Wednesday, December 31, 2014

1st Rhode Island Cavalry at Middleburg

      This summer I came across some exciting cavalry narratives researching the cavalry Battles at Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville in June, 1863.  The stories from the 1st Rhode Island were particularly compelling.  They were however, peripheral to my intent, which was to focus on the actions of the 3rd US Artillery in the fighting that week, - so I didn't include much about them on my website.

     But it might be enjoyable this time of year, to read the adventures of Captain George Bliss, and others during what proved to be a disastrous campaign of neglect for the First Rhode Island.  The tale is long, so I'll offer it in two parts.

by George N. Bliss

     At the request of many of my comrades I write this paper to correct the errors of other Northern writers upon the events of these two days.

     In the Campaigns of Stuart’s Cavalry, by Major H. B. McClellan, pages 303, 304, and 305, the deeds of the First Rhode Island Cavalry at this time are set forth in words as accurate as they are complimentary, but this gallant Confederate officer cannot afford the space for details as embraced in the work of our Society.

     The following extracts contain some errors of Northern historians:

     History of the Civil War in America, Compte De Paris, Vol. III, page 494 :
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.
Chancellorsville and Gettysburg by Doubleday, page 102:
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.
     The battle of Bunker Hill was upon the 17th and that of Waterloo on the 18th of June.  It was the fortune of the First Rhode Island Cavalry to be in action upon both anniversaries in the year 1863, and the history of the regiment for these two days is one of disaster, but not of dishonor.

     Early in the morning of June 17, 1863, the following order was received:
     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.

     The day was bright with sunshine, and the regiment, numbering two hundred and eighty sabers, took the road without a thought of the future.  At Thoroughfare Gap privates Duxbury, Lee and Teft, of Company H, were in the advance; Duxbury meets a Confederate cavalry picket, and fires his carbine but misses his enemy, at that time on a full gallop in retreat.  A few shots came from the woods, but our skirmishers soon drove the pickets back upon a larger force.  

      “There are six hundred of them, I think,” said Duxbury to Captain Chase; “There are at least twice as many as there are of us.”  In the skirmish three of our horses were killed and several horses were wounded, but none of the troopers were hit. 

     Having passed through the Gap and reached the desired road, Duffié turned to the right and pressed forward towards Middleburg, some fifteen miles away.  In thus obeying orders, Duffié left behind him W. H. F. Lee’s brigade, under command of Col. J.R. Chambliss, estimated as twelve hundred men, while at Aldie Gap, fifteen miles further north in the mountain range, now enclosing the Rhode Island troops on the east, Fitz Lee’s Brigade consisting of the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Virginia, were that day to hold their position against our entire cavalry corps under command of General Pleasanton.

     General Robertson’s brigade, ten thousand strong, was at Rector’s Cross Roads, eight miles west of Middleburg, in which town General Stuart, commanding these three Confederate brigades of cavalry, was enjoying the hospitality of his friends, protected only by a body guard of three companies.  At 4 P.M. the First Rhode Island struck Stuart’s pickets, and at once charged them, driving Stuart and his staff out of Middleburg on the gallop, escaping capture only by reason of the superior speed of their fresh horses.  At this time Fitz Lee’s brigade had been engaged at Aldie, only five miles away, for two hours with Kilpatrick’s troopers, holding the Gap against charge after charge of our brave cavalry men.

     General Stuart thought the force that had penetrated to the very centre of his troopers must be a large one, and at once sent orders to Roberson’s, Fitz Lee’s, and W.H.F. Lee’s brigades to concentrate upon Middleburg.  Duffié has obeyed orders; he is in Middleburg where he is ordered to remain for the night; he does not know that at Aldie, five miles in his rear, Colonel Munford, commanding Fitz Lee’s Brigade, is holding our whole Cavalry Corps at bay.  A movement of the First Rhode Island on Aldie would have struck the Confederate rear and changed defeat to victory, but this is imagination, not history, and in accordance with our orders Capt. Frank Allen, with two men, was sent to Aldie with a dispatch for Pleasanton, and I know of no better description of his ride then the following official report:

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.

       Colonel Duffié posted strong pickets at barricades across the roads leading out of Middleburg on the south, west and north, and stationed his reserve on the road leading towards Aldie at the east of the town.  For three hours their regiment held undisputed possession of the place, but at seven o’clock in the evening General Stuart returned with the Fourth and Fifth North Carolina Cavalry, about one thousand strong; the men at the barricades fought bravely but were soon outflanked and driven back upon the reserve. 

     Warned by the attack on the outposts, Colonel Duffié ordered companies G and F, numbering about sixty, to dismount, tie their horses to trees in the grove, which at that time formed a line behind a stone wall that bounded one side of the road.  By this time it was quite dark, and as the enemy charged towards us in column, the first notice they had of the ambuscade was the discharge of sixty carbines, when four rebels were abreast of each gun.  Horses and men fell in confusion, and the rebels retreated in disorder under a hot fire from the revolvers of the men who had just emptied their carbines.  

     The rebel officers could be heard rallying their men for another charge, which was soon made and as soon repulsed.  Again their officers were heard saying, “Now, boys, form once more; we’ll give ‘em hell this time; we will sweep every Yankee from the face of the earth,”  and a third time they charged and were again hurled back shattered and torn. 

     While this fighting was in progress I was with the remaining men of the regiment, mounted and facing the enemy in the woods, a few yards from the left of our line of dismounted men ready to charge on any force that might pass the ambuscade. After the last charge it was evident that the rebels had learned something, and they commenced to form a line out-flanking the road instead of trying another charge in column along the road.  Maj. P.M. Farrington sent Lieut. J.M. Fales to report to Colonel Duffié that the enemy were about to deploy in the fields and attack his right flank and rear, and to ask for orders. 

      Lieutenant Fales found that the regiment had moved, and followed the retiring column two miles before overtaking Duffié, and the Colonel said to him, “Stay with the regiment; it is of no use to go back, you will be captured.” 

