Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment

Moving in order through the second quarter summaries, New York is the next state to consider.  And Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment is the first of those entries.

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We find returns registered for nine of the twelve batteries of the regiment.  And of those nine, three were not received until 1864.  That’s what happens to paperwork due in the middle of the campaign season!

  • Battery A: At Pottsville, Pennsylvania, on the March 1864 receipt date, with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery A, under Captain Thomas H. Bates, was at Camp Barry, remained at the Camp of Instruction, Camp Barry, in Washington, D.C. through the summer months. The battery, recently reformed after losing all guns during the Peninsula Campaign, was training new crews.
  • Battery B: At Warrenton Junction, Virginia, reflecting the October 1863 receipt date, with four 10-pdr Parrotts. The battery was assigned to Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Captain Rufus D. Pettit, in command of the battery at the start of the quarter resigned at the end of May.  Captain James M. Rorty then took command.  Rorty was mortally wounded on the afternoon of July 3 at Gettysburg.  The next in command, Lieutenant Albert S. Sheldon, was wounded a little later.  Lieutenant Robert E. Rogers then became the third officer to command the battery that day.
  • Battery C: Listed at Rappahannock, Virginia, also reflecting the fall reporting date, four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This battery was assigned to support Fifth Corps, and thus on the march toward Gettysburg at the end of the reporting period.  Captain Almont Barnes remained in command.
  • Battery D: Bealton, Virgina!  Again, under the fall reporting date.  This battery had  six 12-pdr Napoleons.  This battery supported Third Corps as part of the Gettysburg Campaign.  Lieutenant George B. Winslow remained in command.
  • Battery E: No return. Reduced by sickness and other causes during the Peninsula Campaign.  At the start of the quarter, the men of Battery E was assigned to 1st New York Independent Light Artillery, in Sixth Corps.  In mid-June, the men transferred to support Battery L, 1st New York (below).
  • Battery F: Yorktown, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William R. Wilson’s battery remained part of Fourth Corps, Department of Virginia.  Later in July, the battery moved to Camp Barry in Washington.
  • Battery G: Accurately reported at Taneytown, Maryland, with six 12-pdr Napoleons. The battery moved from Second Corps to the 4th Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve in June.  Captain Nelson Ames remained in command.
  • Battery H: Reporting at Camp Barry with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, in October 1863.  However, as the end of June, the battery, under Captain Charles E. Mink, was assigned to Fourth Corps and stationed at Yorktown.  The battery was involved with Dix’s Peninsula Campaign.
  • Battery I: No report. Captain Michael Wiedrich commanded this battery, assigned to Eleventh Corps.  The battery had six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles at Gettysburg.  And its employment on the field on July 1 might explain the lack of report.
  • Battery K: Reporting at Brandy Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  For the third straight quarter, this battery’s location reflects a  January, 1864, report. In June 1863, Battery K was assigned to the 4th Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, under Captain Robert H. Fitzhugh.  The 11th New York Independent Battery was attached to Battery K at this time, adding two guns (up from four the previous quarter).
  • Battery L: Another “late” return, posted in February 1864, has this battery at Rappahannock Station, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This battery was on the field at Gettysburg supporting First Corps, on the first day of July.  Captain Gilbert H. Reynolds took command in March.
  • Battery M: No return. Battery M, under Lieutenant Charles Winegar, served in Twelfth Corps.  The battery had four 10-pdr Parrott rifles at Gettysburg, with one section on Power’s Hill and another on McAllister’s Farm.

Thus nine of the twelve batteries were directly involved with the Gettysburg Campaign.  We might say the other three were indirectly involved to some degree.  Many stories I could relate and wealth of quotes related to those hot summer days of 1863.  But for brevity, let us focus on the data of the summary.

Moving on to the ammunition, we have three batteries with 12-pdr Napoleons:

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And three lines to consider:

  • Battery A: 192 shot, 64 shell, 192 case, and 72 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery D: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery G: 308 shot for 6-pdr field guns; 120 shell, 116 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr Napoleons.

I would guess the tally of 6-pdr shot for Battery G was a transcription error, and rightly should be 12-pdr.

