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Record of the Rhode Island excursion to Gettysburg, October 11-16, 1886 (Volume 2) online

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w ilhoiit anus, to me at the head of the bridge, at dusk of the
7th, and when it liecame dark we crossed the river and threw


lip a line of entrenchments about a mile long marked out for
us by General Warren. We labored all night in silence, hav-
ing been forbidden to talk or to light a match, and by dawn
of day we had constructed a practical cover, which the troops
then relieving us found no difficulty in completing under fire.

June 9th, the Second crossed to the Fredericksburg side of
the river, where it remained under an occasional shelling till
the night of tlie 13th, when in darkness and in rain descend-
ing in torrents it recrossed with the rest of the Sixth Corps,
and bade a final farewell to Fredericksburg. It had transpired
that Lee was moving northward, so the Arm\»of the Potomac
followed, the Sixth Corps being on the extreme left, and form-
ing the rear of the army, June 14 we crossed Potomac creek,
halting at Stafford Court House till late in the evening, when
we pushed on again, crossing Acquia creek early on the 15th.
We marched, and marched, and marched, trudging along by
day and by night, now under the heat of a scorching sun, and
again under the chill of a driving rain that soaked us to the
skin. Night and day, rain and shine, dust and mud were all
alike to us, however, as we had to take it as it came, and on
we went to Dumfries, then to Occoquan creek, next to Fairfax
Station. June 18 we had got as far as Fairfax Court House,
and for six days we had a little variety of duty, even if it was
not all rest, as the corps was strung along as far as Bristoe
Station, guarding the railroad and watching the mountain
passes. June 26th we started again, reaching Draincsville
that night, crossing the Potomac on pontoons the next day
at Edwards Ferry, and camping near Poolesville, in Maryland,
the night of the 27th. Onward we pushed the next morning
through Poolesville and Barnesville, along the base of Sugar
Loaf Mountain, through Whitestone to Percy Mills. The
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was passed on the 29th, and on
we went through Newmarket and Ridgeville to Mount Airey.
The last day of June we marched through Mount Vernon
and Westminster to the neighborhood of Manchester, where,
happily, we halted for a day.

Tlie hardships of that march from Fredericksburg, who,


that took it, will ever forget ? The fierce rays of the sun that
beat upon us the day we reached Dumfries burned into niy
memory so decjjly that they can never be obliterated. 0,
tlie utter weariness of going into bivouac at midnight after a
long day's march to start again at 3 in the morning ! What
cliafed and tired limits there were, what aching heads ! . For-
tunately for me 1 was a mounted officer, which helped some-
what, Ijut the colonel of the Second Rhode Island was not so
much of a martinet but that he could tramp for miles to give
loot-sore officers and men a needed lift, and one little drum-
mer Ijoy, but for the rides he got from the mounted officers,
would have succumbed entirely. But weariness was not our
only misery. Wagon trains were on the move, and baggage
was not accessible. For three weeks I did not take off my
clothes, and when I did they never went on again, hence it
will retiuire no very active fancy to picture our unenviable
condition. The fare, too, was in keeping with our other trials.
We could not always stop to cook, and, when we were fam-
islied enough, raw salt pork spread upon hard tack proved an
appetizing combination, which made us, like Oliver Twist, to
ask for more. Then, too, as we had no base of supplies, we
could ill afford to condemn ])rovisions that would support life,
and, uniortunately for us, some of our crackers had been on
the peninsula the year l>efore, and had become wormy. Time
and again have I broken my haid tack into my coffee, and,
scooi)ing off a myriad of worms that rose to the top, content-
edly ate the rest, for, fastidious as a man may naturally be,
there is nothing like an empty stomach to knock the dainti-
ness out of him. Rough as our experiences were, it was very
far from being all wretchedness, however, for the scenery was
grand and picturesipie, we could sleep at a moment's notice
williuut waking for eight or ten hours if permitted, we could
digest (he coarsest tare and get hungry enough to enjoy it,
the life was advi iituious and in the open air, and, above all,
we had the consciousness that we were doing our duty.

