Alfred Davenport.

Camp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) online

. (page 32 of 39)
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sixty rounds of ammunition were issued to each man ; ninety
rounds per man were to be carried in the wagons when
the army moved, which might occur at any moment. The
next day a general muster was held to ascertain the full
strength of the regiment. The division was reviewed by the
Swiss General, Togliardi, in company with General Meade,
on Saturday, the 18th. The l''iuh, after returning to their
cami)ing-gruund, liy re'piest gave a drill for tl-.c enrertain-
ment of tli- visiting (}eneial. The iiospital tent and bread
ovens were removed on the same day, whicli was an indica-
tion to us of an earlv movement.



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Camp near Henry House. -^yy

The Tpth fell on Sunday, which was a warm, pleasant day,
and, withal, there was nuich excitement in camp. The Ser-
geants and men reported their time out. The Colonel went
over to headquarters to see what was to be done with the
regiment. General Hooker went to Washington to consult
about the two years' men in the army. On his return Col-
onel Winslow formed the regiment in a square and made a
speech, hoping that for the good name they had earned for
themselves, that tliey would continue to do their duty wil-
lingly until they heard from the War Department. The men
had all determined to do no duty after the 23d of April.

An accident happened in the forenoon to some of the
members of a battery, which was encamped op[)Osite the
Fifth, on the other side of the road. It was being inspected
by the officers, when a shell in one of the caissons exploded
from some carelessness and badly injured and burned three
men ; their hair and whiskers were all singed off, and their
faces were burned black by the powder. The exjilosion tlirew
a large piece of the caisson over into the camp of the I'ifth,
and if all the shell had burst, the loss of life would have
been fearful. Some of the Fifth who were playing ball, ran
over to see what had occurred, and two of them for some
reason became engaged in a fight on the spot just after the
injured men had been carried away; others were j)itching
their quoits, and did not have curiosity enough to stop even
to inquire into the cause of the excitement. It wa^ a cu-
rious illustration of the intiuence of war in making men
thoughtless of life or death.

At the morning's inspection the Colonel as^kcd the Oixlcrly
of Company I how many days' rations he had on hand.
He replied, "Five days'." To the question what the men
would do if tlicy marched, he replied, that '' thi'v dul not
expect to march only to Aquia Crci-k, on tb.cir way to Xow
York." Under the expectation of nun ing at any hour, the
order was to have eight days' rations in haversack or knap-



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37$ Fifth Nciv York Volunteer Infantry.

sack all the time. The officers' tents were removed, the
small slielter tents substituted in their place, and their bag-
gage was curtailed. We had been under marching orders
for a week. The question which had disturbed the regiment
for some days was determined on the 21st. An order from
headquarters was read out to the regiment, notifying them
that their term of enlistment would exinre two years' fro 11
the date on which they were sworn into the United States
service. The three years' men contended tliat they were
enlisted under false pretenses, as they were promised their
discharge with the regiment. Orders Nos. 44 and 85 were
read oft" about re-enlisting.

On Thursday, the 23d, the t\vo years' men were in a great
state of excitement. The Colonel arrived from headquar-
ters and assembled the regiment in a square, and read out
special orders, that the Government would hold them until
the 9th day of May. He made some remarks and hoped
that they would do their duty without coercion until that day.
They all knew the consequences of insubordination, and
that their time would soon be up. The excitement subsided,
as the men were too intelligent, and understood their duty
too well to make any further resistance, and there was no
more trouble. The provost arrested two men for declaring
that they would do no more duty. They ran the risk of a
trial for mutiny.

