Horatio Rogers.

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

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the capture of Winchester under Gen. Banks, after which we
proceeded to Washington, where the battery joined the forces
of Gen. McClellan, and took a very active part in the siege of
Yorktown and the rest of the campaign. Then came South
Mountain, Antietam, first and second Fredericksburg. In the
first battle of Fredericksburg we were ordered into what we
termed a forlorn hope. I will make a short mention of it
here. It was the 13th day of December, the day of the hard
fiohting. We were in resei-ve until near night, when we were
ordered to report to Gen. Howard, who commanded a division
of the Second Corps. We moved to the front, to the edge of
the city, and found Gen. Howard watching the bat>le. I
heard him tell our captain that he was al)Out to order a charge
on the enemy's works, and it was necessary for a smooth-bore
battery to go up first and to fire rapidly, not stop to cut fire,
but to create a cloud of smoke to hide the troops and to give
them courage. And then he said : " Capt. Hazard, I do not
expect you to come out — with your guns, at least." The
battery dashed in. Our loss was heavy for the length of time
we were engaged. The charge was repulsed. The battery
took a part in the second battle of Fredericksburg, and had
the pleasure of assisting in the capture of the heights. At
this battle the section to which I belonged fought a duel with
a section of the famous Confederate Washington Artillery.

One day in June we received orders to pack up and be
ready to move at night, but not to strike tents till dark, as
we were camped in sight of the enemy across the river.
When it became duck our tents were struck, and then com-
menced our maiTh for Gettysbui-g. But we were not then
aware of our destination. W^e marched nearly all night,
forming lines of Itattle so as to be prepared to receive the
enemy if they should attempt to follow. The next day was
very hot, and it told on us, as we had had no sleej) the night



RHODE ISLAND EXCUKSION TO GETTYSBURG. 49

before, and \vc had been camping with shades over us. In
the afternoon the road was strewn with the dead and dying
from the effects of the sun. Our corps had a skirmisli at
Thoroughfare Gap on our way, after which we crossed the
Potomac into Muryhmd, near Leesburg, in the vicinity of our
first battle, Ball's Bluff. On we went through Poolesville into
Pennsylvania. We now began to understand the intent of
the enemy, and our greatest anxiety was, — Would we be in
time ? I remember the anxious look of the residents aloug
our route in Pennsylvania, as they came running to the road-
side — men, women, and children. After noon on July 1st,
we heard distant firing of artillery, and, as we reached the
top of a hill, we saw away in the distance the smoke of battle.
Then we knew the Army of the Potomac was in time. At
dark we arrived near the field. The Second Corps threw
themselves down to rest and sleep. Poor, weary men ! the
next night many of them will sleep the eternal sleep. The
next morning we started for the front line. As we marched
across those fields, there were columns at the right of us, and
columns at the left of us. One thing, in particular, I ob-
served, that on other similar occasions there would be more
or less cheering and other demonstrations of enthusiasm, but
on this occasion, everyone appeared dumb, silent, stern. It
might have been from the effects of their long and fatiguing
march, but to me it seemed that they realized the great im-
portance of the issues at stake in the coming battle. Behind
us were our homes and all we held dear ; above us, the starry
flag, which, next to Heaven, we most revered ; in front of us,
our old adversary, the gallant Army of Northern Virginia,
with its skillful leader, and its bravest and most experienced
corps commanders, flushed with the knowledge of previous
victories, and joyous in expectations of present success. Be-
tween the two armies, on an open field and no favors, nearly
equal in numbers, there was about to take place a struggle of
giants, on the issue of which hung the destiny of this conti-
nent. Well might the soldier of the Army of the Potomac
be silent and thoughtful.

7



50 RHODE ISLAND EXCURSION TO GETTYSBURG.

The battery occupied three positions on this field ; first, in
the morning, at our left and front, where you see those shocks
of corn, but we were not engaged there, but moved to the
right, and taking position on that small ridge in front of the
line of battle and forming a spur from the main line, facing
at right oblique, but firing left oblique — a very awkward posi-
tion, especially for the left of the battery, as when our skir-
mishers were drawn in, which was the case, our left flank
would be in the air. As we went into position here, we ob-
served the chimneys, and roofs, and steeples of a village at
our right and front. We asked what town it was, and soon
word was passed, — Gettysburg ! We had never heard of such
a place before, but, soon, thousands of hearts, North and South,
would throb in anguish at the mention of Gettysburg.

