Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thoughts on 2nd Bull Run and the mystery of William H. Baker's death

155th Anniversary

On Saturday, August 26, I travelled up to Manassas to tour Chinn Ridge with a park historian for the 155th Anniversary of the battle of 2nd Bull Run.  The walk was to cover the Union armies defense of the ridge, as well as the progress of Longstreet’s massive flank attack that drove the Federals off of it on August 30, 1862.  During the fight, the Federals on the ridge were surrounded on three sides, and outnumbered by at least 3 to 1. The 13th Regiment lost 48 killed, of about 500 soldiers present at this action, -- the first active fighting in a major battle during their service.  It had been a long time to wait considering they had mustered in more than a year earlier.  As Austin Stearns described it,

"...we went through a field and up  a slight elevation and there was a sight to behold.  Longstreets corps was advancing in line of battle or in lines, for there was three or four, and to our eyes the field was full of men.  Firing immediately commenced, not only with us but all along the line by both sides; men commenced to fall;  ...On, still on, came the heavy lines of Longstreet's Command; no single line could stop them long, and gradually our line was being forced back, although we gave them a brave resistance and contested every inch of ground..."
After this fiasco the men were less anxious than before to see action than they had been prior to this "scrap,"— as some called it.

I was joined at the battlefield walk by a fellow researcher; renowned in the field of photographic jewelry and other topics, and on both of our minds that day was the story of 13th Mass soldier William Henry Baker, of Weymouth.

My colleague's interest in Baker began with the purchase of a 19th century sewing box, exquisitely built, with a note inside proclaiming it the handy work of William Henry Baker.

Baker, born March 23, 1842,  delayed a Harvard education to enlist as a recruit in the 13th Mass. Vols. the summer of ’62.  He was a talented young man, 5’8” tall, blond hair and blue eyes,  already accomplished for his skill in woodworking and other crafts. Unfortunately I don't have his photograph.

Remarkably, Baker’s 1860 diary exists in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and it documents his progress on the box.

"February 16, 1861.  “Worked on boxes for ambrotype taken.  Am going to have photographs taken.”
February 21, 1861. “Got my pictures this eve.”
My friend has done extensive research on the box and Baker.  William Henry as he liked to be called, was close to his sister Mary Ellen, who liked to sew, and it is supposed the box was intended to be used for her sewing kit.

  His other activities included school, reading, studying, attending temperance meetings, debate clubs, patriotic recruitment meetings, and woodworking.

He was accepted to the Freshman Class at Harvard University, slated to begin his studies on August 5, 1861, for which  he had prepped for months.  Harvard University Faculty records of a Special Meeting held, July 15, 1862 list the names of new students, and includes a  later update that lists at least 5 out of 55 total, including Baker, who did not show up. William Henry Baker chose to enlist instead!

Mary Ellen Baker, his younger sister was engaged to marry Captain Elliot C. Pierce; a conspicuous member of the Field & Staff of the 13th Mass.  Elliot joined the regiment at Fort Independence, Boston, rather too late to gain an officer’s commission.  But he was a friend of Colonel Leonard, and quickly advanced from Sergeant-Major to 1st Lieutenant, Company H, in early 1862, and Captain of that company very soon after.  Favoritism was suspected among the 10 Second-Lieutenants in line of promotion, that Eliot ‘jumped’ over.  Yet, it was agreed he was a good man, and he made an enviable military service record with the regiment. You can read more about him here.

Did William Henry’s relationship to Elliot influence his decision to enlist, or was it simply the patriotic fervor of the time that motivated him, or was it both?  Patriotic speeches and rallies were prevalent in the summer of '62.  The biography of Samuel S. Gould, another remarkable young man from Harvard, who joined the 13th Mass concurrently with Baker, states he [Gould] was very active at war rallies, encouraging his peers to enlist.  You can read about Gould here.  
 The recruits arrived in two groups.  Baker was in the first group of about 70 men that unfortunately arrived at the regiments' campground on Monday, August 18, 1862;  for this was the day that commanding General John Pope, learned the enemy across the Rapidan River had been heavily re-enforced and was planning an attack.  His army was in a trap and he had better make tracks or risk annihilation. Just as the recruits were meeting their new comrades in arms, orders came to march.  Fellow recruit, Clarence Bell gives an inside look at the passing scenes in his post-war memoir.

“As we marched into camp the Thirteenth boys came out from their tents to greet and welcome us to the field. All seemed heartily glad to see us, nearly every one of us finding acquaintances, school-mates or former "chums" in the ranks. The Regimental Band gave us a harmonious reception and Chaplain Gaylord welcomed us on behalf of the Colonel. Among other words of advice he cautioned us to beware of the wiley veterans and not allow them to "play points" on us; that our bright new dippers were very attractive to their eyes and might tempt them to make invidious suggestions of barter.
The recruits were, generally, permitted to select the companies to which they wished to be assigned, and the squad having been thus distributed, all began to adjust themselves to the new conditions.
"We were just beginning to be rested and fairly comfortable when orders came to strike camp and make ready for marching. It took but a few minutes to level the tents, or ponchoes, and, while waiting for further orders we cooked suppers and "turned in" near the camp fire and slept till about eleven o'clock. We left camp and after marching a few miles, halted on a muddy road, where we remained till morning, getting no sleep, for we expected the word "forward" every moment. The boys built fires, made coffee and with the ever ready pipe, stories, jokes and witty sayings the night was passed. Next morning we began the famous "masterly retreat” of Major-General John Pope. We passed through Culpeper and continued our march, with occasional rests, till nine o'clock P.M., when we arrived at Rappahannock Station; crossed the railroad bridge and after some maneuvering  went into camp. It was a hard march, especially for those who were so unaccustomed to it, the most tiring part of which occurred after dark, when obstacles in the road were invisible, causing us to stumble over stumps or stones, compelling frequent and somewhat strong expletives.
"At noon the regiment crossed the river and formed in line of battle, while the recruits were ordered to remain in the rear, where beneath the trees we passed the night somewhat anxiously. We were not to be engaged in battle (if one took place) except in case of need. Our number was insignificantly small, we were totally inexperienced and none had received arms, equipments or ammunition, yet many were anxious to take part, while several volunteered to assist in supporting and working the batteries.”
The recruits continued to suffer along with the veterans through General Pope’s bungling helter-skelter marches of the next two weeks, always in fits and starts, and with little to no food or rest, until the climatic battle of Second Manassas signaled the end of the campaign.  Baker was killed in the battle.  How and why Baker was caught in the action is unknown, as Clarence Bell wrote, the unarmed recruits were not yet required to fight.

