Looking into the Face of a Maimed Irish Soldier - At the close of the American Civil War, a photographer of the Johnson & D’Utassy company paid a visit to De Camp General Hospital on David’s Island in New ...
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This blog will relate to my research of the Thirteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers of the Civil War. It will center around this and the building of my website dedicated to the regiment, 13thmass.org
"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:
"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
"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."*
"later in the evening we returned to Cemetery Hill to support Ricketts' and Weidrick's batteries, which were being charged by the Louisiana Tigers."
"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."
"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."
"While we were formed in line, marching brigade front, a shell exploded in the midst of an adjoining regiment, knocking over a dozen men."
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 meEdward 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.
It is the movement of Colonel Duffié by way of Thoroughfare Gap, which was accomplished in the midst of the greatest dangers and with wonderful daring, but also with heavy loss, which finally led to the retreat of Munford. Duffié, with his two hundred and eighty men, had unexpectedly made his appearance in front of Chambliss’ brigade, but he had succeeded in disguising his numerical weakness from the Confederates, who were entirely worn out, and little desirous, undoubtedly, to bring on an action; so that while Chambliss was under the impression that he had a superior force to deal with, Duffié, stealing away in the night, was rapidly marching upon Middleburg.
Colonel Duffié’s division started from Centreville for Middleburg, by way of Thoroughfare Gap, but finding the enemy (W.H.F. Lee’s brigade) were already in the Gap, they went around through Hopewell Gap and kept on to Middleburg, which Duffié reached about 9:30 A.M.
Col. A.N. Duffié First Rhode Island Cavalry:You will proceed with your regiment from Manassas Junction by the way of Thoroughfare Gap, to Middleburg; there you will camp for the night, and communicate with the headquarters of the Second Cavalry Brigade. From Middleburg you will proceed to Union; thence to Snickersville; from Snickersville to Percyville; thence to Wheatland, and, passing through Waterford, to Nolan’s Ferry, where you will join your brigade.
Report of Capt. Frank Allen, First Rhode Island Cavalry.Alexandria, Va., June 22, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor to report that about 5 p.m. on the evening of the 17th instant I was sent from Middleburg, where the regiment was then engaged with the enemy, to carry a dispatch to General Kilpatrick at Aldie, accompanied by 2 men. I first attempted to proceed by the main road, but was halted and fired upon by a body of the enemy, who said they were the Fourth Virginia Cavalry. I then returned toward Middleburg, and, leaving the road, attempted to make my way across the country. I found the fields and woods in every direction full of bodies of the enemy. By exercising the greatest care, I succeeded in making my way through them to Little River.Here I encountered 5 of the enemy, and forced them to give me passage. Following the river down, I struck the main road about 1 mile from Aldie, and, by inquiry, learned that our pickets were on that road.I reached Aldie, and delivered my dispatch to General Kilpatrick at 9 p.m. General Kilpatrick informed me that his brigade was so worn out that he could not send any re-enforcements to Middleburg, but that he would report the situation of our regiment to General Gregg. Returning, he said that General Gregg had gone to state the facts to General Pleasonton, and directed me to remain at Aldie until he heard from General Pleasonton. I remained, but received no further orders.Respectfully submitted.Frank Allen,Captain First Rhode Island Cavalry.Col. A.N. Duffie.
“I could certainly have saved my regiment in the night, but my duty as a soldier and as Colonel obliged me to be faithful to my orders. During those moments of reflection, and knowing that my regiment was being sacrificed, contemplating all this through more than five hours, my heart was bleeding in seeing the lives of those men, whom I had led so many times, sacrificed through the neglect and utter forgetfulness of my superior officers; but in the midst of my grief I found some consolation, beholding the manner in which the Rhode Island boys forth.”
“After going about an eighth of a mile from the wheat-field, where I was captured, I saw a force of about five thousand rebel cavalry, and thought that my regiment, on that morning, not more than two hundred strong, would be annihilated, and to this day it seems wonderful to me that so many as one hundred succeeded in cutting their way into the Union lines.”