I will relate some of the incidents of our share of the second
day's battle, as I saw it. I was gunner of the left gun, the
farthest from the main line. The sergeant of our gun ob-
served, as he dismounted, that he hoped this would be the
wickedest old fight the battery was ever in. He had his wish
gratified, and it was the sergeant's last fight in Battery B.
The ground had recently been plowed, and made a good posi-
tion for our guns in action, as they could not recoil. The
sun shone hot, and there was no shade. For a long time we
stood or reclined around our guns, waiting the opening of the
Book of Fate. The enemy's sharpshooters crawled uj) in our
front, and made targets of us. One of them closed one of his
eyes on me, and the bullet passed between my arm and body.
Near four o'clock there was a movement at our left, which
caused us to spring to our feet. The Third Corps was mov-
ing to the front. As our position was, we had to face partly
to the rear to see them. It was one of the grandest sights I
ever witnessed. They did not move in line of battle, but in
a solid mass. The sun shone on briglit guns, and glistening
bayonets ; and the waving colors, and tlicir steady, compact
movements made a picture of dazzling beauty. Wc were sur-
prised at this movement, for we did not expect to be the at-
tacking party. The boys said to one another, — They cannot



RHODE ISLA>fD EXCURSION TO GETTYSBURG. 51

go far in that direction before they will strike a snag. Soon
from the edge of the woods in their front came puffs of smoke,
then, bang ! bang ! Soon there was a commotion in the Tiiird
Corps, and in a few moments they were hotly engaged. From
where we stood we could look over them, and see the enemy
emerge from the woods, and they came on gallantly, firing
as they came. We could see them close in on the left Hank
of the Third Corps. We saw Gen. Meade and staff dashing-
out to them, and saw the enemy fire on him from the left.
Then we knew it was all day with the Third. Soon a regi-
ment broke, then a brigade, then a division ; then it appeared
that the whole corps was in full retreat, coming back. But
what a difference from their going out ! The disaster to the
Third Corps filled ns with dismay and anxiety, as we did not
know what the result would be, for the enemy were following
them sharply, and where would the Third stop ? I heard
some of the boys exclaim, "Whipped again !" and it did look
shaky. A part of our corps (the Second) had already been
sent to their assistance. There has been much discussion, of
late, in regard to the disaster to the Third Corps, and to whom
the blame, if any, should be attached. It is not my purpose
to quote anybody else's opinion, but to give my own from the
evidence of my own eyes. It was, and is, my opinion, that
the disastrous result of the move proved it to have been a
mistake, and the blame must necessarily be attached to the
person who ordered it, whether it was the general command-
ing, or the- corporal of the guard. Surely, there should be no
blame attached to the men in the ranks, for they made no
mistakes, and disobeyed no orders ; they did the best they
could, for the old Third was a fighting corps. The best
troops that ever formed a line could not have withstood that
front and flank attack. But there was one fortunate circum-
stance, for, if some officer did blunder, the men in the ranks
knew enough to retreat when badly beaten, as, if they had
staid, they would have been annihilated, and the Army of the
Potomac could not afford to lose so many good fighters at so
critical a time.



52 miODK ISLAND EXCURSION TO GETTYSBURG.

Our attention was suddenly called from the Third Corps by
the rapid discharge of artillery on our right. We about-faced
and saw at our front, away off near the woods, a Confederate
battle-flag apparently lifting itself up out of the ground, and
then two rows of heads, and then the shoulders of a long line
of battle. As yet we had made no move or preparation, but
stood gazing at them in silence, and well we might, for they
were a grand object to behold. At first we saw them as they
came up the slope, now their heads, next their shoulders and
bodies, in a long circling line. There was something terribly
suggestive in their steady advance, denoting that their visit to
us was not of pleasure, but purely of business. I suggested to
the sergeant that we had better prepare for business, as the
Johnnies were coming for us. The sergeant said, "No, they
are our men coming in." At that movement a sheet of smoke
rolled up from them, then a crackling of their rifles, and the
dirt flew among us. I asked the sergeant if he didn't think
our men were careless with their guns. Immediately we heard
our commanding ofiicer shout to us to open on them at once ;
" They are the enemy !" Instantly the whole machinery of
the battery was set in motion. A quick opening of am-
munition chests, a running of powder-monkeys, a whirling of
sponge staffs — " Ready, fire !" — and, out from the front of
Battery B, leaped jetting flames ; the sulphurous smoke envel-
oped the cannoneers as a cloud of dirt spurted up among the
enemy from our shots, but it made no impression on them.
We were using fixed ammunition, firing about five times per
minute from each gun. We had at first to fire at an eleva-
tion, but, as they advanced, we kept depressing our pieces till
at a point-ltlank. Tlien the enemy's fire Avas terrible. The
air around us a])peared alive with lead. Once I glanced up
along the line, while in the fiercest of the fight, and pride
took the place of fear. It was a sad but glorious sight to see
how splendidly the boys were handling the guns. Our smoke
was rolling back over the main line. There seemed to be a
constant jetting of flame from the front of the battery. At
every limber some of the horses wcjc down, flouncing in the