     It is claimed that Colonel Duffié sent orders to Major Farrington to fall back from the wall, mount and join the regiment, but that in the darkness and confusion somebody blundered, and the brave men who had thrice repulsed the enemy were left to meet their fate alone.  Major Farrington mounted his men after he had heard the rebel officers give the order “Cease firing, dismount and go into those woods,” and attempted to join the regiment; but at this time a mounted force of rebel cavalry had entered the woods, and Captain Chase, after joining his men to a Confederate column, supposing it to be the First Rhode Island Cavalry, did not discover his mistake until called upon to surrender. Warned by the loud summons for surrender given to Captain Chase, Major Farrington with two officers and twenty-three men moved off a short distance into the woods, where they dismounted and remained concealed twenty-four hours within gun-shot of large forces of the rebels until the advance of our cavalry corps from Aldie gave them the opportunity to rejoin the Union troops.

     Colonel Duffié, with what remained of the regiment, numbering now less than two hundred, retreated at a walk a little over two miles, and went into camp in the woods, where we halted under arms without unsaddling horses until daybreak.  By this time there was no soldier so dull as not to understand the desperate situation of the regiment.

      We had left behind us at Thoroughfare Gap a force of the enemy larger than our own.  At Middleburg we had learned that a large force of the enemy had passed through that day going towards Aldie and we were only two miles distant, at most, from the hostile force five times our own number in strength and by which we had been driven from the town we had been ordered to hold.  With the Bull Run Mountains on the east and the Confederates in our front at every other point in the compass, we were hiding in the woods, knowing that the rising sun would betray us to an overwhelming force of the enemy moving upon us from all directions.  No fires were allowed and no talking was permitted except in so low a tone of voice as to amount to whispering, but the thought was universal and freely expressed that our only hope was to move at once and charge through the enemy’s lines in the night.  Had any native born officer been in command the regiment would, without doubt, have cut its way out that night and could not have met in so doing, greater disaster than was to befall it on the morrow.  Colonel Duffié was a Frenchman, he had received positive orders and thought it his duty to obey them.  In a letter written afterwards he says,

“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.”

     Just before day I received orders from Colonel Duffié to go on foot outside the woods in the direction of the road to Thoroughfare Gap and see if I could discover any signs of the enemy.  I obeyed the order and remained in the open fields until the increasing light of the opening day gave me an opportunity to see the road for some distance, but saw nothing of the enemy and so reported to Colonel Duffié.   My report was hardly made before shots from the enemy were heard fired upon our pickets facing towards Middleburg. 

     The regiment was at once ordered to mount and we moved out into the road in column of fours, my company was at the head of the regiment facing towards the south on the same road I had shortly before been scouting on foot.  As we were then with our backs towards the enemy that had fired upon our pickets, the order was given “Fours right about”  I had given the first part of the order,  “Fours right about,” and was on the point of finishing it with “March!:   when I discovered a force of rebel cavalry charging upon us not more than seventy-five yards away.  Pointing my saber towards the enemy I at once gave the order to charge, and just at that moment the rebel officer leading the charge leveled his pistol and fired at me with so good an aim that the bullet struck my saber blade, and glancing, drew blood on my right arm, the sensation being as though my arm had been struck smartly with a whip.  At that moment I saw that Colonel Duffié was on the opposite side of the first set of fours, and he said, “Go ahead boys, charge!”  but his tone and manner was that of none having no hope of success.   

     The men wavered, broke, and jumped their horses over a stone wall into a wheat-field on the east side of the road, and, through the waving wheat, the regiment rushed in confusion with the rebels close after them.  We had passed through the wheat-field and by the farmer’s house, who, reckless of danger, and without thought of the flying bullets, stood on his piazza cursing the soldiers as their horses trampled under foot his lusty grain, when I heard an order form Colonel Thompson, “Captain Bliss, halt!   Rally the men.  We have gone far enough.”  This order I obeyed at once, and found it hard at first to get the men to stop their retreat, and face the enemy, but as soon as I had six men in line facing the rebels the rest of the regiment came into line of battle like the snapping of a whip.  The rebels were stopped by this move and opened fire upon us with carbines, and they were so near that when the Confederate officer said to his men, “Let’s give them a saber charge,” every soldier of the First Rhode Island heard it, and when I shouted back in defiance, “That is just what we want,” there were loud demands in our ranks of  “Let us charge.”  

      The order to charge was given at once and we had the pleasure of seeing the same men that had charged us running away through the same wheat field, and of feeling that our disgrace was in some measure removed.  We were halted in the wheat-field, where a line of battle was formed, and we counted off by fours in each rank.  The rebels we had driven retreated in the directions from which our pickets had been fired upon a short time before.  Lieut. James M. Fales, who was captured while we were retreating through this same field, says, in his Prison Life, No. 15, second series, page 9 :  

 “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.”

To Be Continued...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Searching For Love...

     The main pages of have been re-Vamped!  There is a new structure to the pages with better consistency, and more accurate and detailed information in the ‘Outline’ history;   ie: pages ‘1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, and After.  There is even a splash of color, (red) in the new headings.

     If you Liked the old website, “Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers,” ( and I know I did )  -- you’ll LOVE the new site because now it has a SEARCH function.
     A reader made a request for the search function quite a while ago and this is the result of that request.  The Search Function  is peryl based, so when you enter a simple search term, a list of pages containing the searched for item appears, with the number of times that item appears on the page.

When you search, try to keep it simple, for instance, type in the search term ‘Leonard’ for Colonel Leonard, or ‘canal’ instead of C&O canal.

You can even search for Love, if you want.  I did and quite a few hits on the ‘Darnestown’ page showed up. What’s up with that?

     You can try being more specific in your search if you know what your looking for, and you might get some hits, like ‘George Bigelow’ instead of ‘Bigelow’ but try using the single term if you come up empty handed.

     The site map page was originally intentioned to give visitors a good idea of what was on the site, but this feature offers a little more assistance if you can’t find what you want there.

     If you have visited the website in the past your browser may have cached the old pages, the following information is for you:

    You may find yourself moving between older and newer pages when you navigate the site.  The new pages have RED headings, the old pages have BLACK headings.  The new SITE MAP page is improved and easy to notice because of the new menu at the top of the page, - encased in a grey box.

     The Home page however, once updated should not revert back to the old version, because the old file is deleted.

      If you have trouble and are bouncing back and forth between old and new, (like I was), remember to hit REFRESH in your browser when ever you find yourself on an older page.  Or navigate BACK to the home page, where all the links are correct.

      The new pages include, HOME, ABOUT US, WHATS NEW, SEARCH, LINKS, SITE MAP and the outline history, 1861, 1862, 1863 etc. 

