James P Snell.

History of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : online

. (page 23 of 190)
Online LibraryJames P SnellHistory of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : → online text (page 23 of 190)
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the Harris Light charged clear through the rebel
lines, reformed beyond them, and charged back to
their own ; but it was found that the enemy were too
strong for the cavalry, and a retreat was ordered.
The dead and wounded were brought off the field.
The infantry entered Falmouth, and the rebel com-
mander was compelled to destroy the bridge across
the river and fall back behind Fredericksburg to save
the city from the fire of McDowell's artillery. Here
a solemn funeral service was performed over the first
of the Harris Light killed in battle, and the men of
both cavalry regiments learned that the Northern pa-
pers had exalted them all to the rank of heroes.

Some more substantial promotions occurred to the
men from Sussex. Lieut. Grinton was made captain
of Company G, and Sergt. Mattison was promoted
second lieutenant of Company K, having been pre-
viously made sergeant-major of the regiment.

The Harris Light Cavalry had been announced in
general orders by Secretary Cameron as the Seventh
Regiment of United States Cavalry. This aroused a
storm of opposition from regular officers, and was
found to be illegal. Another order rescinded the
first, and ordered the regiment credited to New York.
Finally, after a long controversy, the Governor re-
stored the rightful number, which ever after continued
to be the Second. Gen. McDowell, now having com-
mand of a military department, with the full rank of
major-general, selected Duffle's battalion to be his
body-guard, and for months after the Sussex squadron
and Companies I and K scarcely ever came in sight
of the regiment, which then belonged to Bayard's
brigade. Meanwhile, Col. J. M. Davies having re-
signed on account of ill health, Kilpatrick became

The Sussex squadron performed much scouting duty
while at headquarters, marched with the command-
ing general across the mountains into the Shenandoah


valley iii pursuit of " Stonewall" Jackson j thence
bad i" Manassas; thence followed Pope in the
Northern Virginia campaign to Culpeper; was under
fire at tin- battle of Cedar Mountain; got inside the
enemy's lines by mistake in the night following, and
raised a commotion which set both armies to fighting;
escaped without loss, and a few 'lays after formed the
skirmish-line which discovered, the enemy had retreated
and were well on the way to reinforce Lee and raise
McClellan'e siege of Richmond.
When Lee commenced his mo vein en t against Popi

the Sussex si|iiailrini was called upon for ineessant

duty in watching ami retarding the advance of the
enemy. The battalion held the Rappahannock on
either side of the railroad bridge lor two or three
days, during whicb time it- supply-wagons, with all
the headquarters train, was captured in the rear at
Oatlett's Station.

The Sussex squadron lien accompanied Pope and
McDowell to Warren i on ; thence to Groveton, where
it was the first to discover Jackson's corps 'in the
Budley Springs road. Escorting the general around
to Manassas, it was almost in a starving eon lition
without it- supply-wagons or any commissary to draw
supplies from. It followed McDowell and Fit/. John

Porter from the large brick house at Manassas, called
army headquarters, to the front, where Fit/. John
Porter established his line of battle. Then, leaving
Lieut. Griggs and twenty of his men to act as mes-
sengers for Gen. Porter, the battalion escorted Mc-
Dowell to the right, where the battle was commencing.
It remained on the Geld throughout the battle of the

29th almost famished for food and even for water.

ami the morning of the 80th killed a young co« and
ate it before the battle was renewed. When the first

Bign Of Wavering was seen, McDowell ordered the

battalion to deploy and -top stragglers, while he gal-
loped down to the battery where the battle raged the
hottest. II.' us.'d superhuman courage to stay the
invincible advance of tile enemy, and was -aid to be
the last man to leave the battery. The Su - ex squadron

and Kane's " Bucktails" exerted every effort to check
our retreating lines, but to no purpose; the day was
lost. The battalion followed McDowell and Pope to
the defenses of Washington, where McClellan ap-
peared and assumed command.
Everything now seemed moving across the Poto

mac. ('apt. Naylor had succeeded Duffle in command

of the battalion. The latter, through the influence

of Gen. McDowell, had l.ecn appointed colonel of I he

First Rhode Island Cavalry by Governor William
Sprague. Capt. Naylor received orders to report

in Maryland to Gen. Joseph Honker, who had suc-
ceeded to the command of McDowell's corps the
First — in McClellan' lion of the Army of

the Potomac.

