into the lines of the army.
The hospitals were rapidly discharging their patients, and the
ranks of the various regiments were filled up amazingly. Then
the grand review, the usual prelude to a general movement, took
It was a clear warm morning when our brigade started for
rendezvous of the army on the plains of Falmouth, opposite
Fredericksburg. On our arrival we found the entire command
on the ground preparing for the review. The plateau selected
sloped gradually to the river with here and there a few slight dips
in the ground. On the right the cavalry were in front, ranged
in solid masses by regiments and brigades, and as our regiment
took up its allotted position, I saw that the infantry to the right
and left were rapidly forming in like order. There were four
lines, two corps in each, the regiments standing like blocks, with
their colors in front, while the batteries of artillery were placed
in the spaces between the divisions. Our brigade happened to be
stationed on the highest point to the left. I could see the whole
army as it stood marshaled in grand array on a plain fully two
miles square. The sun was shining bright and warm. As or-
ders came for the men to rest, the slight breeze being just suffic-
ient to stir the heavy silken folds of the regimental colors as they
waved in their tattered elegance. It was a scene for the genius
of a Vernet, with all its martial glory and wealth of color. The
bright rays of the sun flashing on a hundred thousand bayonets
and sabers as they were moved at the word of command, the
picturesque field batteries, the dashing cavalry, and the long dark
lines of infantry, the parti-colored banners of the corps, divisions
1^2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
and brigade commanders bearing their strange devices of star,
crescent and cross, were the saUent points in this living, animated
picture. It was war in- all its pomp and circumstances, and as I
watched the sunlight play in dalliance on the burnished steel of
gun, barrel and bayonet, or followed with curious eye the pass-
age of the clouds, throwing their soft shadows over the as-
sembled host as the breeze carried them swiftly over our heads,
I began to feel all that warm delight and enthusiasm that comes
so naturally to a soldier at a time of a holiday or parade. Here
was a mighty army ready for combat and campaign, marshaled
in all its massive strength and power.
As my eye w^andered over the striking scene, my cheek glowed
at the brilliancy of the scene and the magic of the hour, though
I knew this grand review to be but the prelude to a long summer
of fatigue, danger and privations. We had arrived about the
hour of noon, as so well timed wxre all the arrangements that
there was no confusion, no hesitation. Regiments, brigades and
divisions formed with a precision due to long practice and perfect
discipline, so that the several corps fell into line with marvelous
rapidity. As we thus prepared for the final ceremony, I could
see on the heights beyond Fredericksburg, which a few weeks
before we had vainly tried to win, long brown lines. It was the
Confederate army of Northern Virginia, gazing at its opponent
in the field. There, no doubt, were the eyes of Lee, of Long-
street and of Jackson all fixed upon us.
Seldom has an army moved in review before such spectators.
There was no battle threatened, though the two armies were face
to face. We were enjoying the brighter side of military life.
The darker aspect was to follow in the near future, in a death
struggle. Both armies were equally brave, and w^hile the one
paraded to receive the President, the other watched with curious
eyes the splendors of the pageant unfolded before it.
REVIEW OF THE ARMY BY PRESIDENT LINCOLN.
As I leaned upon my gun, waiting for the signal that was to
tell us that the review had commenced, my thoughts wandered
back to the happy days in Paterson, and I saw^ again the old
home, the faces of friends. Thus meditating on the past and
the change that had taken place since I saw them last, I was
rudely awakened from my day dreams and recalled to the present
moment by the report of a field piece. It was the signal on the
extreme left of the front line. I had noticed a tall flag staff from
which fluttered a huge ensign. As the sound of the gun died
aw^ay the flag fell and rose again. Then we saw the flash and
smoke of another cannon, and as its booming came to our ears
a third was fired. An aide now went galloping along the front
of the cavalry. Next the bugles sounded the ''boots and saddle''
call, and I saw the 11,000 horsemen mount their steeds. Scarcely
had the lines grow^n steady when a battery, stationed near the
river, began firing the ''National Salute." On the instant we
heard a hoarse command and a broad flash of light swept along
the cavalry corps as the men drew their swords from their scab-
bards, amid the smoke of the saluting battery.
I saw a tall figure on horseback ride toward the centre of the
line. It was the President, and at his side rode an officer, we
knew to be General Hooker, while behind them galloped his bril-
liant staff. As the President rode forward, color after color fell
in obedience, and now and then a solitary sword dropped as the
generals tendered their salutes. On from our right, then the
infantry bugles began their clamor, and our lines became rigid.
When the President came riding back, there was more flashes of
light, as the brigades presented arms and the colors w^aved
tumultuously in the increasing breeze. Up one line and down
the other galloped the Chief of the People, and I could distin-
guish Mr. Lincoln's face as he drew nearer and nearer our line.
1^4 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
To the shrill note of the bugle and the measured roll of the drum,
our corps now stood ready to give the salute.
''Present arms!'' cries our colonel, hoarsely. And as the men's
muskets pass from their shoulders to the front, I lowered my
musket for a moment to see a tall form, crowned with a high
black hat, and with him an erect soldierly figure. They gallop
past side by side, and now the staff go thundering by. ''Shoul-
der arms!" is the order, and then the men remain like so many
statues, until I hear the clatter of hoofs behind us. As these
sounds die away, the order to rest is again given and we watch
the closing scenes. By and by the cavalry get into motion, wheel
swiftly into column and begin counter marching to the left. Next
the lines of infantry break into column, and an hour after our
own turn comes and w^e are in motion. As we reached the route
of marching in review I could see over the heads of the men a
long line of troops extending over two miles in the distance, mov-
ing toward the reviewing stand.
At length we came to a signal flag. We are now approach-
ing the President as he waits to see the army march by in solid
column. "Right Shoulder Arms!" cries our colonel over his
shoulder, and a minute after the regiment pushes forward with
steady, swinging step, following our colonel's example, and I
once more catch a glimpse of the President's face as he raises his
hat in honor of our tattered and faded colors. Then came the
order to quicken our steps, and as we dash on at a headlong pace
we know that the review is at an end for us. Never again would
all these men meet in a review again in this world.
Many of the wounded of Fredericksburg were sufficiently re-
covered to be again in their places, and are ready for another
battle and other wounds. It seems strange, nevertheless it is
true, that some men could not get near a battle without getting
wounded, while others would be in the thickest of every fight and
THE MARCH TO CHANCELLORSVILLE. j^^
not get as much as a scratch. The boys used to say often on the
eve of an engagement, "I am going to get a comfortable wound
through the calf of my leg, just enough to give me a vacation for
a month or two." Poor fellows, many of them got a long vaca-
tion from the warfare of life, while others, after the most intens-
est sufferings, lived to be life-long cripples. Another expression
frequently heard was that "the bullet is not made yet to hit me" ;
others again would seem to have a premonition of death, as in
the case of Colonel Chapman.
f- ^ ~r 4^Mi ^fe ^^^^^s
^ v*-^^"^^ ^-J=*^
TRE MAllCU TO CHA;;rri.I.Or.SV:LLH.
On the 14th day of April, 1863, orders was received for us to
march the next day at noon (this was the commencement of the
Chancellorville campaign). There was issued to each man eight
days' rations and 160 rounds of ball cartridges. Each man was
to carry one shirt, one pair of socks. All our other clothing,
except what we had on was to be packed and delivered to the
quartermaster. No officers' baggage was allowed. It began to
rain the same afternoon that the orders were received and con-
jo5 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
tinued raining through the next day, so no start was made and
we continued to lay in camp for twelve days after we received
the orders, expecting each day to receive the orders to move.
Not until the 26th of April was the Second corps called into line.
General Doubleday had left several days before, taking the
road south, and was now across the Rappahannock some miles
below the city, in a movement which was a feint to deceive the
enemy and draw him in that direction. On the 26th three corps,
the Eleventh, Twelfth and Fifth, started up the river to cross at
Germania, Ely and Kelly fords, for a descent upon Lee's left
flank. The Second corps bivouaced the first night near Banks
ford and the second night near the United States ford. It rained
again, as usual, as it was the rainy season of the year, and the
ground was soon one mass of mud. The 28th of April was
spent in cutting a road and laying corduroy that the artillery
might pass. The engineers completed the work of laying the
pontoon bridges, and the same night the Second corps crossed
The Fifty-seventh began the 29th day of April by leveling the
rebel breastworks on the west side of the ford. On the 30th of
April Ave began our march westward through the woods and
continued to march until nearly midnight. The first day of May
opened very pleasantly, being warm, which was quite a contrast
to the weather during the night, which had been cold and dis-
agreeable. The regiment again began its march and moved
about a mile or more beyond Chancellorville and then returned
to the open space before the Chancellor house, and took position
in the woods to the left for the night. It was here that we heara
what General Hooker had said to his officers on the eve of the
battle: ''The enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out
from his defences and give us battle on our own ground, where
certain destruction awaits him." He is also said to have declared
THE MARCH TO CHANCELLORSVILLE. j^«
in conversation : "The rebel army is now the legitimate property
of the army of the Potomac. They may as well pack up their
haversacks and make for Richmond."
Had success followed his movement these boasts would have
passed into history as the wisdom of a great general, and there
is no doubt that at the time they were uttered, General Hooker
had every reason to consider himself able to make them good.
But, as we shall learn later, he lost the battle of Chancellorville
through two mistakes he made at the very commencement — first,
by over-confidence; and second, by the position he chose for his
line of battle. In fact, it is now generally conceded that General
Hooker's loss of the battle of Chancellorville was due very
largely to this falling back from the open and higher grounds
beyond the woods to the low wooded and cramped position
where artillery could not be used to advantage and the free
movement of a large force was quite impossible.
Had General Hooker pushed persistently out towards Fred-
ericksburg, as he had begun, he could have secured a command-
ing position for his cannon and comparatively good ground for
fighting a large army effectively against one inferior in num-
bers. Then he would have uncovered Banks Ford and con-
nected easily with Sedgewick, who was before the city.
Generals Warren, Couch and others protested bitterly against
falling back, but Hooker assured them it was all right and re-
peated the order. The evening and night of May ist were not
restful, as there was heavy artillery firing in our vicinity and
much activity among the skirmishers. Waking on the 2nd, the
Fifty-seventh found itself on the left centre of our line and near
its apex. It was part of the time in the woods, and part in the
open or cleared ground. At the time of which I am writing the
most of the ground from the several fords across the Rappahan-
nock river consisted of dense woods, which extended for miles
jng UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
to the south of the Chancellor house, so that where the army was
encamped it would be impossible to see the enemy five hundred
On the morning of Saturday, May 2nd, 1863, the battle of
Chancellorville began as soon as day daw^ned. The position oc-
cupied by the Fifty-seventh New York was at a point where the
line formed a sharp convex. The battle raged on three sides
with intensest fury. The rebel shells crossed each other over our
heads, coming from opposite directions, and raked our line from
either side, so that one hardly knew on which side of a tree to
get as he was as safe on one side as the other. There was a
terrible fire of musketry in front, and on the right flank great
confusion. After about three or four hours of fierce firing, all
at once it became as still as though there was not a soul any-
where around. This continued until about six or seven o'clock
in the evening. During this interval of silence and repose
various rumors became rife among the men that Lee w^as on the
retreat south, and others that he was trying to get back to his
entrenchments at Fredericksburg, but how little did we know
the events that were taking place on the extreme right of our
army and that before midnight our army would be in danger of
either being destroyed or taken prisoners.
Early in the morning Stonewall Jackson, with his magnificent
corps of tried veterans, consisting of about 30,000 men, had
moved across our front, and marching around to the extreme
right flank of the army had, about six o'clock in the evening, at-
tacked the right flank, which was held by the Eleventh corps,
and broken it all to pieces. Of this, at the time, we knew nothing,
as it was supposed that Lee was retreating south and every
moment we expected to receive orders to march in pursuit of the
rebel army. At this time, about six in the evening, our extreme
right was about three miles from the position we occupied, but
THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORS VILLE. j ^g
soon the quiet of our position was to be rudely disturbed. The
men of the Eleventh and Twelfth corps came streaming down
our line in such a way that our artillery could not fire without
killing them. At this time I was under the impression that these
men wxre all from the Eleventh corps, but since that time I have
learned that only part were from the Eleventh corps.
The men ran like frightened deer, not knowing whither. A
battery near us opened fire on them, thinking that the rebels had
THE ROUT OF THE ELEVKIfTH CORra. CHANCELLORSVLLLK.
broken through. General Morgan seems to have been laboring
under the same misconception of the afifair as we did, as he said
The stampede of the Eleventh corps was something curious and
wonderful to behold. I have seen horses and cattle stampeded
on the plains, blinded apparently by fright, rush over wagons,
rocks, streams or any obstacle in the way, but never before or
since have I seen thousands of men actuated seemingly by the
same unreasoning fear that takes possession of a herd of cattle.
As the crowd of fugitives ran by the Chancellor house, the great-
140 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
est effort was made to check them, but only those stopped who
were knocked down by the swords of staff officers or the sponge
staffs of Kirby's battery, that was drawn up across the road.
Many of them ran right on down the turnpike towards Fred-
ericksburg, through our Hne of battle and picket line, and into
the enemy's line, the only reply we could get to our arguments or
entreaties were ''All ist verloren ; veres ist der pontoons ?"
The movement of Jackson was successful beyond expectations,
and yet in the sight of the various reports of the battle as given
by the various officers, it has always been a wonder to the writer
that the whole army w^as not captured or their retreat cut off in
such a way that Hooker would have been obliged to surrender.
And only for the blunder and stupidity of one of Stonewall Jack-
son's generals such an event would have occurred.
As I have already remarked the movement of Jackson was
successful, but it cost the enemy even more than it cost us, as iit
this battle Stonewall Jackson had been mortally wounded, and
this was a greater loss to the rebel army than the loss of the
whole battle was to us. We could fight again if defeated, but
one of their best leaders was gone forever.
When the success of Jackson's movement was assured, Lee
pressed at every point with all his might, but with little success.
About dark of the 2nd our line was moved to the west and be-
yond the Chancellor house to a point on the edge of the woods.
The Fifty-seventh was still farther advanced as a picket line.
General Hancock, in his report, says that : ''On the night of the
2nd of May the enemy frequently opened with artillery from the
heights towards Fredericksburg, and from those on my right,
and with infantry assaulted my advanced line of rifle pits, but
was always handsomely repulsed by the troops on duty there,
consisting of the Fifty-seventh, Sixty-fourth and Sixty-sixth
New York Volunteers and detachments from the Fifty-second
THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE, j .-j-
New York, the Second Delaware and the One Hundred and
Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers."
On the night of May 2nd a detail was made from each regi-
ment of the Third brigade of the First division of the Second
corps to go on the firing line, with strict orders not to allow any
one to pass. The countersign for the night was ''Scott." One
peculiar thing about the orders for the detail when the men were
chosen for this duty was that they must all be American born
from American parentage. I happened to be one of those chosen.
About midnight an attack was made, but which side commenced
firing I never found out. All I know was that I w^ith the rest
was shoved back and almost run over, and in trying to get clear
I started through the bushes, which were very close together. I
took my musket and parted them and thus worked my way
through. When I got through I discovered a soldier whom I
afterwards found was a member of the Third corps. I then
discovered that the Second and 'Third corps had become mixed.
Soon men began to call out this way for the Fifty-seventh,
and then other regiments were called for, and so it went. As
soon as daylight came, I found that instead of the Fifty-seventh
New York it was the Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania that had been
called for. As soon as possible I hastened to rejoin my regi-
ment. After the fighting was over, on the 3rd of May, I visited
the Seventh New Jersey and learned that a man whom I knew,
by the name of Jess Huyler, had been killed. I learned about
the position of his body, and at night I went out with some of the
members of his regiment to find his body. After we had found
it, we brought it inside our lines and buried him. Afterwards I
wrote to his brother, who was then living at Greenwood Lake,
giving him all the particulars of his death.
Colonel Nelson A. Miles, under whose command we were on
the night of the 2nd, speaks thus in his report :
JA2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
"At 3 A. M. I withdrew the picket Hne to the rear of an abatis,
which had been formed during the night by some of the regi-
ments of the division. Here I remained during the day. The
force of our Hne consisted of the Fifty-seventh New York Vol-
unteers, Colonel Chapman, two companies of the Fifty-second
New York, four companies of the Second Delaware, and six
companies of the One Hundred and Forty-eighth Pennsylvania,
with the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers. We were con-
stantly engaged skirmishing with the enemy during the day, and
about 3 p. M. the enemy commenced massing his troops in two
columns, one on each side of the road, flanked by a line of battle
about eight hundred yards in our front in the woods, and so near
were they to us that we could distinctly hear every order given
by their officers while making their formation.
"They soon advanced with a tremendous yell and were met
with a sure and deadly fire from our single line. A very sharp
engagement then began, which continued for about one hour,
when the enemy fell back in disorder. Their charge was im-
petuous and determined, advancing within twenty yards of our
abatis, but we hurled them back with fearful loss. During the
night they made no further demonstration."
The part thus taken by the Fifty-seventh regiment made it
conspicuous in the entire battle. No less than ten times it is
mentioned in the report of the general officers.
There was a continuous falling back from the time Vve were
ordered to retire from the first position, a mile beyond the Chan-^
cellor house, on the first day. General Hancock seems to have
had a mania for giving up every good position until every hill
was crowned with rebel cannon that poured their iron hail intO'
the basin below, where the Union army was huddled together,,
so that our holding a picket line against a whole brigade of rebels
and repulsing them stands out in marked contrast on a black
THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVIIXE. ^ .^
background to the action of some others in the same position.
As soon as the regiment was reheved from the picket line, it
became a part of General Caldwell's provisional brigade. This
marched down the road towards the United States ford, about
three-quarters of a mile, there faced the w^oods on the right of
the road, and at the word of command advanced under a fire of
grape and canister, and came upon the rebel rifle pits. A deadly
volley from these at first halted our advance, but we poured back
such a weight of lead that they left their pits and ran. After-
wards we fell back a little to correct our line and throw up
General Caldwell, in his report, says : "The Fifty-second and
the Fifty-seventh New York of General Zook's brigade, behaved
admirably. All the fighting of the third day was for the Chan-
cellorville position, and by night Hooker had lost it."
General Lee ordered forward his entire line, and the space
before the Chancellor house was a very pandemonium of hissing
shells. The rebel infantry piled out from the woods over our
entrenched position in charge after charge, but were repulsed
until our ammunition gave out, and no supports arriving (al-
though more than 20,000 men had not had a chance to get at the
enemy), a part of the line gave way, followed by another and
And now the moment of defeat approaches resolved to do or
die, the decimated divisions of Stuart gather themselves together,
close their ranks and advance for the final assault. From every
quarter the rebel artillery opens a fearful fire over the plain,
which fairly shrieks with the flying, plunging shells. The two
wings of the Confederate army, which had been separated since
the hour of the morning before when Jackson set out on his
great flank movement, had again been reunited. As Perry on the
left of Anderson and Archer on the right of Stuart join their
j^A UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
brigades at Hazel Grove, Lee himself rides forward to greet the
troops of Stuart's corps and to animate them for the conflict.
All along the line from farthest right to farthest left the Con-
federate host advances, McClay and Anderson push hard upon
Hancock and Geary, while Heth, Rodes and Colstan renew their
fierce assaults on Williams, Sickels and French. They will not
be denied. French is thrown back upon the left of Meade's Fifth
corps, which at this supreme crisis had received no orders to
move. Berry's division is assailed on both flanks, many of the
regiments have only the bayonet with which to meet the assault.
The Third Maryland gives way on the right of Williams' divi-
sion, and the Confederates rushing in, fire down Berry's line, the
heroic commander is killed and General Mott, who should have
succeeded him, has himself been wounded. General John M. Re-
vere, of New Jersey, assumes command of the division and
orders a retreat.
General Sickels dashes forward to prevent this fatal error,
but too late, the Confederates are in possession of the edge of the
Chancellorville plateau, the brigades of Whipple and Birney's
division, supporting Berry, are driven back and the field was
We now come to a feature in the battle of Chancellorville
which has been much misconstrued and misrepresented. During
the terrible artillery fire which had preceeded the last general
assault of the enemy, General Hooker was thrown down and
stunned by a cannon ball striking a pillar of the Chancellor house
against which he was leaning. Hooker, recovering from his
brief stupor, sent for General Couch and gave him explicit orders
to withdraw the troops from the plateau to a new line, and then
he rode off to the rear.
After the brigades of Whipple and Birney's division were
THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILIiE. j-.^
driven back all the roads converging at Chancellorville were
given up, and the whole army fell back to a new position.
General Sedgwick now crossed at Fredericksburg and cap-
tured ]Mary's Heights, but Lee sent a part of his army and drove
him back. Thus Lee with an inferior force first whipped Han-
cock at Chancellorville and then with part of the same army
turned and whipped Sedgwick, while Hancock lay in the woods
debating his retreat.
I have previously spoken of Jackson's movements on the
morning of May 2nd. Lee with his army lay in our front, but
had no ambition, nor was it his desire to bring on an engage-^
ment to test the courage and endurance of his men in an assault
on the left or centre of Hooker's position, which, at this time,
was so placed that it would have cost Lee the most of his army
to have taken. But there was one man who had discovered the
true point of attack, and that man was Stonew^all Jackson. x\nd
the point of attack he had decided upon was the right wing of
the Eleventh corps, composed of about 8,000 men, and which
hung as it was loose in the air, with the dense woods of the
wilderness in front and around it to mask the movements of any
enemy and with two or three miles of unguarded country be-
tween it and the river, and between it and its nearest supports it
offered the best point of attack to an enemy, but on the morning
of which we write no enemy was in sight.
