Thursday, January 31, 2008
The Philippine Insurrection
The following letter and poem was written by soldiers who were in the 42nd U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish American War. The letter was written to a friend in Pottsville. The soldier, Corporal Martin McCarthy was from Wilkes Barre, Pa. but a note stated he was a resident of Schuylkill County at one time. He sent this letter home with a poem that was written about their action in June of 1901.
What McCarthy was writing about was an action during the Philippine American War, also known as the Philippine Insurrection. This insurrection was started before the Spanish American War. And after a historic naval victory during the Span Am War by the Americans, Commodore George Dewey who was in charge aided and encouraged the Filipinos to rise up against Spanish Rule. In 1898 Filipinos rejoiced at the collapse of Spanish Rule and were hoping to have their independence. As a result General Emilio Aguinaldo declared the PI independent. Unfortunately part of the 1898 treaty of Paris gave ownership of the Philippines to the United States, and President McKinley made it clear that the PI would not be granted independence. Confusing? Anyway fighting broke out between the U.S. and the Filipinos who resorted to guerilla warfare. Finally on April 16th 1902 the war was over. This war cost the lives of over 4,000 American soldiers, 20,000 Filipino soldiers and 500,000 Civilians. It is strange that today we are so intone to the word Insurgency and insurgents from our own war in Iraq. So take it as it may be we have already fought an insurgency.
The poem is an excellent account of the actions of the 42nd U.S. volunteers during the insurrection. It was written by a comrade of McCarthy, J.R. Conway of Company D. 42nd.
Hello Mr. James P……..This was composed after 35 days on the firing line, we had no shelter but the poncho, we started from camp with five days rations, so we foraged most of all the balance of our 30 days and many a poor devil went to his resting place on account of that long hike and only two where killed out right, and five wounded.
The rainy season is here now and I can tell you its very disagreeable. There are transports in the bay and out side the harbor for weeks and they can’t land. We had no beef or mail in a long time on account of the storms; typhoons are the order of the day with a few water spouts on the side. James I could write 10 pages about the rainy season and treacherous nigers but I know you get it all in the home papers. So I will merely say I am well and enjoying life as good as any soldier can.
I read an account of your trip to San Francisco and I wish I was there when you was, for I am very well in with that City, and would make things interesting for you during your stay.
So that is all for this time, hoping this finds all you people well and in good health, also yourself.
From Your Friend
Corporal ,M. F. McCarthy
Formerly of Company H but now with the 42nd Regt. Band.
ON THE SOUTHLINE WITH THE 42ND REGIMENT
I’ve seen the Pilipino fall beside his ancient gun.
I’ve seen the trenches red with blood, I’ve seen them scoot and run
I’ve heard the Krag make echoes that for years have silent been.
On mountains trail and deep ravine and rice fields wet and green.
For scenes like those I left my home my all that I hold dear.
To serve beneath the stars and stripes as a U.S. volunteer.
Yet pleasant dreams come to one as I close my weary eyes.
In sleep upon the mountain side beneath a sweeping sky.
On San Antionias rugged trail we first received their fire.
Our quick response compelled them in disorder to retire.
And over mountains rugged crest in terror how they fled.
Leaving behind them in their trench their wounded and their dead.
Outside the town of Paquil they next appeared in force.
Their breast work built of earth and stone beside a streamlets course
From trench and bush on either side the bullets fell like hail.
From twenty feet above us on the mountains rugged trail.
It took us but a moment to answer with a will.
And in extended order took possession of the hill.
We captured seven prisoners and on retiring found.
That 2 of our command were lying wounded on the ground.
Theirs was the first blood of our corps shed on foreign soil.
Theirs be the first blood to avenge before we leave this isle.
But sooner than we dreamed off were we to meet again.
The foe who fight in ambush but dread the open plane.
Everything will come tothose who patently wait.
But doubly sure is he who goes to meet it at the gate.
And as the hawk on pinions bold soars forth to met his prey.
So we marched from Paete on the forenoon of the next day.
We scarce had left Paquil behind its houses still in view.
When from the mountains tangled base a shower of bullets flew.
We lined the road side opend fire with a vim along the line.
And for some forty minutes now there was a shot old time.
We charged the tangled bamboo brush and up the mountain side.
No powers on earth could stay that rushing volley firing tide.
And as we gain the vacant trench no enemy appears.
To stay the rushes of the 42nd U.S. Volunteers.
At different points along the trench deep pools of blood we see.
A bloody shirt torn from the breast of a wounded enemy.
Proved that our aim was steady and our fire was not in vain.
Fresh graves shall greet the morning sun as it shines on hill and plain.
From Pasig to Paete pass the joyful news along.
Of the gallant part enacted by our comrades at Morong.
Who midst the creeping shadows and the glowing flickering lamp.
Attacked surprised and captured a Philipino camp.
One volley and they scamper one charge the field was won.
Another march on our record page for June nineteen ought one.
And when we sail for home again and the Golden Gate appears.
No milk white flag greet the 42nd U.S. Volunteers.
By J. R. Conway
Co.D 42nd U.S. Volunteers Pasig City P.I.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
A Patriotic Envelope from the Civil War, Major Ellsworth
Found This in the Miners Journal July 28th, 1864. I love a patriotic soldier; this guy would roll over a hundred times in his grave if he knew what the patriotism in the country has come to today. Seems we still have these types of defeatists.
Messers Editors: Today I visited your town to transact some business. While here I conversed with different persons on the topics of the day. One of these persons I talked to was John C, Conrad Esq. The conversation was as follows; Conrad said, “The Rebels are coming,” “Are they “, I asked. He replied, “Yes, Oh it beats all. We are ruined.” “Why ? I asked. “Oh he said we can’t pay our taxes. Let them take all I have and go to hell. “ “Who?” I asked, “The government, “He replied.
”Why, we should not think so, “ I said. “O they may be dammed he said. “Why” I remarked, “you should pay your taxes like anybody else.” “ Yes” he replied but I can’t have no income.” “Then rent your property to some one who will pay the taxes for you.” I said. He said
he would have nothing to live on then.” “Well”, said I “I will give you my sentiments. “, “I was in the Army a long time, enduring the hardships and privations of a soldier’s life. I forsook all that was dear, and was where my life was every moment in danger. I lost my health so that I was unable do to duty any longer; but as soon as my health is recovered I shall re enlist and shoulder the musket once more for my country, but will also sacrifice the little property which I have, if it would assist in putting down this rebellion and restoring peace and prosperity once more. Liberty is a sacred law, said I and we should sustain the Government at any expense. As long as I retain my life and health, the sacrifices of property is nothing to be compared with the loss of liberty. I and other soldiers, who have lost our health and our limbs, should have more reason to complain and be tired of this war than you; but sooner than submit to the wrongs attempted to be imposed upon the Government, and have justice and liberty destroyed, we uphold the Government in any measure that will settle the war satisfactory to the nation, and secure the entire overthrow of traitors.”
Mr. editors, you will do me not only a favor but justice, by inserting this in the columns of your worthy Journal, and attaching my name, for it is hard for a soldier to have such language as Conrad used spoken to him, after his health is ruined for life while standing as a wall of defense between such a man and our enemies.
I am, Very respectfully, Your Ob. Servt.
Oliver was a member of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry Company H. having served for three years until broken down and was assigned to the Veteran Reserve Corps.
Monday, January 28, 2008
How the 129th Charged Up Marye's Heights From Harpers Weekly
The 129th P.V.I. Battle Worn Soldiers
After the failure of General George McClellan’s Peninsular campaign from March thru early July 1862 President Lincoln was confronted with a problem. Where was he to get more troops for the renewal of the war? In 1861 the call to the colors was answered by over 630,000 men. By all rights everyone thought that this many troops could bring a rapid end to this rebellion and by April 1862 all recruiting was put to the halt. This was a terrible mistake. More men were needed to finish this conflict. Lincoln actually thought he needed an Army of one million men. On July 2, 1862 he called for an additional 300,000 men for three years, and again on August 4th for a draft of 300,000 men for nine months.
When the recruiting began in earnest, the marching off to war and joining the colors seemed to have flagged; patriotism, lust for adventure and the general excitement of battle could no longer be counted on except here in Schuylkill County.
Under this call Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin issued a proclamation on July 21, 1862: Part of which reads: To sustain the Government in times of common peril by all his energies, his means, and his life if need be, is the first duty of every loyal citizen. The President of the United States has made a requisition on Pennsylvania for twenty-one new regiments, and the regiments already in the field must be recruited. Under the words of the full proclamation Schuylkill County was required to set a quota of five full companies for the state. A war meeting was held in the Court House and on Tuesday July 29, 1862 the order was enthusiastically responded to by the people of Schuylkill County. Speeches were made and a series of 6 resolutions were passed. War meeting were held in other towns in Schuylkill also, all rallying to the flag.
