When we arrived at Sandusky, and for sometime after, the only way of reaching the island was by something more than a Sabbath day's journey over the ice, with the gentle zephyr's of Lake Erie searching out the imperfections of one's clothing. My curiosity was not so great as to call for such sacrifices of personal comfort. I had seen plenty of "Johnnie Rebs" in the field, with guns in their hands, so the unarmed "Secesh" then located on the island had no great attraction for me. However, when the ice broke up and steamers were running between the city and island, I went on a voyage of discovery, and paid the island a brief visit. During my stay the large gates of the prison enclosure, on the side fronting them, were thrown open and the prisoners were permitted to flock down to the shore of the bay to procure a supply of lake water; a double line of guards was formed from the enclosure to the shore, and the prisoners had ample room between the lines of guard to get to the water's edge; they came with pots and pans, buckets and cans, a sleek, well-fed, comfortably clothed, fine, healthy looking body of men, strikingly in contrast with the emaciated, famished wrecks of humanity who were released or made their escape from rebel prison pens. The prisoners confined on Johnson's Island at that time numbered about 2,500. All were commissioned officers on the rebel army, their rank running from the modest lieutenant to the swaggering major general. They were comfortably quartered in wooden barracks two stories high, with stairs outside. All had bunks to sleep in, with straw mattresses and blankets; there may have been some inconvenience, but there certainly was no suffering. One of General Shaler's staff was made treasurer of the prisoner's funds; they were notified of any money placed to their credit by outside friends, and were permitted to use the money standing to their credit by outside friends, and were permitted to use the money standing to their credit for any reasonable and legitimate purpose. A considerable portion was expended by them in procuring from the subtler articles of luxury such as he could furnish, and when necessary they were permitted to purchase gray cloth to be made into uniforms by themselves. The buildings used as quarters for the prisoners were placed in two rows facing each other, six in each row, with a street about 150 feet wide between. The prisoners used this street as a parade and base-ball ground, and here in winter they had sham fights with snow-balls for ammunition. From morning roll-call until "retreat" they were free to use all parts of the enclosure, taking care, however, to keep within the limits of the so-called "dead line," (thirty feet from the fence). The watchful sentry always gave warning when any of them carelessly approached too close to the danger line. Of course, confinement was irksome, still it was endurable; and they devised many ways for relieving it of some of its disagreeable features. They amused themselves by theatricals, concerts, and many indoor games, and many an otherwise weary hour would be whiled away in fashioning some ingenious trinket which would be purchased by outsiders as a souvenir. The winter was an extremely cold one, and they complained that before the arrival of our brigade they had suffered for want of firewood, the usual allowance of that article not being sufficient to meet the necessarily increased consumption of fuel. General Shaler remedied all this by directing the quarter-master to keep the team hauling wood while the cold weather lasted, without reference to the usual allowance. The prisoners were furnished rations the same as issued to our troops in the field, including fresh bread and fresh meat, and in addition had the privilege of buying articles from hucksters and at the sutler's store established inside of the prison enclosure. A Confederate officer, in an article published in the "Century," says this latter privilege was withdrawn sometime after our brigade left the island, and they were forced to subsist upon the rations issued to them; money could not purchase extras and delicacies. And moved by the recollection of this great deprivation(?), he gives vent to a more doleful wail, and charges that thereafter there was dealt out to the prisoners what might be called a slow starvation allowance of food. We all know that some of our men would "forage" and that they would confiscate anything they found good in the way of eatables, and it is claimed that the turkey that got beyond the reach of the "Bummer," had to roost very high. It is also true that often a misguided rebel sheep would attack some of our boys in the field, and would get the worst of it and be "sent to pot," giving variety to their otherwise uniform bill of fare, but such things were not of every day occurrence, and were confined to a limited few. Many thousands of the bronzed heroes who won the battles of the union, subsisted during their entire term of service wholly and solely upon the regular (sometimes irregular) issues of Government rations. Now, if our troops in the field could march, fight, and conquer while subsisting upon black coffee, salt pork, and hardtack, it would seem that the rebel prisoners on Johnson's Island ought at least to have lived in comparative comfort without any near approach to starvation on regularly distributed rations which included soft bread and fresh meat; and not withstanding the lapse of over a quarter of a century, there are still plenty of reliable witnesses living whose evidence is sufficient to establish the fact that during their entire term of imprisonment the rebel prisoners had an abundant supply of good wholesome food, and fared equally as well as the troops acting as their guards, and much better than our soldiers did in the field. Gentlemen of unimpeachable veracity who served as commissioned officers on the island from the time we left for the front until the close of the war, have assured me that of their own personal knowledge they can testify to the truth of this statement that during that time full rations of the best quality were issued to the prisoners regularly; and that with the exception of being debarred from trading with the sutler and hucksters, they had all the privileges and comforts they had enjoyed under General Shaler's administration. The rebel officer referred to as writing in the "Century" advances the proposition that those who have seen service at the front are the most humane in their treatment of prisoners, or, as expressed by one of our poets, "The bravest are the tenderest." He says: "In order to know how to treat prisoners you should have a hand in capturing them." General Shaler had served with distinction with his regiment in the Peninsular and other campaigns, and won the star of a brigadier by his gallant conduct at Marye's Heights, May 3, 1863. He was an officer well qualified to command, and though a strict disciplinarian he could administer justice tempered by mercy, and was above practicing any acts of petty tyranny upon those in his power. During his administration the prisoners acknowledged the justice and kindness of the treatment they received, and when he was taken prisoner (a few weeks after leaving the island) many of them wrote to their friends in the South to take good care of him as he deserved it; a very flattering testimonial to the General, and one to which he was well entitled. Frequent attempts at escape were made, but were never successful. One poor fellow was caught in the act of "tunneling," and when brought before General Shaler he expected that severe punishment would be dealt out to him. A staff officer gives this account of the interview as a sample of the General's treatment of the unfortunate under his charge. After asking his name, rank, etc., the General addressed the prisoner about as follows: "So you want to leave quarters, do you? Well, it is your privilege to escape if you can, but remember, I am placed here to prevent you, and our men have orders to shoot, so be careful and do not take too many chances. Come in and take a little something to refresh yourself, and then the officer in charge will go back to quarters with you." At the close of the war, when the Sixth corps was en route for Washington to be mustered out of service, I availed myself of an opportunity to visit Richmond and inspect the notorious Libby prison with a view of familiarizing myself with the character of the quarter occupied by the Union officers confined there at the time our brigade was doing guard duty over rebel prisoners on Johnson Island. When I looked through the long, low, dark, gloomy, illy ventilated rooms in which our men had been cabined, cribbed, confined, and recalled the comfortable quarters and ample grounds of the island prison, I little thought that anyone who had been imprisoned on Johnson's Island in war time would ever venture to refer to the treatment received there in terms inviting criticism, and calculated to provoke discussion as to comparative treatment of prisoners which would naturally lead to an inquiry as to the treatment extended by the chivalry of the South to Union officers confined in rebel prisons. As to comparative treatment of prisoners, I have a letter of recent date written by General Shaler, in which he says: "I know from my experience in their prisons that there can be no comparison made between the treatment they received and the treatment they gave. For instance, when I first arrived in Charleston, S. C., to be placed under fire of our batteries, I was put with four other general officers, in the common city jail, in a cell not more than ten feet square, without a table, chair, bench, bed, or anything else to sit or lie upon, except the bare floor which was covered with vermin. This we were forced to endure for three days, being locked up at night by a common turnkey as though we were common felons." (Andrew W. Wilkin's reprint of an article in the Cleveland "Leader" in the June 23, 1892 "Weekly Recorder").
Editor National Tribune: During the winter of 1864, from about the first week in January, Shaler's Brigade was detached from the Army of the Potomac and sent to assist in guarding the Confederate officers who were prisoners of war on Johnson's Island near Sandusky, O. As soon as the ice in Sandusky Bay broke up in the spring, the brigade returned to the front. The brigade was composed of the 65th, 67th and 122d N. Y. and 23d and 82d Pa. The 122d was employed in doing provost duty in Sandusky city, while the other regiments were encamped on Johnson's Island. The immediate guards around the prison stockade was the Hoffman battalion, especially recruited for that service. It would seem from the vigilance and perfectness of the prison that escapes were impossible, but such was not the case. Tunneling was an impossibility as the ditch inside the stockade went down to the rock, while a line of guards kept close watch all around the stockade on top on which were thickly posted sentinels. On a slight elevation a battery of heavy guns as trained on the prison grounds. Inside were confined 2,800 Confederate officers, a very superior body of men. At times small details of prisoners under guard would be taken out to gather wood, when occasionally one would escape and make for the ice across the bay. A skating patrol would soon overtake the fleeing Johnny and bring him back to captivity. It is said that bull-dogs were employed to assist in these captures. But the "cutest" trick ever played was when a Confederate constructed a tin gun out of oyster cans, and when the guards were relieved, having a blue overcoat on, he fell in with the relief and thus made good his escape. The guards ever afterward were on the lookout for tin guns and tin bayonets. While the regiment lay at Sandusky a great many were sick and taken to a hospital across from our quarters. Many died, and I always wondered at the fatality until since the war I was informed that the small-pox raged very badly and the surgeons were enabled to keep it secret by keeping it upstairs. On a bitter cold day several hundred of the shivering Confederates were taken from the prison and forwarded by rail to the James river for exchange, a number of whom cut holes through the bottom of the cars or crawled through the windows in transit and escaped. I should like to hear from some of the Hoffman battalion, as my yarns are only hearsay. I know, however, that the Confederate prisoners were well fed and warmly clad, and as humanely used as was possible and prevent escapes (Zeno T. Griffin, Co. E, in the "National Tribune," Oct. 27, 1887).
My Dear Children:-- The prison consisted of, I think, fourteen houses for barracks thirty feet wide, 100 feet long, and twenty feet high. They were made of dressed lumber, battened outside and celled inside. Doors and windows made them pleasant to look at, but I know that those who occupied the buildings often tried to get away from them. I suppose they were not so pleasant to live in, especially if you were obliged to live there. A tight board fence fourteen feet high enclosed the barracks and fourteen acres of land. On the outside of the fence, about four feet from the top a board walk was built, four feet wide, with a rail on the outside. This walk was for the guards and was divided into "beats." Each beat was--I don't know how long, for I never stood guard, but I think there were sixteen guards on each of the four sides of the fence. On the side of the fence nearest and opposite headquarters, a block house was built, and on the side near the water of the bay another one was erected. These contained "bunks" for the relief guard and each was furnished with a cannon to command the yard in case of insubordination on the part of the prisoners. The guards were two hours on duty and four hours off. When I first went to the Island to live the guards called the time of night by the half hour, but later this was discontinued. They called it this way: "B-e-a-t number one! H-a-l-f-p-a-s-t 12! A-l-l-s well!" and then the next on the beat would call, "B-e-a-t number 2! H-a-l-f-p-a-s-t 12! A-l-l-s well!" and thus it would pass around the fence I suppose to make sure that all were alert and ready for business if they were called upon. I was a stranger and could not sleep very well. I think perhaps I was afraid; but I know I was very much amused at the call of one of the guards on beat No. l. It was nearest to my house and was evidently paced by a German. This was the way he called the time: "B-e-a-t nom-ber ones! H-a-l-f-p-a-s-h-t 12! A-l-l ish besser; ish g-o-ot!" B-e-a-t nom-b-e-r ones. One a clock! A-l-l ish besser; ish goot." All the long watches of the night his quaint call rang in my ears. When the boat that ran between Sandusky and the Island, the Eastern I believe, had prisoners on board she would give us notice of the freight she carried by giving three prolonged whistles when she was half way over. Then all was activity at the Island. Guards were formed in line and marched to the dock to meet the new acquisitions of prisoners. And everyone was on the lookout to get a sight of a part of the rebel army. The prisoners in the yard gave the usual cry of fresh fish that always greeted every new arrival, and waited anxiously for news from home and the Southern army. There they come filing past my door up to headquarters where they give up their money and valuables, and take a receipt for the same. This is necessary in order to keep them from bribing our soldiers. I am sorry to say that some of them were bribed very easily. One time that I remember, Colonel Hill ordered a search of the prison barracks, and was rewarded by finding a wagon load of Union blue clothes. What did the prisoners want of them? Why, if they were dressed in blue like our own soldiers and could once get over the fence, they stood a good chance to make their escape to the main line, and then "good-bye to Yankee land" and "Hurrah for Dixie." But I was telling you of the captured rebels as they passed my house. What a sorry looking lot of men they are. Some are dressed in gray, some in butternut and some in a mixture of blue, butternut and gray. Some wore hats, some caps and others had only handkerchiefs tied over their heads. Part of the crowd wore shoes, and others wore boots, and others still wore one boot and one shoe, and a few had neither, but their poor, tired feet were bound up in rags. They are now ready for the yard, and as the gate by the side of the block-house opposite headquarters is thrown open to admit them the prisoners in the yard again cry "F-r-e-s-h F-i-s-h!" as a greeting to new comers. As the gate closes behind them the old prisoners crowd around the new to hear the latest news from home. The first winter I was on the island was a cold one. That autumn an invalid corps was sent from the front to do garrison duty at the island and in the company was a young fellow from Texas by the name of Wise. Lord Wise his comrades called him. He came to me in the first cold days of winter and wanted me to make him a woolen "nightcap" to wear on guard at night. I made him a red flannel hood with long tabs to tie around his ears. One night the prisoners, a few of them, tried to scale the fence but did not have very good success. Only four got away; the rest were clubbed back by the guards and an unsuccessful "scaler" said, "if it had been any one on that beat but the Dutchman with a red-nightcap, I could have got away." But Lew turned his rifle and clubbed his head and hands so effectually that he was glad to get back into the yard (a letter from Grandma A. printed by Andrew W. Wilkin on May 5, 1892).
The boys are very merry over their Sandusky reminiscences. An officer in one of our regiments has immortalized many of them in rhyme which are sung by the boys with great gusto to the tune and with the chorus of
"In the old Virginia Lowlands," &c.
One of the Surgeons of the Brigade, Dr. Staats, gave a hop on Johnson's Island which was damaged by some mischievous scoundrels who threw brick bats and put cayenne pepper on the stove.
Of that is the following stanza:
Staats advertised a grand soiree
The Hospital was cleared;
Though inauspicious was the day,
The ladies all appeared.
A brick-bat through the window whirls,
Red pepper strangles all!
Disgusted were Sandusky's girls
With Dr. Staat's ball!
The 122d were quartered in the city while the rest of the Brigade were on the Island, greatly to the disgust of the latter who also wanted to be in town. From its frequent allusions to us, the Sandusky "Daily Register" was nick-named by them "Dwight's Organ."
The "poem" contains the following on us:
The Hundred twenty-second, too,
Clothed themselves with great renown;
They furnished local items
For their "organ" in the town;
T'was fearful though to hear the jokes,
The blackguarding and damns,
The rest of the Brigade poured
On Dwight and all his lambs,
From the old Virginia," &c.
Here is one on the captain who took a subscription to get a double bass viol which was not procured in consequence of our departure though nothing attaches to the captain, the dig being purely fun:
We lately raised a Brigade Band,
Our Dress Parades to grace;
Sam T-sd-el thought it would be grand
To have a double bass,
Each one did fifty cents disburse
And now we've solved the riddle;
Sam's got the money in his purse,
But the Band has got no fiddle!
In the Old Virginia," &c.
And here is one by another hand, an officer of the 67th N. Y., on our departure:
Those who cherish beauty
Will love thy maids divine,
And those who love themselves,
Will drink thy native wine.
And veterans round their fires by night
Fond tales of thee will tell,
Oh! scene of rare, short-lived delight,
Sandusky, fare thee well!
From the old Virginia," &c.
But my letter has been, I am afraid, longer than your patience. Till the next time, and always (Col. A. W. Dwight)
One of the officers of the regiment, who takes great interest in the Veteran's Column for the love he bears to his old comrades, fished out of an old scrap book some verses composed by an officer of Shaler's Brigade which became very popular among the boys and they were frequently sung by camp fires from Gettysburg to Appomattox. The "poem" was quite lengthy but the verses following are among the best.-- Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H).
We left the Rappahannock not many months ago
What was our destination not any one did know
After traveling on the railroad for seven days or more,
We landed in mid winter upon lake Erie's shore.
Chorus--From the old Virginia lowlands etc.
We landed cold and dreary, of food we stood in need:
The ladies brought us doughnuts, and other kinds of feed,
Sandusky girls are lovely, hospitable and nice,
But we had to leave them early and travel o'er the ice.
Arrived at Johnson's Island, we settled down in camp,
The weather was inclement, tempestuous and damp,
One-half the men were building roads; one-half were mounting guard,
We found our "recreation" was working rather hard.
The One-hundred and twenty-second clothed themselves with great renown.
They furnished local items to their "organ" in the town,
'Twas fearful though to hear the jokes, the black guarding and damns,
The brigade showered upon the heads of Dwight and his pet lambs.
We lately raised a brigade band our dress parades to grace;
Sam Truesdell thought 'twas very grand to have a double bass,
Each one did fifty cents disburse and now we've solved the riddle,
Sam's got the money in his purse and the band has got no fiddle.
The order came one evening for the 4th brigade to leave,
And though 'twas long expected, it caused our hearts to grieve.
The sixty-fifth, the sixty-seventh, the twenty-twosters, too
Were ordered to pack up their traps without much more ado.
