Sunday, April 19, 2015

'Pen cannot discribe nor imagination picture . . .'

Company nurses were firsthand witnesses to the carnage of the Civil War. The letter below provides a glimpse of that experience and the frame of mind it required. To do the work, the nurse wrote, “I have to harden my hart.” 

By the time he wrote this letter during the siege of Petersburg in June 1864, Pvt. George Murdough of the 3rd New Hampshire Volunteers had served as a nurse at Fort Wagner in July of 1863 and in other battles. Most recently he had set up with the regimental surgeon at Drewry’s Bluff near Richmond, where 49 of his comrades were killed.

“When I tell you that I have seen wounded men by the thousand or that I have seen them laying around by the Acher, I am only telling you as it is,” he wrote his brother Edwin.

Murdough, a native of Acworth, N.H., had enlisted in August of 1861 at the age of 42. He was assigned to Company H. During battles he was often called upon to work for makeshift regimental and corps hospitals.

He closed his letter by saying he was counting the days until his three-year hitch was up. During those weeks the 3rd New Hampshire continued to lose men at a rapid rate (though not at the rate the letter suggests). In the July 30 battle after the Mine Explosion at Petersburg, 22 members of the regiment were killed.

Murdough indeed made it to the end of his tour, mustering out on Aug. 23 and heading north to settle in West Manchester.

The letter is addressed to Edwin R. Walker in Boston. Edwin, who may have been Murdough’s half-brother, worked for Burrage Brothers, a wholesale woolen house on Franklin Street in Boston.

                                                                                        Bermuda Hundred
                                                                                        June 14, 1864

Brother Edwin,

Pictured here during the 3rd New Hampshire's long stay at Hilton Head, S.C.,
is the regiment's first surgeon, Albert A. Moulton of Concord, with his wife
and son. Moulton himself became ill and returned home in 1862.  (Henry P.
Moore photo, New Hampshire Historical Society).
I will improve upon moments in scribeling a few harty lines to you. It is about eight weeks since we with the rest of the tenth Army have left Floriday and South Carolina for the Sacred Soil of Virginia. We landed here some six weeks ago and have been with General Butler since. Of his doings, you have seen through the papers perhaps quite as well as I can tell you. We have had hard marches hard fiting, & hard fare I can ashure you and ar still having them. Nether can I see the end yet but of one thing I hope & pray that God will in His good Providence bless this effort and that Richmond may be taken and this cruel war be closed up.

Pen cannot discribe nor imagination picture what I have seen since I come here. When the Armey goes into a fite, there is a place selectid at some safe and convenient place where a Hospital is established for each Army Corps and surgeon appointed to operate and dress the wounds. Our surgeon was one of the operators for this core and I was detailed to assist him and when I tell you that I have seen wounded men by the thousand or that I have seen them laying around by the Acher, I am only telling you as it is. It was enough to make an Angel weap but I have to harden my hart and go to work at these times. We have to work day and nite. I have only had my clothes of[f] to change them for six weeks — only my coat and shoes. [I] lay down anywhere and get rest whenever I can.

Our Regt. has lost heavily both in officers and men. Perhaps you may have seen some account of the (Fighting Third). We have lost some four hundred in killed wounded and missing. Only a small number ar amongst the missing. We ar now laying in front of the enemy where they can throw shells into our camp any time, liable to be called out any moment. The men have either been on picket outsid of our intrenchments or laying in the trenches with their Armes in their hands every night but too for the last fourteen. It is telling on all of us I think and unless we get som rest soon we shall get worn out.

I hope in ten weeks from today if the good Providence of God spares my life to get out of the army. I shall be verry thankful I can assure you, hoping to see this war nearly closed up by that time.
I must close. Please remember me to your Father Frank & all my old friends there when you see them. Write soon. Direct to me, 3rd Regt. NHV., 10th Army Core, Virginia, and it will come all rite and accept this from your friend and brother as ever


                                                                                                    Geo. Murdough

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I have again met the enemy and am still unharmed

View of and from Bolivar Heights
One of the highlights of the shoe-leather research Mark Travis and I did for My Brave Boys, our history of the 5th New Hampshire under Colonel Edward E. Cross, was our trip to Bolivar Heights. Along with much of the rest of the Army of the Potomac, the 5th camped there to rest between the battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg.

Just west of Harpers Ferry, it is a beautiful place atop a hill along the Shenandoah River in West Virginia. The hills of western Maryland rise just across the river. President Lincoln was right to criticize George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, for not pursuing and destroying Robert E. Lee’s army after Antietam, but surely McClellan’s men didn’t croak about their campground here.

Following in the footsteps of the regiment you are writing about allows you to see, as best you can so many years later, the land they camped and marched on and the fields they fought on. Among other stops on our travels, Mark and I walked the 5th’s route to battle at Antietam, tromping through land that was not part of the battlefield park. We drove the long route they marched to Fredericksburg and followed their path on the battlefield there.

This research made its way into the book in subtle ways. Here’s how we described Bolivar Heights:

“A more secure or healthier campground would have been hard to imagine. Bolivar Heights was a mile-long tongue of land seventy-five yards wide at its broadest expanse and several hundred feet above the Shenandoah Valley. The river whispered past on its way to the Potomac less than a mile away. In the cool of those early autumn dawns the mist rising from the Shenandoah and the Potomac formed long feathers of fog that obscured the bases of the highest ridges across the way.”