After the speeches and the patriotic meetings Schuylkill County would furnish the following men and companies: The 129th regiment would supply the most men with 523, 127th, 57 men, 137th, 27 men, 151st , 61 men Captain Wellington Jones Company of Provost Guards 100 and in other nine month regiments a total of 18 men for grand total of 786 men for nine months service.
Now anyone with any kind of knowledge of military operations would know that it takes time to train and equip men for battle. The 129th Regiment the main subject of this story included men from Tamaqua, Port Carbon, Ashland, Pottsville, and Minersville. The remaining companies in the regiment coming from Northampton and Montgomery Counties. All lead by Colonel Jacob Frick.
The point I am trying to make is these short term men were brought together and formed into a cohesive fighting force and in just 277 days of active service were subjected to two of the biggest battles of the Civil War, The Battle of Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. The first part of the story deals with the Fredericksburg Battle.
The men were brought to an efficient fighting force by the officers of the regiment lead by the fearless Col. Jacob Frick. At the fierce battle of Fredericksburg the regiment would suffer 15 enlisted men KIA, 90 WIA and 23 missing out of this number Schuylkill County suffered 5 men KIA, 19 men seriously wounded and 1 man missing. Co. H had 9 men captured and then paroled, Co. E, 1 man captured, Co. B one man captured and presumed dead.
An excellent letter was written to the Miners Journal by Major Joseph Anthony about the engagement at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.
FROM THE 129TH REGIMENT, P.V.
Camp Near Falmouth, Va.
December 20, 1862
Dear______; I have been so busy for the last few days making out the returns and reports for the regiment, that it has been impossible for me to sit down and write you after the terrible battle in which we were engaged on the 13th. I escaped without injury, which seems to me almost miraculous, for the bullets and shell flew about me most plentifully, making many a poor fellow bite the dust. So far as I can judge, our brigade was in the hottest fire of the battle, and the wonder is that the regiment was not entirely cut to pieces. As it is we have to report 187 of our regiment among the killed, wounded and missing out of less than 600 who went into the fight.
The newspapers will give you a pretty accurate account of the movements of our division, (Humphrey’s) Butterfields Corps, (5th) and Hookers Grand Division, on that day, and with the aid of maps you can get a very fair idea of the action.
We broke camp early on the morning of the 11th, and were to have been at the river, ready to cross by 9 A.M. The cannonading commenced long before the break of day, principally from our side, for the purpose of clearing the opposite bank of the enemy sharpshooters, so as to enable us to throw up bridges across the river. The attempt was fruitless for a long time, until several boats filled with volunteers from the different regiments pushed themselves across right in the face of the enemy, and soon and soon had the bank of the river and houses nearby cleared of rebel sharpshooters. A good deal of fighting took place in the streets, but the rebels finally took to their heels. It was nearly dark however, by the time this was effected, and in the meantime the air was filled with the roar of the artillery. We encamped about 1 ½ miles from the river, on the hard frozen ground with nothing over us but the clear blue sky, and by the time morning came we were all pretty well chilled. We started early in the morning again and moved forward nearly a mile when we halted. The large number of troops in advance of us, and the resistance met with on the other side, made our movement very slow. We bivouacked for the night in a pine woods, where we were almost suffocated and blinded by the smoke. During the whole of the day the cannonading was continuous and every now and then we could distinguish the sharp rattle of musketry. Dense clouds of smoke hung over the town, and about the batteries of the enemy and our own. The town itself had been fired in a dozen different places and was burning furiously. The sight from the hill near where we were encamped, was magnificent. We could see from right to left of the whole line of batteries, where the contest raged most furiously.
Next morning we moved on again, with our whole division towards the middle pontoon bridge. The cannonading had become more furious than ever, and continued volleys of musketry told that the infantry were at last engaged in close combat. We crossed the river about noon, and the rebels commenced to pepper us with ball and shell from batteries beyond the town. Though without doing us any damage, than giving us lesson in the art of dodging. We had become so well accustomed to the sound and to the shells flying about our heads that no confusion was created in the ranks. As we got into the streets of the town, where we marched and counter marched for an hour and more, the shell fell fast and furiously about us, shattering the buildings and creating havoc all around. Here I saw the first man killed. He belonged to the 13th P.V. and was not more than thirty feet from me when he was struck. He was almost cut in two. He threw up his hands, exclaiming, “Oh, my God! Take me”, and expired almost immediately. I have no doubt the site of this made some of the boys feel quite queer. -a little squeamish, as though playing with such balls was not exactly such harmless sport as many of them had imagined. We deposited our knapsacks and blankets in one of the buildings of the town and then moved toward the outskirts of the town, by a road leading directly from the river to the bluff or high eminence on which most of the enemies batteries were posted. This hill extends in the rear of the town from the river along the whole length of the town and still further both on the right and left, and is perhaps three fourths of a mile from the town. After getting beyond the outskirts of the town, we arrived at a marshy place, near an old tan yard, protected from the principal battery in front by a rise in the ground behind which we lay, but in full view from the batteries on the right. We were not here more than a minute, when from the position where I stood(on my horse) I could see smoke belching out from the battery on the right, and I could see the shell come whizzing right down into our ranks, where it exploded, killing several and wounding others. I could see them drawing the cannon back and reloading it, and firing again. The shots were well directed each time, and two of them came uncomfortably close. They had full chance for sweeping and raking us were we lay, and we thought it about time to look for better quarters.
It looked fearful to see them loading the guns, running them out, firing them, and then see the balls come plunging along almost in a direct line for one’s self-and it required more cool courage to witness this without flinching, than afterward top go into the charge, where everything was excitement and uproar. Lieut. Parvin, Company B was mortally wounded here. He has since died-his father I think lives in Reading. We moved out from this position, and took our position in line of battle on the left of the road, behind a battery which was playing most vigorously on the enemy front. The position was nevertheless a dangerous one, for the shot and shell fell around us and burst over our heads, every now and then stretching some soldier lifeless on the ground. Here we lay until it began to grow dusk, when a charge was ordered for the purpose of capturing a stone wall about 200 yards ahead of us, and behind which the rebels lay, pouring in a destructive fire, and the cannoniers working the batteries were fearfully exposed to shots from the enemies batteries posted behind the stone wall, about half way up the hill, and from all accounts since received , their forces lay thick behind the wall and in a piece of woods running towards the top of the hill. The famous stone wall itself ran along the foot of the hill and afforded safe protection to a large body of the enemy. In addition to this were the rifle pits constructed in front, and the numerous batteries which covered the hill, and you have an idea of the terrible difficulties to be surmounted, and the fearfulness and rashness of the charge to be made in order to capture these works. Several attempts had been made during the day to capture them but without success, and the ground over which we charged, besides being very muddy, was strewn with the dead and dying who had fallen in the previous attempts.
When the order to charge was given, we moved forward with a loud hurrah, and charged at a run, with bayonets fixed, over the gently rising plain towards the enemy. Our line was well preserved, even though we were obliged to pass over two other regiments lying down, and cross a fence that stood in our way. Immediately the batteries began to play upon us from every side and there was a continues line of fire from the top of the stone wall right into our ranks. How the bullets whistled and hissed about our heads, and the shell exploded right in our midst. Nothing could withstand that withering line of fire. Men fell around me on all sides, and it seemed and it seemed almost a miracle that I was untouched. The line was kept in as good order as possible under the circumstances. We advanced to within a short distance of the wall-perhaps 50 or 75 yards-and then flesh and blood could stand it no longer. The line began to waver and part-our advance was checked. We could not keep the gapes in the ranks filled up. The officers did their best to urge the men forward, but it was worse than useless as nothing but death started them in the face. We began to retire, and the enemy seeing this poured in a more destructive fire than ever. Still there was no panic among the men, and although some confusion occurred in the ranks, and retired slowly and deliberately to our first position, where we formed once more, ready to meet an attack from the enemy, which we fully expected after our repulse. Had they attempted it, they would have found us prepared to receive them with unbroken ranks. By this time it had grown quite dark; still the rattle of musketry and the thundering of the cannon continued until long after. The charge our brigade made was the most spirited of the whole day, and we advanced nearer the enemy position than any other troops. From the time we first started on the charge to the time we returned, was scarcely more than fifteen or twenty minutes; yet in that short time one hundred and thirty seven of our men had fallen either killed wounded, or afterwards discovered to be among the missing. Nine officers of the regiment were either killed or wounded, and so far as I know there was not one who faltered or hung back.
Our Colonel exposed himself fearlessly, keeping the line in good order, and cheering the men forward in that fearful advance; and afterwards when we were compelled to retire, restored the lines once more, so as to be prepared for any movement of the enemy. We remained in this position until long after dark, and the firing had almost entirely ceased-a few stray shots from the pickets were all that could be heard.