For Jackson to plan was to attempt, and at an early hour he
was on his way with thirty odd thousand men and guns, march-
ing clear across the whole front of the Union army. That the
rebels were marching across our front, although seldom in sight,
was perfectly clear to every intelligent soldier on the line. The
rattling volleys of musketry from the extreme left to the right
indicated as plain as words could tell the march of the flanking
columns. It is not my task to repeat the story of the utter and
146 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
crushing defeat that Jackson inflicted upon the Eleventh corps.
When it was known that the rebels were moving from the left to
the right in front of the Union forces then it was the time for
Hooker to have ordered them to be attacked, or else send some
of his 20,000 reserve men to follow and march parallel with the
rebel army of Jackson until our lines would have been unbroken
from left to right. Instead of defeat we might have had victory
on the 2nd of May. But with this the writer has nothing to do,
as he simply desires to state what he saw and done as a member
of the Union army.
Of Lee's generalship we have no complaint; of Hooker we
have little to say. If the same ability with which the battle was
planned had controlled the fighting of the second and third days
of May, a very different result would have followed.
We had now joined our brigade again and with it lay in the
woods through the 4th and 5th of May. Rain fell and the roads,
especially those newly made, became perfect quagmires. The
retreat over the river began on the night of the Fifth. Up to
our knees in slush we sought to find our way to the fords. It
frequently happened that men striking their feet against the cov-
ered stumps stumbled forward into the slough, covering them-
selves with mud. It was a horrid night. The men were dis-
heartened and worn out, but could not help laughing, as man
after man dove under and came up with his new uniform of soft
mother earth. A battery passed, on the caisson of which sat a
man covered with a tarpaulin, and lo, he was singing to himself
such familiar tunes and melodies as "Home, Sweet Home." It
seemed supremely ridiculous that any one should sing under such
circumstances, so the boys hooted and jeered at him, crying,
"Catch him," "Shoot him," "Stop him" and the like, but still
the song under the tarpaulin went on.
RETREAT OVER THE RIVER. j .y
So the men consoled themselves after a defeat. "Why did I
go for a soldier?" This sentence came later to be an army-
classic. Its power to soothe one's sorrows and heal one's woes
was never failing. It meant that the soldier had voluntarily en-
listed, that hardships were a part of his occupation and were
therefore not a matter of complaint. Indeed, there was nothing
more marked in the entire range of the Union soldier's experi-
ence than the recuperative powers by which he arose above dis-
couragements and revived after defeat. Such a soldier will never
stay whipped, if ever he can be called whipped. In this respect
he was greater than Napoleon, for Napoleon, while a master of
strategy and a cyclone in action, was nervous in defeat. Paul
Jones was his opposite, for his most signal victories came when
he was fairly defeated. There is quite a difference between being
whipped and being defeated.
The rain continued its drizzily downpour, and the army
tramped through the wilderness toward the promised land be-
yond. By morning the regiment was over the river and by three
o'clock in the afternoon of the 6th of May we were back in our
old camp at Falmouth.
In counting our losses in the regiment during the three days,
it was found that two men had been killed, two officers and
twenty-six men had been wounded, and one man was missing;
making a total loss of thirty-one. A comparatively small loss
when we consider the fighting that was done by the Fifty-seventh
regiment on May ist, 2nd and 3rd.
So the days began to draw out in tediousness, the usual routine
of camp life continued. The army, as it were, had sat down to
watch the enemy, while the Rappahannock flowed on its way to
the sea. Every time we went on dress parade, which was every
day unless the regiment w^as on picket duty, there would be quite
a contrast between our colors and the colors of some of the regi-
j.g UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
ments that had not as yet seen the service that the Fifty-seventh
had seen. Soon it was noised about in the camp that we were
to have a new stand of colors in exchange for our old ones, which
had been almost shot to pieces. A new stand of beautiful colors
came from New York about the ist of June, and their appear-
ance for the first time on dress parade produced the sensation of
Speaking of sensations reminds one of how little it took in the
X .- ^
l^^l^4¥§i-^'^:?ii*^ f?-^-'^^ ""
KSTftEAT ACROSS THE RAFPAHA^^«■OCK,— UNITED STATES FORD.
monotony of camp life to create a sensation. The burning of a
barrel chimney attached to one of the tents was equal — as a camp
sensation — to the burning of Moscow. The accidental explosion
of a gun with the slight wounding of its owner would start more
gossip than the removal of a commander.
At Stephensburg, a comrade heard that a deserter was to be
hung. It was within fifteen minutes of the time, and he ran two
miles to be on hand at the drop. Anything for a sensation.
BACK IN OUR OLD CAMP AT FALMOUTH. j .g
When things were dull, as it generally was when we were
lying in camp, and nothing could be thought of to break the
monotony that was sure to come, the boys would put on some
coffee to boil, and then would eat a little. The camp fire was a
distinguishing feature of the soldier's life. It was his hearth
stone, and how the memories of those camp fires come back to
the writer at this late day. At the end of a day's march and we
had stacked our arms, thrown ofT our knapsacks and haversacks,
a rush would be made for the nearest rail fence, or the nearest
wood, and each mess of four to six men would start its fire. One
would take all the canteens and go to the nearest stream for
w^ater. Then individual cups were filled and put on the fire to
boil, the coffee being put in at the same time as the water. As
soon as it was on the fire a stick would be sharpened to a point
at one end, and then put into a slice of fat pork, which we would
toast over the fire. Crackers, or ''hard tack" as they were called,
would be treated in the same w^ay. Some times to vary the bill
of fare, pieces of pork and broken crackers would be put in the
tin and stewed together. This we called lob scouse. If some
corn, potatoes or other vegetables could be added it was called a
son of a gun. As each man was his own cook, so each man after
his meal would wash his own dishes, and for towels and dish
cloths we would use grass. After supper the fire would be
replenished, the men would sit around it on the ground and talk
of the days' march, of where the army is heading, of a possible
battle, and of other things suggested by the soldier's daily cares.
As the tw^ilight w^ears away and the shadows deepen, theit
thoughts become more and more serious, and conversation turns
on the distant home with parents, brothers, sisters, friends and
Then comes the history of each family, the characteristics of
its members, sainted parents or heaven housed children. And
-j..^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
then again the talk may turn to premonitions of death previous
to a battle, and then rough sermonizing on Providence and man's
trust in heaven. The writer well remembers several instances
w^here the premonition of death came to some one of the mem-
bers of his regiment when on the eve of a battle. Soon one after
another spreads his blanket upon the ground, and with a ''good
night" is soon wrapped in dreamless slumber.
Every day of the closing days of spring of 1863 was a period
of darkest shadow throughout the loyal States of the North,
and well does the writer remember the scenes that would ensue
when some fortunate comrade received some of the papers from
home. How he would be surrounded by an anxious circle of
his comrades eager to hear the latest news from home. And of
the other armies of the field, and the result of their efforts for
the preservation of the Union, no darker period in the country's
history had ever been than was that between January ist and
June I St, 1863.
The cause of human freedom was at stake, and to its friends
all the portents of disaster were at hand. Doubt, despair, distrac-
tion had held vigorous sway for months. The critical period of
the great contest had been reached and the defenders of the
Union and Freedom watched with bated breath the march of
events. The future of the American continent and of the world
lay trembling in the balance.
The statesmen looked forward with deep hearted anxiety, and
from the blackness before them took no comfort. The wise,
supremely great, yet sad hearted Lincoln saw no shadow of
rejoicing save in the grim comfort of the reduced hope. The
saying of the old hermit was true in the case of the Union
cause, that the darkest hour of the night is just before the dawn.
The night of the nation seemed to be interminable, the dawn
after long hours of watching was not apparent, no flush of rosy
BACK IN OUR OLD CAMP AT FALMOUTH. j - j
hope lightened the unbroken blackness of the vista. All was as
Let us see what was the cause of all this gloom and doubt.
The troops of the North were held everywhere in check by the
rebel armies. Sherman's disaster at Vicksburg, on the Missis-
sippi, with Grant's unfruitful battle of Murfreesborough and
his retreat, and in the east Burnside's disaster in front of Fred-
erickburg, and later by the defeat of Hooker at Chancellorville.
All these events coming as they did, one after the other, was
enough to cause the stoutest heart to quail, but it w^as not so with
the rank and file of the several armies.
J £-2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Before Fredericksburg. — ^^Situation of the Several Corps. — The Army
Breaks Camp. — The Race Between Lee and Hooker. — The March to
Gettysburg and the First Day's Battle.— The Death of General Rey-
nolds. — Anecdotes of the March.
On June 5th, 1863, the army of the Potomac was commanded
by General Joseph Hooker and lay along the north bank of the
Rappahannock river, confronting the rebel army of Northern
Virginia, under General Robert E. Lee, mainly concentrated
about the town of Frederickburg on the south bank of the river.
The several corps of the army of the Potomac were distri-
buted as follows : The First corps, commanded by General
Reynolds, was in the vicinity of the White Oak church; the
Second corps, commanded by General Couch, was near Fal-
mouth; the Tihrd corps, commanded temporarily by General
Birney, was at Boscobel, near Falmouth; the Fifth corps com-
manded by General Meade, was in the vicinity of the banks.
United States and adjacent fords on the Rappahannock; the
Sixth corps, under General Sedgwick, was near White Oak
church, with the Second division of General Howe thrown for-
ward to Franklin. Crossing the Rappahannock a little below
Fredericksburg, near the mouth of Deep Run, the Eleventh
corps, under General O: O. Howard, was near Brooke's Station
on the Acquia Creek Railroad, and the Twelfth corps, under
HANCOCK ASSUMES COMMAND OF THE SECOND CORPS. 153
General Slocum, near Stafford Court House and Acquia Land-
ing. The cavalry corps, under General Pleasonton, had two
divisions in the vicinity of Warrenton Junction and one division
in the neighborhood of Brooke's Station. Having thus de-
scribed the position of the various corps of the army of the
Potomac, we shall now speak of the invasion of Maryland and
Pennsylvania by the rebel armies.
On the loth day of June General Hancock assumed command
of the Second corps, General Couch, at his own request, being
assigned to duty in Pennsylvania. On the same day General
Sickels, who had been absent on leave, assumed command of
the Third corps, relieving General Birney, who was temporarily
Before the authorities at Washington began fully to realize
the purposes of General Lee, General Milroy had been crushed
at Winchester and the invasion had begun, but not, however,
without arousing the Army of the Potomac. General Hooker
had become conscious of the enemy's movements, and finding
that Lee was extending his forces northw^ard over a distance of
nearly one hundred miles. He sought permission to attack him
in the flank in the hope of either cutting off Hill or compelling
the return of the adventurous rebels. Forbidden by the admin-
istration to take this step. Hooker had no alternative but to retire
from his position at Fredericksburg and move rapidly north-
ward, keeping between the enemy and Washington. The story
of that long march and of the desperate battle in which it cul-
minated is too well known to require a detailed recital. It will
only be needful to describe the part taken by my regiment and
the Second corps.
During the early part of June there was manifest restlessness
on the part of the rebels, and this caused a corresponding uneasi-
ness in the Union camp. The guard house clipper was full of
jr^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
reports of movements ; first of the enemy and then of our army.
The pickets and cavalry outposts up the Rappahannock reported
detachments of troops passing northward. The signal stations
were active with rockets and torches at night and signal flags
by day. Our signal officers had deciphered a signal of the enemy
which ordered a movement of his cavalry across the upper fords
of the Rappahannock. It was not long before skirmishing began
to be reported from beyond the Blue Ridge, and it then became
evident that Lee was on his way for a second invasion.
The troops of A. P. Hill were still on picket at Fredericksburg
and our army still in its tents. This, however, was all changed
in a day. Camp was broken and the race between the two
armies began. Lee had gotten a good start. The rebels knew
how to get over the ground and no mercy therefore could be
shown to us.
The Second corps, acting as a rear guard, started on the 15th
of June. During two days and two nights there was almost no
opportunity for sleep and there was very little on the third
night. The weather being intensely sultry, many fell out from
utter exhaustion and not a few from sunstroke. The march con-
tinued by way of Stafford Court House, which was found in
flames, having been fired by stragglers from the preceeding col-
umn. Resting here only two or three hours, we pushed on to
Acquia, Dumfrees and Wolf Run Shoals. On the 17th the regi-
ment was at Sangster Station, having traveled more than forty
miles. We remained here over the 19th to keep between Wash-
ington and the enemy.
About midnight the bivouac of the division was rudely dis-
turbed by hideous outcries, followed by the noise of men rush-
ing hither and thither among frightened mules and horses.
Headquarters turned out in dire alarm and the soldiers awak-
ened suddenly from the deep slumber that follows a painful
LOST ON THE BATTLE FIELD OF BULL RUN. 155
march, and seized their arms. The coolest heads among them
beHeved that a band of guerillas, hanging upon the flanks of the
column, had taken advantage of the darkness to dash among
the sleeping troops. At last it turned out that all the fright
came from a soldier having been seized with a nightmare, from
which he awoke screaming.
Before daybreak of the 17th of June we were again upon the
march, taking the road toward Centreville, which place we
reached the same evening. Here we rested for the night. On
the morning of the 21st we were again early upon the march,
and marched until we reached the Bull Run battlefield at night,
or nearly sundown, where we went into camp. After supper I
with a number of others were placed on picket with orders that
at three o'clock, or as near that time as possible, we should with-
draw and rejoin our commands in time to aeain rp.<^ume the
march. It was the duty of the officer in charge of the picket line
to have the men report to him at a given point, and that when all
had reported to have marched them back to the encampment.
Had the officer done so on this morning I should not have had
the experience I did. When in the morning the time (as I
thought) had arrived for me to retire, I did so; but instead of
taking the road to camp, unfortunately I took the wrong road
and after marching for some time and not reaching camp I found
I was lost. It was a very dark morning, and in marching kept
stumbling, as I supposed, over what I thought was stumps and
stones. As the morning wore on it began gradually to grow a
little lighter, and my eyes began to get more used to darkness,
so that I could discern objects more clearly. I then became
aware that what I had been stumbling over in my wanderings
were not the stumps of trees nor rocks of stone, but the heads,
arms and legs of soldiers who had been killed on this the
Bull Run battlefield. The reader can imagine my feelings at the
jr5 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
moment I made this discovery. Here was I all alone with the
silent dead, and no matter in what direction I would look I could
see the ghastly remain. Some of the heads would be looking at
me with their sightless eyes, making me wish that I was with the
boys of my company far from the battlefield of Bull Run.
In order that the reader may understand the formation
of a picket line, I will endeavor to explain, so that it will be
plain to them how it was that I was alone. In front of an army,
when an enemy is in front of them, there will be a line of
sentinels posted, in some cases two or three miles in advance of
an army, and they will be known as the picket line. Each post
will be composed of two or three men about two or three hundred
yards apart. Then between each one of these picket posts there
will at night be stationed one man, who will be in advance of the
picket line about two hundred yards. This man is known as the
outer picket, or more commonly called the vidett. When on a
vidett post the man never challenges any one, but shoots without
challenging. This was the kind of post I was on during the
night of June 2ist, and instead of the officer waiting for me to
return to the picket line, he called the men together and marched
to camp, while I was left alone.
After considerable tramping around I managed to get to where
the regiment had been encamped during the night, but found that
they had left to resume the march early in the morning, while I
was left alone without any food, and did not know which way to
go to find my regiment. After considerable thinking and look-
ing around, trying to get my bearings as it were, I started, as I
thought in the direction of Thoroughfare Gap, and as events
proved I was not wrong. After marching a considerable length
of time I came upon a member of the Sixty-sixth New York,
who was sitting on a rock by the side of the road singing ''Home,
Sweet Home." From him I learned the direction the army had
IN MARYLAND. ^ cy
gone, so we concluded to march on together. Towards night I
found my regiment encamped at Gainsville, where we spent the
23rd and 24th of June, 1863, guarding the railroad. It was at
this place that the brigade was entirely cut off from the rest of
the corps by Stuart's cavalry, and several messages from Gen-
eral Hancock to General Zook were intercepted. From Gaines-
ville the march was to Thoroughfare Gap and thence northeast
to Edwards Ferry, where we crossed the Potomac on the 23rd.
The boys waded the stream, singing "My Maryland, My Mary-
land." It was a pretty sight to see the lines of troops descend
into the river and climb the opposite bank. Neither did they
regret the wetting, as the weather was hot and their clothes were
soon dry again. From Edward's Ferry on the 27th the route
\tas to Barnesville, and the next day to Monocracy Junction.
Here we were sent forward to guard the Monocacy bridge
against cavalry scouts, of which the countrv was now full. It
was here we learned that General Hooker had been relieved
from command of the army, to be superseded by General George
R. Meade. General Meade had done good service with the First
corps as a division commander, and was now at the head of the
It was dangerous to change commanders on the eve of a
battle, as President Lincoln once said ''never swap horses while
crossing a stream." But the authorities at Washington seemed
unwilling to trust General Hooker with the enemy so near the
Capitol. The immediate cause of his resignation was a differ-
ence between him and General Halleck regarding tactical mat-
On the night of the 28th I was sent out on the main road to
do picket duty with orders to allow no one to pass without the
countersign, which on this night was "Scott." The night was
very dark; it was impossible to see fifteen feet away. After
jc8 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
being on duty about an hour or so, I heard the tramp of a horse,
and as they came nearer I heard the jingle of a saber, and when
the horse and rider came in hailing distance as I thought, I hailed
him with the cry of *'Who goes there", and he answered "a
friend without the countersign" and asked at the same time
what troops we were. I answered by saying the Second army
corps of the Union army, and he replied, "I want to pass as I
have important news for General Hancock." I called the
sergeant of the guard and a file of men, who escorted him to
General Hancock's headquarters. And as it proved, he did in-
deed bring important news, as we were at once ordered on a
forced march. The news that he brought was, as we afterwards
learned, that General Lee with his army was in Chambersburg,
CHANGE OF THE FEDERAL COMMANDERS. 159
From Monocacy Bridge to Taneytown. — Hooker Relieved of the Com
mand. — Meade Appointed to Command Army of the Potomac. —
General Orders to Corps Commanders, Incidents, etc.
On this day, June 29th, 1863, important events transpired.
General Hooker who had exhibited such consummate skill in
handling his army, was succeeded in command by General
George G. Mead. The circumstances which led to this change
were as follows : On Friday, the 26th of June, 1863, General
French was placed in command of the garrison at Harper's
Ferry, supposed to be ten or eleven thousand strong, and strongly
posted upon Maryland Heights. On the same day that General
French assumed command General Hooker sent the Twelfth
Corps under General Slocum as far as the mouth of the
Monocacy, with the view that the two corps should operate
upon "the enemy's line of communications by following up
his rear, capturing his couriers and trains and intercepting
him in case of his defeat. General Hooker therefore
inquired of the authorities at Washington by telegraph as
follow^s : "Is there any reasons why Maryland Heights should
not be abandoned after the public stores and other property be
removed ?" This dispatch was forwarded at half past ten o'clock
on Saturday, June 27th, 1863, and brought the following reply
from General Halleck: ''Maryland Heights have always been
regarded as an important point to be held by us and much ex-
-j-5o UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
pense and labor has been incurred in fortifying them. I cannot
approve of their being abandoned except in case of absolute
necessity." In response to this inquiry General Hooker at once
sent the following reply:
I have received your telegram in regard to Harper's Ferry. I find
ten thousand men here in condition to take the field. Here they are of
no earthly account — they cannot defend a ford of the river, and so far
as Harper's Ferry is concerned there is nothing of it. As for the forti-
fications, they are the work of the troops. They will remain v/hen the
troops are withdrawn. No enemy will ever take possession of them.
This is my opinion. All the public property could have been secured
tonight and the troops marched to where they could have been of some
service. Now they are but a bait for the enemy, should he return. I
beg that this may be presented to the Secretary of War and his ex-
cellency the President.
Before General Hooker had time to receive a reply to this
last communication, he sent the following additional one:
SANDY HOOK, June 27, 1863.
Major-General H. W. Halleck, General-in-Ohief, Washington, D. C.
My original instructions require me to cover Harper's Ferry and
Washington. I have now imposed upon me an enemy in my front of
more than my army numbers. I beg to be understood respectfully but
firmly that I am unable to comply with this condition with the means
at my command, and earnestly request that I may at once be relieved
from the position I occupy.
General Halleck had never regarded General Hooker with
much favor, and the relations between them were not at all
friendly and cordial. He therefore very naturally improved
his opportunity to get rid of one whom he did not regard as a
suitable person for the command of the army, and using his
HOOKER LEAVES THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC. ^5^
influence with President Lincoln, as his military adviser, in-
duced him to accept General Hooker's resignation and place
General Meade, who was in command of the Fifth Corps, in
the chief command. In accordance with this arrangement at
two o'clock on the morning of the day following the interchange
of messages between General Hooker and General Halleck. On
Sunday, June 28th, 1863, Colonel Hardie of the War Depart-
ment reached Frederick with the official orders making these
changes. General Hooker upon receiving the official accept-
ance of his resignation, issued the following characteristic order r
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
FREDERICK, MD., June 28, 1863.