How beautiful the ladies who in Sandusky dwell;
How mournful every heart is, for we've learned to love too well,
Oh, grateful are the memories of soldiers tried and true
Our duty with the army lies; God bless you all--adieu.
Those who cherish beauty will love thy maids divine,
And those who love themselves, will drink thy native wine,
Our veterans 'round their fires by night fond tales of thee shall tell,
Oh, scene of such short-lived delight, Sandusky, fare thee well.
By May 2, 1864 - Arrive Brandy Station; VA; May 4 - Depart Brandy Station, Cross Rapidan in Charge of An Ammunition Train in the Wilderness; Camp at Gold Mine Ford; May 5-6 - Battle of the Wilderness; May 8 - Pass Through Chancellorsville; Skirmish of Alsop's Farm.
IN THE WILDNERNESS
By C. H. Enos (Drummer, Co. D)
I stood amid the wailing pines
and stunted oaks that stood between,
Where once had met the hostile lines
That fought each other all unseen.
Around me lay cold, grinning skulls,
White curving bones rose mid the leaves.
Like stranded wrecks whose shattered hulls,
The silver, sandy beach receives.
The trees were seamed with many scars,
Where thick and fast the bullets sped
When thundered on the sons of Mars
With banners streaming overhead.
Those days are passed. Now solitude
Reigns in those mournful wilds supreme,
For human kind will ne'er intrude
Upon the weird ghastly scene.
And this, I thought, is the warrior's glory;
A day his brow the wreath receives,
And then a mangled corpse all glory
is covered by their withered leaves.
General Shaler at the Battle of the Wilderness
The first day of the battle, the 5th, did not result as our commanders had expected, but that made no difference. "Advance upon the enemy at daybreak," was the order, and Shaler's little band of about 1200 men (the 23d and 82d Pa. not having arrived) was sent to reinforce the 3d Division of the Sixth Corps, commanded by Gen. Seymour of Olmsted fame; an official of undoubted courage, but whose overweening confidence and self-conceit cost us many lives and irreparable loss that day. As the first rays of the rising sun illumined the tree-tops of the dense forest, our lines were ready to advance. Riding along the lines, our gallant commander, in a firm, low tone gave the following order: "Men, depend upon your bayonets, do not stop to fire." The order was given in an advisory manner and the men hesitated for a moment in returning the volley poured into our ranks when our lines were fairly outlined against the thick woods. The enemy was driven back after a sharp contest and heavy losses on either side. Our brigade was advanced and took position on the extreme right of the union lines. Gen. Shaler's headquarters were at the front and that of the Division commander about 150 paces to the rear. Orders were given to fortify and send out a skirmish line. On our left and centre the battle raged with varying success, but notwithstanding the heavy assaults of Hancock, Gen. Lee sent the sturdy corps of Gen. Ewell to envelop the right of the union army; they passed close to our skirmish line in double column over 10,000 strong. Gen. Seymour had warning that a heavy body of the enemy was massing on our right. The warning was treated with supercilious contempt. The enemy had massed heavily on our front and flank and a heavy column was ready to dash into our rear when the proper time should come. The sun is nearing the horizon and in a few moments the storm will burst upon the devoted little band. Gen. Seymour is again warned that the enemy is in heavy force on our front; he smiles with seeming indifference. Gen. Shaler is active and his face has an anxious expression. His brigade is held in readiness, and when the rebel yell comes rolling (through) the woods like the cry of ten thousand famished wolves every man is ready and determined. The chances of war have always been recognized by soldiers, but never in our experience as a brigade had the tide of battle so completely surged around and over us and for a time it seemed that the three devoted regiments of Shaler's brigade would be wiped out. With that coolness and self-possession which makes the truly brave the ideal of heroism and rivets the love and devotion of the soldier, the General directed the defense until the closing columns of the enemy engulfed him and many others, officers and enlisted men, as prisoners of war. Gen. Seymour, too, was among the prisoners and his reflections on the occurrence are only known to himself. The remnants of the brigade massed and forced their way through the enemy's line to the rear where they were reinforced and joined in attack on the enemy, who were driven back in disorder. Such was the ending of the battle of the Wilderness (Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H).
At the battle of the Wilderness, Scott Fellows and myself were the only ones of our Co. ("A") who were detailed to go on the skirmish line at the extreme right on the evening of the 6th of May, 1864 when the enemy made that grand flank movement on our right and rear. When we got to our position one half of our squad went to relieve the men on the skirmish line and the other half which I was with, was left as I supposed as reserve. When the attack commenced I do not know whether Scott Fellows was with me with the reserve or went with the relief. I never saw him after that and do not know what ever became of him. The reserve seemed to be left without any one in command--at least I heard no command given and every man was left to take care of himself. The most of us stopped there until we could see the enemy and were sure we were not firing on our men. We fired and then fell back loading as we went. In that way fired several rounds; at last I found myself all alone with the enemy at my heels yelling "halt; drop that gun." Just then a ball cut the right side strap of my knap-sack which left the weight of my knap-sack on my left shoulder and dangling on my left side. I let it slip off my left arm. I have often thought that the bullet that cut the strap was a god-send to me, for the relief of that heavy knap-sack enabled me to get away from them. I would like to know how many were lost that were on the detail of our regiment on that day (Alonzo Fradenburg, Co. A).
Charles W. Ostrander was a lieutenant of Company C of the 122 NYV which went out from Syracuse. At the battle of the Wilderness his company was in the Sixth Corps on the extreme right. While the Union forces were being driven back by the Confederates Lieutenant Ostrander fell wounded in the right leg by a musket ball, and when the rebels settled on the field of battle he was left inside their lines. According to his story, after being wounded he lay eighteen hours in the midst of the Confederate camp before any attempt was made to relieve his sufferings. His leg, which had been nearly shot off, left him unable to move about and although he did what he thought was a pretty good job in tying a string tightly about the stub of the leg, he nearly died from loss of blood. Late on the following day, May 7th, 1864, he was attended by a surgeon of the rebel army who amputated the leg at the knee. He was then held as a prisoner, and lay two weeks in the same camp with only a tree for shelter. After two weeks a detachment of the Union forces entered the rebel lines under a flag of truce to remove the body of General Wadsworth who was killed in the engagement. The detachment brought with them a number of old single tents which had been condemned by the authorities as unfit for us and he was then moved into one of them. During the next three months he was held as prisoner, being confined at Orange Court House, Gordonsville, Lynchburg and Libby. He was at Lynchburg when Adjutant O. V. Tracy of this city escaped, and was finally paroled from Libby on September 28th, 1864. Alexander Hubbs and Oscar F. Austin were members of the same regiment and were also prisoners at the same time ("Sunday Herald" reprinted by Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, in the "Weekly Recorder," December 12, 1889).
Col. M. B. Birdseye, with Col. Tracy, Col. Gere and Capt. Ostrander, enjoyed for a time the hospitalities of a rebel prison at Lynchburg, Va. after the battle of the Wilderness, General Shaler being also one of the party. Cols. Birdseye and Tracy made an early escape from this prison, and after seventeen days of marching, mostly by night, reached the Union lines at Harpers' Ferry. The other officers were taken South, Capt. Ostrander to Libby Prison and the others to Columbia and Charleston. Capt. Ostrander lost a leg, and after being in rebel hospitals for several months was exchanged. General Shaler was confined in Charleston during the bombardment of the city by the Union army and was later on exchanged. Col. Gere escaped from Columbia, and made his way, with three others, Col. H. H. Walpole being one of the number, to the Union lines at Knoxville, Tenn. being a month or more on the way (Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, September 12, 1889).
Horatio Knight enlisted in "B" Co., 122d N.Y.V., at Euclid, July 26th, 1862, and served with his company continuously until the battle of the Wilderness when he was taken prisoner bringing up at last in Andersonville prison where he remained until the winter of 1865. Being of robust constitution, he was detailed by the prison authorities to dispense rations to the famished prisoners receiving an extra ration for himself for the service. When exchange he was greatly reduced in weight and often expressed his opinion of the wanton cruelty wreaked upon the poor prisoners, saying that nothing but starvation could induce the men to eat the rations served out. After the close of the war he married and removed to Iowa where he has prospered and has plenty. Faithful to duty, fearless in battle, a true soldier, is our tribute to Horatio (sketch provided by Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, March 13, 1890).
Isaac Merriam enlisted in Capt. J. M. Dwight's company ("I") 122d N.Y.V. in August, 1862, and served with credit to himself in every engagement up to Sept. 19, 1864 at the battle of Winchester, or "Opequan Creek" as some times designated, where he received a severe wound in the right arm from the explosion of a shell. At the time he was second Sergt. and was one of the best non-commissioned officers in the regiment. After many months of suffering from a wound that seemed incurable, an operation by the surgeons revealed a lead band fitted around the bond, half way from the elbow to the shoulder. This removed his recovery was only a question of time. After the war he removed to Taladeo, Alabama, where he married and located in a prosperous business. He now resides at Chattanooga, Tenn., engaged in the wholesale grocer trade, and deals largely in real estate (sketch provided by Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, March 13, 1890).
In the battle of the Wilderness Captain Gere was taken prison and a week after his arrival at Macon, Ga., Horace H. Walpole then captain of Company E, turned up among his fellow prisoners and from that time on they were together until their final escape. They were first taken to Lynchburg, Va., from there to Dansville, Va., and subsequently enjoyed the hospitalities of the rebel prisons at Macon, Savannah and Charleston and last at Columbia. They were for a time imprisoned in an exposed position at Charleston, S. C., during the bombardment of the city by General Gilmore and with General Shaler and other officers of the Sixth Corps, through every day and night while there, listened to the scream of Union shells. Captain Gere made five attempts to escape. Once at Macon where with three others he dug a tunnel under the stockade which enclosed the prison, but was discovered before getting out, again at Savannah where he dug through the stone foundation of the Marine Hospital grounds at that place, and another time on the railroad between Charles and Columbia where he succeeded in getting out into the country but was recaptured; and again from Columbia. On the first day of Nov., 1864, however he with three other officers, one of whom was Captain Walpole, succeeded in getting beyond the picket line at Columbia and made another break for liberty which was successful. With incredible labor and after hardship, exposure and fatigue which would have dismayed men of less vigorous constitutions, the entire party made their way through the mountains of North Carolina and East Tennessee to Nashville which they reached on the night of the 26th of Nov., 1864, having been just eight weeks on the way. Captain Gere rejoined his regiment March 1, 1865, and participated in the closing scenes of the great conflict. After Lee's surrender the regiment was stationed for a time at Danville, Va. near the North Carolina line and Capt. Gere was detailed as Corps Provost Marshall where he displayed great ability and excellent judgment. He was brevetted Major by the President of the U. S., commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment and also was brevetted Colonel for distinguished services. After the war closed Col. Gere returned to his farm and salt business and in 1880 became interested in the mining of mica having learned of the capacity of the mica mines of North Carolina through his acquaintance with Union men whom he met in his journey through the mountains of that state while escaping from prison in 1864. He is still interested in this business but resides on the old homestead near Belle Isle. He comes of rugged stock and promises to last as long as any of us (sketch provided by Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, January 30, 1890).
There was a detail from the regiment of 70 men to extend the picket line on the right. Of the seven detailed from "K" I was one. I was shot through my right arm and now write with my left hand. John Bugatt was another one from "K" Co. He was shot through the back, taken prisoner, and was in Andersonville prison eleven months. T. L. Poole then commanded "K" Co. and A. W. Wilkin commanded the detail of 70 men on the picket. It was rather lively times that evening of May 6th (Oren W. Hinds, Co. K).
Editor Sandusky Register: The interest so kindly manifested in our regiment by your people, and your city of golden and glorious memories to us, induces me to drop you a little scribble as to our whereabouts and condition. Our departure from your place, our reunion with our corps, and participation in the bloody campaign from the Rapidan to this point, is tolerably familiar to you and need hardly be repeated in detail. We have suffered terribly as has our whole division and corps of twenty-four officers who were combatants; nineteen have been killed, wounded or taken prisoners, though three of our wounded officers did not leave the regiment, and Mr. Tracy who was wounded and taken prisoner in the Wilderness has escaped and returned to us as has also Mr. Clark who went home wounded. We have lost two hundred and forty of the rank and file, killed, wounded and taken prisoners - the prisoners being almost entirely confined to the fight and repulse of our fight in the Wilderness, May 6th. Lieutenants Hoyt and Wooster were instantly killed, and Lieutenant Wilson has since died of wounds, while Capts. Dwight and Platt, and Lieutenant Poole are still absent from several wounds, though not dangerously hurt. Captains Walpole and Gere are prisoners in Lynchburg; while the tall form of our General, Shaler, is supposed to be anxiously looking out of a small window at Charleston to see if any signs can be discovered of the fleet opening fire and coolly remarking that he "guesses ours shells won't hurt him." As is always the case, many of our bravest and best are gone. We number one hundred sixty-seven muskets, and the shortened line and loss of familiar faces made our parades suggestive of sad memories through the bloody and honorable past. A military dispensation has fallen upon us lately that has not been received with any pleasure, though of course cheerfully acquiesced in. It has been thought expedient to break up all the Fourth Brigades in the various divisions of the army, and hence ours has been broken up, and we, the oldest brigade in the Army of the Potomac, have gone asunder. The 65th N. Y. and the remnant of the 67th N. Y. whose time as a regiment had expired, have gone to the 2nd Brigade, lst Division, 6th Corps. The 23d and 82d Pennsylvania volunteers, have gone to the 3rd Brigade, lst Div. and the 122d N. Y. has gone to the 3d Brigade, 2d Division, 6th Corps. So that from the blue of the Third, we went to the red of the First, and now wear the white cross of the Second Division. This breaking up of our old association is by no means pleasant. We had, as it were, grown together, and the entente cordiale of our brigade was always hearty and warm. The capacities and peculiarities of each other were pretty well understood, and harmony was the very pleasant result. Now of course these must be re-learned and re-formed, but I much doubt if they ever are, to the degree that characterized the old brigade. Col. Hamlin goes back to the command of his regiment. Capt. Ford goes to his regiment. Capt. Rowen is A.A.G. of the Second Brigade, lst Division. Capt. Truesdale is Assistant Inspector General of the 3rd Brigade and Lieut. Johnson is Asst. Provost Marshall of the First Division. The Headquarter's property was divided up as relics, or something like the "grab bag" plan, though the mammoth flag was unanimously donated to Mrs. Gen. Shaler. A set of tactics fell to my share, and a grand conclave of the officers was held at the dissolution of our old organization. But little was said and done, and no hilarity prevailed, but the demise of the brigade was dipped in a tub of claret punch, in the following terms, unanimously accepted as her obituary: "The old original First Brigade; she has died, but her works cannot follow." Brave Capt. Cooper, has gone - was instantly killed while gallantly fighting in the Wilderness; but his sentiment remains, fresh and deep (Lt. Col. A. W. Dwight, Headquarters, 122d N.Y.V. four miles south of Petersburg, VA, July 9th, 1864).
The Battle of Spotsylvania (May 9-12, 1864)
The smoke of battle had scarcely cleared, the moans of the wounded and dying were still heard over all that tragic field of the Wilderness where for two days, May 5th and 6th, the armies of the Union and Secession had fought the greatest musketry battle of modern times when the army of Grant and Meade hastened toward Spotsylvania Court House, the object being to place the Union Army between General Lee's army and Richmond. One day the armies had rested and reorganized their shattered regiments and brigades. At dusk, May 7th, the Fifth Corps marched off for Spotsylvania, followed by the Sixth Corps at midnight. The Fifth Corps, commanded by General Warren, on reaching Alsop's farm, encountered a strong opposition from Longstreet's Corps, led by General Anderson. This was at 8 A. M., May 8th and at 11 A. M. the Sixth Corps took position and cleared the flanks forming a line of battle. General Robinson's Division of the Fifth Corps lost heavily in the contest. General Sedgwick assumed command and prepared to drive the enemy from their position which they had rapidly fortified and was so situated that their batteries could sweep the approaches with an iron storm. Night put an end to the contemplated charge, and on the morning of the 9th the entire army was on the ground to take part in the struggle. This was a sad day for the veterans of the Sixth Corps. Their commander, General John Sedgwick, one of the bravest and most competent officers in the army, fell pierced through the head by a bullet from the enemy's sharp shooters. He enjoyed the confidence of the entire army, the love of his own corps, who never faltered when he gave command, "forward." How quickly the news spread through the corps. "Sedgwick is killed" was spoken in whispers. Brave men's eyes were moistened with tears and their speech was thick and husky as they told their comrades of the tidings. The positions of the Union forces are as follows: On the right the Second Corps, the Fifth on the left of the Second, the Sixth to the left of the centre and the Ninth on the left. Our front is a dense forest, reaching down nearly to the Po river, along which our army lays conforming with the bends in the stream for a distance of six or seven miles. The fighting along the lines is merely skirmishing to-day, but if all signs are not at fault there will be desperate work to-morrow. General Lee occupied an admirable position for defense, and in this battle made the most of a defense fight. His line was protected on either flank and the centre well out to the crest of the high ground; his entire line being fortified with two lines of breastworks and redoubts for artillery at the angles. The morning of the10th was fair and warm at sunrise. The Fifth and Sixth Corps moved forward to carry Laurel Hill. The effort failed to dislodge the enemy. The charge was repeated by the same corps, but after long and desperate fighting they fell back to their main line. At 4 P. M the Fifth and Sixth Corps, with a portion of the Second Corps again made two assaults upon the enemy's line, each line being obliged to retire when victory seemed within their grasp. The slaughter of our brave boys was terrible, nearly 7,000 in those two assaults, besides heavy losses in the morning. The demon of war in its desperate frenzy seemed to possess the contending hosts. The continuous roar of artillery and musketry, the wild cheering of the assaulting columns, the yells of defiance from the rebel fortifications, the smoke of battle filling the woods with its sulphurous odor and hanging like a pall over the entire field, all made up a scene that can never be forgotten by the participants. During the battle, as it swayed from right to left, a charging column of 2,000 re-enlisted veterans commanded by Colonel Upton penetrated the enemy's lines and captured 1,000 prisoners and fifteen pieces of artillery (Thomas H. Scott, Co. B).