Because we had visited Bolivar Heights at the same time of year that the 5th camped there, we felt confident using what we saw to describe what the men of the regiment saw.

Winfield Scott Hancock
I recount this experience because another letter has turned up from Daniel K. Cross, an officer in the 5th. I recently posted a letter from Cross to his dad in Hanover, N.H., about his role in the Seven Days, the early summer retreat across the Virginia Peninsula. This one, written three months later from Bolivar Heights, tells about an excursion to Charles Town, the 5th’s first action under Winfield Scott Hancock, who would later lead them at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

Here it is:

Camp on Bolivar Heights
Near Harpers Ferry, Virginia

October 18, 1862

My Dear Father,

Ere this reaches you, the papers will probably publish throughout the North a flaming account of a large battle at Charlestown, Virginia and you may feel a little anxious as to my safety, knowing that Hancock’s Division was at the front.

Well, Father, I have again met the enemy and am still unharmed. Thursday morning, General Hancock (now in command of the Division) took his own Division, twenty-four pieces of artillery and two thousand cavalry—there was also one brigade from Howard’s Division – all of this under General Hancock, marched out from this camp in the direction of Charlestown.

When two miles from camp, we met the enemy’s pickets, driving them before us. Soon, however, we encountered one of their batteries and about two thousand cavalry. We formed in line of battle and marched through the fields to Charlestown. Not without opposition, though. Our skirmishers exchanged many shots with the rebs, and we were exposed to their solid shot. Our loss was small, only one or two killed and not more than ten or twelve wounded, while the enemy’s was still greater, besides some fifty prisoners we took.

This day, Father, our brigade was in the advance, and I had charge of the skirmishers from our brigade – six companies – and was most of the day with this front line, sometimes in advance of it. And here I must tell you that I came the nearest to being shot by a solid ball, a ten-pounder – the nearest that I ever have – while riding from a field in which our skirmishers were, onto a road, passing the line of skirmishers, and up quite a steep hill. As I was riding up this hill about the center of the road, this ten-pounder struck, just grazed the top of the hill and thence came thundering down, passing between myself and the fence not more than four feet from me.

Perhaps I have been quite as near these fellows before, or rather perhaps these shots have passed quite as near me, but being in the road and knowing that this ball passed between myself and the fence, it seemed to impress me that this was the hairbreadth escape of my experience. Here we are again back at our old camp, after a very successful reconnaissance. We did not meet as many rebels as was expected, but we ascertained their position.

Daniel K. Cross
Charlestown (where John Brown was executed) is a beautiful place about the size of Montpelier. Has six or seven churches, several stores, is beautifully situated on elevated ground and would be a pleasant place to occupy this winter, a pleasure we expected to experience, as orders were given yesterday morning to move all of our tents, camp equipage and et cetera of this division, and make our camp, intending to hold the town in spite of the secesh inhabitants (most of them were rebs). But when our wagons had got about half the distance, the order was countermanded, wagons ordered to return and tents put up on the old ground at “Bolivar Heights,” much to our disappointment. About noon yesterday, the troops started, came back some three miles, to Halltown (some ten or twelve houses, railroad station and one large grist mill) where we formed line of battle, thinking the enemy might offer battle, but nothing indicating such a result. This morning at daybreak, we marched into our old camp, somewhat fatigued, but otherwise quite as well as before we went on the expedition.

I have been looking for a letter from some of you for several days. When shall I hear from you? With kind regards and love to all, I am as ever, your affectionate son.

Daniel





Saturday, March 21, 2015

Seven Days, one man's ordeal: 'No doubt you have thought of me, perhaps wondering whether alive or dead'

Daniel K. Cross
Until now, Daniel K. Cross was best known to me as the 5th New Hampshire soldier who helped Col. Edward E. Cross (no relation) from the Fredericksburg battlefield in December 1862. A shell had exploded in Cross’s face, and he had lain on the field as his regiment went forward to slaughter. Dan Cross, a lieutenant in the 5th, found him at dusk and rounded up other men to carry him back to town.

Recently David Morin, my friend and a historian of New Hampshire in the Civil War, found a letter from Dan Cross on the web. It describes his ordeal in battles five months before Fredericksburg. These were the Seven Days battles – McClellan’s retreat across the Virginia Peninsula from June 25 through July 2.

Dan Cross was a 24-year-old from Hanover, N.H., when he joined the regiment at its inception in October of 1861. He was the sergeant major, suggesting that he had had military experience or education beforehand. He rose quickly to first lieutenant of Company G, the 5th’s ill-fated Claremont company. 

Camp near Turkey Bend
James River, Virginia
July 6th 1862

My Dear Father,

Through the intense excitement of the last ten days, no doubt you have thought of me, perhaps wondering whether living or dead. I have not tried to give the particulars of the retreat of the Army of the Potomac, and besides you get the details in the papers, but this much I will say: One might read the newspaper accounts of such an affair, day after day for twelve months and then not realize one fact in a hundred.