In conformity with the orders of the War Department, dated June
27, 1863, I hereby relinquish command of the Army of the Potomac. It
is transferred to Major-General George G. Meade, a brave and accom-
plished officer, who has nobly earned the confidence and esteem of the
army on many a well-fought field. Impressed with the belief that my
usefulness as the Commander of the Army of the Potomac is impaired,
I part from it, yet not without the deepest emotions. The sorrow of
parting with the comrades of so many battles is relieved by the con-
viction that the courage and devotion of this army will never cease nor
fail; that it will yield to my successor as it has to me a willing and
hearty support, with the earnest prayer that the triumphs of this army
may bring success worthy of it and the nation, I bid it farewell.
General Hooker took leave of the principal officers of the
army on the afternoon of the day he relinquished command.
They were drawn up in line and he passed along shaking hands
with each and laboring in vain to stifle his emotions, the tears
rolled down his cheeks. The officers were also deeply affected.
The scene was similar to the final separation between Wash-
ington and his officers at the close of the War of the Revolu-
J 52 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
tion. General Hooker at once set out for Baltimore, according
to his instructions, and waited there three days for further
orders from the Adjutant General's office, but as none came,
he went over to Washington, where he was forthwith arrested
by General Halleck for visiting the Capitol without leave ancl
in violation of the rule which forbade officers to do so. General
Hooker was undoubtedly right in the course he wished to pur-
sue, and the general voice of history will sustain him in it. He
may have acted hastily in tendering his resignation, but what-^
ever faults he may have had, his high position, the distinguished
service he had rendered, the masterly manner in which he
handled his army, and the hold he had in the confidence and
love of that army upon which the destiny of the government
hung, should have secured to him better treatment. It was not
the first time that patriotism and devotion to duty have been
sacrificed to official jealousy and personal spite. The order
placing General Meade in command of the army was a com-
plete surprise to him. He had never sought promotion, and
was as modest as he was brave. He had entered the war as a
Brigadier in the Pennsylvania reserves, and commanded a divis-
ion at Antietam, and at Fredericksburgh, and the Fifth Corps
at Chancellorsville. He was loved and respected by his own
soldiers, because he was always ready to endure hardships with
them; plain in dress and speech and familiar in conversation, he
was accessible to all. He enjoyed in a high degree, especially
after the battle of Fredericksburg, the confidence of President
Lincoln. General Meade was not elated by his promotion, but
on the contrary was evidently deeply impressed with a sense
of the great responsibility which rested upon him; the destiny
of the Republic was in his hands — one false step and the Union
would be lost — and yet he did not shrink from taking the posit-
ion which unsought and unexpected had been assigned him, and
GENERAL MEADE ASSUMES COMMAND. 1 61
he announced to the army his acceptance of the command in
the following modest and appropriate words :
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
June 28, 1863.
By direction of the President of United States I hereby assume
command of the Army of the Potomac. As a soldier in obeying this
order, an order totally unexpected and unsolicited, I have no promises
or pledges to make. The country looks to this army to relieve it from
the devastation and disgrace of hostile invasion. Wliatever fatigues
and sacrifice we may be called upon to undergo, let us have in view
constantly the magnitude of the interests involved, and let each man
determine to do his duty, leaving to an all-controlling Providence the
decision of the contest. It is with just diffidence that I relieve in com-
mand of this army an eminent and accomplished soldier whose namo
must ever appear conspicuous in the history of its achievements, and T
rely upon the hearty support of my companions in arms to assist me in
the discharge of the duties of the important trust which has been con-
fided to me.
GEORGE G. MEADE,
Such change of commanders of a great army upon the eve
of battle in which the destiny not only of the nation but of Re-
publican institutions was at stake, was a fearful experiment. It
reflects great harm upon the patriotism of the men composing
that army that demoralization to some extent did not result,
but they cheerfully accepted the fact of the change and pressed
on to meet their foe without as much as an hour's delay. Can
history produce anything like it?
General Meade as soon as he entered upon the command,
sought an interview with General Hooker, and used every eifYort
to obtain of him information concerning the strength and posi-
tion of the different corps of the army and the movements of
the enemy. In his testimony before the committee on the con-
duct of the war, he said: *'My predecessor. General Hooker,
J 54 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
left the camp in very few hours after I reHeved him. I received
from him no intimation of any plan or any views that he may
have had up to that moment, and I am not aware that he had
any, but was waiting for the occasion togovern him, just as I
had to do subsequently."
Thrown entirely upon his resources, General Meade sum-
moned his trusted friend General Reynolds to his side, and the
two together agreed upon a plan which ended in the victory at
Gettysburg. It should be stated here that w^hat was denied
General Hooker was granted to General Meade, and he was
given the option to do as he pleased with men at Harper's Ferry.
He, how^ever, either did not approve of Hooker's project to send
these men in conjunction with the Twelfth Corps to operate
upon Lee's line of communication, or else he supposed the time
for that movement had passed, and he could use these men to
better advantage elsewhere. He accordingly ordered General
Slocum to rejoin the main army, and the bulk of the garrison
at Harper's Ferry, under General French, was directed to take
a post as a reserve at Fredericksburg when our forces moved
forward. General Cauch, estimated at twenty thousand men at
Harrisburg, was also placed under his orders. Among the first
official acts of General Meade after assuming command of the
army, was to ask the assent of the government at Washington
to the appointment of General Kilpatrick to the division of
cavalry under General Stahl and the promotion of Custer, Mer-
ritt and Farnsworth, the three young captains, to the command
of brigades in that division. The request was at once granted,
and the subsequent career of the men attested the wisdom of
Shortly after the dispatch from Washington was received
granting this request of General Meade, a second message came
over the wire announcing that Stuart with his cavalry was
COMMUNICATION WITH WASHINGTON CUT. ^^r
making a raid near the Capitol, and in a short time thereafter
the wire was cut and telegraphic communication for a time
ceased. Stuart after crossing the Potomac on the day previous
pased close to Washington and Baltimore, creating considerable
excitement in these cities. At Rockville he came upon a large
wagon train filled with supplies on its way from Washington
to the army at Frederick. This train with its escort he cap-
tured and took with him to Gettysburg, handing it over there
to the Confederate quartermaster. Colonel Walter Taylor, of
General Lee's staff, in a contribution to the Southern historical
papers, says that the capturing of this train was unfortunate
for Stuart, for in capturing and bringing it away he was con-
siderably delayed. After the capturing of this train, Stuart kept
on hi's way, in a northerly direction, through Brookville, travel-
ling all night. On Monday, the twenty-ninth, as the army was
now approaching that important pass in the mountains called
Newman's Gap, where the turn ike leading through (jett\sburg
to Baltimore crosses, and where if at all south of the Susque-
hanna, General Lee would concentrate for battle. It became
all important to have it well in hand and some well-defined plan
laid out, the following was therefore agreed upon. A strong
cavalry force was to be thrown out to the left to cover Monterey
Pass and thus protect the flank and rear from an attack from
that quarter, and to the right to look after Stuart, who was
moving around in that direction. The Seventh Corps of Infan-
try were to radiate from Frederick upon seven different roads,
which while diverging from that place all tended northward
and converged at Gettysburg. This plan will be best under-
stood by imagining a vast pan with the base of its handle resting
upon Frederick, the point of divergence and the seven different
corps like the stick of a fan radiating therefrom. This immense
force could be pushed northward to the Susquehanna or swung
J 55 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
around to interpose between the enemy and Philadelphia, in
case he should go in that direction, or be concentrated at Gettys-
burg or any other point if necessary. In accordance with the
general plan already stated, the First and Second Brigades of
Buford's Cavalry commanded respectfully by Gamble and Devin,
left Middletown and crossed through Turner's Pass to Boons-
borough, west of the South Mountain. Finding no enemy in
that vicinity, they turned and marched north and passed through
Covetown to Monterey Springs, recrossing the mountain there
and encamping over night near Fairfield. This reconnaissance
developed the fact that the enemy were all farther down the
valley, and that no danger was to be feared from that direction
ei'ther from the left flank or rear.
Merritt's brigade of the same division proceeded from Mid-
dletown to Mechanicstown. Gregg's division marched from
New Market and Ridgeville to Westminster, and Kilpatrick's
division, formerly Stahl's, went from Frederick to Lettlestown.
Stuart after riding all the previous night, reached at the dawn
of day the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Sykesville. The
bridge at this place was burned and the track about Hood's Mill
was torn up. Resting here during the fore part of the day, the
command sometime in the afternoon resumed its march and
reached Westminster about five o'clock P'. M. At this place a
spirited engagement took place between this force and the First
Delaware Cavalry, which was at length driven off and pursued
some distance toward Baltimore, adding much to the panic there.
Gregg's division of the Federal cavalry, which was marching
in that direction, to intercept Stuart was delayed by the infantry
and trains, and did not reach Westminster until some hours
after Stuart had passed. At night the head of Stuart's column
rested at Union Mills, half way between Westminster and Littles-
town. The movements this day were as follows : The army
MOVEMENTS OF TROOPS. j5y
headquarters were moved from Frederick City to Taneystown,
and the artillery reserve from the first named place to Bruce-
ville. The First and Eleventh Corps marched from Frederick
to Emmittsburg, the last named by a road parallel to the Em-
mittsburg road leading through Cregerstown, the Third and
Twelfth Corps moved on parallel roads to Taneytown and Bruce-
ville where they encamped. The Second Corps from Monocacy
Junction via. Liberty and Johnsonville, to Union Town, still
further east. The Fifth Corps from Ballinger's Creek via.
Frederick and Mount Pleasant to Liberty, and the Sixth Corps
following Gregg's cavalry went from Hyattstown via. New
Market and Ridgeville to New Windsor. The outer line of the
great fan, it will thus be seen, that the line extended from Em-
mittsburg on the left to New Windsor on the right. The First
Corps, under General Reynolds, forming the left of the army,
and the Sixth Corps, under General Sedgwick, its right. This
was the position of the army of the Potomac on the evening of
Monday, June the 29th. The night before the concentration of
Lee's forces began in the direction of Gettysburg, Tuesday, June
the 30th, the First Corps started from Emmittsburg for Gettys-
burg, but hearing that the enemy were reported to be upon the
Fairfield road. General Reynolds halted at Marsh Creek. The
Third Corps marched from Taneytown in the direction of Em-
mittsburg, and encamped at Bridgeport. The Twelfth Corps
marched from the same place and rested over night at Littles-
town. The Fifth Corps from Liberty via. Johnsville Union
Bridge, and Union to Union Mills, and the Sixth went from
New Windsor to Manchester, and Kilpatrick's division, the
artillery reserve, moved from Brachville to Taneytown. Gregg's
cavalry division left Westminster and proceeded to Manchester;
went from Littlestown to Hanover to intercept Stuart. Stuart,
who had bivouacked over night at Union Mills, midway be-
J 58 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
tween Westminster and Littlestown, learning that Kilpatrick
was at the last named place waiting for him, attempted to avoid
an encounter by going through crossroads to Hanover, but Kil-
patrick, who was aware of this change, anticipated him and
reached that place first. When Stuart arrived at about ten
o'clock in the forenoon a desperate engagement which lasted
four hours ensued between Kilpatrick and the Confederate rear,
under General Wade Hampton. Both sides claim the victory
in this engagement. The Confederates were driven further
northward. When at Hanover, Stuart was but twelve miles
from Gettysburg and fourteen from York, ignorant of the con-
centration of the Confederate army at the first named place and
expecting to unite with Early ai York, as he sa\s G neral
Lee directed, and unaware that Early was then en route from
that place to Gettysburg, he pressed on further northward, cross-
ing the tracks both of White's battalions of cavalry and Early's
whole division, and yet failed to ascertain the departure of
these troops or the course they had taken. Had he known of
Early's departure from York and the direction he had taken, he
could have effected a junction with him before sundown, some-
where about East Berlin, or had he fallen in with White's bat-
talion, which on that day had gone by the York pike toward
Gettysburg, he could have joined it and reach the Confederate
advance at Marsh Creek that same night, but he was ignorant
of the movements of these two commands, and they were equally
ignorant of his approach, for no notice such as it is alleged
General Lee had promised to send Early had reached him. Had
Early known that Stuart had taken the circuitous route around
the Federal army, he might have been on the lookout for him,
but he was also ignorant of this. Indeed at one time on that
day, Stuart was within seven miles of Early's infantry, the latter
actually hearing his guns, and yet they were mutually ignorant
STUART'S ADVANCE. j5q
of each other's proximity. Surely the people who resided in
that neighborhood must have been very loyal to their govern-
ment, and know how to keep their own counsels, or Stuart failed
to interrogate them.
At a late hour this day Stuart learned that Early had left
York, but was misinformed as to the direction taken. He was
told that he had gone in the direction of Shippensburg. Misled
by this report he abandoned his design upon York and turned
the head of his column in the direction he supposed Early
had gone, encamping over night somewhere west of York, he
resumed his march next morning and passing through Chiles-
burg and Churchtown, reached Carlisle in the evening. Here
he was surprised to hear that Rodes had marched in the direc-
tion of Gettysburg and the town was in possession of Pennsyl-
vania and New York militia men under General Smith, who
had advanced that day from Harrisburg. After demanding the
surrender of the town and throwing a few shells into it, and
burning the United States barracks, situated outside of the
place, he hastily left and hurriedly made his way to Gettysburg,
which he reached in the evening of the ensuing day. And this
was the bold rider who was to harass and impede the patriot
army, in case it should attempt to cross the Potomac, in pursuit
of the invaders of its soil, and the would-be destroyers of its
government. The cavalry brigades of Gamble and Devin, under
the command of General Buford, which had rested over night
near Fairfield, after their reconnoissance west of the mountain,
on the previous day, marched by the way of Emmittsburg to
Gettysburg, and proceeding westwardly on the pike leading to
Chambersburg, encamped over night about one mile and a half
from the town. Aware of the fact that indications pointed to
a probable collision with the Confederate Army in a short time,
General Meade soon after assuming command of the army,
jyQ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
directed General Reynolds to proceed to Gettysburg, and report
to him the character of the ground there, at the same time
ordering General Humphreys to examine the ground in the
vicinity of Emmittsburg.
These precautions were taken not with the purpose to Halt
the army there, and wait for an attack, but to be prepared for
any emergency which might arise. The army in the meantime
was still pressing forward.
On the night of Tuesday, June the 30th, information reached
headquarters that General Lee was concentrating his army east
of the mountain in the vicinity of Gettysburg, and General
Meade ignorant of the nature of the ground in front of him,
at once instructed his engineers to select some ground (having
a general reference to the existing position of the army) which
he might occupy by rapid movement of concentration and thus
give battle on his own terms, in case the enemy should advance
across the South Mountain. The general line of Pipe Creek
was selected, and a preliminary order of instructions issued to
the corps commanders, informing them of the fact, and ex-
plaining how they might move their corps and concentrate in a
good position along the line. These were but ordinary precau-
tions which any commander who had any reasonable sense of
the responsibilities of his position would have taken. And yet
they have been made the grounds of an accusation that General
Meade contemplated a retreat from Gettysburg: to the position
selected at Pipe Creek. This accusation does great injustice to
General Meade, from the fact that he was not unduly com-
mitted to that line, nor unwilling to meet the enemy elsewhere,
is proven by General Humphreys, who says that in the instruc-
tions issued to the corps commanders, relating to the line of
Pipe Creek, it was expressly declared that developments may
cause the commanding general to assume the offensive from his
FEDERAL, ARMY PREPARING TO CONCENTRATE. xyj
present position. A very few hours after these instructions were
issued, circumstances did arise that caused a change. General
Meade himself says: "It was my firm determination never for
an instant deviated from to give battle wherever and as soon
as I could find the enemy."
J ^2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
PYom Taneytown to Gettysburg and the First Day's Fight, With
Simultaneously with the issuing of the instructions to the
coq)s commanders regarding Pipe Creek General Meade circu-
lated the following timely order :
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
June 30, 1863.
The commanding general requests that previous to the engagement
soon expected with the enemy, corps and all other commanding oflScers
will address their troops, explaining to ithem briefly the immense issues
involved in the struggle. The enemy are on our soil. The whole
country now looks anxiously to this army to deliver it from the presence
of the foe. Our failure to do so will leave us no such welcome as the
swelling millions of hearts with pride and joy at our success would give
to every soldier of this army. Firesides and domestic altars are in-
volved. The army has fought well. Hereafter it is believed that it will
fight more desperately and bravely than ever if it is addressed in fitting
terms. Corps and other commanders are authorized to order the instant
death of any soldier who fails in his duty this hour. By command of
S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General.
As we are now upon the eve of battle, the two great armies
having been brought almost face to face, it will be well to re-
capitulate the positions occupied by the Confederate army on?
the night of Tuesday, June 30th. The divisions of Heth and
THE TWO ARMIES ON EVE OF BATTLE. ^^^
Pending of hill corps were at March Creek four miles west of
Gettysburg on the Chambersburg road ; and Anderson's division
of the same corps was four miles further west on the same road
at Cashtown. The divisions of Welcome and Good of Long-
street's corps were about Fayetteville and Greenwood, sixteen
miles from Gettysburg on the Chambersburg pike. Pickett's
division of the same corps was in the neighborhood of Cham-
bersburg. Early and Rodes of Ew ell's corps were at Heidlers-
burg, ten miles north of Gettysburg, and Johnson's division of
this corps was at Greenwood. Jenkin's cavalry was below
Carlisle. The brigades of ones and Robertson wercabou; Ship-
pensburg, Imboden, Mercer burg and btuart somewhere north-
west of York.
Position occupied by the Federal army on th enight of Tues-
day, June 30th. The First Corps under General Reynolds was at
Marsh Creek, between Emmittsburg and Gettysburg, and four
miles from the last named place. The Eleventh Corps, General
Howard, was at Ejnmittsburg, ten miles from Gettysburg. The
Third Corps, General Sickels, was at Bridgeport, twelve miles
from Gettysburg. The Twelfth Corps, General Slocum, was at
Littlestown, ten miles, the Second Corps, General Hancock, was
at Uniontown, twenty miles ; the Fifth Corps, General Sykes,
was at Union Mills, sixteen miles, and the Sixth Corps, General
Sedgwick, was at Manchester, twenty-seven miles. Gregg's
cavalry division was at Manchester, Kilpatrick at Hanover, and
the brigades of Gamble and Devin, of Buford's division, were
about one mile and a half west of Gettysburg on the Chambers-
burg road. This vast fan was now about to be closed and as
the Confederate army in its concentration was wrung to the
right and closed upon its right support, the Federal army was
to be swung to the left and close upon its left. The point of con-
tact between the two great opposing forces was Gettysburg, and
jy. UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
the parts which would first come in contact were Reynolds upon
Federal left and Heth upon the Confederate right. The reader
will do well to watch in the coming details the times and places
where the various parts of these two great hosts come into
The first day of the battle at Gettysburg, Wednesday,
July 1st, 1863.
In the morning of Wednesday, July ist, 1863, both divisions,
one of hill corps advanced from Marsh Creek upon Gettysburg,
General Buford, as stated in the previous chapter, held the ridges
west of the town with the cavalry brigades of Generals Gamble
and Devin. About half past nine o'clock these men appeared in
front of Buford's Videttes and skirmishing commenced on the
farm of Hon, Edward McPherson, and thus the series of battles
of Gettysburg began. The object of this advance by General
Heth is thus stated by Colonel W. H. Taylor, General Lee's
adjutant general. General Lee had instructed General Heth to
ascertain what force wasi at Gettysburg, and if he found infan-
try opposed to him, to report the fact immediately without forc-
ing an engagement. General Buford was aware of the presence
of the enemy in his front and had prepared for them by dis-
mounting a large part of his force and placing them in line.
His batteries also had been placed at commanding points. As
soon as General Heth found himself in the presence of Buford's
dismounted cavalry, he formed his men in line of battle, with
Archer's and Davis' brigades in front and Pettigrew's and
Brockenborough's brigades in the rear. Unaware that any Fed-
eral infantry were near, Heth sent word to General Hill at Cash-
town that the advance of his division had encountered the
enemy's cavalry near Gettysburg. At an early hour in the morn-
HILL CORPS ADVANCED. j^c
ing General Reynolds received a dispatch from General Buford
informing him of the proximity of the Confederates. Upon re-
ceiving the dispatch General Reynolds at once set out to his
assistance with the nearest division, that of General Wadsworth,
leaving General Doubleday, his second in command, to draw in
the pickets, assemble the artillery and the remainder of the corps
and follow after as soon as possible. He also dispatched a cour-
ier to General Howard at Emmittsburg, ordering him to advance
to the front as rapidly as possible. This order reached General
Howard at eight o'clock, and he at once put his corps in motion,
Barlow's division taking the most direct route, and the divisions
of Generals Schurz and Steinwehr proceeding by way of Har-
ner's Mill, a distance of thirteen miles. Having thus put his
corps in motion. General Howard, accompanied by his staff,
pushed forward in advance to the scene of strife. At about ten
o'clock General Reynolds dashed into Gettysburg in advance of
his troops, and pushing on out by the Chambersburg road to
Seminary Hill, took a survey of the situation, and seeing that
the enemy was there in force and that Buford's dismounted
cavalrymen were being badly pressed, he rode rapidly back again
into the. town and out the Emmittsburg road, for about a mile,
and there met the head of his column which he turned directly
across the fields toward the seminary. The men hurriedly
formed in line under cover of the ridge, w^hen the right moved
to the north side of the Chambersburg pike, and across the bed
of the abandoned railroad, and the left advanced to the west of
the ridge near the seminary.
