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This is the archive for July 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

With everything that has gone on with the Battle of Wilderness II, one thing had not quite connected in my mind until I picked up “Civil War Battlefields: Then and Now” by James Campi, Jr.. What was it that connected? Well, lets take a step back and talk about the book first.

It is a neat little book with one of those concepts that makes you wonder, why hasn’t this been done to death already? It may have and I haven’t seen it before – but either way I like it. On the even page it shows a picture of a battlefield during the civil war and on the odd page, what the area looks like now. Mr. Campi did a great job of trying to recreate the pictures as close as possible – where he could. But some just couldn’t be done – because of progress.

A picture of Fort Sedgwick near Petersburg hit me like a ton of bricks. For you see Fort Sedgwick took part in the Siege of Petersburg. It was a Union fortification that was nicknamed Fort Hell by the soldiers that manned it. Near it was a Confederate fortification nicknamed Fort Damnation and the two would fight against each other during the entire siege.

Shortly after the fall of Petersburg, it looked like this

Fort Damnation would become part of the Petersburg National Park; Fort Hell would not and now looks like this.

Thirty years ago, who would have thought Woolworths or Montgomery Wards would be a thing of the past? How close did Sears and K-Mart come to falling before merging?

How many big box stores have been closed as new and better ones have been built to replace it? In Charleston there is a huge former Wal-Mart that did amazing business – but was closed down when two other Wal-Mart stores were built nearby to better serve the community. This isn’t new. K-Mart did the same thing in Charleston over a decade ago, closing four other stores for a new one. All the stores are being used now but most took time. Two of the four look worse than before and quite frankly an eyesore, is that what is destined for the new Wal-Mart in Wilderness?

We have an opportunity to save a battlefield and cannot afford to let it pass through our fingers.

Go now to the Civil War Preservation Trust and learn how you can help. Time is short, every voice will count.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I’m not going to wax prophetically about the vagaries and mysteries that are a part of life. Still, I’m reminded time and time again of the strange confluences that seem to swirl around us like some gaseous elements.

In pulling information for the July 25th post, I reread a July 25, 1863 letter from Assistant Surgeon Joshua Wilbur, in which he told of soldiers writing graffiti on the interior walls of a rural Virginia church. I was immediately struck by the coincidence of having posted a picture of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Delaplane, Virginia, two days earlier, in which it’s noted on a historical marker that soldiers wrote their names on the church walls. Wilbur doesn’t say in his July 25th letter where the church was located, but it was in the line of march on July 25th.

Same church? Don’t know. Awfully close coincidence? You bet. Product of my unconscious mind? Perhaps.

Then, there’s this. Two days after the Raynham Call article on Civil War Medal of Honor winner Frederick Anderson, the story of Jared Monti, another Raynham resident appeared. Monti was killed in Afghanistan on June 21, 2006 and three years later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. In a television interview, conducted the day after President Barak Obama called the Monti family to inform them of their son being awarded the nation’s highest military honor, Paul Monti, Jared’s father, cited the Frederick Anderson story that appeared in the Raynham Call.

To read Jared Monti’s story published in the Raynham Call on July 22nd click here.

If you haven't read the first part of Frederick Anderson's story, which appeared in the Raynham Call on July 20th, click here.

To read Part Two on Frederick Anderson, run in the Raynham Call on July 28th, click here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Pursuit is a series of posts that began July 5th and traced the day-by-day actions of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry, assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps, as the Union Army pursued Lee’s retreating army following the battle of Gettysburg.

For a more expansive look at post-Gettysburg operations, two books are highly recommended: Kent Masterson Brown's Retreat from Gettysburg and One Continuous Fight, co-authored by Eric Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent.

The long pursuit, which the Fifth Corps had begun in late June when the Army of the Potomac trailed Lee from Virginia to a Pennsylvania crossroads town and back into Virginia again, came to an end for the 18th Massachusetts around 9 a.m. on Monday, July 27, 1863. William Tilton, temporary Brigade commander, took his time before finally selecting a site for the 1st Brigade to encamp. Tilton picked well, at a place in Fauquier County, Virginia called Beverly Ford, because, as it turned out, days would stretch into weeks, then months, before the 18th Massachusetts or the other regiments under his command would permanently move on again.

Union troops had been steered clear of Warrenton, a disappointment to those who thirsted for whiskey or other alcoholic beverages. But that was the point; to keep them sober and from making mischief in a town known as a “rabid hole for Secesh.” There were some who believed rumors that the Stars and Bars still flew over buildings in the town, while others scoffed at the notion particularly because of the strong Union presence close by.

Another rumor flew. Meade was to be replaced by Grant.

Beverly Ford, Fauquier County, Virginia, a place at which to cross the mighty, mighty Rappahannock:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

For two hours following reveille, the 18th Massachusetts busied itself with striking their tents and packing gear, before finally resuming their march toward Warrenton at 6 a.m. Five hours later they had only made five miles even though traveling exclusively by road. By eleven with heat from the sun growing in intensity, those who couldn’t keep up, even under the slow pace, were dropping out by the roadside, most taxed beyond endurance by the climb over “Critter” Mountain. In the words of one veteran, “marching is tedious work.”

The primary concern for all was water. What little that could be found in the streams they crossed was described as neither cool nor clear.

Having been without a Chaplain for more than fifteen months, some of the men turned their eyes toward a large church as they passed. Joshua Wilber’s pen became reflective when the Regiment made camp that night in a field, still miles from their goal of Warrenton. “[I] wish I could be there today with a good preacher and a respectable congregation with a fair proportion of ladies to make it look natural.”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Even the best of men, including those who are normally kind, moral, spiritual beings, and respectful of laws, are at risk of those traits and values being diminished when hardship, privation, personal suffering, and the suffering of others all around, as occurs in war, is thrust upon them. It doesn’t mean they become forever cruel, that their humanity is stripped away, or they’re reduced to a state of permanent barbarism by their experience on the battlefield. Even at their worst, when the blood flows deepest, men are capable of great feats of compassion or later, in reflection, shame and remorse.

When you are footsore and hungry, when you have seen your comrades die at the hands of men intent on tearing apart “the best form of government ever created in the history of mankind,” and you come to a farm owned by a father who probably has sons who stood beneath the Stars and Bars on the Sunken Road at Fredericksburg, and you eye his sheep, his cows, his smoke and hen houses, you do not do what you would have done in Wrentham, Massachusetts before the war. You do not honor the sanctity of the man’s property. You kill twenty-six of his sheep, his hogs, his turkeys, his ducks, and all but two of his cows and carry the bounty away with you as you continue your march away from Manassas Gap toward Warrenton on a cool breeze swept Saturday morning. If you have a pang of conscience like Joshua Wilber, you enter the house afterward, ask the father and his two daughters for a meal and pay them a quarter for their hospitality. If you are Wilber, walking away with a satisfied stomach, you do not see the youngest of the girls spit in your direction.

Pious men, men who two years earlier sat reverently beneath a tall white steeple in Pembroke, Massachusetts and praised God from whom all blessings flowed, now scrawl their names on the sanctuary walls of a small rural church, breaking up pews to fuel fires for their coffee, somewhere between Linden and Hume. Then as quickly as they have come, they move on like locus, the mud sucking at their brogans, while those horses that are used up are abandoned to the locals as fair trade for their losses.

At 4:30 and sixteen miles from their starting point, the 18th Massachusetts spied another wild blackberry patch on the outskirts of Orlean. In camp one wrote to his wife, “I ate until I got almost tired of doing so” and predicted they would be in Warrenton with one more final long push. The earlier portion of the day’s march went without mention.

In case you haven't guessed it, Orlean is a small town, a very small town. Just how small is it? According to Wikipedia: "The Orlean Post Office is purported to be the smallest post office in the United States."

Friday, July 24, 2009

In the same way attrition had attached itself to the 18th Massachusetts, the Fifth Corps was a mere shadow of its former self, reduced in strength to one sixth its numbers from the year prior.