I will frankly say that I should prefer to camp before Richmond two years than have our army thrown into such an excitement again. There was no panic. No, not at all. But the immense amount of suffering by the sick and disabled soldiers, which have to leave their beds in hospitals and travel on foot in advance of the army to save their lives or being taken prisoners, say nothing of the immense amount of camp equipage, arms, and provisions destroyed (necessarily of course). Three hundred thousand (300,000) rations were burnt on the Peninsular. I thank God my life was spared and I am yet harmed.

Sunday last at daybreak our Division left the entrenchments before Richmond, marched back about three miles, where Sumner’s entire Corps halted, resting an hour. Richardson called on his “crack” regiment, the 5th New Hampshire, to go back towards the entrenchments and watch the sight of our old camp, saw a few rebels prowling about, and as those numbers increased to one or two hundred, our regiment retired a little into the woods. One company was sent out to watch the movements and skirmish. They were soon driven in, however, and we laying on the ground in line of battle, poured a volley at the advancing enemy. This brought a volley from them, of course. After firing a few rounds, we would about face and retire a few paces and then front the enemy and fight him again. This lasted for three quarters of an hour. When their advance was checked for the time being, light batteries were brought up on both sides and a few shells thrown, we mean time resting in the edge of the woods. We lay there, say an hour when orders came from the General to march to the rear double quick, which we did for a short distance, and then taking not a slow pace for about five miles. All this on one of the hottest days we have had.

Lt. Col. Samuel G. Langley
We lost in this little battle 2 killed and 13 wounded. Here let me mention that the night before (Saturday), I was cramped in my stomach, a sort of colic, and when we first left the trenches that morning, I felt worse than I had since we left Camp California. I was faint and weak, but I would not give up and went through all with my company until we halted about three o’clock p.m. Here I gave out entirely from exhaustion and had not lieutenant Colonel Langley loaned me his extra horse when we again started after seven hours rest, I should have been taken prisoner sure. I was not able to march from weakness.

At this “stopping place,” the enemy came up with us (Orchard Station) and Smith’s Division, with other commands fought him. All the Vermont troops were engaged. This was a hard fought battle. I was little back of our division (which was in reserve, not engaged) about ¼ of a mile from the field of action. The sight and sound was terribly grand and nine o’clock closed the strife. Many killed on both sides. When all was quiet, we again took up our line of retreat. We moved about seven miles that night, myself sleeping most of the way on the colonel’s horse. I was very weary and sick. 

Just before the break of day, we crossed White Oak Swamp Creek, where another battle was fought beginning at nine o’clock a.m. After resting an hour, I got into one of Dr. Knight’s ambulances, which started towards the James River with the sick on board. We had gone less than ¼ of a mile when shells began to explode all around us from the enemy’s batteries. One solid ball cut the top from a tree just over the ambulance I was in. No one in the train injured, however. 

During the day, however, a hard fought battle was the result of this shelling, called the battle of White Oak Swamp. Our regiment was exposed all day and lost about 20 killed and wounded. We lost in Company G the best man. Cannon ball struck him in the head. I arrived in the train at the James River, where all lame ducks encamped for two days on one of the largest and most beautiful farm or plantation imaginable. It was splendid. I would like to spend the season there. I wished you owned that plantation, Father. Lots of niggs there living in neat white cottages, but we could enjoy this but a short time, we invalids. The rebels were soon upon us and we had to move down the river double-quick.

We arrived at this place where the last battle was fought and here we shall probably remain for the present. Large bodies of troops are coming in daily. Quiet for a few weeks, probably.

For the present, the fighting is suspended. I think, Father, the army must be put in good condition again. Our regiment is in a crippled state, surely. We have only one field officer, Lieutenant Colonel Langley (a splendid officer too) and but ten company officers instead of thirty) for duty and 293 privates and non-commissioned officers is all we have able to do duty this morning. This is all there is out of our large regiments, to be sure, but our whole brigade has been broken down with extra fatigue duty and forced marches. We have lost in the “5th” since the 1st of June, 300 men in the several engagements, five in all, but not one officer killed as yet, and only seven wounded, none of them severely.

There is some chance of our having an easy time for a few weeks. Colonel Langley expects to be detailed (the regiment) for guard duty over the provisions at the landing here, where the stores for the army of the Peninsula are all landed. I hope we shall get this chance. Our men need rest. This would give them a chance to recruit.

I reported for duty yesterday, that is, unless the regiment was to march. I cannot do much traveling. My knees are not strong enough. But the Colonel has detailed me acting Adjutant for the present. Our adjutant has gone off in the sick boat and will be absent some time, probably. You see how it is Father. I am going the rounds. I told Dr. Knight today that I should be in his department next, on duty. The countersign was just handed me. This is strictly confidential now. It is sent in writing to the Adjutant of each regiment, who imparts to no one, unless by order of the Colonel.

No prospect of my getting a furlough this summer, Father, unless I should be wounded, then I should be sent home, probably. But I have written much more than I had any idea of at first and just close. I hope you are all well, and trust sometime I shall see you all. I shall. I suppose James and Lizzie are with you now or soon will be. Wished I could pop in, while they are there. My love to Mother and the children and regards to all inquiring friends. Write me soon. Direct Washington as before. I saw Bart last Thursday week. He was just starting for Vermont. Whether he got off before this stampede or not, I cannot tell. This in great haste was written.