We spent the last day of June near Alauchester, and though
more tjian a score of years has since elapsed, the delight of


that rest to our weary limbs abides like a red-letter day in my
memory. All were wondering what had become of Lee, and
expectation was roused to the highest point. We knew that
rebel cavalry had been hovering round us, as the Second had
had some guarding of wagon trains to do, and I had been
particularly warned of the proximity of Confederate troopers.
Then, too, we had occasionally passed dead cavalrymen that
had fallen in recent skirmishes, so that orders to march were
momentarily looked for. Nine o'clock in the evening came,
but the expected orders had not arrived, and quiet reigned
over the camp. Presently, however, far away and faint in the
distance, though distinctly audible, rang out the assembly
from a single cavalry bugle. 1 interpreted its meaning in-
stantly, and ordered little Dick Higgins, a drummer boy in
his early teens that was kept at headquarters, to beat the
drummer's call preparatory to the assembly. Some of the
staff listened to me in astonishment, as an aid or an orderly
was always sent from brigade headquarters with orders to
pack up, and taking the responsibility of routing out the regi-
ment and getting it ready to march at that time of night
without orders, struck them as peculiar, to say the least, and
they so intimated. My opinion was that the bugle call was
the sure precursor of the long-expected orders, and as my
staff were officers and gentlemen and I was colonel, no more
comments were made, whatever may have been their thoughts,
so the assembly of the Second Rhode Island Drum Coi-ps
broke sharply forth upon the still night air, much to the sur-
prise of my brother colonels, as no one had as yet received
any orders to move. The men packed up rapidly, and in fif-
teen or twenty minutes down galloped an orderly with the
anticipated orders, and hardly had he got out of hearing when
the generals began to appear, fi.rst the brigade and then the
corps commander, and when General Sedgwick saw the Second
Rhode Island all in line ready to march, he rode up to Colonel
Eustis, commanding the brigade, who was talking to me, and
said : " I am glad to find a regiment in the corps ready to
march. Order it to move out at once !" Thus it was the



Second Rhode Island led the corps on that eventful march
towards Gettysburg. It was a beautiful, calm night, the at-
mosphere was soft and balmy, and the moon shed forth a
gentle radiance sufficient to light us on our way. We tramped
all night with scarcely a halt, and to say that we were tired
but faintly expressed our feelings. For one, I was completely
and utterly exhausted, and when shortly after sunrise we
halted for a little rest and to make coffee, I fell asleep, and
slept as heavily as if drugged, so that when General Sedgwick
was ready to start I could not be wakened, and another regi-
ment was pushed into my place ; and thus the Second Rhode
Island lost the head of the corps. When, however, I did at
last get my eyes open, it was no small problem to wake up
the exhausted and sleep-ridden soldiers. I remember aiding
some of the line officers in rousing their men. I had on thick
top boots and carried a heavy cavalry sabre, so I would kick
a man on one side of me and strike another with my sheathed
sabre on the other with force enough to knock a wide-awake
person over, and yet my vigorous efforts often needed repeti-
tion before the weary souls could be induced to open their

At last we approached the battlefield, and before reaching
it a crowd of sti-agglers swarmed by us. Indeed, it seemed
from the fragmentary mass flocking along as if the whole
army must have disintegrated and gone to pieces. There has
been much discussion as to the time the Sixth Corps ar-
rived at Gettysburg. General Doubleday and the Comte do
Paris, in their accounts of the battle, state that the head of
the corps arrived about 2 p. m., while others give a later hour.
Hut whatever the time may have l)een when we finished our
thirty-four-Miile nmreh — a mai-ch famous in the annals of the
war — lighting was guiug on when we turned off the Baltimore
Pike on to l*i»wers\s Ilill and eanie to a halt on the battlefield.
We rested and made coffee, all the while hearing heavy firing
at our left, till after a time our brigade was dispatched in that
direction to strengthen our lines near Little Round Top, and
we first went into line of battle just back of this memorial.


Here we waited expectantly, listening and watching and won-
dering, but not being called on to do more. Here we re-
mained till day went out and darkness settled over the com-
batants, and here we spent the night in line of battle, resting
on our arms. How well 1 recall that night ! My headquar-
ters were under a large tree a few paces in rear of the left
wing of the regiment, and all night long a throng of wounded
in blue and gray were borne along close by us. The groans
of the poor fellows were heart-rending, and as I lay at the
foot of that tree in the pale moonlight, watching the sad pro-
cession, listening to the agonizing sounds and wondering what
the final issue of the great struggle we were engaged in was
going to be, I could not help thinking of the Duke of Welling-
ton's famous saying, that, next to a defeat, the saddest ihing
was a victory.

