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the advance of the attacking column. Some delay was
causjd by removing the ab-itis and clearing aw.iy obstaales
for the advance of thj troops, giving the enemy time to
recover from the momentary panic caused by the explosion.
The troops as they rushed into the opening fell into confu-
sion, and became mixed up, losing their organization. The
enemy rallied, and poured in upon them a destructive fire
from both flanks, and from the crest of the hill in front
beyond. But a few troops were able to pass through the
crater and deploy so as to protect the flanks.

The enemy were protected by covered ways, and were
enabled to advance upon them without molestation from
the fire from our old works on either side. The attacking
column became wedged in the crater, confused and helpless,
unable to advance or retreat. In the mean time the enemy
had planted artillery at several points, and gained the range
of the crater, and poured a terrible fire upon the helpless
mass. Most of the men in the crater were killed and
wounded or captured. Thus ended the attempt to capture
Petersburg by breaching the works, by springing a mine,
and attacking them in the confusion and panic following it.
Great expectations were based upon its success, and corre-
sponding depression followed its failure. August 18, the
Fifth corps moved to the left, taking a circuitous route, and
captured the Weldon railroad, at the Yellow House. The
Second corps had been sent over to the north side of the
James to make a feint.

The enemy had weakened this point to oppose the Second
corps. Two or three attempts had been made previously to
capture this road, and they all had come to grief It was
the principal source for supplying the rebel army, and had
been defended with great pertinacity. The corps massed
in an open field on the side of the road. A rebel battery
opened at a distance, and plowed up an adjoining field
with solid shot ; no one was hurt. About six a.m. the
enemy had discovered the joke, and returned. The corps
formed in line of battle, and advanced to meet them. A
sharp fight ensued. Captain Huglnin was severely wounded.
The loss in killed and wounded was considerable, mostly in
the Second division. In the evening there came up a
drenching rain and flooded the country, it being very flat.
The rain continued at intervals throughout the next day.
In capturing the road there had been an interval left of
about four miles, occupied by a line of pickets.

The country was mostly grown up to a dense thicket of
second growth of yellow pine. In the afternoon of the 1 9th
the Fifth corps advanced a strong skirmish-line towards
Petersburg, before connecting the line on the right, leaving
the gap unclosed. Rebel General Mahone, the hete noir of
the Fifth corps, marched through the gap with a large force,
in the rear of the skirmish-line, and captured nearly the
entire force — nearly three thousand men — without firing a
shot. They were all armed with Spencer rifles. One brigade,
commanded by Colonel Wheelock, faced about, and fought
its way back. The enemy came upon the Federal line of
battle without warning. The centre of the line, being sur-
prised, gave way, and fled in confusion. The disaster for a
time seemed irreparable. The Second brigade. Colonel Hof-



HISTORY OF OSWEGO COUNT V, NKW YOUK.



maun couiiuandiiig, occupied llie extreme left of the lino in
an open field, and was cut off. It was ordered to fall back.
The oflieer on Colonel Hofuiann's staff had to pass over a
long space swept by the enemy's bullets to give the order.
He reached the regiment on the right, and gave the order,
and told the colonel of the regiment to pass it down the
line, and then returned. The order was not promulgated
to the other regiments. The regiment that received the
order fell back, leaving the remainder of the brigade on the
field. General Warren, seeing from a distance the three
regiments of the brigade, supposing them to be the enemy,
ordered a battery to open upon them. The brigade was
successfully repelling the enemy when the battery sent a
shower of shells into its midst. They were receiving a fire
from friend and foe, and were for a while obliged to dodge
from one side of the breastworks to the other for protection.
The mistake was soon discovered, and the captain of the
batterj' was ordered to desist firing. The brigade held to
its position, and repulsed the enemy in its front. About
this time the Fifth corps was reinforced by a division of the
Ninth corps under General Wilcox, and the enemy were
driven back.