From the time that the conflict opened until the arrival of
Wadsworth's division, Buford's men, though hotly pressed, re-
sisted the approaches of the enemy most stubbornly, and by
taking advantage of every favorable point, to protract the strug-
gle, succeeded in holding on until the expected assistance at
jy5 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
length came up, but while the formation of the Hne was in pro-
gress, the heroic Reynolds seeing the pressure which was made
upon Buford's slender lines, led Cutler's brigade forward for
their relief. Hall's Second Maine Battery was posted in the
road, and the Fourteenth of Brooklyn, New York, and the Ninety
Fifth New York were advanced a short distance on the left.
General Wadsworth was also directed to place the three re-
maining regiments of his brigade, the One Hundred and Forty-
Seventh New York, the Seventy-Sixth New York and the Fifty-
Sixth Pennsylvania on the right of the road. When this forma-
tion was completed, the cavalry brigade under Gamble, which
had been most heavily engaged withdrew and formed a column
on the left of the infantry. Between the Fairfield and Cham-
bersburg roads was a piece of woods which both parties were
contending for. Archer's brigade, preceded by a line of skir-
mishers, was crossing Willoughby Run to enter these woods on
one side as the Iron brigade was going in on the other. General
Reynolds, anxious as to the result, rode forward a short dis-
tance to reconnoiter, and raising his field glass to his eyes he
sought to take in the full situation, when a ball from a sharp-
shooter musket struck him on the back of his head, coming out
near the eye, and he fell dead. Chief in the full flush of life
and health, vigorously leading on the troop in hand and ener-
getically summoning up the rest of his command, watching and
even leading the attack of a comparatively small body, a glorious
picture of best type of military leader, superbly mounted, and
horse and man sharing in the excitement of the battle, Reynolds
was of course a shining mark to the enemy's sharpshooters. He
had taken his troop into a heavy growth of timber on the slope
of a hillside and under the regimental and brigade commanders
the men did their work well and promptly. Returning to the
expected division he was struck by a minnie ball, fired by a sharp-
GENERAL REYNOLDS KILLED. jyy
shooter hidden in the branches of a tree almost overhead and
killed at once. His horse bore him to the little clump of trees,
where a cairn of stones and a rude mark on the bark, almost
overgrown, still tell the fatal spot.
With the fall of General Reynolds the command devolved
upon Major General Abner Doubleday, who had, after execut-
ing Reynolds' order and setting the remaining two divisions of
the corps in motion, pushed on ahead to the field of battle.
General Doubleday at once set to work to meet the advancing
enemy and for another hour the work of destruction went on
until the Federal line fell back to Seminary Ridge. As Wards-
worth fell back with his left and Archer pressed fonvard on his
heels, the right of the division was swung around in the rear of
the pursuers, enveloping the Confederate advance and making
prisoners of Archer and several hundred of his men.
At length shortly after eleven o'clock the two remaining divis-
ions of Reynolds came upon the field, together with Cooper's,
Stuart's, Reynolds' and Stevens' batteries. General Doubleday's
own division, then commanded by General Rowley, was at once
taken to the front and placed in position. The division of Gen-
eral Robinson was placed in reserve at the seminary. Pander's
Confederate division had also by this time come up from Marsh
Creek and was formed in the rear of fight. The Confederate bat-
teries too were posted on the ridge west of Willoughby Run, as
well as upon even other commanding position, the fire from
which swept the field in every direction and proved destructive.
At half past eleven o'clock A. M., General Howard, in advance
of his troops, came upon the field, and ignr rant of the dec th of
Reynolds, sent messengers in search of him and asking for in-
structions. While waiting the return of his aids he went to the
top of the college, which is situated about half a mile little north
of east of the theological seminary, to reconnoiter the surround-
j^g UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
ing country. His aide, Major Biddle, soon came back and re-
ported the sad intelligence of the fall of Reynolds and that com-
mand now devolved upon himself. He at once assumed com-
mand, turning over his corps to General Carl Schurz. It is
claimed that while upon the top of the college General Howard
saw the advantages of Cemetery Hill, and at once gave orders
to halt Steinwehr's division of his corps there, and form a strong
line supported by artillery, as a rallying place in case of defeat
upon the position they then occupied. For this act he received
the thanks of Congress. The claim made for General Howard
that he was the first of the Union generals to perceive the ad-
vantages of Cemetery Hill, is disputed by some who give this
credit to General Reynolds. (Reynolds' claim rests on the fol-
lowing statement made by General Doubleday) : General Buford
gave way slowly, taking advantage of every inch of ground
to protract the struggle. After an hour's fighting he felt anx-
ious, and went up into the steeple of the theological seminary,
from which a wide view could be obtained, to see if the First
Corps was in sight. One division of it was close at hand and
soon Reynolds, who had preceded it, climbed up into the belfry
to confer with him and examine the country around. Although
there is no positive testimony to this effect, therefore the credit,
if any, must remain with General Howard.
General Howard at once saw that the First Corps was con-
tending against large odds, and sent back for the Eleventh Corps
to come forward quickly. He also sent a dispatch to General
Meade who was then at Taney town, thirteen miles distant, in-
forming him of the death of General Reynolds, and of the large
Confederate force present, and the probabilities that Lee was
concentrating his whole army at that point, as well as the favor-
able position there for a battle. Dispatches were also sent to
General Slocum, who with the Twelfth Corps had left Littles-
CAPTURE OF GENERAL ARCHER. jyo
town early in the morning, and was then resting at Two Tav-
erns, five miles south of Gettysburg, and to General Sickels,
who had marched from Bridgeport to Emmittsburg with the
Third Corps, informing them of the perilous position of the
First and Eleventh Corps, and urgently calling upon them to
hasten to their assistance. Owing to the direction of the wind,
the sound of the guns did not reach Taneytown, and General
Meade was not aware that a portion of his army had met the
enemy, and that General Reynolds had fallen, until one o'clock
P. M., when Howard's courier arrived. Upon the reception of
this dispatch he sent General Hancock to the front with orders
to assume command of all the troops and to report to him con-
cerning the nature of the ground there and the practicability of
fighting a successful battle at that place. General Meade has
been blamed for sending General Hancock to supersede officers
who were his superiors in rank. His justification for doing this is
as follows: Congress had passed an act authorizing the Presi-
dent to put any general over any other superior in rank if in his
judgment the good of the service demanded it, and General
Meade then assumed this power in the name of the President,
believing that the exigencies of the situation required it. That
there was not the best of feeling existing between some of the
general officers then at the front is painfully evident in some of
their actions and writing. General Buford was doubtless aware
of this when he penned the following dispatch to General Meade :
HEADQUARTERS FIRST CAVALRY DIVISION,
July 1, 1863, 3:20 P. M.
General Reynolds was killed early this morning. In my opinion
there seems to be no directing person.
General Slocum declined without orders from Meade to go
to the assistance of the First and Eleventh Corps. He was
-J- go UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
concentrating his whole! army at that point, as well as the favor-
aware of the commanding general's circular fixing upon Pipe
Creek for the field of battle and he probably thought it unwise
to bring on a general engagement elsewhere. Not so, however,
with Sickles. He too had received Meade's circular and w^hen
at two o'clock P. M., Howard's dispatch calling for assistance
was received, he was for a time perplexed. From indications on
the day previous it was feared that the enemy would attempt to
flank the Union line by its left by way of Fairfield and Emmitts-
burg, and he was under orders from the commander-in-chief
to hold the latter place at all hazards. Through General Tre-
maine, one of his aides, he had received but a short time before
a suggestion from Reynolds that he had better come to the
front, but no positive order to that effect, and now when How-
ard's dispatch w^as received he at once determined to hasten to
the rescue, and leaving two brigades and a battery to hold Em-
mittsburg, he put the balance of his corps in motion for Gettys-
burg, arriving there just as the broken and shattered survivors
of the First and Eleventh Corps were taking their new position
upon Cemetery and Culp Hills. A letter was also sent to Gen-
eral Meade, informing him of what he had done and asking his
approval of it, which approval was subsequently given.
We turn again to the field of strife to note what was trans-
piring there. Nearly two hours of desperate fighting had taken
place since the two divisions of Reynolds' Corps had reached
the field in aid of the First. During this time hundreds were
slain and many more wounded, but the patriot troops were hold-
ing their own. At length at one o'clock P. M. the head of the
Eleventh Corps reached Gettysburg, Schimmelpheming's divis-
ion led the way, followed by that of Schurz, now temporarily
commanded by Barlow, Schurz taking command of the corps
while Howard commanded the field. These two divisions were
HOWARD ASSU-.IES COMMAND. -^3^.
directed to prolong the line of the First Corps along Seminary
Ridge. The remaining division, under Steinwehr, with the re-
serve artillery, under Major Osborne, were ordered to occupy
Cemetery Hiil, in the rear or south of Gettysburg, as a reserve.
While these newly arrived troops were taking the positions
assigned them Buford's scouts reported the approach of a large
Confederate force from the north, directly upon the right of the
Federal line. It will be remembered that Rode's division from
Carlisle and Early from York, had reached Heidlersburg, ten
miles north of Gettysburg, the previous evening. These were
the troops approaching. Lee's orders to Ewell were to recall
these two divisions and have them concentrated about Cash-
town. In accordance with this order they left their encamp-
ment at Heidlersburg about ten o'clock A. M., Early proceeding
upon one road and Rodes by the one diverging to the right and
leading by Middletown to Cashtown. While en route to that
place the sound of cannonading in the direction of icttvsbuig
was heard, and at Middletown, seven miles northwest of the
first named place, General Ewell, who was travelling with Rodes,
hearing that Hill's troops were marching towards Gettysburg,
in the exercise of discretion which is sometimes allowable, turned
the head of his columns in the same direction. The increasing
sound of the guns as he approached the town convinced him that
the Federals were there in force and caused him to make imme-
diate preparations for the battle.
At half past one P. M. a battery belongin.g^ to Rodes' division
reached Oak Hill, an eminence about one mile northeast of the
Seminary, and having established a line, at once opened fire. At
the same time Rodes' infantry moved forward into line. They
were formed across Seminary Ridge facing south, with Iver-
son's brigade on the right, supported by Daniels' and O' Neil's
in the centre and Dole on the left. Ramseur was held in reserve.
J §2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
While these preparations were being hurriedly made by the Con-
federates, similar preparations were being made by the newly-
arrived divisions of the Eleventh Corps, the last of whom only
reached the field at forty-five minutes after one o'clock. Colonel
Taylor, of Lee's staff, in the same report previously referred to,
further says: "On reaching the scene of conflict, General Rodes
made his disposition to assail the force with which Hill's troops
were engaged, but no sooner were his lines formed, than he
perceived fresh troops of the enemy extending their right flank
and deploying in his immediate front. He was soon actively
engaged, and the contest became sharp and earnest. When it
was known that Rodes and Early were approaching the field,
General Howard sent another urgent request to General Slocum,
who with his magnificent corps w^as but five miles distant and
resting in the fields, to hasten to his assistance, and as these
powerful accessions to the Rebel force entered into the engage-
ment, messenger after messenger bore with tremendous speed
appeals for help, but it came not. At last when Howard saw
that the crisis was approaching, he sent his brother, Major
Charles Howard, a member of his stafT, to urge General Slocum
to come in person if he would not send his troops. To this last
appeal General Slocum replied that he declined to go to the
front, or take any responsibility, as he understood that General
Meade did not wish to bring on a general engagement.
General Slocum had before this proven himself to be a good
soldier and on the following two days did excellent service, as
well as subsequently to the close of the war. He doubtless felt
that he had sufficient reasons for his course that day, but history
will record his refusal to hasten to the relief of his imperilled
comrades as a grave error. His conduct was in marked contrast
to that of General Sickels. The same orders had been issued to
all. General Sickels had received Meade's circular indicating
SELECTION CEMETERY HILL. jg^
Pipe Creek as the ground chosen for battle, and was at Emmitts-
burg on his way to Middleburgh to take the position assigned
him in the intended Hne, when he received at that place Howard's
dispatch stating the situation at the front, and urgently calling
upon him for assistance. Had he, like Slocum, adhered to the
letter of his instructions, which were only given to provide for
a possible contingency, he too would have paid no attention to
the call of his imperilled comrades, but his heroic soul responded
to the appeal and he at once set his columns in motion. After
the arrival of Rodes and the formation of his troops confronting
those of the Eleventh Corps, which had reached the field but a
short time before, the battle raged with varied results for over
an hour, when at three o'clock P. M., Early came in upon Rodes'
left and struck the Union right.
Almost simultaneously with this Pender's division of Hill
Corps, which had been in reserve, came in upon the extreme left
of the line, and both flanks being turned, retreated, as capture
became inevitable. Rodes, observing the effect of Early's attack,
ordered his line forward, and the Union Hues were broken. The
right, which was considerably wearied by their hurried march
from Emmittsburg and had borne the fierce onslaught too of
Rodes' and Early's division, w^as the first to yield. It fell back
steadily and in tolerable order, covered to some extent by Bu-
ford's cavalry, until the town was reached, when it was thrown
into inextricable confusion, as the men became intermingled in
various cross streets, during which several thousand of them
In the meantime the sturdy left wing, which had stood like a
wall of adamant against the foe since morning, was also com-
pelled to fall back before Pender's tremendous onslaught. In
vain the heroic Doubleday and Robinson and Wadsworth at-
tempted to stay the tide. To remain longer under such a wither-
jg. UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
ing fire with their left overlapped by Pender a quarter of a mile,
was certain death or capture. The retreat of this part of the
force, however, was conducted in a more orderly manner than
the right, men firing and falling back and at length reaching
Cemetery Hill through the suburb of the town. Some idea of the
losses sustained by patriot forces that day may be inferred from
the fact that Wadsworth's division entered the fight with four
thousand men and came out of it with but sixteen hundred.
Rowley's division also suffered almost as severely and Stone re-
ported that two-thirds of his brigade had fallen. Severe and
terrible, however, as were the losses of the Union troops, the
Confederates suffered as severely in killed and wounded. In
prisoners taken the Federals lost most, chiefly in the number
taken in Gettysburg, among whom were thei'r wounded who had
been taken there from the field.
Deeds of heroism were displayed during the engagement of
this day that deserve everlasting remembrance. The following
only, related by Colonel Wallow, a Confederate officer and eye-
witness, can be given. The colonel says, a little to the left of
Hay's command a tattered Federal regiment faced to the right
and attempted to make a stand, but in a very few moments, over-
come by the hopelessnes if not the folly of their position, the
greater part turned and fled. Just at this moment a most gallant
young officer, riding bravely forward waving his hat and bran-
dishing his sword, cried out : "Don't run, men. Cowards run."
Some of our men cried out, ''Don't shoot that man; don't shoot
him." Several companies swung around with the intention of
capturing him and his li'ttle band of heroes, when a volley fired
from the right struck him, and he tumbled dead from his horse,
to fill up the long sad roll of the unknown. General Hays, who
was near at the time, expressed his deep regret when the gallant
hero fell. The broken and defeated but not demoralized patriots
GENERAL HANCOCK PLACED IN COMMAND. 3 §5
who liad been compelled to fall back before overwhelming num-
bers, at length reached the hill of refuge. South Gettysburg,
where by the prudent forethought of that Christian soldier,
General Howard, rallying place had been repared. Steinwehr's
division had been formed in double lines and artillery placed so
as to command every approach by the north, and as our wearied
men approached they were rallied and placed in position by
Howard, Steinwehr, Schurz and Hancock, who had now came
up, and as the pursuing Confederates pushed up through the
field to the northern slope of hill, Wendrick battery poured grape
and canister upon them, compelling them to halt. It was about
half past four P. M. when the defeated troops of the First and
Eleventh Corps reached Cemetery Hill, and about the same time
General Hancock arrived, wdio, in obedience to Meade's orders
directing him to proceed to Gettysburg and examine the position
chosen by Howard, and also to take command of all forces there,
had. hurried to the front and arrived at this most critical period.
General Hancock informed Howard of his instructions, and at
once set about rallying the men and placing them in position ro
meet any attack the enemy might make. General Hancock, after
a brief survey of the position chosen, was much pleased with it,
and reported to the commander-in-chief that it was admirably
adapted for fighting a defensive battle, but liable to be turned by
way of Emmittsburg, and that he w^ould halt.
Until he could arrive and judge for himself, a dispatch reached
General Meade at half past six P. M. Before it arrived, how-
ever, General Meade, satisfied from reports brought by officers
returning from the field that Lee was concentrating his whole
army there, issued orders to the Fifth and Twelfth Corps to
proceed to that place and w^hen Hancock's dispatch arrived he
sent out orders to all his corps commanders to move to Gettys-
J 35 UNDEIR FIVE COMMANDERS.
At seven o'clock General Slocum reached the field, and being
the senior officer, Hancock turned over the command to him.
and went back to see General Meade at Taneytown, to inform
him of the condition of affairs at the front. Reaching head-
quarters at nine P. M. he was informed by General Meade that
he had decided to fight at Gettysburg and had given orders
accordingly. At eleven P. M. both generals with the headquar-
ter's staff left Taneytown, and reached the front at one A. M. of
the second of July. During the brief time General Hancock was
upon the field he made the best disposition of the forces at his
command w^hich he possibly could. In Gulp Hill, a commanding
position, Wadsworth's division of the First Corps was at once
sent. Then to Round Top he at once sent Geary's division of
the Twelfth Corps. The Eleventh Corps were placed in the front
and right center and the remaining two divisions of the First
Corps joined the left of the Eleventh and extended the line down
on the left towards Round Top. To this the cavalry were joined.
The new position chosen, in the main, for us was one of great
strength. Having given the details of the first day's engagement
as well as stated the condition, and had the Confederates followed
up the advantages gained and stormed Cemetery Hill at once,
the result of the next two day's fighting might have been sadly
different from what they were. That our position could have
been promptly made is asserted by one entirely competent to
judge. General Doubleday, who says, both, full and well, had re-
ceived stunning blows during the day and were disposed to be
cautious, they therefore did not press forward and take the
height, as they could easily have done at this time. The failure
of the Confederates to attack Cemetery and Gulp's Hill in the
three hours which inten-ened between the time when the broken
and shattered Federals took possession of them and the darkness
GENERAL LEE REACHED THE FIELD. jg?
of evening, was fraught with consequences of such vast import-
ance that the reasons for it deserve special consideration.
The following, taken from the highest and most important
sources, is to the point. General Doubleday, in the same con-
nection above referred to, says : General Lee reached the -field
before Hancock came and watched the retreat of the First and
Eleventh Corps and Hancock's movements and dispositions
through his field glass. He was not deceived by the show of
force and sent a recommendation, not an order, to Ewell to
follow up. Ewell in the exercise of his discretion as a corps
commander did not, so he had lost three thousand men and
both he and Hill were under orders not to bring on a general en-
gagement. In fact they had all the fighting they desired for
the time being. Colonel Campbell Brown of Ewell's staff states
that the latter was preparing to move forward against the right,
when a false report induced him to send Gordon's brigade to
reinforce Smith's brigade on his extreme left, to meet a supposed
Union advance in that direction. The advance of these two
brigades decided him to wait for the arrival of Johnson's divis-
ion before taking further action. When the latter came up,
Slocum and Sickels were on the ground. General Lee witnessed
the flight of the Federals through Gettysburg and up the hills
beyond. He then directed his adjutant general to go to General
Ewell and say to him that from the position which he occupied,
he could see the enemy retreating over those hills, without or-
ganization and in great confusion, that it was only necessary to
press these people in order to secure possession of the heights,
and that if possible he wished him to do this. General Ewell,
in his official report, states his reasons for not ordering the
attack, which are as follows: The enemy had fallen back to a
commanding position that was known to us as Cemetery
Hill, south of Gettysburg, and quickly showed a formidable
gg UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
front there. On entering the town, I received a message from
the commanding general to attack the hill if I could do so to
advantage. I could not bring artillery to bear on it. All the
troops with me were jaded by twelve hours' marching and fight-
ing. General Ewell deemed it unwise to make. The troops were
not moved forward and the enemy proceeded to occupy and
fortify the position. Opportunity for a successful attack had
Thus the curtain of night fell upon the scene, hiding from
view the thousands of dead, wounded and suffering men of both
armies, who lay scattered over the field. The telegraph mean-
while carried the news of the sad results to the national cause
all over the loyal north, producing gloom, anxiety and fear.
Here I close this chapter, preparing to resume the narrative with
incidents of the morning of June 29th, 1863.
On the morning of June 29th, the regiment started on what
was perhaps the most remarkable day's march during its ser-
vice. The day was hot throughout and the halts were brief. From
early mornig through afternoon to evening and then until mid-
night the press was forward. There was complaint and
grumbling, growling, and worse. The men declared that Han-
cock would not stop until he got to Harrisburg. Straggling be-
gan early and rapidly increased towards evening, and was fear-
ful by midnight, and when the regiment halted for the night there
were twenty-seven men present besides the staff. The day began
with route march and ended with go as you please. The dif-
ferent regiments became mingled with the stragglers and the
stragglers with other regiments than their own.