      The detail pages are the same for now, but you MUST hit REFRESH in your browser window when you visit a detail page in order for the new navigation menu links to work. (ie: 'Return To History'  & 'Return to Site Map')

     So, there may still be quite a few kinks in the system for a while, so please be patient.  You can contact me if things aren’t working out.  (With the website, not your love life.)  I'm trying to keep aware of any problems but its not always apparent what they are.

Here's the link to the Search Page, which should get you inside the new navigation:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Regiment Marches North to Gettysburg, with account of the Cavalry fights at Aldie, Middleburg & Upperville

I've spent so much time and energy building the last few sections of my website history the past two years, I feel like I haven't the energy to promote it.

Last month I posted the latest page, "A Hard March North."  This page covers a period of two weeks in June, 1863, when the Army of the Potomac made a series of difficult marches to counter the movements of General Lee's Confederate army.

Highlights of this new section include Commissary of Subsistence, Captain Charles F. Morse's paper, "Why We Wouldn't Meet Mosby."  Printed in the 13th Regiment Circular #18 in 1905,  Morse's hatred of Mosby persists well into the post-war years. This article is on page 1.

Page Two explores in some detail the cavalry battles at Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville, June 17 - 21, 1863.  These engagements have nothing to do with the '13th Mass.' except that my own ancestor, William Henry Forbush, former member of Company K was there, with the 3rd U.S. Artillery, Battery C,  Captain William D. Fuller, commanding.   The page broadly summarizes each battle with an emphasis on the role of Fuller's battery. Highlights include memoirs of Henry C. Meyer, 2nd NY Cavalry, on the staff of General David M. Gregg, and a letter of Daniel Townsend, 1st U.S. Artillery, Randol's Battery, and,  the memoirs of Heros Von Borcke, (with which I have much fun) who was on the staff of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart.  There are many excerpts from my Great Great Grandfather's 1863 diary.

Also on the page is a brief biography of the famous war correspondent, Alfred R. Waud who brilliantly covered the cavalry battles in the Loudoun Valley that week.  The several battle actions he depicted are examined in detail.  I got swept up and carried away reading the hair-raising adventures and exploits of the cavarly men in these battles that I intend to post a few stories I came across here on the blog.  They were too long to include on the web page but would fit right in here.  Look for that in  a short while.

Page 3 of the new section resumes the narrative of the '13th Mass' as they continue their march north into Maryland.  During this period, General Hooker resigns from command of the Army of the Potomac, and General George Gordon Meade replaces him.  Highlights of this page include Colonel Leonard's short statement regarding the change of commanders, Private Charles Leland's last letters home, (he was killed at Gettysburg) Charles Davis, Jr.'s humorous article "You Have Insulted Ze Gener-al,"  Comrade David Sloss' recollections of nicknames the soldiers gave each other,  Historian John A. Miller's article "Emmitsburg Before the Battle of Gettysburg," and a character sketch of beloved flag-bearer Roland Morris, cut down at Gettysburg.  A transcript of Morris' court-martial just prior to the battle is included on the page, culled from Colonel Leonard's personal papers at the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of New York.  

The page ends on the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg.  I hope you enjoy this new section.


As usual, comments are tolerated. But don't insult ze Gener- al !

Look for more stories soon as I finish typing them.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Reminiscences From the Sands of Time - Part 4, final.

      Corporal George Hill's narrative continues.  The story is taken up when George and his comrades have been re-captured after  roaming the Carolina countryside in search of freedom.  (George Hill pictured- photo courtesy of Carol Robbins & Alan Arnold).

 "Reminiscences From the Sands of Time" by George H. Hill, 13th Mass. Company B.

      The glory of capturing yankee soldiers was too much for them to sacrifice, and we were marched to the ferry and put across by the saddest-faced darkey I ever saw. I think his disappointment was almost as heartfelt as our own.  Taken to a plantation we were locked into a kind of a woodshed and left to our meditation.  I leave to your imagination the feeling of disappointment which tortured us.  It beggars description.  We were well fed and, barring the scornful looks of the "women folks," well treated while here.  We were guarded by the men who captured us, each in turn parading in front of the door, until next day when we were taken out and started off, we knew not where.  We begged not to be returned to Florence, feeling that any other place was preferable to being again confined with the dregs of Andersonville.  The first night, after a journey of about twenty miles, we slept in a jail, in a small village called Albermarle, and such terror did a yankee possess to the women of this quiet place that we were put into a stone cell, entrance to which was so small that we were obliged to crawl through on our hands and knees.  We were fairly treated and decently fed, and next morning again on the road. We now learned our destination was Salisbury, N.C., which place we reached at about four o'clock in the afternoon, and were, after eighteen days of liberty, again inside the prison walls.  We were the first Federal soldiers to enter Salisbury prison.  When we left it, five months later, over twelve thousand had been buried from its confine, and thrice that number had entered through its gateway.
Sitting on the ground with those men - they were good-natured old men and evidently pitied us - we tried to convince them that we could do no further damage to their cause and agreed not to take up arms again (knowing our time had expired some months before"); but all in vain.

     Salisbury prison differed from Andersonville in that it was not remote from a settlement, but on the contrary was directly in the village or town.  It had originally been a hospital, and consisted of an enclosure of about one and a half acres, with a stone paved yard between the buildings, which formed a square and were six in number - one large brick building, two stories, used at this time as quarters for deserters and others under sentence from the rebel army, a wooden structure used as a hospital, and four small brick buildings, which may have been used as storehouses.  Beyond, or back of these, was an open space, and all of this was surrounded by a high board fence.  A platform extended entirely around on the outside of this fence built high enough for the guard to look over and into the yard as they walked to and fro.  We were not allowed to enter either of these buildings, but finding a hole leading underneath the hospital (which set on posts about eighteen inches above the ground) we crawled in and made our home on the dry earth, delighted to find this shelter after our experience at Andersonville.  We received rations twice each day, consisting of half a loaf of white bread - the first we had tasted since our original capture - and a good-sized piece of bacon, and congratulated ourselves that we were, although prisoners again, better off than we would have been had we gone to Florence.

     A few days passed, and then prisoners taken from our army - now in front of Petersburg - began to arrive in squads of fifty to a hundred or more.  Daily the number increased, and although at first the fresh and vigorous condition of the men so recently captured presented a striking contrast to the half-starved associates we had left at Andersonville, the exposure and lack of opportunity for cleanliness soon robbed them of all this, and another crowded den of misery was added to the inhuman record.

