«MAJ. GEN. CHARLES S. HAMILTON HISTORY of THE THIRD REGIMENT of WISCONSIN VETERAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY 1861 — 1865. BY EDWIN E. BRYANT Late Adjutant. ...»
“This was the situation when we alone of all Banks’ corps, when the light was growing dim on that fatal August night, opened fire on the long lines of Archer’s brigade, as his troops, disdaining cover, stood boldly out amid the wheat stacks in front of the timber. As may be imagined, our position was an exposed one. It is almost in vain to attempt to convey an impression of the fierceness of that fire; there was no intermission, the cracking of musketry was incessant. To Col. Colgrove, commanding the Twentyseventh Indiana, to the right of the Second Massachusetts, the enemy seemed to be all around him, in his front, on his right in a dense growth of underbrush, and on his left extending nearly across the wheatfield. From front to flank, direct and cross, came this terrible fire upon the Twenty-seventh Indiana.” From: Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain.
The three companies of the Third regiment, one of which the writer commanded, had gone into this action, as before stated, between the Twentyseventh Indiana and the Second Massachusetts. General Gordon’s narrative is in error in assigning it to the right. General Ruger’s report indicates that in the second advance he did not go to the right. Captain Julian W. Hinkley, who has since visited the battlefield and made this battle a special study, says that “Company K and most of F went back through the lines of the Twentyseventh Indiana and rallied behind them. Companies D and I followed down an old wood road to a point very near where we were before assembled. I think the colonel joined us here in a few minutes and led us back to the fence at the edge of the wheatfield, and it is pretty certain that we were in between the Second Massachusetts and the Twenty-seventh Indiana.” During the few minutes that we were here, Gen. Crawford came along with a staff officer, as the writer remembers, in rear of the Twenty-seventh Indiana and the Third Wisconsin, commanding us to charge across the field.
His own command was then entirely killed, wounded, captured or gone to the rear. The companies of the Third were conforming to the movements of the larger regiments on their flanks, and as they did not recognize his authority, we did not, especially as at that moment Colonel Ruger appeared immediately in rear of the left of the Twenty-seventh Indiana. At about the same time, Major Perkins of Banks’ staff came with an order to Col. Andrews83 to charge across the field. This order amazed Andrews. He was a brave, cool, intrepid officer, with all his faculties in good use, and he saw that to obey such an ED. NOTE: Colonel George L. Andrews commanding the Second Massachusetts.
-75order was simply to needlessly slaughter his command. He replied to this command, “Why, it will be the destruction of the regiment and will do no good.” He at once sought out Gordon, who told him not to execute the order.84 It was ascertained afterwards that an order had been signalled [sic] for Andrews to advance, in the supposition that the Second Massachusetts was far to the rear and at the place where Banks’ unexecuted order had directed it to be sent.
The Twenty-seventh Indiana was as brave a regiment as ever stood in line. Colonel Colgrove, its commander, was an officer of distinguished gallantry, moving about on his horse apparently oblivious to the storm of bullets that hissed about him. But no regiment could stand the fierce fire that poured in from front and flank. It gave way. But Col. Colgrove soon rallied it and brought it back to the edge of the field. But it remained only for a moment.
Then Col. Colgrove observed the enemy advancing within twenty paces of his right (it was Pender’s brigade), and gave the command to retreat. With him went the three companies, A, B, and E of the Third, and also the men who had gone in the second time. They rallied in the woods and tried to make a stand and fight, but again were forced back. They did not leave a moment too soon. A number were captured in their endeavors to get from the clutch of the enemy — among them Lieut. Theodore J. Widvey, who had led the three companies into action, being the senior officer present.
Gordon says, “When the Twenty-seventh fell back, I could not complain, because the Third Wisconsin did not stand. I know of no other regiment in Banks’ entire corps that twice on that day, in different brigades and in different parts of the field, stood so unflinchingly before numbers and fire so overwhelming.” [From: Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain, p. 309.] The Second Massachusetts remained a minute or two longer. It had got into position where its fire was directly in front and quite destructive to its assailants. But as the troops on its right vanished, it became exposed to a withering flank fire, which laid low the captain of its right company and half his men. After suffering for a short space this cruel carnage, it fell back also in good order through the woods.
