«MAJ. GEN. CHARLES S. HAMILTON HISTORY of THE THIRD REGIMENT of WISCONSIN VETERAN VOLUNTEER INFANTRY 1861 — 1865. BY EDWIN E. BRYANT Late Adjutant. ...»
Buford wished to get rid of them and summoned the commander of the infantry. Stevenson ranked, but he asked Okey to go with him to confer with Buford.
“Do you see those people down there?” quietly asked Buford, “They’ve gopt to be driven out.” Stevenson replied, “It’s about double our force.” “Well,” said the general. “I don’t order you, mind; but if you think you can flank them, go in, and drive them off.” Stevenson and Oakey thought they could. The staff of Buford gathered around them during the conversation; and the two captains were bound not to flinch in such a presence. They took a careful look, quickly laid their plans and then withdrew their men and quietly disappeared. To skulk along behind a slight elevation of ground, and through woods and brush was the work of a few minutes. Soon they gained the flank of the Confederates behind the wall, and poured in upon the unsuspecting rebel troopers a sharp, enfilading fire.
The poor wretches were taken by surprise. Some crawled off on their hands and knees; others fell dead or writhed in wounds; and a number surrendered.
The killed, wounded and captured outnumbered the force that executed this movement.136 Stuart brought up other brigades, intending to throw his whole force upon Buford, for he saw that the Federal cavalry were gaining ground and pressing toward Fleetwood Hill. His resistance grew more stubborn. Charges with the saber became more frequent. But still the Federals pressed on.
Gregg had crossed in the morning at Kelly’s Ford, and pushed on toward Brandy Station, accompanied by Russell’s infantry. He, too, had confronted the rebel cavalry, and made a gallant fight against heavy odds.
But the junction of the two columns was effected. Stuart had sent to Lee for help. Just as Gregg left Brandy Station he saw long trains of cars swarming with infantry arriving. He therefore turned steps to the right and came upon the field where Buford, Devin and Merritt’s reserve brigade were in hot work with Stuart’s troopers. He had fought desperately. Pleasanton had accomplished the object of his mission. He had captured Stuart’s headquarters; had learned Lee’s whereabouts, and in good part his intentions.
He could not hope to crush a cavalry force nearly double his own; although, as Confederate historians admit, he had “roughly handled Stuart.” He had certainly taken a good deal of the conceit out of Stuart’s cavalry and damaged his prestige. So he withdrew in good order across the Rapidan at about sundown, not pressed or followed.
The Tenth Virginia reported a loss of 8 killed and 69 wounded in this engagement, which the Confederates call the battle of Fleetwood.
-128The fact that our forces retired gave Stuart — who was a lusty blower of his own horn — the chance to claim a victory.137 He did this in the grandiloquent style peculiar to himself. But his contemplated raid was broken up. He contented himself with simply covering Lee’s right flank in his northern movement; and sought no more pitched battles with our cavalry.
The infantry force suffered considerable loss for a skirmish. Our regiment lost two killed — Private David Collender, company I, killed outright, and Private Ernst Bergaman, mortally wounded — and fourteen wounded.
The wounded were: Company B, Sergeant George W. Barker, Private Griffith Evans; Company C, Privates James Golden, Henry Fuller and Valentine Clarne; Company D, Private William Bardon; Company E, Privates James Parrett, George Hewins, William Steffen and Joseph Arms; Company I, Privates George N. Fawcett, Giles L. Harrison and John Madison; Company K, Private John W. Dunn.
LOSSES OF INFANTRY AT BEVERLY FORD, VA., JUNE 9, 1863, IN AMES’ COMMAND.
This was a cavalry battle in which the infantry figured conspicuously, though our work was chiefly skirmishing. There were many brave actions noted; and much skill and ingenuity was shown by our men in skirmishing.
Lieutenant-Colonel Flood in his report makes special mention of Private David Agnew of Company H. “While skirmishing in front of cavalry,” says the report, “he advanced beyond our lines, saved the life of a comrade, and captured a Stuart claimed that if it had not been for the infantry mixed in Pleasanton’s command, he would have captured the Union cavalry. There were heavy battles between the cavalry of the two armies after that, but the prestige of Stuart’s cavalry was broken. Our troopers ever after were more than a match for the Confederates. This was true at Aldie, at Upperville and at Gettysburg, where a hot cavalry battle raged on the 3d of July, a few miles southeast of the great battlefield at the same hour the latter was at its height.
