“I Saw Him Gasping For Breath”: Irish Rhode Islanders at Fredericksburg - We are approaching the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg, the engagement more closely associated with the Irish experience of the Civil W...
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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
ROXBURY CITY GAZETTE, March 27, 1862Letter from
Winchester, Va.March 12, 1862
“…I suppose you have seen a letter written to the Traveller, dated at Martinsburg, at the time of our occupying that place; since seeing and reading that letter the query has been who took Martinsburg? Answer Co. A. Is this so, or is it not? Co. A. was thrown out as advance guard to reconnoiter, when the Regt. was within a few miles of M. to give the alarm to us, or to take care of what few of the enemy they might find. They took different roads, and were to meet at the rear of the town; the balance of the Regt. passed into M. and being very tired, after halting, laid themselves down on the doorsteps and other places most convenient. All at once firing was heard, causing all hands to spring to their feet. The communication states that two Rebel Officers were seen approaching, who, on being challenged by a portion of the advance (Co. A.) turned and tried to escape. They were fired upon, but got away. These two Rebel Officers turned out to be Officers attached to one of our own Batteries, stationed in town; the other part of the advance coming up at that moment, discharged their pieces at the first named portion of their own Company; fortunately their aim was too high, the balls passing over their heads. The two Union Officers who were fired at, immediately turned one of their guns so as to command the street, to repel the attack from the supposed enemy. You will perceive at once the mistake on both sides. The two Officers took our Boys for Rebels, and vice versa; ’twas all a mistake; instead of sending a letter full of triumph home, they should have been thankful no harm came from what was a very natural mistake.
The letter referred to, was a letter too much on the bombast order; did no harm, merely causing a feeling of disgust, originating the question of–“who took Martinsburg?”
From some unaccountable reason, the so called 4th Battalion has always seemed to feel themselves superior to the balance of the six Companies composing this Regt. Their superiority has not, and never will be admitted. In what respect are they our superiors? Do they possess more general intelligence? Are their moral characters cast in a purer mould? Have they, at any time, excelled in point of military discipline or drill? Have they even in a physical point, attained a higher standard? If the assertion is made, I deny it. Like some proud old Aristocrat, to whom even a slight contact with the so called Plebian, causes a feeling of horror, they cling to the proud, the high, the lofty position, attained by them, at a certain time in the past, while playing Sojer in the good old City of Boston. Should any skirmish occur, and any Company of the 4th Battalion be very near, you will hear of brave deeds–daring exposure–samples of tall fighting, &c., &c. If one of the other Companies are near, they are never seen; all the hard fighting is done by the invincible four
companies. One would suppose, from the perfect shower of adulation, which greets them, that they were the descendants of a long line of warriors, the might of whose power had fallen upon this particular branch of the 13th Boston Several great battles have been faught by this noble and valiant portion of our Regt. One of which (at Antetim)* must have caused the spirits of an Alexander or a Cesar a pang of jealousy. Four rifles, aimed with deadly intent, were discharged into their midst, causing the spirit of these heroes no small amount of confusion. No guns were discharged by them (as I understand) at the enemy, on account perhaps of serious scruples in regard to the taking of human life. If we are wrong in our statement, impartial history will see the wrong righted. Many other fearful engagements might be mentioned, but for fear of engendering a spirit of pride in the hearts of these noble Union soldiers, we forbear. Mass.
ROXBURY CITY GAZETTE
, April 13, 1862 Manassas
Editor of the Gazette–Dear Sir:Being a constant reader of your paper, I happened to notice a letter from the
13th dated March 12, and signed “Roxbury.” Mass.
Now, I have not the slightest idea who this “Roxbury” is, but should suppose from the tenor of his letter that he belongs to Co. E. I think he is rather hard on the 4th Battalion, and especially
Co.A, of that corps.
He speaks of the affair at Martinsburg, and seems to think that
Co.A believed they had made heroes of themselves on that occasion. His account is not very complimentary to Co.A, and as a member of the company, allow me to make an explanation.
As he says, when we were within a few miles of Martinsburg, A was detailed to go round to the rear, and cut off any rebels who might attempt to make their escape. Accordingly, we proceeded under the guidance of a loyal citizen of
, across the fields to the rear of the town. When we arrived there, our captain drew up the first platoon in two ranks, on the Tuscaroras road (a road leading up into the mountains), and sent the second platoon, under command of Lt. Judson, round to the Virginia turnpike. The signal was then given that we were ready, and we soon heard the regiment advancing into the town. I being in the second platoon, knew very well all that transpired. We (the second platoon) marched down the street with our arms loaded and bayonets fixed. Winchester
When we got half-way down the street, and had halted to ascertain how near the centre of the town we were, the clatter of the horse’s hoofs attracted our attention. The noise came a cross street on our left, and we supposed that some of the rebels we expected to meet were endeavoring to make their escape. We could distinguish only two men. Our lieut. stepped forward and challenged them; instead of answering the challenge, they (supposing that we were rebels) wheeled their horses and started up the street to a gallop; at this one of our boys fired without orders, the ball taking effect in the neck of one of the horses, and brought him to the ground. His rider jumped from his back, and started on foot to alarm the regiment. Just then our Lieut. Colonel, who had heard the firing, came down and ordered us to rejoin our regiment.
The two horsemen proved to be a Lieut. of Artillery and his bugler, who were looking round to find forage for their horses, and who did not know that we were there. All this trouble would have been avoided had he answered the challenge instead of running.
This is a correct account of the affair at Martinsburg.
The “letter full of triumph,” was undoubtedly written by a member of
Co.A, but who the writer was we cannot find out: suffice it to say that it was considered by all as an absurd and ridiculous epistle, and the writer has probably heard many unpleasant remarks with regard to it. The general supposition seems to be that he is an officer, but it is impossible to say whether this supposition is correct or not. The query– “Who took Martinsburg?” originated, it is true in Co.A, but it was only used to express their indignation of the manner in which things were transacted on that night, and not, as “Roxbury” supposed, in a boastful spirit.
My object in answering the letter of R. was merely to place before the people of Roxbury, some of whom have relatives in
Co.A, a true account of the affair at Martinsburg.
Hoping that you will give this a place in the columns of your paper, I remain
Yours very respectfully,A Member of the 2nd Platoon.