     Our retreat under the hospital was quickly filled, and filled so full that we lay at night "spoon fashion," so close together that it was not possible to turn without first getting general consent of the entire line, as all must turn together, and it was no uncommon thing to hear some one cursing over an apparently obstinate fellow who would not move, and at last hear the exclamation, "This man is dead,"  "Well, turn him over," would be the reply, and so accustomed had we become to death that no further note would be made of it until morning, when he would be dragged out and taken to the dead house (one of the small buildings had been devoted to this purpose), and after being stripped of his clothes left until the old wagon drove in for its daily load.  It was cold weather now, rations had been cut down one-half, and but for the extra clothing gotten from the dead we would none of us have lived.  No man was buried with clothes on, or with shoes or stockings, in Salisbury.  The needs of the living were too great to admit of sentiment, and we were only too glad to "walk in dead men's shoes."  We had water to drink, drawn from two wells, one of which we dug ourselves, but none to waste, so a bath, even of hands or face, was a rarity.  One day when we were, as usual, lounging away the time under the house, Klingingsmith, who had gone out by the gate to see what he could hear of news
from some prisoners coming in, came rushing out of breath to the entrance and shouted "Hill, Rice, Trounsell, come out here - come out!"  Thinking the war was ended, or at least Sheridan had captured Salisbury, we scrambled out and there stood Billie Crossett.

     Words cannot describe that meeting; we hugged him, we kissed him, we danced around him, we shook him, we hugged him again, while he, poor baby that he was, cried and laughed with joy at meeting us again.  We gave him all we had to eat and took him into our cave, and that night the "spoons" were closer than ever, for room had to be made for Billie.  We had enough to talk about for the next week, telling him our experiences since we left him, nearly two months before, on the edge of that terrible swamp, and listening to him as he recounted how he waited a day longer than we asked (so as to be certain sure not to endanger us) before he made a move; then of his visit to one of the cabins at ten o'clock at night, his kind reception by an old negro woman, who took the shoes and stockings from off her feet and gave them to him to wear, how she kept him hid for nearly two weeks, bringing others to see and talk with him, nursing his wounded feet and feeding him with the fat of the land, until, becoming impatient to follow us - whom he imagined safely inside the federal lines - he insisted upon moving on; how then one of them walked with him two nights on the way and left him then only because a longer absence would excite suspicion and invite pursuit, how he traveled all alone, with no one to speak to all the long nights, and hid all alone all the longer day, until his nerves gave out, and he felt he must speak to some one or he would be insane; actually trembling at every rustling leaf, and in imagination feeling the grasp of his pursuers at every step, he sees a light ahead, and reaching a house, he staggers to the door and knocks, the door opens and there stands an officer in rebel uniform.  Who cares, in such a state of mind?  Not he, and he tells his story.  The motley suit he wears, furnished by his colored friends, his youthful face, so uncommon in the Federal ranks - so common in the rebel army - discredits his claim to being an escaped union soldier and he is held as a deserter from one of the regiments at Raleigh, is taken there and to a dozen different camps to be identified.  At last, convinced that he is what he claims to be, he is sent, with a lot of newly captured prisoners, to Salisbury, and while standing in line to be counted, thinking all the time how hard it was that he could not have kept on with us to freedom, his hand is grasped by Klingingsmith, and he hears his name spoken in a voice he knows so well.  All this, and more, he tells us, and always ends with tears as he repeats how lonesome he had felt in his travels, and how happy it had made him to be with us again. Once more united, we began to plan another escape.

     We started tunnel after tunnel, one of which was thirty feet long, three feet below the surface, but the difficulty of disposing of the loose earth taken out brought discovery and defeat.  A concerted attempt made one night to break down the fence and overpower the guard resulted in the death of eight, and wounding of twenty of the most daring spirits among us, and the more rigid oversight of the enclosure.  Thereafter, any man moving around after dark was shot at without warning, and the most trivial excuse was sufficient to excuse a wound from the rifle of one of the youthful sentinels who now promenaded the platform, twenty feet apart.

     This ended hope of escape, and we settled down to wait for death, or release by victory of our comrades at the front.  So passed the winter of 1864.  The mortality became fearful.  Twice each day the big truck wagon backed up to the dead house and drove away with its load of naked bodies, six or eight deep, with legs and arms hanging over its sides and end, to be buried in a trench out-side.  No word from home had we received.  Tons of letters, I have since learned, were sent through our lines, but scarcely a dozen to my knowledge ever reached the prison to cheer those poor fellows starving for news of loved ones so far away.

     One bright spot there was.  Regularly there entered, each day, this pen of misery an old gray-haired, tender-hearted man of God, a catholic priest, whose kind sympathy and hopeful words of encouragement saved many a man from despondency and death.  I am not a catholic, but the memory of that holy Father, as he moved in and out among the sick and dying in Salisbury prison, speaking words of hope and comfort, regardless whether to Jew or Gentile, has left an impression on my mind that the lapse of time cannot efface.

     The triumph of the republican party, and the re-election of Lincoln in November, thus demonstrating the determination of the North to submit to no compromise, was the death-blow of the rebel cause, and the continued victories of our armies, both east and west, news of which came to us through incoming prisoners, encouraged us that the end was near and so we held on to hope that our release was not far distant.

     About the middle of January rumors of an exchange of prisoners began to circulate around the yard, and on the twenty-fifth of that month the first squad - of which we formed a part -was marched through the gate and put on cars (which were on the track just outside) and started for Wilmington.  It was proposed to exchange at Fort Fisher, which place had been captured by General Terry.  Our former experience made us suspicious that again this was but a ruse to change our location, and when at Raleigh we were taken from the cars and marched to a grove of trees, and a guard stationed around us, we felt certain that we had been fooled again.  Train after train arrived, and each in turn dumped its load of disappointed prisoners and backed away.  No explanation could we get, but a sort of gloom appeared to settle down upon the rebels guarding us and we knew something was wrong with them, at least.  That night watching our opportunity when the guard was down the line, Klingingsmith and I slipped across and deliberately walked into the town.