Late at night we moved back to town and rested for a time on the sidewalk of one of the streets, tired, weary and dirty. We were called into line again after midnight and once more moved out to the field. It presented a terrible sight. The dead lay all around us, in every conceivable position, the groans of the wounded and dying filled the air-one poor fellow who had a terrible wound in the side, begged to be shot so as to put him out of his misery. You could also hear the groans of the rebel wounded, as they lay behind the stone wall. Broken muskets were strewn over the ground-some of the dead held their guns firmly in their hands, as though unwilling to give them up, though the power to use them had long since departed, and they had been summoned to another land, far away. It was a sight never to be forgotten. We lay in our old position until morning, wet, cold and hungry, and then moved back again to the town, having been relived by other troops.
We found shelter in some of the deserted houses. The Field and Staff of the regiment procured ample accommodations in the “Planters Hotel”- a fine three story brick- we occupied the “ladice parlor” had fine mattresses to sleep on, an old fashioned piano to discourse sweet music, plenty of flour in the larder, out of which we baked “flap jacks, an abundance of kitchen utensils enough to supply several regiment.
The accommodations were extensive and the food very good for the soldier accustomed to nothing but hard bread and salt pork. The place had evidently been left very hastily, just before breakfast time, for the table was set, the spoons in the sugar bowls, the cups and saucers ready to be filled with rye coffee. I presume, and the table cloth spread. I did not get there in time to see what kind of meats and preserves the proprietor had intended to regal his guests with that morning, probably however the usual beef steak was on the table, with corn cakes, “hog and hominy”.
Here we remained until Monday night when we were ordered out on picket duty, and set to work digging trenches, rifle pits, breastworks etc. We expected hot work the next morning, and worked like beavers to put ourselves into the proper condition to receive rebs. At about one o’clock we were relived and marched down to the lower part of the town, where we remained for several hours. We wondered what it all meant, though we had a suspicion that an evacuation was planned. About 4 o’clock we received orders to move and were marched directly across the river to this side, without giving us any opportunity of getting the knapsacks and blankets or tents of the men. We trudged along through the rain and mud, and at last reached an old camp. It has been intensely cold ever since, and the men have suffered terribly without shelter and without blankets.
Colonel Jacob Frick had nothing but praise for the men of the 129th, he raised the regiment and trained the men at every opportunity. They were lead by a true hero, who very shortly would earn the Medal of Honor for actions at Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg.
Colonel Frick stated in his official after action report about the fight at Fredericksburg :
I have but little to add to the above record. It speaks volumes for the men of my regiment, and I cannot speak too highly of their conduct. In the terrible conflict of Saturday, December 13, I believe every officer and every soldier was in his proper place and did his whole duty. Their blood has been shed freely for the preservation of the Government and the maintenance of free institutions, and they will be remembered by a grateful people.
To Lieut. Col Armstrong, who had his horse shot under him I am much indebted for valuable assistance on the field. He was cool and courageous; everywhere where duty called him encouraging the men and urging them forward. To Major Anthony I am also indebted for valuable service in this action. He again displayed that courage and ability that characterized his conduct on other fields since the commencement of the war. Adjutant Green discharged his whole duty regardless of personal peril, and exhibited a cool courage that cannot be too highly commended.
The gallantry on that fatal field by our brave volunteers, under circumstances which did not admit of hope of success, is but another proof of their unconquerable determination to suppress the rebellion and maintain the integrity of our Union at every sacrifice.
Part two of the 129th Story: Chancellorsville.
After the hard fought fight at Fredericksburg the 129th re crossed the Rappahannock River and went into camp once again. Although they did participate in the famous Burnsides Mud March from January 20th to the 24th of 1863. Most of their time was spent in camp licking their wounds and trying to regroup. It is interesting to note by looking at their rolls and company reports the men did not just sit back and do nothing Colonel Frick had the men drill daily, they were reviewed, they were issued new equipment and clothing, they marched by the company and by the regiment they worked hard at getting back into a fighting shape and by the beginning of the spring campaign now being led by Gen Joseph Hooker the 129th was ready.
The Chancellorsville campaign under General Hooker began with the crossing of the Rappahannock River by the Union army on the morning of April 27, 1863. The 129th began crossing the Rapidan River via Germanna and Ely’s Fords, the Union Army moved towards Chancellorsville on April 30and May 1. Heavy fighting began on May 1 and did not end until the Union forces retreated across the river on the night of May 5 to May 6. The 129th was engaged heavily on May 3rd.
It is interesting to note that the time of many of the men’s nine month enlistment was over by early May, yet many stayed the course and fought with their comrades on May 3rd.
The following letter was written by a Schuylkill Countian who signed it “Co. E”:
Editors Miners Journal; Your readers may perhaps feel an interest in hearing some account of the part the 129th Regt. P.V. took in the late great battle. We left camp on Monday, April 27th and marched to Kelly’s ford, about 20 miles above here where we crossed the Rappahannock on a pontoon bridge. From here we made a rapid march to the Rapidan, which river we forded and proceeded, with scarcely a halt, until on Friday May 1 we encountered the gray backs at Chancellorsville. This was one of the hardest marches this regiment ever made, we being on foot, at one time, for forty consecutive hours. But regardless alike of burning suns and drenching rains, the boys pressed on, and straggling was a thing un-thought of for where Cols Frick and Armstrong, and General Tyler lead, the 129th will follow.
Arrived at Chancellorsville, our Corps was ordered out a road leading towards Fredericksburg, to feel for the rebs. We proceeded about three miles, made the reconnaissance drew out the Rebs and returned in safety to Chancellorsville where we lay behind the batteries, while the First Division (Sykes) of our Corps opened the ball by engaging enemy forces which we had drawn out, and handling them severely. Our Division, the 3rd of the 5th Corps was now assigned a position on the extreme left of the line, upon a hill covered with timber, where we were to support a Massachusetts Battery. We proceeded to cut the trees and throw up breastworks, and were just congratulating ourselves upon the fine position we had, when early on Sunday morning our Corps was ordered to the centre, to take the place of the 11th which had skedaddled. It was said at the first fire. We were double-quick a couple of miles toward the right, and then our Brigade (Tylers) was ordered into a wood in front of a battery of brass pieces, to draw out the Rebs. We double quicked some half mile, down a road and then filed into the woods, to the left of the road. We had not proceeded far through the wood, before we encountered the gray backs drawn up in a line to receive us. We opened fire on them, and for some three hours, I suppose we gave them as warm a time as they have had. Three different times they charged on us and each time they were driven back, with great slaughter. I am proud to say the boys behaved with the coolness of veterans, firing by company, by wing and by volley, as the Colonel gave commands. The Colonel took his position on the left of our company directly by the colors, and his cool bravery inspired the whole command. It made the boys feel good as the expressed it, to see him occasionally take a rifle and try his hand. Adjutant Green at length came down from his position on the right and told the Colonel that the rebs had outflanked us. On the right and that the right of the line was falling back. ( Our position was on the extreme left of the Brigade) Colonel Frick replied that he had no orders to fall back, and that he would hold his ground; but looking up and seeing the whole line was in retreat, that we were far outflanked and must be cut off, he found it necessary to retire and he orders to that effect. We had some hand to hand fighting in the woods, for our colors, the rebs making a desperate effort to capture them. But the boys defended them bravely and brought them out, together with some of the would be captures. . Lieut. Col. Armstrong came nearly being taken. He was surrounded by about twenty gray backs, ordered to surrender, and even laid hold on, but he broke away and ran, and although his pursuers poured a volley after him, he made his escape. We drew the rebs out into an open field where the brass battery I spoke of opened on them with grape and canister, and made awful havoc. The rebs skedaddled back into the woods, where the battery finished the work with shell, while our regiment reformed behind the breastworks. We were soon ordered about a half mile to the left. To support Sykes Division in the trenches. Here we remained until Wednesday morning. about 2 o’clock when Sedgwick having been overwhelmed was driven back from Fredericksburg, the army began to fall back.
We re-crossed the Rappahannock at United States Ford, our Division supporting the batteries which covered the crossing of our Corps, and made directly for our old camp, where we arrived about six o’clock that evening after a hard march of about 15 miles, over roads which my feeble pen cannot describe, and through a drenching rain. Sunday was a very hot day, and when the boys double quicked it into the fight, they threw away their shelter tents. Blankets and overcoats and as the weather has been pretty wet and raw since they have been pretty badly situated. Our loss in killed and wounded is 42. Major Anthony was badly wounded in the shoulder. He has the sympathy of the whole regiment for he has always shown himself a gentleman and a brave and gallant soldier.
There are rumors of another move today, and as the rebs are said to be falling back form Fredericksburg we may perhaps soon be once more on the to Richmond, The soldiers are in the very best of spirits, and swear the “Fighting Joe” is worth a dozen “Young Little Mac Napoleons.”
NOTE: The colors were twice seized, but were defended with great gallantry, and brought safely off. Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong fell into the enemy's hands, but made his escape in the confusion caused in his ranks by the fire of the Union batteries. Major Anthony was shot through the lungs, but was assisted off the field, and still survives what was then considered a mortal wound.