The long-expected orders to move came at last, and on
Monda\', the 27th. the regiment struck tents and marched,
about ID .\.M., to Ellis Ford, a distance of about eight miles,
the roads being dry and dusty, and we went into bivouac.
The men were a little ftilf on account of having laid in camp
for so long a time. 'J'hcre was much dissatisfaction in the
regimeiit among the liwce years' hkh, who expected to be
mustered out with the rec,iment, and some of them dro|iped
out on the road and eluded the guard. Some of these men
had cause to feel dissatisfied and acr^rieved, as it had been



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'■ Battle of CJiaiiccUorsvilh'. 379

represented to them when they enlisted that they would cer-
tainly be discharged with the regiment. One hundred men
were detailed to guard the wagons and trains. The non-
commissioned officers, which included the greater part of the
two years' men, were kept with the main body. The next
afternoon we left at 4 o'clock, and advanced nine miles in
the rain over muddy roads, broken by water-runs, and halted
at 10 P.M. to bivouac. Tsventy rities were left in this camp
in the morning belonging to as many three-year men, who
had taken the opportunity of darkness to forsake us rather
than be consolidated with the 146th New York, to serve out
the remainder of their term. On Wednesday, the 29th, Ave
fell in at 8 a.m., crossed the pontoons at Kelly's Ford, and
passed through the flourishing town of Kellysville, consisting
of bi.x dwellings and a grist-mill, which was constantly used
by tlie enemy. We pressed on and forded Mountain Run,
a wide stream, which soaked our clothing to our waists.
After all had crossed we resumed the march, and finally
reached Ely's Ford on the Rapidan. The river was wide
and very rapid ; the water above the waist, arid the bottom
rocky. It was with great difficulty that the men could keep
their feet. Most of the men went in in full uniform; '-but
some comical scenes were presented by the men taking otT
their pants, or starting on the voyage as they came into the
world, with the exception of their having baggage with them."
Cartridge-boxes were hung about the neck or put on top of
the knapsacks to keep the " powder dry." "\N'e resumed our
journey, and after going two miles beyond the river, went
into bivouac, ha\ing advanced about twenty miles. 'I'nis
march was a very trying one, and the roads were strewn
with knajisacks and superfluous clothing accuuuilated dur-
ing tiie winter months, which were thrown av.ay by the uk'h,
not being any longer required. CanntMi.nling wa.^ b.cud
during the day in the direction of Fretliicksburg. Our
march, on the morning of the 30th, brought us within hall a



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380 Fiftli Nciv York VoIii7itccr Infantry.

mile of the United States Ford. The weather was cloudy,
with at times a drizzling rain. We rested half an hour and
advanced toward the rear of the enemy's position at Freder-
icksburg, and the division took up a position under arms tor
the night, it being in the advance. We had marched fifty-
six miles in four days.

The following extract from the New York Daily Times of
^fay 4, 1863, gives a general account of the movements of
Sykes' division on Friday, .May rst : •

"The division marched, about 9 a.m., to the left on the turn-
pike, toward Fredericksburg, to make an attack and compel the
enemy to develop his strength at that point. They moved
promptly into position, with Weed's former regular batter}- (but
now Watson's). The enemy fired the first gun at 12 o'clock.
The 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry skirmished in the very front for
some time, and sustained a galling fire from the enemy's infantry,
I but behaved with great intrepidity. They charged and~re-clfarged

1 upon the infantr)-, only to be in turn driven back. General Sykes

I then threw forward two companies of infantry, without knapsacks,

I on the double-quick, who supported the cavalry and checked flie

further pursuit of the enemy. The action now became quite
general between the two forces, each seeming to be of about
equal strength. [The enemy's force thus engaged was ? lahone's
brigade, supported by McLaw's]. The enemy contested th-*
ground vigorously, giving way only when pressed very hard. Our
i troops fought for fully an hour with great spirit, and drove the

! enemy from two successive and strong positions upon ridges of

: land which run parallel with the Rappahannock. The distance

\ thus gained wns nearly one mile nearer Fredericksburg, and

j some fifty prisoners, mostly belonging to Virginia regiments,

! were captured.

j " About half-past i o'clock, just as Colonel Chapman, com-

manding the 2d brigade of regulars, had expressed a desire to
' take another ridge,' an order was received by General Sykes
from General Ho<.!;.t to suspend the attack and retire: nr.irly to
his former posiiidu."''- "At 2 p.m. General Hooker remarked,

; • Cenenil Warren, ;it this time Chief of Topo^nphio.-il EnKineer*, " whn bire

I the orJ?r, had vainly urf;ed that it should not be sent." Generals C-niuh an-l Han-



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'■- . Battle of ChanccUorsville. 3S1

•I think I can make them come out and fight me on my own
ground.' In t\to hours the assertion was proven. The enemy
mistook our voluntar\- retirement for a check, and followed us
rapidly as we fell back.