Tlje following morning, July 3d, we were up at break of
day', for no one knew what was in store for us. The hours
were slipping rapidly away, and we seemed destined to in-
action, though very heavy firing was going on far to our right.
At last came orders to march. The rebel General Johnston
had pierced the Federal lines on Gulp's Hill, on the extreme
right, the evening before, and had penetrated almost to the
Baltimore Pike, spending the night there, so the first effort
of the day was to push him back. He held on doggedly, and
reinforcements were dispatched to aid the 12th corps, among
others our brigade, but he was repulsed before we reached the
scene of action, and we had a hot, weary and fruitless march.
The scorching heat of that July sun was intense and we suf-
fered greatly. Noon was approaching and quiet pervaded the
battlefield. One o'clock came, and the report of two guns
broke upon the ear, and directly 134 pieces of Confederate
artillery belched forth their pandemonium of sound and de-
struction. Eighty Federal cannon replied, and it seemed as if
Satan and all his cohorts were holding carnival. For nearly
two hours this furious cannonade went on, and who ever heard
it and witnessed its effects, will never forget it, though like
the Wandering Jew he were fated to live forever on the earth.


We were on a plain exposed to tlie pitiless blast, and before
we could ti-et to cover we had (piitc a distance to traverse.
The roar of the guns, the fiendish explosion of shells, the
snapping of branches of trees overhead caused by pieces of
shell, the fall of stricken men, the hurrying flight of soldiers
to cover, the shrinking to earth of those in line of battle that
could seek no refuge, the agonized terror of wounded horses
dashing along — all made up a scene that must be witnessed
to l)e appreciated. The fi-antic actions of the injured animals
were ]»articularly impressive. Of the many such I recall a
particularly fine, strong horse, with his under jaw shot away,
tcaiinu- along in a frenzy of pain. Next came Pickett's grand
charue, and our brigade, ever on the move to threatened points,
was hurried along to the place of danger. We passed just in
rear of our line of battle, using our eyes and our legs to the
utmost of our power. As we were ncaring our journey's end
a glad shout of triumph broke forth, and ringing cheers trav-
elled along the line toward us. Presently came a crowd of
rebel oflicers and a score or two of captured flags under guard,
followed at a short distance by thousands of rebel prisoners
being carried to the rear, and then the cause of the shouts
and the cheers became apparent, and we, too, took up the
jovous sounds, which rolled on down the lines beyond us.
Pickett's Division had been annihilated, the Confederate at-
tack had signally failed, and Lee's anticipations of victory had
turned into the bitter realization of defeat. "The Federal left,
right and centre had been successively assailed. At each
point it seemed, at times, as if the gray was about to triumph
over the blue, but the God of Battles had otherwise decreed,
and each time the Confederate assaults had come to naught.
We wondei-ed if a counter attack would not be made, and we
knew full well that, if made, it would devolve upon the Sixth
('oips. The afternoon wore on, however, and the expected
move was not ordci-ed, so we watched the sun go down, and
again lay ilown in line of liattle to awail the coming day, but
ihiK linn- we wondered less as to the outcome of the pending
HtnigeU'. as we felt that victory was assured.


The mornino- liglit of July 4th found us astir, ready for the
duties of the day. During the night General Lee drew back
his left wing, which encircled our right, thus straightening his
line and making it a less aggressive and a better defensive
position. Neither side showed any disposition to attack, but
the picket lines kept up a constant fire. Early in the day the
regiment was ordered down to the Emmetsburg road to sup-
port Berdan's sharpshooters on the picket line. To protect
the men as much as possible from the constant fusilade going
on, I brought the command into line of battle and took it at
the double quick the last few hundred yards, and even then
one man was wounded. At the Emmetsburg road we hugged
mother earth for shelter, our only duty being to support the
sharpshooters in our front in case of a Confederate advance,
which, however, never came. After a while, the fire became
less lively, and we began to look about us. What a sight
was spread before our eyes! It was enough to a])pal the
stoutest heart. We lay between the two armies where the
fighting had been hot and heavy on the second day, and where
the Union fire swept the Confederate lines as they advanced
in the famous charge the day before. We commanded an ex-
tensive view, and dead horses and stricken men lay in myriads
about us. Blue uniforms and gray were commingled there,
the wearers having joined other ranks where those colors
ceased to have significance. We seemed to have entered the
very Court of Death. The dead w^ere everywhere. The
ground, in places, was fairly carpeted with them. Just back
and to the left of us, in an orchard, was a Union battery, com-
plete as to officers, artillerists and horses, save that all were
stiff and stark in death. It was in position for action. The
limbers were in rear of the pieces with the horses hitched to
them. The men grasped their rammers and their lanyards.
Everything al)Out it seemed entire, save that all that had been
instinct with life two short days before, had been stricken
down. Dotting the field one could see little white flags where
wounded men had raised a handkerchief on a ramrod as a