The Veterans' Charge Upon Laurel Hill, May 10th, 1864
The failure of the Union forces in effecting a lodgment within the enemy's breastworks determined the desperate assault last mentioned. It was a grand sight when those gallant veterans marched out forming for the charge. Every man had served more than two years, and had been engaged in at least twenty battles. Each one wore upon his sleeve the insignia of a re-enlisted veteran who had served for two years or more. Their discipline had been such that their movements were perfect and their soldierly bearing most impressive; and their courage often tried had never faltered at any danger. A finer body of men could not be found in all the armies of the Union. There was something sublime in the steadiness of their marching and their seriousness, yet resolute, faces that told us plainer than words could tell us that they fully recognized the desperate character of the undertaking. Every man a hero, many faces blanched, and every lineament hardened for the fearful struggle. They knew that bloody work was before them and that many would not return. Their great comrades saw them move off, grieved that they too were not allowed to take part. (If Gen. Meade had known the wishes of the lst Division of the fighting Sixth, and heeded them, the results of that charge would have been far different; the enemy's center would have been pierced, and a general rout of their forces followed.) Steadily they approached the enemy's line and were soon under fire. With fixed bayonets they pressed forward under a terrible musketry fire, and were soon in a hand to hand encounter with the enemy over their breastworks. The fighting was desperate, but in a few moments they gained the works and a thousand prisoners are in their hands, with fifteen pieces of the enemy's artillery. The rebels could not afford to lose the works without an effort to regain them. That was quickly made, and by a heavy force. The support promised Col. Upton did not appear. Great masses of rebels were hurled upon the gallant Union band already decimated and weakened by the custody of so many prisoners of war. Receiving no support, Col. Upton at last gave the order to retire leaving the captured guns for the enemy. His loss in the charge and retreat was nearly 1200 while that of the rebels was over 1500, including the prisoners. Gen. Mott's Division had been ordered to support the veterans, but failed to render any aid to the gallant band who had made one of the grandest charges in the annals of war. The Britons charge at "Balaklava" has been sung wherever their flag floats, while a grander, fiercer charge is merely known in the history as one of the incidents in the war of the rebellion. The gallant veterans returned with decimated marks and took their places with their regiment with that soldierly modesty characteristic of the Americans. They had performed their duty, made a grand assault, lost heavily, thought tenderly of the fallen comrades, and were ready for the next charge to be made on the right. The grandeur of that charge is impressed with vivid coloring.
In the deadly charge we see them
Fighting like heroes, dying like men;
Onward they charge, nor heed the leaden hail.
The rear of battle, the shrieking deadly shell
Stays not their advance, as they tread
Over the wounded, the dying and dead
Upon the breastworks, mid sheets of flame
For the glory of their flag, and the veterans' fame."
(Thomas H. Scott, Co. B)
The Salient (The Bloody Angle)
The severe fighting of May 10 with its fearful losses to both sides was to the advantage of the enemy, for they held their position and continued to strengthen the weak points during the night. The continuous rattle of musketry, the thundering artillery, the shrieking, exploding shells, the hurrying masses of troops over the wounded and dying, the air darkened by the dense smoke of battle--all tended to make the scene one of awful grandeur and indescribable horror. Night came on and over that scene of blood and human suffering; the stars shone dimly through the sulphurous atmosphere producing a faint phosphorescent light in the eyes of the dead. Both armies sought their wounded and buried their dead, conscious that the battle was only begun. On the morning of the 11th both armies were slow in renewing hostilities. Some sharp skirmishing occurred during a heavy rainstorm at 2 P. M.; the Sixth Corps' skirmish line drove the enemy's skirmish line back nearly to their main line of works at the salient of their right center; a position of great strength and rendered almost impregnable by the skill of competent engineers. The night of the 11th was very dark and a heavy mist was falling which greatly aided Gen. Hancock to place his Corps (the 2d) close up to the front without giving the rebels warning of the movement. The 5th and 6th Corps occupied the front. Shortly after midnight on the morning of the 12th, the 2d Corps took position in the rear of the left of the 6th and the right of the 5th Corps. At 3 o'clock a heavy fog settled down over the field that would soon be made historic by the heroic valor of the contestants. Hancock's corps advanced cautiously, passing through the lines of the 5th and 6th Corps close up to the skirmish line. The Divisions of Gen. Barlow and Birney were massed in two columns for assault anxiously waiting for the hour 4:30 to charge upon a position rendered almost impregnable by Gen. A. P. Hill's corps. The moment for action is at hand, the two divisions move forward and pass over our skirmish line; then with wild cheering they rush forward upon the rebel salient, tear away the abatis in front, clamber over the breastworks in spite of the enemy's opposition and capture over 4,000 of Gen. Johnson's division. The rebel General Stuart was also made a prisoner. Hundreds in their efforts to escape were shot down in their flight. Eighteen pieces of artillery, 5,000 small arms and 20 stands of colors were trophies of the grand charge. The rebel forces in rear of Johnson fell back, and were evidently greatly demoralized. Another charge at this critical juncture would have severed the right of the rebel army and entailed great disaster to Lee's army. Gen. Early's divisions had fallen back to the second line of breastworks and nearly an hour elapsed before our forces again moved forward to attack Early, who had just received reinforcements from Hill and Anderson. The result of the second charge of Gen. Hancock's corps was rather disastrous, for they encountered the reinforcements to Early who forced the 2d back to the breastworks captured at daybreak. They held the "angle," however, until the Sixth Corps took position on the left. Now ensues a fearful struggle for possession of the angle or salient. The rebel forces are hurled against us in reckless disregard of all means to lessen the loss of life. Sometimes they would reach the breastworks, and a hand-to-hand fight ensued. Repulsed with terrible loss, they hurled their shattered lines upon us with frenzied valor, but all in vain. The angle was a slaughter pen and both sides fought like incarnate heroes offering themselves a willing sacrifice to the God of War. Battery after battery was hurried up to hold the position, but before the horses could be detached they were shot down. The slaughter among our brave artillery men was appalling, but while enough were left to man the guns they stood to their work like "men of iron with nerves of steel." Pages could be written of personal deeds of heroism among those gallant artilleryman. It will suffice to say that when their guns were silent we knew there was none left to man them. At 8:30 the Fifth corps engaged the enemy with artillery and musketry. Gen. Burnside also on our extreme left seems to have found the enemy. The enemy on our front are coming again; time 8:45, three lines the skirmishers report. Now ensued a most desperate struggle for the possession of "the salient," or as the enemy called it, "the angle." The Demon of War feasted on human blood! Men fought like maniacs, a savage gleam in their eyes as the men of the North and South looked in each other's faces over the points of their bayonets. The nitrous vapors seemed to burn their throats and nostrils, and if ever the smoke of battle turned men to demons it was here. The trenches of the breastwork on the inside were wide and deep, but not deep enough to hold the dead, while in the woods in front of the lst division of the Sixth corps and the right of the Second corps the dead lay in heaps. The small trees and shrubbery were cut off evenly by the well directed fire of our men as it mown by giants. Still the battle rages along the lines and the enemy is loathe to give up the coveted "angle." But the 2d and 6th were not dismayed. Ammunition was brought up and hurriedly distributed when a lull in the fighting permitted. The battlefield presents a sight that would sicken anyone not inured to the horrors of war. Dead men and horses everywhere the eye may turn; deserted cannon and caissons were standing sentinels over their heroic dead. But the works won in the early morning are held to the end. With the exception of Gettysburg, Spotsylvania was the greatest contest between the North and South. The aggregate losses were forty thousand men. The soldiers of both armies who took part in that battle will ever remember "the angle" or as it was fitly termed by one of our officers, "The place where soldiers fought like fiends and died like men." Another has term it, "An angle of death, one hideous Golgatha." At 10 P. M. we are relieved and go to the rear to get water, food and rest. Our regiment had been on the skirmish line for 18 hours and in battle nearly as long, without food and water but a canteen of water to each man. We reach a small stream and those who choose make coffee, and after a luxurious supper of hard grimy hard tack, lie down to sleep and perchance dream of our fallen dead and our dear ones at home. (Thomas H. Scott, Co. B)
My Dear Mother:--I am informed by one of the officers that our worthy chaplain has reported me killed in this morning's conflict at the angle. In the hope of this letter reaching you before you hear of the chaplain's report, I hasten to write you and will mail this to-night. In the charge this morning, I received a slight wound in the throat which bled quite freely and looked like a fatal wound. By the use of lint, the loss of blood was quickly checked and I rejoined the regiment which held a portion of the captured breastworks, surprising the boys and receiving a glad welcome. Had Chaplain Nickerson been in his strict line of duty, I would not be writing you at this late hour (11:30 P. M.) by the uncertain light of a candle, for had he been with the regiment caring for the wounded who needed his assistance he would not have reported me among the dead. I have been in every engagement thus far in which our corps took part and I feel certain of being in many more and of living to the end of the war; and unless the rebellion is crushed out, I don't think the Union soldier would receive a warm reception even from the loyal, patriotic people of the North. To-day our losses have been heavy, but the rebel army have lost at least fifteen thousand to our loss of ten thousand. Of course you will read an account of to-day's great battle; but perhaps my description will aid you in fully understanding the results. In the engagements of the 9th and 10th but little advantage was gained by either side, for the rebel position is very strong; their redoubts and earthworks covering every foot of ground, while in the angle where the great fight was made to-day the rebels had three lines of breastworks. The first line was captured at daybreak, and the contest for that line of works between our Yankees who did not want to leave what seemed to them a desirable position, and the outraged "Johnny's" whose dead filled the trenches in rear of the breastworks, was one of the most sanguinary of all the great battles of the war. We still hold the captured earthworks and guard our own and the rebel dead in our front. I mean that our forces hold the earthworks, for our Brigade was retired at ten P.M. to enable the men to get some rest and clean up for the morning, maybe a repetition of this morning's experience. I take my rest in writing to the truest friend I have on earth that she may not mourn or doubt for a moment that her son is safe. It is 12 o'clock and the boys are sleeping soundly, too soundly to dream of home and their dear ones; they are perhaps too tired to even write. The boys from Clay, present for duty this morning, are safe to-night. The second day's battle in the "Wilderness" (the 6th inst.) was most disastrous to our brigade of three N. Y. regiments, the 65th, 67th and 122d, which lost over one-half of the officers and men, including our gallant, intrepid Gen. Shaler among the prisoners. At midnight after the battle, there were less than 200 who answered to roll-call of the 1,260 who were present at the morning fight which began at sunrise. Many were scattered in the fight of Ewell's corps against Shaler's Brigade at sundown on the 6th, and this morning we went in the fight with nearly 200 men in each regiment. I know that you read everything pertaining to this campaign, and that your faith in the Union cause may not waver for a moment, I make this assertion: within one year the war will be ended in complete victory; the army of General Lee will be forced back to Richmond and Petersburg where its capture or destruction is sure. Gen. Grant is the master mind and he has just found out from the terrific fighting of the past week that the army of Gen. Lee must be wiped out before the war will end. Gen. Lee will not risk another great battle outside of strong earthworks. His army cannot be filled with such material for trained soldiers as can be placed in the Army of the Potomac. Time will verify this prediction, and if any of the neighbors lose their faith in the Union cause, read to them this letter for their encouragement; or, if you wish to part with this letter, send it to the Journal or Standard for publication. The Army of the Potomac led by Gen. Grant is the hope and right arm of the Union, and it is a strong right arm; while Lincoln, the grandest of all our Presidents, should be re-nominated and re-elected without opposition. With tender regards, your son (letter written on the field of Spotsylvania after the battle of May 12th, 1864 by a member of Co. B, 122d N. Y. Vols.).
May 14, 1864 - Cross Po River; Skirmish; May 18 - Attempt at Charge; Form Line of Battle; May 20 - Build Breastworks; May 21 - Skirmish; March all Night; May 22 - At Guinea Station Near Bowling Green; May 25 - Tear up a Mile of the Gordonsville Tracks; May 26-27 - March to Pamunkey River at Hanover Town About 20 Miles From Richmond; Hanover Court House; May 31 - Skirmish at Savage's Station; June 1-3 - Battle of Cold Harbor.
At Cold Harbor, Va. on the 1st day of June, 1864, the regiment to which Major Poole belonged took part in a desperate charge which rivaled in gallantry the famous charge of Pickett's Division at Gettysburg. The losses of the 122d were heavy, and among them who were severely wounded was Major Theodore Poole. For a time he refused to leave the ranks of his regiment, but the pain and weakness caused by his wound compelled him at least to yield to the advice of his comrades and retire (Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H).
Patrick Kelly, Norman Garlock and Patrick O'Hara were killed at Cold Harbor and buried where they fell and their names cut on a piece of racker board to mark the spot (Merrick E. Smith, Co. K).
My Dear Old Friend: Your solicitude for the safety of the young men from Clay and vicinity, who have had ample opportunity to exhibit their metal for the past sixty days, is duly appreciated by the only one left present for duty of the large number that enlisted with me in Capt. Chamberlain's company. The campaign has been thus far the most destructive in the annals of modern warfare. I believe our losses since May 4th are at least seventy five thousand men; many regiments are reduced to a mere remnant. Our boys from Clay have fared badly, as you will see by the following list of casualties since the opening of the campaign. The battle of the Wilderness reduced our numbers to four, James Anderson, William Auborn, John Geissel and myself; Charles Carlisle, E. L. Sloot, Johnathan J. Brownell, Daniel W. Rowley were seriously wounded, and Horatio Knight was taken prisoner. Anderson was badly wounded at Cold Harbor and Auborn and Geissel with slight wounds are in the hospital. James B. Robinson of A Co., one of our Clay boys, lost an arm at Cold Harbor. To-day I am the only one of the 122d from Clay present for duty, and as the campaign has thus far been decidedly unfortunate to our regiment, we are not inclined to look backward or think of the past. I am proud of the boys who enlisted with me and hope ere long to greet some returning to duty. Henry H. Hewes, now a lieutenant, came over to make us a visit the 4th inst. His company is reduced to seven men, and he looks as if all his friends are dead. Hewes shows the wear of the campaign, and I doubt whether his friends at Euclid would recognize him. Half of the army are unfit for duty but Uncle Sam and the Sanitary Commission are doing grandly by a change of diet. Lemons and onions are freely issued, and with pickles and other vegetables, the condition of the army will greatly improve. A mild form of scurvy prevails, undoubtedly produced by poor and insufficient food, and very bad water. You ask me if I think the war will end this fall as the people expect and demand. It may be presumptuous for me to give an opinion being only an enlisted man, but as this is a private letter I will answer you. No, not this fall. There is too much to accomplish. It is true that we have invaded Petersburg, and as Gen. Grant proposes to destroy the army of Lee, he will take his own time and spare the men in the future, for he cannot afford, and the country does not demand, the costly sacrifice of life that would ensure from storming their stronghold. The war will end in due time by a complete surrender, unless the weak-kneed patriots of the north repudiate Honest Abe Lincoln and elect a President who will make peace on any terms. I will make the prediction that the War will end in one year, and end in complete victory to the Union cause. Please keep this letter for me if I return to friends and home. (Thomas S. Scott, Co. B, sharpshooter, Camp of 122d N.Y. Vols. near Petersburg, VA. July 6, 1864).