" The One Hundred and Twenty-ninth," says General Tyler in his official report, "' was on our left, and no man ever saw cooler work on field drill than was done by this regiment. Their firing was grand, by rank, by company, and by wing, in perfect order."
The loss was five killed, thirty-two wounded, and five missing. On the 6th, the regiment re-crossed the Rappahannock and returned to its camp near Falmouth. On the 12th, its term of service having fully expired, it returned to Harrisburg, where on the 18th of May it was mustered out. The return of companies to Easton and Pottsville was marked by flattering and enthusiastic demonstrations on the part of the citizens.
And to the Bravery of Colonel Jacob Frick I take this from John Hoptaks Blog on the 48th P.V.I..
Frick received the Medal of Honor for his gallantry at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At Fredericksburg, Frick led his regiment in an attack against Marye's Heights. As he advanced toward the impregnable Confederate position, Frick was thrown when a shell struck and killed his horse. Dusting himself off, Frick saw the color bearer of the 129th get shot down. He rushed for the flag. Moments later, the staff was split in half and the flag fell over Frick's shoulder. He continued to urge his men forward, but the attack was a failure. The regiment lost some 150 men killed and wounded, and Frick was himself wounded with shell in his thigh and right ear. Six months later, Frick's heroism was repeated at Chancellorsville. Here, Frick and his men were cut off and partially surrounded. Many members of the 129th surrendered, and a Confederate soldier captured the regimental flag. Frick would have none of this. Rallying his men, Frick charged toward the captured flag and, in hand-to-hand combat, wrestled it away from the Confederate soldier
Friday, January 25, 2008
The Pottsville Miners Journal Article
British Soldiers as they looked at the time of the Zulu War from the "The Diehard" Company, members of the Victorian Military Society ~ Our aim is to educate.
As most military historians will remember this past January 22nd marked the 129th anniversary of the worst defeat ever suffered by British forces against native opposition at the hands of twenty thousand native Zulu warriors at a place called Isandhlwana, in Zululand, now known as South Africa, in the year 1879.
Now the question arises as to what did this have to do with Schuylkill County? Actually nothing. There were no Schuylkill Countians who fought at Isandhlwana or at the famous fight at Rorke’s Drift were 150 British redcoats, members of 2/24th Regiment achieved an improbable victory over a large Zulu force. And in the end of this brave defense eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded. The most ever awarded at one time in a single battle in British Military History. Although the people of Schuylkill County did know about this defeat by way of a story written in the Miners Journal.On February 14, 1879.
My point in writing this little blog is to give a comparison and contrast to the Zulu war and the battle of Isandlhwana and the Custer massacre in 1876. (As we all know three men from Schuylkill County fought and died along with General Custer on June 24th, 1876 at the Little Big Horn. If you didn’t know this read my blog Schuylkill County at the Little Big Horn.)
The interesting thing after studying these two battles is the similarities between both and the impacts that they had on our countries. The Sioux and the Zulu wars were both manifestations of the late 19th century imperialism. Both wars were very aggressive with many casualties. The main point is that non-industrial people, The Sioux and the Zulu both defeated industrialized nations. The United States and Great Britain in major conflicts. On the other hand both victories would culminate in their basic defeat and subjugation. The Sioux forced to reservation living and the Zulu’s turned into a cheap slave like labor force for the British. The Sioux and the Zulu’s both had a very efficient military system, they were feared and hated by the local populations, they both confronted imperialism at the same time and both had a major victory in battle, The Little Big Horn and Isandhlwana. They both acquired and used firearms, but had no means to manufacture them. They took advantage of major mistakes made by the commanders of both the U.S Cavalry and the British Forces. Although quite the normal procedure for military at the time both Custer and Lord Chelmsford split their commands creating a weakness that was utilized by the Sioux and Zulu’s to their advantage. In comparing the Sioux and the Zulu’s life styles there exist many comparisons; the Sioux were nomads roaming the Great Plains while the Zulu’s were farmers and cattle herders. The Sioux were excellent warriors and hunters. The Zulu’s had an efficient fighting force learned from their famous war Chief Shaka.
Their major faults as a society included many internal economic problems, they had no structured system of political factionalism, but the main force against their society was the ever increasing white settlers moving into their area of control. or what we called in the U.S. Manifest Destiny.
Concerning the big military victories. The Zulu’s fought the battle of Isandhlwana on January 22nd, 1879 in an effort to stop the British control of their homeland after they annexed the Transvaal two years earlier. Here they combined their forces and defeated a large British Army killing over 1200 troops. On the other hand the Sioux fought the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 24th , 1876 in an effort to stop American’s in infringing on their Black Hills after Gold was discovered there. Broken promises of never infringing on their land by the United States Government caused this conflict and in the end Gen. Custer and 240 men of the famed 7th Cavalry were killed.
As I said earlier these victories would result in a major subjugation of both the Sioux and Zulu. The U.S. Army would go on the offensive for the next 14 years and tiredly defeat the Sioux in almost every engagement they encountered them. They would chase Chief Sitting Bull all they way to Canada where he would try and hide, they killed the famous war Chief Crazy Horse while he was in custody. The final defeat for the Sioux came On December 29, 1890, when 500 troops of the U.S 7th Cavalry supported by four Hotchkiss guns (a lightweight artillery piece) capable of rapid fire, surrounded an encampment of Miniconjou Sioux (Lakota) and Hunkpapa Sioux (Lakota at a place called Wounded Knee and massacred them. And by the way we also had a Schuylkill Countian present at Wound Knee, non other than Henry A Smith (Cap Smith) from Orwigsburg who was a gunner on one of the Hotchkiss Guns. This action was actaully A total revenge for the 7th Cav’s defeat at the Little Big Horn.
The Zulu nation was pursued relentlessly by the British, fighting many battles against them.
On the 4th of July 1879, 17,000 British and native troops fought against some 24,000 Zulus and destroyed the Zulu army At Ulundi. They then removed Chief Cetshwayo to captivity in Cape Town, set fire to his Royal Capital of Ulundi, slaughtered many Zulu’s, they annexed Zululand in 1888 and made it a part of the British Colony of Natal in 1897.
The final outcome for the Sioux and Zulu was total dependence upon the United States and Great Britain for self sufficiency in their nations.
Oh well I found this to be very interesting, I hope you also found it interesting.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Reunion medal in honor of Lt. Francis Reed from Port Carbon.
This Photo from the Schuylkill County Historical Society is members of the 7th Pa. Cav.
Bottom L to R: This is the son of Louis Crossland, Isaac Keith, Charles C. Davis, John E. Wynkoop
Top L to R: Albert Sands, Henry Bausman, Thomas Allan, Thomas Simpson, Samuel Kramer
The Saber Regiment
The Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry
The Gallant Charge At Shelbyville, Tennessee
On June 27, 1863 one of the most gallant charges ever made by a cavalry regiment was done during the fight with Gen. Joseph Wheelers men at Shelbyville Tennessee. George F. Steahlin the Adjutant of the regiment wrote this interesting article in the National Tribune newspaper about the charge that the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry made through the streets of Shelbyville Tennessee.
The Army of the Cumberland was organized in November, 1862, out of the army of the Ohio. After General Don Carlos Buell's efforts to withstand the confederate General Braxton Bragg at Perryville Ky. on October 8, 1862. Gen. William S. Rosecrans was placed in command of the Army of the Cumberland which marched out of Kentucky to Nashville, Tenn. where General Rosecrans began the arduous duty of reorganization. The cavalry was too small in numbers to cope with the thousands of confederates Generals Forrest, Wheeler, Morgan and Roddy, who were continually hovering around our flanks, attacking supply trains, cutting railroad communications and capturing isolated outposts. General Rosecrans decided to increase the cavalry. His requisitions for cavalry reinforcements were favorably received by the war department at Washington. Gen. David Stanley was selected as commander of the cavalry troops, and he at once began to place cavalry in the best condition possible.
By the time General Rosecrans was ready to move on Murfreesboro the cavalry was considerably increased and thoroughly organized. Brigades and divisions were formed and officered by experienced brigade and division commanders. The cavalry was handled by General Stanley with telling effect through the battle of Stones River, but it was really too weak to cope with the enemy's cavalry, who out numbered us three to one. The brigade of which I shall speak particularly was the First Brigade Second Division. The First Brigade was composed of the Seventh Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry, commanded by Lt. Col. Seipes; Fourth United States cavalry (Regulars) commanded by Capt. McIntire; Fourth Michigan, volunteer cavalry, commanded by Col. R.H. Minty; and a battalion of the Third Indiana commanded by Lt. Col. Kline. The brigade was commanded by Col. Minty. On the 5th day of January, 1863 we returned from pursuing the rear guard of confederates and camped east of Murfreesboro.