In the gathering dusk, the few of us who could be got together rallied at the little ridge from which we had started an hour before to participate in the Gordon relates that on that evening, in the presence of Gen. Pope, he said to Banks, while himself full of indignation at the crime and blunder of the battle, “General Banks, I disobeyed your order received during the fight.” “What was it, sir?” asked Banks. “An order brought by an officer purporting to come from you, to charge across the field where my troops were then fighting.” “I never sent you such an order,” retorted Banks. “I am glad to know it;” replied Gordon, “it would have resulted in our total destruction.” From: Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain.
-76fight, directed thither by Gen. Gordon.
On our left, on the other side of the turnpike, the Union forces had fared equally hard. At first they met with slight success, in the heroic advance of the Eighth and Twelfth regulars as skirmishers. But when the brigades advanced, they were met by as fierce a fire as had welcomed the assault on the right.
In the center brigade, Gen. Geary’s, nearly every field officer on the ground and about half the company officers and men were killed or wounded. Geary had charged simultaneously with Crawford, and had aided in crushing the enemy’s line, but was soon overpowered by the reserves. Prince and Greene had also shared in the battle and suffered heavily. But no attempt is here made to give details of their movements or engagement. General Prince had been captured while searching around in the dark for Gen. Geary’s command.
His losses had also been heavy, both in killed, wounded and prisoners.
In the dusk that fast deepened into darkness, we of Gordon’s brigade got together our few fragments of companies. We only knew in part the extent of our losses. When those of the brigade came to be consolidated, it was found that the totals were as given below.
LIST OF KILLED AND WOUNDED AT THE BATTLE OF CEDAR MOUNTAINAUGUST 9, 1862 KILLED OR DIED OF WOUNDS — Field and Staff: Lieutenant-Colonel Louis H. D. Crane;
Company A: Private David Buckterkirchen; Company B: Privates Fred Eddy, Abram Finton, James C. Larrimore and George T. Maxwell; Company C: Corporal David Rourke, Privates Anson W.
Lovelace, Fred Reager, Isaac W. Winans; Company D: Corporal Curtis Jacobs, Private Wesley J.
Butts; Company F: Privates Ethan W. Butler, Andrew Craig and Frank Darling; Company H: Private William Mason; Company I: Captain Moses O’Brien, Privates Nicholas Wallace, W. I. Leach and M. Sweat; Company K: Privated William H. Hubbell, Peter Jenson, Edwin E. Polley, John Q. Lyman, Charles S. Curtis, Charles C. Brown and Thomas Elliott — 27. Of those reported killed, Abram Finton of Co B, C. B. Brown and Thomas Elliott of Co. K, afterward returned, rejoining regiment.
[Editor’s note, the same was true of Lawrence Post, who was reported killed in action, it even having appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal. Later, it was found that he was injured and taken prisoner to Richmond, VA.] WOUNDED — Field and Staff: Major J. W. Scott, Serg’t.-Maj. Charles L. Dering; Company A: Sergeant Abner Wood, Privates Jeff. Fidler, Arnold Mann, John Zahns, Sid I. Thompson, Isaac Godfrey; Company B: Privates Charles Bryan, Nathan T. Smith, J. Truax, Jesse P. Dean, Levi P.
Whitcomb, Chas. F. Robie; Company C: Sergeant James Collins, Corporal Junot Wilcox, Privates E. S. Winans, Andrew Warner, George Gans; Company D: Orderly Sergeant L. B. Balcom, Corporals C. H. Lindsley, Clinton W. Page, Privates C. E. Alderman, Hiram Allen, Jesse Close, Job Clark, De Witt Clark, Ralph P. Devan, Thomas Layton, Francis Morton, Denslow McAuley, Amos Rutledge, and Nelson Vawlin; Company E: Sergeant A. Titus; Company F: Corporals Atlas A. Budd, Clay Fisher, Privates Hames Holmes, S. H. Marvin, James Kelty, George Kolb, John W. Wions, Jonas Clossen, Nelson Powell, and Darius P. David; Company H: Sergeants Wm. M. Snow and Thos. E. Orton, Corporal David Potter, Privates henry Mason, J. Anderson, R. T. Blair; Company I: Corporal Richard H. Williams, Privates Alfred Millon, D. McDonald, Wm. Shook, J. W. Leslie;
Company K: Captain Wm. Hawley, Corporal R. W. Jones, Privates J. E. Anderson, Andrew Mathiason, James Bean, Asa Colby, A. T. Towley, A. Thomas, A. Thiede — 65. Jesse P. Dean, Co. B, afterwards died of his wounds.