The possession of the railroad was maintained in conse-
quence of the failure of the staff ofiiccr to give the order to
the whole brigade to retii-e, and the determined bravery of
the brigade in holding to its position when receiving a fire
from the front and rear. Lieutenant-Colonel Harney was
slightly wounded by a fragment of one of our shells. Sev-
eral of the men ct' the One Hundred and Forty-seventh
Regiment were killed and wounded by the shells from our
battery. General Warren, fearing another attack from the
enemy, in order to drive him from the railroad, as the road
was almost a vital necessity to them, immediately com-
menced to re-arrange and strengthen his linos. He was a
very able engineer oflacer. He superintended the construc-
tion of the works in person, at times using the spade to en-
courage the men. The corps worked day and night to
prepare for another attack. August 21 the enemy made
another attack. They expected, from the knowledge gained
of our position in the previous attack, to win an easy vic-
tory, but in the mean time the position of the works had
been materially altered and strengthened. They were
easily repulsed, this time with terrible slaughter, and with
slight loiss to the Fifth corps. The attack fell almost
wholly on the First division.

An incident occurred during this battle illustrating the
reckless daring of some of our ofiicers. The attack in front 1
had been terribly repulsed, and all fighting had ceased, |
when a rebel brigade emerged from some woods on the left !
flank and rear of the First division, within short range of
our troops. They had arrived on the field too late. Cap-
tain Daily, on General Cutler's staff, took in the situation, |
and rode alone down in the midst of them, snatched away \
the brigade colors from the color-bearer, and demanded a '
surrender of the brigade. General Haywood, the rebel
commander, being dismounted at the time, walked up to
Captain Daily and shot him through the lung. As Captain
Daily fell from the saddle. General Haywood leaped into it,
and ordered his brigade to face about and retreat. Up to '
this time there had been no firing from either side. Tlie I



division, seeing Captain Daily with the colore, supposed the
brigade had surrendered.

When General Haywood shot Captain Daily the division
opened upon them a destructive fire. One-half of the brigade
was killed or wounded. Captain Daily was found behind
a stump, where he had crept for shelter from our bullets.
His horse was found wounded. General Haywood had
got off wounded. A Charleston paper soon after contained
an account of a personal encounter of General Haywood
with a Yankee officer in this battle, in which General Hay-
wood by his prowess had slain the officer and come off
victorious.

The dead and wounded of the enemy lay thick before
our breastworks ; many battle-flags and other trophies were
picked up on the field. Our hospitals were filled with their
wounded, many of them riddled with bullets, showing the
destructiveness of our fire. The men were greatly elated
and inspirited over this easy victory. The conditions of
the fight had been reversed. Since the battle of the Wil-
derness the enemy had acted on the defensive, and had
fought mostly behind breastworks, and had our army to a
great advantage.

In the Wisconsin brigade there were several wild Indians
from the plains ; many of them could not speak English.
They served an excellent purpose as irregular troops, as
scouts and skirmishers. The nature of the country afforded
an excellent field for their mode of warfare. With character-
istic cunning, they would creep upon the enemy's picket- or
skirmish-line like a snake, or ascend trees, and conceal
themselves among the branches. In one of the engage-
ments many of them were wounded, and taken to hospital.
They silently, with frightened looks, watched the surgeons
as they placed the wounded on the operating-table, made
them insensible with chloroform, and probed and examined
their wounds or cut off their limbs.

When it came to their turn to be examined, they were
seized with a great fear lest they should be dismembered of
their limbs. Their untutored minds could not be persuaded
that it was for their good, and the surgeons meant them no
harm. They looked upon it all as a species of torture.
Many of them who were seriously wounded had to be left
to nature, unaided, to cure their wounds.

One time Lieutenant-Colonel Harney had command of
the skirmish-line when a rebel was captured. Lieutenant-
Colonel Harney gave him in charge of one of these Indians,
and instructed him to take the prisoner to the rear, and deliver
him to the provost-guard. In a very short time the Indian
returned to the front. Lieutenant-Colonel Harney asked
him what he had done with his prisoner, and was hor-
rified at hearing the reply, " Oh, me shoot him." He
had taken him a short distance in the thicket and shot him.
He could not understand why so much pains should be
taken with a prisoner, after incurring so much trouble and
danger in capturing him.