On the morning of the 24th the First Division was positioned on the left of the line. While the second and third brigades began their further advance into Manassas Gap, the 1st Brigade was held in reserve, a precautionary measure in the event the advance was checked and driven back.

Both the aforementioned brigades went downhill, crossed a valley, and up the mountain, trying to sniff out Confederates and their masked batteries. Nothing. Nothing but more peaks to climb and more valleys to cross. In time the Division was recalled. The effort was not futile for the Third Corps, though. They bulled their way through the Gap virtually unopposed and emerged on the other side, taking full possession of Front Royal.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Instead of continuing their easterly march toward Warrenton, the Fifth Corps now did an about face and swung west in response to reports that Lee’s army was trying to break out of the Shenandoah Valley through the wind gaps in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A course was set for Manassas Gap where the the Corps was to rendezvous with the Third, Second, and Twelfth Corps. This generalized movement was, at the least, expected to block Lee, or, at best, would allow the Army of the Potomac to push through into the Valley themselves.

As each mile brought the 18th Mass. closer to the Gap the roads became rougher, but any physical difficulty was visually offset by scenery that became increasingly more spectacular. The towns the Regiment passed through melded into the other and the names, like Delaplane and Markham, faded from memory quickly. No one took note of a tiny hamlet called Linden.

Linden and Front Royal, Virginia sat like sisters at opposite ends of the table with the Manassas Gap between them. Though the Third Corps had begun their movement at three a.m. and were already inside the Gap, the Fifth overtook and passed them around noon. An exchange in position occurred again when those marching under the Maltese Cross were halted to allow the Third Corps to resume the lead.

The Fifth Corps, now marching “by brigades in full regimental fronts,” was hindered by a ribbon thin road and as a result began to resemble a sideways V; those in the front stuck to the road, while those behind spread out on the slopes where they contended with “underbrush, tough sassafras shrubs, or in some places, by over jetting rocks.”

After covering two miles over some of the “vilest of roads,” the Fifth Corps came to a halt around four p.m., not to pitch camp, but to prepare itself for a fight. According to Assistant Surgeon Joshua Wilber, who kept eyes fixed on the proceedings, the men blundered around, climbing “over stone walls, up and down steep hills, scarcely a square foot of which but had a stone as big as your head.” The 18th would stop for the night on a hillside, occupying space where others had been fighting an hour before. Wilber saw signs of blood splattered on rocks and discarded equipment in the midst of where the the 18th now rested. He lauded efforts by the troops, writing, “It was a hard place for our men and required great bravery to charge up such a hill.”

Responsibility for the main Union thrust had fallen primarily to the Second Division of Daniel French’s Third Corps, which launched their attack close to 4:30 p.m., and initially succeeded in driving the defensive minded Confederates under James Walker for one to two miles. When Robert E. Rodes’s infantry and artillery arrived to bolster Walker, the Union attack fizzled and darkness put a stamp of finality on further fighting. Casualties on both sides in dead, wounded, and missing, were estimated at 450 men.

Union troops slept on arms where they were positioned, while those in grey, unbeknownst to their enemy, were to utilize cover of darkness to retrace their steps back into the Valley. That the morrow would present another opportunity to seize the initiative loomed in the minds of Union commanders. But as silence enveloped the surrounding elevations, the reality didn't escape anyone that in the Battle of Manassas Gap, or Wapping Heights, both sides had failed to grab the upper hand.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Delaplane, VA dates from 1859. During the Civil War the church was used by both Confederates and Union troops as a shelter and hospital. Ancestors of Kilroy inscribed their names on wood for posterity, the markings of which in some cases are still legible.

The Markham, VA Post Office has been sorting and delivering mail out of this building since 1818


Manassas Gap

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Colonel Joseph Hayes, who had suffered a broken leg at Gettysburg when his horse fell and rolled on top of him, and six Sergeants were sent to Massachusetts on this date hoping to return with 400 to 500 conscripts to fill the ranks. Of the original 1,042 officers and men who were mustered into service with the 18th Mass. between August 24, 1861 to January 14, 1862, when Company C finally joined the Regiment, only 345 were still carried on the muster rolls. Those 345 had been supplemented by the last great wave of volunteers in the summer of 1862, when 135 new men arrived in camp. From November 1862 through June 1863 only 21 additional recruits had been added. In all, allowing for further reductions through deaths, discharges, hospitalizations, capture, and desertion since the previous November, the effective fighting strength of the 18th was in the neighborhood of 350 men on July 22nd.

With Hayes and the Sergeants safely off, the tranquility of the 18th’s camp was disturbed by the sudden bugle call at 11 a.m. to “strike tents.” An hour later the 1st Brigade had struck the road toward Middleburg, then veered off toward the right in the direction of Upperville. A rapid pace was maintained on what was described as a decent road, but as the column moved further away from Unison the country grew “sandy and poorer” and there was growing concern over the ability to find quality drinking water.

Around 4:30 in the afternoon the Brigade marched past the cluster of ten houses that comprised Rectortown. An estimated two days march from Warrenton and hard by the Manassas Gap Railroad, the Brigade pan-fried or soaked their hard bread in coffee trying to make it more digestible. As always, those who relished the stuff tried to scrounge from those who didn’t.

The narrative:

On November 5, 1862, several weeks after a tainted victory at Antietam, the Army of the Potomac’s Commander-in-Chief Gen. George Brinton McClellan established his headquarters here. That same day President Abraham Lincoln wrote the orders relieving McClellan of command. On the snowy evening of November 7, Gen. C.P. Buckingham arrived at McClellan’s tent with Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Buckingham handed McClellan the dispatch. When he finished reading, McClellan declared, “General Burnside, you are now in command of the Army. After bidding farewell to his troops in nearby Warrenton on Nov. 10, Gen. McClellan returned to civilian life. In 1864 he ran against Lincoln as the Democratic Party candidate for president.

Depiction of Burnside superseding McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

The narrative continues:

The depot at this site was in use during the war and the building which houses farm equipment was one of Mosby’s headquarters/ The stone building in front of you was used as a Federal prison and still has traces of graffiti drawn by prisoners.

A sad affair for both North and South is summed up in this portion of the narrative:

Rectortown also was the site of a deadly raffle on November 6, 1864. Because Col. John S. Mosby’s men attributed the execution of seven of his Confederate rangers to Union Gen. George Custer, Mosby ordered the execution of an equal number of Federals, to be selected among 27 prisoners. Two drummer boys were among the prisoners, and one of them drew a fatal slip. When Mosby was informed of the circumstances he heeded the plea of a young artillery officer to allow a second drawing for a substitute. Ironically, the death lot was drawn by the officer whom made the request. Ultimately, that officer and three others survived. Three of them were hanged.

Mosby and his men supervising the drawing of lots by Union prisoners.


A monument at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal, Virginia was dedicated in 1899 by veterans of Col. John Mosby’s 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry to commemorate the seven comrades executed near Front Royal on September 23, 1864. In spite of what commonly passes for fact, Union General George Armstrong Custer vehemently denied that he ordered the executions. The monument bears the names of Thomas E. Anderson, ___ Carter, David L. Jones, Lucien Love, William Thomas Overby, Henry C. Rhodes, and Albert C. Willis.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A complete day of rest was called with the 18th Mass. continuing their encampment near Goose Creek, a tributary of the Potomac. The lull presented Sgt. William Alderman of Co. I with time to write his parents and advise, while he was well, he hadn’t received a letter from them in weeks and worried it meant they had both been drafted into the army. “This is the 36th day we have been marching and after having marched all over Maryland have got back to Virginia again.” He expressed disappointment that he was not one of the six Sergeants selected to retrieve draftees in Massachusetts, which might have given him an opportunity to see family after a two-year absence from home. One of those fortunate enough to have drawn this plum assignment was another sergeant from Co. I, George Washington Thompson, the third great-grandfather of yours truly.

Alderman didn’t see any prospect of immediate fighting on the horizon, but penned this lament while holding paper to his knee: “I am sorry that we did not capture Lee’s Army in Maryland and I believe it could have been done.”