Your affectionate son,

Daniel

Another 5th New Hampshire account of the Seven Days is here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lovers reunited? A discovery

This man is almost certainly George W. Ladd of the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers.
This blog was a retirement project, but I am no longer retired. I keep it going – in slow motion, at least – because its readers share so many new things with me, especially about New Hampshire’s Civil War experience. An email the other day from Kevin Canberg is a case in point.

Carrie Deppen
Kevin discovered the blog while researching a soldier named George W. Ladd. A private by that name was a principal character in a chapter of Our War, my 2012 book about the New Hampshire Civil War experience. In the book I told the story of his romance – at least it was a romance in his view – with a Pennsylvania girl he never met. Her name was Carrie Deppen, and she became his faithful correspondent and encouraged his affections.

I never found her letters, but sometimes his suggested what she had written him. For example, on Aug. 2, 1862, Ladd appeared to address the idea that she join the army to be with him.

“I have read a number of times about girls having enlisted in regts.,” he wrote, “and I presume there are many here in this army now. Two were found in Gen. Pope’s army a short time since, who had enlisted with their lovers, but I shouldn’t advise anyone to do that.

“Rather romantic, is it not? But then few could stand the hardships that they would have to undergo if they were disguised, although I think you would be worth a dozen of some soldiers we have in this brigade who are always playing sick.”

Richard Lord, a descendant of Carrie’s, compiled Ladd’s letters in a book called Dearest Carrie, which was my chief source. Lord was also kind enough to supply me with Carrie’s picture, which I used in the book.

But although it turned out I owned one of George’s letters to Carrie, I had no photograph of him.

That’s where Kevin Canberg comes in. The photo reproduced here is his. “Geo. W. Ladd” is etched on the back.

Canberg is a veteran collector of Civil War “hard images.” This image is a Melainotype, which he describes as a transitional photo technology used between glass ambrotypes and metal tintypes. Melainotypes were obsolete by early 1862 or ’63, but the technology was in use when George W, Ladd had his portrait made. Because of the props in the photo, including the flag, Canberg also recognizes the photographer as someone who worked only early in the war.

From the banner made for Pvt. Ladd's company
Canberg was searching the web for information about Ladd and found my blog. Specifically, he found the posts here and here. The Ladd-Deppen story in my book focuses on their romance by mail. It leaves out much of the wartime experience he describes in his letters. The two posts tell that story.

One can never be certain – George W. Ladd is a common name – but I’m also pretty sure the fellow in the picture is the man I wrote about. Ladd was mortally wounded in August 1862, so the portrait was shot between June 1861 when his regiment went to war, and then.

I checked the photo with Dave Morin, an old comrade on the New Hampshire Civil War trail. He confirmed that the uniform was right and also noted the “2” in the brass keeper on the soldier’s chinstrap. This is a regiment designation, and George was in the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers.

There’s more. The 2nd’s Company B, mostly Concord men (George was from West Concord), were chosen for their marksmanship. They were armed with Sharps Rifles and saber bayonets, as is the soldier in the photograph.

The company was known as Goodwin’s Rifles, after Ichabod Goodwin, the governor when they volunteered in April 1861. The ladies of Concord made them a silk banner to carry into battle. Their commander was Simon G. Griffin, a Concord lawyer when the war began, colonel of the 6th New Hampshire at Antietam, a brigadier general later in the war.

A while ago, incidentally, Dave Morin found more letters to Carrie Deppen in the archive at Auburn University. You can see and read them here. These letters were written by a cousin of Deppen’s and several other soldiers. They are from 1863 and later, after Lord’s death, but obviously Deppen’s letter-writing cheered many other soldiers.

Thanks to Kevin Canberg for sending me this spectacular image and allowing me to share it with you.

The etching on the back  of  Kevin Canberg's  Melainotype 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

As night fell on Fredericksburg

Writing an official report of a Civil War regiment in battle was a daunting task. Battle was chaotic. No colonel could get all the facts or double-check everything his subordinates told him. No matter how omniscient he might seem to his men or perceive himself to be, he could not witness enough in the heat of battle to know how his men had performed or understand his regiment’s role in the larger outcome.

Col. Aaron F. Stevens was seriously ill at Fredericksburg.
Worse, the report was a deadline writing job with inherently conflicting goals: to give a narrative of what happened while making his troops – and by extension his leadership – look good.

Below you’ll find Col. Aaron F. Stevens’s report to New Hampshire Gov. Nathaniel S. Berry about the 13th New Hampshire’s role in the battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862.  The battle was a debacle, with Gen. Ambrose Burnside sending wave after wave of Union troops uphill toward an impregnable Confederate position. Stevens submitted his report nine days after the battle.

In introducing it, it would be churlish to point out every inflated assertion or omitted fact. I will say that the casualty figures for Stevens’s regiment did not reflect the pitched, desperate battle his report described. And I will quote briefly from two other sources, a comprehensive history of the battle and a letter home written by one of his men.

The history, Francis Augustin O’Reilly’s The Fredericksburg Campaign, reports that Stevens “was too sick to keep up with his regiment, much less keep order.” He had lost 20 pounds and, to his men, looked 10 years older. Too sick to ride his horse, he had dismounted and walked until he plunged into a bog and was stuck up to his knees. One of his men pulled him out, and he lay on the ground to rest until his horse could be brought up.