“With an early start next morning we continued march till eight P.M., when we camped near the old battlefield of Bull Run. August 30th in column we moved forward a short distance, when we entered a grove and deposited our knapsacks for safe (?) keeping.  In the afternoon the Brigade advanced and ascended the hill on our left. The recruits (who had not as yet been supplied with arms or accoutrements) kept up with the regiment until reaching the brow of the hill, when the attack of the enemy became so hot that all were obliged to drop for safety. As the shot and shell came thicker and faster the recruits returned down the hill, when we were challenged several times by mounted rear guards and ordered to return to our regiment, but our explanation that we were "raw recruits" without arms or equipments, and our new appearance confirming our statement, we were permitted to pass; furthermore, in the intense excitement prevalent at the moment, orders could not be, or were not strictly enforced. We "retired in good order," getting out of the range of the messengers of death that whizzed and buzzed over our heads and about us."

Neither my colleague nor I, have found any details on Baker’s death.  The only ominous hint of it occurs in a letter written by her brother's friend, William Clark to Mary Ellen Baker, regarding her fiancé’s wound.  Elliot Clark Pierce was wounded August 30, just above the left hip bone and was left untreated until the 31st.  He was sent to Burrows (Metropolitan)  Hotel in Washington and attended by Surgeon Clymer of the 13th Mass. Volunteers.  William Clark wrote:

Browns Hotel, Washington

Noon.  Thursday Sept 4th 1862
Miss Mary E. Baker,
I arrived here this morning at 8 o’clock.  Eliot is quite comfortable, being without fever since last evening – and having good quarters and attendance.  His wound is in an uncomfortable place on the left side where every motion of his body hurts him.  On my entrance to his room this morning I found him sitting upon the edge of the bed..  He is in excellent spirits and I shall use my best efforts to obtain a pass from the Provost Marshall to enable him to get home.  I learn with much regret that among the missing is the name of your brother, he is not wounded or killed, as all of both are accounted for.  He will probably come in either as a straggler or paroled prisoner.  Every hour brings them to light.

If I am able, it will be my plan to get to South Braintree by Sunday Morning train.  With regards to your mother + sister, to Mr. and Mrs. Pierce, your friend and servant,
William L. Clark

 Pierce returned home to recuperate, and married Mary Ellen on October 29, 1862.  Baker, of course, never came in. He is buried in Weymouth at Village Cemetery, the same place where Elliot was laid to rest many years later.  Baker was one casualty among many.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Battle of Cedar Mountain - They trailed Arms


The 155th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Mountain is August 9th 2017.  I've always wanted to re-build / update the page on my website for this action, as I have much more material now than I did when I posted that page several years ago; but like many other things I've wanted to add to the site, I just haven't got around to it yet.  The reason is I want to keep pressing ahead with the regiment's history, rather than return to periods  I've already covered, at least in some detail.

This is a long introduction.

So, appropriately, to mark the anniversary of the battle, I'm posting this article about the 13th Mass at Cedar Mountain; one of the favorite ones I've come across since building the page for my website.

Pictured is the ridge the 13th Mass marched behind as told in this story.  Federal artillery was posted on the hill, center, right.  Click to view larger.

July 3, 1891.


Quick Wit Saved Many Lives at Gettysburg. (should read 'Cedar Mountain' – B.F.)

Boys of the Old 13th Massachusetts Slid in Under the Moonlight.

Gen. Samuel H. Leonard – “Killed, Wounded, Missing,” Tells Story.

“It is a singular experience in one man’s life.” Said the veteran, with a smile at Young’s on Wednesday. “But just 28 years ago today I was reported here in Boston, ‘Killed, wounded, missing,’ all three in one. The telegraph did it, I suppose. Nobody else could. I was then at Gettysburg.”

Those who remember those fateful three days 28 years ago will well understand the grimness of the veteran’s remark. He spoke of the first Gettysburg day. I myself vividly call to mind the circumstances attending the reception of President Lincoln’s dispatch assuring the country, in his guarded phraseology, that from what he had heard from the front, all had gone well with our arms.

I was a boy then, and stood in front of the Parker house when that dispatch was read. There was no cheering among the crowd of anxious men, but everybody, as I remember, went to their Fourth of July dinner with a better appetite than they had for about two years.

“But,” I asked the general, “how about that episode at Cedar mountain, where the 13th Massachusetts was reported as ‘all correct’ - with none killed, wounded or missing, and for which your commanding general, Hartsuff, called you to account. I have for years desired that you should explain to the public your conduct on that occasion.”

“Oh, well, there is so much that has been written, and I suppose will still be written about the war, that what I have to say won’t count.”

“But I want to know the true facts, and this is a good time to tell them.”

Re-enactors on the Battlefield, August 5, 2017.

The veteran then considered a moment and at last said:

“This is the anniversary of my death, my wounds and – am I missing? (Then he smiled.) That being so I will tell you.

“At Cedar Mountain I was in command of the 13th Massachusetts regiment. The boys were all in good trim and ready to fight. We were in the rear of the 12th Massachusetts (Fletcher Webster’s). There was heavy firing on our front, and I noticed that the aim of the rebels was almost too accurate.

“Right on a knoll directly in our front was where Capt. N. B. Shurtleff, Jr., of the 12th Massachusetts, after telling the boys of his company to lie low and keep quiet, raised himself on his arm to see whether they obeyed orders, when a bullet pierced his heart and he died then and there. He was one of the noblest smartest, and best of all the Boston boys who went to the war.”

It wasn’t a tear, but I really saw a gleam in the general’s eye as he said this. It was almost a tear.

“But what about your part in it, general?”

“Well, I saw the moonlight glistening on a lot of other guns and bayonets to my right and left, which gave the very mark the enemy were firing at. I didn’t know then, as I remember of Shurtleff’s death, but taking in the situation, I instinctively gave the order of command, “Trail arms!” and not a glistening bayonet of the old 13th did the enemy see that night. We did trail arms. My command went quietly to the front and occupied the ground assigned, and not a bullet struck one of my men.”

“I have read that your were called before your next superior officer, Gen. Hartsuff, who was at first dissatisfied with your report the next morning, which was “all present for duty; no casualties.”

“Yes, I was.”

“Will you please tell me about that?”

The general stroked his beard for a moment and then slowly said:

“Hartsuff was not only one of the best men, but one of the best officers I ever knew. I think he had reason to believe me when I told him the truth, but still when he got my first report he was, well, not non-plussed, but incredulous.

Confederate artillery was posted on the bare hill above the trucks pictured.

“When the order came direct, ‘The general commanding your brigade desires a correct report from Col. Leonard of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment.’ I didn’t feel hurt, because I felt secure and knew that I had not only done right, but had saved my men’s lives and perhaps my own.

“My answer simply was, “’Col. Leonard’s report is correct as first given.’”

“That settled it, of course general?”

“Well, no that didn’t settle it. I was ordered to headquarters to report personally to my brigade-commander, just as soon as the aide could go and come.”