     It was about ten o'clock and the streets were nearly deserted.  We had read occasionally a copy of the "Raleigh Standard," which found its way into the prison, and knew that the editor, Mr. Holden, was as near a union man as he dared to show.  We were desperate, and determined to find out, if possible, what was to be done with us.  Hailing a passing negro we inquired where Holden lived, and soon we stood at the door and boldly rang the bell.  The door was opened by a negro girl, and as the light fell upon us she started back, exclaiming:  "For de good Lord's sake, what you yankees doing way up here?"  We asked for Mr. Holden, and she called, "Massa Holden, here be two yankee prisoners done be got away!" and at once a nice-looking, middle-aged man appeared. He asked us in, and when we had explained our motive in coming to him he (without in any way committing himself) informed us that the city of Wilmington had been occupied by federal troops, which necessitated a change of plans as to point of exchange and, on that account, we were stopped at Raleigh to wait for orders; advised us to return to our comrades as the surest way to reach our lines, wished us a safe journey to our homes and friends and then - evidently to dispel suspicion of his loyalty - sent us guarded by a negro, to whom he gave a revolver and instruction to shoot us if we attempted to escape, back to camp.  We entered where we had left, the sentinel evidently preferring to make no report lest his carelessness in allowing us to get out might get him into trouble.  The news we brought (we were careful not to report whom we had talked with) was received with delight by our comrades who, missing us, had concluded we were off again for good.

     Two days later we again boarded the train and about noon stopped in the open country about three miles away from Wilmington.  "We were ordered off the train and, as we looked ahead, we saw the engine was just at a fence which crossed the track, and on one side stood a group of rebel soldiers and on the other side an equal number of "officers in blue," and just beyond on a small knoll we could see a squad of cavalry, one of whom held a staff from which waved an American flag.  We moved slowly along, helping those too weak to walk, and as we passed through the line of rebel officers were counted and checked, and then by the Federals, each one receiving from the latter, as he passed, a grip of the hand and a word of encouragement.  I can only imagine how others felt.  I know how I felt myself.  My legs trembled; I could scarcely stand; every drop of blood seemed centered in my heart, and as I passed those rebel officers I could hear the thump, thump, thump, and I held my breath in abject fright lest something in my action should give offence and they should hold me back again.  Slowly the prisoners moved along, and at last I was inside the union line.  Not daring to look behind, I raised my eyes to the flag and staggered on.  Thinking of no one; caring for no one; only wondering if it was true, walking as if in a dream, almost on air, towards the flag; until at last, standing beneath its folds, the blood began to flow again, and again I felt myself a man.  Turning now, the pent-up feelings of a soldier's life seemed to come to me as of old, and memories of cruelty and wrong struggled for relief. Sheltered by the emblem of my country's power I almost shrieked in triumph, and then, with failing strength, burst into tears.

Just then an officer stepped beside me, grasped my hand and threw his arm around my waist, exclaiming, "My God, George Hill, is this possible?" And looking up I saw Bill Blanchard, a private soldier of my own company in the old 13th  when I was captured, but now a captain of the 27th U.S. Infantry Colored Troops, and serving as officer of the guard.  (Bill Blanchard,  pictured)  Insisting I should go with him, despite my filth and rags, he took me to his tent, furnished me what he called "a lunch," but what seemed to me a feast; sent to the quartermaster's and "drew" a complete outfit - hat, shoes, stockings, and underwear - and took from his own trunk trousers and coat;  went with me to a small stream near by and assisted me in ridding myself of the remnants of clothes I wore, and also of the five months' accumulation of confederate soil I carried on my person, and then, arrayed in garments clean, which seemed to me richer than those we read of as being worn by King Solomon, I went with him to the headquarters of his regiment and was royally entertained.  Amidst all this a feeling of guilt at apparent desertion of my comrades oppressed me and at last I insisted upon following them to Wilmington.  An ambulance was ordered and I rode into the city, found the boys quartered in one of the deserted stores and wondering what had become of "The Captain."  They had all they could eat, but were yet in rags, as no extra clothing was to be found with an advancing army — my own good fortune being an exception — but what of that?  A happier lot of men you never saw. But little remains to be told.  Obtaining a sheet of paper and envelope I wrote to my father, announcing my release, and the arrival of that letter was the first they had heard from me since I was reported "missing in action," ten months before.  It came to them at home like a message from the dead, for they had given up hope that, even if a prisoner, I could have survived the exposure and suffering of which they had heard so much.  The joy at home is best imagined; again my powers of description fail. 

      As soon as transports could be provided we were sent north, to parole camp, at Annapolis, and (my regiment having been mustered out six months previous, expiration of term three years) I was, after a week or two doctoring, furnished transportation and ordered to Boston; was honorably discharged from the service of the United States March 26, 1865, and left for my home in Maine.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Reminiscences From The Sands of Time, Part 3

     When we last left George and his comrades they had just escaped from a train taking them to Florence Prison in Florence, S.C.  They rolled under the train station platform when the guard wasn't looking and waited anxiously for a chance to escape.

"Reminiscences From the Sands of Time" by George H. Hill, 13th Mass. Company B.

[Part 3]

      I have stood in the battle front when shot and shell were flying around me and men were falling dead on all sides; have been in that most trying place to a soldier's courage, "the reserve;" have stood on picket, knowing the liability of being pounced upon and shot or strangled, have advanced with the skirmish line in the face of a blazing line of battle and charged in solid column the breastworks of a hidden foe; but never did I experience the feeling of abject helplessness, of mortal terror, of absolute fright, as when that last car passed the platform and left us, subject to discovery by some small boy or girl as they played hide-and-seek around that depot.  The fright which the presence of five live yankees would have given that little village meant death to all of us, and we knew it; we dared not speak, we hardly dared to breathe, and when a large sized hog (hogs run wild in that southern village) came rooting at our heads, we dared not drive it off, lest its sudden exit would attract attention to our hiding place.

     Slowly the twilight gave way to night, the lounging crowd dispersed, and we gained courage to crawl together and plan "what next."  Gradually we worked our way to the end of the building, and then, first Rice, followed in turn by Klingingsmith, Trounsell, and Crossett, passed out into the bright moonlight, across the road, through a gateway, and then by a path over a hill to a clump of trees just outside the settlement, where it was agreed all would wait for me, whom it had been decided was to act as captain of our little squad.  The anxiety of superintending the timing of each start, and watching the progress across the village, had so worked upon me that when my time to go arrived I trembled in every nerve and muscle, and as I started across the road my heart stopped beating.  It seemed to me that every bush concealed a foe, and every rustling leaf was shouting "halt."  At last I reached the grove, and after a long breath of relief, we all together rushed like frightened sheep across a plain, over a fence, and into a large field of growing corn.  Here hunger got the best of our frightened rush, and finding the corn just in the milk, we threw ourselves upon the ground and ate and ate, until the crowing of the cocks and the reddening of the horizon warned us of the coming of the day, and the necessity of finding a safer hiding place.

