James P Snell.

History of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : online

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though many of the veterans claimed that their three
years' enlistment had expired.

On the 29th of August those who had enlisted at
the organization of the regiment and had not subse-
quently re-enlisted were mustered out of service and
sent home. The re-enlisted veterans and those who
had not yet served three years were formed into a
battalion of four companies, or two squadrons, Maj.
Walter Clarke Hull commanding, and the two senior
line-iillicers, Glover and Mattison, acting as captains
of squadrons.



SUSSEX AND WAllREN IN THE WAR OF THE REBELLION.



[03



There was much fighting for thi- battalion, for it
embraced the Bnesl bodj ol men according to the
opinion of Gen. Wilson) in the Third Divisioi
compact, so thoroughly experienced and drilled, that it
was constantly called upon for the most delicate and
hazardous duty. While escorting Gen. Sheridan Groin
the celebrated council with < ir.nn ni Charlestown, after

the army had advanced i" Berry ville, ii had 1 1 1 ■ g I

fortune to chasi after Mosby and recapture an am-
bulance-train just previously captured on the Berry-
\ i 1 1. • iiiad. This neaf affair was managed by Lieut.
William Ii. Shafer, "i Susses County. On another
occasion Mattison's squadron made a night-scoul
dear up to the Opequan, causing tin- long roll to be
sounded iii i hr enemy's camps on the other side.

(in thr 19th of September, a1 1 a.m., the battalion
of the Harris Light Cavalrj broke camp at Berry-
ville and marched out on thr Winchester road,
threading it- waj through masses of infantry ami
batteries of artillery all faced towards the enemy.
( Irn. Mcintosh ordered I Hover's squadron to advance
as a flanking column on the left of the road, and w nl
agniduwith Mattison's squadron to move across the
fields about a ball-mile ami thru head directly tor the
i fpequan, keeping up with tin- head of column in the
road, ami, crossing simultaneously with it by a ford
known to thr guide, to rush up the Hill beyond and
form skirmish-line connecting with the brigade.
These instructions were carried out. At tin- firsl
crack of musketrj in tin- wood near thr Opequan,
Mattison's squadron rushed into the creek ami forded
to ili.' other Bide in thr fair of a picket-fire, which
receded as the squadron advanced clear to the
hi i!m hill, ami thm engaged in a conflict with the
enemy which, hut for it* -. rious and fatal results,
would have seemed grotesque to a disinterest! d
tator. First, thr Federal squadron charged beyond
the hill across stony, uneven ground marly to a rebel
camp, the troops of which, hut hastily prepared for
action, turned .mil rushed them back to tin- crest,
whence, again rallying, the Yankee squadron drove
the rebels back to their camp, only to meet a cavalrj
fin-', which in turn chased them back. This irregu-
lar Bght continued well on in the morning, thi
log along the whole line, but especially to the left of
Mattison's squadron, growing more determined. Be-
hind Mattison's squadron, which completel) concealed
it from the enemy, Chapman's Second Brigade had
silentU formed, bul taking then no part in the fight.
Next Bteadily an. I silently advanced the sixth Amu
coming up the hill behind the centre ami left
of Mcintosh's brigade, which by thi- time was hold-
ing the crest against a fearful lire of musketry.
Spreading out like a fan, Russell's division of the
Sixth Corps was soon in line directly behind Mcin-
tosh's dismounted cavalry, which at a riven signal

fell back, uncovering tin' line of battle of the Sixth
Corps which immediately became engaged in a ter-
rific conflict. The battle of the Opequan was joined.



Wilson's two cavalry brigades were drawn hack and
placed on the left of the infantry, Chapman's going
into the fight well around the- enemy's ri^rht flank,

while Mcintosh's remained in reserve. •
As the battle progressed and rolled all along the

CreSl of hills tor two or three mile- in extent, Mc-

Into-h became eager to participate again, and, leav-
ing hi- own brigade, hr rode down into Chapman's

line in the lull Strength ol' hi- splendid manhood ;

shortly he was brought out and hack to the ambu-
lances with a shattered leg. The Burgeons declared
u iini-t come off, and there, on the tield, in the full

tide of the ten die battle hr had bo skillfully brought
on. this most able and gallant Jerseyman calmly lay

down ami submitted to amputation. When it was
over he asked l" he sent home, and that same night

was taken to Harper's Ferry in an ambulance and
placed on a train, arriving the next morning in Phil-
adelphia, where his magnificent nerve-power gave

way, anil lor many weeks his life huug by a thread.
He finally recovered, and wa- placed on the retired

list, according to hi- brevet of major-general.