“I went, and Gen. Hartsuff, generally cheerful and confiding, asked me somewhat severely, ‘How does it happen, colonel, that while at the very front last night, while all the regimental commanders in this brigade reported, ‘Killed, wounded and missing,’ you report your own command intact?’

“That is so, general.’ I responded.

“But how did it happen?’

“I then quietly said, as near as I remember, with the moon shining on the glistening guns and bayonets to give a mark for the rebs to shoot at, I simply shouted to my boys, ‘Trail arms!’ and they all trailed.

“Gen. Hartsuff, at that, took a step backward, turned round, and with a smile of satisfaction I shall never forget, simply said, ‘Col. Leonard, you did d--- well! I’ve no fault to find!’”

The writer of this is no stranger to the boys of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment. Right from that very battlefield, and almost among the dead and the dying, an old chum, a private in Company D, wrote this to him, just after the battle (the next day); “We got out of it nicely last night. I think if they had seen our bayonets they would have hit us hard, and perhaps I wouldn’t be writing to you now.”

I have always remembered the words of that private soldier, in the days gone by one of my intimate friends. I have always remembered that little circumstance which saved, probably his own and many other lives in that hard battle.

Capt. Shurtleff, who was so unfortunately killed in Col. Leonard’s front, was one of the brainiest young men who went to the war from Boston. Although only 24 at the time of his death he was already an orator, and had in him not only the making of an ordinary man, but, as I remember his speech to Faneuil Hall just before he went to his death, the qualities of a statesman.

He belongs with Shaw and Lowell and Putnam and Winthrop. Let his name, too, be remembered.

I violate no confidence when I state that for at least 10 years the request has stood from me to Gen. Samuel H. Leonard that I should be permitted to write for publication this little item in his military experience.

And he only consented when I found him missing thus: “Twenty-eight years ago today I was reported killed, wounded and missing.”

He is still one of the youngest of our veterans.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Making Tracks in the Footsteps of the 13th Mass.

Road Trip

The pursuit of General Lee’s army after the battle of Gettysburg, is the subject of the two latest pages  posted at my website.  While assembling the source material, I had the idea to follow part of the route the First Corps took on their march from Maryland, back into Virginia.  My purpose was to take photographs along the way to illustrate the soldiers’ narrative on my website.

Because the road system has changed extensively, I couldn’t be certain I was following the exact route, but I knew the towns the soldiers passed through, and accordingly plotted a trip through those towns of Middleburg, Hamilton, Waterford, and Lovettsville, Virginia to Berlin, Md.

My final destination was the Washington Monument at South Mountain State Park overlooking the town of Boonsboro, MD.   The army camped near there more than one time during their 3 years of service.  Drummer Sam Webster’s journal entry for July 8, 1863 says in part: 

"Camped, high up, to the right side of the Gap, overlooking Boonsboro.  Had to build a stone breastwork before doing anything else."

And, on the next day:

"Went up to top of the mountain with Sawyer, but failed to see much as the fog covered the fort.  Had a good view of the valley in the distance, however."

Boonsboro  was about a three hour drive for us, but close enough to get there and back in one day.

Middleburg, about an hour’s drive from home was my starting point.  From the village I plotted a course north on Foxcroft Road [626] to Goose Creek, where Austin Stearn’s of Company K wrote about his difficulty crossing the creek.

“I remember of fording Goose Creek one hot summers day where the water was three feet deep if you could keep in the right place, but if you turned but a very little to down stream, to four. Some of the boys plunged right in, not caring for the wet; others would take off their pants and, tucking up their shirts, go through dry with the exceptions of their coat tails.  I chose the later way as there was time enough, so strapping my pants and boots on my back and taking a middle course, I got there all right, but when I reached the opposite bank could not climb up, for the banks were steep and so many had gone before that it was only one mass of soft slippery mud. There was nothing to stick to; it all wanted to stick to you.  Others were in the same predicament, and after vainly trying several times and slipping back each time, I got a friendly hand and came out all right at last with dry pants and boots.  The Gen’l sat on his horse and laughed as though he enjoyed it.”
Below is a picture of where Foxcroft Road crosses Goose Creek.  Austin Stearns would have crossed the creek somewhere close to here.

The army marched from North to South, but of course, I was headed in the opposite direction.  From Goose Creek, my wife and I continued on route 626 to route 611 and then to where 611 crosses the ‘Snickersville Turnpike.’  At this junction we took Silcott Springs Road [690] north to Purcellville.

Sam Webster recorded in his journal during the army’s march south, that this portion of Virginia, north of the Snickersville Turnpike, had much more Union sentiment as opposed to those residents south of it.  

Tuesday, July 21st 1863.  The loyalty of the people on the north side of the pike through Snicker’s gap was exemplified yesterday.  A girl 14 or maybe 16 years old on the way to school emptied her dinner basket and gave her dinner to the men - and did it willingly.  A short distance further on, at a house on the right of the road, the lady of the house gave all the bread, etc., she had just taken out of the oven. She said she was a doing this “for her government,” and if she “had only known they were coming, she would have baked more.”  Besides, she had her boys carrying out water to the road.  As an offset Charlie Haas, of 94th N.Y. last evening while waiting at a house for some milk was, with another, surprised by gurerrilas, brought by the man of the house, and carried off to Mosby’s over the Bull Run Mtn. Mosby wished him to join his band, but he refused. He was paroled to go to Alexandria, came into camp instead, and a guard was sent to arrest the man who betrayed him.  He was found upstairs under a bed, where, he said, he was hunting for something.  Said he had never seen Charlie. (This is all from the story as afterward told by Charlie.)

At Purcellville we turned directly east on Main street and kept going the short distance to Hamilton.  The 13th Mass camped at the west end of the village of Hamilton, or Harmony Church, on Sunday, July 19, 1863, arriving as Charles E. Davis, Jr. wrote, “Alas ! too late for church services.”

We didn’t attend church either, but stopped for a rather nice lunch at a place called Lowry’s Crab Shack, just on the west side of the village.

Sgt. Austin C. Stearns and Clarence Bell both mentioned the houses of Hamilton, VA, flying the National flag.

Lots of cars, traffic signs, telephone poles and other signs of modernity cluttered up some of these picturesque towns, making it difficult to get a suitable image to accompany an 1863 narrative, but I made a few attempts regardless.  There was a lot of ground to cover, so we only made the simplest of efforts to that end.

Pictured is a patriotic house in Hamilton.  The electrical wires don't do the house justice, but we were in a bit of a hurry to move on.  Other pictures in Hamilton proved equally obstructed by modernity.

From Hamilton, we wanted to go to Waterford, 5.2 miles distant.  We turned left on route 704 north, Hamilton Station Road, and followed it northeast, to just south of the town of Waterford.

Waterford was the first town the regiment bivouacked at after they crossed the Potomac River into Virginia from Berlin, Md., on July 18, 1863.

Pictured, is a photo of Waterford, taken en route.