Union troops in front of the Old Stone Bridge, which still spans Goose Creek and was not closed for use until the 1950's

Monday, July 20, 2009

I was late arriving home from work, as per usual, and found an email alerting me that John Quattrucci’s Raynham Call story on Medal of Honor recipient Frederick C. Anderson of the 18th Massachusetts is on line. Click here to read Part One of Anderson’s story.

This is exciting stuff for all of us at Touch the Elbow, because, outside of this Blog and our Web site, which is badly in need of updating, there’s so little information out there on our favorite Regiment, including books.

We’ll link to Part Two next Monday.

Toward the end of March we were contacted by John Quattrucci, a reporter for the Massachusetts based Raynham Call. John, the recipient of national awards for his coverage of local high school sports, as well as a history buff, was trying to gather information for a story on a former Raynham resident who marched off to war in 1861 and won the Nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.

Part One of Fredrick C. Anderson’s story, which began in Boston on March 24, 1842 and culminated in the August 21, 1864 capture of the 27th South Carolina's regimental flag at the Second Battle of Weldon Railroad, debuts in the Raynham Call this week. I'll link to the story, about the man a town of 13,566 current residents has no memory of, as soon as possible.

Breakfast was eaten around two-thirty a.m., a half-hour after reveille sounded. Placed at the rear of the Fifth Corps again, the 18th and the rest of the 1st Brigade were finally rolling at five. The column averaged a shade over one mile per hour and at ten halted in a grove just beyond the village of Unison.

Unison, in 1863, was comprised of a brick church, “a broken down tavern,” a blacksmith shop that had been closed up tight by its owner, and about a dozen houses, “most of them shaky, tumble down affairs, occupied by women who don’t wear hoops and smoke pipes.” There seemed to be an overabundance of children for a place its size, the overwhelming majority of them “dirty, ragged, and barefoot.”

Collecting their gear after a short rest, the column moved on for another four miles before they halted again, this time near “a beautiful mansion,” which General George Sykes, placed in command of the Fifth Corps three weeks earlier, appropriated as his headquarters. The 1st Brigade was left to its own devices to find a campsite nearby and Col. William B. Tilton set off what seemed like a fox chase, leading his men over stone walls, hills, and through streams, but as Assistant Surgeon Joshua Wilbur wrote to his wife: “The country is so rolling and beautiful and the streams of pure water so plentiful that you could hardly find a poor place to camp about here.”

Warning! Drive slowly, very slowly for the next three to four miles, unless you really want a new axle(s) for your car.

Population in 2000: 70. If you're in the Middleburg, Virginia area, the scenary along the roads leading to the village is alone worth the drive.

Want to engage in a very interesting fifteen to twenty minute conversation with a total stranger? Ask Pete Weinberg about his house, the rear portion of which dates from 1730.

Although I can't say for certain, this house may have been the one used by Gen. George Sykes as his headquarters. Unfortunately there was no one around to ask.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moving an entire army, most of it on foot, was a very slow process. It took almost three hours from the time the order was first given at 6 a.m. for other divisions and brigades to pass before the 1st Brigade joined the line of march at the very rear of the Fifth Corps.

Once again, the march wasn’t taxing, the 1st Brigade maintaining a speed of about a mile and a half an hour. At noon, with Purcellville five and a half miles in the rear view mirror, regiments picked their spots to make camp, the 18th situating itself in an oak grove outside the town of Philomont, Virginia until the following morning.

Assistant Surgeon Joshua Wilbur, whose mid-day meal consisted of bread, butter, and coffee, blamed the last ingredient for his apparent insomnia. “I don't think it is good to drink so much coffee and have no doubt it has something to do with my not sleeping nights as I slept very well last night after drinking tea. But when a person has been traveling all day and eating nothing, coffee does taste good.”

Madeline standing behind the counter at the Philomont General Store. She said it was the last country store in Virginia to also serve as a Post Office.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Having experienced the physical pounding of a 25-mile forced march just three days earlier, no one was complaining when the column came to a screeching halt after covering eight miles in a shade just under four hours. Not when there were twenty-five acres of wild blackberries on the outskirts of Purcellville ripe for the picking. Men gouged themselves, letting the juice run freely down their chins, letting rivers of juice drip from their hands, and then gouged themselves some more until their bellies cried “Uncle!”

A copy of the July 18th edition of the Middleboro (Massachusetts) Gazette wouldn’t arrive into the hands of the 18th Mass. by mail until this story on page two was already stale news.

A Night in Boston During the Riot

On Tuesday [July 14th], about noon, a crowd of foreigners influenced by liquor assaulted an officer in the discharge of his duty. Soon after crowds commenced assembling in the north part of the city, uttering curses long and deep against the draft, and relating the various plans adopted by the New York mob. In the afternoon stores in the vicinity were closed. The civil authorities were wide-awake, and at the request of Gov. Andrew, several companies of heavy artillery were on hand. The 11th Battery and the 44th Regiment, and a cavalry force were soon under arms, the whole under command of Brig. Gen. Richard A. Pierce. Next the mob attacked the armory in Cooper St. Inside the arsenal were artillery and infantry forces. Soon the mob, with bricks and paving stones had battered in the windows and one of the doors. Capt. Jones saw the danger, and instantly gave the word “fire!” The chief ringleader, a North St. bar-keeper, was killed, and many wounded, four or five of whom have since died. The mob were thus kept back, but not till they had killed an old gentleman and wounded several soldiers. The mob next visited the hardware stores in the vicinity of Dock Square. From one of these they were repulsed by the police, but from the other they stole $3000 worth of hardware. Other stores were also sacked. Before morning, thanks to the military and police, the riot was essentially quelled….

This picture was taken July 4, 2009. I'm betting the McCain-Palin sign will still be there 146 years from now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The 18th Massachusetts packed up their cares and woes, bid farewell to Petersville in the middle of the afternoon, and were soaking wet, again, by the time they hurried through Berlin (now Brunswick). After hoofing it for a little under three miles they waited patiently for their turn to cross a 1500-foot pontoon bridge spanning the Potomac. There was no love loss for what waited them on the opposite shore. They loathed Virginia, its sacred soil, and its First Families. And the women! Not a pretty one had been sighted within the boundaries of the Old Dominion in two years. Too, there was no love loss for Meade, that “four eyed loafer,” either. Rumor had it he was leading them straight to the “graveyard of the Army of Potomac,” Fredericksburg.

Lovettsville, six miles distance and reached around half-past six, was the stopping point for the night. Hostility and anger now crept to the surface and there was a growing chorus demanding retribution for perceived Confederate desecrations in Pennsylvania; a growing chorus that wanted to dismantle the town, board by board, brick by brick, and set the torch to the entire pile. General Charles Griffin and his staff officers quickly stepped in to diffuse the situation, stuffing that cork back into its bottle.

For the first time news of draft riots in New York and Boston by “malcontents and copperheads in the rear, together with the dough-faced office-holders and politicians” swept through the camps. Captain George M. Barnard, Jr. of the 18th summed up the reaction of soldiers: “If I have ever heard an earnest wish expressed it is that we should be allowed to go home and clear the rioters out.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grumbling is a sacred military tradition and it would have necessarily followed the merciless notes sounded at three a.m by buglers. The 1st Brigade followed the lead of the 3rd just after four-thirty. By six-thirty all four regiments of the 1st would have seen the last of everything the town of Burkittsville Maryland had to offer. In the year 2000 it had a burgeoning population of 170 residents and its claim to fame was as the setting for the film "The Blair Witch Project."

The next six miles, covered in three hours beneath a clear blue canopy, brought them to the unincorporated village of Petersville, where at nine-thirty a.m. knapsacks were unslung and muskets stacked until the following morning. The Brigade caught sight of the wagon trains for the first time since before Gettysburg.