The battalion joined Hooker on the battle-field "f
\ntietam. That officer did not want it, and ordered
it to remain near the ammunition-wagons, Th -

sex squadron, therefore, witnessed the battle without
participating in it. Hooker was wounded, Reynolds

ne to organize a new corps of defense in Penn-
sylvania: -o Gen. Meade, l.nt lately commanding a
brigade, suddenly found himself at tie- lead of the
First Army Corps. With him the battalion remained

until C'U. It yn olds returned and took command of

the First Corps. After serving with Reynolds for a
time tie- battalion was ordered to rejoin the regiment,

which had remained in the defenses of Washington.

and which was found at Ball's Cross-Roads.
With Bayard's brigade the reunited battalions of

the Harris Light Cavalry vd towards Aldie.

where a severe battle was fought late in October.
When Burnside relieved McClellan the Harris Light
marched down the river to Fredericksburg, but too
late to save the bridge McDowell had rebuilt the
ing summer.
\i i tin l-i of December, Bayard's command

moved to Dumfries to clear out a force threat
the rear, hut returned in time to eros- the pontoons
at the battle of Fredericksburg and take position on
the plain in front of Franklin's headquarters, where
that most promising young Jerseyman, Gen. George
D. Bayard, was struck by a bursting shell, and died

as calmly and I lly as he would have faced the

rebels in the strength of his noble manhood. After
the battle the Harris Light was sent down the north

bank of the Kappahan -k as a corps of observation.

Excepting a raid of fifty miles down the Rappa-
hannock and the famous Burnside "mud inarch,"
there were no great deeds to record during this win-
ter. Capt. Cooke was promoted major; First Lieut.
(irie/'.'s was promoted Captain, and Second l.ieiit. Mat-

tison first lieutenant of Company K. Lieut. Downing

was promote I captain of Company I'..

In the spring the Harris Light went on the famous
Kilpatriek raid around the rebel army, approaching

within two mile- of Ricbm 1. destroying bridges,

railways, etc., crossing the Chiekahominy, and, rc-

io the Pamunkey, crossed that river on flat-
boats ami mad.- their escape to Yorktown. Seizing a

favorable time, they recrossed the rebel country at

great peril, and reached (he Federal transports at I'r-
banna, upon which they crossed the Rappahannock,
and regained their place in the Army of the Potomac

with a hi- of aboil I fifty nun throughout the expedi-
tion. On the '.ith of June the Harris Light took

part in the great cavalry battle of the war at Brandy

Station, wherein all the cavalry of the contending

armies were joined in mortal combat. In conse-
quence of the Richmond raid, tin- Harris Light Cav-
alry was perha;- the most famous regiment in the

world at this time.

\i Brandy Station, however, a mistake with regard
i,, orders lost the golden opportunity to strike the

enemy a decisive blow. When the Harris Light
Cavalry realized its mistake the most gallant efforts

were made to rede in the fal-e movement, and the



regiment fought hard throughout the battle. In at-
tempting to reform the broken line Col. Davies was the
first to dash across the railroad embankment, expect-
ing his regiment to follow. His horse fell dead at
the very feet of the rebels, who closed in around
Davies and cut him off from the few who attempted
to follow him. Standing by the carcase of " Back-
skin," Davies faced his assailants, and, sternly watch-
ing every sabre-thrust, skillfully parried every blade
drawn against him, sending some whirling over the
heads of the foe. He coolly maintained his position
for several minutes, until some of the Sussex boys
succeeded in driving off the eager rebel officers, some
twenty or thirty of whom were each striving to cut
him down. At night the exhausted cavalrymen of
each side drew off, and both sides claimed the victory.
On the 17th of June, Kilpatrick fought Fitzhugh
Lee's cavalry at Aldie, and the Harris Light Cavalry
more than redeemed its reputation. The squadron
which led the false charge at Brandy Station asked
for the post of honor in this battle. Kilpatrick told
them to charge the haystacks from which a galling
fire was poured into his lines on the hill. The squad-
ron (Raymond's) charged at once; only nineteen
men came out unharmed. Grinton was ordered to
go to their relief. He took Company K, Griggs
having " borrowed" Griuton's company of carbineers
to dislodge a force on the opposite flank. Company
K was officered by Lieuts. Mattison and A. C. Shafer
(of Stillwater, Sussex Co., N. J.), both promoted from
the Sussex squadron. Company K charged, with
Grinton leading, directly towards the haystacks, but
Mattison, discovering that the destruction of Ray-
mond's squadron proceeded from the fire of sharp-
shooters intrenched in a deep ditch to the right,
urged his men upon them. Grinton cried out to fol-
low him, but the men kept on with Mattison to the
ditch, and, the Sixth Ohio Cavalry crossing the ditch
farther to the left, about one hundred sharpshooters
fell into 'the hands of the Harris Light. The battle
ended for the day with our troops in possession of the