We took Milltown road [681] to Lovettesville, Va, then followed route 287, the 3.5 miles from there directly to Brunswick, formerly Berlin, Maryland.

This was as far as I attempted to re-trace the route of the First Corps.  We spent the rest of the afternoon, wandering around Western Maryland, going to places I know the regiment visited.

We followed the Potomac River along the old C & O canal before turning north up Pleasant Valley to Boonsboro, stopping at South Mountain Park.

Along the way we passed through Knoxville, and Sandy Hook, MD, two towns the 13th Mass passed through and camped at, on many occasions early in their service.

On the way back we went a different route, the idea being to get to Berryville, VA, then up into the mountains to Bluemont, in order to drive the Snickersville Turnpike back down to Middleburg.  The 13th Mass also passed this way a few times during their service.

The trip was a lot of fun.  We made a day of it and were able to get home by 9 p.m. after many interesting stops along the way.

Pictured below is a panoramic of Knoxville, Md. near Sandy Hook and Harper's Ferry.  The 13th Mass spent many months in this area in the winter of 1861 - 1862.

You can view these pictures and get more of a feel for the real march by visiting the new pages of my website.  There's lots more there too.  I hope you enjoyed the trip.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Trip to Winchester

     Living in Virginia has advantages; one such being that nearly everyplace is historic.  Saturday I went with family to see my nephew march with the West Allegheny [Pennsylvania] Band in the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival Parade.

     This was my first opportunity to stop in the town.  The ground we staked out on the parade route was on Cork Street directly across from historic Loudon Street, which sported a large bold  sign over the intersection  that read ‘Old Town Winchester.’  Its now a pedestrian arcade.  The  old buildings had  signs that dated them back to the early 1800’s.  I asked one of the nearby vendors selling hamburgers if the Old Courthouse was nearby.  She was not from the area, but recalled seeing it listed on her gps  when she drove to work that morning.  It was about a block and 1/2 over that way, she said pointing.

      In March, 1862, the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers marched into Winchester; — among the first ‘Yankees’ to occupy the town, and the first of many times the town would change hands during the war.

Charles Davis, Jr. wrote in the regiment’s history, “Three Years in the Army,”:

     “We had hardly entered the main street of the town when General Jackson and Colonel Ashby were discovered on horseback, in front of the Taylor House, waving an adieu with their hats.  An order was immediately given to fire, but we were not quick enough to do them harm or retard their flight.  This was a daring thing to do, though common enough with such men as Jackson and Ashby.

     “We were marched down the main street, the band playing patriotic airs, while the people scanned our appearance to see what a Yankee looked like.  Some who were prepared to scoff could get no farther than “How fat they are!”

    “..The regiment was detailed as provost guard of the town, and proceeded at once to secure quarters in the unoccupied buildings.

     “…Two of the companies were quartered in the hall in the court-house.”

     The 13th Massachusetts regiment had its fair share of hubris.  Four days after arriving,  Chaplain Noah Gaylord “preached a rattling sermon on, "The Evils of Secession," in front of the court-house.  Notice having been given out to the town-people that he was to preach, advantage was taken by some of them to be present and listen to a  “Yankee” preacher.

     A soldier named Frank, in Co. K of the 13th Mass, described the sermon in a letter home, published in the local newspaper,  the ’Westboro’ Transcript.’

“Since writing the above we have attended services. They were held in the square in front of the court-house.  

There was a large assemblage of citizens and soldiers beside our own regt.  I don’t know what the people thought of Mr. Gaylord, for he did give it to the rebel Virginians good.  I saw some awful long looking faces, and also some smiling ones.  He told the citizens that here was a sample of the mudsills of the North.  A sample of the soldiers that were a coming South, to burn, destroy property, ravish their women, commit murder, and such depredations, as the Southern press has led the people to believe.  He asked the people if they had seen any indications of such actions or treatment amongst the Union troops since they had been here, &c.

Mr. Gaylord was in all his glory as he stood on the court-house steps addressing the people.  I never saw him when he was so eloquent.  I think he must have forgot it was the Sabbath when he spoke of Senator Mason.  He called him a traitor and everything but what was good.  He told his hearers that he had draggooned the people of Virginia into this rebellion, and it was such as he, and his kind, that had got the whole South drawn in.  There was something novel about our services, considering the time, place and circumstances.  I think that Mr. Gaylord is the first chaplain that has had an opportunity of speaking to the Virginians in such a hot-bed of rebeldom, and so large a town as this. “

     History shows, Chaplain Gaylord’s sermon made little impression on the citizens of Winchester.

     Back to the parade…

    There was a half hour before the Apple Blossom Festival parade was to start, so with my sister-in-law, we started down the arcade in search of the historic court-house.  Like any place, local residents are probably not much impressed with familiar land-marks they see frequently in their home town.   Such must be true of the court-house, amidst the ‘touristy attractions’ of local shops and restaurants.  But for me, the Chaplain’s sermon always loomed large, among the many memorable and humorous incidents in the history of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.

     Because of the hamburger vendor’s instructions we circumvented the area, not knowing that a short stroll directly down Loudon would get us to our destination.  Coming around from the back  made the surprise that much greater for me when we found it.  My sister-in-law prompted me to have a picture taken on the steps.

     So, here I am in front of the  historic Winchester Court-House, now a Civil War museum.  I refrained from giving any sermons however, although the subject of "How the 13th Massachusetts Won the Civil War For the Union,” did come to mind.   …Perhaps another day.

     Right down the street I spotted the unmistakable architecture of the  Taylor House, with its imposing 3 story columns rising up from the street.  There were amusing stories about this place too.  But it was time to get back for the parade.

     It turned out to be a long wait for the West Allegheny Marching Band.  Two hours passed and there was still no evidence of their approach.   The afternoon waned and  a chill descended upon the parade watchers, for it had been a wet and rainy day. I went in search of coffee to warm ourselves, my wife and I.   I was directed across the street to a new bakery that served it.  And, of course, while I was inside, waiting for my order, the West Allegheny Marching Band went marching past the big bay window of the store front facing Cork Street.

     We are proud of you Robby!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Officers of the 13th Mass.

Please, no stealing this image!

For nearly 9 years the following photo has graced the home page of my website,

It is my favorite photograph, of the 9 or so images that were tucked into the side flap of my Great-Great Grandfather's war diary.  William titled the picture 'Officers of the 13th Regt" and carefully marked with x's, - and labeled the identities of Captain Charles H. Hovey, and Lieutenant Charles B. Fox, both at the time the image was taken, officers of his company, Company K.  After all these years, I'd like to try and take a guess at some of the other identities.

Starting at the far left, it took close examination but I discovered there is a soldier standing flush with the dark tree who barely shows up in the image.  I cropped him out and lightened the sample in photoshop so he might be seen more clearly.