At the end of the column, when the last regimental staff had
passed, there followed an army of the lame, the halt, the sick,
and last of all the born tired. The ambulances Avere full of offi-
cers and men. It is said that a thousand men in the Second
ORDERED TO FALL IN. jgg
corps were physically disabled for weeks thereafter. Even many
who went into the battle of Gettysburg and did good service
under its stimulating influence, after it w^as over were sent to
the hospitals at Washington and Baltimore for general repairs.
The halt was near Uniontown. The route had been by way of
Liberty and Johnsonville, a distance of nearly thirty-five miles.
On the 30th the corps rested at Uniontown for the day. All
day long the stragglers were coming up and one by one joined
their regiments. A motley, dirty crowd they were, for having
fallen in their tracks and slept, they had made an early start to
find their corps, not waiting to wash or clean themselves.
Early on the morning of July ist we again stretched our weary
limbs and about noon we reached Tennallytown. Here we ex-
pected to go into camp and remain for some time.
The advance of the army composed of the First and Eleventh
corps, under General Reynolds, at this time had passed Gettys-
burg a mile or more when it encountered the rebel forces, who
were concentrating at that point. While we were putting up our
tents I saw General Meade ride up to General Hancock's head-
quarters, and shortly after we were ordered to fall in and we
beg-an a forced march, which we found out later was to the
battlefield of Gettysburg.
The following is the text of General Meade's order as received
by General Hancock just previous to our leaving Tennallytown :
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
July 1, 1863. 1:10 P. M.
Commanding Officer, Second Corps:
The major-general commanding has just been informed that General
Reynolds has been killed or badly wounded. He directs that you turn
over the command of your corps to General Gibbons, that you proceed
to the front and by virtue of this order, in case of the truth of General
Reynold's death, you assume command of the corps there assembled, viz..
jQQ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
the Eleventli, First and Third, at Emmittsburg. If you think the ground
and position there a better one on which to fight a battle under existing
circumstances, you will so advise the general and he will order all the
troops up. You know the general's views, and General Warren, who is
fully aware of them, has gone out to see General Reynolds.
By Order of
GEO. R. MEADE,
After we had commenced our march we began to hear the
booming of cannon and at once the men were all excitement, and
we marched still faster. Soon dame rumor was busy among the
men. First we heard that Reynolds was killed and that Han-
cock had been ordered to the front and General Gibbons placed
in command of the Second corps. For once dame rumor w^as
right, as we afterwards found out.
On our march from Fredericksburg to Gettysburg, strict
orders were issued that there should be no foraging under severe
penalty for each and every offence. As we w^ere nearing Gettys-
burg a flock of geese came near the road and, as is usual with
geese, they commenced to hiss. As they all looked plump and
fat, I could not resist the temptation to run my bayonet through
one. As I did so General Zook happened to ride up, and seeing
me with the goose on my bayonet, he drew his sabre and spur-
ring towards me, pretended to strike me. I did not wait, but
with the goose still on the bayonet started on the double quick to
my company. After 'getting among the boys I took the goose off
the bayonet and carried it in my hands until I reached camp.
At night General Zook sent for me to come to his quarters. I
went and he asked me about the goose, saying at the same time
that he was surprised to think that one of his men would disobey
orders, and again asked me why I had done so. I said, ''Gen-
eral, as we passed that flock of geese they began to hiss at >xs
and I knew at once they were rebels, and thought it my duty to
LOST MY SUPPER. IqI
capture a rebel at any time. I did so and have brought him
to your headquarters, and now await your decision." He said,
"You may leave your prisoner here and go to your tent."
While on the march we found the trees loaded with cherries
and other fruits. Everything was pleasing to the eye and palate,
but we could not tarry long enough to enjoy the fruit or flowers.
The closer we came to the battlefield the more we saw of
wounded, and stragglers and an ambulance passed through our
lines bearing the body of General Reynolds. Soon we began to
realize that the enemy was making a strong effort to drive back
the Union forces. We arrived on the scene of the first day's
battle shortly after dark. We then learned that the First and
Eleventh corps had been pretty well cut up and defeated, having
been driven through the streets of Gettysburg and had assembled
on what is now known as Cemetery Ridge. By orders of Gen-
eral Hancock, on the night of July ist we lay on the left of the
Baltimore Pike. As soon as w^e had halted for the night, the
usual detail of men was made — some to get water, others to
make the fires, and others to do the cooking. I was one to get
water, but lost my supper, as I was so tired I fell asleep while I
was waiting for the supper to be cooked and I did not wake up
until we were called in the morning to get ready to take our
position on the battlefield. As I had lost my supper, I also was
unfortunate enough to lose my breakfast.
In order to have a correct understanding of the details of the
two days' battle, and that the reader may grasp the positions
occupied by the two great armies, we will describe their positions
as follows : Approaching Gettysburg from the southeast, by the
Baltimore Pike, we ascend by a gradual slope a high ridge which
is in the shape of a horse-shoe with its left side or flange longer
IQ2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
than the other. Upon this ridge and conforming to its natural
outHne the Union Hne was established. The toe of this horse-
shoe reaches the southern outskirt of the town and rests upon
what is called Cemetery Hill, so named from the fact that upon
it was situated the local cemetery connected with the town. Its
right side or flange extends somewhat eastward and then curves
sharply to the south, ending with Gulp's Hill, a wooded and
rocky eminence. Rock Creek, a stream of some considerable
size, runs by its eastern base, and passing south at length enters
the Monocacy. This flank was well protected by the nature of
the slope, which is high and commands the entire country around
it. The distance from the toe of the horse-shoe, which was the
Federal center, to the termination of the line at Rock Creek, is
about three-quarters of a mile. The left side or flange, which
was considerably longer than the right, follows the ridge in a
southwestward direction and terminates at two high well-defined
and rocky-sided hills or cones, known as Little Round Top and
Big Round Top. The last-named top was the Federal left. It
is high, rocky, rugged and exceedingly rough, and during the
battle was a position of the greatest importance, in fact it was the
key of the whole battle. The artillery upon its summit com-
manded the entire country around. Behind these hills the ground
gently sloped toward the east and afforded an excellent protec-
tion to the reserves and ammunition trains. The superiority of
the Federal position commanded the town and the entire country
over which the Confederates must pass to attack them, as well
as the right or left of their line. Therefore upon a larger triangle
the enemy was compelled to operate. This gave the Union troops
the incalculable advantage of moving on an interior and shorter
line and enabled them to throw their reserves with rapidity to any
place along the line, either east or west, where they might be
needed. Such then were the positions of the two great armies.
ORDERED TO TAKE A POSITION. jq^
The Second Day's Battle. — Premonition of Death. — General Zoolv is
Killed.— Wounded and Taken Prisoner.— The Third Day's Battle.—
Pickett's Charge. — Retreat of the Rebel Army. — Again Among
Friends. — Sent to the Hospital. — Life in the Hospital. — Rejoined My
Regiment. — Death of Colonel Chapman. — New Faces and New Com-
We were hurried to the front and ordered to take a position
along the Emmittsburg road. Never shall I forget the day. It
was very hot and everything was very quiet until about ten
o'clock, when we were ordered to move to the left and fiill up the
space that General Sickels had left open in the morning.
On that morning I seemed to have a presentment that I would
either be wounded or killed. With this feeling within me, I
said to Andrew Wilson that I knew something would happen to
me that day, and w^e there mutually agreed that if I was killed
he was to write to my mother and if he was killed I was to do
the same for him. As I had quite some money on my person I
went to General Zooks and asked him to take charge of it for
me. The general said : ''My boy, you must not have such feel-
ings, but if you are afraid I Avill give you a pass to go into the
I said : "No, General, I have never yet deserted my comrades in
battle and I do not intend to desert them now. If I am killed
I shall be killed doing my duty." So the general took the money,
and soon after I returned to my quarters, the general sent for
jgA UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
me, and when I went to his tent he said to me : "My boy, I have
the same sensations you have — that I will be killed — and you
had better take the money and give it to some one else." After
some further conversation I took the money, and when I got
back to my company I went to Captain Mott, and telling him of
my feelings, asked him to take the money, telling him that if 1
was killed what to do with it. So he received the money and
gave me a receipt for it.
While we were lying in this position w^aiting for the battle to
open, I w'as visited by my brother, w^ho w^as a member of the
First United States cavalry. He was on General Kilpatrick's
staff and was carrying despatches to General Meade's head-
quarters. While WQ were talking a single shot was fired, and at
once the battle was on. I said to my brother, ''The enemy seems
to be moving and I think you had better get back to your quar-
ters." He bid me good-bye and started at once.
I have briefly mentioned the fact that General Hancock had
left us at Tennallytown and had gone to the front. Such was
the case, and as I have since learned that the Union forces, con-
sisting of the First and Eleventh corps had been driven back
with the loss of over 4,000 men by capture besides many dead
It was the purpose of General Reynolds to hold Gettysburg,
if possible, until the rest of the army arrived. While this was
not accomplished, yet Cemetery Ridge was saved and proved
the key to the position.
When General Hancock arrived on the ground of the first
day's fight, he and General Warren conferred together and se-
lected the stragetic points, such as Cemetery Ridge, Gulp's Hill
and Little Round Top. They also made a great show of force
by moving and placing troops so as to deceive the enemy, and
soon brought order out of the general confusion.
LIGHT OF THE COMING DAY. ^g^.
The poor fellows who had fought so hard, while looking and
praying for the main army, were enspirited by General Han-
cock's presence, and cheer after cheer went up as they though:
reinforcements had arrived. Fortunately no further attack was
made upon our lines, and darkness brought its welcomed relief.
Before morning the Second, and indeed all except the Sixth
corps, were on the ground or near at hand and the danger of an
unequal contest had passed. During the night the several corps
were assigned positions for the impending struggle, which must
begin as we thought, with the earliest light of the coming day.
The Second corps occupied the left centre on Cemetery Ridge,
a little to the left of Cemetery Hill. There was a clear field in
front, extending down a gradual descent to the bed of a stream
called Plum Run, beyond which was the Emmittsburg road.
Seminary Ridge, on which the rebels had massed their forces,
began to rise just beyond the road, its crest was about a mile
from and ran nearly parallel to Cemetery Ridge, along which the
Union army was posted. On our left front was the peach
orchard, in its rear was the wheatfield, and to the left rear of
these was the woods and the two round tops. Far to the right
was Gettysburg, at that time, a small town, and to the right
rear of the town was Gulp's Hill, the extreme right of our line.
The corps were arranged from right to left as follows: The
Twelfth on Gulp's Hill, the Eleventh on Cemetery Hill, and part
of the first in reserve formed the right wing. The second and
third divisions of the Second corps, the third division of the First
corps, and the first division of the Second corps formed the
centre in the order named. The Third and Fifth corps formed
the left wing. General Slocum was in command of the right,
General Hancock the centre and General Sickels the left.
The Fifty-seventh regiment did its fighting on the 2nd of July
not in its own front, but to its left with the Third corps in the
iq6 under five commanders.
wheatfield and adjoining woods. General Longstreet occupied
the rebel right wing, hence our fighting was with Longstreet's
corps. Lee had given him orders to attack at daylight, but
Longstreet, usually so prompt did not move until about noon,
by which time the Fifth corps had arrived on the ground and
the Sixth corps was only three hours away. This delay was life
to the Union army.
It is not my purpose in this book to give a complete history of
the army or even of the Second corps, but only such doings as
show our relations to the whole while engaged in a battle. One
part of an army knows little about the positions and fighting of
another part, but when it is over and one is at liberty to examine
the map of the position and hears the account of the struggle, he
quickly sees what relation he sustained to the whole.
General Lee thinking the peach orchard was the left of our
line, expected by turning it to double our flank and get into our
rear, so Longstreet massed his men under cover of the woods
and hurled brigade after brigade upon the Third corps in the
peach orchard and the wheatfield.
When the attack commenced Round Top was a signal station
unoccupied by troops. General Warren saw in it the key to the
position and ordered troops to occupy it. Both armies met on
its summit and after desperate fighting, the rebels were driven
down the hill, defeated. Lee fretted greatly over the loss of
Round Top, but could not possess it later. Then it had been
fortified against him. The fighting, thus began on the left, con-
tinued with great fury. General Sickels had formed the Third
corps into a right angle, the ends resting on the main line and
the angle in the peach orchard. This, in military tactics, is a
weak formation, because each line can be enfibded by the en-
emy's troops surrounding its apex, and so it proved in this case.
The fighting was stubborn, but the line gave way. The rebels
SICKLE ADVANCES HIS CORPS. ^gg
poured into the peach orchard, thence through the opening of the
woods into the wheatfield and up to Plum Run. It was at this
junction that General Hancock sent the first division of the
Second corps into the wheatfield to drive back the victorious
The morning of July 2d had passed to the amazement of all in
the Union rank without any aggressive movement on the part
of General Lee, notwithstanding the strong reasons which
prompted him to take an early initiative, only one additional
brigade, that of McLaw, came upon the confederate side during
this day, while on the Union side the fifth corps was already close
to the field of the battle and the sixth corps toiling patiently along
on its unbroken march of thirty hours might be expected on the
ground before sun should set. Yet hour after hour was allowed
to go by without a sign of activity among the confederate forces
as seen from our lines, at last just at this moment when General
Meade learned of the advance of Sickles' command, the divisions
of Hood and McLaw of Longstreet's corps began this long
meditated attack against the Union left, for it was here and not
upon Gulps or Cemetery Hill that the confederate commander
had determined to deliver his blows.
Lee's plans was by extending his lines to outflank that portion
of Sickles' force which might be found to have been drawn back-
ward from the Peach Orchard toward Round Top or else by
sheer force to break through that line and thereupon to sweep
down the Emmettsburg road, take that portion of Sickles' line
and rolling it up until the victorious troops should come opposite
the confederate center where Hill corps and Anderson's division
could be first, and then Pender should be thrown forward to join
in the accumulating assault, either to carry Cemetery Ridge
from the south and southwest, or to move directly into the
Union's rear, Hood was intrusted the outflanking or breaking in
200 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
of that portion of the Union hne which might be found drawn
back from the Peach Orchard toward Round Top to McLaw's.
The attack on the angle at the Peach Orchard and the move-
ment down Emmettsburg road against Humphrey's division, as
Hood after the long delay involved in getting so formidable a
force into position while moving them out of sight of the Union
signal parties came against that portion of the Union line which
was refused, he found it in unexpected force. Here were the bri-
gades of Detrobriand and Ward, and though the great length of
the line to be held had drawn them out perilously thin, wxll did
the old division of Kearney acquit itself that day, but though the
line of Detrobriand and Ward resisted stubbornly it could easily
be outflanked since its extreme left extended only to the Devil's
den, and soon the brigade of McUaw and tw^o regfiments of
Robertson's Texans parting from the rest of Hood's division, the
Commander of which had already fallen severelv wounded, passed
around the extreme left of Sickles', around Devil's Den and di-
rected their movement against little Round Top. The position of
little Round Top, not less important upon the left than Cemetery
Hill upon the center, or Culps Hill upon the right had been
strongly neglected ever since Geary sent thither by Hancock up-
on his first arrival on the field had been withdrawn to join the
The vast extension involved in Sickles' advance had left no
troops available to occupy the hill, and thousands of confeder-
ates, fierce and eager, were advancing to seize it, while defended
solely by a signal officer and his two assistants, though not by
these alone : one other was there, a slender, graceful young offi-
cer, Engineer Warren, who had climbed the slope to scan the
western horizon w^here his prescient mind had described the
signs of danger, perceiving the yet distant approach of McLaw's
HOOD OUTFLANKS IHE UNION LEFT. ^QI
Warren commands the signal officers to continue their work
to the last moment in order to create the impression that the hill
is occupied, and darting northward seeks some casual force that
may anticipate the fatal occupation of little Round Top by the
enemy. It is the head of columns of the Fifth Corps which he
meets hastening to the support of Detrobriand, he takes the re-
sponsibility of detaching the foremost troops and hurries them
forward to anticipate the arrival of the confederate line of bat-
tle. There is not a minute to spare, the opposing forces meet
on the crest, the contest is close, fierce and deadly, the rocky
slopes and narrow wooded passes resound with infernal clamor.
Vincent falls at the head of his men. Weed also isi struck down
with a mortal wound and as Hazlitt bends over him to catch the
last message he too is thrown lifeless upon the body of his friend.
But our line is now complete and the valor of the men of Maine,
Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania has made it secure.
Well did General Abbott say that but for the wonderful con-
pedial of Warren and his prompt acceptance of responsibility
the name of Gettysburg might only have been known in histor}^ as
that of the place where the Union cause made its grave. Although
the attempt of Hood to outflank the Union left had thus been
thwarted, his assaults upon the southwestern part of Sickles'
line did not for a moment cease, while McLaw's now coming into
action on Hood's left assailed the force holding the Peach
Both lines which formed that fatal angle, the confederate bat-
teries poured their enfilading fire, Sweitzer and Tiltan brigades
had already been sent to assist Birney division and a portion of
Humphrey's was brought over to support the left, but the hostile
forces are too powerful. Eleven confederate batteries have long
been pounding our troops : at last with a supreme effort. Barks-
dale's ^lississippians burst through Graham's feeble line, drive
UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
out McGilvary artillery and pour down into the rear of the Un-
ion troops. Sweitzer and T'iltan are overwhelmed and thrown
back, and fo r a time all seems lost.
When about four o'clock p. m. the order came to move, the
Fifty-seventh fell in, filed left, went into the woods and was soon
under fire. As we pushed forward a bullet struck my right arm
and passed through it. As we charged into the wheatfield a shell
exploded and shattered my right leg and killed two of my com-
PHOTO OF WHEATFIELD WHERE JACOB H. COLE WAS WOUNDED.
TAKBN JULY 5th, 1863.
rades. When I was shot in the arm, the feeling was the same
as though I had been struck on the elbow — a feeling of numb-
ness came into the arm — and I turned to the comrade by my side
and asked him why he had hit me. He said : '*I did not hit you,
but you have been shot and you had better go to the rear." I
laughed at him and said I w^as not hurt bad enough to do so.
Shortly after I was injured, as I have mentioned, by the shell.
After my leg was shattered I fell down, laying for a few minutes
THE SBCOMD DAY OF BATTLE IS OVER. gQi
unconscious, and when I came to my senses I found I was sur-
rounded by the enemy and a rebel officer was standing over me
with one foot on my wounded leg. I pleaded with him to step
off my wounded leg. He said in answer to my pleadings,
drawing his sword, "You d — Yankee, I will cut your heart out,"
and as he raised his sword a ball came from the direction of
Little Round Top and cut him through the throat, and he fell
beside me dead. As darkness crept in to cover the scene of
blood and death, the musketry fire ceases, the artillery fire lan-
guishes, and the pall of smoke drifts away on the rising night-
The second day's battle here is over. Wearied by the long
march and heavy fighting and suffering from my wounded leg
and arm, and the moans of others suffering from wounds came
across the battlefield and could not be shut out even by covering
And it was terrible, on the right
Raged for hours the heavy fight,
Thundered the battery's double hass —
Difllcult music for men to face;
While on the left where now graves
Undulate like the living waves,
That all the day unceasing sweep.
Up to the pits the rebels keep —
Round shot ploughed the upland glades
Sown with bullets, reaped with blades.
Shatered fences here and there
Tossed their splinters in the air.
The very trees were stripped and bare.
The barns that once held yellow grain
Were heaped with harvests of the slain.
The cattle bellowed on the plain.
The turkeys screamed with might and main.
And brooding barn-fowl left their rest.
With strange shells bursting in each nest.
204 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
But weariness at last asserted itself and I fell asleep
until morning. In the morning the rebels carried me from the
range of their guns to a small knoll and from where I lay and
watched the Confederates moving their artillery along the Em-
mittsburg road and in the peach orchard to higher ground, for
the purpose of obtaining a more commanding position for their
artillery and comparatively clear ground for the movement of
their infantry. I counted nearly seventy-five pieces of artillery
near the peach orchard. I wait for the coming of the strife that
is to decide the battle and the life of the Republic. The Union
and Confederate soldiers lay within easy reach of each other.
Only a short cannon shot separated the two armies. Both were
awaiting the orders of their chiefs.
At one o'clock two cannon shots in quick succession gave the
signal, and instantly the Confederate position was for three miles
wrapped in flame and smoke. Nearly 140 guns opened at once
on the Union lines. The air was full of shrieking shells and fly-
ing shot. The bursting shells sent their deadly fragments down
in showers upon the rocky ridge, and over the plain behind the
earth was thrown up in clouds of dust as the monstrous missiles
buried themselves in the ground or glanced from the surface to
take a new, and perchance, a more dangerous and fatal flight.
On every hand caissons exploded, struck by iron balls, which
but a half a minute before had lain in the limber chests of the
batteries a mile away. As I lay there looking at the shot and
shell, these words came to my mind :
A hundred guns; yes, fifty more,
Rained down their shot and shell;
As if from out its yawning door,
Drove the red blast of hell.
The hiss, the crash, the shriek, the groan,
The ceaseless iron hail;
All this, for half the day, I own,
It made the stoutest quail.
PICKELL'S GRAND CHARGE.
After an hour the firing ceased, and for a time the stilhiess
was oppressive. Then I suddenly saw what it all meant. Over
the hill came a long line of skirmishers and behind them a line of
battle, and behind that line another and then another. I raised
on my left elbow and watch eagerly the long lines of the enemy's
infantry as they emerged from the woods on Seminary Ridge.