July 1, 1864 - Move Six miles South to Weldon Railroad; July 9 - Take Transport From City Point
After Cold Harbor, Gen. Grant's next flank movement took us to the north bank of the James river, where we did our portion of the task assigned us, and finally on the17th of June arrived in the department commanded by Gen. Butler, commonly called by "secesh" prints "Butler the Beast." A short march carried us to "in front of Petersburg" where once more we indulged in the pastime of throwing up earth works and taking diverse and sundry pops at the "Johnnies." The next flank move carried us to the extreme left of our lines, where, barring picket duty, we had easy times for a few days. Yet again we moved, this time to make an effort to destroy the enemy's communication with the southern part of the Confederacy. We struck the Weldon railroad at Ream's Station, the very point which has since been selected for some desperate struggles between the contending armies. We had no great trouble in tearing up and destroying the track and I certainly thought that the rebels would not be able to repair damages for a long time. This little job was done whilst Gen. Wilson's cavalry were operating on the Danville railroad. He was not so successful as we were and had great difficulty in regaining our lines, and was, in fact, partly indebted for his safety to a demonstration made by the 6th corps which changed the rebel programme somewhat. They had it down in the bills that Wilson and his raiders were to be bagged, but Gen. Grant could not see the thing in that light. Returning from our railroad raid, we found a new camping spot and settled down to endure the monotony of camp life. Our days of ease and idleness were few in number; from the borders of Maryland and Pennsylvania came reports of rebel raids. Old John Brown and his score of negroes did not occasion greater fluttering among the chivalry of the "Old Dominion" than would a solitary horseman among the inhabitants of the country bordering on the Potomac. A band of fifty rebels would commit depredations which might well employ a thousand well mounted and determined men; the same band would be reported as operating at half a dozen places at one and the same time. Each trooper, in the excited imagination of the frightened citizens, was accompanied by one hundred palpable shadows, each armed and equipped in the most thorough orthodox guerrilla manner, and performing deeds that put the doings of knights errant in the days of chivalry completely in the shade. Puck's task of putting a girdle around the earth in forty minutes was of easy performance compared with the impossibilities executed by these roving bands. In time, however, these demonstrations assumed a formidable character. It was ascertained that a large force of rebels were actually running riot in Maryland and even threatened the Federal capital, so the 6th corps was detached for the defense of Washington, and on the 9th day of July took transport from City Point. We steamed down the James river, and were it not that I am ever true to my first love, the majestic St. Lawrence, I might be disposed to fall desperately in love with Virginia's historic stream. On our passage down, I noticed the captured iron clad, Atlanta, lying in the stream, and indulged in the hope that the city whose name she bore might soon, like her, have the stars triumphantly floating over her. We were continually meeting vessels on their way to City Point, some freighted with engines of destruction, and others bearing home comforts for the front, for the use of the soldiers in the field. Nearing Fortress Monroe, we passed the spot where the gallant Cumberland frigate fell an easy victim to the power of the Confederate iron clad, Merrimac. A portion of the masts of the unfortunate Federal cruiser still are visible. At Fortress Monroe we found a crowd of vessels of all descriptions, among the rest a rakish looking iron craft (Clyde built) which had been lately captured in attempting to run the blockade of some Southern port. She will for the future be engaged in a more lawful and honorable calling than that in which she was engaged at the time of her capture. Here also we found the gay tri-color of France, displayed by a fine looking man-of-war, and I was also favored with a view of the "meteor flag of England" boldly floating over "hearts of oak" on board an English man-of-war. Leaving Fortress Monroe we steamed out into Chesapeake Bay and headed for Washington. The motion of the vessel had its effect upon many of the troops and many a valiant son of Mars paid unwilling tribute to Neptune. I, however, was too much of an old sailor to be affected by the cradle like movement imparted to our vessel, and selecting the soft side of a plank was soon wrapped in the arms of Morpheus (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, Bolivar Heights, Va., September 8, 1864).
July 11 - Arrive at Fort Stevens To Protect Washington, D. C.; July 12 - Skirmish at Fort Stevens
To the Editor of the Syracuse Journal: The Sixth Corps are en route for Washington, and thence most likely to Harper's Ferry. What for I don't know, but perhaps you do, by the rattling among the dry bones we have heard from the Potomac border. Regiment all on board, and well and comfortable, except one man tied up for stealing. I see you had me killed in the Syracuse papers. Much obliged, or rather I should be if the usual discovery had been made that I was a "taurine youth with a vitreous optic." But as the boy reported Webster's last words, "I ain't dead yet," and I hope not to be till "this cruel war is over," the rebellion smashed, and the Copperheads looking for the hole the Tories of the revolution crawled into and pulled in after them. (Lt. Col. A. W. Dwight, Headquarters 122d N.Y.V. on board transport "Guide," Potomac River, 50 miles south of Washington, July 11, 1864).
The Fight in Front of Fort Stevens, July 12, 1864.
The fight at Fort Stevens took place just on the outskirts of Washington July 12, 1864. A very large force under the rebel general Early had descended the Shenandoah Valley, crossed the Potomac and threatened Baltimore and Washington when there were few troops in either of these cities and the fortifications but poorly manned. Our Corps, the Sixth, was hastily dispatched on transport down the James, one division, the Third, going to the relief of Baltimore and the first and second to the relief of Washington. At Monocacy, the Third Division met Early. When the divisions of the Sixth Corps reached the city, Early's troops were in the suburbs. The citizens of Washington were overjoyed at our arrival, and all the way on our long march up Seventh St. were greeted by such attentions as we were not accustomed to in our Virginia campaigns. Just outside fortifications of the city in front of Fort Stephens the fight took place on the afternoon and evening of July 12 and Early, surprised at the stubborn resistance to his advance, found out that Grant's veterans were in his front and hastily retreated. The 122d N. Y. was then a part of Bidwell's brigade of the 2d division, 6th corps and most of the men interred in the National Cemetery on the site of the battlefield belong to this brigade. The following members of our regiment lie there: J. Bentley, Co. A. H. Chandler Co. C; D. L. Hogeboom, Co. E, A. Mosier, Co. C, J. Renis, Co. C (Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, October 20, 1892).
After twenty-five years of peace, many of the important engagements of the late war are but vaguely understood by the general reader. The historian collects the facts of battles as best he can from the reports of commanding officers; but those reports convey but little of the details of the real fighting, and the importance of movements or the general results of campaigns. Few people understand how barely the capital of the nation escaped capture in July, 1864. The defeat of the Federal forces at Monocacy in Maryland placed the capital and Baltimore in great danger. General Early's army of 30,000 men were at its very fortifications on the afternoon of July 12th and but for the delay in attack the city might have been taken before the arrival of the Sixth corps. On the night of the 19th of July the Second division of the Sixth received orders to move to City Point, on the James river, below Richmond. Vague rumors of the dangers that beset Washington were circulated, and on arriving at City Point transports were in readiness. The division embarked rapidly and were soon on the way to the beleaguered capital. The First division soon followed, and with all possible speed hurried forward. The Second division disembarking at the foot of Seventh street at 2 P. M. on the 11th immediately marched out to Fort Stevens, whose guns were silenced by the enemy's sharp shooters. The attempt to capture Washington had thrown the population into a state of great excitement. They greeted the passing troops heartily, and brought ice water to them without limit. The weather was intensely warm, and as they had been two days closely packed on the transports with very bad water to drink, the kindly acts of the grateful citizens caused hundreds to fall on the march to the fortifications. "God bless you," and "You will save us," greeted the worn and sweltering troops as they passed through the streets. Halting at Fort Stevens for a few moments, the Third brigade, Second division, Sixth corps, hurriedly passed outside the fortifications and employed, taking distance on the advance in a manner that elicited the applause of the President, military commanders, and the principal members of Congress, who had come out to the front to witness the engagement. A double skirmish line was formed, and in a brief time rebel skirmishers were flying back to their reserves. At once the guns of Fort Stevens and De Russey opened fire and sent their compliments to the enemy, who were rapidly moving forward a line of battle. About two miles out on the main road the rebels made a decided stand. It was the intention of the commander, no doubt, to draw the rebels on to a general engagement, as the troops were so well concealed that the enemy did not discover them lying in line of battle expecting a general attack. Now began a desperate engagement between this double skirmish line with their small reserves and a line of battle of the enemy. In the immediate front of the Forty-third and One Hundred and Twenty-second New York volunteers and the Sixty-first Pennsylvania volunteers, a strong force of the enemy lay behind a board fence. Their fire was well directed, and in the gathering darkness (for it was getting dark at 8:30) our men were directed to concentrate their fire on the lower board of the fence at short range. Our line was getting thinned, but the men protected themselves as best they could and poured such an incessant fire on the prostrate enemy that it compelled them to retreat in disorder. Here was a double skirmish line of disciplined troops, well officered, that met and drove back, after a severe engagement, a full line of battle. In no other engagement of our three year's service did we witness so many acts of individual valor and daring, and particularly among the men and officers of the Forty-third New York volunteers. The gallant, but hasty, Colonel Visher lost his life by his own imprudence. Each regiment engaged vied with the others to hold their ground and force back the enemy. One thing is certain. Early got enough of the Sixth corps that evening to induce him to get out of Maryland at once. I witnessed one of the most tragic scenes of the war during the engagement. I got a safe position at a point where the enemy's lines were in easy range, and with one of my companions lay down behind a low pile of cedar posts and directed our fire on the heads of the enemy as they raised up to take aim. Five men of the Sixty-first Pennsylvania came and lay down beside us. To my remonstrance, when I warned them that the firing of so many would call forth a concentrated fire from the enemy, they paid no heed. They fought well for a time, and in the darkness that gradually settled down on the contest like a funeral pall, we did not notice that their guns were silent and the five lay as if asleep. Yes, they were all asleep, in the sleep "that knows no wakening here," as I found with horror upon trying to rouse them to action. Placing my hand on the head of the man to my right, I found the brain and blood oozing from the wound of the deadly minie bullet. Reaching over to the others I found they, too, were dead. Hastily rising to leave the sickening presence of the dead men, wondering how I escaped the fate that befell them on that fatal spot, I received a disabling wound in the arm that sent me to the rear. The next morning I went over the ground at daybreak, and visited the pile of posts riddled with bullets. My escape the night before was owing to a large flat stone leaning against the posts, scarred by many bullets. The rebel loss in killed and wounded was heavy for the number engaged on our side. The enemy hastened away, crossing over into Virginia at Edward's Ferry. One day's delay, and in all probability Washington would have been captured, for General Early aided by Breckenridge would have had easy work in entering the city by a night assault. Forts Stevens and De Russey were silent, for the rebel sharp shooters concealed in rifle pits were close to the works and had complete control of the guns. But, by delay, the opportunity was lost and Washington saved. In an enclosure rest the dead of the Second division. Their graves should be sacred to the citizens of Washington. The wounded are scattered over New York and Pennsylvania. Within sight of the dome of the Capitol, aye, almost under its shadows, Colonel Bidwell's brigade fought a vastly superior force and compelled them to fall back, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. The historian dwells but briefly on this engagement, but no movement of the war had a greater stake at issue. A prominent rebel gave as a reason why Early did not attack Washington on the 11th, was that Gen. Breckenridge opposed the movement. We do not credit the story, but if it is true then we should give him credit, for his conscience saved him from raising his hand for the destruction of the capitol where he but four years before occupied the chair of vice-president. Will the whole truth ever be known? (Possibly Thomas H. Scott, Co. B).
In our engagement yesterday, our regiment lost in killed and wounded as follows:
David Hogeboom, Co. F, John Kennedy, Co. C., Henry P. B. Chandler, Co. C.
Capt. Davis Cossitt, Co. D inside of foot, not serious
Sergt. James Goodfellow, Co. C, flesh wound, right thigh, severe
Sergt. Ruell P. Buzzell, Co. C, ball went in lower jaw and came out near shoulder, jaw fractured, very severe if not dangerous
James Davidson, Co. C, right shoulder, not severe
Sergt. L. Adkins, Co. B, severe, in left side, but not dangerous
Calus Weaver, Co. B, right arm fractured and amputated.
Peter Stebbins, Co. K, right hand, rather severe
Thomas H. Scott, Co. B, slight contusion of right elbow
John Lapenthall, Co. C, contusion of shoulder
___ Preston, Co. I, in right hip, very severe
Miles J. McGough, Co. G, left shoulder slight
William Thompson, Co. K, flesh wound
Sergt. T. G. Dallman, Co. I, in left shoulder, severe
Sergt. William Swartz, Co. I, in left shoulder, not severe
Chas. Snediker, Co. F, in leg, severe
George H. Richardson, Co. C, through neck and right shoulder, very severe
Thomas Thornton, Co. D, contusion of right wrist, slight
Alanson Mosier, Co. C
Charles Lamphier, Co. G, contusion in abdomen, slight
Albert Dickey, Co. A; Edward Mahan
The regiment and brigade did splendidly. I have no time to write details. Yours truly (L. M. Nickerson, Chaplain, Camp of 122d N.Y.V., Washington, D.C. July 13, 1864). (Mosier subsequently died.)
We "Twosters" appreciate the merits of our detailed cow boys during the campaign of '64 (being ourselves too busy to forage or go fishing) from the Wilderness in May where Co. F lost 17 of the 34 men who went into action till the middle of June when we took transports and joined Gen. Butler's army before Petersburg, only stopping on that all summer line of fighting by day and at night moving to the left, at Spotsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor, where so many grave boys took their long rest. During the many marches of our eventful three years, how our faithful cow boys trudged along the route, driving the skittish bovines through brush and many hindrances, giving us the right of way in the best paths, and at night while we rested, they butchered and brought us fresh beef, of which we supped and slept soundly, with digestion unimpaired. But in July when we went to Washington to meet Gen. Early, "Sned" (Snediker of F. Co.), the rest of them took arms once more and with us met the foe. Do you remember the all night march from the dust of Petersburg and the stones that stubbed our sleepy toes? but I didn't hear Snediker use a single cuss word though some did swear by note. But we rested as we glided down the James and up the Potomac and on Tuesday we helped the invalids to hold the forts. As we advanced beyond Fort Stevens, President Lincoln in the fort asked Gen. Wright if the confederate sharp shooters could be dislodged from the dwelling in our front. Soon the big guns boomed, the dwelling burned, the Johnnies ran, we after them. Snediker and I were having it all our way when, presto, they halted, rallied, turned and under sharp fire advanced to gobble us. Just then one of their balls crashed into poor "Sned's" left shin and flattened there. I pitied him but he grinned and bore it like a hero. The Johnnies came no farther, though, and discreetly left about that time, double quick (Belas F. North, Co. F, February 2, 1891).
July 13, 1864 - Chase Rebels; Camp at Offut's Crossroads; July 16 at Poolesville, on to Edward's Ferry, Then to Camp Near Leesburg, VA., July 17, 1864
Dear F.: After "changing our base" to Washington and having a brisk skirmish with the invaders near Fort Stephens, in plain sight of the Capitol, we were once more on the move. In the affair near Washington our regiment lost five men killed and one officer, Captain Cossitt, and nineteen men wounded, some of them severely. I stood near the fort, where I had a fine view of the whole action until after evening set in and nothing more could be seen. This was the most impudent thing the rebels ever attempted. Fort Stephens is at the head of Seventh street, in plain view of the Capitol dome, and the bullets from the rebel sharpshooter's rifle struck one of the guns within two feet of me, and glancing through the leg of a surgeon standing near by. This is probably as close a call as the Chief Magistrate ever had. It is a wonder that more men were not wounded or killed there, as the grounds in and near the fort were crowded with citizens, whose curiosity had induced them to be so venturesome. I was much amused to see the "cits," as the boys call them, duck their heads and even go through the very undignified performance of hugging mother earth as an occasional bullet came whizzing by. The "rebs" could have picked off very many of them had they chosen as their white summer costumes formed a good, conspicuous mark, but they humanely refrained, and when a "stray" bullet did come over it seemed always to pick out some poor soldier as its victim. The enemy got rather the worse of it and began to pack up and leave right lively when the old "Fighting Sixth" was confronting them. They started that night for the river and by the next night most of the force was in Virginia. On the afternoon of the 13th we started after them by way of Poolesville, but found nothing on our arrival there but their rear guard which, owing to the inefficiency of our cavalry, succeeded in getting off in safety. On the night of the 13th a singular accident happened. Our regiment, although in a different brigade and division, camped at Offut's Cross Roads, on the very same spot where two years ago we encamped and where we were brigaded into Cochrane's, then Shaler's brigade. This time, however, we occupied a very small space to what we then did. We waited patiently at Poolesville until the morning of the16th, allowing the "rebs" to get safely off with all their plunder and then we broke camp and followed them leisurely along (not "too fast" so as to press them), wading the Potomac some miles above Edward's Ferry. Last night when we arrived at Leesburg we heard that the "rebs" were making for the Shenandoah Valley by way of Snicker's Gap and that Hunter was near enough to oppose some obstacle to their passage. To-day, however, I heard that they had passed through the Gap, Hunter arriving only in time to take fifty of their wagons. It is too bad that they were allowed to escape, as I believe they could all have been taken or at least cut to pieces had there been proper management. There is altogether too much of this kind of business in the conduct of this war, but I see no remedy for it. Yours for the Union. W. (unknown, possibly Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H.).
July 17, 1864 - Pursue Rebels; Minor Skirmishes; Before July 23 - About Face, Head for Washington, Arrive July 23; Before August 30, Move to Bolivar Heights, Strasburg; Back to Bolivar Heights; Skirmish Near Charlestown, VA; September 2 - Skirmish at Fisher's Hill; September 9 - Skirmish at Opequan Creek; September 11 - Move to Camp Near Berryville
During the retreat of General Early's army from Maryland after the battle of Fort Stephens, my regiment, the One Hundred and Twenty-Second New York, was detailed to support a section of artillery sent in advance of General Wright's command which was in hot pursuit. The opportune arrival of the Sixth and Ninth Army Corps in Washington had defeated the plans of the rebel army to seize and destroy that place, and after a spirited engagement upon its outskirts, they hastily withdrew towards the dividing line between Union and secession, viz., the Potomac. We pushed on rapidly until the heights north of the river were reached, and then halted. The artillery went into position and after stacking arms, we rushed out to the brow of the hill to see, if possible, some traces of the retreating enemy. We had a splendid view of the country south and westward. But the enemy appeared in the distance, in the form of a column of Imboden's cavalry only. While we stood looking off across the country, we noticed that the attention of the artillery officers was riveted upon a clump of small trees just across the river below us. For some time field-glasses were leveled at the little grove, and then came the order to "man the guns." In a few moments one of the pieces sent a shell screaming across the water, and the puff of smoke sent out from the bursting shell revealed its destination. What the artillerymen saw objectionable in that little clump of bushes we could not at first perceive. But when a Confederate cavalryman dashed out of there and galloped away toward the distant woodland the mystery was explained. Another shell started out eleven more. The whole party took refuge behind an old barn. From that point they commenced their retreat toward the timber, one at a time. One, two, three, and so on they went, until but one remained. "Give it to him boys!" shouted the Captain of the battery as the last lone Johnny made his appearance beyond the barn and began his race for cover. Bang! bang! went the two pieces, and away flew the shrieking messengers of death in pursuit of that one poor rebel. We watched closely the retreating storm, and as a cloud of dust arose just behind and a puff of smoke just in advance of it, we felt certain that the Confederacy had one less soldier fit for duty. Imagine our surprise when we beheld him emerge from the surrounding dust and smoke, apparently unharmed, and dart away into the forest. "Go it, Johnnie!" "Git thar!" and like expressions were shouted from the hilltop, and as he disappeared behind the timber a wild cheer went up from a thousand Union throats. (Charles H. Enos, Co. D).