     We had now regained our senses and were able intelligently to study our surroundings.  A swampy grove, about half a mile away, seemed to offer security and we hurried on and before sunrise were safely sheltered by its dense tanglewood, and all lay down to much needed sleep.  Secure in our hiding place, we minded not the dampness or rough underbrush on which we lay, but slept refreshingly until almost night again.  We were roused at last by un-quenching thirst, and the realization that no food at all was even worse than Andersonville rations - Digging a hole in the damp ground, we waited until it filled with water from the swampy surface, and, laying on our stomachs, drank our fill, each in turn waiting for a new supply, and ate the tender leaves of growing shrubs around us.  We could hear the bells ringing in the village we had left, and concluded it was curfew bed-time, and shortly thereafter we left our friendly cover, and, searching the heavens, found our "pillar of fire," the north star, whose bright light showed to us the direction we must take to reach the promised land of safety. Before starting out, we had perfected a plan of action which consisted of an Indian file movement across the country, regardless of roads or paths - North, North, was all we knew.

     The details of our tramp for the first week of our journey, which began each day at dark and ended at dawn, is uneventful; we avoided all habitations, living on raw corn and sweet potatoes, and hiding during the day in dense woods or dismal swamps.  Growing somewhat bolder as we became accustomed to our surroundings, we decided to test the loyalty of the negro, and so drew lots to see what one would risk a visit to some cabin and endeavor to find out where we were and what direction to take to reach our lines, and, not less important, get something to eat. The lot fell to Klingingsmith, and after pledging that in case of betrayal he would insist that he was alone (thus giving us a chance to get away) he left us just as the lights were showing through the windows of what we knew were negro cabins, and with anxious hearts we waited his return.  Minutes were hours, for it seemed to us he would never come back, and we had about decided to move off when we heard a low whistle (the signal agreed upon), and he soon appeared, accompanied by four negro slaves, two men and two girls, loaded down with food such as we had not seen since we left our homes, - ham, cold chicken, cold lamb, hominy, bread, cake, and cheese, and a large pitcher of milk.  Great Scott!  How we ate, while these angels with black skins rolled their white eyes and showed their whiter teeth, in ecstacy of joy that they could do something for "Lincoln's" soldiers.

     When we had eaten all we could hold we gathered up the fragments and stored them as best we could among our clothes, hardly daring to believe we would ever get more, shook hands with our faithful servants, and left them waving their hats and aprons in silent encouragement as we disappeared over the hill in the direction pointed out by them as sure to bring us to the "Yankee lines."

     After this we never hesitated to make our wants known to man or woman with a black skin, and never was our confidence betrayed.  If the negro has no other claim upon the people of this country in his struggle for right and justice, if, in his ignorance, he sometimes falls short of your idea of what he should be, remember his loyalty and faithful service in the war of the rebellion, but most of all, his big-hearted goodness to all union prisoners within his reach.  My own experience, in this respect, is precisely that of every soldier who had occasion to ask help of the negro slave, or to put himself into his hands for safety. LET US NOT FORGET IT!

     From the information we got from the negroes we now more systematically traveled, using the turnpike roads, which were generally deserted after dark except by an occasional horseman, upon whose approach the one in the lead would quickly dodge outside the road, which signal was noted by each follower in turn, and so the rider rode peacefully along, little thinking he had passed live yankees on his way.

     One dark night, Billie Crossett and myself were walking together in the rear (leaving a distance between us and our file leader too long for sight) when directly in our front came quietly walking along a large white horse and on his back a man.  Instinctively we threw ourselves out of the road and flat upon our faces, but not before both horse and rider (who proved to be a negro, evidently returning from a visit to a neighboring plantation) had caught a glimpse of us.  The horse rose upon his haunches and snorted with fright, and his rider, in the well-known accent of his race, and evidently in equal terror, in a voice low at first but increasing in violence at every word, urged on his trembling steed with, "Go long - go long- go long dar- go long, you damn fool," and like a streak of lightning away went horse and rider, leaving us nearly as frightened, but unable to repress a laugh as we imagined Sambo relating to his family or friends at home that he had seen a "spook."  It was a lesson to us, however, to be more cautious, and thereafter we kept proper distance while on the road.

     One day, while waiting in a thick woods for night to come, we were seen by two white boys, who started off on the run.  Fortunately, we also saw them, and knew we must move quick and get away from that locality.  We struck off towards lower ground and were soon up to our knees in a wooded swamp through which we struggled two miles or more.  We were none too quick, for, from the howling of dogs, we knew the dreaded blood-hounds were on our track, and afterwards learned that the boys we saw were sons of a well-known slave hunter who kept a kennel of these savage brutes. These hounds cannot scent through swamps, and we were saved from this danger. But, oh, how we suffered!  No shoes, remember, and at each step roots and stumps raking the skin from off our feet.  At last we reached the end of swampy land and came out into solid ground again and lay down completely fagged.

     Poor Billie Crossett, the baby of our party, scarcely nineteen years old, was a complete wreck.  His feet were raw, he could not stand.  We stayed with him one night and two days, hoping he would be able to go on, and then offered to find a safer hiding place and wait again; but heroically he claimed remembrance of the agreement we had made the night of our escape, that "in case either one should become disabled, or a hindrance, the others should leave him and push on to freedom," and insisted we should do so.  We worked him along, as near as we dared, to a large plantation, and left him, with instructions to remain in hiding until the next night, giving us a chance to get a good distance away in case our plan failed, and then to get into communication with our friends, the negroes, whose cabins appeared well separated from the mansion house of the estate.  It was like leaving one's heart behind, but we did it, and walked the saddest night's walk I ever knew.  We shall meet Billie again before I finish.  By the advice of “an old darkey” who knew the country well we had decided to change our course more to the West, thus reaching, if possible, the territory of Western North Carolina, where we knew roving bands of our troops often penetrated; or, better yet, that hot-bed of union sentiment, East Tennessee.  We crossed a railroad which runs between Charlotte and Concord, N.C., camping one day so near the latter place that we plainly heard the rebel bugle call for "reveille" and "retreat," as we lay concealed, and at last found ourselves stopped by a rushing river, whose swift current made it impossible for us to ford or swim. Again our negro proved his worth.  We learned that some two miles below a ferry was run by a black man, and we were assured that he was loyal.  We reached this ferry about midnight, too late to cross, and secreted ourselves in a thick woods on the river bank.