The only sour note for what turned out to be a day of rest and relaxation for the 18th Mass. was Bernard Glancy, a Private in Company D, being declared a deserter. Colonel Joseph Hayes had no way of knowing that Glancy had been taken prisoner on May 29th at Ellis Ford in Virginia and was still three days away from being paroled at City Point. It was the first of two periods of confinement Glancy experienced in Confederate prisons. The second lasted from May 5, 1864, when he was captured at the Wilderness after suffering gunshot and shell wounds, until escaping near Mobile, Alabama on May 3, 1865, a fact confirmed by official documents in his military service record. Long exposure to the subhuman conditions all prisoners faced at Andersonville and the Florence Stockade, had resulted in Glancy losing thirty-five percent of his body weight.

Captain George M. Barnard, Jr., who was on detached service from the 18th Mass. as Assistant Commissary Muster, utilized the down time to catch up on correspondence, starting with a letter to his father, a wealthy and politically influential Boston merchant. Herein, at long last, was an explanation as to why Meade had maintained a cautious post-Gettysburg approach.

I suppose that Meade will have to stand a heavy fire in the rear for allowing Lee to get away. Gen. [Charles] Griffin told me that Gen. Meade told him after the battle of Gettysburg that all the men that he could rake and scrape together were 45,000. Lee crossed into Pennsylvania with 120,000 and if, after Gettysburg he had lost as many as 30,000, he would still have left 90,000 men to oppose our 45,000.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lee had carried himself back to the sacred soil leaving the Army of the Potomac behind in his wake, bequeathing to them in a final farewell gesture mud, rutted roads, disillusionment, gloom, and whole Union divisions grabbing air. Meade couldn’t cross the Potomac as he lacked pontoon boats, lacked the resourcefulness of the Army of Northern Virginia to construct them, and expressed concern about his ability to maintain supply lines. Whether there was a renewed sense of urgency on Meade’s part, if there ever had been one, resulted in the formulation of a new plan. His army would keep to an interior line, which, hopefully, would pen Lee in the Shenandoah Valley, and allow for flanking attacks through passes in the Blue Ridge mountains.

That renewed sense of urgency was instilled in buglers who sounded reveille at 3 a.m. By ten minutes after four, after hurriedly swilling down coffee, the 18th Massachusetts and the rest of 1st Brigade began what was universally described as the most grueling and torturous march of the post-Gettysburg campaign.

The first major milestone reached was Keedysville. Company H of the 18th Mass. had developed a cordial relationship with town residents, having been posted there as a Provost Guard for twenty-seven days in October 1862. Whether any of those men saw familiar faces as they marched past the straight line of houses hugging Main Street is entirely open to speculation.

Misery was in love with company as the heavens opened up again and shadowed the 1st Brigade through three miles of rolling terrain, keeping pace with each man’s step. What had been a relatively easy traverse became more difficult as the land transitioned to four miles of ever increasing grades. Even before starting the final mile long climb to the summit of Crampton’s Gap the sides of the road were littered with exhausted men gasping for breath and dead artillery horses. Those who were able to keep their legs churning were rewarded by a one-mile downhill slope that bottomed out on the edge of Burkittsville, Maryland, where the Brigade encamped for the night. The 22nd Massachusetts reported fewer than 15 men completed the 25-mile march that day without falling out from the ranks.

Gathland State Park, at the summit of Crampton Gap:

The Civil War War Correspondents Moument

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Soggy and stiff from rain that fell through the night, the 1st Brigade was ordered under arms at 6:20 a.m. to accompany a reconnaissance by Crawford’s 3rd Division of the Fifth Corps. That reconnaissance was to be coordinated with the movements of a division from each of the Second, Sixth, and Twelfth Corps. No one would have an opportunity to dry their clothing or equipment before the movement began, but that would have mattered little, as the seemingly never ending precipitation would continue for the rest of the day.

The 1st Brigade did not move until sometime between 11:30 a.m. and noon. There was no need for alarm or hurry now as word had filtered through the ranks that Lee had successfully crossed to Virginia during the night. Once in motion the Brigade had an unimpeded two-hour march, during which time they picked up Confederate stragglers, and finally came upon the enemy’s abandoned rifle pits and breastworks. Those were best described as having been hastily constructed defenses that could have easily been brushed aside had the entire Union army attacked in force the previous day.

The regiments of the 1st Brigade finally reached Williamsport at varying times, between two and four, after covering seven miles. The 22nd Mass. actually occupied the Confederate works, while the rest of the Brigade moved off into a field, where they were issued rations and bivouacked for the night.

If Lincoln was angry that Meade had failed to crush Lee when presented with the opportunity, so too were the rank and file. Coming on the heels of a great victory at Gettysburg, every man sensed that the Army of Northern Virginia had been badly mauled. Now they grumbled among themselves, denigrating Meade as yet another in a long line of overcautious commanders. Had it been their decision they would have shown not only to Meade, but the Northern people, the stuff they were made of and administered the coupe de grace.

The C & O Canal:

The Potomac:

Caption to sign:


The Beginning and the end

On June 15, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North began here as 2,000 of Gen. Albert G. Jenkins’s infantrymen splashed across the Potomac River. For the next eleven days, almost 50,000 soldiers under Gens. James Longstreet and A.P. Hill entered Maryland here at Williamsport. Hungry Confederates temporarily occupied the town, and many residents welcomed them with tables in the streets loaded with milk, bread, and meat.

Less than a month later, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, reeling from the defeat at Gettysburg, returned. The first of the wounded arrived on July 5, the day after the battle ended, but were trapped here by the rain-swollen river. Williamsport became a “great hospital for the thousands of wounded,” according to Confederate Gen. John B. Imboden, who ordered every family in town to cook for the casualties.

Ferryboats soon began transporting the army across the river as Union signal corpsmen watched, and by July 14, most of the soldiers had left Maryland behind. Even after the water subsided, however, the current remained swift. The tallest men formed two lines from shore to shore with their guns interlocked to mark a strong and stable lane. Despite their efforts, ammunition was soaked and Gen. Richard Ewell’s corps lost 8,000 pairs of shoes to the rushing waters.

The crossing of the Potomac at Falling Waters

Falling Waters, which is approximately four miles below Williamsport, can be reached by following the C&O towpath on foot or bike, or by driving about six miles to Falling Waters Road and then hiking down an unmarked path for a mile until reaching National Park Service markers placed along the towpath. The signs are approximately a quarter mile inland from the Potomac. Lumber to build the pontoon bridge used to cross the Potomac at this point was floated down river from Williamsport.

Caption to sign:

"Retreating after Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was trapped for seven days by the swollen Potomac River. July 13th – 14th Gen. Lee with Longstreet’s and Hill’s Corps crossed here on a pontoon bridge. Ewell’s Corps forded the Potomac above Williamsport."

Caption to sign:

“Finally on July 10, the Confederates completed a pontoon bridge, but it took two days for the ambulances and hundreds of ordnance and artillery wagons to cross. By the early evening of July 13, during another downpour, Gen. James Longstreet’s infantry corps began tramping across, guided by bonfires on both shores and signal torches on the bridge. Gen. A.P. Hill’s corps followed, and by mid-morning the next day, 30,000 Confederates were across.”

“Lee’s army had escaped.”

“Quartermaster John Harman, who previously had served as Stonewall Jackson’s chief quartermaster, built 16 pontoon boats in two days from dismantled sheds and warehouses and wood from a Williamsport lumberyard. When the lumberyard manager complained, the Confederates retorted: “Just charge it to Jeff Davis. Our army is worth more than all your lumber in gold.”

The Potomac, where Lee, Longstreet, and Hill crossed

This photo is purportedly one of Gen. Robert E. Lee making his escape across the Potomac into Virginia on the morning of July 14, 1863. Notice the pontoon boats in the background, which were detached and set to drift after the crossing.