We broke camp at an early hour nearly a week ago, and moved down to this place (camp near Berryville), and as it is raining like mad so that I can do nothing else I will endeavor to post up my correspondence to date, so that I can tell of events that have transpired lately, instead of taxing my memory for a detail of things long since almost forgotten, or swept away by the flood of events more startling and of greater consequence. So to get back to the old track once more. Having ascertained to the satisfaction of all concerned that the rebels had left Maryland and were well on their way to Richmond well laden with plunder, our forces were moved across the Potomac and headed for Snicker's Gap. Passing through the gap we encamped near the Shenandoah and were here joined by the forces under the command of General Hunter, who had lately been roughly handled by the rebels. Having maneuvered to the satisfaction of the General commanding (H. G. Wright) we crossed the Shenandoah and advanced a few miles, until the General felt assured that the rebels were moving towards Richmond. We then about faced and made a vigorous push for Washington which city was reached on the 23rd of July. Uncle Sam made a deep dive into his pocket and pulled out four month's back pay for our corps which I need not say was very acceptable, notwithstanding the depreciation of greenbacks and the consequent advance in prices. We were not allowed much time to fool away our money, the movement of the rebels called for active operations on our part; we accordingly marched up and down the Potomac playing a big game of "hide and seek" all to no purpose, losing more men by sun stroke than at the hands of the enemy. We were kept "bobbing around" until all hands began to feel that they "did not care whether school kept or not" and the wish was often expressed that Washington might burn during our absence. After Gen. Sheridan assumed command of this department, the army consisting of the 6th, and portions of the 8th and 19th corps was moved to Harper's Ferry and took up a position on the celebrated Bolivar Heights, from which a vigilant watch was kept on the movements of the enemy. Gen. Sheridan was accompanied by a strong force of his famous cavalry, and upon them he at once made requisition for their active service. Scouting and patrolling was the order of the day and night until, ascertaining that the rebel army was retreating up the valley of the Shenandoah, orders were given for a general move. Nothing of interest occurred until we arrived near Strasburg where we overtook the rear guard of Early's army and had considerable skirmishing. We took position on Cedar Creek, and did picket duty some distance beyond that stream, our advance pickets being beyond Strasburg. A dash of the enemy one day forced back our picket line, and bid fair to bring on a general engagement, but under the management of the Colonel commanding, the line was once more advanced and we resumed our old position and waited further developments of the game. As it became evident that General Early had been heavily reinforced and our communications with our base of supplies (Harper's Ferry) was so very uncertain - a portion of our train having been destroyed by guerrillas - it was determined to fall back to our old position of Bolivar Heights. With the exception of a few cavalry skirmishes, there was nothing done to accelerate the circulation of the blood until about a week ago when moving out from Bolivar Heights we advanced in three columns until near Berryville where a smart little fight was kicked up by the cavalry in which the infantry were called in to take a hand. This time the 8th and the 19th corps had the fun all to themselves. The loss on our side was not heavy. We captured several prisoners and stands of colors. The fighting was continued until long after dark, but we did not let it disturb us much, feeling confident that when we were wanted we would be called for, and when called we would not be found wanting. Since the foregoing brush which occurred last Saturday, we have not had any fighting along the lines. The country hereabouts is very rich; and abounds in eatables that are not furnished by the Commissary Department. It does not exactly flow with milk and honey, but the latter article is plenty, as may be proved by the inspection of almost any soldier's tent. The regulations of the army forbid "plundering" of any description, but like all other regulations they are "sometimes" evaded. The Generals commanding have done their best to put a stop to the system of "foraging" as it is called, and as I write I can cast my eye on a party of about a dozen who are doing penance for their misdeeds, and taking the bitter with the sweet by having a "knapsack drill" of eight hours duration. The camp will long be remembered by all the distinguished officers and undistinguished privates as the one where we first heard of Sherman's success at Atlanta. How do you feel now on the peace question? Does't Sherman deal in the right kind of peace arguments? (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, Camp Near Berryville, VA September 18th, 1864).
September 18 - Leave Camp for Opequan; September 19 - Battle of Winchester; September 20 - Move from Winchester to Strasburg; September 22 - Battle of Fisher's Hill
In the autumn of 1864, while the army of the Middle Military Division, under Sheridan was advancing up the Shenandoah Valley, a halt of a few days was made near the little village of Strasburg. On the second day of its stay at that place our regiment was detailed for picket duty, with orders to march at midnight. At the appointed hour the line was formed and the order given to move out. The night was dark and still and the monotonous tramp--tramp--tramp, as the column moved along the stony pike, toward the front alone broke the almost supernatural silence of the night. Orders had been given at starting to allow no conversation in the ranks and the stern, low-spoken, "close up men," from the colonel were the only verbal instructions we received. As a natural consequence, the enforced silence produced the impression that danger was anticipated, and for the first mile the men were peering through the gloom, momentarily expecting to hear the report of fire-arms and to see the shadowy outlines of Confederate horsemen flitting through the darkness that surrounded them. But as nothing appeared to oppose our advance, we soon settled down into the mechanical method of locomotion peculiar to soldiers on a night march. We had just crossed a run and commenced the ascent of a hill when the narrow defile through which we were passing was illuminated for a second by a quick flash of light instantly followed by a sharp report and the well known whiz of a minie ball, as it cleft the air just over our heads. Every man was wide-awake in an instant and as the line came to the front the ominous clicking of gun-locks evinced a readiness to give the unseen foe a warm reception. "Steady, men; no firing," thundered the colonel as he dashed down the line and then back again, considerably excited by this unexpected interruption of our march. "Adjutant Tracy," he commanded, "you ride forward and ascertain the meaning of this" and as our brave young adjutant boldly rode forth into the darkness, we stood with bated breath and fluttering hearts eagerly listening, and waiting for we knew not what. At length the adjutant returned and reported no person within hearing. "Forward!" commanded the colonel, and we were soon again in motion. "I can't exactly see through this, Tracy," remarked our commanded. "Who the deuce was it that fired on us inside our own lines? It must have been a guerrilla," and from this it went on down the line that it was a guerrilla. We soon reached the cavalry reserve picket post, where we found the men under arms ready to repel an expected assault from the enemy. Upon inquiry we learned that one of their videttes had just dashed into their midst with the startling information that an enemy was approaching. Mutual explanations followed, and a hearty laugh was enjoyed by all concerned when it was understood that the audacious guerrilla was other than the over-cautious vidette, who had by some unaccountable means got turned around facing the rear, and mistook us for the enemy (Charles H. Enos, Co. D).
The Battle of Fisher's Hill
We went into battery in the morning of September 22d, and cannonaded the enemy's position for an hour or so with shell and case, and about 3 or 4 in the afternoon the infantry went over and through his works from one end to the other at the first dash, in a manner that astonished even ourselves. I consider this forcing Early's lines at Fisher's Hill -- done as it was "right from the jump," without a single mishap or error -- one of the finest assaults ever delivered in any way. The works were very strong, the position was a commanding one, and the approaches difficult both by nature and by art. But the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps took them straight in the face, in a perfectly uniform charge, in a line over a mile long; went over and through them with the cold steel alone, and so far as I could see not a regiment wavered, faltered, or failed to "keep its end up" from start to finish. From the position of the battery which was on the highest ground on the north bank of Tumbling Run--a bluff in fact, we could see the whole line as it went up the slope. The flanking attack of the Eighth Corps on the rebel left which was most gallantly made under great difficulties contributed largely to the demoralization of the enemy, but nothing could dim the splendor of the assault of the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps. In fact, the ground in front of the rebel works was so steep in many places that it amounted to a natural scarp and from where we were I could plainly see the infantry digging their bayonets into the ground to climb up by. It was, in fact, a regular escalade on more than half the line (Letter from a member of the 6th Corps during the Valley campaign, well acquainted with the 122d. "In fact he tells me that the 122d was 'one of his pet regiments,' says Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H).
To: Major W. H. Long, A. A. G. Sir:--I have the honor to respectfully make the following report of the part taken by this regiment in the engagements at the Opequan Creek and Fisher's Hill on the 19th, 21st and 22nd ult. In obedience to previous orders this regiment moved from camp near the Clifton House at half past one o'clock, A. M., on the morning of the 19th with the brigade to which it belongs and moving across country struck the Berryville and Winchester turnpike about three miles east of the Opequan Creek, the Brigade having the advance, and this regiment leading one of the columns. Crossing the Opequan, the Brigade left the pike a short distance beyond it and moved to a position near our extreme left where the cavalry skirmishers occupied a slight elevation with a light breastwork of rails in front. By command of Brig. Gen. Bidwell, commanding the Brigade, this regiment was thrown forward to relieve the cavalry and take up a position there which was effected under a heavy skirmish fire with some loss. This movement took place about 9:30 A. M. The enemy now opened on the position with two guns, throwing shell and spherical case with great precision and all the while keeping up a constant and annoying fire from their skirmishers. By careful firing we kept the guns of the enemy partly silent but we nevertheless suffered considerably from their fire. About one o'clock P. M. the whole line charged forward, this regiment under the command of Major J. M. Brower in consequence of its commander, Lieut. Col. Dwight, having been wounded about an hour before and he being unable to follow the movement. After advancing several hundred yards the line was halted by orders and about four P.M. another charge made of several hundred yards to the front and bearing to the right, this regiment suffering considerably and losing temporarily its commanding officer, Major Brower, and its senior and only captain present, both of whom were injured though not seriously and its other captain reported for duty being on the skirmish line, so that the regiment was in command of Lieut. H. S. Wells. At this point this regiment with the rest of the command engaged the enemy, steadily pressing them back, until at nightfall the enemy broke and left the field. This regiment rested with its Brigade near Winchester until daylight on the morning of the 20th when it moved in common with the army towards Strasburg, arriving near there about 3 P. M. On the 21st, about noon, this regiment with the rest of its Brigade moved up to the right of our line and on arriving there this regiment was thrown out as skirmishers, our left connecting with the right of the 3d Division, 6th Corps. We moved forward and felt the position of the enemy, meeting them about l P.M. when a sharp skirmish ensured for about an hour when the skirmish line, taking advantage of a movement forward of troops on our right, moved forward and dislodged the enemy's skirmish line about dark, after which we were relieved and joined our Brigade. We remained quiet until about 3 o'clock P. M. of the 22d when we prepared to move forward and about l P. M. moved forward in the second line of battle of this Brigade, until the Brigade reached the house near the foot of the hill to the right of the pike and close to the enemy's works. After resting about three fourths of an hour here, the whole line charged the works this regiment losing considerably and behaving in common with those connected with them in the most gallant manner and driving the enemy from their works; our colors and those of the 43d N. Y. Vols, entering the works at the same time and with the rest of the 3d Brigade capturing six guns and caissons. This regiment, with the rest of the Brigade, pressed rapidly on after the enemy, taking a number of prisoners, for about a mile when a halt was ordered and the Brigade reformed. A list of casualties has already been forwarded. The regiment most deeply mourns the death of lst Lieut. John V. Sims, a most gallant and promising young officer, who was killed early in the action on the 19th. Major J. Brower most ably commanded the regiment after its commandant was wounded until he was himself disabled, and deserves especial mention for his coolness and skill. Capt's Clapp and Marks, Adjutant Robert H. Moses and Lieut's Clark, Wells, Wilkin, and Shirley also distinguished themselves by their bravery. Capt. Clapp particularly distinguished himself by the tenacious and determined manner in which he fought the enemy's skirmishers. The men of the regiment behaved in a most satisfactory manner. I am Sir, Respectfully, Your obedient servant, A. W. Dwight, Lieut. Col. Com'd'g.
Orderly Sergeant Francis Colahan, "H" Co., 122d N. Y. V., and Amasa Chase, Color Sergeant of the 122d N. Y. V., being duly sworn each for himself deposes and says that he was in the battle of Fisher's Hill, on the 22d of Sept., 1864. That at the charge upon the enemy's works, at that place, the 3d Brigade of the 2nd Division, 6th Corps, to which this regiment belongs, charged and took the enemy's works on their front, capturing six guns; and that no line of union troops and no union troops whatever had preceded the said 3d Brigade at the point where they entered them.
John Quinlan, private in "H" Co., 122d, N. Y. V., being duly sworn deposes and says that he was in the charge at Fisher's Hill on the 22nd of Sept., 1864. That he was the first man to cross the works on the front of his regiment, and that the 3d Brigade, 2d Division, 6th Corps to which his regiment belongs, almost immediately followed him and was first in the works, capturing five or six guns, deponent cannot say which (A. W. Dwight, Headquarters 122 Regt., N. Y. V., Oct. 3, 1864).
Sergeant Chase at Fisher's Hill
At the close of the late war Capt. R. H. Moses, adjutant of the 122d regiment, took home with him as his share of the "spoils," the old desk that had been in use at regimental headquarters. Among the papers found in this desk was the original draft of a letter to the Adjutant General of the State of New York recommending the promotion of Amasa Chase, then color sergeant of the regiment, to be 2d Lieutenant. This letter was in the hand writing of Col. Dwight and from a copy of the letter made by Capt. Moses now in the possession of Capt. McDonald, who, by the way was also recommended in the same letter for promotion to a lst Lieutenancy, we make the following extracts.
Head Quarters 122nd Reg't N. Y. Vol.
Infantry October 2nd, 1864
Brig. Gen'l J. T. Sprague.
Adj't Gen'l State N. Y.
General:--I have the honor to respectfully recommend the following promotions in this regiment. Color Sergeant Amasa Chase to be Second Lieutenant vice Adolph Wilman promoted. The recommendation of Messrs. Quinlan (Co. H.) and Chase (Co. C) are for "gallant and meritorious services" on many battle fields, particularly at the battle of Winchester (September 19th, 1864) and at the battle of Fisher's Hill (September 22nd, 1864.) At the latter place Mr. Quinlan was the first man in the enemy works, and Mr. Chase, the Color Sergeant, was the next. Mr. Chase has been Color Sergeant for more than two years, and has bravely discharged his duty. I am aware that the Second Lieutenants recommended cannot now be mustered if commissioned, but allow me to respectfully present, that the commission is recognized as a reward of merit, and a stimulus to further exertion, almost as much as if followed by muster. And I most respectfully and earnestly ask that the commissions may be issued. I have the honor to be, General, Respectfully Your Obd't Servant, A. W. Dwight, Lieut. Col. Comm'd'g.
The Battles of Winchester and Fisher's Hill
The smoke of the battle has vanished, the shout of the combatants is hushed, the loud roar of artillery and the rattle of musketry no longer wake the echoes of the forests which hide the rough and craggy mountain side. The enemy has been most completely and disastrously defeated and I now improve the first moment of leisure to give you a meager account of our victorious career. A week ago this morning at one o'clock the army moved from camp near Berryville and pushed on towards Winchester. A recent reconnaissance having shown that Gen'l Early had moved a portion of his forces in the direction of Martinsburg the intention of Gen'l Sheridan was to force him to a fight. The Sixth Corps moved out at the appointed hour and took its designated position promptly at the hour appointed. The19th Corps by some misconception of orders did not get into position for over two hours after the proper time. The consequences were that Gen'l Early had time and opportunity to concentrate his forces and thus neutralize the effects of the surprise party we had contemplated for his benefit. We of the Sixth Corps had to stand the brunt of the battle during the time the19th was coming into position. My regiment was the leading one of the corps and was the first to get into action. We took possession of one of the roads leading directly to Winchester and held it despite the enemy's desperate attempts to dislodge us, suffering quite heavily in consequence thereof. Just fancy how one would feel lying exposed to musketry and shot and shell from 6 A.M. to 1 P.M! At the latter named hour our line charged the enemy, gaining a long stretch of ground. Finally, just before sundown a grand charge was made all along the line and the enemy was forced from the field in the greatest confusion. We captured a large number of prisoners, several pieces of artillery and a great many stands of colors. At an early hour on the morning of the 20th we started in pursuit of the enemy, whose shattered forces had fallen back in wild disorder. We did not run against anything but a few "stragglers" until we reached Strasburg. At that place the rebels had a stronghold on what is called "Fisher's Hill." The 21st was spent in feeling of the enemy by the skirmishers. My regiment was on the skirmish line all day. On the 22nd the skirmishing was resumed and occupied a good portion of the day; finally all preparations having been made a charge was ordered. My regiment was formed facing a rebel fortification on the hill, to attack which we had to move down a road which led into a ravine completely swept by the enemy artillery; then we had to cross a small stream and charge up a hill to where the artillery and rebel infantry were behind their breastworks. I had but faint hopes that we would succeed in our undertaking, out with a wild rush our force dashed up the hill under a shower of shot and shell. A thin line of our fellows gained the crest of the hill, leaped into the rebel work and took possession of five pieces of artillery. Glory Hallelujah! didn't I feel proud when I saw the colors of the 122d floating over the spot on which so lately the rebel rag of treason had been so defiantly displayed. Our colors were the first in the works, though other regiments (and newspaper correspondents) are trying to rob us of our due. Darkness put a stop to the fighting, the enemy had again sought safety in flight, and after a brief half we pushed on in pursuit, and marched nearly all night. They did not make any stand until they reached Mount Jackson and did not tarry there very long. We have driven them out of the Shenandoah Valley and where we will tackle them again is more than I can tell. Our loss is not heavy considering the amount of fighting done. My regiment losses 8 killed and 38 wounded out of about 200 engaged but we were more exposed than any other regiment in the line. The elections are the principal topic of conversation with us now. "Abe" Lincoln will go into the Presidential chair by an immense majority. McClellan has but few friends in the army and I am sure he ought to have but few at home. Sheridan, Sherman and Grant make good electioneering agents for Abraham. Let the good work go on (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, at camp near Harrisonburg, VA, September 26, 1864).