     Next morning-again by lot-one of our number cautiously approached the grist mill which was operated by the man who owned the ferry, and managed to interview the negro, whose advice was that we wait until night again, when he would put us across and find a trusty guide to pilot us on our way.  Delighted at such prospect, I returned to my comrades and found them busy skinning a small pig which they had captured during my absence.  Fresh meat was a rarity, and we were hungry, so building a small fire of dry sticks, which we thought would cause but little smoke (by the way, we were furnished with some matches by the negro girls we first met), we were soon eating broiled or roasted pork in fancied security.

     No festive board, laden with Delmonico's choicest viands, ever gave half the satisfaction that this half-cooked baby pig, eaten without salt or savor, did to those four half-starved mortals in their hiding place near the banks of the Pee Dee river. But it was a costly meat:  the smoke of our little fire was observed from the higher ground on the opposite side of the river by a posse of men who were in search of a slave who had run away after a severe flogging.  Thinking they had discovered his hiding place, they crossed the river, and, closing quietly around him, as they supposed, were surprised to find, instead, four union soldiers, whose first intimation of their approach was the words, "Surrender, or we fire!"  We were captured again, and our dreams of home were shattered.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 8, 1864 - 13th Mass.

May 8th was a tough day for the regiment.  With only 2 1/2 months left to serve, they had their heaviest casualties of the campaign on this day.

     I will start this story with Charles E. Davis, Jr.'s narrative from the regimental history, "Three Years in the Army."

     Following that will be Sam Webster's more personal account of the days events. [Sam Webster, Co. D, pictured. Photo courtesy of Tim Sewell.]

     Last, excerpts from a letter Color Sgt. David Sloss wrote in 1910 in remembrance of the events of this day.

From "Three Years in the Army"

Saturday May 7.
     We remained in the earthworks until 4 P.M., when we were withdrawn to a hill looking down upon the junction of the Orange pike and the plank-road.  Rations of fresh meat were issued, large fires were built, and coffee cooked.

May 7, 1864, 3 P.M.


At 8.30 P.M., Major-General Warren, commanding Fifth Corps, will move to Spottsylvania Court House, by way of Brock Road and Todd’s Tavern.

 By command of

     In obedience to this order, at 9 P.M. we started for Spottsylvania Court House, and marched all night.  As we passed along in the rear of the rifle-pits, we noticed the tired soldiers fast asleep on the ground, oblivious to the steady tramp of soldiers who were marching within a few yards of them.  We wished we were in the same blissful state.  Finally the extreme left of the line was reached when we entered a narrow, crooked road in the woods which were dark as a pocket.  Silently and stealthily the trail was followed in single file, and with great care, as the path became obscured.  We were now in the heart of the Wilderness.  Instructions were whispered along from the head of the line to “Jump the run;”  “look out for the log,” etc., with cautionary orders not to lose connection with each other, nor to get out of the path. In this way we noiselessly marched until nearly daylight, when a halt was made, and the men, tired out, threw themselves on the ground for rest or sleep.  We had overtaken the cavalry which was in advance, and now waited for daylight, having marched only twelve miles, owing to the difficulties we encountered on the way.  We were now within four miles of Spottsylvania Court House.

Sunday, May 8. 
        When daylight afforded us an opportunity of seeing each others faces, it was impossible to refrain our laughter at the comical appearance we presented. The woods where we halted had been burned over by the fire which had been raging for twenty-four hours previously, making a bed of black ashes which stuck to our perspiring faces, so that, on waking, we looked more like drivers of charcoal wagons than soldiers.

       Some were hastily cooking their coffee while others were engaged in removing the black from their faces, when we were hurried forward, our division being in the advance.  It was now learned that both armies were hastening to Spottsylvania Court House.  Our present position was near Todd’s Tavern, north-east from the town.  The cavalry under General Sheridan opened the fight and were soon relieved by our (General Robinson’s) Division.  As we passed out of the woods we charged the wooded hill in front, occupied by rebel dismounted cavalry, who retreated as we advanced, making a stand on another wooded hill half a mile beyond. Here they kept up a brisk fire, aided by artillery.  Another charge was ordered, and up the hill we double-quicked, driving the enemy from the crest across an open plain.  We were told by General Warren that we should find nothing but dismounted cavalry, but instead, we found Longstreets’s corps. [Major-General G. K. Warren, pictured] A section of a battery was discovered to the south and east of us that had been used to retard our advance.  The “Johnnies” were busy getting it away, so we directed our fire toward the group of men and horses, hoping to capture it.  A company of cavalry now rode out from the woods on the flank and hailed the battery.  We supposed it to be Union cavalry demanding its surrender, and consequently reserved our fire. We soon discovered our error as we saw them running off the battery with drag ropes, whereupon we resumed our firing, but were unable to prevent their securing the gun.
Little time was granted us for rest.

       Soon we received an order from General Robinson to advance on the double-quick over the plain. [Brigadier-General John C. Robinson, pictured.]   It was obeyed as well as it was possible for men to obey after two previous charges following an all-night march.  There wasn’t any double-quick in us.  Though nearly played out, we slowly advanced, while the rebel skirmishers fell back to the crest of Laurel Hill.  The firing from the rebel line behind earthworks on the hill now became general, and although the men of our division (the Second) were exhausted, yet we mustered strength enough to make another charge on this division of rebel infantry.  As we advanced, the firing became more effective.  The foot of the hill was gained.  As the Thirteenth was picking its way through the abatis and under-brush, shouting was heard in our rear.  On looking back, we saw a whole brigade of rebels in line of battle, swinging round from the rebel right flank.  A general retreat was taking place among our troops in the rear, so we followed suit by taking a circuitous route to avoid the rebel line which was preparing to capture us.  Upon reaching the hill from which we advanced we halted and made a stand.  Our loss so far was one officer killed and one wounded, and fourteen men wounded and twelve missing – probably captured.  The staff of the national colors was shattered by a solid shot.  During the repulse, General Warren took the flag with its shattered staff to rally a Maryland brigade, a picture of which appeared in “Harper’s Weekly” for 1864, page 372.

