Chicago Standard Genealogical Publishing Company.

A Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away online

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Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 6 of 108)
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charged the enemy with the saber.

There was a two or three gun battery in our immediate front that was
doing good execution. General Davies, who was with our regiment at this
time, said, "Boys, we must take that battery at all hazards." We made a
charge and captured two guns, but could not hold them, for W. H. F. Lee"s
brigade came down upon us, like a hawk on a June-bug, and re-captured them.
We tried to retake it, but were not strong enough. It was in this last charge
that Captain James S. Abel, of Bloomfieid, was killed, and quite a number
wounded. The skirmishing was kept up until after lo o'clock at might, both
forces halting on the banks of the Taw river. Lying down in front of our
horses, with an arm through the bridle rein, we were asleep almost as soon
as we touched the ground. Just at daylight on the morning of the loth the
same battery that had been giving us so much trouble the previous afternioon
opened fire on us at short range, from the edge of a piece of timber. The first
shell exploded in our ranks, killing two horses, and one man was wounded.
It \vas not more than two minutes from the time the first gun was fired until
we were in our saddles and charging them. We captured both guns and

We then crossed the Taw river at Beaver Dam station, on the Richmond
& Potomac Railroad. Here we destroyed miles of track, locomotives, cars
and a large amount of army supplies, about three million rations for Lee's
army, and released three hundred and seventy-five of our men taken from ns
at the Wilderness, who were being taken to Richmond. We also captured
three hundred of the enemy.

Gordon's brigade of Stuart's cavalry clung to Gregg and Wilson's
divisions, while they were crossing the North Anna river. Davies' brigade
was sent to Ashland Station on the Richmond & Potomac Railroad, there
destroying the depot and the large woolen mills where blankets were made
for the Confederate army; besides, we destroyed cars and track, leavin.g
nothing that would be of use to the enemy. We then rejoined the main
body at Allen's Station. Near Ashland we found that we had overlooked,
from the destruction, about one thousand cords of wood, piled along the rail-
road track, which we discovered after the order to join the main body, and
about twenty-five of us boys decided to stop and burn it. We had it nicely
fired when a body of the enemy came swooping down on us ; but we had acom-
plished our purpose and retired in good order, after some pretty sharp skir-

On the morning of the nth it was ascertained that Stuart's forces were
concentrating at a place called Yellow Tavern, six miles from Richmond.
Sheridan's whole force moved on that point in the following order : . Merrit,
Wilson and Gregg. Stuart's line was formed at the intersection of the Brock
pike, but Sheridan got a telling position on his left flank and enfiladed his line
with artillery. Then Custer charged, capturing two of the enemy's guns


Avith their gunners, and broke their Hne. Stuart's detached force, under Gor-
don, now attacked Wilson in the rear, but Gregg's came in on their tiank,
drove them toward Ashlauid and across the north fork of the Chickahominy.
Fitzhugh Lee's division fell back toward Richmond. This ended the battle
for that day. The casualities on both sides were very severe, especially on
the Confederate side, General J. E. B. Stuart being mortally wounded, and
Brigadier General James B. Gordon killed. This was as hard a blow to the
Confederacy as the loss of "Stonewall" Jackson. The Confederate cavalry
never regained the prestige that it had during Stuart's command of it.

Sheridan followed up that part of Stuart's force that fell back toward
Richmond, and entered the most advanced line of intrenchments and turned
their guns on the enemy, who seemed to be determined to keep us out of

On the morning of the 12th, about the break of day, as we were entering
the fortifications on the north side of Richmond, joking with one and another,
I rode up to ^Major Xdrtlnvay and asked him what hotel he proposed to stop
at while in Richmond. He seemed to be very serious, and said, "Well, Tru-
man, we may all stop at Hotel de Libby before night," and about that time
we heard torpedoes exploding, which had been planted in the road with a
string running off in the woods on the side of the road ; and as our men passed
over them the string was pulled and the torpedo exploded. The general
ordered the prisoners that we had to dig them up, and we had no more trouble.

The enemy having destroyed the bridge over the Chickahominy, Wilson's
men were set at work repairing it, while Gregg's division held the enemy in
check. It rained very hard all day, but that did not in the least deter the
enemy from making it very disagreeable for us: nor on our part in making-
it unusually lively for them.

