C. V. Tevis.

The history of the fighting Fourteenth, published in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the muster of the regiment into the United States service, May 23, 1861 online

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Online LibraryC. V. TevisThe history of the fighting Fourteenth, published in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the muster of the regiment into the United States service, May 23, 1861 → online text (page 6 of 38)
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Rufus R. Dawes, in his history of the Sixth Wisconsin, describes the
crossing of the river as follows :

"The men plunged into the boats and threw themselves upon the
bottom of them, as they had been instructed. Here was our only mis-
take ; the men were on the oars. Whiz, came the bullets. To halt or
flinch in the deadly storm was disgrace if not death. Nervous and quick
orders were given something like this : 'Heave off your boats. Up with
the oars.' Here fifteen of our men were shot. Once clear of the shore
the oarsmen worked like heroes and our regiments along the river bank
and the batteries opened fire upon the rebels. When we got across the
river we jumped into the mud and water, waist deep, waded ashore,
crawled and scrambled up the bank, laying hold of the bushes. Very few
shots then were fired before the rebels were throwing down their arms
or were running over the plain."

The loss of the Fourteenth in this short but deadly encounter was:

Killed and wounded 23

This included two officers, one of whom died shortly afterward, Lieut.

Gen. Wadsworth was so delighted with the conduct of the brigade
that he later caused the following order to be issued:

"Headquarters First Division, First Army Corps.

"General Orders No. 40. May 9, 1863.

"The General commanding, availing himself of the temporary re-
pose now enjoyed by his command to review the operation of the past few
days, deems it proper to express his thanks to Col. Bragg, Sixth Wisconsin
Volunteers, Col. Morrow, Twenty-fourth Michigan Volunteers, and the

1878— 1885
Brevt. Major General N. G. N. Y. (Retired)


gallant men under their command for the heroic manner in which they
crossed the Rappahannock and seized the heights on the opposite shore
on the twenty-ninth of April, and likewise to Brig.-Gen. Meredith and the
whole of the Fourth brigade for the promptness with which they followed
in this daring enterprise. The skill and courage with which Capt. Rey-
nolds' Battery L, First New York Artillery, returned the enemy's fire
the boldness exhibited by the Fourteenth New York state militia as skir-
mishers and the steadiness of the whole command during the advance and
retreat have afforded the General commanding the highest gratification
and inspired him with entire confidence in the troops of the division.
"By command of Brig.-Gen. Wadsworth.
"John A. Kress, Lieut.-Col. and Act. Asst. Insp. Gen."

Following the forcing of the Rappahannock, line was at once es-
tablished on the southern bank and the bridges laid. About the middle
of the day the division crossed, but did not proceed far from the river.
Until the next day all was quiet on the Fourteenth's immediate front.

A heavy artillery duel began on the morning of the thirtieth between
the batteries on the heights, and all day long a rain of shot and shell
passed overhead, the regiment fully prepared and expecting to be ordered
into action at any moment. But no advance was made from either side.
Under cover of night entrenchments were thrown up all along the line In
anticipation of a strenuous engagement on the morrow. Again, contrary
to expectations and general desire, the enemy remained quiet during the
whole of May 1st. On this date Adj. Vllet had a narrow escape from
capture. His horse became frightened and, he being a new rider, got
beyond his control and ran beyond the skirmish line. It was purely a
matter of luck that the animal then took a notion to turn abruptly around,
dash back again and finally stop long enough to allow its rider to slip to
the ground.

The Confederates opened hostilities on May 2d with a strong artillery
fire. This was promptly replied to by the Union batteries. Shortly after-
wards the Fourteenth was ordered to recross the river. When this was
done, the bridge was taken up under heavy fire and march began to United
States Ford along the north bank of the river.

As the Fourteenth afterward understood this move, this crossing
was to hold the enemy In check at this point, while the main body of the
army crossed at United States Ford and moved toward the rear of the


enemy, a portion of the army operating against Fredericksburg at the same
time. This disposition of the forces made victory hopeful, but, as was
later learned, the assault on St. Mary's Heights had been repulsed while
the army at Chancellorsville lay idle. The enemy, operating on a shorter
line, then concentrated on the Union front at Chancellorsville. After a
long hard march under a hot sun the regiment was halted near United
States Ford and the men were given three hours' sleep.