Pictured below is the image artist Alfred Waud sketched of General Warren rallying the Maryland Troops with the National Flag of the 13th Mass. as it appeared in the magazine.   Image is from

A halt of a few minutes now took place, while we returned the fire from still another hill on the Alsop farm.

     At night we were moved out in front of the earthworks and laid on our arms.

     During the day the heat was intense.

     General Robinson, our division commander, lost a leg in the fight to-day.  He was a real loss to the Army of the Potomac, as he ranked very high, being considered one of the bravest as well as one of the most efficient officers in the army.  

[NOTE:  General Robinson made a special request that  Hospital attendant Chandler Robbins, of the 13th Mass., Company K,  remain with him while he recovered from his wounds. - From information found in Robbins Pension files. - B.F.]

Diary of Sam Webster
From the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

     Spottsylvania – Halted this morning about daybreak.  Laid down on the ground in the woods, which had burnt over, and was still smoking in places, and went to sleep with a piece of hard tack in my hand and a piece in my mouth. Turned out in a few minutes and, relieving the cavalry, pitched into the rebels; we suppose, about 3 or 4 miles from Spottsylvnia C.H.   They were driven back to “Laurel Hill” in  three charges, - very long ones, apparently ½ to 1 mile each – and where our division “stuck” the army did also.  Gen. J. C. Robinson, commanding the division, wounded. Alden, Thompson, and others also.  Thompson was hit in the back (small of it) by a spent ball, as the line fell back from the last rebel position.  In advancing, as the regiment came out into an open field, the centre was between two gate posts.  As it was necessary to move to the left they “left oblique’d” – a rebel battery playing upon them meanwhile, and down the road along which others were coming. 
As a shell passed Walker, who carried the National Color, he said to Joe Keating who was with him, “That fellow means me.”  The next shell cut the staff at the lower fastening of the silk, caught the upper part of his knapsack and carried it some rods, spilling its contents along its route, and knocking its owner some feet. I helped dress his shoulder which was awfully bruised.  The boys had driven the rebs from the two guns, but seeing a Company of cavalry come out of the woods, who hailed them, thought it all right, and withheld their fire at 150 yards, and Stuart saved his guns.  Just after that in passing the woods Capt. Whitcomb was killed.  Loss 1 officer and 1 man killed, 1 officer wounded and taken prisoner, 4 men wounded and 12 missing.  After repulse lay in edge of the woods.  2nd Corps came up in P.M. over same road as 5th.  [Dennis G. Walker, Company A, pictured, whose knapsack was struck by a piece of shell and was hurled several feet from the impact.  Walker survived the war.  I  don't have a picture of Keating.  Photo courtesy of Mr. Tim Sewell.]

[Note: Davy Sloss carried the State Flag, Keating picked up the National Colors when Walker was hit. – B.F.]

Excerpt of a Letter from David Sloss

David Sloss who carried the State Colors for the Regiment recalled more of the story of the flag and General G. K. Warren in a letter to comrade William R. Warner, dated July 21, 1910.  The letter resides in the collection of Colonel Leonard's papers at the Gilder Lehrman Collection in New York. [GLC3343]   Post war image of David Sloss taken by Gettysburg Photographer Tipton,  at the dedication of the 13th Mass. Monument, Sept., 1885.

In part of the letter Sloss writes Warner:

     "We then went about a mile further when we saw a Battery on the edge of a wood we could see them getting out of their blankets.    The 39th Mass., Col Davis were ahead of us when we started to charge but did not go fast enough for me so the two Regts were close together when a shell came down through the center of the two Regts Killing a Lieut of the 39th and hitting D G Walker who had the American Colors and breaking the staff.  (I had the State Color) 
[Pictured is a scan of the sketch of the incident as artist Alfred Waud drew it.]
Keating picked up the flag and tied it with a canteen strap.  We went on about a mile further chasing the Battery but they got away.  One of our Lieuts was Killed in the woods.*   We advanced until we came upon McLaws whole division behind a low earthwork.  We fired here until we saw from this flank fire,  then we broke and run perhaps a  [?]  When we saw Warren and Staff trying to rally the runners I got behind a big tree and told the boys to stand as we could stand as long as Warren could. 

     Robinson had been shot falling back his head on his breast and back to a tree.  Warren pointed to him saying “there is the only soldier in your Division you are all a pack of damned cowards.”  Every thing was flying  past us when Warren seized the top of the National Color over Keating’s sholder and it parted he waved it about 15 minutes in the Maryland Brigade that had some formation but they soon got by.   Keating went up and asked Warren for it but he would not give it to him.  I ordered the Guard to go and get it and he gave it to them.  He saw their [sp] was going to be trouble and their [sp] was enough around there at this time."

*Lt. Charles Whitcomb was killed.

The Roster in the book “Three Years in the Army” by Charles E. Davis, Jr. lists the following soldiers killed or died of wounds received this day.  I have added the appropriate number of years to the soldiers age at enlistment to come up with an approximate age at time of death.  – I did not have time to check the list against the Massachusetts Adjt. Genls. Roster. – B.F

Pictured at right is Rolla Nichols.  The only one of the killed whom I currently have an image.

Selah B. Alden died of his wounds. (to the head) Corporal, Company D, about age 31.
William Sanders. Recruit of July 1863, age about 32, Company E.
John Schnell.  Private, Company E, age about 30.
Charles A. Williams. Private,  recruit of July, 1863, Company E, age about 24.
Rolla Nicholas. [Or Nichols]  Private, Company F, died of wounds June 2nd 1864, age about 26.
Thomas E. Bancroft. Private, Company G, missing after May 8, supposed to have been killed. Age about 25.
Charles E. Colburn. Company H, private, age about 21.
Charles W. Whitcomb. Company I, 2nd Lieutenant, age about 25.
Charles W. Mosher. Company I, Corporal, age about 21.
John P. Peebles. Company I, Corporal,  age about 27.
William P. Farqueson. Company I, private,  age about 21.
Charles F. Rice,  Company K, private, was a recruit of ’62, age about 21.