My Dear Friend:- Your letter of the 6th inst. reached me about ten days ago, and I hasten to reply that you may know your friends and acquaintances are safe after the recent battles, Winchester the 9th and Fisher's Hill the 22d inst. Believing that you would greatly prefer a brief description of the battle to a pen picture of the famed Shenandoah Valley which you ask for, I will write of the stirring incidents of the past week, and tell you of this beautiful historic valley in a future letter. The army for the past six weeks has been ever on the march and making demonstrations. The recent battles reveal the policy of the commander in its true light. We were only to hold the army of Gen. Early here while Sherman carried out his plans in Atlanta. Then Early was to be crushed and this store house of the rebels laid waste. It is a veritable granary for the entire rebel army in Virginia. The newspapers say that the battle of the 19th was a great victory. Yes, it was, but I think it cost us nearly 5,000 men, and the battle of Fisher's Hill the 22d was far more demoralizing to the enemy and cost us less than 1,000 men. I will write only of what I saw. On the morning of the 19th the 6th Corps turned out at 10 o'clock and we soon were ready to march. Extra ammunition was distributed which was good evidence that this time there was to be a fight. We marched rapidly toward Opequan Creek, crossing it at daylight, and our division soon drove out the enemy from their breast works on the right of their line and held the position while the balance of the army under Sheridan took position on the right. The position held by our brigade commanded a fine view of the entire field and although subjected to a galling fire of infantry and artillery, our position was held with comparative light loss in killed and wounded, but lost very few as prisoners. From 10 o'clock until 5 P. M. there was presented one of the grandest battles of the war and almost entirely in the open field; the lines being very close at times and each side fighting as if the fate of their respective governments depended on the issue. At 4:30 o'clock the enemy were being heavily pressed all along the line and we were ordered to charge in our front; the enemy on our right were slowly yielding ground. The order is forward all along our lines and with a mighty rush, yet with wonderful well drawn lines, the field was cleared of the rebel army, who fled through Winchester in wild disorder. The enemy left three or four thousand of their wounded, and twenty-five hundred prisoners were taken in the final charge. The rebel army lost not less than 7,000 men, and our loss will nearly equal theirs except in prisoners. I think that 60,000 men were in the fight, nearly equally divided. It was a grander battle than Antietam where 140,000 men were in line, and the loss was at least half greater at Winchester with less than half the number engaged. It was worth five years of a lifetime to witness and take a humble part in such a battle. The enemy retreated all night and on the morning of the 20th took a strong position at Fisher's Hill south of Strasburg which they fortified in a manner that seemed to make their position secure from assault. On the 20th, Sheridan's army found their way disputed. On the 21st the 6th Corps took possession of the outer rifle pits about half a mile in front of the main line of defense. The 19th Corps also advanced their lines on our left, the 8th Corps with a division of cavalry making wide detour to gain a position on the enemy's left. We slept on our arms that night expecting orders at any moment, and when daylight revealed the fact that the rebels had worked hard all night in building abatis, we wished that the charge had been ordered a day earlier. The position of the enemy had an ugly look and when Gen. Sheridan pointed out a stronghold and ordered our division Commander Gen. Getty to take it and hold it, it was not clear that victory would be sure. I felt just at that the future was uncertain for every man in Getty's command. At 12 p.m. we heard picket firing on the left and at 2 p.m. we were held ready for a charge. The topography of the ground in front of our division prevented our charging in line of battle until we were under a heavy fire. The long expected signal from Crook on our right, that the rebel left is turned, came in long continuous rolls of musketry and the incessant boom of cannon. "Now for their cannon." In column, the brigades of Getty rush forward, across a shallow, rocky creek, form line of battle with precision and charge the redoubt, as you may picture in your mind, fiends incarnate, or heroes triumphant. Strong arms upturn the sharp abatis, and despite the leader hail and storm of iron, the glittering line of bayonets sweep on and over their breastworks. The victory was soon complete, and when the poets of the next century seek a battle scene to blend in heroic verse, Fisher's Hill should be considered without a rival in all that makes battle grand and war commendable; for such achievement shows the possibilities of the American soldier (Thomas H. Scott, Co. B).
My Dear Old Friend: I promised you to write after every battle, giving you details &c. We have as you will see by the papers fought and won two great battles: One the19th and the other the 22d. The engagement of the 19th was an all day fight and was severely contested with heavy losses to both sides. The final charges which ended the battle was grand, each division vying with the other to gain ground and rout the enemy. We drove them through Winchester on the run, and they did not halt until they reached Fisher's Hill a strong position about three miles south of Strasburg. This they had fortified and it was not an inviting position to attack. Of course all knew that the rebs must be routed, but how and by whom was not clear until their skirmishers were driven in and over lines in position. We knew that the 8th Corps (Crook's command) was sent off on our right and that seemed to greatly relieve us of any fear of defeat, for as usual the 6th Corps was in the center, and in our front things looked rather ugly for a charge. The shelling from a strong redoubt was most annoying to our 2d Division while we were waiting for something to occur that would send the division forward to the assault. At last we hear Gen. Crook's cannon on the rebel left flank, mingled with the rattle of musketry. We knew that Crook was master of the field at that point, and that our charge would succeed. Then the 6th Corps made a splendid charge in column until the ground permitted a proper formation, which was made intuitively by the Brigades as it seemed, and up the steep hill the lines swept on conscious that victory was in our grasp, and the fight would soon be ended. Our flag was the first upon the rebel redoubt closely followed by that of the 43d N. Y. The rebel army was not only flanked out by Crook's 8th Corps but cut in two by the 6th Corps. Many prisoners and guns were captured and this morning finds us at Woodstock waiting for rations. I think that we owe much of our success in the final charge, to the splendid dash and rapid movement of Crook's 8th Corps. Sheridan's success since the morning of the 19th has been great, and unless Early gets reinforcements the campaign in the Valley is practically ended. I have only time to add, that the only loss among the boys from your town in the122d during the recent battles was John Geissel of "B" Co. With sincere regard to yourself and all other veterans of 1812 I remain, Faithfully Your Friend, (Thomas H. Scott, Co. B, to Dr. J. F. Johnson, from camp near Harrisonburg, October 26, 1864).
October 19, 1864 - Battle of Cedar Creek; October 20 - Near Middleton, VA
Headquarters Third Division, Sixth Corp
Office Asst., Adjt. General
Near Middletown, VA October 20, 1864.
Dear Will:--Yesterday was a glorious old day, and although it opened rather disastrously for us, yet thanks to the good generalship and pluck of "Little Phil," we whipped them at last. Our position in the morning was on the north bank of Cedar Creek, the cavalry on the extreme right, our corps next, then the19th, with the 8th (Crook's command) on the left. About daylight we were awakened by heavy picket firing along the whole line, and our corps was immediately got under arms. For a time it seemed uncertain which was the point of the main attack, but the very heavy firing on the left soon decided that, and soon after, the 8th corps fell back in confusion on the 19th, breaking that up, and a regular panic ensued. Our corps immediately changed front to the left, and our division was ordered to charge and hold the pike which ran at right angles to our former line of battle, but before we had got half way across the ravine the panic stricken 8th and 19th corps had broken our lines, and the rebels having opened the crest, poured in such a deadly fire that we were compelled to fall back a little distance where we reformed our line and fell back slowly to a position about a mile from the pike. Our line was now parallel with the pike, but the Second Division swung round across the pike and our Division and the First moved around and connected with it, forming a line parallel to our first position of the morning but about three miles to the rear of it. Up to this General Sheridan had been absent, but he fortunately arrived and the state of affairs was this: We had lost twenty of our pieces of artillery, our men were badly demoralized and the 19th and 8th corps were scattered over the ground between our lines and Winchester. But this did not daunt "Phil." About this time I was sent to General Wright with a message and General Sheridan was there, and I heard him say, "We'll flank h-ll out of them before night," and he did. Getting together all the 8th and 19th corps that was possible, he added them to the line and then ordered an advance. We went forward handsomely for some distance until we came upon the "reb" line posted advantageously behind a stone wall; there we were checked for a time, but Colonel Kelfer, who was commanding our division, sent some men up under cover of another wall until they got on the enemy's flank, and then poured in a volley which startled the "Johnnies," and the whole line swept forward carrying everything with it, and the Johnnies did not make a stand this side of Cedar Creek. The infantry were halted on the north bank, but the cavalry pressed on and got into their trains and artillery, we capturing all the artillery we had lost and about 30 pieces besides a large portion of their wagon train and about 2,000 prisoners, and completely routing their whole army. It was a most complete success and Sheridan may well feel proud of it for he took a whipped army and with it completely turned the tables on the enemy. The 8th corps were completely surprised; the morning was very foggy and the enemy were on them in force before they realized it and they did not attempt to make a stand and then confusion extended to the 19th corps. Every one agrees in saying that the 6th Corps saved the day. General Sheridan being away General Wright was in command of the army which put General Ricketts in command of the corps. He was wounded in the side early in the action and compelled to leave the field. We were none of us with him but remained with the division which was commanded by Col. Kelfer of the 120th. We all pulled through safely although I had my horse shot through the head, dropping me rather unceremoniously but without hurting me. I got another horse immediately and he was hit by a spent ball but not enough to disable him. In the fight yesterday Maj. Brower of our regiment (the 122d NY) was killed and it is feared that Col. Dwight of our regiment will lose his right hand; he was shot through the wrist. Yours aff'y, Os (Written by Osgood V. Tracy, Co. I, to his brother. At the time, Tracy was an aide on the staff of Gen. Ricketts, commanding the 3rd division of the 6th corps).
On the evening of the day that Gen. Sedgwick was killed at Spotsylvania our regiment was sent to the rear to rest for the night; most of the boys built fires and cooked coffee. I was so tired and sleepy that I took my blanket and curled down for a night's rest. I immediately fell into a drowse; still I could hear the boys talking. I felt as though a ball had hit me in the forehead and that I was a "goner." At first I thought that I was so near gone that I could not speak, but struggling and trying to speak to tell the boys what to write to my folks. I woke up and found that I was all right. That circumstance never came to my mind again until at the battle of Cedar Creek in the morning before the fog raised. We moved back across a dry ravine; on the slope of this ravine there was a tall fence and while a detail was taking down this fence to lay it in piles for a protection, the rest of us were lying down on the brow of the ridge in line of battle. There was a man lying close to me on each side. I was lying on my side with the corner of my knapsack resting on the ground, my elbow on the ground, my hand under my head and the bullets flying around us when this thought of a bullet striking me in the head came to me. A wee small voice said to me plainly to lie down close. I immediately turned on my face and put my head close to the ground. I had just got my head down when a ball came directly over my head through a new piece of tent that I drew a few days before that and had rolled up and strapped on top of my knap-sack. After that I felt safe in any necessary exposure (Alonzo Fradenburg, Co. A).
I was wounded first on going to Williamsport after the battle of Antietam and again at Cedar Creek, and lost my right leg below the knee. Sergeant Breese of Co. "C" and Corporal Fradenburg of Co. "A" carried me off the field. My leg was amputated by Drs. Knapp of the 122nd N.Y. and Stephens of the 77th N.Y. I got home to the city of Rochester, Minn. April 28, 1865, farmed it in Olmsted Co. about 17 years, peddled Yankee notions 3 years, and then moved to Eagle Lake, Blue Earth Co., Minn. in 1885 where I now live. I have not been able to do anything for four years (William R. Hunn, Co. A, January 9, 1890).
I followed the regiment in every march and was in every battle except at Winchester and Fisher's Hill. I was shot through the nose at Fort Stephens, Washington and returned to the regiment just in time for the fight at Cedar Creek. Soon after the return of the regiment to Syracuse I went west, but soon came back to Ohio and have lived in Collins over twenty years on the Lake Shore Railroad. If any of the comrades going West or returning East will drop off at Collins anyone you may meet will point out my residence and tell you that the latch string is always out. I live on a farm and make a comfortable living for myself and little family of thirteen (Merrick E. Smith, 1st Sergeant, Co. K, January 18, 1890).
The 122d at Cedar Creek
Among the papers found by Capt. Moses in the regimental headquarters desk of the 122d Reg't was the following rough draft of a report of the part borne by the regiment in the battle of Cedar Creek. The report is in the handwriting of Major Clapp, who as senior Captain took command of the regiment after the loss of Col. Dwight and Major Brower. The only other officers present for duty on that day are those mentioned in the report:
Wm. H. Long, A. A. G.: 3d Brig. Sir.--I respectfully submit the following report of the part taken by this regiment in the battle near Middletown on the 19th inst. About 6 o'clock on the morning of the 19th inst. the 122nd regiment was ordered to move at once. Being already under arms with everything in readiness except striking tents it moved very promptly and with the rest of the brigade moved rapidly from the position on the extreme right to the left and took position as second regiment from the left of the line of the infantry line on a hill fronting the pike at Middletown. About 7 a. m. the enemy attacked our line vigorously. The regiments at our right gave way leaving that flank entirely exposed and the enemy in considerable force advanced until within about twenty yards. Our two right companies swung back till they faced the advancing line when the regiment delivered a telling volley that checked them. They kept up a rapid fire under which the enemy hesitated till the regiment gave a yell and the first Maine and the regiment on our right coming back promptly they were driven in confusion down the hill and out of infantry range. We remained in this position about half an hour under severe artillery fire at a range of about a thousand yards and then with the rest of the brigade moved to the rear in good order and took position near the pike as the third regiment from the extreme left of the infantry line and about twelve hundred yards north of Middletown which position we occupied till about 4 p.m. About 4 a. m. we advanced with the rest of the line but receiving a severe artillery and infantry fire fell back with the line by my order. We soon advanced again, the enemy gave way, the regiment followed rapidly to Cedar Creek when it was too dark to go farther. At the commencement of the attack on our line in the morning Lt. Col. Dwight commanding the regiment was severely though not dangerously wounded. Almost immediately Maj. Brower was killed. No man could possibly have done better than these officers did, and during this attack not one man in the regiment went to the rear. Lt. Wells, Lt. Wilkin and Acting Adj. Lt R. H. Moses each deserve special mention for their coolness and efficiency during the whole day. Many Non. Com. officers and privates deserve especial mention but to notice a few would be to leave some as worthy unnoticed and to mention all such would make the list too extended. While passing through Middletown five men of the regiment captured and delivered to the provost marshall 97 prisoners and got receipt for the same (Hd. Qrs. 122d N. Y. V. Strasburg, Va., Oct. 27th 1864).