In the meantime, about five o'clock on that afternoon, the Con-
federates under Jackson had consummated their memorable flank move-,
ment and, having passed across the entire front line of the Federals,
were ready to strike on the extreme right. Howard's men were uncon-
scious of the danger threatening them. Their guns were stacked behind
the lines of breastworks; some of them were cutting wood, some asleep,
some preparing supper.

Suddenly, like a bolt from a clear sky, there came a crash and fear-
ful roar from the forest in their front and the Rebels poured forth from
the woods and swarmed over the breastworks. The brave men of the
Eleventh corps attempted to rally, tq no avail, although doing all that any
force could do under the circumstances. Deven's division was hurled back
upon Schurz and this in turn upon Steinwehr. The brigades fought nobly,
but were powerless to turn the tide of battle.

The victorious Rebels swept everything before them and poured down
the turnpike in the direction of Chancellorsville in pursuit of the fleeing
Federals, capturing many prisoners and munitions of war. It was a
moment of the greatest excitement at Union headquarters. The infantry,
artillery and cavalry baggage train of the Eleventh Corps, broken, de-
moralized and panic stricken, came rushing down the road in hopeless con-
fusion, and after it the exultant, yelling Confederates. This terrible ad-
vance had to be checked or Chancellorsville and the whole Union army
was lost.

At the same time that this disastrous surprise was sprung upon the
Federals, Lee with two divisions was making a determined attack on
Hooker's left. Gerrish and Hutchinson, in the "Blue and Gray," de-
scribe the confusion into which the Fourteenth later marched, as follows :

"The open field around Chancellorsville at this time presented a
terrible appearance. Men, horses, guns, caissons and baggage wagons
went crashing along in the utmost confusion toward the fords of the Rap-


"Hooker rushed out and with some of his old time fire took in the
situation and looked about him for an agent to check the foe. Provi-
dentially that agent was in call. The division commanded by Gen. Berry
of the Third corps was near and in this moment of peril Hooker ordered
it to form across the pike, advance and check the Confederates. This
gallant division, with fixed bayonets and at a double-quick, moved down the
pike and took its position on a crest at the western edge of the clearing
around Chancellorsville. Gen. Warren also came to the rescue with the
artillery of the Twelfth corps and Hay's brigade of the Second corps.

"There was only one way to delay the Confederates; some force
must be sacrificed, and Major Peter Keenan, commanding the Eighth
Pennsylvania cavalry, was ordered to charge the great advancing force
in his front with his four hundred men. He knew, of course, that it was
death, but with his brave command he dashed upon the foe until they were
nearly impaled upon the bayonets of the Confederates.

"The precious time needed was gained. Pleasanton succeeded in
clearing a space around his artillery, and now twenty-two guns, loaded
to their muzzles with grape and canister, opened upon the Rebels. War-
ren's artillery in the field, in the rear of Berry's line, was also vomiting
its thunder. Thus fifty pieces were firing upon the Confederate lines,
and after several terrible assaults their advance was checked.

"The line of battle was now formed directly across the turnpike
about a mile to the right of Chancellorsville. Night drew its favoring
mantle of darkness over the terrible scene. Within both armies it was a
night of great activity and anxiety. On the part of the Federals a new
line was formed on the right flank. Ward's brigade, of Sickles' command,
made a gallant charge after dark, recapturing a number of guns Gen.
Howard had lost and re-possessed quite a portion of the works from which
he had been driven, and also strengthened the position of Gen. Sickles at
Hazel Grove. This was of great importance as no Confederate line could
advance along the turnpike without being enfiladed by the fire from that

"The First Corps, under Gen. Reynolds, now arrived and went into
line upon the road leading to Ely's ford upon the Rapidan to Chancellors-
ville, and Gen. Hooker sent an order to Gen. Sedgwick to move at an
early hour in the morning upon Fredericksburg."

The Fourteenth went out upon the skirmish line about four o'clock
on the morning of May 4th and continued this form of duty during the


greater part of the day. In the afternoon Gen. Hooker rode along the
lines, being enthusiastically received by the men. About 5 P. M. the battle
opened on the regiment's left and the companies were put in readiness to
make a quick movement, aggressive or on the defensive. This engage-
ment did not last long, however, and the spirits of the troopers ran high,
all feeling sure of victory. A number of women and children here passed
through the Federal lines to the rear.