Photo courtesy of the National Enquirer

Monday, July 13, 2009

The 224th sunrise for the year 1863 was obscured by a fog hanging over the surrounding landscape. Starting at 10 a.m., the 1st Brigade became shadowy ghost like figures as they waded into the mist before a halt to their progress was called once again. After only a half-mile, there was an edgy anticipation that something beside the fog was in the air. Orders were conveyed along the entire line as rain, inevitable rain, began to fall, and men hurriedly bent to the task of building earthen and timbered breastworks in preparation for a possible attack by the Confederates. Cannons were drawn up and poked their open mouths through depressions in the breastworks at spaced intervals.

Around noon, General Meade rode the entire line to inspect it, making note of areas that might need shoring up.

Toward late afternoon Confederate prisoners and deserters reached the 1st Brigade lines. All willing to do so told a similar story of Lee’s army massed with their backs against the Potomac and that the Virginian was simply playing for time by employing a double line of pickets and directing them to keep up a steady fire, in an effort to deceive Meade and allow for the completion of pontoon bridges then under construction.

General Charles Griffin, commanding the 1st Division of the Fifth Corps, sent an urgent message to Meade based on the aforementioned prisoner statements, in which he practically begged for permission to attack. Meade essentially responded the army would send out a reconnaissance in the morning to scout Confederate positions. Later that same evening Meade received a telegram from Gen. Henry Halleck, warning, “Do not let the enemy escape.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The 1st Brigade started late in the morning, about 11 a.m., and after advancing in double columns for a mile stopped for a brief period before moving to the left. This pattern of start and stop continued throughout the afternoon when thunder and lightening storms rolled across the sky and sent buckets of rain earthward. Around mid-afternoon enemy earthworks were spotted on an elevated rise in the distance and the Brigade was deployed into two battle lines on an opposite rise, where it held while waiting further orders. A wide wheatfield served as an intervening buffer, with stacks of harvested grain standing at attention. Both sides sent skirmishers down into swale, but they simply took measure of each other and stood like scarecrows in the fields as the rain beat down on them.

The afternoon had been shrouded in twilight like conditions and around 8 p.m. the 18th and the rest of the 1st Brigade was moved into a strand of woods on their left, a stone’s throw from Funkstown, Maryland. A hundred men were detailed for picket duty and intermittent musket fire, some of it in rapid secession, continued to break the silence throughout the night.

With Lee having withdrawn virtually his entire force from Funkstown and Hagerstown earlier in the day, with the exception of a rear guard, George Meade convened an evening conference with his Corps commanders. Five of the six, when polled, expressed their opinion that Union forces shouldn’t launch an attack in the morning.

Battle of Funkstown
July 10, 1863

After Gettysburg, in order to mask entrenching operations along the Potomac River by General R.E. Lee, Confederate troops, led by General J.E.B. Stuart, engaged Union forces under General John Buford. The day-long battle east of the road resulted in 479 casualties. The Cheney House served as a hospital and at the Keller home Major H.D. McDaniel, later Governor of Georgia, survived wounds.

Sign caption:

Battle of Funkstown

The Confederate presence at Funkstown threatened any Union advance against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s position near Williamsport and the Potomac River as he retreated to Virginia after the Battle of Gettysburg. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry, posted at Funkstown, posed a serious risk to the Federal right and rear if the Union army lunged west from Boonsboro.

Stuart, meanwhile, determined to wage a spirited defense to ensure Lee time to complete fortifications protecting his army and his avenue of retreat. As Gen. John Buford’s Federal cavalry division cautiously approached Funkstown via the National Road [current Rt. 40 ] on Friday morning, July 10, 1863, it encountered Stuart’s crescent shaped, three-mile long battle line.

It was Stuart’s first defensive battle – here holding a stationary position – since entering Maryland. The high ground constituted Stuart’s extreme right, held by Preston Chew’s horse artillery. The stone barn and barnyard wall visible in the distance proved a superb defensive position for the 34th Virginia Battalion’s dismounted cavalry.

Col. Thomas C. Devins’s dismounted Union brigade attacked here about 8 a.m. By mid-afternoon, with Buford’s cavalrymen running low on ammunition and gaining little ground, Col. Lewis A. Grant’s Vermont Brigade of infantry arrived and jabbed at the Confederate center less than one mile away. Unbeknownst to the Vermonter’s, Gen. George T. Anderson’s brigade now faced them, the first time opposing infantry had clashed since Gettysburg.

By early evening, the Union army began withdrawing south toward Beaver Creek, where I, VI, and XI Corps had concentrated. Stuart had kept the Federals at bay for yet another day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The 18th Massachusetts and the rest of the 1st Brigade had done little more than march, set up camp, break camp, and march some more since leaving Gettysburg six days earlier. When Reveille sounded at 3 a.m. on July 11th rumors floated among the men while they cooked rations and boiled coffee that Lee was straight ahead, his back nearly touching a swollen Potomac and, seemingly, with no means of crossing into Virginia.

The scent of cornered prey wafted through flaring nostrils as the 1st Brigade and 1st Division started at 6 a.m. along the Hagerstown Turnpike. Completing a short one-mile northwesterly march the column was halted and took up a position to support artillery batteries. The 1st Brigade, which occupied the extreme left of the nearly two mile long line, had an unobstructed view of a smorgasbord of activity. Scattered Confederates were clearly visible in the distance; Union cavalry were racing by, and in the fields directly to their front wisps of smoke could be seen rising into the air as skirmishers exchanged fire. The 18th, along with the 22nd Mass., 118th Pennsylvania, and 1st Michigan, had their Saturday morning cartoons interrupted when they were ordered to construct barricades.

In mid-afternoon the 22nd Massachusetts had a surprise and welcome guest, in the form of Senator Henry Wilson. Wilson, who had been instrumental in raising the Regiment and served as its colonel for 21 days until he returned to Congress in early November 1861, and still later Vice President under Grant, was greeted with loud and enthusiastic cheers. After an impromptu and rousing patriotic speech, he wandered among the men of the 22nd, shaking hands, slapping backs, and at the same time was, according to eyewitnesses, deeply moved by the sight of the now “scarred, ragged, and depleted” ranks.

Toward evening an order was given to advance. For the better part of the next two miles the 1st Brigade waded through waist deep stalks of grain. One Massachusetts soldier reminiscing years later described the scene:

“The contrast of the long blue line, closed in masses in the yellow grain fields, stripped off with alternative green, and the fringe of the woods in front, all softened by the lights and shadows of the declining sun, and resting peacefully in the far off meadows, the farm houses; altogether there was presented one of the most spirited scenes, if not the grandest spectacles our eyes ever rested upon, and rarely observed in a man’s lifetime.”

Around 8 p.m. the advance was halted. Wary and vigilant, the 1st Division maintained its formation, settling down for the night on a bluff overlooking a narrow stream.

In Middleboro, Massachusetts, home to a large contingent of the 18th’s Company D, the weekly Saturday edition of the Gazette included a complete list of local boys wounded at Gettysburg, a special New York Tribune dispatch, “The loss on both sides has been tremendous,” and Lincoln’s July 4th address to the nation.

“The President announces to the country that the news from the Army of the Potomac up to 10 P.M. of the 3d, is such as to cover the Army with the Highest honor, to promise a great success to the cause of the Union, and to claim the condolence of all for the many fallen; and that for this, he especially desires that on this day He whose will, not ours, should be done, be everywhere remembered and reverenced with profoundest gratitude.”

Lastly, for many who had elected to sit out the fighting thus far, the Gazette explained the ins and outs of the impending draft, including exemptions and the three hundred dollar commutation fee. The latter provision was to set off a mad scramble by those still unwilling to disrupt their lives to find substitutes to shoulder arms and possibly die in their place.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reveille was sounded at daybreak and by 7:30 the 1st Brigade in its entirety had swung into motion. By now the terrain had given itself over to open cultivated fields, which allowed the Army of the Potomac to spread out. Eleven different Corps marched in parallel lines, with each brigade marching in “columns of regimental front.” National, Corps, Division, and Regimental flags flew proudly in the soft breeze and sunlight reflected off thousands upon thousands of bayonets, a spectacle that would have been long remembered by the mind's eye.