He is a big 'hairy' fellow, not that they all aren't, in fact that is one reason that its so hard to identify these guys.  The facial hair gives them an uncanny resemblance to one another.  Anyway, the biggest and hairiest officer I have reference for is First Lieutenant Samuel Neat, of Company A.  I think this is him - unintentionally blending into the tree.

 I hope you all can see him.  To be honest, Capt. Whitcomb of Co. F also looks very similar to the man in this image.  But Lt. Neat has bulkier shoulders and I think this man does too.  Another argument in favor of this being Lt. Neat, is that I think the man standing in front of him is Captain James A. Fox, also of Company A.

By the way, click on these images to see them larger...  Here is a more formal portrait of Lieutenant Neat. (above in near b&w)

Here is a picture of Capt. Whitcomb, Co. F.

Moving on to Captain Fox... This is a guess on my part. But here is another blurry image of Capt. Fox at Williamsport, with a positive ID.  See b&w image below.

In this image, Capt. Fox is standing next to Quartermaster Craig.  The forage cap seems to be a match, and the pointy beard too perhaps?  The men standing in this image were carefully identified by its previous owner, George Tainter of Company A.  Unfortunately, this small blurry copy is all that I have.  The dealer who sent it to me claimed the original was also v. blurry.

I was going to say, that the next man in line, 3rd from left, (who appears to be 2nd from left because of the tree hiding Lt. Neat) is Captain Fiske of Company G.  That is because the man 4th from left is definitely First-Lieutenant Loring Richardson, of same company.  However, seeing this blurry image of Capt. Fox and Quartermaster George Craig, makes it clear this man standing third from left is indeed Quartermaster Craig.  He is wearing the same get-up with a tie beneath his frock coat.  There goes my theory of First-Lieutenants standing next to their Captains, out the window.  That would have made the job of trying to identify these guys much easier.

By the way, any experts on Uniforms, please jump in to help.  That is not my strong point.

Moving right along, I can give a positive ID to Lt. Loring Richardson, as I just stated. His distinctive side burns and strong jaw are clear cut identifiers.

My Great-Great Grandfather, Private William Henry Forbush has identified the soldier next to Loring Richardson as Captain Charles H. Hovey.  I would not have guessed this from other images I have of Hovey, but I can't argue with gramps, and, Capt. Hovey, was quite an imposing officer who rose to the rank of Lt.-Col. of the 13th Mass.(2nd in command) by the time Grant's Overland Campaign began in 1864.  The identified officer clearly has a martial bearing.

I don't know who the little guy is standing in front of him.  The detail is poor, for his profile seems noseless, or his head is turned further 3/4 to the rear than it appears, or its just blurred.  I'd like to conjecture its one of the 3 Cary brothers, probably Joseph or William,  but I can't really compare the images I have of the Cary's with this man, because he is turned away.

First-Lieutenant Charles B. Fox is easily recognized standing slightly apart from the first group, 7th from the left.  He would be a positive ID even if my ancestor hadn't pointed him out.  Behind Lt. Fox, Major J. P. Gould, his friend.  Both Fox & Gould  were outside of the 'clique' made up by the  other officers in the regiment.  In service, however, both Fox and Gould proved their unpopularity was unmerited.

Major Gould would have been a hard call, but he is positively identified in another image I have from camp, and the likeness between the two images is strong.

Although this edit from a xerox copy of the image is rough, I found the same image on file in the collection of images belonging to the Westborough Historical Society.  Most of the images in their collection had been labeled, probably by the town historian, Dr. Reed, in the 1940's.  This soldier was identified as Major Gould.  I have seen other copies of the same photograph at Carlisle's Army Heritage Center.

(Here is the full image.  By the way, spacing images with this blogger format isn't easy.)

So just to recap, in the banner image we have tentatively, standing left to right, Lt. Samuel Neat, Co. A;  Capt. James Fox, Co. A; Quartermaster George Craig, holding the sheet of paper; Lieutenant Loring S. Richardson, Co. G;  Captain Charles H. Hovey, Co. K; Unknown; Lieutenant Charles B. Fox, Co. K, (facing left);  Major Jacob Parker Gould, beside Lt. Fox; and then...

someone's head is peaking between Major Gould and the next man.  The face is very familiar to me for some reason, but I cannot put a positive ID on this soldier just now.  It could be Captain William Jackson of Co. C. pictured here.

For the longest time I thought it might be Lt. Col. N. W. Batchelder, with his long mustache and pointy beard, --and maybe it is.  The hat matches Batchelder's and the pictured man seems to have the proper facial hair.  The one thing that gives me pause is that Major Gould, and Lt.-Col. Batchelder did not get along, and its difficult to consider them standing this close.  Perhaps their dislike for each other had not yet ripened when this picture was taken.  But I would also think Batchelder would be more front and center considering his rank. 

The pose, with the angle of the face, and the squinty eyes and what seems to be a pointy goatee,  though its hard to see, also reminds me of the only portrait I have of Capt. David Brown of Company I.  (You really have to zoom in on the picture to see this guy. )  I'd like to think Lieutenant, (later Captain) Brown was in this picture.  He's one of those guys I know little about, yet he was with the regiment a long time.

 This guy needs some further work, but I'm hopeful I'll get it right one day.

When I began writing this post, I was certain the next man in line was Corporal Morton Tower.  I can't recall now what made me so certain at one time, but I do have another image with Tower taken during this time in the  history of the unit, but he is not wearing an overcoat, and the corporal stripes are clearly visible.  So I'm going to have to go with unknown for most of the rest of the officers pictured.

Lt. Edwin R. Frost, Co. E,  seems to be next (4th from the right).  Frost is pictured at right.

He is interacting with an officer I  always thought to be Captain Clark of Company H.  Clark is labeled in the xerox image I posted, but he is standing in a shadow and its difficult to see much of him.  I probably assumed this was also Clark in my image because he is holding about the same exact stance.  What appears to be a prominent lower lip on this officer would be characteristic of Capt. Clark's features, but the facial hair doesn't match the other existing image I have of him.  This doesn't rule him out - its just I wish I could get a better copy of that image up in Westboro to compare.

If its not Clark, it might be Captain Fiske of Co. G.  I'll refrain from posting Clark and Fiske, so as not to clutter this page up with any more images, but readers can visit the site map page of my website and find them there.

I don't know who the remaining two soldiers on the right of the picture could be.

So for what its worth, that's how it stands.  Some positive ID's and a lot of speculation.  But I'll keep working at it.  It's come a long way from just Hovey & Fox.

The Regimental History & Gettysburg

It is not often that I find errors in the excellent regimental history of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers, written by Charles E. Davis, Jr., in 1893, and published in 1894.  The history received high praise and is considered a classic of its genre.

Here's high praise for Davis's work  from Lt-Col. Charles H. Hovey written in a letter to historian Major John M. Gould (formerly of the 10th Maine) on March 12, 1894.