"The division had taken their old position, and pickets were
thrown out, when the enemy again appeared in force on the
ridge, at the foot of which we lay. Our men had stacked arms
and were at rest. The whole division, save the Dur>-ce Zouaves,
were lying, at nearly right-angles wir.h the road. The Zouaves
were parallel with the road. Quick as thought General Sykes
brought his men into line, the Zouaves on the left half wheeling
into line of battle like a machine.

" The enemy paused a moment on the top of the ridge, and, as
if to nerve them for the onset, gave one of their proverbial de-
mo-.iac yells, and came down on the double-quick, shooting, caj)-
turing, and literally running over the pickets, w'ho scrambled
behind all sorts of obstructions." [Some of the Fifth, who were
on picket, came in the next day ; one of them, a Sergeant, brought
in f've rebel prisoners.] *' But in an instant more a terrible crash
resounded from the Zouave end of the line, and down the colunm
rolled a deafening roar of musketry. It did not last, apparently,
two minutes, but its work was effective. The firing at once
brought General Hooker .into the saddle. This onslaught by tiie
enemy was for the purpose of re-taking the cross-roads ; a very
important point. The first thing done after this was the massing
of artillery near the roads, and in fifteen minutes twenty-two
gims were sending shell into the woods, and the roar of artillery
became ten times more deafening than that of the musketry had
been. The work w-as soon done. The contest lasted three-
quarters of an hour at this point, and the enemy ignominiou.-ly
retired."

The loss in the division was light, amounting to about one
hundred in killed and wounded. Ca[)tain Marsh, of the 17th
Infantry, was killed. Captain Overton, of General Svkes'
staff, was wounded: laeutenant \\ clU, 14111 Ini'.ir.try,
wounded. In the Fifth only about half a du/;en were

cock, advancing on prirallel roaJs to Sykc;, on either flank, also protested a,;ain»t
it. " ll.incock thou-ht lti.\l they shoulJ ad\aiiLe in^te-ad of retrcalii-g."



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382 Fifth Neiij York Volunteer Infantry.

wounded. They being on the left, were able to pour an
effective lire into the Hank of the enemy, and were shielded
somewhat themselves behind an embankment. During the
night the men were engaged in digging ritie-pits. The
enemy's fires burned unusually bright, and extended along
the heights for several miles. A battle was regarded as in-
evitable.

Fifty men, five from each company, were sent out under
the command of Lieutenant Gedney, to act as pickets ; they
went about half a mile, and took a position in the cut of a
road, keeping well covered, and a few of them were sent for-
ward and deployed in the woods as an outpost, so as to keep
a sharp lookout. It was a bright moonlight night, and there
was not much danger of a surprise, but it was a dangerous
post, as the enemy would make their first advance in that
direction from Fredericksburg. About midnight their ears
detected a slight rustling of the leaves scattered over the
ground in the woods front of them, and soon it became more
distinct, and the tramp of men was heard. The Lieutenant
cautioned his men to keep quiet, and not to fire until he gave
the order. They soon saw a long line of the enemy ap-
proaching in the woods, being, as well as they could judge,
some five or six companies, and the i^w men on outpost
duty fell back to the reserve. The enemy must have dis-
covered them, for they heard an officer say, "Steady, men ;
they are nothing but pickets, and we will walk right over
them." At this moment Gedney gave the order, ''Fire;'
and the flash of fifty ritlcs told that the order was obeyed.
They immediately received a volley in return, most of which
went over their heads, as they were lying behind the em-
bankment at the side of the road, but it wounded two of
them. A bullet also struck the scabbard of the Lieutenant's
^-.vord. buiulin- it. Th^-y i;rui:ed;.Uely loaded again and hied,
but the enemy retreated in confusion, supposing that they had
come into contact with a large force, their object evidently