In a few days alter the battle the lines were strongly
fortified, and extended beyond the Weldon railroad. The
siege of Petersburg was .slowly progressing; every foot of
ground gained was so .strengthened as to be defended with
a small force. In September, another feint was made across
the James river, and the Fifth corps made an attack on the



HISTORY OF OSWEGO COUNTY, NEW YORK



enemy's line, half a mile to the left, capturing by surprise
two strong forts newly built. Towards nightfall the
enemy returned. The Second brigade, under Colonel Hof-
mann, was marched about half a mile in front, through
a belt of timber, and encamped for the night. At early
dawn the next morning the enemy discovered the exposed
position of the brigade, and opened an enfilading fire upon
it. Before the brigade could get under arms and gain a
defensive position it was thrown into disorder, notwith-
standing the coolness of Colonel Hofmann, whose voice rang
clear and distinct above the din of the bursting shells and
the roar of musketry. The brigade retired in some dis-
order behind the forts captured on the day previous. The
remainder of the corps was waiting to receive them, and
the enemy were quickly repulsed. The brigade was sent for-
ward for a decoy to draw the enemy into the works, — a foolish
and needless sacrifice of men. This was called the battle of
Peeble's Farm. Again several weeks were spent in fortifying
and extending the lines, gradually closing in upon the
enemy. About the middle of October, another see-saw
movement was made. Three corps, the Second, Fifth, and
Ninth, advanced three miles to the left, to get possession of
the South Side railroad, the last line of communication
leading to Petersburg, excepting the railroad connecting
Petersburg with Richmond. The Fifth and Ninth corps
marched to the right and formed on Hatcher's run, the Ninth
corps to the right, the Fifth corps to the left of the run.
The Second corps took a detour to the left and was to join
the Fifth corps on its left. The Second corps met with
considerable opposition from the enemy in endeavoring to
get into position, and did not succeed in forming a junction
with the Fifth corps, there being an interval of nearly a
mile between them. The counti-y was grown up to a dense
thicket, the surface was uneven, and as difficult to manoeuvre
an army in as the Wilderness.

The maps which were used by our generals as guides
were imperfect and misleading. Hatcher's run is a very
tortuous stream. General Warren was ordered to keep his
right on the stream. The two corps. Fifth and Ninth,
formed into line of battle, without waiting for the Second
corps to come up and join the Fifth corps on the left. The
One Hundred and Forty-seventh Regiment was detailed to
act as flankers on the left, to guard the Fifth corps against
surprise. The duty of flankers is to march by the flank,
or in column, within sight of the main army, to guard it
against surprise. The thicket was so dense that objects
but a short distance oflF could not be seen. The direction
of the line of battle of the Fifth corps was soon deflected
to the right, in order to follow the turning of the stream.
The One Hundred and Forty-seventh Regiment soon lost
sight of the main line, and continued its march in a straight
course into the gap between the Second and Fiftii corps,
diverging more and more from the line of battle as it
marched ; it soon become lost. After a while a stafi'-oflicer,
after a long search, came with an order to Lieutenant-
Colonel Harney, directing him to advance with the regi-
ment and find the right of the Second corps, and picket
the interspace between the two corps. Lieutenant-Colonel
Harney, ever cautious to guard against surprise or sudden
disaster, rode in front with an orderly, to examine the



ground ;. when the regiment came up halted it until he
examined farther on. The regiment kept on in this way
until the left of the Fifth corps was found. Lieutenant-
Colonel Harney then rode off to find the right of the
Second corps. Soon after, a deafening roar of musketry
was heard from the direction towards which he had but a
few minutes before disappeared.

The enemy soon poured into the gap. They attacked
the Second corps in front and on the flank at the same
time, overwhelming it and forcing it back. The One Hun-
dred and Forty-seventh Regiment made a hasty retreat
and got ofi' without loss, save the great one of losing Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Harney. He was not again seen by the
regiment until it was on its return from Appomattox
Court-House after General Lee surrendered. He had
saved the regiment from capture, and probably from a great
loss in killed and wounded, by his timely caution. It was
not known during many months whether he was killed or
captured, and his loss was mourned by the regiment more
than all of its previous misfortunes. The whole army fell
back when the Second corps was forced to retire, and en-
camped near Hatcher's Run. Early the next morning it
resumed its retreat and returned to its old quarters in the
intrenched camp.

Many incidents occurred of an amusing nature during
the stay in the dense woods.