We have 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  So that means we should have Hotchkiss projectiles:

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Five lines to consider:

  • Battery C: 92 canister, 40 percussion shell, 136 fuse shell, and 424 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery F: 80 canister, 80 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 480 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery H: 21 canister and 34 fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery K: 120 canister, 363 fuse shell, and 350 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 120 canister, 39 percussion shell, and 600 (?) bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

A couple more lines to consider on the next page:

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Dyer’s Patent:

  • Battery H: 128 shell, 530 shrapnel, and 160 canister for 3-inch rifles.

Parrott’s Patent:

  • Battery B: 320 shell, 520 case, and 96 canister for 10-pdr Parrott.

The last page indicates some Schenkl projectiles on hand:

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Four batteries with Schenkl:

  • Battery B: 80 shells for 10-pdr Parrott.
  • Battery H: 3 shells for 3-inch rifles..
  • Battery K: 356 shells for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery L: 441 shells for 3-inch rifles.

Again, we see a mix and match of projectiles, by patent, in the ammunition chests.

Lastly we turn to the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery A: Seventeen Navy revolvers.
  • Battery B: Twelve Navy revolvers and three cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: One Army revolver, eight Navy revolvers, and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Thirteen Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery G: Nineteen Army revolver and thirty-five horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers and fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: Nine Navy revolvers and thirty cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen Navy revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.

A very fair assortment, with reasonable numbers, of small arms for the 1st New York.  These were field artillerymen, first and foremost.

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Summary Statement, 1st Quarter, 1863 – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment

For the next several installments covering the summaries, we will look at New York batteries.  The first of these is the 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment, which was administratively commanded by Colonel Charles S. Wainwright.  Though, as Wainwright lamented at different times, administrative command really amounted to being responsible for more paperwork.

And that is just what we are dealing with here today:

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Of the twelve batteries of the regiment, there are ten returns:

  • Battery A: At Pottsville, Pennsylvania with four 12-pdr Napoleons.  The location may be correct for February 1864 (as indicated for the receipt of return).  But in the winter of 1863, Battery A, under Captain Thomas H. Bates, was at Camp Barry. The battery, recently reformed after losing all guns during the Peninsula Campaign, was training new crews.
  • Battery B: At Falmouth, Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts. Captain Rufus D. Pettit’s battery was assigned to Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery C: Also at Falmouth, Virginia, but with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This battery was assigned to support Fifth Corps.  Captain Almont Barnes resumed command in the winter months.
  • Battery D: And another battery at Falmouth, this with six 12-pdr Napoleons. After a short assignment to the Ninth Corps, Captain Thomas W. Osborn’s battery came back to Second Division, Third Corps.  Lieutenant George B. Winslow assumed command with Osborn holding artillery brigade duties.
  • Battery E: No return. Reduced by sickness and other causes during the Peninsula Campaign, Battery E was assigned to 1st New York Independent Light Artillery at this reporting interval.
  • Battery F: Yorktown, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William R. Wilson’s battery remained part of Fourth Corps, Department of Virginia.
  • Battery G: Another New York battery at Falmouth.  They reported six 12-pdr Napoleons. Captain John D. Frank held command at the start of the winter.  But illness forced him to turn command over to Lieutenant Nelson Ames at the start of the spring.  The battery was assigned to Third Division, Second Corps.
  • Battery H: Fort Keys, Gloucester Point, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Also assigned to Fourth Corps.  Captain Charles E. Mink commanded this battery.
  • Battery I: Stafford Court House, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Michael Wiedrich commanded this battery, assigned to Second Division, Eleventh Corps.
  • Battery K: Reporting at Brandy Station, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  For the second straight quarter, this battery’s location reflects a  January, 1864, report. During the winter of 1863, Battery K was with the First Division, Twelfth Corps and under Edward L. Bailey.
  • Battery L: At Pratt’s Landing, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain John A. Reynolds’ battery supported First Division, First Corps.
  • Battery M: No return. This battery was also part of First Division, Twelfth Corps in December 1862.  Lieutenant Charles Winegar commanded the battery.  I believe it was equipped with 10-pdr Parrotts.

So we see barely any assignment changes for the 1st New York Light.

Moving to the ammunition pages, there were three batteries reporting Napoleons on hand:

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And three lines of smoothbore ammunition to discuss:

  • Battery A: 192 shot, 64 shell, 192 case, and 72 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery D: 288 shot, 96 shell, 288 case, and 96 canister (see note to follow) for 12-pdr Napoleon.
  • Battery G: 308 shot, 120 shell, 116 case, and 144 canister for 12-pdr Napoleon.