During the five months the army remained at Murfreesboro General Stanley was exceedingly active in strengthening, equipping and remounting the corps. The corps was kept reconnoitering and making raids upon the confederate outposts and flanks. Numerous skirmishes took place; some almost amounted to regular battles. The Seventh Pennsylvania made several saber charges; ,one at Rover Tenn. January 31, 1863, upon the Seventh confederate regular cavalry, completely routing them; one into the town of Franklin Tenn.; one at Eagleville; one at Spring Hill, Tenn. under an expedition commanded by General Phil Sheridan; another at McMinnville, Tenn. and several others. General Rosecrans named the Seventh Pennsylvania cavalry "The Saber Regiment of the Army of the Cumberland."
On the 25th of June one of the best equipped corps of Cavalry in the Union army moved out of camp at daybreak. General Rosecrans had decided, contrary to his corps commanders opinions, to move on the confederate strong holds at Tullahoma, Bellbuckel, and Shelbyville; two thirds of our cavalry moved out on our right on the Shelbyville pike. The movement was unexpected by General Bragg. The pickets were driven to the main army the first day. His right was very heavily pressed, causing Bragg to draw from his left at Columbia. By noon a drizzling rain began to fall and by night it rained copiously. The following day June 26, a severe storm raged, making military movements tedious; in fact, the army almost came to a halt. The cavalry bivouacked in a woods on the night of the 25th, and remained inactive during the 26th.
At 3 O'clock a.m. June 27, the bugle sounded reveille. A heavy fog surrounded us. The cavalry was formed in an open field in columns of regiments. By 7 O'clock the fog had disappeared. As the bright morning sun shone upon the seven thousand horsemen massed in the field I beheld one of the finest military displays I saw during the entire war. The "Forward" was sounded and seven thousand men and horses began to move for the pike. After marching in column for several miles we came to a halt. The Seventh Pennsylvania deployed on the right of the pike in a small piece of cedar woods. A forward movement was made about a half mile, then we received orders to take the advance of the column. As we reached the top of a hill we passed a fortified picket post, which Colonel Stokes, with the First Tennessee cavalry, had charged successfully.
Before us was the beautiful Guy's Gap, through which we passed on a trot for the distance of three miles. The east end of the Gap was protected by a line of trenches running along the summit of a hill, north and south, as far as the eye could see. Wheeler's confederate cavalry had moved from Columbia, and was posted behind Guy's Gap trenches. Our column was brought to a walk by four pieces of confederate artillery. Colonel Sipes turned the Seventh cavalry into a field on the right of the pike, formed a line of battle, and dismounted Major C.C. Davis third battalion to move on our front on foot. The Fourth United States cavalry formed on the left of the pike. The Fourth Michigan was ordered to move to our right and find a bridle path that led to the trenches about a mile beyond; the Third Indiana cavalry was held as our reserve. Colonel Minty ordered Colonel Sipes to move to the pike with the two battalions of the Seventh to move to the pike with the two battalions of the Seventh Pennsylvania, form in column of fours, and charge the trenches.
We moved on a walk till we passed over a small bridge spanning a rivulet. Then we went up the hill on a trot until we reached the trenches, through which we passed on a gallop. The Fourth Michigan was coming in on the right on the confederates' left flank. The enemy's line wavered; the men huddled like sheep, broke and went at full speed towards Shelbyville. The first battalion of the Seventh Pennsylvania did not halt, but charged with impetuosity, cutting right and left, causing hundreds to fall. The second battalion charged through the woods on the left of the pike. A hand to hand fight took place for two miles, when the confederates turned off the pike on to a road leading to Wartrace. The second battalion under Capt. B.S. Dartt, coming in on the left cut them off, and with the aid of a cedar stockade fence brought four hundred and eighty to a stand; these were taken prisoners. Colonel Seipes gathered the prisoners and took them to the rear, having over five hundred in his possession.
The dead and wounded along the pike numbered over a hundred. Our loss was but one man, Private Felix Herb, of company A. I must relate how he was killed at the cedar stockade fence. Herb took two prisoners; they threw up their arms as a signal of surrender, but changed their minds. Not seeing immediate support for Herb they shot him, the bullet passing through the centre of the forehead. While this was going on Sergeant James A. Wilson of company F, arrived and shot both the confederates who had shot Herb. I reached the spot just as Wilson shot the second man. Wilson turned towards me, saying "Adjutant ! the devils shot Felix Herb after they had surrendered, so I made short work of them."
As Colonel Seipes passed to the rear with the prisoners he gave me orders to gather up the men who had become separated from the regiment during the charge. In the meantime the confederate artillery posted on the square in Shelbyville was throwing shells along the pike. I collected eighty men of our regiment and formed them into a company; then deployed them on our front and flanks. In the meantime our third battalion arrived; also the other regiments of the second division. Davis's third battalion was in good order with fresh horses. Colonel Seipes arrived just as I received the order. I repeated Colonel Minty's order, when Colonel Seipes replied: "My regiment is back with the prisoners. I cannot make another charge."
Colonel Minty overheard this remark and came to Colonel Seipes saying; "Your third battalion is in good order - horses comparatively fresh. All the other horses of the brigade have been run down." Colonel Seipes replied "If I must make the charge I will take the artillery and drive them into the Duck River." I then called in the men I had deployed and formed them on the left of Davis's third battalion, which by now numbered only two hundred rank and file. This battalion had been cut by Forrest at Murfreesboro, in 1862, which accounted for its weakness.
Major Charles C. Davis led the charge. The Colonel and myself took our proper place in column. Two pieces of Captain Newwll's Ohio battery were placed on the right and left of the pike. As they belched forth fire, smoke and shell, our bugler, John Cole, sounded the charge. Through the smoke, down the hill went the little band, yelling like mad. We were on the dead run. Half the distance between the mile post and the confederate battery was passed in safety. Two shots had screamed over our heads, but the third shot hit Company G, killing three men and a horse, but onward we ran. A ravine was reached a few feet from the artillery. Fortunately we were below their point blank range. As we reached the slight rise going into Shelbyville we saw the confederate cavalry waver and break. The artillery limbered up and joined the fleeing cavalry. The two hundred pushed on with the yell rejoiced. The last piece of artillery turned the corner of a street as the two hundred began to saber the cannoniers. Then the riders were cut off the horses. One piece was ours in a twinkling. The second piece was also ours in two minutes. The railroad depot was reached and there the road turns to the right while on the left lays an open plateau. At that moment Gen Wheeler led his escort in a counter charge. He delivered one volley and broke, caused by the third Indiana coming down on our left flank. Lieutenants Rhoads and Reed fell there and ten men also died. Still we hardly stopped to look, cutting right cuts, left cuts, front cuts, and rear cuts, making thrusts right, left and front - dealing death at every blow, until the Duck River was reached. We pushed over the bridge, where a dozen confederates were crushed by their two remaining pieces of artillery.
At the east end of the bridge stood Sergeant Edward Shutt, of company A, bareheaded his long golden hair disheveled and waving in the breeze, saber drawn and holding the third piece of artillery. But in this river was one of the most heartrending scenes man ever beheld. The river was high and a strong current flowing owing to the rain the day before. The banks of the river are very high - at least twenty feet high. Down the precipice leaped the confederate cavalry, on both sides of the bridge to escape the sabers of the Seventh. In the stream were hundreds of horses and men struggling to escape. Many horses and men were drowned. Some gained the shore and stood wet and shivering. The sun was down as the last man of the two hundred returned and reported no enemy to be seen. The sick in the hospitals in Shelbyville took up the stampede and assisted to choke the bridge and add to the misery of the troops.
General Wheeler's cavalry never stood our cold steel. This day they stampeded and were totally routed. General Wheeler had his horse shot from under him during the charge. He escaped by mounting another horse and swimming the river. The confederate captain of artillery said that he would have given us a dose of grape as we came in town, but he dared not. He was a German, and took his misfortune philosophically. Sgt. Major Braut took a sword from a confederate officer marked "Toledo 1762". Lieut. Waters of the Ninth Pennsylvania, was killed coming down the hill leading into Shelbyville by his horse falling. He was a private in the Lewisburg company in the three months service. One of the companies that entered Washington April 18, 1861. The regimental color-bearer was an Englishman. He had his discharge from the light Brigade that made the charge at Balaklava during the Crimean War. He, remarked, after the charge into Shelbyville, that the charge was not surpassed at Balaklava. The Sergeant so named was Sgt. John Ennis, who was killed at Selma, Alabama while charging across open ground toward a rebel fort he took the colors in hand and climbed upon the ramparts of the fort.
Note after reading the story of Sgt. John Ennis I was interested in finding out which British regiment he belonged to during the Crimean War. According to the above article he supposedly charged the Russian line in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. Unfortunately I could find no reference to him in any of the regiments that charged. I contacted a historian in the United Kingdom who had muster rolls of all the regiments. There was no John Ennis listed among them. We both came to the conclusion that maybe it was an old soldier tale told by Ennis, but we will never know.
In the Schuylkill County Historical Society we have a copies of letters written by Francis Reed of Port Carbon who was a Sgt. In the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Sgt. Reed was just recently promoted to Lieut. And was killed during the charge at Shelbyville.