RHODE ISLANP KXCURSTON TO OETTYSBURO. ')S

agonies of death, but the guns were jumping and roaring, not
appearing to miss a cog. Evci'y one of the boys seemed to
be earning his thirteen dollars per month. The enemy were
now piling over the two fences at the road in our front ; the few
men who were on our left were running past us, and our left
flank was now in the air with no support. Our fii-c was very
destructive to the enemy. 1 could see, at every discharge of
one of our guns, a vacant space appear in the enemy's ranks,
but they would immediately close up, so it was like dropping
a stone into water. But on they came, with their slouch hats
pulled over their eyes, bringing their guns to the shoulder and
firing. We could see their hands go up and down as they
loaded as they advanced. They were now sweeping around
on our left, and at this moment two men were shot at our
gun, a ])owder-monkey and the sergeant. The latter and I
were disputing about the management of the gun, when the
shot struck him. We now began to realize that we were in a
critical place, and should have been ordered back when the
troops fell back. If we staid much longer, we would all be
killed or taken prisoners. We were pleased when we heard
the command to limber to the rear. But now came the
greatest difficulty, to get our gun off, as the enemy were most
on to us. We had to cease firing to hitch on to the gun.
Those who have been in close quarters in a battery can-realize
what an ordeal it is for the drivers to mount in the saddle
right in the face of the enemy. I know that two men at this
time were spilled out of one saddle by the enemy in succes-
sion, one killed, the other wounded. As the order to limber
up was given, I shouted to the drivers, who had already
mounted, to advance. I was standing beside the trail looking
over my shoulder to see if we had time. There were but a few
yards between the gun and the enemy. But the drivers would
not come, for all I could do or say. They dashed up to the right
and hitched on to the next gun, and away. The cainioncers,
who were standing at the gun, now became discouraged and
ran for the rear, leaving me and the gun. I could not blame
them, for there was now no prospect of saving the gun. A



54 RHODE ISLAND EXCURSION TO GETTYSBURG.

despair seized me, and I threw myself down beside the gun
to share its fate. Those drivers told me, afterwards, that the
reason they would not come to the gun was that the enemy
were as close to the gun as they were, which was about eleven
yards. But the gun was saved for all that. I had but just
thrown myself down when I heard a rattling of chains.
Looking up, I saw a limber coming at a dashing gait from the
wall. Our caissons were in rear of the main line, and as soon
as the limbers at the pieces became nearly exhausted, those
of the caissons would take their places. This proved to be
one sent to our ])iece, not knowing that we were ordered out.
Some of the detachment were returning with it. The limber,
with its six horses on full run, created a cloud of dust in the
plowed ground, and had the appearance of a charge. I sprang
up and glanced at the enemy to see if we would have time to
liml)er the gun. I observed that the rebs had come to a halt,
apparently fixing bayonets, which gave us time, and caused
them the loss of the gun. All of this did not occupy more
than one minute. I remember, as the limber dashed up, there
were three of the Fifteenth Massachusetts boys who had been
fighting on our left and front, but the regiment had retreated.
The three men came running to us, saying, "For God's sake,
get this gun out of here, quick !" One of them dropped his
gun and helped to lift the trail. The other two faced the
enemy, and discharged their guns in their faces. The gun
was limbered, the drivers- lashed and spurred their horses,
and away went the gun through the wall fifty yards away. I
had become completely exhausted. I tried to catch hold of
the sight of the gun to pull me along, but I missed it and fell
on my face. The enemy had discovered their mistake and
were after us. As I reached about half-way to the wall, 1
saw the gun go through. The Sixty-Ninth had been impa-
tiently waiting for us to get out of the way, so they could
have a hand at the rebs. With feelings of despair, 1 saw
them thrust the muzzles of their guns across the wall. As I
looked at the row of dark muzzles pointing down on me, it
was no pleasant siglit. Then came a sheet of flame and