If you refer back to the previous quarter, Battery D’s numbers for shot, shell, and case appear to be the same.  And they reported 96 canister in December.  My call is a transcription error put the “96” in the column for 6-pdr canister.  That’s a lot more plausible than some supply foul-up.

More batteries reported rifles on hand, and thus we see more rifled projectiles were counted for the summary:

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Hotchkiss projectiles reported:

  • Battery C: 102 canister,  40 percussion shell, 226 fuse shell, and 544 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery F: 80 canister,  80 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 480 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.
  • Battery H: 20 canister and 70 percussion shell for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery I: 120 canister, 390 fuse shell, and 651 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery K: 97 canister, 257 percussion shell, 118 fuse shell, 274 bullet shell for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery L: 36 canister and 982 fuse shell for 3-inch rifle.

Seems the 3-inch batteries with the Army of the Potomac had a lot of case shot for their Ordnance rifles.

For the next page of rifle projectiles, I’ll do extra cuts to aid those reading (the full page is posted):

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Three different makes of projectiles.  Three batteries reporting.  Each with a different make:

  • Battery B: 623 shell, 520 case shot, and 123 canister of Parrott patent for 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery H:  58 shell, 560 shrapnel, and 140 canister of Dyer’s patent for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery L: 180 Schenkl solid shot for 3-inch rifles.

More Schenkl entries on the last page of projectiles:

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Two lines for discussion:

  • Battery H: 285 Schenkl shells for 3-inch rifle.
  • Battery I: 116 Schenkl shells for 3-inch rifle.

And as always, closing out with the small arms reported:

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Note, Battery A reported no small arms.  The others:

  • Battery B: Fifteen Navy revolvers and six cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: One Army revolver, eight Navy revolvers and fourteen horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Thirteen Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery G: Sixteen Army revolvers and eighteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers and fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Seventeen Army revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: One Navy revolver and twenty-two cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen navy revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.

As we might expect for well organized batteries operating in the east, where non-artillery duty assignments were few.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment

New York’s contribution to the Federal war machine was not just a “cog” in a wheel.  Rather we might say the Empire State provided a whole wheel.  And part of that was of course a number of artillery batteries.  I could well spend several posts discussing the various formations – heavy artillery, light artillery regiments, independent batteries, independent battalions, National Guard batteries, etc…. oh, and don’t forget some rocket batteries.  But for the Fourth Quarter 1862 summaries we need focus on four groups – 1st New York Light Artillery Regiment, 3rd New York Light Artillery Regiment, 1st New York Light Artillery Battalion (sometimes cited as the “German” battalion), and numbered independent light artillery batteries.  There’s one additional line for reporting artillery assigned to a volunteer cavalry formation.  And we should also mind the German battalion’s batteries were later assigned independent battery numbers.  But that was the future.  For December 1862 we have two regiments, one battalion, thirty-two (minus four that were at the time in the battalion) independent batteries,  and one “other” line to consider.

So let us start with the 1st Regiment, New York Light Artillery… Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s boys:

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The clerks posted information from seven of the twelve batteries, most being received in 1863.  At this time of the war, most of the 1st New York batteries supported the Army of the Potomac in the east.  The breakdown by battery:

  • Battery A: No return.  This battery’s guns were captured earlier in the year at Seven Pines.  Most of the surviving men were transferred to other batteries while Captain Thomas Bates went about recruiting and reorganizing.  So in December 1862, there was no equipment to report.
  • Battery B: No return. Captain Rufus D. Pettit’s battery was part of Second Corps, having just participated in the Fredericksburg Campaign with six (or four?) 10-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery C: At Falmouth, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This was Lieutenant William H. Phillips’ battery assigned to support Fifth Corps.
  • Battery D: Fredericksburg, Virginia with six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery assigned to Ninth Corps and under Captain Thomas W. Osborn.
  • Battery E: No return. Reduced by sickness and other causes during the Peninsula Campaign, Battery E was assigned to 1st New York Independent Light Artillery at this reporting interval.
  • Battery F: Yorktown, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain William R. Wilson’s battery was part of Fourth Corps, Department of Virginia.
  • Battery G: No return. This was Captain John D. Frank’s battery supporting Second Corps with four 12-pdr Napoleons.
  • Battery H: Fort Keys, Gloucester Point, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Also assigned to Fourth Corps.  Captain Charles E. Mink commanded this battery.
  • Battery I: Falmouth, Virginia with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain Michael Weidrich’s battery supported Eleventh Corps.
  • Battery K: Brandy Station, Virginia with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  This location is obviously in error for December 1862.  It was correct for January, 1864, when the return was received in Washington.  Backing up a year and a month, Battery K was with the Twelfth Corps for the 4th Quarter, 1862.
  • Battery L: No location given but with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Captain John A. Reynolds’ battery supported First Corps, which was near Fredericksburg at the time.
  • Battery M: No return. This battery was also part of Twelfth Corps in December 1862.  Lieutenant Charles Winegar commanded the battery at the time, with Captain George W. Cothran on leave.  I believe it was equipped with 10-pdr Parrotts.