It was about this time that the Brooklyn men learned why they had
been recalled from the left and made their long, forced march. The
news of Jackson's coup reached them.

On May 5th, which was very pleasantly warm but very disagreeably
rainy, the Fourteenth engaged in one sharp skirmish on the left. Besides
this and the occasional receipt of bad tidings regarding the battle in other
sections, the men saw no action, although they chafed to get into "the
thick of it."

At 2 A. M. on May 6th the Federal army began its retreat. When
the Fourteenth had worked Its way to the United States Ford through
the rain and glue-like mud and was about to cross the bridge, Gen. Wads-
worth asked Col. Fowler If he could halt his regiment and form line at
the bridge, as the soldiers were uneasy and he feared the so far orderly
falling back might develop into a run. He thought the line would tend to
restore confidence.

Col. Fowler promptly responded and the Fourteenth formed line of
battle at the bridge and remained there until the corps had all crossed.
Gen. Wadsworth thought this a very commendable action on the part of
the regiment and that it was certainly made of good material. The
Fourteenth crossed the bridge about 8 A. M. and bivouacked four miles
from Falmouth, after marching thirteen miles.

In the three days' engagement the regimental losses amounted to
eighteen wounded. The total loss of the First corps was 135 officers
and men.

From May 7th until May 10th the regiment made two camps, one
near White Oak Chapel and about the same place where It had halted on
the night of April 28th, and the other at Camp Wadsworth, where the
men went on picket duty along the river front. The Confederate pickets
were there found to be very sociable, being willing at all times to trade
tobacco for coffee or hold a few minutes "confab."

Lieut. Col. DeBevoIse, whose resignation had been accepted, left


camp on the thirteenth for Washington. His departure was regretted by
every officer and private.

Until the thirtieth of May little of importance transpired. Camp
Wadsworth was an ideal summer camp and but for the routine of drills
and picket duty, the assemblage might have passed for a picnic. Here
Gen. Reynolds reviewed the regiment. A short time after Lieut.-Col.
DeBevoise left, the two year regiments of the brigade were sent home.
These were the Twenty-second, Twenty-fourth and Thirtieth New York

The Fourteenth was then transferred to the Second brigade, com-
manded by Gen. L. Cutler.

Before the battle of Gettysburg, which will be dealt with in the next
three chapters, Meade had succeeded Hooker in general command of
the Union army.


The First Day at Gettysburg.

THE Battle of Gettysburg has been called "the high tide of the re-
bellion." A mass of writings by officers and men who participated
in this battle, on one side or the other, sufficient in bulk to consti-
tute a whole literature in itself, is in existence. And yet the single phrase
quoted above, "the high tide of the rebeUion," is a brief summing up of
the situation.

Lee, flushed by a series of successes, with the finest army the South
had ever sent forth, the very flower of her troops, had invaded the North
for the second time in his career. It was the avowed intention of the
brilliant Rebel leader to dictate the terms of peace either in New York or in
Philadelphia. Since the beginning of 1863 the Union arms had met with
severe reverses. Gen. Magruder had retaken Galveston, Texas; not only
capturing vast quantities of valuable stores for the Rebel use, but opening
a sea-port. Burnside had been checked in Tennessee. A naval attack on
Charleston had failed. Gen. Rosecrans had made no progress against
Bragg. Grant was still at bay before Vicksburg. The attempt to take
Fort McAllister had been a failure. The Army of the Potomac had been
checked at Fredericksburg and at Chancellorsville.

Altogether, taking the situation as it lay, East and West and on the
border, in 1863, it was anybody's war. There was a certain amount of
discouragement throughout the Northern states; the cost of the war was
enormous, and daily growing greater. A strong party which actually de-
manded peace had arisen at the North, and this had its effect upon some
of the troops in the field. About this time the number of desertions in-
creased. Residents of New York may remember that, at the time of
Lee's invasion, a riot broke out in New York city. It lasted for three
days, during which houses were burned, and negroes beaten, and even
hanged, in the streets. At this crucial time the terms of service of over
forty Union regiments had just expired.