From Aldie, via Middleburg and Upperville, to
Ashby's Gap, the next few days witnessed constant
fighting between the Union cavalry and Stuart's en-
tire cavalry corps, the latter being eventually driven
through the Gap, with considerable loss in every

The cavalry of the Army of the Potomac gave up
the pursuit of Stuart, and countermarched to Aldie
and prepared to follow the army into Maryland.
The companies of Griggs and Grinton were here
ordered to Washington with condemned and captured
property, surplus baggage, etc. They were scarcely
aware that Stuart's cavalry, passing down the valley
and through Thoroughfare Gap, were hard upon their
heels at Fairfax Court-house. The march was pushed
forward towards the close with unusual haste, and
not far from A lexandria a regiment of Federal cavalry

passing out towards Fairfax was warned by Griggs
that a large force of the enemy was approaching
Fairfax, and that the utmost caution should be used.
The commanding officer haughtily rejected the idea
of any heavy body of hostile troops being so near
Washington, and impatiently moved on. This entire
command was surrounded that night, and nearly all
fell into Stuart's hands.

In the short Gettysburg campaign, Kilpatrick, un-
able to get the Harris Light regularly transferred to
his new command, " borrowed" the regiment from
Gen. Gregg and worked it incessantly. It participated
in all his glorious operations, and in fifteen days he
fought nearly as many battles, capturing four thou-
sand five hundred prisoners, nine pieces of artillery,
and eleven battle-flags.

Constant changes had been going on among the
Jerseymen of the Harris Light: Kilpatrick, first
lieutenant-colonel, then colonel, was now brigadier-
general: Cooke was a major; Griggs and Grinton
were captains ; and several of the sergeants were
lieutenants. The men who originally went out in
the Sussex squadron had become scattered over the
whole regiment, and only the full details of the oper-
ations of the organization can do justice to all of its
Sussex members.

Kilpatrick subsequently succeeded in getting the
Harris Light into his division, — the Third of the
cavalry corps, — and in this incomparable division the
regiment remained throughout the war.

In September following, Kilpatrick marched down
the Rappahannock and destroyed the two gunboats
captured from our navy a short time before. Return-
ing to the Army of the Potomac, he crossed the river
and drove the enemy back over the plains of Brandy
Station to Culpeper Court-house. While Buford's
division advanced from the Sperryville road, Kil-
patrick, in front, attacked the corps of Stuart, drawn
up in splendid array around Culpeper. As the sev-
eral regiments of Davies' brigade galloped into posi-
tion, the band playing the " Star-Spangled Banner,"
a battalion of the Harris Light was seen to leave our
line and dash madly down the hill, across a creek, and
up the other side, directly upon the rebel battery
which swept the hills where the Third Division was
massing. This battalion was led by Capt. George V.
Griggs. Gen. George A. Custer, wdiose brigade was
forming to the rear of Davies', rode forward to learn
what was going on. Perceiving Griggs charging the
battery, he put spurs to his horse and dashed ahead,
nor drew rein till he was in the midst of the chargers,
who made straight for the guns and captured three of
them, with nearly all the men and officers of the bat-
tery, which proved to be the famous Baltimore artil-
lery company which early entered the Confederate
service. Buford's division, charging the northwest
side of the town, had compelled Stuart to weaken his
front. Almost as soon as Griggs had possession of the
battery the balance of the regiment was upon the



ground, and the charge was kepf up through and be-
yond the town.

Later in the month the Btime two Federal divisions
met Fitzhugh I. ie's division six mi
Orange Court-house, far away from our lines. Buford
this time moved directly upon the enemy, while Kil-
patrick, marching by way of Madison Court-house,
<l to gel on the rebels' lineof retreat, The
latter, discovering Kilpatrick's purpose, hastened his
retrograde movement : so thai only tin- Harris Light,
in tin' advance, gol upon hi- road, and against this
hi In- opened liis battery at shortest range ami
'iii! I liis whole command, cutting a pathway
through ii ami carrying off a number of the Harris
Light as prisoners, while many were left dead or
wounded on the field.