 

Of note here is the listing for Battery K with the discrepancy indicated with regard to reported location.  Often in correspondence (present day correspondence, that is), folks will eagerly inquire about these summary statements.  The perception, which I held when first looking them over, is we have a gold mine of “facts” to work with.  Not entirely true.  What we have are a lot of numbers that must be shaken down for some useful information.  The example seen here, with Battery K, one of the many issues that demonstrate the data is not “clean”.    The summaries are far short of the sound foundation of facts that might lead easily to solid information.  Though those summaries are a bit firmer than clay, I would quickly point out.

At the December 1862 reporting time, I believe Battery K was commanded by Lieutenant E. L. Bailey.  It was part of a battalion commanded by Captain Robert H. Fitzhugh, the battery’s former commander.  Batteries K and M constituted 2/3rds of the battalion. And it was part of Wainwright’s regiment.  Wainwright who, as we know from his diary, was very particular about keeping up with his paperwork.  Yet, this battery didn’t give a fourth quarter, 1862 report until over a year later.  And when that report was registered by the Ordnance Department, an erroneous location was recorded.

One would think such tardiness wouldn’t be allowed.  And one would rightly supposed Battery K’s officers would report on time and accurately.  Our impression is the chain of command above Battery K would insist on timely reporting.  Furthermore that the clerks in Washington were efficient and never lost such important paperwork.  Yet, the record indicates otherwise.

So we have reason to dispute one column for Battery K, why not the rest?  Was the clerk entering the 1862 data with just one cell (location) incorrect? Or is all the other data now suspect?  Enter that discussion with ample salt…. With that salt applied, let us walk through the reported ammunition quantities, starting with smoothbore:

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The only smothbores among the reporting batteries were the Napoleons of Battery D.  That battery reported 288 shot, 96 shells, 238 288 case, and 96 canister.

We have more rifled guns to feed. Those projectiles start with the Hotchkiss Patent listings:

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Four batteries reporting Hotchkiss projectiles on hand:

  • Battery C: 102 canister, 40 percussion shell, 235 fuse shell, and 576 bullet shell all in 3-inch caliber.
  • Battery F: 80 canister, 80 percussion shell, 160 fuse shell, and 430 bullet shell of 3-inch.
  • Battery I: 120 canister, 290 fuse shell, and 651 bullet shell in 3-inch.
  • Battery K: 97 canister, 117 percussion shell, 118 fuse shell, and 54 bullet shell also 3-inch.

We might attach some significance to the proportionally larger numbers for “bullet shell” or what I prefer to call case shot.

One battery reported Dyer’s patent projectiles:

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Battery H had 140 shells, 576 shrapnel (case), and 164 canister, all in 3-inch caliber.

There are a couple of entries for the Shenkl patent projectiles:

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Battery H had 285 3-inch shells and Battery I had 116 of the same.

None of the batteries known to have Parrott rifles had a return complied.  So we are certainly missing more than a handful of pieces to the puzzle.  And I would point out that while Battery K’s data did not include any projectiles, the other pages indicate the battery had other supplies accounted for in the belated report.

Finally, the small arms:

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By battery:

  • Battery C: One Army revolver, eight Navy revolvers, and fourteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery D: Eight Army revolvers and eight horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery F: Nineteen Army revolvers and sixteen foot artillery swords.
  • Battery H: Sixteen Navy revolvers and fifteen cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I: Seventeen Navy revolvers and thirty horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery K: One Navy revolver and eight cavalry sabers.
  • Battery L: Seventeen Army revolvers and ten horse artillery sabers.