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. Battle of Chancellorsville. 383

being only to feel the lines to ascertain the position of the
Union troops. ■ From the groaning in the woods during the
remainder of the night, they judged that their fire had done
good execution. A regular officer with some troops came up
on a double-quick in a few moments, and after ascertaining the
cause of the firing, told the Lieutenant that Ixe had done
well. Toward morning they were again approached, but
drove the enemy back. After daylight an officer of the reg-
ulars rode up and ordered them to march on a double-quick,
and rejoin the command, which they tbund had moved.

When the morning of the 2d broke, it found both sides
well intrenched. The division remained in line of battle dur-
ing the day, and the enemy spent their time in feeling the
lines of the army further to the right. They opened a bat-
tery on the ammunition wagons ; one of ours promptly re-
sponded, and blew up two of their caissons, which obliged
them to withdraw.

About 5 P.M. Jackson, Mith 40,000 men, made a terrific
onslaught on the nth cor[is, under General Howard, on the
right, surprising them completely. General Berry, in com-
mand of a division of General Sickles' 3d corps, Avas sent to
the rescue on double-quick after dark, and checked the
enemy, aided by General Birney's division of the same
corps ; and Best's batteries (36 guns), under the command
of Lieutenant Franklin B. Crosby, which were ordered tiiere
by General Warren. Lieutenant Cro.sby was killeil. The
Confederates withdrew to the line of breastworks just vaca-
ted by the nth corps. The regulars were sent after the fu-
gitives who were Hying in a panic toward United States
Ford. They lost twelve pieces of artillery besides many
prisoners, and General Howard was wounded while trying to
rally them, Bushbeck's, with Schimmclfennig's brigade, and
tlie Sjd Illinois, and 157th Xcw V>)rk with Pil-cr's b.Utcry,
however, fought until they were ovcriiowered by juiinbers.
1 he disaster to this corps foiled a maneuver attempted by



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384 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

Sickles, who pressed the enemy's center, and would ha/e
gained a splendid victory by cutting the Confederate a,riiiy
in two.

In the niglit an attack was made on the right to restore
the Union lines. The moon shone bright, and the firing
was very heavy ; the roar and reverberation of Captain
Best's artillery, posted on a ridge, was past ail conception.
The enemy were driven half a mile, and a portion of the
artillery lost was recaiJtured by Ceneral Hobart Ward.

About 6 P.M. the 5th corps (Sykes' division included) was
ordered to the right, and remained in line of battle all night,
and was also engaged in digging intrencliments to strengthen
their position. The i ith corps was reorganized and placed on
the extreme left behind the strong intrenchments built by the
5th corps, where it was probable there would be little or no
fighting. Thus closed the second day of this memorable
contest.

On Sunday, the 3d, the division was placed at the apex of
the lines, to the right of the Chancellor House, near the cen-
ter, Avhere all the reserve artillery was massed, with only room
enough between the guns to work them. The lines of the army
were in the form of two sides of a triangle, the right longer than
the left. l"he 1st corps, under General Reynolds, held the e.\-
treme right of the line ; the 5th cor[)s, Meade's, was on their
left. At sjz A.M. the enemy attacked General 15erry's division
of the 3d corps, with the design of recovering the plank-road.
The rest of the corps, and a part of the Twelfth (Slocum's),
were soon engaged in his supi)ort. French's divibion, of the 2d
corps, was sent in on the right at 7 a.m., and crushed that
portion of the enemy's line. The crashes of nmsketry were
terrific, and the roar of the battle was incessant. Sickles'
3d ciups foiiL'ht p.irts of five divisions of the enemy at dittVr-
cnt limes, and tock 2.000 piisoners; but being liard presseii,
Hancock's <l!vi>ion, of the 2d c<3r[)s, was sent to his reliet'.
Cieneral Humphrey's division, of the 5th corjis, were also en-