It presented one of the finest sights ever witnessed on a field of
battle or anywhere else. Its front w^as nearly a mile in length.
P— 5^:^>' -
THE FINAL CHARGE AT GETTYSBUR!
With their rifles carried at a right shoulder shift, they moved
steadily onward as if on a grand review, marched across the
fields, on across the Emmittsburg road, climbing over the two
fences and so towards Cemetery Ridge. Every battery in the
Union lines then opened fire. The smoke after a while became
so dense that I was unable to see anything further. Just as the
smoke began to lift somewhat I was again able to see.
But suddenly, far to left, we heard
The band strike up, and lo.
2o6 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Full in our front — no breath was stirred-
Came Hancock, riding slow.
As slow as if on dress parade,
All down the line to right
And back again. By my good blade,
Was ever such a sight.
We lay at length, no ranks could stand
Against that tempest wild.
Yet on he rode, with hat in hand,
And looked, and bowed, and smiled.
Whatever fears we had before
Were gone; that sight, you know,
Just made us fifty thousand more
All hot to face the foe.
At last I heard the Union band play the ''Star Spangled Ban-
ner." Then I knew that Pickett's grand charge at Gettysburg
had failed and that the Union troops had won the victory. After
the repulse of Pickett's charge the rebel soldiers scattered all
over the field like a lot of sheep without a head. Soon after
darkness fell upon the scene, while the Confederate troops were
momentarily expecting the advance of the Union troops, but no
advance came, and thus closed the third day of the battle of
Gettysburg. In the early part of the night the moon shone very
bright, and as I lay within the rebel lines I ascertained that thd
rebels were about to retreat. This I learned by overhearing Gen-
eral Lee order General Longstreet to leave a strong picket force
and to withdraw the troops under cover of the darkness.
About four o'clock in the morning it commenced to rain. The
rebels were retreating: in fact, they had been retreating since
midnight. This did not carry out what the rebels had told me
on the morning of the 3rd. On that day they very boastingly
said to me, ''Well, Yank, we expect to eat our Fourth of July
dinner in Harrisburg." This was said before Pickett made his
DEFEAT OF THE REBELS' ARMY. 20Q
The morning of the 4th opened dark and gloomy. It was
raining very hard and the rebels that were left felt very much
depressed in spirits. Instead of being successful, they had met
with defeat, their army was in retreat and all that was left of
their army at Gettysburg was their strong picket line, which
they could hold as the Union troops made no movement to oc-
cupy the field of battle that had been evacuated by the rebels
during the previous night. By midnight of the 4th there was not
a living rebel left on the battlefield of Gettysburg, as early in the
evening their picket line was withdrawn and I was left all alone
among the dead.
Early on the morning of the 5th of July the Union army ad-
vanced and soon I was again among friends. I was removed to
the Second corps hospital, where my wounds were properly
dressed. There was such a number of wounded men brought to
the hospital that we were obliged to take our turn in being at-
tended to. While I was waiting for my turn to come I became
an eye witness of a sight which I shall never forget while I live
and one I hope never to witness again. I saw the physicians
cutting off an arm from some, legs from another, and piling
them in heaps outside the hospital to be afterwards buried. After
my wounds were dressed, I was removed to the railroad station
and sent to the hospital in Philadelphia, Pa., where I was giv-
en the very best of care and attention.
While in the hospital I was obliged to have an operation per-
formed, having a small bone removed from my arm, and also
one from the leg, that had been shattered when I was wounded.
From the effects of the operations I was taken with wound fever
and gangrene set in, so that I was not expected to live, but with
the good care I received I recovered. I remained in the hospital
from the 12th day of July, 1863, until April, 1864. While in
the hospital I received the best of care and many dainties from
2IO UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
the Sisters of Charity and the citizens in general. I shall never
forget the Sisters for their kindness, nor shall I forget the din-
ners they gave us on Christmas and New Years. For our Christ-
mas dinner we had chicken and all the delicacies of the season,
and on New Year's they gave us a turkey dinner with all that
we could wish for. It was quite a change from hard tack and
salt pork to turkey and chicken. While I was in the hospital,
and I had almost recovered, the doctors desired me to join the
Invalid corp attached to the hospital, but as soon as I was well
enough I requested to be sent to my regiment. I liked the hospi-
tal and every one connected with it was so kind to the soldiers,
but I felt that my duty lay with my regiment and that was my
In April the hospital authorities complied with my request,
and I was discharged from the hospital and sent to Washington
in company with one hundred others. Upon arriving in Wash-
ington we were marched across the long bridge to Camp Distri-
bution in Virginia, where I remained about a week. Then upon
my request I was sent to my regiment in company with hundreds
of other soldiers, who were going to the front to join the
various regiments of which they were members. I rejoined my
regiment on the second day's battle of the Wilderness while it
was in action. It was a great pleasure for me to again meet my
comrades, but before the day was over it became a day of sad-
ness. Our colonel was killed during this fight, and to me it was
a heavy blow. He was my orderly sergeant in the three months'
service, and afterwards, when I enlisted for three years, he be-
came my captain. At the battle of Antietam he was promoted
to a major for bravery and afterwards promoted to lieutenant-
colonel, and on April 24th was made colonel. It was during the
time I was away in the hospital that he was made colonel of the
regiment. I also found upon my return that all those who en-
IN THE WILDERNESS. 211
listed when I did that there was only a few left. Some had been
taken prisoners, among them being my tent mate, Andrew Wil-
son, who was taken prisoner at Bristow Station ; others had been
wounded, and others had been discharged, so that I met with
new faces, unknown to them and they unknown to me, excepting
that I was a member of Company A, Fifty-seventh New York
212 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Battle of the Wilderness. — Return of the Regiment to Fredericksburg. —
Burying the Dead. — Return to the Army. — The Siege of Petersburg, —
Marching and Fighting. — Ordered Mustered Out. — Return Home.
I have previously mentioned the care and attention I received
while in the hospital, but I also desire to speak of the cleanliness
observed in all its department. The hospital was divided into
w^ards, every patient having a bed to himself with clean white
sheets, each bed being supplied wdth two sheets, pillows and
pillow cases and two heavy blankets. The floors were as clean
and white as soap and water could possibly make them.
After the battle of the Wilderness we were sent to Fredericks-
burg to keep the disloyal part of the community in check. There
was much guard and fatigue duty, the burial of our dead, we
would dig a trench about twenty feet long by seven feet wide,
and then would lay the bodies side by side until we had filled its
length, then about a foot of dirt was placed on them until all was
covered; then we would again lay other bodies in the trench,
then more earth until the trench was filled. A head board was
placed at their head on which was marked their names and the
number of their regiment and company.
The regiment remained at Fredericksburg until May 28tb,
when with other regiments it formed a provisional brigade under
the command of General Cessanola, and started for the main
army, w^hich was then at Cold Harbor. Our route was south-
AT COLD HARBOR. ^^^
ward down the Rappahannock river to Port Royal, thence to
Bowhng Green and Hanover Court House, where we joined
the right wing of the army. This point was reached on the 3rd
of June, but it was not until the following day that we joined the
brigade at Cold Harbor.
Some skirmishing was done by the regiment and a detail of
thirty men was sent to the left of the Second corps to feel the
enemy and uncover his position. This was accomplished and
CKOSSLNG THK K API DAN.
a lively fire was exchanged, but v^ithout loss to us.
At the beginning of the Sumner campaign of 1864, General
Grant hoped and expected that he could disable or destroy Lee's
army between the Rapidan and Richmond. After the battle of
Cold Harbor these expectations vanished and General Grant,
contrary to Halleck's suggestions to besiege Richmond on its
214 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
east side, decided to cross the James river and strike its com-
munications by the capture of Petersburg.
During the eight days at Cold Harbor, preparations for the
movement v^ere going on, by the gathering of transports and
pontoons near the proper point on the James river, by the grad-
ing of approaches down the banks of the river, and by carefully
arranging for the advance of the several corps.
The third brigade at this time was commanded by Colonel
Clinton D. Medan Gall, and was composed of six New York
regiments in the order named : Thirty-ninth, Fifty-second,
Fifty-seventh, One Hundred and Eleventh, One Hundred and
Twenty-fifth and the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth. General
Barlow^ commanded the division, General Miles the first brigade,
Colonel Kelly the second, and Colonel Beaver the third brigade.
General Gibbon led the second division and General Birney the
third. The movement toward Petersburg commenced on the
night of June 12th, the Second corps started about midnight,
leaving Colonel Hammil wdth the Sixty-sixth New York on
picket line until it had completely withdrawn. The march con-
tinued all night. On the 13th the Chicahominy river was crossed
at Long Bridge and Charles City Court House was reached.
The third brigade arrived at the James river at 4 p. m. on the
14th. We formed line of battle, threw up breastworks and
bivouaced for the night. At dawn of the 15th crossed the James
river on transport from Wilcox's Landing to Wind Mill Point,
and halted until 10 a. m., waiting for rations that did not come.
Starting for Petersburg at that hour. General Barlow took the
wrong road and travelled a long distance towards City Point
before he discovered and corrected his mistake ; thus making the
march longer than necessary and delaying his arrival at the fronc
until midnight. The next day, June i6th, at 4 p. m., the third
brigade advanced on the enemy's w^orks at a point near the Hare
MARCHED INTO A HAIL OF SHELL. 2 m
house. It was hoped that Lee's men had not yet arrived, but to
our sorrow they were found to be on hand. After pihng knap-
sacks, the hne of battle was formed, bayonets were fixed, guns
put at a right shoulder shift, the command "Forward" was given,
and out we marched into a hail of shell, canister and lead suffi-
cient to satisfy the hungriest warrior. The boys greatly dreaded
this charge, as it seemed a hopeless one. After forming line we
waited quite a while before advancing, and this led to a calcula-
tion of chances for life and consequently to a loss of nerve. Many
good byes were said and loving messages left for home friends.
The plain over which the attacking party must pass, was swept
by a direct and cross fire from the earthworks that crowned the
ridge beyond. Over this plain the brigade charged in close col-
umn to a fence, behind which were the enemy's advanced rifle
pits. Here the men became somewhat huddled and hesitated
when the color bearer, Charlie Van Hise, carried the flag un-
furled over the fence and into the orchard, followed by the regi-
ment. The rebels gave way and fell back to their main line. The
position thus gained by the first division consisted of three
redouts and their connected works, was held and fortified, our
pickets occupying the orchard beyond. General Barlow led this
attack in person with hat in hand.
The losses of the Fifty-seventh were severe. Captain Alcoke
was shot through the lungs. Lieutenants Britton and Brower
were severely wounded. Captain Middleton, Lieutenant Moore
and Adjutant Case were slightly wounded. Three men were
killed and thirty-six were wounded. On the 17th, before day-
break, we again charged on the enemy's works and drove him out,
capturing a battery and taking some prisoners. One rebel officer
who was captured said, '*If you had let me know you were com-
ing so early in the morning, I would have tried to give you a
2i6 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
We were soon relieved and fell back to the rifle pits thrown up
during the night, which now became our second line. The enemy
withdrew from parts of their line. On the night of the 17th and
on the 1 8th, General Birney advanced to the vacated position. On
the 20th the Second corps was relieved by the Ninth corps, and
went in reserve. Reserve, did I say? Yes, a reserve that gave
rise to the name of Hancock's cavalry. A reserve that seldom
stopped in one place long enough to get rested from its last tramp
to and from the extreme end of the line. A reserve that was in
nearly every fight from Deep Bottom to Ream's Station. A re-
serve for heavy marching and for the support of every charge.
When the Army of the Potomac settled down to the siege of
Petersburg, we thought that now at last we would have a chance
to rest, and yet at this late day, how well does the writer recall to
memory the quick alarms, the midnight marches, the extra
fatigue duties and the desperate battles that became our portion,
while the rest of the army laid entrenched.
On the 2ist of June, the reserve corps found itself on the march
by the left flank. General Grant had planned to extend his line to
the left, so as to embrace the Weldon Railroad, and thus cut off
one highway of supplies to the enemy's capitol. As we filed out
of the woods, where our position had been, and took the high and
open road that led to the Jerusalem Plank Road, we felt like vet-
erans whose wars were over, and henceforth we would rest from
bloodshed for a season at least, far from the din of musketry and
the unceasing ''pop, pop, pop" of the pickets that through the
life-long day and night kept up a Fourth of July racket.
In dead earnest the march of the 21st was south and west be-
tween the Jerusalem Plank Road and the Weldon and Petersburg
Railroad, the distance between the two roads — three miles — was
to be occupied by the Second corps on the right and Sixth corps
on the left. The Fifty-seventh marched rapidly at first, then
ON THE FIRING LINE. 217
coming to a place where the road turned into a wood, skirmish
firing began to be heard in front, and we moved cautiously step
by step, now a little and then a little, until the wounded began to
come in, some walking and some on stretchers. We still advanced
until within range of the rebel batteries, when a halt was made.
A detail was now called for to go out as skirmishers. It was at
Eating Supper in Peace.
this time that a shell burst over the regiment, killing three men
and wounding others. Some of the living claimed miraculous
escapes from this disaster.
After a little while the general line of the division was cor-
rected. We took our place in it a little to the rear, threw up
entrenchments and rested over night. On the 22nd of June the
2i8 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
division moved to the front and right to connect with Mott's
division. In doing so it was making a right wheel, and this threw
its left forward beyond the Sixth corps, which was slow in com-
ing up on the left of the Second. General Barlow provided for
the possible coming in of the enemy between himself and the
Sixth corps by throwing the left of his division in reserve. The
Second, Third and Fourth brigades in the order named from
right to left were in advance, while the First brigade was in
General Lee, discovering Grant's movements toward the Wel-
don Railroad, sent General A. P. Hill to check it. General Hill
arrived upon our front just as General Barlow was executing the
movement I have just described, and struck the Fourth brigade
on the left and rear and simultaneously attacked three columns
deep on the right flank. The break seenis to have begun on the
left, but was quickly followed by the right, when a spontaneous
movement of the whole line took place toward the rifle pits in the
rear. This retirement was not so bad a thing, had it been care-
fully done, but many of the recruits threw away their luggage,
and by their haste succeeded in breaking up the regimental forma-
tion, so that 1,700 men were captured, besides four guns of
McKnight's battery. These were the first guns that had been
lost by the Second corps since its formation, and was therefore
the more greatly regretted. One man of the Fifty-seventh was
killed and one was reported missing.
On the 23rd we marched again toward the front until we ar-
rived at a thick woods, where we could hardly see the end of a
company, and here we "monkeyed around", as the boys used to
say, until we lost our bearings and were attacked by the enemy in
three columns. When we think of the many struggles our men
had with unseen foes in the woods, and the disasters which often
followed, it is easy to account for the distrust we felt as we
IN THE BREAST WORKS. 210
entered such places, and a certain backwardness to go forward,
and so it resulted here, for when the enemy flanked us on the left,
a panic ran along the whole line from left to right, and the whole
line broke and skedaddled to the rear. We had taken a position
in the w^oods, connecting with the left of the Irish brigade and
keeping close to the ground. Whether there was a line of skirm-
ishers in our front or not, I never could find out, but the battle
commenced and bullets came zipping through the woods, invisible
shafts of death from unseen hands.
■ Sergeant Evans had temporary command of the next company,
and during a lull told us that one of his men had been killed. The
bullets now came fast and our men began to fire, although no foe-
man could be seen in the hazy woods. I pulled the trigger of my
gun, the cap snapped, and as I turned to put on another I saw the
line of the left giving way, and the Irish brigade on the right get-
ting ready to go, for they were rising from the ground. A bullet
crushed a sapling in front of me, so I hurriedly primed my gun,
aimed at the green space in the direction of the foe, fired and fell
back. Then I felt solitary enough, the only man to be seen was
the dead man on the ground with a handkerchief over his face.
I remember how, in my flight, I hopped over many fat haver-
sacks, which had been thrown away, probably by new recruits
or conscripts, of whom there were many now in the army, ancT
some of them sadly impaired the moral of the rest. Upon reach-
ing the road, I met the troops, both officers and men, hastening to
the point from which we started. I did not stop to count them,
but helped to swell their number. Catching sight of the men in
gray up a wooded road moving parallel to us, we re-formed the
line in the breastworks and waited for the rebels. We did not
have long to wait, for they massed in the woods about two hun-
dred yards distant, made two charges, but were quickly and easily
repulsed. Our batteries in the breastworks had a chance to get in
220 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS. .
their work, and afterwards shelled the woods as a discourage-
ment to their intimacy.
Two or three days after the fighting, some of our men found
two wounded rebels in the woods, who were brought into camp
and kindly cared for. One was shot through the body and arm
and yet had survived. He conversed calmly with the boys when
it seemed as though he should have been crazed or dead from his
wounds and privations. The only attention they had received
for their wounds was from the welcome rain, which, as usual,
came down after the battle. How we had watched the skies and
the rolling clouds for some promise of a change, but none was
given, till the cannon's deadly voice resounded over the parched
hills and valleys. Then the heavens relented, and how appropri-
ate, for when men are arrayed to slay each other the angels might
indeed weep as well as the sympathizing clouds.
From now on siege operations begin and are pushed forward
in earnest, so that most of our time is spent in digging trenches
and building forts. The shells from the mortars look very beau-
tiful at night, as they describe long arcs with burning fuses, pass-
ing from our lines to the enemy's, and from their position into
our works, each one leaving a streaming tail of fire behind it.
Sometimes we counted as many as thirty in the air at one
time. Our men are protected from them and from other heavy
missiles, by strong bomb proofs, so that we did not lose many
killed or wounded. We have now immense earthworks with
bomb-proof coverings extending for many miles across the
Appomattox and James rivers on our right and stretching
away towards the South Side Railroad on our left. The re-
doubts are immense and all connected by curtains for infantry.
There is a vast armament of artillery on both sides which thun-
ders away with noise enough to frighten the world, but does very
little execution among the men. The fatigue is terrible to the
THl. BATTLE. FIEUO JU T^R^^^^^^ sSWAHf.
AT STRAWBERRY PLAINS. 22"^
men who are digging the works, making new redoubts, curtain
covered ways, etc.
Whole divisions of 10,000 men are detailed for fatigue duty at
the same time. The works will soon form such a labyrinth that
none but those who are in them daily will be able to find the way
to the front or when there to get out again.
On the 26th we broke camp and started at 4 p. m., the First
division in the lead, crossed the Appomattox about 9 p. m. at the
Point of Rocks, and continued on to the James river, which was
reached and crossed on pontoons below Bailey Creek about 3
A. M. on the 27th. General Grant's object in this movement was
that the Second corps and two division of the cavalry should
secretly get to the north banks of the James river, the cavalry to
make a dash into Richmond if the chances seemed favorable, but
if not to destroy the two railroads east and north of the city.
Grant thought that this movement might draw the enemy from
the vicinity of Petersburg and make better the chances of success
at the Burnside mine explosion. It was particularly understood
that no general assault should be made on the works at Deep
As it turned out the main thing accomplished was the drawing
of a large part of Lee's army to the north bank of the James river,
a result every way worthy of the movement.
After crossing the river we were sent forward to a grove on
the edge of Straw^berry Plains. We crossed the plains to the
Long Bridge road, where we found the enemy entrenched. Upon
these entrenchments General Miles charged vigorously, capturing
several prisoners and four 20-pound Parrott guns. The troops
pushed on to the New Market road, drove the enemy back to their
line of forts, then returning to the Long Bridge road, where we
remained until the 29th, on which night the return to Petersburg
2 24 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
was begun. The loss of the Fifty-seventh during this march was
one officer and two men wounded.
At 3 A. M. the next morning, the Second corps found itself in
support of the Ninth corps in time to see the mine explode. This
mine affair, so full of promise, turned out to be not only a failure
but a disaster. The loss was about 3,500, of whom 450 men
were killed and over 2,000 wounded. It was the saddest affair
I witnessed during the war.
On the 29th of August, General Hancock was sent with his
corps twelve miles south to Ream's Station. Here the First divi-
sion occupied the line of battle all of the 23rd, while the other
divisions were tearing up the railroad tracks, but on the 24th it
took its turn in tearing up the railroad tracks while the others
held the line of battle. We worked southw^ard all day from
Ream's Station to Romany Creek, returning to the station at
night. The work of destruction began again on the 25th at day-
About 9 A. M. the work of destruction was interrupted by an
assault of the enemy. At that time skirmishing commenced and
about two o'clock in the afternoon the first attack in force was
rrtade by four brigades of General A. P. Hill. The Third brigade
of our force occupied the rifle pits near the line, and the fighting
was heaviest on its front. Charge after charge was made with
determination by the rebels, but each was repulsed. Finally the
rebels charged in two columns deep, and some of the new recruits
on the left, belonging to the Seventh New York, broke and the
enemy got in on our flank, yet our boys held on, using the bayonet
until left alone and outnumbered. Many of them were taken pris-
oners. Several hand to hand encounters occurred in this
struggle. One of our boys, called Pettit by name, got a rebel by
the collar and was dragging him over the breastworks when he
received a bayonet thrust in the head. Charles Eichorn had a
IN THE BATTLE OF REAM'S STATION, ^^c
pitched battle with a rebel. Charley knocked him down and was
in turn knocked down, but finally got away alive. But the most
heroic conduct was that of a Dane in Company I, who, when the
Confederate colors were planted on our works, sprang for and
grabbed them. He was instantly shot by a rebel officer, but as he
fell, held the colors in his grip, was drawn over the breastwork,
and did not release his hold until they had pounded his arms and
hands almost to a jelly and fairly wrung the flag from his dying
In the battle of Ream's Station the regiment lost three killed
outright, one who died of his wounds later, six others wounded
and twenty-three missing, a total loss of thirty-three. More men
of our regiment w^re taken prisoners in this afternoon engage-
ment than in any other one battle during the entire war. This
last pitched battle of the Fifty-seventh was marked, we are happy
to say, by much general valor and individual heroism, the boys
fighting desperately at close quarters and carrying its imperiled
colors triumphantly from the field. When night came on the
corps returned returned to its old place near the Williams' house,
occupying again its old camp, and for a time had rest.