A “jumbled mass” of Stevens’s men did attack the wall that protected the Confederate line at Fredericksburg. And because it was dark and the rebels thought the battle was over, the soldiers of the 13th New Hampshire managed to get close to the enemy before a rebel volley sent most of them tumbling back. But it was an inglorious retreat, successful mainly because the rebels could not see them in the dark and fired high.

Here is a report by a young private, Joseph Prime:

“Well, we formed in line of battle of our whole Brigade, the 25th N.Y. Reg., and the 13th N.H. Reg and the 10th N.H. next. Well we charged to within 20 yards of a battery (in the dark) when we were met by a regular blaze of rebel musketry and were shot down like everything when the 25th N.Y. broke and run through our ranks and caused the 13th to break and run and we received a destructive fire from one of the New York Reg or some other Union Reg.

Piece of piano key sent home from Fredericksburg by Private Joseph Prime.
“And we all pitched into a deep gulley or ditch after running some thirty yards and lay there until the firing ceased when we got out and run the best way that we could till we got behind a hill where we reformed and marched back to the city and slept on our arms that night. . . . I guess there is about 35 that is killed, wounded, or missing. . . . There was just four wounded out of our company and none killed. By the way there was a piano in Fredericksburg and I am going to send you a piece of the Ivory from one of the keys of that piano to remember Fredericksburg by.”

Here is what Col. Stevens reported to the governor of New Hampshire:

Headquarters Thirteenth Regiment N. H. Vols, Opposite Fredericksburg, VA., December 22, 1862.

To His Excellency Nathaniel S. Berry, Governor of New-Hampshire:

Gov. Nathaniel Springer Berry
Sir: I have the honor to report to you the operations of the regiment under in command since their departure from Camp Casey, near Fairfax Seminary, Virginia, including the battle of Fredericksburgh, on the thirteenth inst.

My regiment moved from Camp Casey on the first inst, with the First brigade of Casey’s division, consisting of the Fifteenth Connecticut, Thirteenth New-Hampshire, Twelfth Rhode Island, and Twenty-fifth and Twenty-seventh New Jersey volunteers, under command of the senior Colonel, Dexter B. Wright, of the Fifteenth Connecticut volunteers.

The first day we reached Uniontown, some two miles southerly from Washington City. We encamped the second day near Piscataway, and the third day about six miles northerly from Port Tobacco. We passed Port Tobacco about noon of the fourth day, and encamped for the night some six miles west of that place. The fifth day, in the midst of a cold and violent snow-storm, we encamped about one and a half miles from Liverpool Point, or Bluebank, as it is sometimes called, a point on the Potomac nearly opposite Acquia Creek. On the morning of the sixth day, we broke camp and marched to Bluebank, where we were detained some eight hours awaiting transportation; the soldiers during that time being exposed to a keen, cold, and piercing wind which swept down the river and across the plateau where they were halted.

My regiment was ferried across the Potomac about six o‘clock Saturday evening. The weather was extremely cold, and the men suffered much from its severity. From Acquia Creek, where we landed, we marched about two miles and encamped in a ravine well sheltered from the northerly winds, but filled with snow. The baggage of the field and staff-officers, including their blankets, mess-chests, eatables, etc., was, through the inefficiency and neglect of the transportation officials, left on the Maryland side of the river, and notwithstanding the faithful exertions of brigade and regimental quartermasters, was detained from us nearly two days. Consequently we were without blankets or shelter for two nights of intense cold weather. The result in my own case was an attack of illness from which I have not yet recovered, though I have had the good fortune thus far to be able to be on duty. I was, however, only a sufferer in common with others. In this encampment we remained until the next Tuesday afternoon, when we moved to this point, reaching here Wednesday afternoon. Our brigade was then broken up, and my regiment was assigned to the First brigade, (Colonel Hawkins,) Third division, (Brig-Gen. Getty,) Ninth army corps, (Brig-Gen. Wilcox,) in Major-Gen. Sumner‘s right grand division. This brigade is composed of the Ninth, (Hawkins's Zouaves,) Eight ninth and One Hundred and Third New York, Tenth and Thirteenth New-Hampshire, and Twenty-fifth New-Jersey volunteers.

On Wednesday evening we received orders to be ready to move the next morning. Thursday we were in line all day, ready and waiting orders to move and listening silently to the heavy cannonading and sharp musketry, principally on our right, or watching the smoke, rising from the burning buildings of Fredericksburgh, directly in our front. Just after dark we moved to the river, and crossed, without opposition, the pontoon bridge near the lower end of the city. My regiment took up its position for the night in Caroline street, one of the principal streets of the city, and threw out two companies, company B, Capt. Dodge, and company E, Captain Julien, as pickets toward the enemy.

This position we occupied until Saturday morning, the two companies on picket-duty being relieved by company C, Capt. Bradley, and company G, Lieutenant Forbush commanding.
At an early hour on Saturday morning, the eventful and disastrous day of the battle, we took up our position with the brigade under the hill on the bank of the river, just below the bridge which we crossed on Thursday night. Here we remained under arms the entire day, our position being about a mile distant from the line of the enemy's batteries. Occasionally, during the day, fragments of shell from his guns reached us or passed over us, falling in the river and beyond, doing but little damage. One of our own guns, however, on the opposite bank of the river, which threw shells over us toward the enemy, was so unfortunately handled as to kill two men and wound several others in our brigade. After what your Excellency has read and heard concerning the battle of Fredericksburgh, I need not say to you that the fierceness of the fight during that long, bloody and disastrous day exceeds any description of which my pen is capable.