RHODE ISLAND EXCURSION TO GETTYSBURG. 55

smoke ; and whiz ! came their bullets. Here the poor fellow
of the Fifteenth Massachusetts, who helped at the trail, fell
dead at my side. I then thought my days on earth were
numbered. It seemed to me I should die a dozen deaths be-
fore I could reach the wall. I have heard it said that, when
a person faces certain death, the whole of his past life comes
instantly before his eyes. I believe it to be a fact, for on this
occasion I thought I was as good as dead, and I am not
ashamed to say that the home of my childhood and the dear
friends of my youth came before my vision, and to me, just
emerging from boyhood to young manhood, life was precious,
and the thoughts of death terrible. I had but little fear of
future judgment, for I believed that my Creator would have
more mercy on this poor, weary young soldier, who had tried
his best to do his duty this day, than that screeching, yelling
mob at my heels. In front of the wall was a hole about ten
yards across and reaching within two yards of the wall, and
about four feet deep in the middle, but tapering up to the
edge. I was not aware of this place, and as I came to it I
was blinded by the smoke of the Sixty-Ninth, their fire being
hot in my face. I fell into this hole, and I lay where I fell.
I raised my head to see what station it was, and I discovered
a man of my detachment reclining on the other side under the
fire of the Sixty-Ninth. As he saw me he smiled ; I suppose,
at my coming in, for I did not stand on the order of my com-
iug, but I just came. The enemy halted here and lay down,
some of them at the edge of the hole, and fired across. Here
the two lines were about twelve yards apart, so near that they
quarrelled as they fought. Every time the Sixty-Ninth fired,
they accompanied it with a shout. The rebs screamed back.
I felt confident that the rebs would be defeated, as I knew
that the Sixty-Ninth would not give in, for they told us when
we took our position that they would protect us while they had
a man left, and gallantly they redeemed their promise. There
were other troops engaged, but the Sixty-Ninth were our spe-
cial support. The survivors of Battery B will always carry
in their hearts a grateful remembrance of the brave Irish



56 RHODE ISLAND EXCURSION TO GETTYSBURG.

Sixty-Ninth Pennsylvania. I made np my mind while lying
tliere, that, as soon as the rebs were defeated, I would make
a dash for the wall, for there were two rebs firing across me,
and they could touch me with their guns. Suddenly the
enemy ceased firing. 1 jumped up to make a dive for the
wall, but, like Lot's Avife, I looked back. Those two rebs
had got up to run. As they did so, I heard two voices say

from the wall, "Come in, you sons of !" I glanced

quickly at the wall, and there stood two of the Sixty- Ninth
with their guns at their shoulders, with fingers on the trig-
gers, their eyes glancing along the barrels. At first I thought
tliey had mistaken me, but 1 was so close to them I could
see one of them was aiming by my right shoulder, the other
by my left. They had got the drop on those two rebs, who
threw their guns down as if they Avcre hot. We three came
over the wall together. I found my gun at the rear of the
Sixty-Ninth. They had given me up for dead, and Billy Jones
was acting as gunner in my stead. Poor Billy ! he was killed
the next day. This ended this day's fight.

It was now evening. I remember it Avas a very pleasant
evening overhead, the moon was shining bright. But it was
a sickening sight under foot — dead and wounded everywhere.
There Avas a detail made from our men to go doAvn on our
position to take care of any dead, and to secure the harnesses
of our dead horses. I went with them. I shall never forget
the sight. The ground Avhere we fought, and in front, was
covered with dead. We could tell Avhere our guns stood, by
the piles of dead horses. I forgot to state that the Sixty-
Ninth charged after the enemy as I came over the Avail.
They captured several hundred of tbem, and as they were
taking them to the rear, they ])assed through our battery.
The rebs recognized us, and saluted us Avith curses loud and
deep. They swore that if they ever got another chance at us,
tliey would cut our hearts out, and there would not be a grease
spot left (jf oui- battery. We did not reply to them, for Ave
knew that Battery B had stung tlicin, and they Avcre smarting
from its cifects. As our loss in men and horses had been



RHODE ISLAND EXCURSION TO GETTYSBUHd. 57

severe, and our rations had given out the day before, we ex-
pected to be relieved, as we knew there were batteries in the
rear that had not fired a shot ; but, instead of relief, two of
our guns were sent to the rear so as to consolidate the men
on the other four. Instead of rations, ammunition was sent
to us. That night we slept the sleep of the tired and
hungry.