In summary, and to reinforce the point made above in the battery details, we cannot take this summary as a clear, clean “snapshot” of what equipment was on hand at the specified time.  Even here for a set of Eastern Theater units, very close to Washington, we see easily recognized errors in the data.  So we are obligated to ask questions and search for answers that validate… or invalidate.

April 1, 1865: “This has been the most momentous day of the war so far”: Five Forks, Sheridan, Warren, and what Wainwright saw

Colonel Charles S. Wainwright was right place to witness many things on April 1, 1865.  And he minced no words as to his emotions that Saturday on which a campaign turned:

White Oak Road, April 1, 1865, Saturday: This has been the most momentous day of the war so far, I think; a glorious day; a day of real victory. But to begin at the beginning and tell what I saw myself. During the night, that is, soon after five o’clock and before daylight, I was awakened, and on joining [Major-General Gouverneur] Warren, he informed me that he was going to move to [Major-General Phil] Sheridan’s support with all his infantry; that [Major-General Romeyn] Ayres’s division had already gone down the plank, and he was just starting across country with the other two to try for the flank of the force opposed to Sheridan….

Thus Wainwright, and the Federal Fifth Corps, moved towards Five Forks on the morning of April 1, 1865.  Around 1 p.m. that afternoon, Warren called on Wainwright to support the flanking attack with two batteries.  The infantry was not, at that moment, joined with the Confederate line, but closing upon it.  Wainwright moved with two of his New York batteries.

When I got up to Warren the whole of the Fifth Corps was just about to attack at this angle, and along the east flank, swinging around to the west with its pivot of the White Oak road, Ayres’s division held the left, [Brigadier-General Frederick] Winthrop’s brigade crossing the road diagonally.  [Major-General Samuel] Crawford was on Ayres’s right, and [Major-General Charles] Griffin in rear of Crawford. Much of this I have, of course, learned since, mostly from Ayres, who gave me a clear account of the dispositions.

When I reached Warren, he was in conversation with General Sheridan, close behind Ayres’s second line. Our skirmishers were just engaging, the men beginning to advance, and rebel bullets coming over our way somewhat thick.  I waited several minutes for Sheridan to get through what he was saying before I spoke to Warren.  As there was nothing for me to do, I rode back out of the way of stray bullets, to an open ridge south of the road and not far from a small church, called Gravel Run Church, where our hospital was being established.

As our men passed through a narrow belt of woods, I could not see the actual charge on the works, only the smoke of the battle. The cheers of our men, however, told me that all was going well, and long files of prisoners coming in soon shewed that the works were carried….

Wainwright estimated, from the time he left Warren until the first prisoners came down the road, only twenty minutes had elapsed.  As for those prisoners:

These men all moved along cheerfully, without one particle of sullenness which formerly characterized them under similar circumstances. They joked with our men along the line and I repeatedly head them say, “We are coming back into the Union, boys, we are coming back into the Union.” It was a joyful and an exciting sight, seeming to say that the war was about over, the great rebellion nearly quelled.

Wainwright proceeded to Five Forks itself where an administrative duty became his task of the day.

At the Forks, I found two guns, three-inch, just in their works, and [Colonel Alexander] Pennington sitting on one of them.  I stopped here and had a talk with him and several other cavalry officers, formerly light battery commanders.  They told me that they had charged the works at this point and carried them with any number of prisoners. While there Crawford came down the Ford road, from the north, looking for Warren, and told me that there were more guns up the road which his men had taken.

Wainwright went up the road to find three more 3-inch rifles. Always concerned about propriety and not wishing to slight anyone’s honor, Wainwright didn’t want to take possession of any guns until everyone got their due credit.

I turned back and pushed along the White Oak road to find Warren. I must have gone at least two miles, and about one mile west of the end of the rebel works before I found him.  It was growing dark, the sun having already set; the bugles were sounding the recall; the pursuit was over, and the divisions getting together for the night. I told the General about the guns, and asked if I was to look after their removal.  For this he referred me to Sheridan, as he said there might be some jealousy on the part of the cavalry.