"Before I close will you please allow me to thank you for the Kind and very intelligent review you gave of "Three Years in the War; A Story of the 13th Vol. Infy"

"My friend Davis mailed the clipping and I read it with the feeling that the book was understood and appreciated by one who knew something about war books.

"I have read many news-paper notices of the book, but none are equal to yours:

"I don't Care for more puffs; and praise that seems forced; but I do care very much for a review that indicates an insight and an appreciative knowledge of what the author, (an eighteen year old boy when enlisted, and who writes as a soldier boy, feeling & knowing it all from a private's position) has faithfully and carefully prepared for publication.

"It may not be known to you that Mr. Davis was very severely wounded at 2nd Bull Run and that the personal experience, that helped him up to that time had to be supplemented by what the rest of us, who served through, could furnish for publication.

"Some critics think they can discover when he left, and that the last twenty odd months of service were not experienced by Davis, but I think he has worked the Story up wonderfully, and kept up the tone of the first year nearly as well as if he had got to Petersburg with us." - Ch'as H. Hovey, Late Lt. Col. 13th Mass. Vol. Infy

Private Davis joined the regiment at its inception.  He was very badly wounded at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, on August 30, 1862, and mustered out the following February.

In 1892, after a failed attempt by another to write a history for the regiment, Davis was elected by the surviving veterans to tackle the job. He was a gifted writer and wrote the history from the perspective of a private, drawing on his  personal experiences and those of others.

To write the regimental history he had at his disposal:
 "the diaries of Lieut. William R. Warner, Samuel D. Webster, Lieut. Edward F. Rollins, Lieut. Robert B. Henderson, and Sergeant William R. Coombs.  None of the diaries covered all the time, but those of Messrs. Warner, Webster, and Rollins were the most complete; those of Messrs. Henderson and Coombs included the Mine Run and Wilderness campaigns.  Col. Charles H. Hovey made copies of such parts of all his letters as related to our movements during his presence with the regiment.  The regimental books, papers, and maps were turned over to me by Col. Samuel H. Leonard.  The "War Records" which are in progress of publication by the government have been of great service in settling disputed points."  I have derived information from other comrades, whom I have met from time to time, chief among whom is Sergeant Jeremiah P. Blake."*

Of these references, I have examined all 3 copies of Sam Webster's diary, and have copies of William R. Warner's diary entries for Gettysburg.  Edward Rollins was an editor of Bivouac Magazine, 1885 - 1888; and I have mined all of these volumes for his writings.  I also have an original copy of the history.

The only glaring omission in the completed work, is the coverage given to the 6 months service in Maryland during the regiments early days at Sharpsburg, Sandy Hook, Harper's Ferry, Darnestown, Williamsport, Hancock,  and other places.

In comparing the history to other source materials I have found only  a few minor errors.  But the entries for Gettysburg on July 2nd & 3rd can be downright confusing.

Davis was not present at the battle so he had to rely on his sources.  Drummer Sam Webster, was not in the action so his diary entries are of little use to the narrative.  The Warner account is wonderful, but it jumps around a bit giving impressions of all 3 days actions in a somewhat random manner.  Perhaps Davis got confused.

The narrative for July first, is very strong.  This was the most important day, when they were heavily engaged on Oak Ridge, and lost 2/3 of their men.  The only puzzle I find, is that Davis attributed the prisoners captured on the Mummasburg Road to a 'North Carolina Regiment,' when William R. Warner clearly attributes them to a regiment from Alabama.  This seemingly tiny misapprehension has significant implications, for the Alabama brigade attacked the Union line from a different direction than the North Carolinians. The action on this part of the battlefield is still shrouded in some mystery, and Davis's statement unfortunately adds to the confusion.

My own theory holds that Warner is correct.  A prominent Gettysburg historian familiar with this part of the field told me, that he always presumed that the captured prisoners had to be from Alabama.

The confusion I have with Davis's narrative for July 2nd start 2 1/2 paragraphs into his entry, after he writes,

"later in the evening we returned to Cemetery Hill to support Ricketts' and Weidrick's batteries, which were being charged by the Louisiana Tigers."

Up to here all is correct.  About 9 p.m. the regiment moved from their supporting position on Cemetery Ridge, somewhat south of where the Pennsylvania Monument stands today, to the support of the batteries on East Cemetery Hill, where the Tigers attacked.  But by the time they arrived, the enemy had been repulsed; with the help of re-enforcements sent unsolicited by General Hancock. The  next couple of paragraphs in the regimental history are somewhat muddled.

Davis continues;
 "We were thrown in the front of these guns, with orders to hug the ground as closely as possible while the batteries fired over us." 

Then Davis writes a descriptive paragraph of 6 or 7 sentences describing this dangerous type of duty.

Evidence does exist, that suggests Robinson's division took a position in front of the batteries, facing sniper fire from the town sometime after 9 p.m the night of July 2nd and first light on July 3rd.  Many of the regiments reference as much.  [Perhaps more on this later]. But according to these writings, it is uncertain they performed this duty immediately after their arrival, and I do not have historian Davis's source of reference for this passage.  It was dark and the batteries were for the most part silent when they arrived at night. 

At the battle of Fredericksburg, the regiment did engage in this type of duty, which is very dangerous, and several of the men were wounded and one man killed as a result of the batteries firing over them.  A similar description of the dangers of this type of work is described then.  Charles Davis seems to have repeated the description for his Gettysburg entry to add detail and interest to the narrative.

After describing the dangerous duty of lying in front of the batteries, comes another confusing paragraph.

Davis writes,
"All the afternoon we listened to the sound of battle at our right on Culp's Hill, dreading defeat and another retreat.  It made us sick at heart to think of what might occur in such an event, and glad we were when night came and put a temporary stop to the fighting.  Evidently we had not held our own at this point."

The battle at Culp's Hill took place in the evening, between 7 - 10 p.m. July 2nd, not in the afternoon as Davis writes.  Perhaps if he wrote, 'evening,' instead of 'afternoon,' the passage would make more sense. I would also think, even though it was mid-summer, that it was dark well before the fighting on the hill ended, around 9 or 10 p.m.

A couple questions come to mind with this passage.  Where was the writer of this comment positioned when listening to the battle at Culp's Hill?  [The Warner & Webster diaries don't reference the fighting on Culp's Hill].  The maps of Gettysburg historian, John Bachelder, place them near Little Round Top until about 9 p.m., after which time they moved back towards Cemetery Hill.  Exploring their position between 9 p.m. July 2nd and 4 a.m. July 3rd is the subject of another post. But before concluding here, I'd like to point out one other slight error in the entry for July 3.

The entry for July 3rd has an omission, and a mistake.  Davis makes no mention of the early morning fight on Culp's Hill that lasted from first light until about 10 a.m.  Instead,he gives an absolutely wonderful description of the regiment changing its position early in the morning.  The description is so detailed, it re-enforces the idea that the regiment was in fact in front of the batteries facing the town before first light July 3rd; -- but more on this in another post.