The morning of July od found the battery on the line of
artillery, on the left of Cushing's Battery A, of the Fourth
Regulars, in which Lieut. Milne, of our battery, was sei'ving
for the time being, having been mortally wounded. Here we
remained all the forenoon, waiting as we did the day before,
not knowing what was in store for us. And well it was that
we did not know. The enemy kept quiet in our front, except,
now and then, from different points along their lines, would
come a shot. They were, unknown to us, placing all their
artillery in position, and, as a battery came in, it would lire
a shot to get the range. I would say, it was about one o'clock
when they opened the " gates of hell," so to speak. At that
time I was sleeping in the shade of a caisson, and was awak-
ened by an awful crash. I sprang up. The ground was
trembling, shells bursting over and among us. Some of their
shots were ploughing lengthways of the battery, and from
every direction but the rear. I cannot, nor shall not, attempt
to describe the horrors of that time. I remember, at first, I
was completely bewildered. Waking from a sound sleep, I
ran to the left of the battery to find my gun, forgetting, in
my excitement, that it was one of the two that had been sent
to the rear. At that instant I was struck on the left shoulder
by a piece of shell, which had the effect of waking me up. I
shall never forget the terrible effect of that artillery fire.
There were horses with their inwards dragging on the ground.
In rear of us was a regiment lying on the ground, with their
guns stuck in the ground by the bayonets. I saw those guns
flying in the air like ten-pins, and I saw men scooped up in
the air by the plunging shots. 1 went to what is now known



58 KHODE ISLAND EXCURSION TO GETTYSBURG.

as the Gettysburg gun,* where I found Billy Junes cutting
fuses, and I assisted him. We were firing very fast. We
expended the ammunition at that limber, and then we went
to the gun and stood near the trail conversing. Bob Wilkin-
son, who was handling the sponge-staff, had become exhausted ,
and was calling for relief. Billy said, " I will spell Bob," and
went to his relief. I saw that the next gun was minus a
gunner, and, as that was my rank, 1 went to it. Sergeant
Horton was at the trail. I had been there but a few minutes
when there was a crash, and Horton exclaimed, " My God !
there goes two of our men !" I gave one look, and became
faint and sick for a moment. Such a sight I never want to
see again. There sat Gardiner, faced to the rear, with the
side of his body next to me torn away, his shoulder and arm
hanging in shreds, his vitals exposed, as he sat dazed. The
sergeant of the gun ran to him to hear his dying words.
Gardiner, who was Number Two, had just inserted the charge
as the enemy's shell came at rather left oblique, striking him
in the side, and on the side of the face of the muzzle of the
gun, and exploded. The explosion blew Jones several yards
to the front, the sponge staff farther on, completely beheading
him. Jones had just sponged the piece, and was at a reverse,
waiting for Gardiner to insert the charge. The shell, the part
of it as it exploded that did not cover the muzzle of the gun,
passed under it, carrying away a part of the axle. I said I
felt faint when I saw the effects of that cruel shot. Those
two men I was very intimate with. While the battery
was organizing at Providence, Jones and I boarded at the
same house, and we became very intimate, and during
the war, uj) to this battle, we were warm friends. He had
served in the navy, and he gave me my first experience in
the use of tiio sabre, with which he was very handy. He

___ .

* This gun was captured by the enemy the night before, the horses on it having been
killed just before it arrived at the wall. The gallant Sixty-Ninth and the enemy foui,'ht
dcBporately for its possession, but the Irishmen wrenched it from the rebels' grasp. The
gunner of this gun, I urn told, did not desert tlie gun, but lay on the ground beside it while
the desperate slruu'gle took place. 1 did not witness the struggle for the guu, although J
was but a few yards to the right, for I was at that time very busy holding that hole.



ftiiODfe ISLAi^D EXCURSION TO GETTYSBUKG. 59


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Online LibraryHoratio RogersRecord of the Rhode Island excursion to Gettysburg, October 11-16, 1886 (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 6)