Such was the situation of the Northern arms when Lee, the most
brilliant of the Confederate generals, made his high-spirited saying that
he would dictate terms of peace in New York or Philadelphia, and flung


the flower of the Southern armies across the Potomac in the attempt to
make It good.

It is proposed in this chapter to take up the movements of the Four-
teenth, regiment from the twelfth of June, 1863, to, and through, the first
day of the battle of Gettysburg.

Between two and three o'clock on the morning of June 12th the
regiment left Camp Wadsworth, and marched steadily until between
twelve and one o'clock. Some authorities say it was sharp at noon, and
some say an hour later. But all agree as to the cause of the halt, which
was at Hartwood Church.

The cause was the execution of Private Wood, of the Nineteenth
Indiana regiment, who was condemned to die for desertion. The whole
division was drawn up in the form of a hollow square — or rather, a hol-
low triangle, to witness the execution. The firing party consisted of one
man drawn from each regiment of the division, the Fourteenth contribut-
ing a man from Company C.

The grave had already been dug, and the rude coffin was placed
beside it. The condemned man sat on his coffin, blindfolded, and with his
arms pinioned. The deliberate and ghastly preparation for his execution
affected scores of men throughout the division more than any fight which
they had ever participated in had been able to do.

An officer was detailed to drop his handkerchief as a signal to fire,
and Wood fell over across his own coffin. He was hastily interred, and
the march was resumed.

There was a story current at the time in the Fourteenth Regiment,
and throughout the whole division, with regard to this unfortunate man
Wood, which may, or may not be true. But a man who perishes in that
fashion is surely entitled to the benefit of the doubt. It was said that
Wood had a wife at home, back in Indiana, who was lying desperately ill.
As he marched he brooded over the probability of her dying without see-
ing him again. He applied for a furlough, but the furlough was refused
to him. The more he brooded, the more he determined to see her at all
costs. He therefore deserted, expecting to return to his duty afterwards.
At any rate, even if his duty to his country was not paramount to all other
considerations in the man's mind, his death in this way produced an effect
upon many of the men out of all proportion to the usual effect of the death
of a single man in those tragic times.

Some of the men were miles upon the march before they had quite


recovered their spirits. The regiment halted at Deep Run, Virginia, at
6 o'cloclc that evening, having covered a distance of between 21 and 24
miles. The report of the adjutant general puts it at the latter figure.

The next day, June 13th, a distance of fifteen miles was covered, the
regiment keeping the Warrenton Road, and halting not far from Bealton
Station. It was a very warm and dusty day, but in spite of the heat, and
the weight of their accoutrements, and the clouds of dust kicked up by
the tramp of thousands of marching men, the seasoned veterans of the
Fourteenth took it very easily. On the fourteenth the march was re-
sumed, the regiment passing Warrenton Junction, and halting at 9 o'clock
in the evening at Kettle Run to make coffee. After that very welcome re-
freshment the troops crossed Kettle Run and Broad Run and passed
Bristow Station. About daylight of the fifteenth a halt was made at
Manassas Junction, but at 7 o'clock on the morning of the fifteenth the
march was again resumed across Manassas Plains. The weather was very
hot and dry and some of the men suffered severely. The stream of Bull
Run was crossed this day at Blackburn's Ford; the troops marching directly
through the field of the first Battle of Bull Run.

Evidences of that tragedy were to be seen on every hand. But the
most striking and the most gruesome symbolism of battle was the hundreds
of skeletons lying about. The dead of both armies had been buried
hastily in shallow graves and the rains had uncovered them. To the
newer men in the division the sight of those bare bones sticking out of
the earth or partially covered by it, was an eloquent reminder that there is
more of the pitiful and terrible than of the grand and spectacular in the
game of war. The veterans, as the historic field was crossed, explained to
the newer men the movements of the different commands in the battle ; but
both recruits and veterans were alike unconscious of the fact that they were
approaching a far bloodier and far more important struggle.

The division halted at Centerville Heights, and remained for one day.
It was general wash day, not only for tired and thirsty bodies, but for
clothes as well. The men were urged by their commanders to give their
feet especial attention, since a command without sound feet is scarcely an
effective command.