The slight mistake comes later, when Davis' describes the regiments move towards Zieglar's Grove on Cemetery Ridge in the late afternoon during 'Pickett's Charge.'.  Here, Davis inserts a lengthy homage to the 16th Maine, when a shell exploded among their very thin ranks during the double-quick across the ridge. The tribute is moving, and fitting, but the event, according to the history of the 16th Maine, and William Warner's diary, occurred during a similar movement in the late afternoon of July 2nd.  It is even mentioned in Davis's narrative for July 2nd.  He wrote,

"While we were formed in line, marching brigade front, a shell exploded in the midst of an adjoining regiment, knocking over a dozen men."

Why Davis failed to realize the two incidents he described on July 2nd & 3rd were one in the same is unclear.

Although these are criticisms of the work, they are only brought forth here for clarification. Davis's work on the whole is brilliant. Another post on the subject of Gettysburg may follow as suggested above.

*I have no source material from Sgt. Blake.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The First Rhode Island Cavalry at Middleburg, June 17-18, 1863; Part 2

The story continues from the previous blog post...


      Colonel Duffié was fully aware of our desperate situation; he ordered the regiment into column of fours and said to me, “Captain Bliss, you will take the head of the column, no obstacle whatever stop you, we are surrounded here; we must cut our way out.”   

     We took the road towards Hopeville Gap, the same road over which a few minutes before Captain Haynes had charged upon us at the head of Companies G and H of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, and moved on at a walk, the usual marching gait. We had marched less than a mile when I heard shots in the rear, and soon Colonel Duffié came galloping to the head of the column and said, “Cavalry in our rear, boys.  Let us go,” and we went.   

     The horse I brought from Rhode Island, and which had carried me so many miles, had been lost on the 16th of June at Manassas by carelessness and disobedience of orders by my negro servant in letting the animal graze without a picket rope, and I was riding a horse loaned me by Lieutenant Vaughan, and sitting an English instead of a military saddle. The ride was after the style of let the best horse win, and frequently my feet would be thrown out of my light stirrups by crowding horses in the narrow road which caused me to slacken the pace while regaining the stirrups, and so it soon happened that although I started at the head of the procession I found myself rapidly falling back towards the rear.   

     At last I was where I could hear the rebels shouting, “Surrender, its no use, you can’t get away,” and hear their bullets sing as they fired into the column, and could also see our men turning in their saddles and firing back through the dust that covered us all like a heavy fog.  I saw that if I continued in the road I must soon be killed, or taken prisoner, and noticing that on the mountain side of the road there was no fence I reined my horse sharply to the left, but he was determined to follow the column and did not obey the rein.  For a moment I thought I was lost, but, with a desperate effort, I gave him the rein again together with my left spur, and making a slight angle with the road he darted into the woods at a point where there was a tree with limbs so low as to sweep me over the horse’s tail and leave me sitting on the ground with a drawn saber in my right hand, while the horse rapidly disappeared forever from my sight among the thick woods of the mountain side. 

     As I sat there I saw that several of my comrades had followed my lead, and they passed by me into the woods.  Although but a few yards from the road the air was so thick with dust that the whole rebel column thundered by without a man discovering me, and as soon as they had passed I rose and climbed up the mountain a short distance, where I found six men of my regiment in a dense thicket of laurel bushes within a short gun-shot of the road. I sat down among them to rest, and as I always carried with me a pocket inkstand and writing materials, I improved the time by writing to my old college chum, David V. Gerald, the following letter:

June 18, 1863.

     Our regiment has just been cleaned up.  We left Manassas Junction yesterday morning.  We had a skirmish at Thoroughfare Gap, but succeeded in forcing a passage with a loss  of only three horses killed and some wounded.  We reached Middleburg, having had considerable skirmishing along the road.  We found a small party of rebel cavalry in this place, but drove them out and established our pickets, expecting hourly the rest of our brigade to join us, via. Aldie, but it seems General Stuart, with a large force, had already taken Aldie and so we were left out in the cold, or rather shut up in among the mountains, in a regular trap, entirely surrounded by the rebels. 
     Just after sunset last night the rebel cavalry charged upon us with overwhelming numbers. Our men fought stubbornly, and many rebs bit the dust, but it was no use, we were obliged to retreat, which we did in good order, leaving about eighty of our men killed, wounded and prisoners; we fell back about two miles and stopped.  We had no guides and did not know in what direction to go.  At daybreak the enemy attacked us and we retreated.  By this time the men were very much discouraged, knowing our hopeless condition.  We had gone but a short distance when we were attacked, both in front and in rear.  Our plain duty was to charge and cut our way through, but the men would not do it. 
     At this time, while at the head of the column, trying to get the men to charge with me, a bullet struck the blade of my saber and glancing wounded me slightly in the right fore arm, but it is only a scratch, does not interfere, as you see, with writing.  The men went into a field to the left of the road, and ran promiscuously.  At last, by tremendous exertion n the part of the officers, the men were rallied, and we charged the rebels, who ran when they saw we meant fight. We then continued our retreat, but the rebels came down on our rear before we had gone a mile, and routed our men completely.  I was at the head of the column, and had orders to charge and cut my way through all obstructions, and I did not believe anything short of artillery or a barricade would have stopped us, but the attack on the rear was fatal.  Colonel Duffié rode by me saying, “Cavalry in our rear, boys, let us go,” and we did go.  I traveled with the rest about three miles, and the rebels were constantly shooting down men at the rear of the column. I lost my big bay horse several days ago, and found myself gradually dropping to the rear, and saw I must soon be shot or be taken prisoner unless I did something for myself with great swiftness, so I just dashed off sideways into the woods, a tree swept me from the saddle, and I stopped while the horse went on.  Some of the men saw my dodge, and imitated the same, and I have six men and five horses here with me. We have been lying here for an hour listening to the rebels talk.  They are constantly passing by here, but they will have to be smart to catch this crowd.  I intend to pilot this crowd safely out of the woods; but we have got a hard row to hoe among these mountains.

     I hear a rebel damning a prisoner.  I don’t know whether you will ever get this letter; if you don’t get it write, and if you do get it write ; but by all means write. I suppose nearly all our regiment are either killed, wounded or prisoners by this time; another sacrifice to poor generalship.  Still, I think our affairs never looked brighter.  If Lee will only go with his army fifty miles into Pennsylvania we shall clean him up.  This letter is private.  I don’t care if Tom Bishop, or any one else you can trust, sees it, but don’t care to have the main facts public.