General Wright's Report: The Official Account of the Battle of Cedar Creek
General: I have the honor to present the following report of the part taken by the Sixth Corps in the battle of Cedar Creek on the 19th of October, 1864, premising that as all the records of the Corps were turned into the Office of the Adjutant-General of the Army on the discontinuance of the Corps in June last, I am unable to refer to any of the sub-reports so as to transmit them herewith. As I was the ranking officer of the forces in the absence of Maj. Gen. Sheridan when the battle began, it will be necessary to a clear narration of the events of the day to commence on the evening of the 18th. About 9 o'clock of that evening I was called upon by Maj. Gen. Crook, commanding the Army of West Virginia, who reported that the reconnaissance of a brigade sent out by him that day to ascertain the position of the enemy had returned to camp and reported that nothing was to be found in his old camp, and that he had doubtless retreated up the Valley. It should be borne in mind that the destruction of all supplies by our forces between our position at Cedar Creek and Staunton had made it necessary for the enemy to supply his force from the latter place by wagons, and consequently we had been expecting for some days that he would either attack us or be compelled to fall back for the supplies which, it was believed, he could not transport in sufficient quantity by his trains. This view of the matter, which is still believed to have been sound, lent the stamp of probability to the report of the reconnoitering party; but, anxious to place the truth of the report beyond a doubt, I at once ordered two reconnoissances to start at the first dawn of the morning, one of a brigade of infantry to move out upon and follow the general direction of the pike leading up the Valley, the other, also of a brigade, to take the back road, some three miles to the westward and nearly parallel to the firmer, with instructions to move forward till the enemy was found and strongly felt, so as to clearly ascertain his intentions. The first party was to be drawn from the Nineteenth Corps; the other from the cavalry. At the first blush of dawn the camps were assaulted by a considerable musketry fire upon our extreme left and a fire of a much slighter character upon our right. A moment's observation convinced me that the former was the real attack, and I at once proceeded to that point -- the firing, meanwhile, growing heavier. Becoming assured that I was not mistaken as to which was the attack to be resisted in force, I sent back orders to Brevet Maj. Gen. Ricketts, commanding the Sixth Corps in my absence, to send me two divisions of his command at once; and taking the brigade of the 19th Corps (before alluded to, as ordered on the reconnaissance, and which was just starting), I proceeded to place it and the troops of Gen. Crook's second line in position, on a ridge to the eastward of and nearly parallel with the pike, connecting them with the left of the Nineteenth Corps. As the two divisions of the Sixth Corps ordered from the right of the line to the left could reach that point within 20 minutes of the time that the line referred to was formed, and as the position taken was a satisfactory one, there was, in my judgment, no occasion for apprehension as to the result, and I felt every confidence that the enemy would be promptly repulsed. In this anticipation I was, however, sadly disappointed. Influenced by a panic which often seizes the best troops--and some of these I had seen behave admirably under the hottest fire--the line broke before the enemy fairly came in sight and under a slight scattering fire, retreated in disorder down the pike. Seeing that no part of the original line could be held, as the enemy was already upon the left flank of the Nineteenth Corps, I at once sent orders to the Sixth Corps to fall back to some tenable position near; and to General Emory, commanding the Nineteenth Corps, that, as his left was turned, he should fall back and take position on the right of the Sixth. I should, perhaps, have stated, that upon the original line the forces from left to right were posted in the order of - first, the Army of West Virginia, Maj. Gen. Crook commanding; second, the Nineteenth Corps, Brevet Maj. Gen. Emory commanding; third, the Sixth Corps, commanded by myself, and in my absence by Brevet Maj. Gen. Torbert, was disposed upon the two flanks. The first lines of the Army of West Virginia and the Nineteenth Corps were entrenched, but the Sixth Corps was not, as its naturally strong position rendered any defenses unnecessary. Indeed, the latter was held with a view to its acting rather as a movable force than as a part of the line. Returning from this digression and resuming the narrative, the Sixth Corps, of which two divisions were on the march to the support of the left, at once moved to the rear on receiving the instructions to that effect, as did the Nineteenth Corps which had been slightly engaged with a portion of the rebel force that had evidently attacked by way of a diversion. About this time Gen. Ricketts was seriously wounded, and the command of the Sixth Corps devolved upon Brevet Maj. Gen. Getty, who moved steadily to the rear, and by well-timed attacks did much toward checking the enemy's advance, giving time thereby for a change of front which was necessary, and for taking up the new position. A portion of the First Division under Generals Wheaton and MacKenzie and a part of the artillery of the Corps also behaved admirably in checking the enemy and giving time for the rest of the troops to take position. Several pieces of the artillery were lost here, it being impossible to bring off the guns owing to their horses being killed. Meanwhile the Second Division had taken up the position indicated, with its left resting on the pike. The Third and First were forming on the right, while on the right of the Sixth Corps the Nineteenth Corps was being formed. One or two hot very persistent attacks had been repulsed. About this time Maj. Gen. Sheridan came up and assumed command, and I returned to the command of the Sixth Corps. Soon after the lines had been fully formed the enemy made a sharp attack on the Sixth Corps, but was rudely repulsed, falling back several hundred yards to a stone wall, behind which a part of his line took shelter. The position of the troops this time from left to right was first, the Second, Third and First Divisions of the Sixth Corps; second, the Nineteenth Corps, the cavalry being on both flanks. Everything having been prepared, and the men somewhat rested from the fatigue of the morning, an advance was ordered by Gen. Sheridan of the entire line. The Second and First Divisions moved forward steadily, but the Third was, for a time, seriously checked by the fire from behind the stone wall before alluded to. A movement made by the Nineteenth Corps toward flanking this wall (in which a regiment of the Third Division, Sixth Corps, detached for the purpose, took part), shook the enemy, and a gallant charge of the line started him into full flight, pursued by our victorious forces. But little further resistance was experienced in the advance to Cedar Creek, where our infantry was halted in its old camp, while the pursuit was continued by the cavalry. The enemy being entirely demoralized and his ranks completely broken, he retreated without regard to order. The battle - which in its earlier stages looked anything but favorable for our success and occasioned a fear of defeat to many a brave-hearted soldier - resulted through the admirable courage of our troops, the bravery and good conduct of their officers, and the persistence of the commander of the army, in a complete victory. It may be proper that I should say something in the way of explanation of the causes of the comparatively easy success of the enemy in the early part of the action. To the professional soldier it will be a subject of interest, even if it is lost to others, now that the war is over and this battle partially forgotten, with the many others as hard-fought fields; yet, in justice, to those engaged, it may be well to explain some points of which many are of course ignorant. I have already referred to the reported result of the reconnaissance of the previous day which was to the effect that the enemy had retreated up the Valley. That this was not true is now well known, but how the mistake was made is not easily explained. Probably the force had not advanced so far as it was supposed, and had not really reached the enemy's lines which were some miles in advance of ours. However this might be, I have no question that the belief in the retreat of the enemy was generally entertained throughout the reconnoitering force. Again, this force which, as before remarked, was from the Army of West Virginia, returned to camp through its own lines, and must have made known to the troops in camp and on the picket line its received belief in the enemy's retreat. Now, it happens that the advance of the enemy was made upon this part of the line. The surprise was complete, for the pickets did not fire a shot; and the first indication of the enemy's presence was a volley into the main line, when the men of part of the regiment were at reveille roll-call, without arms. As the entire picket line over that part crossed by the enemy was captured without a shot being fired, no explanation could be obtained from any of the men composing it; but it is fair to suppose that they were lulled into an unusual security by the report of the previous evening that the enemy had fallen back, and that there was consequently no danger to be apprehended. This supposition seems to me likely enough. It certainly goes far toward explaining how an enemy in force passed and captured a strong and well-connected picket-line of old soldiers, without occasioning alarm, and gave, as a first warning of its presence, a volley of musketry into the main line of unarmed soldiers. It was reported in camp and coming from the enemy that he first relieved a part of our lines by his own men dressed in our uniform, but I have never been able to confirm the rumor. The proceedings up to this point were bad enough for us, as it gave the enemy almost without a struggle the entire left of our line, with considerable artillery, not a gun of which had fired a shot. But the reserve of this line was posted a considerable distance in its rear, where it could be made available as a movable force, and was well situated to operate upon any force attempting to turn our left. It was in no way involved in the disaster of the first line which was, after all, but a small part of our force, being only one weak division, and it loss was in nowise to be taken as deciding the fate of the day. With the other troops brought up, the supporting division was in good position to offer sturdy battle, with every prospect of repulsing the enemy, and aided, as it soon would have been, by the rest of the force, the chances were largely in our favor. Here the battle should have been fought and won, and long before midday the discomfited enemy should have been drive across Cedar Creek, stripped of all the captures of his first attack. But for some unexplainable cause, the troops forming this part of the line would not stand, but broke under a scattered fire which should not have occasioned apprehension in raw recruits, much less in old soldiers like themselves. Most officers who have served through this war have had instances of the same kind in their own experiences, and will readily understand this, though they may find themselves as much as a loss for a satisfactory explanation of its cause. It was the breaking of this line that involved the necessity of falling back. A change of front was necessary, and this must be made to a position which would place our force between the enemy and our base. That there was no intention of retreating the soldiers who stood fire clearly understood, and when once brought into the new position, in the face of the enemy, they were ready to advance upon him, as was shown by their magnificent attack when ordered forward. To the Sixth Corps which it was my honor to command after the death of that noble soldier, Sedgwick, to its officers and its men, I desire to acknowledge the obligation which, in addition to the many others it has imposed, it laid upon the country by its readiness, courage and discipline in this important battle. Without disparagement to the soldierly qualities of other organizations concerned, it is but just to claim for it a large share in the successes of the day. Being, from the nature of the attack upon our lines, somewhat in the position of a reserve force, and therefore fairly to be called upon to turn the tide of unsuccessful battle, it came up nobly to its duty, fully sustaining its former well-earned laurels. To the commanders, one and all, the full meed of thanks is due. That they bore themselves bravely is evidenced by the fact that of the general officers, one was killed, five more or less seriously wounded, and all lost their horses from the enemy's bullets; while the list of casualties will show that their subordinates were in no degree behind them in gallantry and devotion to duty. In one division there was but one field officer for duty when the battle was over. Where all did so well, it may seem invidious to attempt to discriminate. I desire to call attention to the division commanders, to whom so much of the success of the day was due. Brevet Maj. Gen. Ricketts was severely wounded early in the action; Brevet Maj. Gen. Getty, subsequently in command of the corps till it was resumed by me, after the arrival of Maj. Gen. Sheridan, stoutly contested the enemy's advance, and gave time thereby for the necessary formations; Brevet Maj. Gen. Wheaton, who conducted himself gallantly, and Brig. General Keifer, who was in command of the Third Division during the entire day, (Gen. Ricketts being first in command of the corps, and subsequently taken wounded from the field.) To my own staff, also, I was, as usual, under great obligations for important services rendered, often in circumstances of the greatest danger. Their names have already been submitted to the War Dept., and their merits acknowledged by the Government, Gen'l Horatio G. Wright, November 27, 1865.
At the battle of Cedar Creek, when the Sixth Corps alone held its ground until Sheridan came up, General Bidwell, commanding the brigade to which the 122d was attached, while dying from a wound received in the battle, said:--"God bless the One Hundred and Twenty-second; they have saved the field to-day" (Edwin A. Knapp, regimental surgeon).
December, 1864 - Move from Camp Russell To Washington, D. C., Then by Steam to City Point, Afterward by Rail to Patrick's Station near Petersburg Front; March 25, 1865 - Skirmish of Petersburg; April 2, Battle of Petersburg
While lying in camp upon the left of the line that environed the ill-fated city of Petersburg, Va., in the winter of '64, I had occasion to visit Patrick's Station one evening, and as time passed pleasantly in the company of friends, it was quite late ere I took my departure for camp. The road I traveled led me past the tent occupied by our division commissary, Capt. Russell. Between his headquarters and the road lay a huge pile of wood that had been placed there for his use. Wood, at that time, was a scarce article with us, all we used having to be hacked from a distance. Under the circumstances, can it be wondered at, when I stumbled over a stray stick lying in the roadway, that I should elevate it to my shoulder and head toward camp. But my dream of a good fire to get breakfast with was suddenly interrupted by a sharp cry of "Halt," and in a moment I found myself surrounded by a gang of headquarters bummers armed with navies and sabers. "We've got you, you thief," yelled one, as he grasped my collar. "Come along," and I was dragged, without ceremony, to headquarters and turned over to the provost guard. The night was dark and dreary. A cold rain was falling, and as I paced slowly back and forth under the dripping pines I could but wish myself safe in the camp of the 122d N.Y. that lay but a few rods distant. My greatest fear that in the morning I would be sent under guard to the regiment and, as a natural consequence, a disgraceful exposure would follow. Morning came at last, and I was obliged to stand and witness guard mounting in my own regiment, and know that I would be pricked as absent without leave. During the night I had heard some of my guards, that were off duty bringing some of Capt. Russell's wood to their camp near by. I knew then that a trap had been set for them into which I had blundered. At 1 o'clock, when my guards were relieved, the officer of the guard released me saying no charges had been made against me. Now came the question, how was I to get back to camp without exciting suspicion as to where I had spent the night. Making a wide detour I came into camp from a direction opposite my place of incarceration. Imagine my surprise upon reaching my tent to find a hand-bill posted on the door, offering $100,000 reward for "Boy Mong," (my nick-name) who was lost, strayed or stolen near camp at Patrick's Station. This joke of a comrade excited curiosity and the whole thing came out (Charles H. Enos, Co. D, ca. December 1864).
Camp 122d Reg't Near Patrick's Station, VA in front of Petersburg
We have a new lieutenant now, so our commissioned officers are Capt. Horace Walpole, (Prisoner of War), lst Lieut. McDonald, doing duty in Co. E, 2nd Lieut. Moses, acting Adjutant & Maj. Clapp commands the regiment, lately promoted from Capt. Col. Hyde commands our brigade, Gen. Getty the division and Gen. Wright the corps (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, December 20, 1864).
In the winter of '64, while lying in camp near Petersburg, our regiment experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining good water for drinking and cooking purposes. What we used was procured from a spring some half a mile distant. Consequently a rather penurious disposition was exhibited with the regard to the amount used by each member. At night one man from each tent would repair to the spring and fill the canteens for the morning use, thereby saving a cold journey about sunrise. In our drum corps was one individual who never went for water until morning; but during the evening he foraged from his tent-mates what he wanted to drink. This became unendurable, and the boys decided to play a trick on the sponging comrade. A canteen was filled about half full of water and then the following ingredients added: soap, vinegar, tallow, coffee, mustard, pepper, ashes and red clay. This conglomeration was well mixed by shaking and the canteen hung in its usual place. The whole drum corps was invited in to see the show. In the midst of a heated discussion, gotten up on purpose for the occasion, in came our victim. A vacant seat had been left directly under the doctored canteen, and, as anticipated, our worthy comrade took possession. He soon joined in the conversation, and after a time turned and reaching up pulled the cork and took a draught of the villainous compound. Several times he swallowed, then taking it from his lips he made a grimace that would have made even Yankee Robinson, green with envy and bolting like a twenty-pound shot through the doorway, he deposited the contents of his stomach on the ground outside. Heaving, gagging and coughing accompanied his exertions to rid his internal organs of the unwelcome intruder. The party inside was convulsed with laughter which was by no means diminished when the flap of the tent was drawn back and our comrade appeared and in angry tone demanded, "What in h--l is in that canteen?" (Charles H. Enos, Co. E).
I have been on picket and never suffered from cold so much as it turned cold, and snowed, then froze, so we had to lie on cold snow near a green pine wood fire that smoked so bad it choked a person and almost put your eyes out. Address "E" Co, 122 N.Y.V., Washington, D.C., care of Lieut. McDonald. We have 250 men in the Regt., 34 in Co. #. Capt. Walpole is in prison and Lieut. Col. A. W. Dwight is away wounded (Stuart McDonald, Co. F, Camp 122d Reg. N Y Vols Near Petersburg, VA, January 20, 1865 ).
Jan. 12, 1865. Very pleasant weather. Had a battalion drill yesterday. They have promoted four lieutenants from orderly sergeants.
Jan. 23. Capt. Marks commands regiment.
March 23. Capt. H. H. Walpole got back to the Company.
A very windy day. Blew
some trees down on Drum corps.
March 24. Co. E had a row with the Major. Capt. Walpole
and Col. Dwight came
and saw Co. E.
March 25. Had a fight to-day. Col. Dwight was killed.
March 26. Came on picket this morning - an old rebel picket line. They are close to us.
March 27. On picket. The Johnnies charged on us. We drove them back. Got relieved at 11 o'clock.
April lst. At camp all packed up, and some prospect of a move. General Sheridan has been fighting on the left for some days.
April 2. Last night our batteries opened on the rebels, and at 10 p.m. we went out (our regiment only) on the picket line, having only our equipment leaving everything in camp. At 12 o'clock we were ordered to report to our brigade in front of Fort Welsh, and at 3 o'clock we made (the 6th corps) a charge on the rebel's fort and breastworks, and after a hard fight and a storm of bullets, shell and canister, our men gained the works and fort in front of where we charged them. We went right and left, our division and the 3d went to the left where I got wounded in the leg. It is very painful though not dangerous. Lieut. Gilson at hospital, too (from a war diary; printed by Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, on September 11, 1891).
Camp 122d Near Petersburg, VA, Feb. 23, 1865
12 p.m. I hear cannonading now and I quit writing, for the Rebels opened out on us and I went out to see the distance and direction of the attack. The air is full of smoke and shells, etc.
12:10. I lay my paper down again for the cannonading is coming nearer and may reach along in our front.
12:30. The cannonading seems to decrease, so I will finish my letter and sent it away soon (Zeno T. Griffin, Co. E).
March 25, 1865 - Skirmish of Petersburg; April 2 - Battle of Petersburg
I have just came in after fighting all night and until noon, I fired all day behind rifle pits, but the rebels could not hit me. Had a fight lately and Col. A. W. Dwight had his head knocked off by a shell, and I feel as though I had lost a father, almost. Capt. H. H. Walpole has arrived at the company (Lieut. Gilson, camp near Petersburg, March 29, 1865).
I can yet hear that never to be forgotten voice calling out in the darkness "close up" or "steady boys" as we plodded along through the yielding soil of the Old Dominion or the stentorian order to "pack up," usually accompanied with just a little profanity. Perhaps some of the old boys will recollect one time when Col. Dwight put a certain drummer in command of the Drum Corps for a day with instructions to use a saber &c. or a certain afternoon when after a long march from Front Royal to near Winchester, Va., it became necessary for the regiment to go through the manual of arms for half an hour to strengthen the facial muscles so as to enable them to keep their mouths shut. Poor Colonel Dwight! with all your faults, we, as a regiment will keep you memory green, so long as any are left to answer to roll call. I see by the last "Recorder" that Capt. John M. Dwight has been laid away in Oakwood Cemetery by the side of his cousin and old commander. One by one our old commanders are passing away: Dwight, Davis, Clapp, Captains Dwight, Luther, Wooster, Hoyt, Sims, all are mustered on the other side with the "silent majority." Of the thousand and forty that marched out of Syracuse September 1, 1862, but few are left (Charles H. Enos, Co. D, March 25, 1890).