The following letters were written by Friends and officers of the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry in reference to Francis Reed’s death. The letters were all written to Sgt. Reeds mother and father. They contain an emotional look at what a friend would have to say to his best friend’s family upon the death of their son, and for a good look at what the regiment was doing after the death of Francis.
In the field July 1863.
Mr. and Mrs. Reed
I have the painful duty to perform of informing you of the death of your much beloved son Francis, he was killed in a charge that our regiment made on a battery on the 27th of June. It was a daring charge and poor Francis lost his life, he was alongside of me when he was shot but I did not see him fall or I should have stopped to pick him up. I did not know that he was dead until the battery was taken and the battle over. I was so struck when I heard it, that I almost fell off my horse. I went right to where he lay in a building and laid him straight and closed his eyes and mouth and got water and washed him, he was covered all over the face with blood, I washed him clean, he looked as if he was still alive. I stayed with his body all night, I would have buried him but I had to leave early in the morning. The Lt. Colonel of our regiment paid out $ 50 to have boxes made for all the killed in the regiment, and have them buried in the town of Shelbyville Tennessee I and all the members of our company do sympathize with you, in your bereavement and affliction. Knowing that his place can never be filled at home or in the field as a soldier, enclosed you will find the letter you sent me for him I opened it to see who it was from. I would have wrote much sooner but we marched most all the time since besides it rained every day, please accept of my sympathy. I know that I have lost in him a good and true friend and deeply mourn his loss. I will now stop for this time if I live, in a few days I will give you all the particulars the Lieut. Told me to tell you that he will write to you as soon as he can find time to do it, I remain.
Sorrowfully your friend Henry H. Snyder.
P.S. Please drop me a few lines address the same as you did your letters to Francis. H.H.S.
Francis was shot in the neck with a musket ball the ball is supposed to have lodged in his throat, one of the men asked him whether it was all over with him he answered, "O, I guess not," being asked whether he could speak a minute afterward he said "yes," and died.
Camp Near Salem Tenn.
July 22nd 1863
Mr. and Mrs. Reed
After a lapse of three weeks time, during which time I could get no opportunity to write you, since my last and sad letter to you we have been continually on the march, we were down in Huntsville Alabama, I will not go into any details of the march, we got back last night, I am of the opinion that we will stay here for some time.
I promised in my last, to , give you the particulars of Francis’s death, to do that I will also have to give the particulars of the fight, on the 27th of June, ( the day he was killed we were skirmishing with the enemy, all day, we drove him for fifteen miles, when we were within one mile of Shelbyville we found that the rebels were strongly posted in the town with four pieces of artillery, the guns were posted in the town or court house square, with heavy support of mounted infantry and cavalry, as soon as Col. Minty, our brigade commander got to the front he saw the state of things, he ordered a charge to be made down the road leading directly to the enemy’s position, it was ordered that the third battalion of our regiment Should lead the charge, we were all well pleased when we heard it, Francis was at my side when we started he seemed happy and was cheerful, the signal determined for our starting was the firing of two of our cannon, the signal given, and we went through the smoke of our guns, as soon as the rebels saw that we were charging they directed their fire into our advancing column little damage was done by their artillery only one man was killed by it he was alongside of me when he fell before we got near enough to do any execution with our sabers the rebels turned and run, we followed them soon commenced taking prisoners, after we had followed about two hundred yards there were some of them turned and gave us a volley, it was then that Francis received his mortal wound, he lived but a very few minutes one of the men of the company, seen him fall and jumped off his horse and picked him up, he asked Francis whether he thought it was all over with him, the answer was O. I guess not, he asked him a few minutes afterwards whether he could speak and he answered yes, which was the last word he spoke, he died almost as soon as he had uttered the word, after the fight was over heard that Francis was killed I went immediately to where he lay ( which was in a warehouse) and you cannot imagine how I felt when I washed his face, breast and hands he was covered with blood, after I had washed him I combed his hair and closed his eyes and mouth, which was all that I could do for my bosom friend, I would have put clean clothes on him but his horse run into the enemy’s ranks with all Francis possessed in the army. I could not bury him as it was now night and early in the morning we left the place our presence being required elsewhere, Col. Sipes however paid a man an Undertaker fifty dollars to make coffins for and bury all the dead of our regiment which number was five. I have Francis’ pocket knife, comb and handkerchief which I will endeavor to keep until I return, when will place them in your hands. I trust the war will soon be over so that I can go home but cannot return with my friend. Your son, he and I often talked about home and how we and our many friends would be at our safe return, one is gone to a better world now and the lord only knows whether the remaining one will live to see his friends on earth, God grant that he may hear my prayer,
Since penning the above I received yours of the 17th I was sorry to learn that you had not received those few lines that I wrote on the 1st any sooner, Dear friends you will to think hard of me for not writing immediately after Francis was killed, it rained hard every day and we were on the march all the time, only at night then I had no candle or any other light to write with, I had to write in an old shed when I did write, it rained hard at the time, and got dark before I had half wrote what I wanted to write.
As regards sending his remains home, I have no way to find out how much it would cost, I could not get to Shelbyville, if I had the means to send or take him home, and I think I could have got leave of absence to have taken him home, but our army was on the move, and I had to go along not with standing my feelings to the contrary, he shall not lay buried always where he is now, but at present the heat is so great, and it being sometime since he was buried I do not think that it would be advisable to attempt to move him while the heat continues, if I was in your place I would let him rest until next winter when he could be taken up without difficulty, I am of the opinion that the war will be over by next winter, and then if I can in any way assist you in getting his remains home, I will do so. I would do it now cheerfully but it is entirely out of my power. You stated that you would like to have all that belonged to him, you shall have all if God is willing to let me keep his things until some one goes to Pennsylvania from the regt. Or until the express gets through near enough for me to send them in that way, since I got back from Alabama I found in our desk three likenesses belonging to him I will enclose one ion his letter and I will write other letters to you when I will enclose the others and send them to you. Mrs. Amanda Medlar had wrote a letter to him I opened it to see who it was from, when I wrote to her giving some particulars and enclosed her letter, I also sent one back to his aunt below Orwigsburg, you will forgive all my shortcomings in the case if there are any, but I think and Know I done the best I could under the circumstances.
I am well and trust you are and may continue the same, I remain as always your,
Henry H. Snyder
P.S. I trust you will write to me hereafter for I shall always be happy to hear from you, while Francis was alive I heard from you every letter he received.
2 Division Cavalry
June 29, 1863
It is with much regret that I am obliged to write you at this time though you no doubt ere this have heard of the death of your son Frank.
Our Army has been advancing for 5 days through the most dreadful rain imaginable and on yesterday morning five mile this side of Shelbyville we came up to the enemies fortifications and entrenchments. Our Regt. being in advance was ordered or rather four companies being ordered to dismount and fight on foot whilst eight companies where held as a reserve to watch any movement the enemy might attempt to make. As the four companies where advancing we found that the enemy where trying to charge the artillery. Lt. Col. Sipes and Major Seibert on seeing this ordered a charge and in went our boys over entrenchments fortifications and completely routed the enemy got four pieces of artillery and some 8 to 900 hundred prisoners besides killing and wounding between 4 and 400 hundred. They drove them 10 miles into the Duck river and there drowned some 90, it was the greatest Cavalry fight, the most daring on record and our loss thank God was but killed 1 officer Lt. Rhoads, Frank and another Sergeant two privates, a total of five. The country may well be proud of such noble men who sold their lives so dearly. Gen. Stanley says it is the greatest feat on record and no regiment but ours would stand to such work. Lt. Rhoads lives in Williamsport Penn. has a family there, the rest of the boys I believe are all un married as we could not get any metallic coffin, we made some nice wooden coffins and nicely buried them all five along the side of each other. We had head boards put up so that they may be known. With the following inscription F. Reed Born in Schuylkill County Penn. killed at Shelbyville Tennessee June 27 1863. I presumed that you might possibly want him sent home but this we could not do as we could not get the proper facilities for so doing. As soon as the army stops moving his effects now in the hands of Capt. McCormick will be sent home. We have some heavy work before us and many will be the poor fellow who must go down but we are driving them nobly and are confident of success.
Frank was a brave soldier and much beloved by officers and men and all join in consolation with his bereaved family. I am your most obt.
( Signed ) Thos. U. Rickert
Any information you may desire that I can give I will address me Thos. U. Rickert Lt. and AAQ No. 2 Divisions Cavalry.
Confederate Cavalryman John A. Wyeth gave this glorious account of the fight at Guys Gap and the charge of the Seventh Pennsylvania into Shelbyville on June 27th, Wyeth was a member of the Alabama Cavalry under General Joseph Wheeler and wrote this article for the Harpers Weekly Paper entitled “ General Wheelers Leap”.