signal of distress and as an indication that thev were not dead,
so that assistance might go to theiu. Stretcher-men, of course,
were busy, and we lay quietly and watched the sad and sick-
ening sight. Indeed, prostrate forms were so numerous that,
as we could not be relieved till after nightfall to avoid ex-
posure, 1 had to dismount and lead my horse when we left
the field for fear of stepping on human bodies. The sun
shone fiercely anon, and then the rain would descend in tor-
rents, and this continued at intervals throughout the day.
The atmospheric effect upon the dead, therefore, was extremely
rapid, and the stench was terrible.

War affords many striking incidents, and one occurred on
that grim tour of picket duty that illustrated alike the value and
the virtue of Masonic brotherhood, and shed a soft and hallow-
ing influence over the ghastly surroundings of that scene of
strife. Many dead lay in the Emmetsburg road in front of
us, and just opposite the right of the regiment, stretched out
at full length, was the lifeless form of a Confederate colonel.
His was a fine, manly figure, and he was smitten down in the
prime of life. It was ascertained from a Masonic certificate
in his ]tocket, which I hold in my hand, that his name was
Joseph Wasden, and that he was a member of Franklin Lodge,
No. 11, of Warrenton, Ga. Thereupon it was determined that
this deceased brother, an enemy in life, that had been stricken
down far from his home and loved ones, should be buried by
fraternal hands, and the blue uniforms gathered round the
gray as a squad of the Second Rhode Island, under the direc-
tion of Captain Thomas Foy, a Fast Master of King Solomon
Lodge, No. 11, of East Greenwich, raised the inanimate form
in their arms and bore it carefully two or three hundred yards
to the right, where they tendei'ly and reverently buried it on
the south side of Codori's l)arn, the ojiposing picket shots serv-
ing as minute guns. Several years ago, at one of our regi-
mental reunions, I requested Capt. Foy to send me the certifi-
cate, and t(j give me the details of this burial in which he was
\]\r ehief participant ; and 1 extract some sentences from the


letter he soon afterwards sent me. He wrote : "1 saw Cor-
poral Archie Stalker the da}' after the reunion, but he was
unable to remember the names of the privates who assisted us
at the burial of Colonel Wasden.

" It should be mentioned that Corporal Stalker (who is an
excellent amateur letterer), by my direction, prepared a head-
stone (st<?) out of the top of an ammunition box, and carved
the Colonel's name, rank and regiment upon it, and erected
it at the head of the grave, and the corporal informed me that
he had conversed with the author of a picture of the battle-
field of Gettysburg (Carpenter, I think,) who asserted that he
saw such a headstone when he was on the field taking notes.

" You doubtless remember that the grave was made contigu-
ous to a barn. Well, in that barn at the time there were a
lot of wounded rebels, a part of whom claimed to be members
of Wasden's regiment. I requested them, if they lived to get
home, to inform the friends of Colonel Wasden that he was
decently buried, and by a Mason."

The grave was so well marked that many people here in
Gettysburg remember it, and a year ago, or more, when I was
here last, an officer of Good Samaritan Lodge, No, 336, loca-
ted here, informed me that members of that Lodge assisted in
removing the remains when subsequently exhumed and for-
warded to his friends. Being myself a Mason and interested
to know something more of the subject of this romantic inci-
dent, a few weeks since I addressed a note to the Master of
Franklin Lodge, No, 11, of Warreiiton, Ga., and this is his
reply :

" Ordinary's Office, Warren County,

" Warrenton, Ga., Sept. 22, 1886.