In regard to men not having an equal chance for promotion reminds me of a remark made by a member of "K" Co., who was at one time orderly sergeant, named W. R. Babcock. James Davidson, John Cain and myself all came from the same city in Canada, the city of Hamilton. Cain and I enlisted in "K" Co., Davidson in Co. "E" and were afterwards transferred to "K" Co. Babcock said he did not want any more Canada boys in "K" Co. as they would only run away. It is a fact that Babcock did desert and although Davidson was not sixteen years old when he enlisted, no man had a better war record. John Cain is buried at Gettysburg; and not wishing to make much of myself, when Gen. Grant issued an order to give one man in every one hundred a furlough for twenty-five days for soldierly and meritorious conduct, I received this furlough. No doubt there are many who would have taken it at that time. While in Syracuse on that furlough I met Lieutenant-Colonel A. W. Dwight, who told me he was going back to the regiment in a few days and had a new recruit for "K" Co., my captain's brother, P. Colahan. Before I got back to the regiment their bodies were on the way to Syracuse. I arrived at regimental headquarters March 30th, 1865 (Oren W. Hinds, Co. K, January 3, 1890).
On the 2d day of April, 1865, the enemy's lines at Petersburg were broken by the 6th Corps being hurled back upon the city. A strong skirmish line was formed under the command of Major Clapp and a sharp skirmish with the enemy ensued. The "rebs" hurriedly brought up a battery of Napoleon guns stationing them on a sharp eminence directly upon our flank. The Major's attention was called to the danger of allowing them to take the position as it was at short range. His reply was, "my orders are to drive back the enemy's skirmish line; we will do that if we can." But the boys on the left of the line were not willing to stand the fire of those cannon on their flank, and were only too willing to obey the order to charge the battery. It was quickly silenced and the charging companies meekly returned to meet an angry Major's scathing rebuke. He was glad the guns were silenced but "orders had been disobeyed." No one knew who gave the orders and the offense was condoned (Thomas H. Scott, Co. B)
At the charge on the works at Petersburg, the Sixth Corps formed in the shape of a pointed wedge and the 122d was on the very point (the apex) which first directly pierced Lee's center, causing Lee to send to Davis this telegram:--"My center is broken; we must evacuate Richmond" (private letter of Edwin A. Knapp, regimental surgeon).
Zeno T. Griffin of Company E, after passing unscathed through most of the battles in which his regiment was engaged was severely wounded at Petersburg, Va., April 2, 1865. He was in the hospital at Washington until June 26, 1865, when he received his discharge and returned to Onondaga county. He finished the study of stenography which he had begun before his enlistment and has been practicing his profession as law reporter for many years (sketch provided by Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H, November 28, 1889).
April 6, 1864 - Battle of Sailor's Creek; April 9 - Surrender of Lee; April 10 to April 21 at Camp near Burkesville; April 22 - to Danville, VA Convalescent Camp; May 21 - Viewed at Richmond; Go to Washington; May 23 - At Washington, D. C., Reviewed by Andrew Johnson; June 23 - Most Men of 122d Muster Out.
At Sailor's Creek the Sixth Corps fell upon the rear guard of Lee's retreating army and captured Gen. Ewell and thousands of prisoners, and hastened the surrender of Gen. Lee which took place a few days later (Stuart McDonald, Co. F).
"Palm Sunday Lee surrendered, 1865" my journal tells me. That year Palm Sunday fell on April 9. I thought at the time, when the tired ranks pressed on from the mud of Petersburg, Va., and in pursuit of the Boys in Gray, we passed the fresh green boughs of Appomattox and Lee gave Grant his sword and multitudes rejoined on both sides--how suitable--mete and right--Peace began on Palm day (Belas F. North, Co. F, March 4, 1890).
Dear Brother:--Our present camp is near Burkesville, the junction of the Richmond and Danville railroad and the Lynchburg and Petersburg railroad. You probably suppose that this is a place of some size as so much of it was said of the importance of taking it before Petersburg fell. It is like most of these large sounding places, merely a collection of two or three houses, beside the depot. Great events have crowded thick and fast upon us during the past two or three weeks. First, the fall of Richmond and Petersburg, then the capture of Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia and then the murder of President Lincoln! The news of the assassination felt like a thunder clap on the army and spread universal gloom over their spirits. Their sorrow was heartfelt, as it was general, for all felt that the nation had lost one of its greatest men and the army its firmest friend. To his integrity and firmness in the management of political affairs, and to his hearty and undivided support of Lieutenant General Grant in the affairs connected with the army, does the nation owe its very existence. No man has ever had more weighty responsibility resting upon his shoulders since the world began, and no man was ever beset by so many temptations and surrounded by so many plotting, mischievous men, traitors almost in his very household, and still successfully engineered the affairs of state with such glorious and complete success. Complete I say, because no one, whatever may have been his fears during the darker hours of our four years war, can now have any doubts of the final success of our cause. I am thankful that he lived so long as he did. He shall have his reward if he had not felt himself already sufficiently blest in the success of his noble efforts. The South in their destruction of Abraham Lincoln have lost their best friend, as they will find out to their sorrow ere many months roll over their heads. His successor, as strong in his devotion to the Union, is far more bitter and uncompromising in his hatred of treason, and especially towards the aristocracy of the South, whom he has the best of reasons for hating with an unforgiving hatred. I see by the papers of the 18th instant that Johnston has made proposals to General Sherman for the surrender of the force now under his command. Whether he surrenders without a fight or not he will soon be obliged to give up. Reports are rife in camp that the '62 men are soon to be mustered out. This may be true and we may see home sooner than we expected. I am thankful that I have been permitted to see this day, and to bear a part, however humble, in the restoration of the Union. There is much of sorrow mingled with joy when we think of the many grave men who have fallen, and proud as I shall be to be one of the little band of veterans to march through the streets of Syracuse. Still I feel that it will be one of the saddest days of my life. We have all of us to die, and one could not give his life in a better cause. Your affectionate brother, W. (possibly Andrew W. Wilkin, Co. H. Original letter published in the "Weekly Recorder," July 26, 1888).
Danville Convalescent Hospital
After the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox, April 9th, 1865, the Union army fell back to Burkesville Junction and went into camp while the rebel army were being paroled and sent on their journey homeward. Gen. Johnston still confronted General Sherman's victorious veterans in North Carolina, and to avoid any possibility of his escape, thus prolonging the war, Gen. Sheridan was ordered to take his division of cavalry and the 6th army corps and proceed to Danville on the border of North Carolina, and aid in the capture of Johnston's army. Reaching Danville by rapid marches, the 6th went into camp on the outskirts of the town, and military surveillance soon brought order and peace to friend and foe alike, for the Union cause had earnest, loyal white friends even in southern Virginia, and in North Carolina they were numbered by thousands. The Confederate government had established in 1863 a convalescent hospital at Danville where wounded and sick prisoners were sent when they were out of apparent danger and within easy reach of Richmond and Petersburg. Our prisoners soon began to die mysteriously; the least illness that brought them under the surgeon's treatment was generally followed by fatal results. The dead cart was in demand every morning, the death rate was appalling; while citizens who visited the hospital whispered mysteriously to each other and shook their heads as if they too began to understand the real cause of so many sudden deaths. The surgeon in charge stood high in the estimation of the rebel medical department, but his zeal for the rebel cause transformed him into a brutal murderer and demon! The particulars of this article are received from loyal citizens of Danville (who proved their devotion to the Union by aiding our prisoners to escape) and two rebel helpers at the hospital during the fall of 1864 and the winter of 1865. We have their names, but as they may be yet living I am not at liberty to give them. Those who have visited the cemetery of the Union dead at Danville with its 2,500 graves can readily believe the statement of the surgeon in charge that his "hand had done more for the Confederate cause than any brigade in the Confederate service." Such a statement had made in presence of some rebel officers, and it was overheard by several reputable citizens who volunteered to give such evidence, if he was arrested and brought to trial. While the 6th Corps was in camp we visited the cemetery, hoping to gain some facts for a newspaper at home which would be of interest to the people. The sequel was such facts as were not for publication just then, if the ends of justice were to be served. As we were about leaving the cemetery for the purpose of writing up an article on the "Union Dead at Danville," I passed a plainly dressed woman about fifty years of age, whose pale face and anxious look betokened fear and grief, or illness and poverty. Respectfully saluting her as I passed, she quickly gave in return the sign of the "Loyal League," and in a low voice requested me to see her husband that night at the house she entered. Of course I gave the sign of the order which called forth her request to see her husband that night. Assuring her that I would do so, I walked slowly, allowing her to pass on to her home in the outskirts of the town. We mention here to make this narrative plain that very many of our Union men escaped from the hospital during the fall of '64 and the winter of '65 and but few of them were recaptured by the rebel cavalry guard. The rebel authorities were perplexed and could not account for the successful escape of so many. The guard was strengthened, but the escapes became more numerous; yet all this while the graves in the cemetery increased very rapidly in numbers. The number 2,000 was passed on the register before January 1, 1865. Having obtained a pass, we made our way to the residence indicated under cover of darkness and were met at the door by a slightly built man whose keen gray eyes seemed to read your very thoughts. The questions and answers given satisfied me that the proper thing to do was to communicate at once with headquarters, but at his urgent request I listened to his story, read letters from Union soldiers whom he had aided to escape, visited a secret cave in the bank that communicated with the house, and counted 43 uniforms of escaped prisoners who had found refuge in the cave and gone forth clothed as citizens to friends and freedom. A small fortune in cash was expended by this man in behalf of the Union prisoners. His meek-faced wife had been one of the attendants at the hospital and had ample opportunity to direct the right ones to the cave of refuge where they would be safe until the danger was less imminent to reach the next place of safety. The revelations made concerning the wanton murder of our gallant Union soldiers was most convincing and his wife gave the names of several who had heard the boast above quoted made by the surgeon in charge. Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had lately been at Danville and made it the seat of their so-called government for a few days, but when they left, the surgeon disappeared also. He had a sister living about twenty miles south, in North Carolina, where it was supposed he was temporarily staying. The next night General Sheridan in person had an interview with the man at his headquarters. At one o'clock the next morning Capt. Morton L. Marks and a detail of the 122d N. Y. Vols. left in a closed ambulance to attempt the capture of the surgeon and the records he had taken with him. The departure of Capt. Marks and the detail of armed men was sudden and but few were aware of the object of their mission. The prompt action of General Sheridan indicated that he fully believed that a great and heinous crime had been perpetrated, and was determined to mete out swift justice upon the guilty wretch if he could be found and captured. The utmost secrecy was necessary to insure success, as the country was full of paroled Confederate prisoners who would promptly alarm her people in advance of a visible detachment of troops. Most men are anxious to know where they are going and the object of their mission under such circumstances, but the Capt. had his orders and the only light the boys got was from the directions he gave the driver as to the road. Through dense forests and over gently rolling plantations, the roads rough and heavy, crossing several small streams by fording, all caused unavoidable delays, so that the sun was three hours high when we united for a few moments behind a thick growth of timber to receive orders for certain emergencies and the men were fully informed of the object of their ride "down in old Carolina," as the rebs fondly designated their state. After resting the weary horses for a few minutes we were driven to a fine plantation residence and dismounted from the ambulance, covering every avenue of escape from the house. The family denied that the guilty wretch had been there in hiding, but a careful search brought to our possession a well-filled valise with the records of the hospital and convincing proof that a precipitate flight had occurred quite recently. No trace of the surgeon's flight could be obtained, and having made a careful search the order was given to return to Danville. The ambulance was opened and we enjoyed the ride through the forests and some fine plantations. Reaching camp about sundown, we were dismissed and the Capt. went to headquarters to report and deliver the captured records and correspondence. Of course the disappointment was great and the revelations of the captured papers were so resolved that the evidence was placed with the war department by special messenger. What action, if any, was taken we do not know, but this we do know: that J. P. Benjamin acted wisely in staying in England where he took refuge and his murderous friend did not act wisely in keeping certain letters after he had read them. Libby Prison, Castle Thunder, Belle Isle, Andersonville, and many other prisons are regarded with horror and loathing by every loyal citizen of America. Over them hangs a dark pall which neither time nor excuse can ever lighten or dissipate; but for wholesale murder, the little, almost unknown, town of Danville has no rival among them all. If any reader doubts the truth of this narrative of a surgeon's crimes, let him visit the cemetery at Danville, now cared for by the government; note the number of deaths each day during 1864, and for three months in 1865, and he will be convinced without any reference to documentary proof, or conversation with loyal residents of the town. We have no doubt but that there is evidence now in the archives of the War Department at Washington sufficient to convict three or four ex-Confederates as principals and abettors of the murder of at least one-half of those buried in the National cemetery at Danville. Those were dark days for our gallant comrades who were recovering from wounds received in upholding the government in its terrible struggle against internal foes. Will the government ever do justice to the prisoners of war who suffered in the prison pens of the South? (Unsigned reminiscence published in the December 27, 1888 and January 3, 1889 "Weekly Recorder").
I will never forget that march from Burke's Station to Danville, 84
miles, made in a little
over two days. I remember there was lots of grumbling. It seemed to us that the Sixth Corps was taken for all the extra duty where reliable men were needed and hard knocks were to be given. While we were at Danville I went to the burying ground where our murdered comrades lay in their narrow resting places. I say murdered; so it was told to me by citizens that the surgeon, or rather butcher, in charge could reduce the Union army faster than Lee could (Samuel McFeeters, Co. E).
While our regiment was at Danville Serg't John M. Lewis of Co. E. and myself did the work on the Danville Register which was published under the title of the "Sixth Corps" in company with the proprietor, Mr. Waddell of Danville, Va. I was in every march, camp and field, and never fell out on a march until I was prostrated by a sunstroke at Hanover Court House when Dr. E. A. Knapp assisted me to camp some two miles distant. My Enfield rifle, which I drew in New York city in Sept. 1862, I carried through every engagement and until we returned to Syracuse when I stacked arms with the boys for the last time (Sgt. Thomas Gardner, Co. E).
I will bring my letter to a close by saying that Sergeant Martin Hackett, "K" Co., was in every engagement with the regiment. I might mention one thing that kept me in the war. I had four brothers in the war and the time we served amounts to a few days over eleven years (Oren W. Hinds, Co. K, January 3, 1890).
I have one very important document in my possession that will ever remind me of Capt. McDonald as his pen filled out the blank spaces; viz., my discharge from the service. The bold chirography is as legible now as when first written nearly 25 years ago. The Captain was always a favorite of the "Sheep Skin Fiddlers." Long may his pen wave in interest of the vets of the 122d (Charles H. Enos, Co. D, March 25, 1890).
The Regiment returned to Syracuse in the summer of 1865 with three hundred and forty privates and the following officers:
Field and Staff
Colonel Horace H. Walpole
Lieutenant Colonel James M. Gere
Surgeon Edwin A. Knapp
Chaplain, L. M. Nickerson
Brevet Major and Quartermaster, John S. Cornue
Brevet Captain and Adjutant, Robert H. Moses
Assistant Surgeon, James Sanders
Captain Morton L. Marks
Captain H. S. Wells
Brevet Major and Captain, Osgood V. Tracy
Captain Andrew W. Wilkin
Captain Francis Colahan
Captain Stuart McDonald
Captain Theodore L. Poole
Captain Charles B. Clark
Captain Samuel P. Carrington
Captain Martin Ryan
Captain Joseph S. Smith
First Lieutenant David A. Munro
First Lieutenant George Gilson
First Lieutenant Ruell P. Buzzell
First Lieutenant Hiram A. Britton
First Lieutenant Samuel C. Trowbridge
First Lieutenant Michael Donovan
First Lieutenant Curtis Rich
First Lieutenant Dennis Murphy
Second Lieutenant Daniel F. Hammell
Second Lieutenant Amasa Chase
Second Lieutenant Gates D. Parish
Second Lieutenant Alexander Toms
Second Lieutenant Thomas Scott
Second Lieutenant George H. Devoe
Second Lieutenant Charles A. Eaton
Second Lieutenant George H. Casler
Second Lieutenant M. C. Smith
Our losses during our three years service were: killed in action 5 officers, 59 enlisted men; died of wounds 1 officer and 29 men; died of disease 3 officers, 68 men; accidentally killed 2 men; drowned 1 man; died in rebel prisons 14 men, a total of 179 deaths. The number of wounded reached to nearly 500, making the total casualties of the regiment more than one-half of the original number (Osgood V. Tracy, Co. I, speaking at Gettysburg, June 1888.)
"Never surrender your flag, but carry it proudly, remembering it
signifies bravery, purity, truth,--remembering that it is the emblem of
Home, Government, Country, and Liberty"
(Matilda Gage, August 25, 1862).
A tattered and stained United States flag received at the Onondaga Historical Association this week recalls the stirring days of the 1860's when Onondaga county men were enlisting to take part in the Civil War. The flag is the gift of Col. Frank Joslyn Baum, USA, retired, of Los Angeles, a native of Syracuse and son of L. Frank Baum, creator of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Col. Baum identified the colors as the first battle flag of the 122nd New York Volunteer regiment. This organization, nicknamed "The Onondagas," was the third complete regiment organized in the county. Quoting from a memo pinned to the flag, Col. Baum tells its story. "This flag was made by the ladies of Fayetteville, N.Y. and presented to the regiment by Matilda Joslyn Gage. The flag was made under the direction of Mrs. Gage from such material as the ladies had available in their homes. It was returned to Fayetteville by the color guard of the regiment and given back to Mrs. Matilda Joslyn Gage (Col. Baum's maternal grandmother) when the regiment was demobilized. It has remained in our family ever since." ("The Eagle Bulletin," February 11, 1954, p. 9, parentheses added).
I will do my best to maintain this flag; and although shot and shell shall pierce these folds, yet will I return it to you, to be kept as a memento of the gallantry of the brave men of Onondaga, who bore it to the field (Col. Silas Titus, August 25, 1862).
This Flag Still Exists
28 December 1998
21 February 1999