We rode back together looking for Sheridan, and found him with his staff about a fire near the west end of the rebel works. Here I waited while General Warren had a short conversation with Sheridan. Then I dismounted, reported to Sheridan the number of guns I had found, and asked if he wished me to remove them; at the same time stating that Pennington claimed to have captured at least two of them.  Sheridan was very pleasant, said that there was glory enough for all, and wished me to look after the guns.

With that, Wainwright rode off to tend to those trophies.  And note that Wainwright places Warren and Sheridan at the the latter’s headquarters apparently having a even tempered conversation.  Leaving Sheridan, Wainwright proceeded to catch up with Warren:

… Warren had ridden on with Bankhead. When I overtook them, they were both dismounted, and Warren talking earnestly. I also got off my horse, told Warren what directions Sheridan had given me, and inquired where the corps headquarters would be for the night. Warren replied that General Sheridan had just informed him that he had relieved him from the command of the corps, and turned it over to Griffin; that he had given no reason for doing, but referred him to General Grant, to whom he was to report for orders.

Wainwright was puzzled by the turn of events.  But his reaction goes to demonstrate some of the personality of Warren:

I was astonished at this news and could not imagine what the trouble was. The only thing that occurred to me was that Warren might have got into one of his ugly fits and said what he ought not to. But in that case he would have been relieved at once instead of it being put off until the fight was all over.  Besides which I had left them just at the commencement of the battle in apparently amicable talk.

Not until the next day did Wainwright learn the justification for Warren’s removal.  Crawford’s division had ventured too far to the right.  After sending staff officers to reign in Crawford, Warren went to the flank himself.  While tending to that task personally, Warren was conspicuously absent from the corps headquarters when Sheridan inquired “Where is Warren?”  Wainwright repeated the opinion of Brigadier-General Joseph Bartlett in that Crawford was to blame for the mix-up.  “[Bartlett] referred to Spotsylvania and one or two other cases where, by his bungling or what not, Crawford had brought him great trouble.”

But what was done was done.  Wainwright expressed his opinion of the new corps commander:

I do not exactly like the idea of serving under Griffin; we have never got along well together, and I do not like him.  It was one o’clock when I got to bed; up at that time and later there was a steady and very heavy cannonade kept up from dark along the old lines in front of Petersburg. We can see the shells burst at times and watch the flight of some of the big bombs.  We start again at daylight.

And they did start again that next day.

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, pages 510-5.)

“The cleaning operation is one that must have become fearfully needed”: Personal hygiene at Cold Harbor

For some, the Battle of Cold Harbor was all about twenty or thirty minutes and a fruitless assault on June 3, 1864.  The reality is Cold Harbor was a battle lasting longer than a week.  It was not a “one assault and we are done” battle.  And what was done on the days after June 3 tells us much about how the leaders approached the war in its third year.  It also tells volumes about how the soldiers adapted and lived in these situations.

With the Army of the Potomac now firmly entrenched, facing an adversary who likewise entrenched, the battlefield was not as crowded … say as compared to some of the shorter, likewise bloody, open field battles of 1863.  Somewhat as occurred on Morris Island during the previous July, a military formation can afford to thin the front lines where earthworks are employed. (Though, let’s be quick to point out – Morris Island was mere yards of frontage, not miles. So a portion of a regiment might hold the entire front, and share in a rotation of the combat duties.  At Cold Harbor, with longer lines, the responsibilities were grander by arithmetic portions.)

This situation allowed the troops to correct, perfect, and clean their trenches.  It also allowed the commanders to pull men off the front lines to more comfortable settingsAccording to Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, Artillery Chief of the Fifth Corps, June 6, 1864 was a “cleaning day.”

The cleaning operation is one that must have become fearfully needed by the line officers and the men of the infantry.  What with the mud and dust which they have alternately been called upon to march through and sleep in, and the fact that for a week at a time they have stood or lain in line of battle, night and day, the amount of dirt accumulated must be great. The men have been really better off than their company officers, for there have been time when they could get an hour or two to strip, wash themselves and their clothes, and so prepare for another spell.

Wainwright went on to provide a description of how the situation impacted the hygiene and habits of the line officers:

The officer cannot strip by the roadside in the midst of his men; the operation is too familiar if he wishes to maintain his position. Nor is he even so well off as to change of clothing, for being required to move about more, his overcoat, canteen, and small haversack are about all he can carry; while his servant, who in theory is supposed to carry his master’s change of clothing, five days’ rations, and cooking utensils, besides what he needs himself, being a contraband soon loses everything intrusted to him except eatables and frying pan. …

He went on to describe how the officers really needed a pack mule to help with the load bearing, “as in the French army.”  But, channeling Brigadier-General Rufus Ingalls, a mule per company would add even more traffic on the line of march.  Speaking of Ingalls, what about the baggage train of the Army of the Potomac?