Rebel General Mahone, the bugbear of the Fifth corps,
found, as was his wont, the weak point in our line, and it
was his division which came into the gap. In the attack
on the Second corps his troops became much broken up
into squads, which became lost in the woods. They wan-
dered aimlessly around, and often met similar squads of our
own troops lost in the same manner. They would demand
of each other a surrender, a brief parley would be had, and
it was decided that the weaker in numbers should surrender
to the stronger, upon the democratic principle that the
stronger should rule. At length they would run upon
another squad, there would be another counting of noses,
and perhaps a reconsideration of the former vote, the
stronger always carrying the day. But in the retreat the
gap was closed by the two corps uniting, and all the lost
squads of the enemy were captured and brought out as
prisoners. There were between seven and eight hundred
of them. No new move was made until December.

It was discovered that the enemy had established a line
of communications connecting the Weldon railroad, about
twenty miles below or south of our lines, with the same
railroad within the enemy's lines, near Petersburg, by the
Boynton plank-road. The fifth corps was ordered on a raid
down to the North Carolina line, to destroy the Weldon
railroad and break up the communication. The corps
crossed the Nottoway river, about twenty miles south of
Petersburg, and there cut loose from all communications.
The weather was very warm for the season. It seemed
very much like setting out on a pleasure excursion. The
rights of property with the inhabitants were scrupulously
respected. The first day the troops marched till late in the
night. The moon- shone with unusual splendor; there was
not a fleck of a cloud to be seen. The weather was so
warm and the air so balmy that the ofiicers did not have



HISTORY OF OSWEGO COUNTY-, NEW YORK.



103



tlieir tents put up, but laid them on the ground to sleep
on. Late in the night there came a sudden down-pour ;
the ofiScers awoke with the rushing of waters under them,
which nearly floated them off. The next day, about noon,
there came a dash of the enemy's cavalry, throwing the
head of the column into temporary confusion. The division
was then commanded by General Crawford, and had the
advance.

The troops were as soon as possible deployed across the
road and in adjoining fields to repel the cavalry, on account
of the suddenness of the attack. There were conflicting
orders, and the enemy's cavalry got off without much loss.
As soon as they saw that they were charging upon a line
of infantry they turned and fled. General Warren, hasty
and passionate, upbraided some of his oiBcers for allow-
ing them to escape. The Federal cavalry were supposed
to be in advance. The inhabitants in the country had
stored in their cellars plenty of cider-brandy, or apple-jack.
Our cavalry had on the road stopped at the houses and
partaken freely of the fiery beverage, and were nearly all
lying intoxicated along the road,

Towards evening the Weldon railroad was reached; then
commenced its destruction. A brigade was marched along
the side of the railroad track and halted. A break was
made in the track at one end of the brigade. The track
was then pried up at that end with ties, and turned nearly
over bodily. After once started, the process of lifting one
side of the track from the bed and turning it over became
a very easy niattir Miles of track, with its ties attached
intact, were, in a very short time, turned over from the
bed, leaving the ties on top of the rails. It was then an
easy matter to wrench the ties from the rails and pile them
up into heaps and set fire to them. The rails were placed
across the burning piles of ties, which soon became heated
in the middle, and the weight of the ends bent them in the
shape of a bow. A rail of railroad iron, when once sub-
jected to this process, can never again be restored. By the
evening of the next day nearly twenty-five miles of the
Weldon railroad was completely destroyed.

At Hicksford, on the Meherrin river, the enemy con-
fronted the Fifth corps with a superior force. A sharp
skirmish was had at that place, and the corps set out on its
return, the object of the expedition having been accom-
plished. In the night of the commencement of the retreat
there came up a sleety storm ; in the morning the branches
of the trees were crusted over with ice. Then set in a cold,
drizzling rain. The enemy pursued, and their cavalry an-
noyed the rear exceedingly. The Federal cavalry, that
should have protected the retreat, were demoralized and
fled, mixing in with the infantry along the column. Gene-
ral Crawford, ambitious for the post of honor, had the rear
division, and the Second brigade was perpetuully pestered
by sudden eruptions of the enemy's cavalry from by-paths
or openings in the woods. They were easily driven off, but
kept the men in a state of irritation and alarm.