The battle of the i fpequan -called by the Confed-
eral, the battle of Winchester— rolled on throughout
thr afternoon with undiminished fury. Col. Pen-
nington, ol the Third New Jersey Cavalry . succeeded

to the c imand of Mcintosh's brigade, which moved

into a gap between Early's infantry and his cavalry.

Chapman'- brigade having forced the rebel cavalry
JO that the hare llank id' the rebel infantry lay

open and exposed without even a skirmish-line to
keep oil a flanking lire. Pennington seized the op-
portunity, and placed his battery ill position to rake
the rebel ranks crosswise, 'the rebel artillery, which

had fiercely .-helled Pennington's brigade going into
this position, now became desperately engaged in
front, and Pennington opened his battery with short
fuse upon the doomed infantry of Early's army, too

heavily engaged in it- front to heed this new peril.

Yet the brave fellows fought on. nor commenced to

waver until an immense cloud of cavalry — Merritt's

and AveriU's divisions — wa- -. . n sweeping around
the hit and nar id' the rebel position, clear up to

Winchester. Then the Confederates -aw thej were
I.e. lien, and their line- began to crumble. Before
dark thej were going pell-mell up the valley towards

Newton, the I nion cavalry ill hot pur-nil. S ..f

the cavalry, outstripping their comrade-, ran into a

rebel brigade in tolerable order, and were very severely

handled before other troopers came up, hut a- the

cavalry closed up the retreat became a wild panic,

and full) jii-tilied Sheridan- eri-o telegrams that he

had -rut Early "whirling up the valley.'' This battle
made Cm. Wil-on a major-general, ami he was sent

We-t t -ganize a cavalry corps for Gen. Thomas.

i len. < leorge A. < luster ram. from the Michigan bri-
gade to command the Third I'. vision. With an en-
command, that magnificent cavalry leader
performed w lent, Prom the day that he assumed



104



SUSSEX AND WARREN COUNTIES, NEW JERSEY.



command it was his proud boast that he captured
every piece of artillery that opened on the Third
Division.

The battle of Cedar Creek, of the 19th of October,
made Custer's division famous throughout the world.
His lines were never broken by the disaster of the
morning, which spread dismay and panic through the
army. At the first alarm Merritt and Custer assem-
bled their divisions, which lay on the right of the
army, and, marching by the back road to the left of
the Sixth Corps, formed line of battle, which with
that splendid mass of veterans opposed the farther
advance of Early's troops. Such was their position
when Sheridan rode on the field from Winchester,
imparting a new courage to his troops. As soon as
the Eighth and Nineteenth Corps could be gathered
up and placed in line the cavalry were moved back
to the right, and the entire mass moved forward at
the double-quick, the cavalry taking the gallop, and
the charge swept the rebels back across Cedar Creek.
The cavalry surpassed all its previous splendid record
in its terrific charge upon the enemy. Past the camps
which it had left in the morning it literally rode over
the Confederates, until thousands of rebels and bat-
tery after battery were overtaken and captured. The
Third Division took twenty-six pieces of artillery,
and never halted till Early was far back of Fisher's
Hill.

Some days previous the Third Division had also
captured several pieces of artillery in a fight with
Gen. Rosser's cavalry, so that it began to be famous
for its triumphs against that arm of the Confederate
service.

Officers who had gone North early in August to
recruit uew men had succeeded beyond their expec-
tations. Mainly through the personal efforts of Capt.
M. B. Birdseye a splendid lot of men had been brought
to the field, and once more the Harris Light appeared
with twelve full companies, and Walter C. Hull came
back from Albany a full colonel only to be shot dead
a few days later, November 12th, in an engagement
with the rebel cavalry on the " back road."

Capt. A. M. Randol, of the regular artillery, now
became colonel; Birdseye, lieutenant-colonel; Maj.
Joseph O'Keefe, of Sheridan's staff, came to the regi-
ment as senior major; Capt. Glover was promoted
.second major; and Capt. Mattison was recommended
for tlic third major; but an Italian nobleman just
arrived in the country with the highest indorsement
from tin: Italian minister was appointed to the com-
mission by Governor Seymour.

As iliis gentleman could hardly speak a word of
English and had no experience with American troops,
it became necessary lor him to seek a detail on stall'
duly, which was readily given him; and he never
exercised the command of his battalion in the Harris
Light Cavalry a single day, Capt. Mattison always
fulfilling nil tin- duties of the position. Lieut. Wil-
liam I!. Shafer was promoted to a captaincy, and



became a chief of squadron at once, as well as one
of the most efficient and valuable officers in the regi-
ment.