As I have said before, we entered their forts early in the morning, and
turned their own guns upon them, and some of their guns in the immediate
vicinity of Richmond made it hot for our men, who were serving the guns
in the forts, as they were not built for protection from the rear. ""The Rich-
mond Home Guards, with some of their regular forces, made it \er\- hot for
our cavalry, who were dismounted for the occasion.

I well remember several interesting incidents that took place that day.
But I will relate only one. to gi\-e you .some idea how interesting, and, I may
say, amusing, it was for some of the boys, I being one of them who reallv
enjoyed it.

Lieutenant Charles G. Miller (or as he was more familiarlv called, "The
Little Napoleon"), of our company, was sent out to the extreme front v.ith
a dozen men to see what the enemy was up to. as the firing had ceased in
that direction. There were Lieutenant Miller, William Davis, Shel Stiggle-
man, Joe Bowers, Billy Borts, myself and others in the partv. It was rain-
ing "great guns," and we made for an old log house, not far from the enemy's
lines ; but we concluded that it would not be safe to stay in the house, as the
enemy might surround it and capture us. So we found a large barn (foor
and leaned it up against a clierry tree for shelter, fronting the enemy's line.


Xow Charlie Aliller was one of the most eccentric men we had in the regi-
ment. He was always rubbing his hand over his face, and if he felt a stray
beard on his chin out would come his razor (which he always carried loose
in his pocket), and it made no difference where he was that beard must come
off then and there! After we had got settled under the door, out of the
rain, Miller began to feel of his face, and said, "By gosh, boys, I must shave!"
So, putting his cake of Williams' soap (which he always carried) out in the
rain to get it wet, he had his face nicely lathered, and was getting ready to
shave, when whang! bang! came a shot from the enemy. Miller says, "By
gosh, I think they have got the drop on us:" and he ordered a retreat to the
house, but soon found that that was not a safe place, for the chinks were being
knocked out in all directions; so we took refuge in a stone milk-house at the
foot of a small hill, and from there it was every man for himself.

The enemy was swarming out of the woods after us, so each man took
to the brush. The ground was covered quite thickly with young oak trees
of about three or four years' growth, so we were pretty well protected, as
well as the enemy. I ran from one clump of bushes to another until I got
behind a large oak tree that stood on the bank of a sunken roadway, and here
I halted for further developments. I didn't have to wait long until I saw a
"Johnny" run from one bush to another, and we kept up a lively correspond-
ence with each other for some time, until he stojiDed. Probably he had run
out of ammunition, or something else, although I don't remember to have
interviewed him on the subject. Then I tried an experiment to see just how
much they thought of me. So I put my cap on a stick and held it out a few
inches from the tree. But no sooner had the cap appeared in sight than they
sent their compliments after it, and it was lucky for me that my head was
not in that cap, for a ball passed through it ! I became thoroughly satisfied
that it was not any longer "healthy" in that particular spot, so crawled back-
ward into the roadway and finally got into our lines; but some of the boys
were not so fortunate and were captured. From where we were at the old
log house we could see Richmond, being not more than one and a half miles
distant. We kept the enemy back, so they would not interfere with the build-
ing of the bridge ; and when that was repaired we crossed over to the south
side and went into camp, with the rain still pouring in torrents. That niglit
I sat at the foot of a big tree, but did not sleep, as my head ached as if it
would spUt. We had eaten nothing Init hardtack for two days, and were liable
not to have anything warm for days to come.

To give some idea what a division of men can do. and that under the
most unfavorable circumstances, I will here mention the feat performed by
Wilson's division in rebuilding the bridge over the Chickahominy river. It
was about 7 o'clock a. m. when they arrived on the ground. They cut the
trees from the swamj) and made a 1)ri(lge o\-er the river. That bridge was
fully a quarter of a mile in length, and' our forces were crossing it by 3
o'clock p. m.

The next day. the 13th. we liad a brush with the "Johnnies" at Bottoms'
liridgc. and on the T4th ])assed over the old battle-fields of McClellan's unfor-


tunate campaign of 1862, arriving at Haxtell's Landing that day, where we
rested three days, and drew five days' rations from the commissary of Gen-
eral B. F. Butler, who had been bottled up for some time and was unable to
extricate himself.