As yet all the accounts which I have seen or read from Union or rebel sources approach not in delineation the truthful and terrible panorama of that bloody day. Twice during the day I rode up Caroline Street to the centre of the city toward the point where our brave legions were struggling against the terrible combination of the enemy's artillery and infantry, whose unremitting fire shook the earth and filled the plain in rear of the city with the deadly missiles of war. I saw the struggling hosts of freedom stretched along the plain, their ranks ploughed by the merciless fire of the foe. I saw the dead and wounded, among them some of New-Hampshire’s gallant sons, borne back on the shoulders of their comrades in battle, and laid tenderly down in the hospitals prepared for their reception, in the houses on either side of the street as far as human habitations extended. I listened to the roar of battle and the groans of the wounded and dying. I saw in the crowded hospitals the desolation of war, but I heard from our brave soldiers no note of triumph, no word of encouragement, no syllable of hope that for us a field was to be won.

In the stubborn, unyielding resistance of the enemy I could see no point of pressure likely to yield to the repeated assaults of our brave soldiers, and so I returned to my command to wait patiently for the hour when we might be called to share in the duty and danger of our brave brethren engaged in the contest.

By stepping forward to the brow of the hill which covered us, a distance of ten yards, we were in full view of the rebel stronghold — the batteries along the crest of the ridge called Stansbury Hill and skirting Hazel Run. For three fourths of an hour before we were ordered into action, I stood in front of my regiment on the brow of the hill and watched the fire of the rebel batteries as they poured shot and shell from sixteen different points upon our devoted men on the plains below.

It was a sight magnificently terrible. Every discharge of enemy's artillery and every explosion of his shells were visible in the dusky twilight of that smoke-crowned hill. There his direct and enfilading batteries, with the vividness, intensity, and almost the rapidity of lightning, hurled the messengers of death in the midst of our brave ranks, vainly struggling through the murderous fire to gain the hills and the guns of the enemy. Nor was it any straggling or ill-directed fire. The arrangement of the enemy’s guns was such that they could pour their concentrated and incessant fire upon any point occupied by our assailing troops, and all of them were plied with the greatest skill and animation. During all this time the rattle of musketry was incessant.

About sunset there was a pause in the cannonading and musketry, and orders came for our brigade to fall in. Silently but unflinchingly the men moved out from under their cover, and when they reached the ground, quickened their pace to a run. As the head of the column came in sight of the enemy, at a distance of about three fourths of a mile from their batteries, when close to Slaughter’s house, it was saluted with a shower of shell from the enemy’s guns on the rest of the hill. It moved on by the flank down the hill into the plain beyond, crossing a small stream which passes through the city, and empties into Hazel Run, then over another hill to the line of railroad.

We moved at so rapid a pace, that many of the men relieved themselves of their blankets and haversacks, and in some instances of their great-coats, which in most cases were lost. By countermarch, we extended our line along the railroad, the right resting toward the city, and the left near Hazel Run. In the formation of the column, the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey had preceded my regiment, and at this point their line covered my front.

As we passed the brow of the hill, and moved down on to the line of the railroad, the enemy opened fire upon us from his batteries with renewed vigor. At the same time our batteries in the rear were answering his, and the heavens were illuminated with exploding shells from front and rear. Having extended our lines along the line of the railroad, the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey took the shelter afforded by the right embankment of the railroad, and my men the partial cover afforded by the left embankment.

It was for a moment only. The words, Forward! Charge! ran along the lines. The men sprang forward, and moved at a run, crossed the railroad into a low muddy swamp on the left, which reaches down to Hazel Run, the right moving ever higher and less muddy ground, all the time the batteries of the enemy concentrating their terrible fire and pouring it upon the advancing lines.

Suddenly the cannonading and musketry of the enemy ceased. The shouts of our men also were hushed, and nothing was heard along the line save the command: Forward, men — steady — close up. In this manner we continued to advance in the direction of the enemy’s batteries. I moved on the right of the regiment, Lieut.-Col. Bowers in the centre, and Major Storer on the left. From some cause the left wing of the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey separated from the right, and the left of my line passed forward and took the advance, the right of the Twenty-fifth still having the advance of my right.

In this way we moved forward, until within about twenty yards of the celebrated “stone wall" at the foot of the hill, on the crest of which, according to rebel accounts, was placed the well-known “Washington batteries.”

I do not speak at random of our position. I verified it by subsequent observation, and by the report of a brave and intelligent soldier, sent by myself on the Thursday following the battle, with our burial party, and who assisted in performing the last rite upon some of our dead who lay there. I am proud to say that the regiment which I had the honor to command, in connection with the right wing of the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey, gained a point much nearer the stone wall and the rebel guns than any of our forces during that unfortunate day and that the officers and men advanced firmly though rapidly to the attack, and were withdrawn only in the face of a fire which, during the whole day, had successfully repulsed the desperate bravery of chosen and veteran troops.