The Mount Jackson expedition seasoned the new
men to the hardships of winter campaigning, and
Custer's expedition up the valley in December was
severe even upon old troops. Custer marched up the
valley for two days, in extremely cold weather, with
but little opposition. From an artillery caisson he
read, when twenty-five miles out, a dispatch by
courier from Sheridan announcing the receipt of dis-
patches from Washington stating that information
had been received from Richmond that Jefferson
Davis had gone crazy and the rebels everywhere
were preparing to abandon the war. Gen. Sheridan
therefore gave Custer leave to go on with his division
as far as he could and test the truth of this astound-
ing information, which, however, did not prevent the
young general from throwing out strong pickets at
night.

On the second night the division went into camp
at Lacy's Springs, the Second Brigade on the right
of the road and somewhat in advance of the First
Brigade, on the left. At earliest dawn of day on the
third morning the troops saddled up, and, after taking
coffee, the First Brigade was waiting orders to move,
when a tremendous yell, followed by the sharp crack
of carbines over in the front of the Second Brigade,
burst upon them. Plainly, the rebels hadn't aban-
doned the Confederacy just yet.

Hastily the First Brigade sprang to their horses
and waited orders from Gen. Custer. None coming,
the right was extended to the road just as a body of
charging rebels swept by in the grayish darkness of
approaching day. A well-directed volley from the
right of the Harris Light Cavalry unhorsed many of
them, but they swept on, aiming to capture Gen. Cus-
ter, who, coming out of his headquarters, very nar-
rowly escaped. The rebels swept on and cut down
many of the officers' servants and camp-followers,
and leaving a large number of their own men dead
or prisoners. In the Second Brigade there were six-
teen men wounded in the head by sabre-cuts. The
rebel attack was soon repulsed, but Custer was satis-
fied with the information he had obtained of the en-
emy's purpose to continue the war, and he lost no
time in getting on the road homeward. Mattison's
battalion of the Harris Light Cavalry covered the
retreat.

So cold had the weather become that the march
was very painful. Many men had their ears, hands,
or feet frozen. The prisoners taken in the charge
were marched along on foot for the two days it re-
quired to get back to the army.

Another expedition followed soon after to Moor-
field, in Western Virginia, and occupied about four
days.

What had been earlier known as Averill's division
had been broken up, and all the cavalry with Sheri-



SUSSEX AND WAK11EN IN TIIK WAR OF THE REBELLION.



105



dan was embraced in the Fir-t and Third Divisions,
each having three brigades of four or five regiments,
( lapehart's West Virginia brigade becoming the Third
of the Tliinl Division. Kadi brigade, ae usual, had
its four-gun battery of horse-artillery, and a tight
pontoon-train was :i 1 1 :i- -1 1 <-< 1 to the corps.

On the 28th of February, 1865, (Jen. Sheridan,
with tin* corp.-', a light wagon-train loaded with
ammunition and coffee, augar, and salt, and a train
of ambulances, marched out of Winchester. It was
said that this column consumed three hours in passing
a given point on the broad Winchester and Staunton
Pike, one of the best mails in Virginia.

At Staunton it was learned that Early was in-
trenched at Waynesboro', at the foot of the moun-
tain. Leaving the hard macadamized road, the
huge colnmn plowed it- way through mud from
twelve t<> twenty inches deep, and the head of the
oluran had reached Early's position while yet tin-
rear was in Staunton, four een miles away.

Custer, perceiving Early had taken up a most in-
defensible j >> >-i t i ■ >i i mi the north Bide of the creek,
instead of placing his forces behind it, determined to
make Bhorl work of him without waiting for the First
Division. Forming his regiments as fast as they ar-
rived, he Icl them through the mud under a smart
artillery-fire Btraight up to the enemy, his line lop-
ping Early's flanks and capturing the whole com-
mand, — between two and three thousand infantry
ami aeveral batteries of artillery. Early and a
few mounted officers ignominiously Hed to the moun-
tain, over which Custer's men pursued him all night,

Sheridan detached a strong force to take the pris-
oners hack to Winchester, thereby depriving himself
of troops thai were afterwards much needed. His
column was still very large, ami with it he marched
on to < Iharlottesville, and thence toward- Lj nchburg.
Deeming it injudicious to attempt the capture of this
strongly-fortified city, he turned down the James
River and marched at will for many days, destroying
property vital to the Confederacy. < >n the llih of
March he encamped at Ashland Station, mar Rich-
mond, and on the I5tb sent the First Connecticut
Cavalry along the railroad towards Richmond, and
Matii-on'- battali iu on the old telegraph road. These

troops advanced to within a lew miles of the rebel

capital, when the Connecticut regiment ran into I'iek-
ett's division, and was Beverelj punished and driven
hack. The battalion of the Hani- Light fell hack to
b position about a mile in advance of the di\ ision.