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Eatile of Cliancellorsville. 3S5

gaged on the left flank of the enemy, and fought vah.intly.
Most of the fighting was in a thick wood, and the carnage
was frightful; the dead and wounded of the enemy lay in
heaps, and they fought as if they were utterly regardless of
their lives. Many desperate charges were made by the
Union troops ; Mott's brigade captured seven stand of
colors and many prisoners. The engagement lasted,
without the slightest intermission, from 5'< a.m. until
S.45 A.M., when a temporary cessation occurred on our
side by the troops getting out of ammunition. They
were ordered to fall back after holding tjie position in the
woods for an hour at the point of the bayonet, to the vicinity
of the Chancellor House. Here the. contest was maintained
for an hour or more, with great havoc to the enemy and con-
siderable loss to the Union forces. This house was the head-
quarters of General Hooker, and was now the focus of the
fight. It was set on fire by the enemy's shell, and was soon
in ruins. The new line, which had been suDervised bv (len-
eral Warren, was now established, and the forces withdrawn
to it on that front, at half-past eleven the musketry fire
ceased. The engagement had lasted six hours, and had
been one of the most terrific of the war.

While the battle was raging, General Hooker ordered that
the bands should play, to inspirit the men. One of them
was blowing away at the "Star Spangled Banner," when a
shell made a close flight over their center. This uninvited
companion "took the wind" out of some of tlie player?,
and they got somewhat mixed. T/nder the circumstances,
the way in which our national air was murdered would have
driven a professor of music to suicide.

The enemy were now no longer in the rear, but had been
shoved dtuvn directly in our froiit. and between the f<Ki-es
f'f Gcr.cral Sedgwick that had cai^turcd I'letierickr^burg
Heights, ten miles awav to the left, anil (Jeneral Hooker's
main army. General Sykes*' division had been under fire,
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386 Fifth Nc'dJ York Volunteer Infantry.

and there was a considerable loss among the regulars, espe-
cially among the artillerists ; Captain Temple, Second In-
fantry, was killed ; Captain ^ forehead, Seventeenth, and Cap-
tain Amies, were wounded. The Fourth United States, bat-
tery K, lost heavily, forty-eight being killed or wounded, be-
sides many of their horses. The forces of the enemy en-
gaged were the divisions of Ai:iderson, Hood, A. P. Hill, D.
H. Hill's old division, and Rhodes.

In the afternoon the enemy made several desperate at-
tempts to force the lines near the Chancellor House, and
charged, at one time on the massed batteries, being formed
in the shape of a wedge, but they were cut down before they
could get far, as they were obliged to charge over the only
clearing there was on the whole field of battle, which was
about a mile in length by half a mile in breadth. Nothing
could live in front of the batteries. The position of the
Fifth was near these guns. General Hooker rode up at one
time and called out, "Is that the Fifth New York?"
"Yes!" was the reply. "All right!" he exclaimed, and
rode off. The shell from these guns set the brush in the
woods on fire, where were lying hundreds of the wounded
of the enemy, as wellas some of our own. The terrible
sufterings of the wounded and dying, under the double hor-
ror of being burned to death, made this contest more tragic
in this respect than any of its predecessors,
i The regiment held the same position that had been as-

|- signed to it the day before, when the order came from

? General Sykcs to turn over the three-year men to the 146th

\ New York, Colonel Garrard, who was also acting in com-

"^ mand of the brigade, formerly Warren's, and for the two

i years' men to retire. In fact, they were released from their

duties, and their trials in the army were about to cca?e.
They could scarcely reali/e it, and were utterly hesvildcioil
j with the intelligence. The reaction from" their teelings o\.

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Battle of Chancellor sville. 387

killed, perhaps an hour before the order for their relief
should come, and they should never see their loved ones
at home again, can not be described. If they had had
another year to serve, it would have been a matter of in-
difference ps to where they were; but under the circum-
stances they could be compared to mariners who had passed
through a long and tempestuous voyage, and at last were in



Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 32 of 39)