The illustrious career of the Fifty-seventh New York Volun-
teers is now nearing its close. Already two companies have filled
out their term of enlistment and returned home, and on the 21st
day of September, Company A turns its face homeward, and
soon I shall be with friends at home again. How I would like to
name all my comrades in this book and call the attention of the
reader to their brave deeds, but space forbids. I can only men-
tion a few.
226 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Scenes and Incidents. — Anecdotes of Officers and Men of the Fifty-
seventh New York.
I have briefly mentioned in former chapters my captain and
colonel, S. K. Zook and A. B. Chapman. I desire to speak more
of them and their kindness to me during my service. Shortly
after I had enlisted for three years, my mother wrote Captain
Chapman a letter, committing me to his care. Shortly after he
received this letter he went to Paterson on recruiting service.
While in Paterson he visited my parents and at their solicitation
he remained all night. During his visit he promised my parents
that he would act as a father to me, and I need not say that he
was more like a father to me than as my captain. Many times
while on our marches he has carried my knapsack for miles at a
time, and in many other ways he tried to assist me, and no father
could have been kinder to me than he was. He was one of
the bravest officers and always kind to his men. At the battle of
Antietam he was promoted for bravery, and at the battle of
Chancellorville he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and
at the battle of Gettysburg he was again promoted to the
colonelcy of the regiment. After I was wounded during the
second day's battle of Gettysburg, I did not see him again until I
rejoined my regiment at the Wilderness, and much to my sorrow
and regret he was killed in that battle on the very day I returned,
and I shall never forget the sorrow of my old comrades when we
realized that our friend and captain was lost to us forever.
LBTTERjS that I WROTE TO MY MOTHER.
I have before me at this time two letters that I wrote to my
mother, the first one was wTitten during my three months' ser-
vice, the other long after I had been in the three years' service;
and as I sit and look upon them, my mind wanders back to the
days of the Civil War. What memories they bring to me. How
well can I see my comrades as I saw them in the days of '61 and
'65. The boys of the Fire Zouaves, and then the boys of the
Fifty-seventh. Where are they now ? I have only the memories
of a few. Many sleep in Southern graves; others have passed
over the river since we were mustered out in '64 ; w^hile the rem-
nant of that brave regiment are waiting for the final call to greet
the Great Commander of us all. My first letter was written just
after the battle of Bull Run and is as follows :
WASHINGTON, D. C, July 23, 1861.
You will understand long before this shall reach you, the fearful
events that have occurred during the last few days; which have pre-
vented me writing. On the 21st we fought the battle of Bull Run, in
which we were defeated. Our retreat began in an orderly manner, but it
was not long before it became a disorderly flight, that did not end until
the troops reached Washington. And even now as I write, they are still
pouring into and through this place in a state of utter disorganization.
Yesterday it rained all day and through the night. Many a panic-stricken
soldier is wandering footsore, exhausted and hungry through the streets
of the Capitol, not knowing where to go or what to do. My regiment's
term of service is about expiring, and we expect to get away from here
next week; so you can look for me home soon.
Your Loving Son,
JACOB H. COLE.
The other letter I mentioned was written from Harper's Ferry,
and it was also to my mother. How many scenes and incidents
had taken place between the time I wrote the first and this one !
228 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
How many miles had I traveled and battles we had fought ! But
here is the letter as wTitten :
HARPERS FERRY, October 18, 1862.
You will understand before this reaches you the glorious yet fearful
events which have prevented me from writing to you. We fought a
terrible battle near Sharpsburg called the battle of Antietam. This has
been the first time since we left Harrison's Landing until now that I
have had the opportunity of writing. We are now in camp at Harpers'
Ferry at the foot of the mountain, which is entirely commanded by the
hills on the Maryland side. It is quite cold here at night. The first
thing we did when we arrived here was to wash our clothes in the Poto-
mac river. Yesterday we marched to Charlestown, the place where John
Brown was hung, and advanced about a mile beyond, when we were
attacked by a large body of the enemy lying in ambush, and as they
were in larger force than ourselves we marched back to camp. We
passed the Thirteenth New Jersey on the march through Frederick City.
I heard that there was some Paterson boys in the Thirteenth and that
the regiment had been with us in the battle of Antietam. We are under
orders to be ready to march at any moment.
I have told you all the news out here. I hope this will find you as
v/ell as this leaves me at present.
From Your Loving Son,
JACOB H. COLE.
p g, — I forgot to mention that William has been transferred to the
First United States cavalry; so you will learn that we are not together
any more. — Your Son, Jacob.
Whatever emotions these words may awaken in others, they
bring to me some of the saddest memories of these four years, m
which vvere crowded the experiences of an ordinary lifetime.
Standing on picket posts in the dreary darkness and sickening
dampness of miasmatic swamps, hurrying to the front through
the slush and bogs that bordered it, fighting hip deep in
its turbid waters, I can see now the faces of those brave men, who
FELL OFF THE LOG INTO THiSi WATER. 2 2Q
never faltered at a command, whatever fate obedience to it might
involve. During the weary days and nights preceeding these
battles, the boys, as they returned from outpost duty, kept the
camp in roars of laughter with soldier yarns about their experi-
ence at night at the front. How one man relieved temporarily
from guard duty by his comrade of the next relief, lay down on
a log to match a brief nap and dreaming that he was at home in
his bed, turned himself over and fell off the log into the water at
its side. From another whose imagination had been impressed
by his surroundings, made the outpost hideous with his frog-like
snoring. I recall one private who had a genius for drawing in
camp. He would represent this or that comrade with a frog-like
face and the body and legs of a frog standing in the water with
knapsack high up on his back, his gun in one hand and a Johnny
cake in the other, the title below it being ''Bill," ''Bob or "Jake."
When on our marches, if we happened to meet one of the na-
tives and asked him how far it was to a certain place, the answer
we would receive would be: "Well, it is a right smart get, I
reckon." This at first was amusing, but after a while we would
count the miles by the dead mules and horses we saw along the
On many of our marches we came in contact with the First
New Jersey cavalry, and I cannot forget the kindness I received
from its members. Many times they have carried my knapsack
for miles, thus placing me under deep obligations to them.
So many incidents come to my mind at this time that it is im-
possible to write them all, but some I cannot forget.
After the battle of the Wilderness we moved to Cold Harbor,
and fighting all day with no apparent success the boys got
together and related incidents of the battle that had come under
.their observations, and also speaking of those who had been
2^0 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
killed, wounded or missing. Then they would say who will be
the next when we go into the next battle.
On the second day's battle of Cold Harbor, General Grant
ordered General Hancock to take the First division, under Gen-
eral Barlow, and make a bayonet charge upon the rebel position;
which was in a dense woods. Owing to the denseness of the
brush and trees it was impossible to see the enemy in our front.
General Barlow was aware that if the charge was made that it
meant a severe loss in men. In fact, he told General Hancock
that if he made the charge it meant the annihilation of his divi-
sion. But as a good soldier he prepared to obey the order, by
taking off the sword that had been presented to him by his divis-
ion, and also all his papers and other articles and marked them,
that in case of his death they might be sent home to his wife.
Afterwards he rode along the line and told the men that if they
had any thing to send home to their families, or a letter, they had
better do so at once, as he did not expect that if the charge was
made that there would be many left to tell the tale, as the ground
over which they expected to charge was all mined. The boys at
once prepared to take his advice. In addition to their other
preparations, they wrote their name and regiment on a piece of
paper and fastened it under their coat collars, but fortunately the
order to make the charge never came.
After the army left Harper's Ferry, we marched along the
base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While on the march. Gen-
eral Hancock desired to obtain information as to the position of
the enemy, and in order to do so he called for some of the men
to volunteer to act as scouts. When the call came I said to some
of the boys that I intended to offer my services. They told me
that I was foolish to do so, as I was likely to get shot for my
pains, or would get into hot water ; but this did not deter me.
I went to Major Chapman and asked that I might be detailed as
VOLUNTEERED TO ACT AS A SCOUT. g-Zl
a scout. He consented, and I then went personally to General
Zook with my request, telling him that Major Chapman was
willing. After some persuasion on my part he granted my re-
quest. At the same time he informed me of the information de-
sired by the general, which was the position of the enemy and
also as to the way he was marching. I was to go up into the
mountains and gather all the information possible. I was also
given such informtion as to the position of the enemy as was
known to our officers, and also to report as accurate as possible
all that I might see or hear. I started on my mission, and after
considerable work, reached the top of the mountain, and in order
to get a better view of the surrounding country I climbed a
tree. Here I had a magnificent view. From my position I could
see the whole country for miles around me in every direction, a
wonderful sight indeed. Spread out beneath me was the rebel
army. The information I was thus able to give General Hancock
as to the position of the enemy, and also as regards the roads
upon which the enemy was moving, enabled him to be prepared
for an attack.
While I was seated in the tree viewing the rebel army I had a
peculiar experience. Sitting in the tree, watching the movements
of the rebel army, I was suddenly aroused to my position by the
firing of a shot, which broke a limb of the tree in which I was
sitting. I need not say that it did not take me long to get down
to the ground. When I landed on the ground I saw a young
lady, who informed me that she had fired the shot to save my
life, as the enemy were then coming up the mountain, unknown
to me. I thanked her for doing so, and shortly after I saw the
enemy coming. The shot had also warned some of our boys,
who, coming up at this time, were enabled to meet the enemy ?nd
hold the position.
On the evening of May 29, 1862, there was brought to our
232 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
camp for the use of the regiment, the first stretchers we had ever
seen. We were standing in line, ready to march on to Richmond.
Each man appeared to know what they were for. I think there
were four to a regiment. They were made as follows : The two
poles were about six feet long; to the poles were fastened strong
duck cloth. They were intended to carry the wounded off the
field. We all know what these things meant. There was no fun
poked at each other that evening. I remember that one of the
boys came to me and said, "I am sick and not able to march."
I replied, *'I will speak to Colonel Zook for you, but, you know,
I am only a private like yourself." So I went to the colonel and
told him about the case, and he asked me how I knew that the
man was sick, and I told him that whatever Jeremiah William.s
said I knew to be true. So the colonel excused him on my recom-
mendation and indeed the poor fellow told the truth, as he died
within thirty days after.
A WAR SONG.
^iV— "The Harp that once through Tara's Hall."
By SERGEANT KEEFE
of Paterson Police Department, who enlisted in 1861 in the First New Jersey Cavalry.
PUBLISHED BY HIS PERMISSION.
Farewell my friends, I now must go,
And leave you here behind,
But in my breast there still shall flow
A heart that beats with thine.
I go, my country calls aloud
For soldiers bold and brave,
Better by far a soldier's shroud
Than live to be a slave.
But still there's pangs in parting, friends,
Which makes my heart recoil,
A WAR SONG. 233
My poor old father standing bent
By many years of toil;
Though many winters he hath run.
And hoary is his head;
Defend that flag, my son, he said,
For which our fathers bled.
And there is my poor mother dear,
O'ercome by grief and woe,
Her wailing voice comes to my ear.
Impressive, deep and low.
She clasps me fondly to her breast
With anguish, grief and pain,
And said: my son, that flag preserve,
Or number with the slain.
But sisters I have two;
With grief their bursting hearts did swell,
I have no brothers to say farewell.
As I take my fond adieu.
They cling to me with fond despair
And unto me they gave
A motto wove with their own hair:
Die or the Union save.
My loving wife distracted stands,
Which grieves my 'heart to see.
She takes my children, little ones,
And brings them unto me;
Tears do fill their little eyes,
And from my loving wife:
Defend that flag, she cries.
Yes, with your precious life.
And there is good old Paterson,
Whose pleasures I recall;
Where I have roamed in days by gone
Around the Passaic Falls,
But all these pleasures now I leave
In answer to that call.
Come forth ye soldiers bold and brave
For freedom fight or fall.
234 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
At the battle of Malvern Hill I saw a scene I will never forget.
A man riding along leisurely in front of my regiment, bare
headed, without either coat or jacket, begging the men not to
shoot too high, take good aim, make every shot tell. He rode
there for probably fifteen minutes. There was blood running
from one side of his head down to the flank of his horse. I was
never able to find out who he was or what became of him. A
large hound was also in the fight and was very much excited,
barking and running from one tree to another, as g^reat limbs
were cut off by cannon balls, and stopping occasionally to lick the
blood as it flowed from the wounded and dead soldiers.
It was here I saw the first cavalry charge of the war. It was
made by the Sixth Pennsylvania regiment of cavalry. The boys
carried lances about eight feet in length. On the end was a spear
and underneath the spear a piece of red flannel, cut like a guide
flag and of about the same size. Our men had used all their
ammunition, and General Sumner sent the cavalry into action
in order to hold the enemy in check until the men could refill their
cartridge boxes with fresh ammunition.
Shortly after I joined my company after my enlistment, while
laying at Camp Scarsdale, Captain Chapman gave to all the
members of his company a certificate of membership. This was
done in case any one of his men should be in New York City it
would prevent his arrest should any one attempt to arrest him or
molest him. The following is a copy of the certificate :
To All Whom These Present Shall Come or May Concern, Know Ye:
That Jacob H. Cole is a private in the company under my command
designated as Company A in the Fifty-Seventh Regiment of New York
State Volunteers, and as such is entitled to all the privileges and advan-
tages appertaining thereto.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand the Twenty^ninth
TO VISIT MY BROTHER. _^-
day of August in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and
A. B. CHAPMAN,
Captain Commanding Company.
Countersigned : —
S. K. ZOOK,
Colonel Commanding Fifty-seventh Regiment.
While we were encamped at Falmouth, Va., I desired to visit
the camp of the First United States cavalry, for the purpose of
seeing my brother. That I might do so without being arrested,
I applied to Captain Chapman for a pass, which, after a few
days' delay, I received, a copy of which is below :
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE.
Hancock's Division Camp near Falmouth,
December 28, 1862.
The Provost Guards will pass the bearer, Jacob H. Cole, to and from
the camp of the First United States Cavalry. The regiment is probably
near General Burnside's headquarters.
S. K. ZOOK,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Third Brigade.
Countersigned : —
MAJOR-GENERAL W. S. HANCOCK,
Commanding First Division, Second Corps.
I have only briefly mentioned Colonel Zook, but I cannot close
these memoirs without speaking at greater length of our com-
mander. As colonel of the regiment no one could have been
more thoughtful of his men than Colonel Zook. No matter what
duty they had to perform, he was always near to encourage.
When the regiment lay at Camp Scott, near Yorktown, we were
obliged to go out and build corduroy roads. We had been doing
this three days and on the fourth day Colonel Zook refused to
allow his men to go out on fatigue duty again. General Sumner
requested him to reconsider his determination, but as he refused
236 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
General Sumner placed him under arrest, with the result that the
whole regiment was under arrest for three days, after which he
was restored to duty and we were released. After the battle of
Fair Oaks, General Sumner sent for Colonel Zook and compli-
mented him for his bravery, at the same time apologized to him
for having placed him under arrest at Camp Scott and asking
his pardon, which was freely given. And not only at Fair Oaks,
but in every other battle up to Gettysburg, he showed the same
courage. On the morning of the second day's battle of Gettys-
burg, General Zook leading, and as we were entering the wheat-
field, we came to a stone wall. General Zook did not stop to go
around the wall but jumped his horse over it. Just as he did
so, he was struck by a rebel bullet and killed. As I saw him fall,
I remarked to Andy Wilson, ''There goes General Zook. It will
be my turn next," and shortly after I was wounded in the arm.
Among all the killed on that day no one was more regretted than
General Zook. Not only by his old regiment, but by the whole
brigade that he commanded. I have ever kept him in remem-
brance, even at this late day for his kindness to me as a boy.
MAJOR GENEKAI. ZOOK.
Token in 1865.
THE GRAND REVIEW. 2%'
The Close of the War.— The Grand Review, with a Sketch of the Corps
and their Commanders. — The End of the Army of the Potomac.
Forty years ago, on the 23rd of May, 1865, the Army of the
Potomac, having fought a good fight and finished its course with
honor, passed in final review before the President of the United
States. Prior to its final disbandment, the writer stood on Penn-
sylvania avenue, in Washington, an eye witness of probably the
greatest review of an army ever witnessed anywhere in the world.
And as he stood in front of the grand stand, on which there was
the President, his Cabinet and General Grant, he was filled with
sadness. The immortal Lincoln had passed away by the assas-
sin's hand. He who had done so much to bring the strife to an
end was not there to witness the grandest sight of the age. And
another source of sadness was that the gallant and great hearted
Sixth corps, under General Wright, was still detained at the
South in the vicinity of its old battlefields, but its pickets were no
longer disturbed by the crack of hostile rifles, and no four o'clock
in the morning yell broke the well earned sleep of its veteran
regiment. Peace reigned where so lately raged furious war.
Let us look upon that mighty host that marched along Penn-
sylvania avenue that day, with full company front, magnificent
cavalry corps, Sheridan's daring raiders, Sheridan's desperate
fighters, wheel into view, their great captain is not with them.
Today he has gone post haste to the Rio Grande to serve notice
2^8 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Upon the French Invader in Sheridan's place, and no less full of
fire and fight, rides his favorite lieutenant-general, Wesley Mer-
rill. Worthy successor to such a chief, worthy leader of such a
host, 8,000 sabres strong, the Cavalry corps of the Army of the
Pbtomac, as regiment after regiment and brigade after brigade
of gallant horsemen, bronzed by Virginia sun, pass up the ave-
nue, we see coming the magnificent cluster, little thinking in that
proud moment of an early and hideous death amid the fiendish
yells of a horde of naked savages.
There at the head of his division rides Stout. There gallant
Thomas Devin. So for an hour and twenty minutes the clatter
of sabres and the tramp of horses fill the air, as the heroic cavalry
of Gaines' Mill and Chancellorville, of Brandy Station and Aldie,
of Gettysburg, Yellow Tavern, Winchester, Fisher Hill, of Toms
Brook and Five Forks, of Rice's Station and Sailor's Creek ride
proudly by, the cavalry are gone forever.
Comes next the Engineers brigade, with its well known pon-
toons, under Benham. Oh! what stories those pontoons tell!
What recollections they call to mind as they go lumbering by.
How many times have our columns streamed over those bridges
of boats on the joyous advance or in sullen retreat. Do you re-
member that dull December day of 1862, when we fought our
way across the Rappahannock and up the streets of Fredericks-
burg, and then the remembrance of the retreat from Chancellor-
ville, amid a fearful downpour of rain and over a rapidly rising
river, as we went back in rage and shame from that splendid
inititive and those three days of bloody, purposeless, useless fight-
ing, what sight more eloquent of the mingled experiences of the
great war, its triumphs and its reverses, its high hopes and its
shameful disasters, than those great arks of things at which we
used to jeer as they went their toilsome way down the steep
and clayey river banks of Virginia.
THE NINTH CORPS. 239
And now a moment's pause, and then the noble Ninth corps,
the men of Burnside's old command, led by General John G.
Parke, a soldier scholar and stainless gentleman, bursts into
view. These are the men of the North Carolina expedition, the
men of Roanoke and Newbern, who came up under Burnside and
Reno to reinforce the Army of the Potomac in its dire strait at
Manassas and Chantilly, and to share its glories at South Moun-
tain and Antietam. These are the men of Fort Sanders and Foru
Stedman, of Spottsylvania and Bethesda Church, the men who,
on the 25th of March, 1865, redeemed the day that had been lost,
and that in the early morning of the 2nd of April, 1864, leaped
over the Confederate entrenchments along the Jerusalem Road,
answering Sheridan's despatches from Five Forks with the news
of the fall of Petersburg. With Parke, as division commanders,
are Orlando B. Wilcox of Michigan, G. Griffin of New Hamp-
shire, and John J. Curtin of Pennsylvania.
Here come the Fifty-eighth Pennsylvania, that dug the mine
at Petersburg. Then we see the famous twin regiments of the
North Carolina battles, the Fifty-first New York and the Fifty-
first Pennsylvania, the veteran regiments of Massachusetts, the
Fifty-sixth, Fifty-seventh, Fifty-eighth and Fifty-ninth, and that
fine brigade of western troops under Colonel Samuel Harriman,
comprising the Seventeenth and Twenty-seventh Michigan and
the Thirty-seventh Wisconsin. These were the men who had
done so much to teach Western dash and daring to the slower
but not less steady soldiers of the Atlantic seaboard. Here, too,
are such fine regiments as the Sixth, Ninth and Eleventh New
Hampshire, the Seventeenth Vermont and the Thirty-fifth Mass-
achusetts, the Seventh-ninth, or Highlanders, who lost more men
in battle than what was mustered in when they first went to the
war, and the One Hundred and Ninth regiment. Both of the
above were from New York. Then comes the Fourteenth regi-
240 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
ment of heavy artillery of New York, the Forty-fifth, Fiftieth
and One Hundredth Pennsylvania, the First Michigan Sharp-
shooters, and the Second Michigan Infantry.