Figuratively speaking, many men in times of peace, as well as in the more exciting times of war, failing to accomplish the end in view, have been compelled to “Take Water”. It does not very often happen in reality that a Major General of cavalry caught in the toils, with all other avenues of escape closed to him, has shown himself so desperately in earnest not to be captured as to plunge on horseback at full speed over the high bank of a river into the ragging torrent below. There have been recorded in history two such instances, and, by a strange coincidence, the heroes of both occasions had been christened Joseph. The one was Prince Joseph Poniatowski, Marshall of France under the great Napoleon; the other Major General Joseph Wheeler then of the confederate army, recently appointed by the President Major General of volunteers in the army of the United States. Every reader of the life of Bonaparte remembers the tragic death of Poniatowski after the defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig, when he rushed in a mad charge through intervening line of the enemy, and although wounded, at full speed rode over the steep bluff of the elster into the river below, when horse and rider disappeared beneath the surface, never to rise.
The cavalry fight at Shelbyville was the liveliest engagement which marked the retreat of Bragg’s army from Tullahoma to Chattanooga, in the summer of 1863. In as much as the Confederates were finally driven from the field, the honors of the day rested with the Union troopers although they stopped short of reaping the full success which was in their grasp as of the brilliant fighting they had done. The Southern troops, who for more than three hours, in the outskirts of Shelbyville, stood up before and held at bay a largely superior force of Federals were a forlorn hope numbering 1200, placed there and commanded by Major General Joseph Wheeler, in the desperate effort to protect from capture or destruction an immense wagon train loaded with supplies invaluable to Bragg’s army. While the fighting was going on, this immense train was filing across the narrow bridge which two miles from the battle field spans the Duck River, and was making its snail like progress over the muddy and almost impassable road to Tullahoma.
The army of Rosecrans began its forward movement from Murfreesboro on the 23rd of June 1863. Convinced of the inadvisability of risking a great battle with do large a stream as the Tennessee River immediately in his rear, General Bragg had ordered a withdrawal of his picket lines of cavalry under General Joseph Wheeler and Forrest to the south bank of the Duck river. At Shelbyville on the northern bank of the stream there had been gathered a large supply of commissary and quartermaster’s stores, and it became of the utmost importance to remove these to a point of safety. Wheeler in command of all the cavalry operating in the department, of which General Bragg was commander in chief, was directed to withdraw his troops south of the Duck River by way of Shelbyville, holding off the federal advance until the wagon trains were across, when, by destroying the bridge, they would be safe from pursuit. In accordance with these instructions, General Forrest, who was operating in the neighborhood of Franklin and Spring Hill was directed to fall back, in order to unite with General Wheeler at Shelbyville. The junction was to be effected as early in the afternoon of the 27th of June as was practicable, and the two commands were then to form the rear guard of the army which was in retreat and convoy the wagons southward.
However, General Wheeler had calculated that the force he had left to hold the Union cavalry, in check at Guy’s Gap would be able to maintain their position long enough to permit Forrest, who had the greater distance to travel, to effect the junction at the time agreed upon. But upon this day the federal troopers were evidently intent upon great deeds. Advancing on Guy’s Gap they were backed by a corps of infantry under the command of General Gordon Granger, making a combination of strength against which the small confederate cavalry command was able to make but feeble resistance. In addition to Granger’s infantry, Major General David S. Stanley, commanding all cavalry of the Army of the Cumberland, was here at the head of the troopers, leading in person one of the best brigades of mounted men at that time in the Union Army. At eight o’clock on the morning of the 27th of June as Colonel R.H.G. Minty, in his official report says, “The entire cavalry force was ordered to move on Guy’s Gap, the first division in the advance.” Colonel Minty at the head of the 4th Regulars and Major General Stanley leading the Seventh Pennsylvania, fourth Michigan and Third Indiana, so over matched the confederates that they quickly passed by the left flank and gained the rear of their position and drove them rapidly toward Shelbyville. “ Major General Granger says. “ Our advance met here with no resistance to speak of.” From the gap to within a few miles of Shelbyville the fight resolved itself into a horse race with stampeded confederates as far in the lead as they could get. The writer of this, who at the time was filling the humble role of a private in the confederate cavalry, was one of the detachments stationed on this day about two miles in front of Shelbyville, several hundred yards in the rear of some abandoned earthworks which had been thrown up there earlier in the war. Even after the lapse of 35 years there comes vividly to mind the forlorn appearance of these flying troopers from Guy’s Gap as they passed through our lines to the rear. The incessant rains, together with the trampling of horses hoofs had converted the roads into beds of mortar, and these demoralized cavaliers were so bespatter with mud from head to foot that no one could tell what uniform they wore. Many of them were hatless some had lost their guns, and fully one half of them seemed to have lost heart and hope.
So eager were their pursuers that we had scant time to jeer at or “Guy” our unfortunate brothers. Moreover the situation was not over conducive to fun or frolic. General Wheeler was with us, and in command of our detachment of 1200 in number which made the sum total of our force. With him on hand every one of us realized that a lively fight was sure to take place. He impressed upon us the necessity of holding the enemy at bay, no matter at what cost, until the train of wagons could clear the bridge, and added that General Forrest was coming to our aid. We were greatly encouraged when we heard that General Forrest with his command was not far off, for we knew that no matter how weak we were, if we could only hold our own until General Wheeler’s famous subordinate; who had already achieved a reputation as a successful fighter, could arrive, we could then beat back all the cavalry that could be sent against us. For at least a mile in front of the position we occupied, which was on a slight elevation, all the timber had been felled. Along the road and out of the strip of timber to the north there came in sight a long array of federal troopers, a deep blue fringe upon the border of green forest beyond. There were so many of them it did not seem possible for us to stand up before them longer than it would take them to put spurs to their horses and ride over us; but fortunately for us the dashing tactics with which they had employed at Guy’s Gap earlier in the day, they did not practice now. Wheelers bold front had evidently impressed them with the idea that we were there in strength, and were probably trying to lead them into a trap. If they had ridden down upon us then our destruction would then have been complete, for we had no avenue of escape except by one narrow bridge two miles in our rear. Instead of smashing us then and there, as they could easily have done, and as they did after several hours of desultory fighting in which time they lost a great prize they were fighting for they dismounted the seventh Pennsylvania under the brace Captain Davis, who deployed them as skirmishers and advanced to engage our front... As this regiment advanced, another the fourth Michigan moved from their heavy column in the turnpike around the left of our line, in order to turn our flank and force us back. Simultaneously the Third Indiana was deployed in the opposite direction to overlap our short line upon the right. Immediately to rear of the Seventh Pennsylvania the famous Fourth United States Regulars came indirectly before us and behind the double line was a section of artillery which began to make its presence felt.
A cavalry fight well sustained on both sides is lively enough when one side takes part in it, but it seems exceedingly tame on paper. This one did not lack spirit. Of about a score of such scraps some of which the larger growth have passed to a place on the bloodiest pages of history, the writer doesn’t recall a contest which for downright pluck in giving and taking a hard and heavy knocks through several hours surpasses the Shelbyville affair. The carbines and rifles were flashing and banging away, at times in scattering shots when the game was at long range, and then when a charge came on the work grew hot, the spiteful, sharp explosions swelled into a crackling roar, like that of a cane break fire when in a single minute, hundreds of the boiled joints have burst asunder. Add to all this the whistling, angry whir of countless leaden missiles which split the air about you.; the hoarse, unnatural about command, for in battle all sounds of the inhuman voice seem out of pitch and tone. The wild defiant yells and the answering huzzas of the opposing lines; the plunging and rearing of frightened horses, the charges here and there of companies and squadrons, or more than these which seem to be shot out the main body, as the flames shoot out of a house on fire, here and there the sharp quick cry from some unfortunate trooper who did not hear one leaders message, for only those heard which have passed by, the heavy soggy striking of the body against the ground, the scurrying runaway of the frightened horse, as often into battle as one of it, whose empty saddle tells the foe that their is one less rifle to fear, all these sights and sounds go to make up the confusing medley of a battle field.