On the 17th, at sundown, we started on our return to Grant's main army.
The 1 8th was employed in skirmishing with a body of cavalry near White
Horse Landing on the York river. It was here at the landing that the men
from Michigan (the same that built the bridge across the Chickahominy)
showed some more of their cle\er work. When we got ito the York river we
found no way of crossing, but there was a railroad bridge about three hundred
feet long, and of sufiicient height to admit of steamboats passing under it.
The rails were all gone, but the stringers were intact, and all that it needed
was plank to cover it. One of the Sixth ^Michigan men reported to the gen-
eral that he had discovered an old sawmill about four miles back that could
be repaired. The mill repaired, the lumber was sawed to cover the bridge,
and as fast as the planks were sawed into twelve-foot lengths they were carried
on horseback (two men to one plank) to the bridge, there to be laid in place.
By 12 o'clock that night the bridge was covered with plank, and the men
began to cross on it by twos, leading their horses. Going across that bridge
by moonlight gave one a peculiar feeling about the pit of the stomach akin to

During the next five days we were maneuvering in and aboirt ^Vest Point.
We were then sent to Cold Harbor to cover the operations of General Custer,
Avho had been sent to intercept a supply train. He met a larger force of
infantry than he could handle, was for a time entirely surrounded, and but
for the timely arrival of our brigade would have fared badly. Then the
whole cavalry command returned to the main army, joining it on the 24th,
after having made one of the most successful raids of the war.

From the 9th to the 24th we partly subsisted off the country through
which we traversed, — a portion of the country that had been foraged o\er
many times by the Confederate army; nor did we lack for anything. But I,
for one, was very glad to get back to hardtack and coffee. I think we fared
the same that the Confetferate army did all the time, but they were used to
that way of living and we were not.

While on this raid I was sent out to do some foraging. In the party was
an Irishman: I have forgotten his name, but we will call him Pat. for short.
Now, Pat wanted everything in sight that he or his horse could eat, and
was determined to have his own way in getting it. We had visited several
houses, with no results: and we finally came to a small house in a clearing in
the woods. I went and asked the lady of the house if she had any corn that
she could spare us for our horses. She said, "I have about three pecks of
shelled corn in a barrel in the attic." I saw that she told the truth and ordered
the men not to touch it. Pat, who was always present, said, "Damn it! boys.
I'm going to have that corn." I said. "Pat, you touch it at your peril."
But. nevertheless, he started for the stairway and I ordered him under arrest
and sent ba:k to camp. This lady had three small children, who were cling-


ing to tlieir niDther and seemed nearly frightened out of tlieir wits at seeing-
Union soldiers. She remarked that this corn was all that she had in the
world to live on ! I think she told the truth, for I did not even see a chicken
or pig about the place. She thanked us for leaving the corn. \\'e went
about one mile further on, where we found plenty of corn and hams, which
made us feel happy.

The return to the main command did n<it afford us much rest. The
infantry forces had been fighting almost continuousU- from the 5th to the
24th, and had lost, in killed, wounded and missing, nearly one-fourth of our
armv, but had outflanked Lee at every turn, and were now on the point of
crossing the Xorth Anna river.

On the 26th Grant sent Sheridan, with Torbit and Gregg's divisions,
to Taylor's Ford, to deceive the enemy if possible and watch the crossings,
one division of the Sixth Corps following us, as usual. As soon as it was
dark the withdraAval of the Army of the Potomac to the south side of the
North Anna river began, and by the morning of the 27th the army had
crossed, and the pontoons were taken up and other bridges destroyed.

We were at Hanovertown on the morning of the 27th, capturing that
place, with little opposition: but in the afternoon we encountered the forces
of Fitzhugh Lee and Gordon on the Hanover Court House road and forced
them back to Attlee's Station. It was reported that the enemy's cavalry was
massed at Hanover Court House, and on the afternoon of the 27th our regi-
ment was ordered to make a reconnaissance to find out whether this was a
fact. \\'e found the enemy, as reported. In returning to our command that
night, in the darkness we ran into an out])i)st picket headquarters and were
given a warm reception by our own men. I remember that one of our men
was wounded in the knee, and he made as much noise as a whole regiment
of men would if wounded in regular battle. The remainder of that night I
spent on the jrorch of an old house, but slept very little.