With the Ninth corps this day marches a division of troops
that are not of the Army of the Potomac, but v^hich in the Shen-
andoah Valley under Sheridan have vindicated their claim to
brotherhood with the bravest and the best. It is General Wil-
liam Dwight's division of the Nineteenth corps, with its three
brigades under General Davis and James D. Fessenden, of
Maine. The Ninth corps column is appropriately closed by its
artillery brigade, under General John C. Tidball, to whom more
than any other man was due the repulse of the Confederates on
the 25th of March, 1865 and the recapture of Fort Stedman.
Here comes the splendid Fifth corps, fresh from Five Forks.
At its head rides not the gifted young officer whose presence
saved Gettysburg to the Union arms, and who at Bristol turned
his rear guards upon both of the pursuing columns of Lee's army.
Why General Warren rides not with the Fifth corps today, it is
not the time or place to ask, but surely if he is indeed to stand
aside, silent and mournful, while the gallant troops go on to re-
ceive the thanks of a grateful country, no worthier man could
have been found to take his place than the grim, taciturn, reso-
lute veteran, Charles Griffin.
Here march all that is left of the old First corps, which fought
under the accomplished but unsuccessful McDowell at Groveton
and Manassas, under John F. Reynolds at Fredericksburg, and
again at Gettysburg, where on the ist of July, 1863, this able
and heroic officer laid down his life that Cemetery Ridge might
be held for the Union troops, fast coming up to the greatest battle
of modern times. Behind Griffin, too, on this day, marched all
that was left of the old Fifth corps, which under John Fitz Porter
bore the brunt of Confederates' assault through the memorable
THE FIFTH CORPS. 24 1
seven days' battle on the Peninsular at Gaines Hill, Glendale, and
on the heights of Malvern Hill, which at the second battle of Bull
Run, upon the 30th of August, 1862, under the same gallant and
accomplished leader, made itself an immortal name by the reck-
less fury of its defence, and at Fredericksburg under Butterfield,
and at Gettysburg under General Sykes, added fresh lustre to its
ever stainless arms. Such was the body of troops which, undei
direction of General Warren, led the great campaign of 1864-5,
and which all the way from the Wilderness to Five Forks,
whether at Spottsylvania or on the North Anna at Bethesda
Church, or at Cold Harbor, over the blood stained earthworks of
Petersburg, or amid the tangle thickets of Hatcher Run, had
borne itself as became the renown of its two constituent corps
out of the old Army of the Potomac.
The order of divisions is that of Chamberlain, who led his
gallant regiment, the T\ventieth Maine, in the fierce hand-to-hand
fight that raged along the sides of Little Round Top, and in the
closing struggle of 1865 swept with his well appointed brigade
over the Confederate entrenchments on the White Oak Road,
and who now rides at the head of the old division of Morrell and
Grifhn. Then comes the division Ayres. Brave Ayres, the soul
of honor, courage and duty, ever ready and resolute, stoutest of
heart when the hearts of others fell, and finally the divisions of
Crawford. Conspicuous among the many gallant regiments
which thus form the Fifth corps' column or some which, by rea-
son of their long service sustained heroism and prodigious losses,
can never be mentioned without the Sixteenth and Twentieth
Maine, the Twenty-second Massachusetts, the Ninety-seventh,
One Hundred and Forty, One Hundred and Sixty-sixth and One
Hundred and Forty-seventh New York, the Eleventh, Eighty-
third, One Hundred and Eighteenth, O'ne Hundred and Twenty-
first, One Hundred and Forty-second, and One Hundred and
2*2 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, the First Maryland, one of four fine
regiments from that State, at the head of which rides Dennison,
with his empty sleeve ; and those four noble Western regiments,
the First and Sixty-sixth Michigan, the Sixth and Seventh Wis-
consin, the two regiments last named belonged to that famous
brigade of the old First corps, known as the Iron Brigade from
the West, out of whose five regiments there fell during the war
njDt less than 1,131 men killed or mortally wounded. With two
of the regiments I have named the deadliest day had been Gaines
Mill, with two the second Bull Run, with one Antietam and Shep-
erdstown Ford, with three the deadliest day had been Fredericks-
burg, with two the Wilderness, with one Spottsylvania. In the
case of most of these regiments there had been some one day of
terrible trial, where in the crisis of some desperate battle the con-
figuration of the ground and the formation of opposing lines at
just that point, perhaps, also, that the misbehavior of other troops
had brought upon its front an intolerable, unimaginable heighth
of fire, when men dropped like leaves in autumn gales, and all
who stood drank deep of the very bitterness of death, as instance
the losses of a single day, perhaps of a brief hour of fighting,
made up one-third or even one-half, of all the losses sustained
during three or four years of service.
Other regiments there were which had never known one trans-
cendent moment of mortal agony, but had spread their gigantic
total of the killed not very unevenly over a half score of battles.
With its main columns closed by Wainwright's brigade of
artillery, comes the Fifth corps. It passes swiftly and steadily
up the avenue this May morning, amid the plaudits of the specta-
tors, passes the reviewing stand, and then taking the route step,
makes its way to Georgetown, where it marches across the
Acqueduct Bridge to the well remembered camp at Ball's Cross
THE FIFTH CORPS. 243
No one leaves his post. For a corps not less renowned than any
which had fought out that bloody strife to a triumphant issue,
advances to salute the chief under whom it had conquered. At
its head, on a snow-white horse, followed by a score of officers
similarly mounted, rides that heroic and thrice accomplished sol-
dier and scholar, Andrew A. Humphreys. His serene and noble
face is lighted by the joy of triumph and the pride he feels in the
troops which follow him — the corps of Sumner, Couch and Han-
cock. That corps which, in a fair fight with Lee's great army,
had taken forty-four Confederate flags ere first it lost a color of
its own, which had left more than 40,000 of its members killed
or wounded on the battlefields of Virginia, Maryland and Penn-
sylvania ; the corps which crossed the Chickahominy to the rescue
of the beaten left at Fair Oaks ; which delivered the great assault
on Mary's Heights ; on which fell Longstreet's attack at Gettysr
burg; which stormed the salient at Spottsylvania on the 12th of
May, 1864; and at Farmside, on the 7th of April, 1865, fought
the last battle of the war.
Out of the hundred regiments sustaining the largest losses in
all the armies of the United States, East or West, thirty-five have
served under this corps' banners. Some of these, long sincQ
wasted to skeletons, have been sent away from the front, but
there still remains enough to witness these years of desperate
Here is the First Maine heavy artillery, which leads the roll of
regiments, suffering the absolute loss in a single battle of 632
officers and men, who fell in its desperate charge of the i8th of
June 1864, at P'etersburg of whom two hundred and ten were
killed or mortally w^ounded, just one month before at Spottsy!-^
vania it had lost in a brief action one hundred and forty-seven
killed or mortally wounded. Its aggregate for the war is four
2.M UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
hundred and twenty-three, or nineteen per cent of its total en-
Here, too, is the Fifth New Hampshire regiment — Gallant
Cross, Gallant Men — which leads the roll of all the infantry reg-
iments of the army in the total number of its fatal casualties,
295 men having been killed or mortally wounded in its ranks.
There marches the First Minnesota, the regiment suffering the
largest proportional casualties in a single action, having lost 224
men killed or wounded out of the 262 it took into action at Get-
tysburg, or 83 out of every 100. Here, too, are such renowned
regiments as the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Maine, the First
regiment of heavy artillery of Massachusetts, the Eighth regi-
ment of heavy artillery of New York, the Eleventh, Nineteenth,
Twentieth, Twenty-eighth, Fortieth, Fifty-second, Fifty-ninth,
Sixty-first, Sixty-third, Sixty-fourth, Sixty-ninth, Eighty-eighth,
Ninety-third, One Hundred and Eleventh, One Hundred and
Twentieth, One Hundred and Twenty-fourth, One Hundred and
Twenty-fifth, One Hundred and Twenty-sixth, One Hundred
and Sixty-fourth and the One Hundred and Seventieth infantry
regiments of New York.
The Seventh, Eighth, Eleventh and Twelfth New Jersey, the
Fifty-third, Fifty-seventh, Sixty-ninth, Eighty-first, One Hun-
dred and Sixteenth, One Hundred and Fortieth, One Hundred
and Forty-fifth and One Hundred and Forty-eighth Pennsyl-
vania, the First Delaware, Tom Smythe's old regiment, the Sev-
enth West Virginia, Meikel's Twentieth Indiana, the Fifth and
Seventh Michigan, Frank Haskell's Thirtieth Wisconsin. Such
are some of the regiments which compose the columns of the
Second corps in the grand review. Its First division is today
commanded by General John Ramsay. Here is all that is left
of the old division of Sumner, Richardson and Hancock, includ-
ing the once famous brigades of Brooks, Caldwell, Zook and
THE SECOND CORPS. 24 S
Meagher, together with the survivors of Alexander Hay's
brigade, which came up at Gettysburg and helped to hold Ceme-
tery Ridge against Pickett's men. This is the division that lost
in the war 2,237 men killed outright and 11,724 men wounded
in battle. These are the men of the Sunday morning at Fair
Oaks, of the sunken road at Antietam, of the stone wall at Fred-
ericksburg, of the salient at Spottsylvania, of the closing fight
Next comes the division commanded by General Frank Bar-
low, the old division of Sedgwick. Here are the men of Ball's
Bluff, the men who crossed the Chickahominy with Kirby's bat-
tery on the 31st of May, 1862, who came up on the right of the
Fourth corps at Fair Oaks and who covered the rear of the re-
treating army at Savage Station. These are the men who came
out alive of the frightful charge at the Dunker Church on the
17th of September, 1862 ; the men who stood on the right and on
the left of the clump of trees upon which Longstreet directed his
great charge, and who, under Gibbons, Hall and Andy Webb,
beat back the furious flood of rampant rebellion at its utmost
heighth. With these came all that are left of the Corcoran Le-
gion and of French's old Third division of the Second corps, and
now, under Gersham Mott, advances the last division of the great
infantry column, consisting of the survivors of that magnificent
division of Kearney and Hooker, its three brigades under Detra-
briand, Pierce and McAllister, comprised a wealth of courage
and discipline never surpassed in the history of war. These are
the men of Williamsburg and Seven Pines, of Glendale and Bris-
tow Station, of Manassas and Chantilly, of Chancellorville and
the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg, who, on the opening of the
great campaign of 1864, leaving their old associations with pas-
sionate regrets, carried with their new relations the same devoted
loyalty, the same fiery but steadfast courage, which had made
^ UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
the name of the Third corps the synonymous of soldiery virtue.
And now Hazard's artillery brigade brings up the rear, and
the great review is over. Oh, that the story would be longer, for
then the one I have rudely and hurriedly told would tell of those
who were absent from their colors and that could have length-
ened the march out to a whole day and night. How greatly, too,
would their presence have altered its aspect, of those whose forms
had once been most conspicuous in that gallant army. There
were some who, after rising to a high command, had, either
through accident or fortune, or through popular or adminis-
trative impatience, or because of their own confessed limitations,
been removed under more or less censure, yet carrying with them
for life and forever the love and devotion of their soldiers. Such
in the highest place were McClellan, Burnside and Hooker. A
few there were who with less of observation had drifted out of
the currents of active operations through changes which were
perhaps for the benefit of the service, yet without any imputation
upon their courage and patriotic devotions. Of these I surely
need not speak. Others there were who, in the heighth of their
usefulness, had been removed by cruel wounds and had been con-
demned for the rest of the war, to see younger and more fortu-
nate soldiers occupy their places and lead their troops to battle.
Some, too, there were who, after long and distinguished ser-
vice in the Army of the Potomac, had carried their swords to
other fields. Such were Hancock, Slocum, Couch, Howard,
Williams and Geary. But where on the day of that great re-
view were Reynolds, Reno, Kearney, Richardson, Whipple,
Berry, Stevens, Bayard, Rice, Wadsworth, Zook, Alexander,
Hays, Weed, Vincent, Taylor, Rodman, Stevenson and Smythe?
All in honorable soldiers' graves, killed in battle. Sumner, too,
that grand old veteran, and David Birney had yielded to the
stroke of disease scarcely less fatal in war than the bullet of the
THE END OF THE REVIEW. ^.^
enemy. The Sixth corps was still in the field, but where was
Sedgwick and David Russell, and who shall call the roll of the
thousands of younger officers and tens of thousands of enlisted
men, who had dropped out of the ranks of the gallant army in
the three years of almost continuous battles.
Of the wonderful exhibition of civic virtue which character-
ized the return to the arts of peace of more than 800,000 Union
soldiers within the course of a few months it is not necessary to
speak of here.
As the men who had so long been gathered under the standard
of the Army of the Potomac had not been less distinguished than
any others for their discipline in camp, their endurance on the
painful and protracted march, and their courage and tenacity in
the long, hard and doubtful battle. So the historian of this gallanll
body of troops may rightfully claim for them honor second to
none for their good citizenship since the restoration of peace.
May these, together with all the unnamed ones, be star-crowned
at last in the Glory Beyond, is the earnest wish of
UNDER FIVE COMIklANDERS.
The Assassination of President Lincoln
There remains to be recorded the crowning act of infamy in
this wicked rebeUion — an act committed when the confederacy
was crumbhng to pieces, when Lee's army had surrendered and
Johnston's was at the mercy of Gen. Sherman; committed in
the capital of the nation, when the loyal people were rejoicing
over victories and the hopes of a speedy peace. President Lincoln
had been re-elected by a large majority of the popular vote, and
a remarkable majority in the electoral college. On the 4th ol
March he was a second time inaugurated, and from the eastern
portico of the Capitol pronounced a brief address, hopeful, bui
not triumphant, and imbued with religious feeling and solemnity
which made it deeply impressive. Its closing words exhibited
the spirit with which he would administer the government—,
"With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness
in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to
finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds; to
care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow
and his orphans; to do all which may achieve and cherish a just
and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." After
four years of war, and all the toil, care and anxiety which they
THE ASSASSINATION OF PREfSIDENT LINCOLN. ^ . ^
had brought to him in the execution of his high office, he entered
upon his second tei*m under more auspicious circumstances than
he had begun the first, and with hopeful prospects of peace the
more congenial labor of pacification. The final blows at the mil-
itary power of the confederacy w'ere struck; he had himself en-
tered the conquered confederate capital ; the end of the rebellion
was already in sight, within little more than a month after his
inauguration. With the people he was rejoicing over the vic-
tories and hopes of the hour, when, on the night of the 14th
of April, he was assassinated — on the night of that day, when,
by his direction, with appropriate ceremonies and in the presence
of a distinguished company, the national flag was raised over
the ruin of Fort Sumter, symbolizing, on the spot where the re-
bellion had achieved its first victory, the final triumph of the
The assassination was the result of a conspiracy, organized
during the previous winter and early spring, by a number of
traitors, resident in Washington and Maryland, which was in-
tended to cripple the government by the simultaneous murder of
its principal officers, and so to disorganize its powxr and appall
the loyal people, that the rapidly waning fortunes of the rebellion
might revive and perhaps ultimately triumph. The assassin and
apparently chief conspirator was John Wilkes Booth, an actor,
and with him were associated ten or twelve others, not the least
malignant and active of whom was a woman, Mrs. Surratt,
whose son was also a principal coadjutor.
It was alleged, and with some reason, that the plot was known
to, and approved by, the confederate government at Richmond,
and that Davis and some of his cabinet, and their agents in
Canada, were accomplices in the crime. Whether this be so
or not, certain it is that propositions to assassinate President
Lincoln and other prominent members of the government were
2 CO UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
received and entertained by Davis and his associates, and were
not rejected at once, and with the scorn which became civilized
and Christian men. On the evening of April 14th, when the
people were manifesting their joy at the prospects of speedy
peace, the Presi4ent was induced, through the instigation oi
Booth, to be present at a performance at Ford's Theatre. While
seated there, in his private box, with his family and one or two
friends. Booth obtained admission to the box, and with fatal
precision discharged a pistol at the head of the President, and
then leaping upon the stage, and crying with theatrical affecta-
tion, *'Sic semper tyrannis!" he rushed to the rear of the theatre,
through which a free passage was prepared for him, and mount-
ing a horse in waiting, rode away.
The excitement which followed as soon as the act was known
was intense, but the assassin had escaped. The President was
removed to a house opposite the theatre, where, after lingering
in an insensible state for a few hours, he expired. On the same
night another of the conspirators gained admission to the house
of Mr. Seward, Secretary of State — who was confined to his bed
by serious injuries, caused by being thrown from a carriage— and
made a murderous assault upon him, stabbing him in several
places, and also nearly killing the Secretary's son, who attempted
to detain the assailant. Other conspirators who were to dispatch
the Vice-President and other members of the cabinet, failed to
accomplish their part of the work.
The wounds of Mr. Seward and his son were severe, and their
condition for some time was critical, but they ultimately recov-
ered. The assassination of President Lincoln sent a thrill of
horror through the nation, and the deep and general feeling of
grief which followed can hardly be paralleled in history. Every-
where the people were in tears. For the President, by his fidel-
ity to his country, his honesty of purpose, and his kindness of
THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN. 25 1
heart, had become endeared to them. The country was in
mourning, and on the 19th of April, when the remains of the
Martyr President were borne to the Capitol with solemn funeral
services, in every city and hamlet throughout the Northern
States, the tolling bells, minute guns, the sad procession, the in-
signia of grief, the fervent prayer, and the touching eulogy,
told of a sorrow general and unaffected, such as was never before
exhibited. And when the remains were borne in solemn funeral
state through the chief cities of the east, to his former home in
Illinois, their progress was marked by imposing obsequies sur-
passed only by the real mourning which the people everywhere
manifested. The death of Mr. Lincoln was a great loss to the
nation, for his entire devotion to the country, his integrity, his
firmness in the right, his patience, and his kindness of heart, had
inspired the confidence of the people, and in the difficult ques-
tions of pacification and reconstruction which were to follow,
they felt that he would desire only to attain the right results,
and acting in accord with the sentiment of the North, and with
the spirit of his immortal emancipation proclamation, would
ultimately, though it were by slow and experimental steps, have
reached the true solution. Prompt and vigorous measures were
taken by the government for the arrest of the assassin and his
accomplices, and by the efforts of the detectives the conspiracy
was soon discovered, some of the conspirators were arrested,
and large rewards were offered for the arrest of others, includ-
ing in the number Davis and some of his rebel associates.
The direction of Booth's flight was soon ascertained, and he
was traced through Maryland, and finally overtaken, with a
comrade, at a barn in Virginia, where he showed a desperate re-
• sistance, and being mortally wounded by a shot from one of his
pursuers he died a painful death. Other conspirators were ar-
rested and tried by a military commission. Nine were found
252 UNDER FIVE COMMANDERS.
guilty, and four of them, Harold, Payne, Atzerot and Mrs.
Surratt, were hanged; three, Dr. Mudd, Arnold and McLaugh-
lin, were sentenced to inprisonment for life; and one, Spangler,
whose guilt was less aggravated, to imprisonment for six years.
Others who were supposed to be accessories, were not brought
to trial, and the son of Mrs. Surratt, who was one of the most
active of the conspirators, escaped from the country; he was
subsequently found in the military service of the Pope. He was
arrested in November 1866, but escaped, and was again arrested
in Alexandria, Egypt. The day that President Lincoln died,
Vice-President Johnson took the oath of office in the presence
of the cabinet, and succeeded to the presidency.
Mr. Johnson was of humble birth, and a self-educated and
self-made man, in a section of the country where the opportuni-
ties for such men to rise were more limited than at the North.
He had risen, in spite of his early disadvantage, to the highest
honors in the gift of the people of his state, and was finalK
elected by the people of the loyal states to a position from which
he succeeded to the chief magistracy of the nation. His origin
and social and political position made him more democratic than
most of the leading men of the South, and he always entertained
for the slaveholding aristocracy feelings of hostility.
Upon the breaking out of the rebellion he gave expression to
this hostility in the freest manner, and from the first declared
and maintained his loyalty to the Union. Though from educa-
tion and association he had always defended the institution of
slavery, during the war he readily accepted emancipation as the
legitimate result of rebellion, and seemed to occupy the same
ground as the mass of the Northern people in regard to the
It was this, together with his constant loyalty and his hatred
of the confederacy, that led to his election to the Vice-Presi-
THE ASSASSINATION OF PREISIDENT LINCOLN. 2 c, -2
dency. Upon his accession to the Presidency, his repeated dec-
laration, at that time and previously, led some of the persons to
fear that his hostility to the confederate leaders would lead him
to pursue a harsh and vindictive course toward them, and
caused others to believe that a wise dispensation of Providence
had removed the kind hearted Lincoln at a time when leniency
might be fatal to a final pacification of the country.
His administration did not prove as popular as could be desired,
the people wished to keep Mr. Lincoln's cabinet intact, but Presi-
dent Johnson removed Mr. Stanton on charges and called Gen.
Grant into his cabinet as Secretary of War, in Stanton's place.
Johnson further made himself unpopular to a degree which
finally led to proceedings to impeach him, but after many weeks'
trial he was acquitted.