Crossing Antietam Creek around noon the 1st Division was directed to bivouac following a nine mile march, which left them five shy of Williamsport. After arraying itself in two lines of battle, the regiments of the 3rd Brigade were ordered to perform picket duty.

The long forced marches to and from Gettysburg had taken its toll on government issued brogans. Pennsylvania and Maryland roads were littered with discarded shoes, many of the troops opting by choice or no to trod along barefoot. Regiments, including the 18th Mass., expecting supply trains to come up or that they would reach a nearby depot, put in requisitions for hundreds of pairs.

Antietam Creek

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Under a bright blue sky with an intermittent overhang of clouds, the 1st Brigade left camp at 9:30 a.m., crossed over South Mountain by way of Fox’s Gap, and were called to a halt near Boonsboro at one in the afternoon, a march of seven miles. The camp was about a mile and a half from Keedysville, where the Brigade had bivouacked during the Antietam campaign, ten months earlier. A heavy picket guard of over three hundred men was set up around the perimeter of the encampment based on reports that the enemy hovered close by.

General James Barnes, who had suffered a shell wound on July 2nd at Gettysburg, left the Brigade to recuperate at his Springfield, Massachusetts home and was temporarily succeeded by Col. William Tilton of the 22nd Massachusetts. Before taking his leave, Barnes was lauded by the men of his command who appreciated his coolness and courage under fire. In spite of later criticism over his “lackluster” performance at Gettysburg, the men of the 1st Brigade recognized that Barnes’ orders to his troops had saved them from possible annihilation after they were outflanked and nearly surrounded at the Wheatfield.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Heavy rain continued to fall at 6 a.m. as the regiments of the 1st Brigade fell into the line of march, with the 22nd Massachusetts in the lead. The Brigade marched through Utica and Creagerstown, and then began the long climb toward the summit of the High Knob of the Catoctin Mountains, sloshing through streams of rainwater from the surrounding heights as it raced across their path and toward the valley below. Reaching the summit around 10 a.m., the brigade was enveloped in darkness and cloud cover that seemed to almost rest on the tops of their heads. Overhead, quick successive lightening strikes illuminated the sky, while thunder rolled incessantly, as if the Gods were rolling strike after strike in a game of ten pins Toward the halfway point, of what was now a downhill trek, the sun broke through bathing “grainfields everywhere in alternative stripes of green and yellow.”

After completing a 15 mile march that brought them to the floor of the Valley of Frederick, the Brigade was called to a halt for the day at one o’clock in the afternoon, just short of Middletown. Later in the afternoon, while men took the time to eat rations that had been distributed among the ranks and dried their clothes, the distant sound of cannonading could be heard in the direction of Boonsboro, seven miles away. What they couldn't hear were the hoofbeats, the rattle of sabres, and the crackling sound of carbines and pistols as two opposing cavalries clashed.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The 18th Massachusetts and the rest of the 1st Brigade marched through Emmitsburg, Maryland at seven in the morning in a slow drizzling rain, traveling in a southerly direction on roads “cut up by artillery and cavalry.” The going was slow and men “fell out by the scores,” taking “shelter wherever they could find it.” The column, in spite of the conditions, made its way to the outskirts of Utica, Maryland, arriving after dark. The latter portion of the 18.5 mile march was completed in a pouring rain that, in combination with the darkness, reduced individual vision to the man directly in front in the line of march.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Corp. Thomas H. Mann, Co. I, 18th Massachusetts:

"The 5th Corps] moved only a mile on the 6th."

Excerpt from "Fighting with the Eighteenth Massachusetts"

[On July 6] the brigade was formed into a square to listen to congratulatory orders from General Meade. Adjutant [Fisher] Baker read them while standing by the side of Colonel [Joseph] Hayes, who was on horseback. As he finished the colonel swung his hat and called for three cheers for General Meade, but a deathlike silence was his only answer. The men felt a fraud had been imposed upon them and were not yet quite ready to take another hero to their bosoms. The chagrin of the colonel was very marked, for the whole corps was within sound of his voice, and in several near-by brigades some jeering was indulged at his expense. As the colonel replaced his hat and wheeled his horse his chagrin was very happily turned by remarking, “It is not necessary for the veterans who have seen the service that you have to cheer."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Excerpt from Powell’s History of the Fifth Corps

The Fifth Corps started on its march on the afternoon of the 5th of July, [and] moved by way of Emmittsburg…From the time the Fifth Corps left Gettysburg, rumors had been flying about, all tending to raise the hopes of the army to the highest pitch. The men knew that the Confederate losses had been tremendous, and since the battle prisoners had been constantly taken by the cavalry; that the heavy rains had made the river fords impassable, and that the harassed troops were short both of food and ammunition.

Movement of the 18th Massachusetts

Marched six miles and bivouacked. Marched nearly to Emmettsburg.

Private Thomas H. Mann, Co. I, 18th Massachusetts

The ghost of McClellan has won the battle of Gettysburg! I am all right.

Shrine to Elizabeth Ann Seton, founder of the Daughters of Charity

Caption to the Reynolds marker:

Reynolds and Kate Hewitt

On the last day of June 1863, Emmitsburg became a Union army supply base. Union Gen. John F. Reynolds, commanding the left wing of the Army of the Potomac (I, III, and XI Corps), arrived as I Corps came into Emmitsburg to obtain needed supplies, camp, and muster to receive pay before marching five miles north across the Mason-Dixon line to Marsh Creek. On July 1, Reynolds traveled the Emmitsburg Road toward Gettysburg. Early on that first day of battle, a sharp-shooter killed him.

This place has another connection to Reynolds after he was killed. Three years earlier, he met and fell in love with Catherine Mary (Kate) Hewitt. They had sailed together from San Francisco to New York and had exchanged rings. She received his West Point ring, and he a gold ring inscribed “Dear Kate.” They planned to announce their engagement at a family party on July 8. Instead, Reynolds’ family members learned about his fiancée when she arrived to view his body and they discovered on him both a locket and the inscribed ring. Kate had promised Reynolds that if he was killed she would enter religious life. On March 17, 1864 she joined the Daughters of Charity. She completed her initial training here at St. Joseph’s Central House and went on mission to Albany, N.Y. She was reported to be in poor health in subsequent years, withdrew from the community in 1868 before pronouncing her vows, and disappeared from the historical records.

Note:there is more to Kate Hewitt's story. After leaving her religious order she resided in Albany, where she taught school for a number of years before later returning to her hometown of Stillwater, NY, where she died on May 5, 1902, most likely of tuberculosis. Her headstone bears the Hebrew benediction "Mizpah," which translates to "May God watch over you until we are together again."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Colonel Joseph Hayes, 18th Massachusetts

July 4th. Our brigade made reconnaissance and discovered a small force of the enemy. Our skirmishers drove in their pickets, but being relieved by the 6th Corps, the brigade moved to the rear and bivouacked.

Excerpt from Fighting with the Eighteenth Massachusetts; The Civil War Memoirs of Thomas H. Mann; edited by John Hennessey

Early in the morning of the anniversary of the natal day of the Republic, the 1st Brigade and a part of the 2d were sent to the front to reconnoiter. Deploying as skirmishers, they moved cautiously forward, down the rocky sides of the hill, across the valley and over the position occupied by the Confederates the day before, and on about a mile where the enemy was developed in force and strong intrenched; evidently inviting attack. By 10 o’clock these [Union] troops were relieved by another and a larger force, and moved to the rear so to be given an opportunity to rest. But about noon a thunder shower broke with such fury that the flashes of lightning and crashing and rolling of the thunder seemed to echo the work of the day before. And the rain came in torrents, as if the fountains of the deep were broken up and the bloody fields were to be washed of all traces.