The Federal advance upon the center of our line did not succeed. Time after time it was attempted but the baffled troopers went back again. As they spread out upon our flanks our own line was stretched out more and more to meet them. At least about five o’clock taking advantage of a momentary lull in the attack General Wheeler with the exception of Russell’s Fourth Alabama Regiment with drew the troops and ordered them to retire rapidly as possible to the bridge and come across the river; 200 of us were left under the command of Colonel A.A Russell with orders to stay until they rode us down, in the hope that this catastrophe would be delayed long enough to permit General Wheeler to clear the bridge in our rear. I did not understand this movement at the time, but have learned since from General Wheeler that it was only then that the last wagon had passed across the Duck River and he felt now that he could save at least a portion of his troops on the field by a rapid retreat. We were told when we were beaten, to make our way every man for himself as best he could. Before the Federal Cavalry realized what had been done he was gone at full speed, and reaching the bridge, had the troops and artillery which accompanied him on the safe side of the Southern bank. But before this was accomplished the lightning had struck our little forlorn hope. The Seventh Pennsylvania rode out and over us in the most brilliant cavalry maneuvers the writer ever witnessed. They formed and were in view for at least a half mile before they came within firing distance. On either side of the highway, in columns of fours they advanced at a steady gallop, until they passed into the opening in the line of earth works which the main road lead through some 200 yards in our advance. As soon as they reached this point inside the works, still on the full run, they deployed from columns of fours into line of battle, like the opening of a huge fan. The movement was made with as much precision as if it had been done on an open plain, on dress parade, or in some exhibition of discipline and drill. Huddled there as we, knew what fate was impending, we could not refrain from expressing our admiration not only of the courage which they were displaying, but of the marvelous precession in the change of the formation. Our orders were to stand until they approached within fifty yards, when we were to empty our rifles draw our pistols and Sauve qui peut. The Union troopers with sabers high in the air made no sound whatever beyond the rumpling tattoo of the horses hoof s played upon the ground. It was only a short space of time probably the fraction of a second until they were so near we could distinguish their faces. Leveling our guns we fired our final volley, by the time our horse’s heads were turned to the rear they were coming full speed upon us, in an incredibly short period of time the writer found my self on the ground and well in the rear of the charging line. No more gallant work was ever done by any troops than was done on this day by the Seventh Pennsylvania and Fourth Regulars. Meanwhile General Wheeler who had safely crossed the river, was in the act of firing the structure, when a member of General Forrest’s staff Major Rambaut, reported to him that Forrest, with two brigades was within two miles of Shelbyville and advancing rapidly to cross. Realizing the danger which threatened Forrest, Wheeler, not withstanding the Federals were in strong force in the suburbs of Shelbyville and advancing into town, taking with him two pieces of artillery and 500 men of Martin’s Division, with this officer, hastily crossed to the north side in order to hold the bridge and save Forrest from disaster. The guns were hastily thrown into position, but the charges had scarcely been rammed home, when the Union troops came in full sweep down the main street. When within a few paces of the mussels of the guns they were discharged inflicting, however, insignificant loss. With their small force of 500 men General Wheeler and Martin Stood up as best they could under the pressure of this charge. They held their ground manfully as the cavalry rode through and over them sabering the cannoneers from the guns, of which they took possession, and then passed on and secured the bridge, leaving the two confederate generals and their troops well in the rear. The bridge had become blocked by one of the caissons, which had been overthrown and now thinking they had them in a trap, the Union forces formed a line of battle parallel with the bank of the Duck River and across the entrance to the bridge. The idea of surrendering himself and his command had not entered the mind of General Wheeler. As Positowaski had done at the Elder, he now shouted to his men that they must cut their way through and attempt to escape by swimming the river. With General Martin by his side, sabers in hand, they led the charge, which made in such desperate mood, parted the federals in their front as they rode through. Without a moments hesitation, and without considering the distance from the top of the river bank, which was here precipitous to the water level, these gallant soldiers followed their invincible leader, and plunged full speed sheer fifteen feet down into the sweeping current. They struck the water with such force velocity that horses and riders disappeared, some of them to rise no more. The Union troopers rushed to the waters edge and fired at the men and animals struggling in the river, killing and wounding and drowning a number. Holding his horse’s mane, General Wheeler took the precaution to shield him as much as possible behind the body of the animal, and although fired at repeatedly he escaped injury and safely reached the opposite shore. Some forty or fifty were said to have perished in this desperate attempt. “ Fighting Joe Wheeler” never did a more heroic and generous deed than when he risked all to save Forrest from disaster.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
President Lincoln's Funeral Procession
Although it is not a military item I found this diary to be quite interesting.
You never know what you can find in the archives of the Schuylkill County Historical Society. Awhile back I found this diary by Dr. William E. Boyer about the assaination of President Lincoln.
Excerpts From Diary
Dr. William Edward Boyer
Born Orwigsburg, Oct. 29, 1828
Died Pottsville, July 29, 1898
April 14, 1865
A very pleasant day today Aunt Lucy and Uncle Thomas Clouse came up to visit us, aunt brought 2 plum trees for us. Our president Abraham Lincoln was shot in the brain this evening at Fords Theatre at Washington D.C. by an actor J. Wilkes Booth of Baltimore.
The secretary of State W. Sewards life was also attempted, also his son Fredrick Seward
April 15, 1865
Abraham Lincoln died this morning, 22 minutes past seven o’clock, Andrew Johnson was sworn as president soon after the death of Abraham Lincoln. Scouts are scouring the country all around Washington but as yet no trace of the murders has been discovered all places of business have been closed, the flags are at half mast and the houses are draped in mourning.
April 16, 1865
Secretary Seward is improving his son Fredrick was successfully??? Abraham Lincoln was at the time of his death 56 yrs 2 months and two days.
April 17, 1865
Secretary Seward was up a while yesterday, Fredrick has regained consciousness.
April 19, 1865
Andrew Lewln was down from Mahanoy City we had a mock funeral a great many people were in the procession in the evening, we were down at Uncle Haesler we had a good time of it nearly all the churches had a service as the procession moved along, nearly all the bells tolled, it was a grand and solemn occasion. Abraham Lincoln’s corpse is to be taken on to Springfield today.
April 20, 1865
There is great excitement in town today on account of a man arrested answering to the description given of Booth, there is ground for suspicion that he is in some way connected with the horrible crime, two other men came along with him but were not yet arrested, he gives his name as Booth Cook, there is a rumor that Booth is arrested at Tamaqua.
April 21, 1865
President Lincolns remains will leave Washington this morning at 8 A.M. arrive at Baltimore at 10 A.M. leave Baltimore 3 P.M. arrive at Harrisburg at 8:20 P.M. at each place his remains will be laid out in state at Harrisburg he will be laid out in the state house.
April 22, 1865
This morning I was up in the stable tending to Kate when my mother came up and asked me if I would not like to go to Philadelphia to see our murdered President. I hurried and got Kate fixed for the day and then got ready to go. I had J. Franklin Harris for a companion all the way down to the city. I lost him I stopped at the American Hotel Uncle William Zerby had a room together we took dinner and then went to 635 Arch street and got some Pill boxes for Dr, Haesler, We then went up to 15th and Walnut where we saw the Procession on the hearse. The hearse is magnificent the procession made the grandest spectacle I ever saw after it had passed us we went down to 3rd and Chest-nut where it passed us again, he was then laid out in state in independence Hall, which was beautifully adorned with flowers and draped in mourning, the Union League and those provided with passes saw it during the night about 5,000 persons saw it during the evening, the evening the funeral train started from Harrisburg at 12 m and arrived at Philadelphia at 4:30. Some times it drizzled a little but did no damage on the whole it was a nice day for the procession.
This morning we got of bed at half past 4 AM and at 5 we took our positions in line
Opposite the Receiver of Taxes Office, we (Uncle Lerbey) and I. At 6 o’clock AM the
Opened the windows and the people coming led to pass in at ten minutes past seven
The line broke and every thing was confusion the ladies screamed and some fainted,
Little children were almost crushed in the crowd after being almost obliterated we succeeded
At 25 minutes past 7 to see the president, we then went to the hotel and got our breakfast.
After breakfast we rigged ourselves up and went outside to see the crowd, no order was observed and the people crowded so tight together, thou the middle ones could not move their arms, we then went up on the porch where we stayed awhile. They carried a dozen ladies into the American who had fainted. The police now extended a line across at 6th and on 5th St.and would let no one in except the regular line, the crowd now became to strong for the police and they sent for the military who formed the people into a regular line, they now Passed.
Friday, January 4, 2008
On February 18th 1865 a Schuylkill County soldier made history. During the evacuation and capture of Charleston South Carolina. The 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry was the first Union regiment to enter the city and under the command of Major John Hennessey of Schuylkill County.
On the morning of this great event Major Hennessey was asleep in his tent at Fort Strong on Morris Island. Roused by Col. A.G. Bennett , Hennessey was told the Rebels were leaving their fortifications. He gave orders for the 52nd to be ready to march, and the boys moved off toward the docks and boarded the small boats. The major with ten oarsmen boarded the boat “Ripley”. At this time the 52nd was guarding these rebel boats, they had over 40 boats of different kind.
With Major Hennessy in the lead the boats moved toward the Charleston Harbor. At 9:50 on the morning of the 18th Major Hennessey was going past Fort Gregg and heading toward Fort Sumter, 1440 yards distant. His was the first boat to reach the fort. A corporal Johnson of company G was first off the boat followed by the Major. And with his own hands Major John Hennessey grabbed the regimental flag, the wonderful stars and stripes, mounted the parapet and waved definitely the flag over the battered battlements from which it was torn down in April of 1861. The sight of the flag once again on Fort Sumter was an assurance that the rebels had evacuated the works, and was hailed by all who watched with joy.
It certainly was a proud and joyous moment for this Schuylkill County soldier.
Following this event Major Hennessey along with fifteen men were the first Union Soldiers to set foot in Charleston