Before we reached the point of which I have been speaking, we came to an irregular ravine or gully, into which, in the darkness of the night, the lines plunged, but immediately gained the opposite side, and were advancing along the level ground toward the stone wall. Behind that wall, and in rifle-pits on its flanks, were posted the enemy‘s infantry — according to their statements — four ranks deep, and on the hill, a few yards above, lay in ominous silence their death-dealing artillery. It was while we were moving steadily forward that, with one startling crash, with one simultaneous sheet of fire and flame, they hurled on our advancing lines the whole terrible force of their infantry and artillery. The powder from their musketry burned in our very faces, and the breath of their artillery was hot upon our cheeks.

The “leaden rain and iron hail" in an instant forced back the advancing lines upon those who were close to them in the rear; and before the men could be rallied to renew the charge, the lines had been hurled back by the irresistible fire of the enemy to the cover of the ravine or gully which they adjust passed. The enemy swept the ground with his guns, killing and wounding many — our men in the mean time keeping up a spirited fire upon the unseen foe.

The firing at last gradually slackened; and as no further orders came to us, I withdrew my regiment with others, and re-formed it deliberately some few rods in the rear, taking with us such of our wounded as we could find on the field. We remained some half hour, until we received orders to fall back to the town, which was quietly accomplished without further loss.
On our return we halted at the railroad, and found that our wounded, under the care of Assistant-Surgeon Sullivan, assisted by Chaplain Jones and the members of the band, had been removed and placed under the shelter of the hill, in rear of the railroad. They were, as soon as possible, removed to the hospitals in the city, and properly cared for.

In looking back and reviewing the scenes of that memorable day, I am happy to assure your Excellency that I see no reason to feel otherwise than proud of the conduct of the officers and soldiers of my command. I know of no officer present on the field who did not come unmanfully and bravely to the duty with which he was charged. The men, with one or two exceptions, behaved admirably, not one leaving the field, though stricken with a fire so terrible and sudden.

I desire to refer particularly to Lieut.-Colonel Bowers and Major Storer in terms of commendation for their intrepidity and coolness in the advance and attack. With particular pride and pleasure I call your attention to the services of Assistant-Surgeon Richardson, who, in those dreadful days, proved himself an honor to his profession and an invaluable aid to the army in its hour of suffering. While I look with shame and horror on the conduct of men calling themselves surgeons, attached to regiments of other States, I am proud to say that I know from personal observation that for two days and nights after the battle, and at times when the shells of' the enemy were falling around him, Dr. Richardson pursued his arduous duties in the hospital and out of it, unremittingly, and with a fidelity and ability that has endeared him to me personally, and gained him an enviable distinction among his professional brethren in the army.
Dr. Sullivan, though suffering from illness, was assiduous in his attention to the suffering of our regiment and the wounded on the field of battle. Surgeon Twitchell was not present, being detained in Washington and arriving here on Tuesday after the battle. I sincerely regret his absence at a time when his distinguished abilities and experience would have rendered him so useful to the poor and suffering victims of the day's carnage.

Sunday and Monday following the battle, we occupied our old position in Caroline street. I received orders on Sunday to be ready to move again to the attack, and the position of the battalion lines was assigned; but the plan of renewing the attack was abandoned during the day. Monday night my regiment was thrown out as pickets on the line of the railroad, and to the south of it, along Hazel Run, which position, aided by a detachment of two companies of Berdan's sharp-shooters, was held until half past two o'clock Tuesday morning, our pickets continually exchanging shots with those of the enemy. We were then withdrawn, and returned to our old encampment on this side of the river.

I have the honor to furnish your Excellency herewith a list of the killed, wounded, and missing, and also a list of officers absent at the time of the action. I will add that many of my men were injured and bruised by being thrown down and trampled upon by the lines in front, but are not included in the list of casualties.

I am happy to say that in most instances the officers and men of my regiment, though they have suffered severely from exposure to cold and in diet, are recovering their health, strength and courage, for the great work still before the army of the Republic—the suppression of the rebellion.

I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your Excellency's obedient servant,
A. F. Stevens, Colonel Thirteenth Regiment, New-Hampshire Volunteers.

List or Casualties in Thirteenth regiment New-Hampshire volunteers, at the battle of Fredericksburgh, Va., December Thirteenth, 1862.

KILLED:
Company D, Private Lorenzo Phillips; Company H, Private James Knights.

Total, two.

Wounded:
Company A—Lieut. B. C. Carter, slightly in leg; Private N. W. Gray, thumb shot off.
Company B—Corporal Geo. Cochrane, shot through wrist.
Company G—Privates H. B. Neely, in leg; Wm. Bridgdon, in knee; L. F. Smith, in hand; Geo. V. Celburn, in back.
Company D—Sergeant A. J. Sherman, in foot; Corporal M A. Taylor, in ankle; Privates Thaddeus Quimby, in neck; James J. Young, in head; Charles Hoyt, in finger.
Company E—Lieut. James M. Durell, in head; Privates Henry Nutter, in arm; David Chapman, in head; David Hogan, in hand.‘
Company F—Sergeant E. E. Locke, in hand; Privates, A. Stevenson, finger shot off; Charles Leathers, in ankle; Gilman Hall, in foot.
Company G—Corporal Edwin Ware, in thigh; Private Jacob Chamberlain in side.
Company H—Private C. C. Fuller, in foot; A. Jordan, in head; C. Cilley, in leg; Wm. McKinnon, in finger.
Company I—Lieut. M. A. Shaw, in foot; Corporal Wm. B. Huncklee, in head; privates, L. G. Parker, in side; M. Tull, in leg; H. Butler, in back; K. J. Chaplin, in head.
Company K—Privates, II. Hunnefelt, in finger; John F. Mulligan, shot through leg.

