Sunday, June 19, 2011

Travel Guide

--I have corrected a bit of this post regarding the Fitzhugh House.  The original post was in error. - BF 7/3/12

   A loyal reader is planning a trip back east this summer and asked me if I could suggest, a "top 10" list of  Civil War sights to see, pertinent to the 13th Mass. Volunteers.

     Since it is the Sesquicentenial, (I just wanted to say that word) perhaps more people would be interested in this idea, so I offer up a few suggestions.

Generally speaking, I think it would be easy to see several important sites by visiting just 2 major regions;  Western Maryland (from Sharpsburg to Harper's Ferry) and Central Virginia at Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park.  There are several interesting sites between the two regions, or a short distance away, but these two areas provide lots to see within a small geographical area.

     Nonetheless, I'll cover more points of interest, beginning with Gettysburg, PA.  I highly recommend contacting the parks or at least carefully planning your trip before visiting these places.  I don't know specifically how they operate, but some guides do have particular research  interests and might be more excited to share what they know about a particular aspect of a battle. You might be able to schedule a tour in advance.   [Any ranger friends reading this feel free to comment.]

Gettysburg, PA

     Gettysburg would be the northern most point of interest on this tour.  You could easily spend a couple of days here touring the town and battlefield.  The "13th Mass." fought on Oak Ridge, north of the town, in the first days battle.  They were on the extreme right of the 1st Corps line.  The regiment's monument is modeled after color sergeant Roland B. Morris who was killed in action.  Ninety men of the regiment were captured and about seventy made it to Cemetery Hill at the end of the day's fight.  The regiment was so cut up, they were held in reserve the following two days, supporting artillery on Cemetery Hill and moving to other parts of the field as re-enforcements when needed.   Several soldiers from the regt. are buried in the National Cemetery here.  The Gettysburg Battlefield sights for the 2nd and 3rd days fighting are more popular with visitors, and definitely worth seeing.   Gettysburg National Park.

     Christ Lutheran Church in the town is also connected to the history of the "13th Mass." regiment. It was established as a field hospital during the battle and many wounded men from the regiment were brought here.  One of the 13th's physicians, Surgeon Edgar Parker was wounded on the church steps during the battle.  He would recover from the wound at the home of Gettysburg resident Jenny McCreary.   In the summer months, a candlelight service is given inside the church, with presenters reading stories from several of the wounded men who were present at the church, including Sergeant Austin C. Stearns, Co. K, "13th Mass."  You can watch some great videos about the church here:     Christ Lutheran Church

     And just for the heck of it, I'd tour the free Gettysburg Museum of History,  because it has such an incredible collection of artifacts from all periods of U.S. history.  I follow them on facebook where they post pictures from their collection.

Western Maryland Region

      In 2005 my wife and I visited Western Maryland, a region rich in Civil War history, where the 13th spent a great deal of time picketing the Potomac River along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in the winter of 1861-62.   At one time, Col. Leonard was in command of all troops on the river from Harper's Ferry to Oldtown, a distance of nearly 100 miles.   I chose this area to visit because I had limited time and there are a number of interesting sites close by; some are obscure, others very famous.  We enjoyed our stay in Hagerstown and Shepherdstown when we were in the area.  A good local guide book I found in the Shepherdstown bookstore is "The Civil War in Washington County Maryland" by Charles S. Adams.  The Western Maryland Room of the Hagerstown Library might be a good place to stop into.  The staff are very knowledgeable about the area.

     Sharpsburg was the first place the regiment marched to and stayed for 2 weeks in Aug. '61, just after arriving at Hagerstown, MD from Boston.  This is also the site of Antietam National Battlefield Park, so you can see the battlefield and the area where they first arrived at the same time. 

   A year later, the battle of Antietam was fought in Sept., 1862.  The "13th Mass". were in Hooker's First Corps, Ricketts' Division, Hartsuff's Brigade.  They charged through the famous cornfield early in the morning at the start of the battle.  A trail follows the same path the regiment took into the fight. Several "13th Mass." soldiers killed in the engagement are buried in the National Cemetery here, including Harvard Graduate, Samuel S. Gould, who was with the regiment only 6 days.

     Not far off is South Mountain State Battlefield Park. The 13th participated in the fight at Turner's Gap, here on the night of September 14th, 1862.

     The cities of Williamsport and Hagerstown are closeby, where the regiment spent more than 4 months in the winter of '61-'62.  The exact spot of the winter camp is not known to me, but I think highway 81 runs through it today.  Its still a bit of a mystery.  Some simple sites that might be of interest are Mrs. Ensminger's House, Dam 5, and Antietam Village.