-129rebel who was in the act of firing.” Brave actions on the part of the men of the regiment were so common as to make mention of one almost invidious.
Others were equally gallant in all the companies, and the eagerness of the men to “draw their heads” on the rebels made them almost reckless in exposing themselves.
The discouraging effect of this cavalry battle upon the Confederates found expression in much serious criticism of Stuart at Richmond. The diary
of the rebel war clerk notes the feeling thus:
JUNE 12. — The surprise of Stuart on the Rappahannock has chilled every heart, notwithstanding it does not appear that we lost more than the enemy in the encounter.
The question is on every tongue “have our generals relaxed in vigilance?” If so, sad is the prospect.
From this battle the prestige of Stuart’s cavalry began to wane, and that of our troopers as steadily rose.
AVING crossed Beverly Ford, withdrawing from the battle field, we H bivouacked in the woods, where we had spent the previous night.
Camp fires were permitted and in great tin cups of black coffee, steaming hot, we found the refreshment so grateful to the soldier after a day of exertion. The command had been so scattered during the day’s fight, that each detachment, and each man, for that matter, had a special narrative of adventure; and the telling of the stories of various, thrilling incidents of the battle in the quaint and forcible, though perhaps, inelegant slang of the army, kept us long from repose. Puffing away at our pipes, which the soldiers had carved with many a queer device from the gnarled laurel roots so abundant in the Blue Ridge region, we reclined around our camp-fires, the very picture of content.
The morning of the 10th we took easy march toward Bealeton station, resting there in bivouac until the 14th,139 when we learned that the whole army was in motion. Resuming march northeastward, up the line of the Orange and Alexandria railroad, we passed the scenes of our dismal retreat of the preceding year. We were now under command of Gen. Russell, as Gen.
Ames had left us to hasten to his own proper command. We rejoined the corps at Centerville on the 16th, finding there Col. Hawley and the portion of the regiment which we had left at Stafford. The report that Lee’s army was threatening another invasion was soon confirmed; and Hooker’s columns were moving up the Potomac, and the Virginia side, keeping between Lee and Washington, while our cavalry and that of the enemy were in constant skirmish in all the passes of the Bull Run mountains. We moved up by way of Dranesville to near Leesburg, and there encamped.
The sad incident of this camp was that our corps was paraded to witness the shooting for desertion of three men from New York and New Jersey regiments. Desertion from the army had assumed such alarming proportions that the commanders insisted that President Lincoln’s mercy should not interfere, but that some stern examples be set; and the shooting of a few men under sentence of courts martial in each corps produced a deep sensation. The doomed men were conducted to the place of execution, their hands and arms bound, and the division in serried lines surrounded the place.
They were seated on their coffins; the chaplains ministered to them in their last moments, the proceedings and the sentence of the court martial and the EDITOR’S NOTE — There is no chapter twenty in the original text.
ED. NOTE. 14 June 1863.
-131approval of the same and order for execution were read. The provost mashal then conducted the awful ceremony. The men were blind-folded; and a file of soldiers brought forward, part of whose muskets were loaded with blank cartridges and part with ball, so that no one of the soldiers who fired would ever know whether he had shot the ball that caused the death. At the signal the volley was fired; and the victims fell dead. The soldiers would have preferred to face a hostile army in the carnage of battle rather than to witness such ignoble deaths. But it was necessary to stay the desertions that were so fast depleting that unhappy army; and for a little time appeals to the great and tender heart of Lincoln were of no avail.
The Twelfth corps sojourned about Leesburg until the 26th, waiting, as history now tells us, for Hooker to fully understand Lee’s plans. During the movements since Lee had left his entrenchments at and near Fredericksburg his command had been strung along from that place to the Potomac at Williamsport. The president, in his quaint way, said: “If the head of Lee’s army is at Martinsburg, and the tail of it on the plank road between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere.” And he was in favor of cutting the “animal” in two.