Early in October, Gen. Lee commenced a Banking
movement designed to for ■•■ Mead • bad of tl
pahannock. Kilpatrick's division was pushi
towards Madison Court-house to watch the enemy's
manoeuvres ami to cover (In- movements of the Army
ni' the Potomac, which was drawing mil of Culpeper
towards the Rappahannock. On tin- morning of the
memorable 1 1 1 ! ■ of October, Kilpatrick drew in liis
pickets and fell back to Culp per. The Harris Light
wae "ii the rear-guard, .nil halted southwest of the
town. Pleasonton, the chief of the cavalry corps,
Bent mi order in Kilpatrick to dispatch a squadron to
the rear to penetrate the enemy's lines ami discover
what they were doing, The order came down through
brigade headquarters to Capt. Griggs in take his
squadron ami perform the perilous dutj . The dullest
soldier of the Harris Light Cavalry knew that along
the picket-line of the Hazel River the preceding
night tin- Confederate cavalry was pushing north-
wanl. The silence which prevailed at iliis moment
was deeply ominous, Griggs declared it was murder
to obey tlm order, but, like tin- good soldier that be
was, In- turned southward and marched Bternly away

from the division, which In- was never re t" I' bold.

A quarter of an Ii iur later a hurried call was mail,
ilunteers to go aftei him and call him back, but
between his squadron ami the division the enemy had
steadily marched, and was closing up every road.
When Griggs emerged into open ground from the

deep h I- Bout h of l lulp ipi t Ik disi overed A. P.

Hill's corpB of Confederate infantry inarching sti
towards the Court-house. Griggs turned back, '
covered a barricade of trees that he bad left in liis

ad 1 n cut away, Kilpatrick had promised to

halt ni i lulpeper till the squadron returned, I
turned off into a grove just back of tin- town, halted
the squadron, and rode out, »itli n single trooper be-
hind him, to reconnoitre. A picket in a blu
coal was Been just out of the town, but the trooper
behind called out to Griggs that beworegraj pants.
The captain had evidently made the same discovery
for he suddenly wheeled and shouted, " To th
Bave yourselvesl" and that instant u bullet struck

the back of his head and he reeled and fell to the
ground. His horse followed the squadron, which
rushed wildly to the ri^lit and came out upon familiar
ground mar it- old camp when previously stationed
at Culpeper. Swarms of rebel cavalry pursued them,
but, circling around a piece of wet, marshy ground,
across which the Confederates vainly essayed to gal-
lop, the men of the Harris Light Boon distinguished
Eilpatrick'a battle-line, which, forced to evacuate
Culpeper, was thrown across the very hills from
which that same squadron the previous month had
started to charge the rebel battery. With des
energy those men spurred tlmir tired horses forward,
and Kilpatrick, looking anxiously upon their gallant
race, pushed his skirmishers towards them. Down by
an ol<l mill they crossed the creek, and came in safely ;
but Griggs was lost. In the lull before the battle a
deep and solemn lament came from marly every one

over his fate. All his tl who escaped -there were

several missing, among them Lieut. A. < '. Shafer —
declared that, from the way Capt. Griggs dropped off
his horse, they believed he was shot dead. It may be

slated here that when the Army of the Potomac again

occupied that country, Capt. Grinton and Lieut. Mat-
tisou, with an escort, went over the ground, and at a
house mar by learned that two Confederate Boldiers
brought poor Griggs to the door alive but insensible,
and In- died that night. His body was exhumed, fully
identified, and sent North, and is buried in the old
o meter} of Newton. He was a patriot of wonderful
energy and zeal, an honor to his native town, and an
invaluable officer in his regim int.

Quicklj following the escaped squadron, the lejri ons
of the enemy closed upon the skirmish-line, com-
manded in pen 'ii bj < ten. II. E. I femes, dr.. who re-
tired front and rear rank in taetieal order alter each

volley with all the precision of a brigade drill. The
extreme coolness of hi- manoeuvres inspired the men
with confidence and astonished the advancing line of
the enemy. Meantime, Kilpatrick, with all the rest
of the division, was hurrying back to Brandy Station.
West of Brandy station, in plain Bight, Fitzhugh
Lee's rebel cavalry division was marching in haste
for the -ame position. ( >n the opposite Sank of Kil-
patrick, Wade Hampton's division, approaching via
Stepheusburg, closed in to cut off his retreat. Daviee
drew in his skirmishers and closed up the gap between

him and the main column, hut had hardly reached

the division when Wade Hampton's men bunt through

the thill woods which had eoiieealed tin- head of his

column, with which 1 laviea 1 two regiments "f the rear-
guard now became interlocked in deadly conflict.