Custer Bent orders to hold the enemj th< re as long
a- possible, in doing which a most severe fight ensued,
a brigade of Pickett's division overlapping the cavalry
battalion on both Hanks; but the battalion held the
position until recalled bj Lieut. -c.d. Birdseye, when
it hastily fell hack, two of the gallant fellows rescuing
('apt. Mattison, who, struck by n glancing bullet,
would have fallen from his saddle Imi for their timely
aid.



Farther back the rebel brigade ran into an ambus-
cade previously arranged by Cols. Randol and Birds-
eye, and received eight rounds of ammunition from a
hundred Spencer carbines at Bhort range, which sent
them reeling hack into the wood's with heavy loss.
The same troops became prisoners of war two weeks
1.0 r to the -aim- regiment, and complimented the
Harris Light lor their determined fighting at Ash-
land, admitting that they Buffered heavy h> - in the
encounter.

Crossing the South Anna, Sheridan marched down

On the north side of the- J'ainunkey to the White

House, where he op, and communication again with

the OUtside world, and when- he was supplied with

much-needed provisions and munitions of war.

After crossing the Peninsula the cavalry had the
pleasure of Beeing the tall form of Abraham Lincoln
on the deek of a steamer, watching their passage of

the .lame- on Grant's pontoons.

Passing around the rear of the Army of the Poto-
mac, the Cavalry fr un the valley joined their old
Comrades of the Second Division, which had re-
mained with the army at Petersburg. The reunited
corps at once took up the march for Dinwiddie < lourt-
ivhere heavy lighting began on the 81st of
March, lasting all day. chiefly between our First ami
Second Cavalry Divisions and the entiri

cavalry corps, aided hy Pickett's and Johnson's di-
vision- of infantry. The Third Cavalry Division del
not enter this battle until evening, when Sheridan
u.i- vi i) lend pressed. But at daylight of April 1st
the Third Division led the fighting, the Kir-i Bi

in the advance, closing up on the enemy, who fell

back io strong works at the Five Forks. The First

llrigade, dismounted, made a gallant charge, which

was repulsed with heavy loss. Again rallying, the

was hurled against the breastworks only to

meet another bloody repulse, in which (I'Keefe, the

noblest and most gallant foreigner in the American
army, fell wounded iu live places. Col. Birdseye and

four brave men risked their lives to bring him oil' the
lie! I, in which attempt two nohle fellows were killed.

The third charge was participated iii by the whole

division and hy the Third Corps, and the works were

taken. Five thousand prisoners fell into the hands of

the Third Division, hut the losses in the day's light-
ing were the heaviest the brigade ever Buffered.

( In the 3d Of April the Harris Light ( 'avalry. aided

b) the Third New Jersey Cavalry, attacked the rem-
nants of this force at Sweathoii-e Creek, hut were

repulsed with some loss.

i hi the 6th of April the Harris Light Cavalry cap-
tured a wagon-train and participated in the battle
with Ewell's corps which resulted in the capture of
the entire corps. The Harris Light t tok fifteen hun-
dred prisoners in this engagement

I In the 8th the Harris Light was the first regiment
to arrive at Appomall >x Station, cutting "ill three
train- of car- loaded with BUpplieS tor Lie's army.



100



SUSSEX AND WARREN COUNTIES, NEW JERSEY.



This brought on a hot fight, the Third New Jersey
Cavalry coming to the support of the Harris Light.
The fight grew heavier as more troops came to both
sides, and only ceased at midnight with the capture
of a battery of artillery and the retreat of the brigade
supporting it.

The next morning the cavalry advanced to renew
the fight in the face of Lee's entire army. Two divi-
sions had commenced the trot preparatory to a charge
against the rebel lines, when Lee's flags of truce ap-
peared, and the glorious news sped along the column
that Lee's army had surrendered.

After the surrender the cavalry marched to the
borders of North Carolina, when the announcement
was made that Johnston's army had surrendered to
Gen. Sherman.

Marching the entire length of Virginia from Dan-
ville to Alexandria, the cavalry participated in the
grand review at Washington in May, and then the
work of disbanding commenced. All except the re-
enlisted veterans of the Harris Light Cavalry were
sent homeward on the 6th of June, and the last of
the regiment were mustered out the 21st of June.