"To Horatio Rogers, Esq., Providence, R. I. :

" My Dear Sir and Bro. — Your letter of inquiry reached me yes-
terday. I must confess that I was touched by its perusal, I have
been a Mason about forty-two years. I have been Muster of our
Lodge, Frankhu Lodge, No. 11, a great many times. Under the


circumstances it affords me unusual pleasure to comply with your
request, at least in part. Joseph Wascleu enlisted as a volunteer
in this county, 31st day of August, 1861. He was captain of the
company. He was afterwards promoted Major, then Lieutenant-
Colonel, and then Colonel of tlie •22d Georgia Regiment. He
was killed on the second day of the fight, and on the 2d day of
July, 1863.

" Some tidings of the kindness and tender offices shown his body
had reached here, but nothing so satisfactory as that which your
letter contains. I am glad to know that his body fell into such
hands, and that the blessed principles of our ancient craft are not
to be forgotten or eclipsed by the clangor of arms, the din of war,
or anything else, and that the nerveless embrace of death is no
barrier to a Mason's charity. Colonel Wasden was about 35 years
of age. He was a poor boy, did not receive much education, but
had spirit and ambition, and was destined to distinction if he had
lived. He was a lawyer by profession, and was risiug slowly,
but surely, in the practice.

"■ His wife — he had no children — was a northern lady, and I sup-
pose at this time is at St. Paul's. Minnesota. Jf his body was
sent anywhere, it must have been sent to her in some northern
State. It was not brought to Georgia. Mrs. Wasdeu's given
name was Marion. The Colonel's sword is in this county now,
in possession of a friend of Mrs. Wasden, with whom she lived
after the death of her husband until the war was over. I do not
know that Mrs. W. is living.

•• I have to-day seen Captain Beall of Colonel "Wasden's regi-
ment. He says the Colonel was rising fast in the army. His superior
ollicers liad their eyes fixed on him, and he would soon have been
prouKjted still higher.

'* In conclusion, I am glad to assure you and all connected with
thai tlan^^a(•tion, that your kindness was not unworthily bestowed.

" I auj very truly and fraternally yours, etc.,

" W. M. Franklin Lodge, No. 11."

The Twenty-Second Georgia was in Wright's Brigade, An-
dcrson's Division of A. 1*. Hill's Corps, and it lost at Gettys-
burg -2] killed and 75 wounded, and Colonel Wasden must


have been killed late in the afternoon of the second day's

When on picket we all felt sure that Lee was retreating;, for
all day long we could hear the rumble of his wagon trains.
After dark we rejoined our brigade, but the next morning,
July 5th, the Second Rhode Island was ordered to report to
General Neil, and be temporarily attached to his brigade,
which led the pursuit of the Confederate army, for the latter
had departed during the night. The rebel wounded were
everywhere. . We overtook them on the road ; the barns and

* Through the courtesy of Dr. J. W. C. O'Neal, of Gettysburg, the following, in regard
to the removal of Col. Wasden's remains from Gettysburg to Georgia, has been obtained :

"844 N. lOtb St., Phila., Oct. 2Tth, 1886.

" Dear Doctor : It affords me pleasure to gratify J'our desire for information concern-
ing the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Col. J. Wasden, 22d Ga. Reg't, who was
killed at Gettysburg, July — , 1863.

" During the summer of 1871, per contract with the Savannah Memorial Asso'n, I exhumed
the remains of Col. 'Wasden, and those of one hundred Georgians, who had been buried on
the battlefield at Gettysburg; and shipped the same to the 8. M. Asso'n, by whom they
were re-interred in the cemetery at Savannah, Ga.

"The grave, on the head-board of which was conspicuously marked ' Col. J. Wasden,
22nd Ga. Reg.,' was located on east side of Emraettsburg road, just inside the fence, and
near the south end of Codori's barn. The grave was single and alone. I exhumed the re-
mains of Col. W. and packed them in a large box. No. .5, in company with those of eight
other Georgians whose names were known, as their graves had been marked.

" The remains were not packed separately in small boxes, but collectively in large boxes,
by direction from the S. M. A. to meet the limited capacity of the Soldiers' Lot in the ceme-
tery. Any further information which may be desired concerning these remains can be re-
ceived by addressing Mrs. John Williamson, President of the 8. M. Asso'n, Savannah, Ga.

" 1 am fraternally yours,

"To Dr. J. W. C. O'Neal, Gettysburg, Pa."

"Dear Doctor: I trust that the enclosed note may meet your want. If I understood
you correctly, you desired a note showing that I removed the remains of Col. W., by whose

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Online LibraryHoratio RogersRecord of the Rhode Island excursion to Gettysburg, October 11-16, 1886 (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 6)