Here I must relate a peculiar dream, or presentiment, that I had that
night. It was so indelibly stamped on my mind that it never can be effaced.
I dreamed that on the morrow we would have a hard-fought battle, and I
would either be killed or wounded. I saw the battle-field in my dream, and
saw^ the very spot where I was wounded. I saw the dead and dying all around
me. The next morning I told some of the boys of my dream and the most
of them laughed at me for being so superstitious. About 8 o'clock Major
Xorthway came to me and said, "Truman, don't you want to take some men
and go out and bring in that corn that we captured yesterday?" I did as
requested. The Major said, "I believe I will go out w^ith you: I am not
feeling very well this morning." We rode along some distance in silence,
and finally I said, "Delos, I had a most peculiar dream last night :" and I
told him the dream. He said, "True, that is queer; I had the same dream
last night." We got our corn, and on our way back the boys got some
chickens, and my mess had chicken for dinner: but I could not eat any, and
they laughed at me for being so superstitious.

Dinner was hardly finished before "boots and saddles" was sounded on


double quick, and the boys knew well what that meant. We were in our
saddles in almost no time, and off to the left of the road, about one-fourth
of a mile, went our battalion on double quick. We had come to a narrow,
but deep ravine, that could not be crossed with horses ; so, as usual, in cases
like this, we left our horses with the fifth man, and went into this battle dis-
mounted. In crossing the ravine spoken of there was a large tree that had
fallen across it, and on this we crossed. Some of the men were very "shaky"
in the knees, and tumbled off into the ravine ; but, of course, they were on
hand for the fight. I don't remember e\er knowing of one of our boys to
miss a fight, if they could get to it in time. About fifteen rods from the ravine
we met the enemy in the woods. Tliey proved to be the forces of Fitzhugh
Lee and Gordon's old division of cavalry. The woods were quite open, and
much dead timber lying on the ground. With this we fortified ourselves as
best we could ; but it was only a few minutes before the firing on both sides
became general all along the line, and I must say that it was the most severe
engagement that I was ever in. After we had been engaged about fifteen or
twenty minutes it became so hot that I was sure that every man in the com-
pany would go down, and I found out afterwards that it was equally hot all
along the line. We left our breastworks early in the fight and were advancing,
slowly at first ; but reinforcements must have come up on the enemy's side,
for all at once they began to pour the lead into our ranks harder than ever;
but we stood firm. I w a> just pumping out the old cartridge and putting a new
one in my carbine when a niinie ball passed through my left arm near the
shoulder. I asked Sergeant Will Davis to relieve me of my cartridge belt and
revolver ; then I walked back to my horse. Just as I was leaving the field the
Sixth Michigan Cavalry came on the field with a shout, and as they passed me
I shouted. "Go in boys;" and I imagine that it was not long before they were
fighting side by side, with the Sixth Ohio boys; and it was not long before
the battle was ours. It was a heavy loss on both sides. Our men buried
three hundred and fifty of the enemy, and, of course, the number of their
wounded must have been large.

As I left the battle-field I crossed the same old log that had given some
of the boys such a peculiar sensation in the legs as they walked it one-half
hour before, as they were going into the battle. The minie balls were whiz-
zing past me at a lively rate. I finally i-eached the headquarters of the
division surgeon, who is nearly always near the front, to attend to those who
need prompt assistance. They put a tight bandage around my arm and gave
me a large drink of brandy. I then mounted my horse, and rode about one
mile back to the brigade hospital.

As I was riding past a troop of cavalry (which I afterward found to be
the Second Ohio) that I had not seen since it went to the western army in
1862, a lieutenant liy the name of Cowdry noticed me and said to his captain,
"I believe that tliat man that just passed is Ree\-es from our town :" and
shortlv afterward he followed me.