It fell to Maj. Mattison to deliver the last farewell
to the departing soldiers with whom he had served
so long. Copies of the address were taken home by
the men, some of whom still retain them.

II.— BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.

Maj. William R. Mattison, son of John B. and
Mary A. (Hardisty) Mattison, was born in the city
of Baltimore, Md., Oct. 22, 1840. His great-great-
grandfather, James Mattison, came from Hunterdon
Co., N. J., and settled not far from Newton, on the
Fredon road, where he engaged in farming. Here
his great-grandfather, John, and his grandfather, Wil-
liam, both extensive farmers, were born and lived.
Here also his father, John B., was born, in 1808.

John B. Mattison was an architect and builder,
and a man of inventive genius. He removed to
Baltimore, where he married Mary A., daughter of
William Hardisty, and by her had a family of five
children, — four sons and one daughter. Here for
several years he was employed in the city gas-works.
Later he removed to Annapolis, Md., where he en-
gaged in building. He returned to Newton with his
family in 1846, and soon after went to Savannah,
Ga., where he was employed in building a Presby-
terian church. Two years later he located at Selma,
Ala., where he organized a company and established
a gas-works. He died here in 1858, at the age of
fifty. The mother had died in Newton in 1857, aged
forty-seven.

William R. was a delicate, studious boy. At the
age of fifteen he was apprenticed in the Herald
office, where he remained three years. He then be-
came clerk in the Newton post-office, under John
McCarter, and continued such under the next post-
master, Henry C. Kelsey.



On Aug. 5, 1861, he, then in poor health, enlisted
in Company B, one of two companies which Gen.
Kilpatrick was raising in Sussex County to join the
Harris Light Cavalry (afterwards named the Second
New York), and was appointed quartermaster-ser-
geant. His first battle was that of Ball's Bluff, in the
fall of 1861, and his last that at Appomattox Station,
April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered. He belonged
to the Army of the Potomac until after the battle
of Winchester, 1864, when the First and the Third
Divisions of cavalry were detailed for service with
Sheridan in the valley campaign. He participated
in every battle fought by his regiment except that of
Gettysburg.

In December, 1861, he was promoted sergeant-major
of the regiment. May 5, 1862, he was commissioned
second lieutenant of Company K, and in December of
the same year first lieutenant. He led a charge at
the battle of Aldie, June 17, 1S63, and captured one
hundred sharpshooters. He was acting adjutant of
the regiment from the fall of 1863 to the summer of
1864. Feb. 28, 1864, with the Dahlgren column of
Kilpatrick's expedition, he took a commanding part
in the desperate but unsuccessful attempt to liberate
the Union soldiers confined in the Richmond prisons.
This column, which started with five hundred and
fifty picked men, returned with only two hundred and
thirty -six.

Previous to and at the battle of Stony Creek on
the Wilson raid he acted as adjutant-general to Col.
Harhaus, then in command of the First Brigade.
September 19th he led an advance squadron which
brought on the battle of Winchester; he also led a
squadron in the Luray valley fight. On the reorgani-
zation of the regiment, in October, he was appointed
captain of Company B, but acted as major from that
time on until near the close of the war. He was slightly
wounded, March 15th, in a severe brush which his
battalion had with a brigade of Pickett's division
while on the march with Sheridan around Richmond
to join Grant, and had a horse shot under him and
narrowly escaped capture in the fight with Lee's re-
treating army, April 3d.

At the grand review at Washington, May 21st, lie
was presented with a major's commission by Governor
Fenton's own hand. He was mustered out June 29th,
receiving a high indorsement from his superior offi-
cers. After his return home he received a brevet as
lieutenant-colonel from the Governor of New York.
On the 15th of August following he engaged in the
book business. The next winter, on recommendation
of Gen. Grant, he was appointed first lieutenant in
the Eighth New Jersey Cavalry, but, owing to busi-
ness, he three months later tendered his resignation.
In 1869 he was appointed postmaster at Newton,
which office he has ever since held. He possessed
some literary ability, and in 1870 established "Our
Magazine," which fifteen months later was absorbed
by Wood's "Household Magazine." In 1872 he dis-



SFSSFX AND WARREN IN THE WAR OF TlIK REBELLION.



107



posed of li is book-store to S. II. Shafer. He was a
Democrat previous to the war, since which time he
has been an active Republican.

On Sept. 29, 18li0, he married Fannie L., daughter
of Samuel and Elizabeth (Mattison) Smith, and has
had horn to him five children, — namely. Helen Vir-



Online LibraryJames P SnellHistory of Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey : → online text (page 25 of 190)