Driving through the town of Williamsport you can see Mrs. Ensmingers house on Church Street.  This is where the John Brown Bell was kept for 30 years before members of the regiment re-claimed it and brought it to Marlboro, Massachusetts.  The house is a private residence, not an attraction, so this would just be a 'drive by' site.

     Dam 5 of the C&O canal is up river a bit from Williamsport, a short drive in the country.  The entire C&O canal towpath is a National Park.  The 13th Mass. skirmished twice with Stonewall Jackson's troops in December, 1861.   The second time, Stonewall himself was there directing the action of the Confederate troops.  The setting is still rural.  It looks much today like it did then.  You can read about the fight here.  There is a marker designating the skirmish.  (Henry Bacon of Co. D, drew the illustration).  Good reference book for this area is "Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal" by Thomas F. Hahn.

        Hancock, MD is farther to the northwest.  Companies A, B, E, H, spent a month here in December 1861. Here's the link to my website. Company E had a skirmish with the Rebels at Sir John's Run a couple miles away, and in early January, Stonewall Jackson shelled the town.  Companies D, C, I, and K, were rushed to the scene from Williamsport as re-enforcements.  I'm not sure if there are any 'official' sites to see here, other than a drive in the country (?) but the main street of the town looks very similar to what it was in the 1860's judging from the pictures. 

   From August 24 - October 30, 1861, Companies C, I & K were detached opposite the town of Harper's Ferry.  (The rest of the regiment was camped farther away at Darnestown).  The stay was eventful for these 3 companies.  Harper's Ferry is one of the most visited National Parks. There is too much history here to mention, but the sites  unique to the 13th Mass, include John Brown's Fort, where members of Co. I commandeered the bell for their fire department back home in Marlboro, Mass.; Virginius Island, location of the ruins of Herr's Mill and Bolivar Heights.  When Major Jacob Parker Gould began evacuating 15,000 bushels of un-milled wheat from Herr's Mill, Lt. Col. Turner Ashby attacked to put a stop of it.  Ashby's force was too late, but the Battle of Bolivar Heights ensued, Oct. 16, 1861.  Visitors interested in this action might want to call the park to see if they could arrange a tour with a specific ranger interested in this more obscure battle.  A good reference book for the area is "A Walker's Guide to Harper's Ferry by David T. Gilbert."

Shenandoah Valley

     Driving a short distance south into the Shenandoah Valley will take you through Martinsburg, WVA and Winchester, VA.  These towns are rich in Civil War history, but the 13th's relation is much more esoteric.  Martinsburg was the hometown of Samuel Derrick Webster and his brother Isaac.  Two young Virginia boys with Union sentiments, not unlike others in this region with divided loyalties.  Sam and Ike enlisted as drummers in the 13th Regiment when it was camped at Williamsport.   After the war, Sam's diary was used as a major reference when Charles E. Davis, Jr. wrote the regimental history; "Three Years in the Army."  The regiment marched through both these places as part of General N.P. Banks advance in March of 1862.  In Martinsburg, members of Company D, fixed up an old steam engine from the ruined rolling stock at the Baltimore & Ohio roundhouse and took a ride up to Halltown near (Harper's Ferry)  to get supplies.  The over stressed steamer blew up on the return trip, trying to carry a heavy load up a slight grade about a mile from the town.  You can read the story here.

     The old Courthouse in Winchester is now a Civil War Museum.  Company B, bivouacked as Provost Guard during the regiments brief stay of  about 2 weeks in March, 1862.  Chaplain Noah Gaylord, probably the first Yankee Chaplain the citizens had seen, gave a sermon from these courthouse steps on the 'Evils of Secession' .  It didn't play very well with the locals.  The basement walls are covered with soldiers' graffiti. Winchester was a flash point during the war and several battles were fought here.  But the humble events described are the most interesting for fans of the "13th Mass."

    The regiment also visited Front Royal, and Culpeper, Virginia, much further to the south, where the Cedar Mountain Battlefield lies.  The regiment did see action at Cedar Mountain, but the fighting was mostly over when they took to the field as re-enforcements.  Mostly, they endured a night time shelling by the enemy artillery, but they escaped un-harmed.  The Historical Marker Database has a virtual tour of the battlefield.  This was the regiment's first participation in a battle, so they thought, but I would place more importance on seeing Manassas.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park is a definite stopping place.  Right now, the park is planning a re-enactment for the Sesquicentennial of the battle of Bull Run.  Its coming up in about 6 weeks, but if you hurry you can still get tickets.  The 13th Mass. was still at Fort Independence in Boston, when the first battle of Bull Run was fought in July, 1861. They were however actively engaged in the 2nd Battle of Bull Run a year later.  There is a trail and marker on Chinn Ridge where the regiment was heavily engaged on August 30, 1862.  This was a terrible engagement for the men and their first major battle, surrounded on three sides and outnumbered 10 to 1.  Thirty-eight men were killed and countless others wounded during their brief stand here.  Here's the brigade marker courtesy of my 'cyber friend' Craig Swain, and the Historical Marker Database.  Other relevant markers are available to view here too.

Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park

     I've been through or to some of the sites described above, but I have never been to the Fredericksburg National Park.  This park encompasses 4 significant battlefields, and other interesting campaign sites all in one place.  And of course they have special events planned for the sesquicentennial.    I would think this site would be a primary destination for those interested in the history of the regiment . The 4 battlefields at the park are Fredericksburg, Chancellorseville, Spotsylvania, and the Wilderness.  Spend some time at the site and plan accordingly.  I can provide some rudimentary information about the regiments part in these battles.

     At the Battle of Fredericksburg, the regiment acted as skirmishers for General Franklin's Left Grand Division, for two days, thereby avoiding participation in the bloody charge of Gibbon's 2nd Division that followed.  They were in the First Corps, 2nd Division, 3rd Brigade.  Col. Leonard led the brigade.  Casualties for the regt. were extremely low with four killed.
     According to the regimental history, the 13th weren't significantly involved in the important fighting at Chancellorsville.  This is rare for the 13th.  I haven't yet studied this campaign at all.  According to their history they did accomplish a 30 mile march in 22 hours  from Fredericksburg to Ely's Ford beginning May 2nd 1863.  On May 4th a reconnoissance was made in which 7 men were wounded.  Casualties for the fight were low again; 1 man listed killed.

     A significant event happened on April 30th, 1863 as part of this campaign.  It was the killing of two officers and the severe wounding of Sergeant. John S. Fay opposite Fredericksburg.  Capt. George Bush, Capt.William Cordwell and Sgt. John S. Fay were all struck by the same shell.  Cordwell and Bush were killed instantly.  Fay lost an arm and a leg.  It would be interesting to find the field hospital Fay was rushed to.  It was there that Surgeon Allston Whitney saved his life.  John S. Fay called it the Fitzhugh House,  the proper name for the estate is Sherwood Forest.  There are several blog posts on this historic house, which is for sale and needs to be saved.  The house is on private property and difficult to see from the road.

     The battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania were part of  General Grant's Overland Campaign in 1864.  Grant's advance  began 2 1/2 months before the regiment's term of enlistment was up, on July 16th of that year. General G. K. Warren, commanding the 5th Corps, personally directed the movements of the 13th in many of these engagements.

     At Spotsylvania May 8th - The 13th are among the first infantry troops to clash with Anderson's Confederate Corps at Spotsylvania.  After a tiring night march they made  three separate ½ mile long charges around 8:30 A.M. on the Alsop and Spindle Farms.  They were outflanked.  An artillery shell shattered their National Flagstaff during one of the charges.  Later, Gen. Warren seized the shattered flag staff and used the 13th's colors to rally a Maryland Brigade.  Artist Alfred Waud makes a sketch of this for the illustrated papers.  Twelve of their men die from wounds received this day, many of them have been with the regiment since the start.  Twelve more are captured.  Gen. Robinson, the Division Commander, lost a leg.

     Intrepid visitors might also want to see the area of the Mine Run campaign, included within the boundaries of this park.   In November, 1863 the regiment formed in line of battle to charge a well fortified Rebel Position.  Casualties would have been high had the attack not been called off.

Petersburg, VA

     Looking at the map, I see Petersburg is about 80 miles south of Fredericksburg. This was the last place the regiment fought at the front lines (They helped build the Fort Davis) before going home to Massachusetts and probably would be the last stop on a tour of significant sights.  For several weeks, the regiment was busy digging and fighting in the trenches before Petersburg.  Austin Stearns and Sam Webster give detailed accounts of the fighting that went on.  This was the exiting point for those few soldiers (about 70) who survived the 3 year ordeal at the front lines.  A few men re-enlisted and stayed on with other units.  Several had been detached and many had been promoted to other organizations.   The regiment was still with General G. K. Warren and the 5th Corps.  The famous battle of the Crater took place here, 2 weeks after the regiment went home.  Its noteworthy, because their original Major, Jacob Parker Gould, was mortally wounded in this engagement leading his own regiment and brigade in a charge as Colonel Gould of the 59th Mass.  Petersburg National Battlefield Park

This is a much longer post than I thought, with way too many links so thats all -  I'm tired! --Thanks Mary !!!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great info! Now I've got to go back to Gettysburg...just need some more vacation time I guess:)