Arriving" at the brigade hospital, which was alaoiit a mile from the battle-
field, where 1 found Dr. W. B. Rezner and staff, in the act of amputating a
man's leg, Zenas A. Xorthway, a cousin of mine, came to me and asked
what was the matter. I said, "Well, Zenas, I guess you will have to take
my arm off." He gave me a big drink of brandy and I sat down and watched
them operate on the other fellow, and was satisfied that they had done a good
job, and he didn't die under the operation; and I told them that I was ready
whenever they were. After my arm was amputated they laid me on the
ground, to recover from the effect of chloroform, and here I will leaxe myself
for a few minutes and take you back to the field of battle again.

The First Battalion was commanded by Major Delos R. Northway,
which was on the right of the road, fighting for dear life. The major was
shut through the heart, as I afterward learned, at almost the same instant
that I was wounded. His presentiment and mine proved true. George R.
Xorthway, another cousin, went to assist the major, and was wounded five
times, none of the wounds proving fatal at that time, but he eventually died
from the effects of them.

I will now go back to the hospital and to myself again. As I said before,
I was laid on the ground to recover from the effects of the anaesthetic. When
I became conscious of things on this mundane sphere I saw stancHng over me
a lieutenant in the Second Ohio Cavalry by the name of Cowdry, who had
followed me after seeing me ride past his regiment. I reached out my right
hand and said, "How are 3'ou, Tip?" Just then my left shoulder gave me
a sharp twinge of pain, and I felt for mv left arm, and found that it was
gone, and I said, "That's all right. Tip;" and we commenced to talk about
the fight that was going on at the front. I never had the pleasure of seeing
Cowdry from that day to this. The doctors all remarked that Reeves was
about the coolest man they had ever operated upon.

A field hospital is not a pleasant place to be in, especially when the army
is on the move and surgical operations are being performed. Ours consisted
of a large Sibly tent, no cots of any kind for the wounded to lie on. My bed,
for the two nights that I lay in that tent, was a few pine boughs, covered
with a rubber poncho blanket. It was so hot that no covering was needed.
There were several other badly wounded men in the tent, and I do not now
recall to mind but one attendant that came near us the first night we were
there, and he only to bring us water and hardtack ; and I can assure 3'ou that
it was untold agony that I suffered. The next day and night we were left
to the tender care of my old friend Henry Van Hout, a sort of a roustabout at
hospital headquarters. He was a Polander and could not speak the English
language very well. The next day after I was wounded he came to me and
said. "Moster Reeves, here is your gold ring: I had to cut it off yixir little
fiinger to get it off." I would much rather he had not told me that, but was
thankful to get my ring. I jilaced it on my right-hand little finger and wore
it until i88s.


Tlie second morning after the battle we were put in ambulances to go
to \Miite House Landing, there to take the steamer to \Vashington. After
riding over a very rough road for a mile or so I told the driver to let me
out and I would walk, as the jolting was more than I could stand. I took
my canteen of water, but nothing to eat, and trudged along that hot, dusty
road all alone, with the sun seemingly frying its best to melt me down. That
thirtv miles to the landing was the longest and hardest thirty miles that I
ever attempted to travel, and I thought it would never come to an end. By
keeijing my shoulder thoroughly wet by pouring water from my canteen on it,
I managed to survive. At last, about i o'clock in the morning, I came to
a wagon train. I awoke one of the drivers and asked if he could give me
something to eat and permission to sleep under his wagon. He gave me some
crackers and some salt pork, and also gave up his bed to me. But. tired as
I was, I could not sleep, on account of the severe pain in my shoulder. The
next morning, after eating a few crackers, I went to the landing, where, to
my great joy, I found the Sanitary Commission, where I was soon cared for
by a doctor and a lady attendant. The very sight of a lady at that time and
place did more to cheer up the wounded than a whole corps of doctors. —
not that I did not think the doctors necessary; and I felt like throwing my
good right arm around the one that helped the doctor that morning, for it
was the next thing to having my dear mother with me. I think that I felt
like repeating that little verse that my mother taught me when a small boy:

"Mother's love, supremest blessing
That on man was ere bestowed ;
When all else in life forsakes you.
Mother's your eternal friend."

At the White House Landing there was a hospital boat in waiting to
take the wounded to Washington, at which point we arrived three or four
da}-s later. Owing to the fact that I had used so much water on my shoulder
on my way from Cold Harbor to the landing, the dressing had partly come

Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 6 of 108)