Whenever there was a good defensive position the army
halted and awaited attack from the enemy ; but the enemy
was wary, and was not to be induced to attack when the
advantage of position was in our favor; they contented them-
selves by throwing a few shells after us, which did us no



harm. In the evening of the second day of the retreat,
weary from a long and toilsome march through deep mud,
and drenched by a cold, drizzling rain, the men were in-
spirited by an opportunity to get even with the enemy's
cavalry, which had been annoying and pestering the rear
throughout the day.

A trap was set for them. General Wheelock's brigade had
the rear. Passing a ravine and through a deep tut in the
hill opposite, which the rains had washed out, and left high
banks on each side of the road, overgrown with dense
thicket, the general arranged his jilan. Placing a regiment
on each side, on the brows of the cut, he instructed them
that when the enemy were in the cut, to close in upon them
and capture them without firing upon them if they could.
After arranging the men out of sight of the enemy, he in-
structed the pioneers to pretend to be busy in tearing up
the bridge across the stream, and when the enemy came in
sight to retreat hastily through the cut, and entice them
into the trap.

The enemy's cavalry came and made a dash at the
pioneers, who hastily retreated. When the enemy's cavalry
dashed into the cut, both regiments rose up and poured a
volley into them, killed and wounded many of them, and
captured the remainder. The men could not be restrained
from firing, they were so much incensed and irritated by
the annoyance they had suffered all that day. In their
eagerness, some of them overshot the mark, and wounded
two or three of their own men on the opposite banks, by
their own fire. The enemy pursued no farther. The next
day the corps recrossed the Nottoway river and encamped
on the north bank of the stream, in the woods; the weather
had become very cold and the wind blew a gale ; the wood
was saturated by recent rains, and there the men remained
through the night, shivering over the smoky, smouldering
fires. The next day the cold increased in severity. The
men were exhausted by previous hardships and benumbed
with cold. Many a poor soldier had fallen by the way and
had to be urged on by the provost guard, occasionally at
the point of the bayonet, to prevent his falling behind and
being captured by the enemy. At the Nottoway, going
down, the corps had cut loose from all communications. On
its return it met a friendly force sent down to meet it, but
there was no occasion, as the corps had got safely back. It
had accomplished its object with a slight loss; but its
hardships were great, — more from the inclement weather
than from the encounters with the enemy. On the way
down rights of property of the inhabitants were scrupu-
lously respected. On the way back, every hou.se, barn,
church, and corn-crib was burned.

The retreat of the array could be traced for miles by the
smoke rising from the burning buildings. Families of
helpless women and children were turned out in the cold at
the commencement of winter. The able-bodied male popu-
lation was all in the rebel army. The writer went into a
house that seemed to be deserted at first by its inmates.
It was filled with Union soldiers, who were ransacking the
house. The brave General Wheelnck was there, endeavoring
to restrain them, but without much avail.

Passing into a back room, there was found a poor woman
with fdur or five small children cowtriuir around her, cling-



HISTORY OF OSWEGO COUNTY, NEW YORK.



ing to her skirts ; slie with mute appeal looked imploringly
for protection. The soldiers were driven out of the house,
but upon looking back after the march was resumed, the
flames were seen bursting out of the house. The occasion
for this vandalism was that on the way down several of
the Union men gave out on the way, or had straggled ; on
their way back they were found dead, stripped naked, and
horribly mutilated.

Upon the return the regiment went into winter encamp-
ment, and but little was done, save strengthening the lines,
until February G, 1865.

The following promotions took place during the last year
of the war : James Coey was promoted to the lieutenant-
colonelcy, November 15, 1864 ; Alexander Penfield was
promoted to the majority, November 15, 1864.

The following were made captains : William J. Gillett,
Byron Parkhurst, Henry H. Hubbard, William A. Wy-
bourn, Alexander Ring. Alfred N. Beadle was made quar-
termaster.

The following were m.ide first lieutenants : Patrick J.
Brown, James W. Kingsley, Richard Esmond, John N.
Beadle, Frank P. Benks, A. Judson Dickison, Lansing
Bristol, Samuel S. Conde, Edward M. Sperry.

The following were made second lieutenants : John S.



Online LibraryCrisfield. cn Johnson... History of Oswego County, New York → online text (page 26 of 120)