Excerpt from the History of the 22nd Massachusetts

The glorious Fourth of July dawned upon us. Only an occasional picket-shot was heard. In the afternoon the brigade was sent out through the woods which skirt Big Round Top, towards our extreme left. A detail or two hundred skirmishers, under Major [Mason W.] Burt of the Twenty-second, were deployed to the front, with orders to “feel them carefully.” Their skirmishers were driven in, but no line was developed; neither was there any resistance to our advance. After a little brisk skirmishing, Col. Tilton withdrew the brigade, and we countermarched to near our former position in a terrific thunder-storm which drenched us to the skin. Everywhere in these woods, behind rocks and stumps, in ravines and hidden nooks, along the line of our march, could be seen the bodies of the Confederate dead, where they had crawled, unable to keep up with their retreating columns, to die. The first brigade, first division, Fifth Corps, had the honor of firing the last shot at the enemy’s rear-guard.

Joshua Wilber, Assistant Surgeon, 18th Massachusetts

Yesterday was a hard Fourth of July for I was all day dressing the wounds of our poor fellows and it rained very hard in the afternoon and last night. I got pretty well wet and tired. Still it was a joyful day in some respects as we all felt that we had whipped the rebels severely and got them in a very tight place, out of which it will be very difficult for them to get. Still I think Lee will get a large portion of his army away but not his trains. We have taken and are keeping many prisoners. Our poor fellows, many of them terribly wounded and not half cared for as we have nothing to do with. They are lying on the ground on straw or hay with only a shelter tent or rubber blanket over them. I have seen misery this time, I assure you....

Captain George M. Barnard, Jr., 18th Massachusetts Infantry

My wound is slight, the shell bursting directly over my head cut through the hat band and hat scooping out the flesh to the bone behind my ear and killing a man in front of me. A piece of the same shell went into Gen. Barnes’ leg. It is considered to be the most miraculous escape that has occurred and people are constantly coming to look at my hat. A General says it is worth a thousand dollars…

...Almost all my friends were killed. General Reynolds, Need, Look killed, Sickle lost his leg. Our division alone lost 1049 at least and our whole loss I have just heard estimated by Gen. Bright at about 18000. The most of the loss fighting was in the three hours on Thursday afternoon. Gen. Farnsworth is reported killed. Since I last wrote you we have been marching about 20 miles a day. Paul Revere and Col. Strong Vincent are dying. Henry Ropes killed. Herbert Mason lost an arm. In fact it would take up all my paper to mention the names of my friends who have fallen.

...I have not had a chance to wash myself for four days and my hair is still streaked with the blood of my wound. At night I lay down on the ground without anything and sleep beautifully not noticing the rain which is rather refreshing. We are fighting now. I expect our wagons up pretty soon. Dalton has just given me a piece of beef and I have given him a pair of specs. My horse was hit, not mine as he is too valuable to ride into battle, but my government horse. I hope we shall now crush their army at last. It almost makes me sick to think of my friends all mangled and bloody, rotting unburied on the field. The air is tainted with the smell of blood. We expect soon to move in pursuit.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Colonel Joseph Hayes. 18th Massachusetts:

At an early hour in the morning our brigade [1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps] moved to the left, and relieved the 3rd [brigade] on the Round Top. We skirmished with the enemy all the forenoon, his skirmishers lying behind the rocks in our front.

Excerpt from Fighting With the Eighteenth Massachusetts; The Civil War Memoirs of Thomas H. Mann; edited by John Hennessey

By daylight on the morning of July 3d, the 5th Corps was in the position it was expected to hold at all hazards during the day. This was the two Round Tops, with the ravine between, and constituted the left wing of the Union army. The Eighteenth, with its own brigade, occupied the slopes of Little Round Top, from which the line of battle ran almost directly north to Gettysburg, two miles away, and spread out like a map to the gaze of the occupants of this hill the whole live-long day. To say the little handful of men that composed the 1st Brigade enjoyed war for that day would be drawing it mild; they just gloried and reveled in it, watched it, cheered it on, elevated caps or articles of clothing upon the points of their bayonets, and flagged the giant hosts which, in their clash, marked an epoch in the world’s history this 3d day of July 1863.

Little Round Top was a mass of rocks and boulders, sloping quite abruptly into the valley that lay between these troops and the lower ridges that were occupied by some brigades of the rebel Longstreet’s corps. The men of the Eighteenth formed no distinct line of battle but distributed themselves in knots of threes and fours behind a convenient boulder, or temporized a protection for themselves by rolling smaller rocks into a breastwork. [Mann], [James] Snow, [Gerrie] Higby, and [John C.] McGinnis, were posted behind two quite large boulders, only a few yards below the crown of the hill. In a few minutes they had the open space between these boulders well filled with stones to present a pretty solid fort, in a small way, yet before night all four were well sprinkled with fragments of lead that spattered through the chinks, the result of volleys received from across the valley.

Colonel Joseph Hayes, 18th Massachusetts

I was on the Little Round Top and saw Pickett’s charge. Our cannon opened on them. They broke in disorder and huddled round their colors and advanced in disorder and were easily repulsed. They came forward sticking to it up to our front and in no line-of-battle, but a mob. Then they fell back in a rush, running over the field. We sat on the rocks and laughed at them. General Meade said that never before until that time had he seen a division in line-of-battle, as they are apt to be obscured by woods or other natural formation.

Capt. Francis A. Donaldson, 118th Pennsylvania

About 4 P.M. they began to show themselves at the edge of the woods and to manifest signs of an intended attack. Our batteries again opened, but the rebs appeared firm and proceeded in two lines to advance in splendid order. There seemed to be a heavy body upon rear and flank, as apparently as supports, all forming a mass, I should say, of at least eight or ten thousand men, who were being pushed forward in the face of our whole army upon some point considerably to the right of our position. There was nothing to hinder anyone in our whole line [on Little Round Top] from witnessing [the Confederate] advance, and the eagerness with which each man gazed upon this magnificent spectacle was evidence that all felt a terrible crisis was approaching…They continued to move on unflinchingly, and it was grand sight to see them, their splendid behavior calling forth burst of admiration from us all. A piece of woods considerably to our right and beyond which the enemy’s column soon passed shut out from our sight the finale of this desperate charge, but our ears were soon greeted by the tremendous roar of musketry, whilst a curtain of smoke ascended to the tops of the trees and remained there to tell us that a desperate fight was in progress. This state of things continued for some and we were uncertain as to the result, when present a few men were seen running from beyond the woods, followed by others, and at last whole clusters of the enemy were seen scampering to the rear as fast as possible, but it was also noticed that not one third of those who, but a few moments before had gone forward so bravely, returned; they had all been killed or wounded and the charge was unsuccessful. This latter fact we knew, as the enemy soon opened again their artillery fire to cover the retreat of their men, and we accepted the sign by giving a fearful shout for the victory gained.

Excerpt from The History of the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry

It was a warm and muggy night. The moon shed a dim and sickly light over the ground, and among the cedar openings, partially obscured by a fog or haze that settled about us. The Twenty-second went on picket to the front, among the rocks and boulders scattered thickly among the trees. Midnight came, and through the soft, yellow light here and there we could see the bodies of the dead and dying everywhere about us. We could reach out and touch them. Hundreds of the wounded, whom it was impossible to take off the field, were near, whom we could readily talk with. Every possible part of the equipment of a soldier of either army lay mingled with both the rebel and Union dead. Caps and hats with the red Maltese cross were mixed with the broad sombrero of the Texans. Haversacks, canteens of tin and wood, every kind of rifle, or musket, blankets, cartridge-boxes, and bayonet-scabbards, all strewed the ground.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Excerpt from Powell’s History of the Fifth Corps

Having marched over sixty miles since the morning of June 29th, and twenty-six of the sixty since 7 P.M., July 1st, the Fifth Corps reached Gettysburg about 5 A.M. July 2d, and was placed in reserve on the right of the line.