June 19, 1863.
I have been successful in joining the remnant of our regiment.  I brought off with me
Edward C. Capwell, Hospital Steward.
William J. Bowley, [M] Troop.
Sergt. Alvin S. Eaton, [M] Troop.
George H. Dix, [M] Troop.
E. Carns, [M] Troop.
James H. Collins, [A] Troop.

     Perhaps it may be advisable to publish these names as safe.  From talk with various officers, who have escaped, I am sure the rebels suffered severely; in fact, I think their loss equal to ours. About forty of those in the fight have got in.

Lt.-Col. Thompson,
Capt. Allen,
Lt. Prentiss,
Lt. Brown,
Lt. Ellis,
Capt. Gould,
Capt. Bliss,
St. Shurtleff,

Of those officers who went out, these are all who have returned up to date, but we have good reason to think that there are more in the mountains who will come in sooner or later.

Publish the names of these officers.
      I was obliged to abandon our horses, and make our way over the mountains on foot, but I saved my arms.  The bullet that wounded me, struck the blade of my saber, and glancing scratched my arm.  The bullet would undoubtedly have struck my body if it had not glanced from my saber. I hope to return the compliment with the same saber before the war is over.  Lieutenant Burgess, Captain Rhodes and Lieutenant Vaughan went to Washington sick, June 17th, and were not in the fight.  Tell father, Charles was not in the fight and is all right somewhere.  When you get this please inform father of my safety immediately.  I am obliged to make this one letter answer for all.  Daniel W. Ide, of East Providence, was not in the fight, having been with the dismounted men since April 13th.

     It is too bad to slaughter a regiment needlessly as we were.  I may be egotistical, but I believe that if I had been in command I would have safely extricated the regiment from its perilous condition on the night of June 17th.  I would have gone to a house, taken a man and told him to take me across Bull Run mountains, and that if he brought me among the rebs I would blow out his brains on the spot. We were halted all night when we ought to have been marching.  But it is no use to lament the past; let us profit by our sad experience and do better next time.  While I can knaw hard bread I shall never say die.
Yours truly,
G. N. Bliss.

     After writing the first part of the foregoing letter I assumed command of the party, and we moved towards the summit of the mountain, feeling sure we would find Union troops on the east side, if we could succeed in crossing.  Having my field-glass with me I went in advance, and at every opportunity viewed the country.  I saw the rebel videttes at cross-roads in the distance, and could, therefore, easily avoid them.   

     As we were going along he mountain side we disturbed a partridge with her brood of young, and they ran in front of us for several yards, and nothing I saw in my whole soldier life, awoke in me so strong a longing for home and the pursuits of peaceful life.   

     After traveling some miles we found we were not on the Bull Run Mountain, but on an outlying hill, and must descend into a valley to reach the ridge we wished to cross.  In the valley we found a delightful brook of clear cold water, and determined to rest and refresh our horses here.  We bathed in the brook, and then seeing an approaching thunder-storm, put up our shelter tents and waited for the shower to pass.  Just as the rain was ceasing, two mounted rebels passed near us, and as we saw them it was reasonable to suppose they saw us, and to conjecture that a larger force was near by, from whom we might soon expect an attack. We determined, therefore, to abandon our horses and climb the mountain, at a point where it was too rough for horses to travel.   It was about dark as we pushed on up the mountain side over rocks and among brush and briars, until, about ten o’clock, we found a clearing on the mountain top with a house in its centre.   After careful reconnoitering we found only two persons were there, and then asked admission.   

     The lady of the house was about sixty years old, and was reluctant to admit us, but we insisted, and as we had some silver with us, and paid it for our supper of corn-bread and milk, she became quite sociable.  She had never seen a Yankee before, but had once possessed a Yankee needle and a Yankee pin. We put one man on picket, and the others had a comfortable night lying before the wood-fire burning in the huge stone fire-place. In the morning after a breakfast of corn-bread and milk, we started down the east side of the mountain, and in a few hours caught sight of a cavalry picket, and passing through the lines soon found Major Turner and a small squad of our men, who had not been with the regiment on its unfortunate raid. 

    A few days later those who had escaped from this disaster were assembled at Alexandria.  Colonel Duffié, with four officers and twenty-seven men, escaped though Hopewell Gap and marched to Centreville, where he made so good a report to General Hooker that he was recommended by him to be promoted and receive a commission as Brigadier-General, dated June 17, 1863.  It is reported that General Duffié said, “My goodness, when I do well, they take no notice of me.  When I go make one bad business, make one fool of myself, they promote me, make me General.”

     In all the fighting of the first day we did not have a man wounded; and if the regiment had cut its way out during the night of the 17th, the affair would have been a brilliant feat of arms, as we had penetrated to the centre of Stuarts’s Cavalry, and caused him to change all his plans and order Munford to fall back from the strong position where he was at Aldie, holding our entire cavalry force at bay.  On the second day, the 18th, we had six killed and twenty wounded; the killed were Lieutenant J. A. Chedell (C), Corporal T. Burton (F), S. Wilcox (D), J.H. Elkins (M), Charles Fairbanks (M), and B. G. Lawrence (M).

     We had in the tow days 210 captured, but forty of them succeeded in escaping, and only 170 were taken as prisoners to Richmond.  The Color-Sergeant. G. A. Robinson (Troop I), when he found he would be captured took the colors from the staff and wrapped them around his body under his clothing, and after being a prisoner for several days escaped, and brought the colors safely back to the regiment, for which he was rewarded by promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. 

     During the confusion of our first retreat through the wheat-field in the morning of June 18th, a rebel rode up toe Lawrence Cronan, who carried the guidon of Company C, and demanded the surrender of the flag.  Cronan refused, and the rebel fired, sending a bullet through Cronan’s right arm, his breast, and wounding his left arm, but Cronan rode off with the flag as though nothing had happened.  Soon after, Cronan became faint through loss of blood, gave his flag to a comrade, and was left behind a prisoner.  Cronan was taken to Middleburg, but was recaptured at noon of the 18th, when our cavalry corps entered the town, was sent to the hospital at Washington, recovered from his wounds, and served until the end of the war.  While Cronan was lying wounded and a prisoner, the rebel who shot him came to his side and said, “Why did you not surrender that flag,” to which Cronan replied, “It was not given me for that purpose.”  The rebel said, “Well, you are tough,” and passed on.

      This movement of the First Rhode Island Cavalry on Middleburg, resulting in disaster to the regiment, was of great service to our arms. It at once resulted in an order from General Stuart for the retreat of his troops from Aldie, where they had held a position so strong that our whole cavalry corps had failed to dislodge them. Our cavalry passed the Aldie Gap and for several days pushed Stuart’s troops severely, and it is thought that General Stuart’s desire to retaliate by a brilliant feat of arms led him to make the raid between Washington and the Army of the Potomac, thereby depriving General Lee of the services of Stuart and his veteran cavalrymen for many days, and for want of the information they might have given, causing, as many Confederate officers believe, the crushing defeat at Gettysburg.