The fragments of Gordon’s brigade now rallied, near the Brown cottage, whence he had started on the charge. Many of our dead were brought in by comrades. Many wounded of both brigades lay there. It was fast growing dark. Gordon sent out some pickets; for nothing hindered the enemy from advancing. At this moment Williams ordered Gordon to fall back. The latter was loth to leave the sufferers, and sought a change in the orders. He sought
-78for Banks and found him with Pope, who had come upon the field. Pope left Culpepper at half-past four, galloped up, when the continuous roar of artillery convinced him that a battle was on. He ordered up Rickett’s division, as he galloped by. As he neared the field, he knew by the long procession of wounded men and the dripping ambulances, as well as the musketry, that a furiour [sic] battle was raging. But before he reached the field silence reigned.
He met Banks, and while they conversed, Gordon rode up. Pope, on learning the situation, ordered Gordon to be relieved and to move to the right of the pike, to form the center of a new line. “I shall have 20,000 fresh troops here to-morrow morning,” he said. Gordon, indignant at the useless slaughter of his brigade, said, “This battle ought not to have been fought, sir.” “I never ordered it fought,” said Pope.Endnote It is not the purpose of this narrative to tell the full story of the battle on all parts of the field. Suffice it to say, that when Jackson had made his dispositions on his left to close in on Gordon’s right, he directed Taliaferro’s brigade to charge, bearing to its right, through the cornfield, where Geary had been. This advancing line came upon Gen. Prince, who was riding towards his right, to find what had become of the troops there, and made him prisoner.
The enemy then crept on, enveloped Prince’s troops, capturing some 400, as they fell back.
And at dusk, the enemy’s victory was complete. Prince a prisoner.
Geary and Augur wounded; only one general officer left on that part of the line, and all three of the brigades as badly cut to pieces as were Crawford’s and Gordon’s on the right. Out of Geary’s brigade of 1,467 men nearly every field officer on the ground, and about one-third of the company officers and men, were killed or wounded.85 On receiving Pope’s orders, Gordon retired his little remnant of a command to the rear. He was relieved by Gen. Tower,86 with the second brigade of Rickett’s division. In moving to the rear, the regiments did not pursue exactly the route indicated by Gordon. The place where Pope had ordered him to form a new line was already in the possession of the enemy.
The regiments dropped still farther back toward Culpepper, the enemy following up and sending in their shells. The Third bivouacked near the pike in rear of its first position; and the next morning our position was assigned in a clump of low, scrubby pine trees in a dry swamp on the left of the road, some two miles in rear of the battlefield.
Sigel’s command having had their suppers the night of the battle, left
Loss reported at 465.
ED. NOTE: Brigadier General Zealous Bates Tower, 1819 - 1900.
-79Culpepper and moved out toward Cedar Mountain. They were quite officious in halting some of our regimental commanders, who were moving to the rear under orders. Pope, in his report, intimates that had Sigel moved when ordered, instead of sending back to ask about the route, when there was but one; and, had he come supplied with rations, as ordered, there might have been a different history of this battle.
On the 11th, a flag of truce was sent to the enemy, and permission asked and given to go upon the battlefield and bury our dead. Burial parties were sent out. Chaplain Quint,87 of the Second Massachusetts, was among the first to go upon the field. He found there, as he writes, our wounded.
They were on the field, had sufferably terribly, and wept for joy, when assured that our people were soon coming. The Confederates had sheltered some of them with blankets or with boughs; had brought them water, and sometimes biscuits or apples. But the dead had been stripped of everything valuable, even to outer clothing.
There was the body of Col. Crane. It was taken and sent to his home in Beloit, Wisconsin, and there buried. Poor Capt. O’Brien, a brave, noble officer, was shot a second time in the second advance of the regiment, as it went in with Gordon’s brigade. His first wound, a severe one in the thigh, he had bandaged with a handkerchief, and gone in again with his shoe full of blood. He refused to remain at the rear. His second wound was through the body and mortal. His men found him, on the 11th, still alive; for he was a man of powerful frame and great vitality. They tenderly carried him to Culpepper on a stretcher, in the head of that terrible August sun; and a few hours after his arrival there he died lying on his stretcher, on the porch of a hotel then used as a hospital.