Excerpt from “Fighting with the Eighteenth Massachusetts; The Civil War Memoirs of Thomas H. Mann,” Edited by John Hennessey

The 5th Corps reached Gettysburg at five o’clock on the morning of July 2d, after a march of 60 miles since the morning of June 29th, and was held as a reserve in support of batteries until three in the afternoon. By that time all the stragglers who cared to be at the front had come up, and they made up full half of the Eighteenth – which was, no doubt, in about the same exhausted condition as other veteran regiments of the Corps. About two o’clock in the afternoon the 6th Corps came straggling up in very much the same condition in which the 5th Corps did in the early morning, taking the place of the latter as a reserve while the 5th was sent to the front to have its little experience in the edge of the “Devil’s Den.”

At three o’clock in the afternoon of July 2d the Fifth Corps went to the front to retrieve the ground lost by Sickles’ 3d Corps. General [James] Barnes was in command of the division, Colonel [William S.] Tilton, of the 22d Massachusetts, commanded the 1st brigade and Lieut. Col. [William B.] White led the Eighteenth. The 3d brigade was sent to Little Round Top…The 1st and 2d brigades undertook to fill the gap between the right of the 5th Corps and left of the 3d Corps, which brought them a little to the right of the foot of Little Round Top and to the edge of the “Devil’s Den.”

In moving to the front Tilton’s and [Jacob] Sweitzer’s brigades, the 1st and 2d, passed to the left of a stone house and across a lane leading to it that was heavily fenced by rolling large boulders together to form a wall.[1] Then they entered a piece of woods where a small brigade was passed over that it was understood belonged to the 3d Corps; it was lying down upon the ground. The line of Barnes’s division was formed in the edge of this piece of woods that was 200 yards or move away. It was hardly straightened in position to the satisfaction of General Barnes before an unusual movement was observed in the edge of the woods beyond, an in another moment a rebel line of battle emerged with that peculiar Indian yell that was very familiar to these veteran brigades. The line was a heavy one, struck the 1st brigade, on the extreme right of which was the Eighteenth, at an angle of 23 degrees, and lapped a long distance past where any troops were at hand to face it.[2]

A quick, sharp order was passed along the line: “Reserve your fire till the order is given!” As the Greybacks scattered out of woods, an instant’s halt was observed while they straightened out their lines, the the [Confederate] order to fire was distinctly heard by the right half of Barnes’s line, and it was quickly executed. Its effect was astonishing though not unusal. The volley was delivered at a distance of 200 yards, and from a line that was 40 or 50 feet below the elevation of the Union line, so instead of doing the fearful execution that was expected, nearly the whole shower of bullets passed harmlessly 10 or 20 feet over these Yankee heads. As the rebel order – “fire!” - was heard, the counter order – “down!” – was given by General Barnes, but too late to be effective even if it had been necessary to preserve lives.

Then the enemy sprang forward, and as they emerged from the smoke of their own volley, half way up the slope, the order for which the Union line was impatiently waiting – “aim, fire!” – sent a raking swarth of bullets into the yelling ranks that made many gaps and cause a decided check. Barnes’s men aimed for the rebels’ feet, having been taught in an instant not to fire over their heads, while the lack of casualties from the heavy rebel delivery had decidedly steadied their aim.

But half that charging line had no such fire to meet and was rapidly wrapping itself around Barnes’s right. The 1st Brigade must immediately change its line by facing about and making almost a half wheel to the rear. This was done, and the movement required the longest race on the part of the Eighteenth, because it was on the extreme right, while Sweitzer’s brigade to the left was disturbed but very little.

In making this change the swing back took the regiment again across the lane and heavy stone walls that fence it, and as the men jumped them advantage was taken of each to give the rebels a volley or two and to reload under their protection. The brigade thus swung back some 500 or 600 yards to where it was able to hold its ground without any further flanking on the part of the enemy. But by this time – nearly dark – its ammunition was exhausted, and a brigade of Pennsylvanians[3] from the 5th Corps came to its relief.

Although not a man of the Eighteenth was injured by that first, full volley from the rebel line, the formation of a new line in the face of the charging, flanking enemy, cost this regiment 32 men out of a total of only 108[4], nearly all of whom were only slightly wounded or taken prisoner….

The corporal [Thomas Mann, Co. I] had disposed of half his 40 rounds of ammunition, had just discharged his musket in the face of the advancing line of rebel flankers – which was less than 50 yards away – and was crouching behind the last wall of the lane when one of his comrades undertook to climb over it and was shot dead. The body fell across Tom in such a manner as to pin him and his musket, which he was in the act of reloading, to the ground. Not dreaming that the comrade was dead, [Mann] berated the prostrate form as a careless “lunkhead” until the copious stream of warm blood, which was thoroughly saturating him, led him to conclude the state of things and to untangle himself from the corpse. [5] But the incident had so absorbed [Mann’s] attention that he did not observe his live comrades moving still farther to the rear, and by the time he was ready to move the Johnnies were leveling their muskets across the wall, over his head, and into the ranks of the 1st Brigade.

[Mann] had no alternative but to lie quietly while the Greybacks took their turn in firing several volleys after his vanished comrades. Then they jumped the wall and moved a few yards farther toward the Union lines, which made [Mann] a prisoner of war. To make a picture of the the situation complete it must be understood that a dense pall of smoke, from the heavy fire of musketry, hung so close to the ground at this stage of the action that nothing could be seen 15 yards away.

As Barnes’s lines were brought fairly to face the charging foe they remained firm, and the further onward movement of the rebels was checked. A lull in the battle occurred that lasted 15 or 20 minutes, though quite a scattering fire was always dropping its hissing and zipping bullets against the walls and boulders that covered these fields, making [Mann’s] position a hot one from the fire of his own comrades.

A little later several members of the rebel hospital department made their appearance while attending to their duty of helping the wounded, and one of them, noticing the live corporal all saturated with blood by the side of the dead man, asked how badly he was hurt. At the same time, in a matter of fact manner, he reached for Tom’s musket, which he immediately clubbed across the wall in such a manner as to ruin it. Like a flash the condition he presented prompted Tom to reply in a faint voice: - “ Don’t know, but think I am used up.”

“Well, you all do the best yo’ knows and we’uns’l tote yo’ back d’rectly.” And away they moved, leaving the corporal to his devices.

[Mann] immediately crawled between a big boulder and the wall where he was not only pretty well protected from stray bullets, but well hid, though he was hardly settled into a comfortable position when the Pennsylvania Reserves, of the 5th Corps, charged won, cleared the field and lane, and gave the corporal a chance to crawl out, pick up a serviceable musket, and report to his regiment. He was received back by company “I” just at dusk as one raised from the dead, for [1st Lt. William W.] Hemenway was about to send in the company reports for the day, in which [Mann] appeared as “left on the field mortally wounded.”

…. Considering the reduced numbers of the Eighteenth, therefore, which were reported present for duty – only 314 – in contrast to the 108 that were found at the front during the afternoon of this July 2d, the real fighting strength of the army must always have been far below the numbers represented in reports and upon paper. Some of these absentees were necessarily disabled in the forced marches to the front; others were detailed to guard wagon trains and camp equipage, but the fact remains that it is a rare thing for much more than half of the supposed strength of a regiment to be found in the line when a charge is made upon or received from the enemy.[6]

[1] John Hennessey, Editor, notes the house belonged to J. Weikert and is still standing, while the road was called the “Wheatfield Road.”
[2] The Confederate troops were from South Carolina and part of Joseph Kershaw’s Division
[3] Pennyslvania Reserves, commanded by Brig. Gen. Samuel W. Crawford
[4] Company A had only 11 men in action at Gettysburg
[5] Sgt. James Leavens, Co. A, then 24 years of age, was the only man from the Regiment to be killed at Gettysburg. Capt. Louis Tucker of Co. A stated in a deposition that Leavens “was wounded first and on the way to the rear was hit again and killed. Leavens is buried at the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Section C, Grave 27. Donald Thompson has in his possession a stencil Leavens used to mark his clothing.
[6] Fighting with the Eighteenth Massachusetts, pp. 175-181

The Wheatfield

Regiments of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps at the Wheatfield

18th Mass Monument

1st Michigan Monument

22nd Massachusetts Monument

118th Pennsylvania Monument