Today all the baggage waggons are up, which have been miles away from us since we crossed the Rapidan, and everyone is fitting himself out for another spell of hard work.

During most of the previous three years, the army was seldom more than a few miles from the baggage.  When folks speak of the “change” seen in the Overland Campaign, they often focus – however right or wrong – on the earthworks.  I think we should also bring into mind how different the spring 1864 campaign was in terms of service support activities.

Wainwright also provided us a comparison of life in the infantry to that in the artillery – among the officers:

Almost every day on this campaign I have been obliged to remark, even more than ever before, how superior is the position of a light battery officer to even a colonel of infantry, so far as comfort goes, in times of general discomfort.  They have a mechanic and tools always close at hand, and their little cart to carry the mess-chest, a bag each, and the company desk, while either a tent is struck on top of the forage waggon, or if their battery is in position, they have their paulins.  All these enable them to go through a month as this last with quite as much comfort as a general officer with his spring waggon, and at times they are better off, as their cart, being ordnance property, and part of the battery, is never sent to to the rear, but moves with the battery at all times.

Join the cavalry?  I think not!  I’ll stay with the guns, thank you!

Keep this observation in mind, however, when considering the battlefield decisions that took place 150 years ago. Dirty and fatigued, men – and as Wainwright holds, particularly the officers – were not in their best sorts.  After just over a month on the march, the wear and tear on the army could be measured by more than shoe leather.

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, pages 407-8.)

June 3, 1864: “Eighteen tons of iron thrown at the rebel lines….”

I am off early this morning to attend the sesquicentennial events at Cold Harbor.  One hundred and fifty years ago this day, Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, commanding the artillery of the Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac, also had an early start to the day.  I offer you lengthy citation from his diary describing the events from an artillerist’s perspective:

June 3, Friday.  The day opened with a big battle to our left; where the Second and Sixth Corps attacked at daylight.  The Fifth Corps being strung out on a line some five miles long could do nothing save demonstrate and fire artillery. Soon after daylight, I received orders to return to the Walnut Grove Church with the three batteries I had taken away last night.  On arriving there I found matters as I described them to be last night; the Ninth Corps having thrown up works along the south side of the pike.  Burnside was to have attacked with his whole corps at daylight, as a diversion to the attack on the left, but as usual was not ready until the matter there had been decided.

So soon as I got to the church, I sent Barnes and Walcott out to the position they held yesterday, on the left and right of the road to Walnut Grove Church, and placed Mink on the left of Stewart.  Some four hundred yards to the east of the church, on the north side of the pike, stands a house belonging to one Curry; just back of this house the little stream commences which crossed the Bowles house road, running west nearly parallel to and some two hundred fifty yards from the pike. The ravine in which it runs is quite deep, but the banks slope gradually on either side, and are almost free of trees.  On the south bank of this ravine Phillips and Richardson were posted to the east; Stewart and Mink to the west of the road to Bowles’s house. The enemy’s skirmishers were some hundred yards back on the north bank, with batteries stationed just whee Breck and Richardson were on the 31st of last month, so that our relative positions were exactly the reverse of what they were that day.

About ten o’clock, perhaps earlier, our line facing north commenced to advance together with the Ninth Corps on its right. The progress made was very slow at considerable loss, the artillery advancing by battery with the line of battle.  After we got possession of a small nameless house directly north of the Tinsley house Stewart and Mink did not suffer so much; but the rebel battery in Breck’s old place showed how good a position it was.  The whole move was a gradual swinging round of our right; Bartlett’s brigade finally coming around at right angles to the pike on a line with that of Ayres, and the Ninth Corps stretching from there northeast to the Armstrong house, with their skirmishers across the Shady Grove road.  It was late in the afternoon when this was accomplished.  Stewart and Richardson suffered severely….