On the 26th, our column headed for Edward’s Ferry, and crossed on a ponton [sic] bridge into Maryland. We learned here that we were well in the rear of the whole army, all of which was moving northward. The Twelfth Corps moved up to the mouth of the Monocacy at Spink’s Ferry, crossed that stream on the aqueduct of the canal, and moved on up the Potomac toward Harper’s Ferry.
The news was a this time very exciting. Lee’s columns had crossed the Potomac, after driving Milroy140 from Winchester, who, taken by surprise, lost a large amount of ordnance and the greater part of his command.141 The Confederates were swarming into Pennsylvania, and there seizing vast quantities of horses, cattle, forage, provisions, footwear, clothing and medical stores, plundering farms, and levying enormous demands upon the villages and cities. Harrisburg was threatened, Philadelphia in danger — both places at work day and night throwing up earthworks. The militia were arming, and frantic appeals were made to the President to send the Army of the Potomac, in which were do many Pennsylvania regiments, to defend the loyal state from the rapacious invaders. Thousands of people were fleeing to the north of the Susquehanna, driving their horses, mules, and cattle before them; and these immense caravans were pouring through Harrisburg, seeking safety in Robert Huston Milroy, 11 Jun 1816 - 29 Mar 1890, Mexican War veteran, Indiana native.
The Confederacy put a price on his head for his energetic suppression of guerillas in West Virginia.
ED. NOTE. 1,000 men killed or wounded, 3,400 men captured, 23 cannon taken.
Our corps on the 27th was at Knoxville, some three or four miles east from Harper’s Ferry. General Slocum had been ordered to be ready to march to the ferry on the 28th. The plan formulated was for him, with a regiment of cavalry and a reinforcement of two brigades of infantry, to march the Twelfth corps up the Potomac, strike Lee’s communications, destroy his bridges, cut his supply trains, and follow him, doing as much havoc as possible upon his rear. This plan of Hooker was abandoned about the time he was relieved, for the order for the movement was countermanded on the same day.142 A new surprise here came to us. General Hooker was relieved. He asked for the 10,000 men at Harper’s Ferry to be added to his mobile army.
Halleck refused, still persisting in his policy of keeping small commands scattered about to be attacked and captured. He also seemed to think Harper’s Ferry a place of importance, when in reality it was in a military point of view a “blind alley.” Finding that Halleck was disposed to hamper him, and refuse him men and liberty of action, to clog his movements and interfere with his strategy, Hooker asked to be relieved of the command. His request was granted with an alacrity that indicated no reluctance; and on the 28th the order of President Lincoln assigning Maj.-Gen. George G. Meade to the command was promulgated. Meade was but little known a this time in the army; but since Chancellorsville there was small faith in Hooker’s infallibility; and we could only hope the best of Meade, and trust that he would be supported by the generals of corps and divisions as faithfully as the men of the ranks were sure to do all that was required of them.
The order changing Slocum’s course directed him to Frederick; and on the 28th we moved through Pentonville and Jefferson to our old winter home of 1861 and 1862. Encamping near the city, we saw the trains and stragglers of some of the other corps pour through the city, a rough, disorderly element.
The next day found us on the march, the entire corps headed toward Pennsylvania on the road leading north-northeast by way of Woodsborough and Middleburg — to Taneytown, about 25 miles from Frederick.
On the 30th we moved up across the state line to Littlestown, in Pennsylvania, about eight or nine miles southeast of Gettysburg and beyond.
As we approached Littlestown a body of Confederate cavalry were in our front. The Third brigade was at the rear of the division, when it was halted;
the three old regiments of the brigade were ordered to the front at double quick. The division broke ranks and cleared the road for us, as the three welltried regiments quickly and proudly advanced, and deploying a few companies of skirmishers brushed away the detachment of Stuart’s cavalry, while the
ED. NOTE. Hooker was relieved by MajGen George G. Meade on 28 Jun 1863.
-133affrighted inhabitants, men, women and screaming children fled from their farm houses across the fields in pitiable terror. Here Gen. Williams received a report that the enemy’s cavalry with artillery was approaching the place. We were well prepared to receive them; but it was soon learned that our brave troopers were driving them.