Reveille was sounded at 3 A. M. on the morning of the seventeenth,
and the command set out along the Leesburg Road. The heat was very
oppressive this day, and hundreds of the men of the division were laid
out along the line of march before the day's hike was ended.


Many of the Fourteenth suffered from sunstroke, and Captain Gill
was really dangerously affected by the heat. After marching until noon in
the direction of Leesburg, the command was countermarched, and halted
near Hundon. It was reported among the men that the way was lost by
the officers in command. The day was the warmest of the season, and the
uncertainty with regard to the road, and the countermarching, made al-
together a very miserable business out of it for the majority of the rank
and file. And yet in spite of everything remarkably good time was made,
for the distance covered on the seventeenth was nearly twenty miles.

On the eighteenth the command rested, and on the following day, the
nineteenth, marched a distance of only four miles, halting at Guilford
Station. The route lay through Melford Station, and at Broad Run a
long enough stop was made to burn the bridge across the stream. The
command remained at Guilford Station from the nineteenth to the twenty-
fifth. On the twentieth and twenty-first there were heavy thunder storms.
The next day cavalry fighting on the front was reported, and the Four-
teenth was put on picket duty two miles from camp.

On the twenty-fifth the command was withdrawn from picket at 7
o'clock in the morning, and took up the march again. The regiment
crossed the Potomac, on pontoon bridges, at Edward's Ferry, and marched,
by way of Poolesville, Monocacy Cross Roads, to Barnesville, Mary-
land. A distance of eighteen miles was covered on this day, a great deal
of it in a steady rain. June twenty-sixth the march was taken up again,
over roads now deep with mud, and steadily getting worse because of the
rain and the action of thousands of feet, hoofs and wheels. The Monocacy
River was crossed at Greenfield Mills.

When the Fourteenth passed through Adamstown, a little station on
the Baltimore and Ohio, they were cheered loudly by the Union sympa-
thizers, who seemed to be in the majority. The Stars and Stripes were
everywhere displayed. It rained hard on this day, and when a halt was
made near Jefferson, it was still coming down. In spite of the heavy
going a distance of fifteen miles was covered on' the twenty-sixth.

On the twenty-seventh the command passed through Jefferson and
Middletown. Union flags were flying from the majority of the houses, and
the citizens seemed to be strongly patriotic. Before the Fourteenth en-
tered Middletown Colonel Fowler ordered the remains of the drum corps
up to the front of the regiment, and the men, tired though they were from





forced marches, all braced up and entered the place with flags flying and
stepping out to the music with vim and spirit.

They made a fine appearance, and the dozens of bright-faced Mary-
land girls, who hurried to the doorways and windows, seemed to take the
spirited entry as a personal compliment. Eight miles were covered on this
day. The next day, June twenty-eighth, was Sunday, and it was rainy.
The start was made at three in the afternoon, and the girls were all out to
see. The men had had a chance to write home during the morning, and
as the girls came out of the houses to bid them good-bye hundreds of the
boys left the ranks to give them the letters to mail. The letters reached
their destinations, too, showing that the Maryland girls were faithful to the
trust reposed in them. A distance of five miles was covered on this day,
and a halt was made near Frederick City.

The twenty-ninth brought with it a tedious march, the Fourteenth
having been detailed as a guard for the wagon train. It rained heavily
nearly all day, and the roads were in a frightful condition. The train
was being hurried through, and the Fourteenth, at times, was obliged to,
take the double quick; and the double quick step, through seas of mud,
with the weight of soaked and sodden clothing besides arms and accoutre-
ments, is no joke.

The men were so fatigued that whenever the wagon train was tem-
porarily blocked many of them sank down in their tracks, in the mud and
rain, and snatched a little sleep. The people along the line of march
were patriotic and well-disposed, but before the entire corps would pass by
everything to eat in a house would vanish as if by magic, and those in the
rear get nothing. Wells of water ceased to exist, before the great thirst
of such a body of men and animals, like a drop of water splashed on a
hot stove.

A distance of 25 miles was covered on this day, a halt being made in
the mud near Emmetsburg at 9 o'clock that night. The last three hours

Online LibraryC. V. TevisThe history of the fighting Fourteenth, published in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the muster of the regiment into the United States service, May 23, 1861 → online text (page 6 of 38)