While this was going on, the rebels made a savage charge up the pike and through the wood north of it, getting to within canister range, but were repulsed by Ayres’s brigade together with Hart’s and Rittenhouse’s batteries.  … had all twelve batteries in position, and engaged throughout a good part of the day, using an immense amount of ammunition.  Their reports tonight show a total of 3,435 rounds expended, equal to seventy-one rounds per gun, and making about eighteen tons of iron thrown at the rebel lines; an amount which one would think ought to have some effect, but probably did not, if we may judge from the small amount of harm their fire did us, which was almost if not quite as heavy as our own….

So far news has reached us, the fight of Cold Harbor this morning must have been terrible, and though it was short, our losses were something fearful; while the enemy’s were probably small, for they were behind very strong works, and had many small swamps in their front. Our men are said to have carried the line in one place notwithstanding, and captured three guns.  Tyler’s division of heavy artillery were all cut to pieces.  He lost a leg himself, while Colonel Morris and Porter were killed.  I hear, too, that Captain Ames of “G” Battery is wounded, making the fifth out of the six captains of the regiment with this army who has been hit; one of them, if not two, mortally wounded.

The day has been rather a pleasant one to me, as I have been free to move around from one battery to another without any unreasonable demands being put upon me.  I mention this, as I feel that I am standing on the edge of a volcano which may burst out at any moment, and in the spot least looked for. This evening I saw it in its fury thought its lava did not reach me….

From the passage that follows, I gather the “volcano” referred to was not the great battle, but rather Major-General G.K. Warren.  Late in the evening, Warren returned to his headquarters upset that his staff had not done their duties in his absence.  “I never heard anything which could begin to equal the awful oaths poured out tonight,” Wainwright wrote, “they fairly made my hair stand on end with their profaneness, while I was filled with wonder at the ingenuity of invention and blackguardism they displayed.”

There were many profane words, and for good measure sacred words, expressed on the evening of June 3, 1864.

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, pages 402-5.)

 

May 9, 1864: “No greater loss could have befallen us” with the death of Sedgwick

If you’ve been following the sesquicentennial flow of events, you know May 8, 1864 was another day of furious battle as Federals tried, and failed, to gain Spotsylvania Court House.  May 9, however, was considered a “lull” in the fighting.  Though no major assaults took place, the two armies remained a few hundred yards apart.  And the two armies continued an active fire across the fields.  The infantry and artillery on both sides maintained a brisk, though not overwhelming, fire.  Captain Charles E. Mink, Battery H, 1st New York Light Artillery described the situation in his official report of the campaign:

May 9, placed the guns in position behind a line of works thrown up at the edge of the woods at Laurel Hill, right section in the road which passes through the Wilderness at this point, the center and left sections about 80 yards to the right where the work formed an angle of about 45 degrees with the line in front of the timber.

Today a single Napoleon gun stands in that location, representing Mink’s and other guns stationed there during the battle.  I’ve featured it in a previous post.

Overland Campaign 641

On a clear day… and no traffic blocking…. you can look over the barrel of this gun and easily see the treeline held by the Confederates.

Mink went on to record the most famous incident of the day, almost as a passing note, in his report:

In our front, at about the distance of 500 or 600 yards, [was] a dense piece of woods, in which the enemy’s sharpshooters were stationed; killing Major-General Sedgwick near the guns of Lieutenant Richie’s section, and wounding many men and officers near us.

While the Confederates may have been targeting officers in the Federal lines, I would submit the sharpshooter that killed Sedgwick was employed primarily to harass Mink’s and other artillerymen on the line.  Sedgwick happened to be another target that presented himself.

Overland Campaign 625

Mink’s commander, Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, was less reserved in his diary entry for the day:

Quite early in the day these skirmishers inflicted a terrible loss on us by killing General Sedgwick. He was shot dead a few feet from Mink’s left piece, near the rejunction of the roads. No greater loss could have befallen us; certainly none which would have been so much mourned. “Uncle John” was loved by his men as no other corps commander ever was in this army. His name will henceforth be linked with Reynolds and Buford; nor do I know of another worthy to be associated with them. General Wright, on whom Sedgwick has always placed the greatest reliance, succeeds him in the command.

Just four days into the Overland Campaign and both armies were losing men, particularly key leaders, at an alarming rate.  And at a rate which would not slack for many weeks.

General Sedgwick lies today in a cemetery in Cornwall Hollow, Connecticut.  There is an HMDB entry for the memorial at that place, with photos from my friend and fellow markerhunter Bill Coughlin.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 36, Part I, Serial 67, page 655;  Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, page 360.)