Total wounded thirty-four.

Missing and not since heard from, company F; J. F. Welch; company H, privates, Alvah Warren, Henry M. Woodbury; company K, privates John K. A. Hanson, John Harmon, Henry G. Thompson. Total missing, six.


Officers Absent from the Battle: —Surgeon George B. Twitchell, detained at Washington; Captain N. D. Stoodley, sick in Washington; Captain Luther M. Wright, sick in quarters; Lieutenant G. Gillis, Adjutant, sick, and on furlough in Nashua, N. H., Lieutenant Edward Kilburn, sick in Alexandria; Lieutenant W. H. H. Young, sick in quarters.

[My thanks to Dave Morin, researcher extraordinaire, who sent me this report and the CDV portrait of Col. Stevens.]

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Four more faces of the Fighting Fifth

Francis W. Butler of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers, winter 1861-62
It has been 13 years since the publication of My Brave Boys, the book Mark Travis and I wrote about the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers under Col. Edward E. Cross. It was our first book, and the memory of seeing it for the first time still makes me smile.

When we started our research eight years earlier, more than one person knowledgeable about the regiment warned us that we wouldn’t find enough about the 5th to write a book. On the contrary, we discovered a wealth of letters, diaries, memoirs and newspaper accounts to bring the men and their experience to life.

Captain Richard R. David, 39, of Wolfeborough
But little did we know how much more was out there. The internet age has created a bonanza of new primary source material. Not least are dozens of CDVs – wartime studio (or “salon,” the word used at the time) photos of the men. The soldiers distributed these to friends and family. The portraits were cherished, especially when their subjects happened to die, which, of course, was a common outcome.

Nowadays there are collectors galore of CDVs, and identified soldiers are especially coveted. My friend Dave Morin and I check regularly online, especially on eBay, for new faces of New Hampshire soldiers. The other day Dave found a run of four photos of 5th officers on eBay and shared them with me. I had never seen any of them, although three of the four men had star turns in My Brave Boys and one an even larger role in Our War, my 2012 book about New Hampshire’s Civil War experienced.

I’ve reproduced the four pictures in this post. They are Frank Butler, Richard R. Davis, Jacob Keller and James B. David. The eBay seller told Dave they came from the photo album of a daughter of Capt. Richard Welch, another 5th officer.

All four of the CDVs are signed, and all were taken at the Mathew Brady studio in Washington, D.C. They were taken during the winter of 1861-62, before the regiment had fought its first battle. Maybe the four officers went together to the studio while the 5th was stationed at Bladensburg, Md., where Col. Cross was preparing his men for war.

Lt., later Capt., Jacob Keller of the 5th was an immigrant from Germany
Butler is the soldier I know best. His descendant, Tom Jameson, a Texan, lent me a large notebook of Butler’s wartime letters for Our War. In the book I tell Butler’s story through the letters, which are descriptive and candid.

Butler was a bright, articulate man who left the 5th to go to signal school. He later returned to the regiment as a captain. He rode with Cross to Gettysburg. Still later, while serving as a staff officer for Gen. “Baldy” Smith before Petersburg, Butler was wounded in the leg. He made it home to New Hampshire, where he underwent an amputation and died.

Richard R. Davis of Wolfborough, N.H., joined the 5th as captain of Company H at the age of 39. He served under Cross at the Battle of Fair Oaks but resigned and went home in late July 1862, after the Seven Days.

Jacob Keller was German by birth and a stalwart officer. He immigrated to the United States in 1855 at the age of 28. When the war broke out, he joined the 6th Massachusetts, the three-month regiment attacked by a mob in Baltimore on April 19, 1861. Keller returned home to Claremont, N.H., where he enlisted in the 5th New Hampshire and was commissioned as Davis’s first lieutenant in Co. H.

Lt. James B. David ran afoul of  Col. Cross and was sent packing.
Later, he became a captain and transferred to command of the ill-fated Claremont company, Co. G. Of the battle of Fair Oaks on June 1, 1862: Keller wrote: “We fought so close that if a little nearer the powder of the one would have burned the faces of the other.” At Fredericksburg, where his company was nearly destroyed, a ball shattered his right arm.

Lt. James B. David of Company K was from Amherst, N.H. When I showed his picture to Mark Travis, he responded: “Can’t you just see Cross hating this guy? On looks alone, all politics aside.”


David and his captain, Richard Welch, whose daughter apparently collected these CDVs in her album, shared the ignominy of being booted out of the 5th by Col. Cross on Feb. 15, 1862. Their records read: “Disch. incompetency.” Company K’s first sergeant, Thomas L. Livermore, had borne the brunt of Welch’s and David’s callous and babbling leadership. Of their ouster, he wrote in his memoir: “The consternation of our two officers was exceeding, and their calamity must have weighed very heavily.”

[More faces of the Fighting Fifth here, here, here and here.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gotham greets Granite Staters

A New York stopover on the way to war:

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More on the 7th New Hampshire here.