With wild curse- and shout- 1 lavies' limn threw them-
selves upon the enemy and hurled him back. I 'overed

by a cloud of dust, a regiment galloped in from the

rear, into which the rear-guard poured a volley which

unhorsed many of them, only to discover the next mo-
ment thej were firing into a regimentof our ■ •■■■
ulars, which, in falling hack from Stepheusburg, had



become separated from Buford's division, and, envel-
oped by tbe hordes of advancing Confederates, made
direct for Kilpatrick's line, guided by the sound of
his guns. Thus two unfortunate mistakes caused the
unnecessary loss of valuable lives to our side that
day, — mistakes which were absorbed in the terrific
combat which followed. The heads of Kilpatrick's
and Fitzhugh Lee's columns met'a little westward of
the railroad station, and the shock at first staggered
both. Around the 3-inch iron guns of his two regular
horse-batteries Kilpatrick massed his regiments as
fast as they came up, and at closest range poured shot
and shell into the rallying Confederates, who came
on grandly in the face of the deadly fire. Wild yells,
curses, and hurrahs mingled with the clash of arms
as the storm went on from midday to far in the after-
noon, neither side yielding, and Kilpatrick's thin
division grappling with more than double its num-

A Confederate brigade trotted across the fields to-
wards the railroad station, and took up the charge
against a weak place on Davies' front. That superb sol-
dier turned, almost alone, to face the onset, when Grin-
ton ordered the regimental colors of the Harris Light
to take post directly to the front of the approaching
column. Around the flags of the Harris Light, Grin-
ton and Mattison speedily rallied near a hundred
men, who delivered a volley from their carbines and
pistols into the advancing foe, whose general tottered
in his saddle and fell to the ground, dead or badly
wounded. The enemy could not get beyond their
fallen chief, and shrank back under the steady fire
which continued to pour into their ranks. One of
Elders' guns, disabled, was hauled off by hand, while
the others became so hot that the men had to pause
to cool them. Around them and in between them
dashed Confederate cavalrymen, to be met by Kilpat-
rick's men and forced back ; but Elder grimly held
his pistol over his own men and swore to shoot any
man who deserted his post.

Away up the rising hills westward towards Sperry-
ville a little regiment of infantry was seen making
its way on a run towards the Rappahannock, fre-
quently turning and forming a hollow square against
cavalry and delivering a withering fire into a pur-
suing column, then again drawing out on a i - un, only
to be again charged by the pursuers. Gallantly the
regiment struggled forward, with its colors flying and
every now and then facing to the rear and delivering
an effective volley at the persistent enemy.

Eventually the regiment escaped and passed to the
rear of Kilpatrick's battle-ground, but the sight was
immensely encouraging to the Third Division, and
they renewed their efforts to repel their assailants ;
but still the battle raged without intermission, and
the rapidly-thinning ranks of the Third Division
gave the rebels hope of success, when the wild shriek
of howitzer guns louder than any of Kilpatrick's,
was borne through the air as tbe shells burst over the

rebel ranks. Turning their eyes, the weary troopers
of the Third Division beheld a sight which filled
their hearts with the wildest joy. Across the wide
plain in their rear a dozen regiments of cavalry were
advancing to their relief in line of battle, with colors
flying and bands playing as gayly as on any review-
day. In front of this host, which was the entire
First Cavalry Division, rode Gen. John Buford with
a few staff-officers, never halting until he was in the
midst of Davies' men, still firing into the brigade
whose 'chief lay between the two forces. Buford,
neatly dressed and smoking a cigar, appeared alto-
gether unconcerned about the rebels. In tbe coolest
manner — for which be was famous — he gave quiet
orders to his staff-officers, who galloped back to the
First Division, proudly sweeping up the hill in mag-
nificent order. The rebel fire slackened as by magic ;
orders quickly passed along for the Third Division to
fall back behind the hill and give place to the First
Division. Cheers were exchanged by the two divi-
sions; Buford's Napoleon guns kept up their fire, but
the roll of small-arms slacked, and the Third Divi-
sion was " out of the fight," but with the loss of many
valuable men.

Two corps of infantry reerossed the Rappahannock
and marched to the relief of the cavalry, and the
tired and blood-stained soldiers of the Third Cavalry
Division were withdrawn to the north side of the
river to rest and refresh themselves after their des-
perate work of the 11th of October, 1863.

Towards the close of October, Kilpatrick was sur-
rounded and cut off at Buckland Mills, near War-
renton, by the whole of Stuart's cavalry, but by
consummate coolness he forced a mill-race and es-

Online LibraryJames P SnellHistory of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : → online text (page 23 of 190)