Friday, April 7, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 3

After passing Sheridan about two hundred yards we arrived at the height of the land westerly from Opequan Creek where the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps were finally formed in lines of battle running about North and South behind a narrow belt of timber, except a little in front of the reserve, facing nearly west toward Winchester about two miles away. The formation of the ground at this point occupied by the Tenth Vermont and Second Brigade was unusually peculiar.* The turnpike from this place virtually runs along the divide westerly towards Winchester between the nameless Creek we came up after crossing the Opequan and Abraham Creek, now on our right and north and the latter on our left to the south for a goodly distance the reason for which is obvious as in all such cases where streams have abrupt banks, while at the point where we debouched from the gulch we came up and formed line of battle was another little divide running north and south the east slope of which is partially an easterly watershed for Opequan Creek, and the west slope for the ravine or nameless rivulet running south about two hundred and fifty yards in front of where we first formed line of battle in which was the enemy's infantry in strong force—probably two divisions or more—in front of our Third Division but not shown on any map of this battlefield I have ever seen, not even the official government one used in Haynes’ “History of the Tenth Vermont Volunteer Infantry.” (See No. 3, 6, 7 and 8 illustrations). It is the ravine through which the little short rivulet runs shown on said map just in front of our “First position” running southerly into a tributary of Abraham Creek. I am emphatic in this statement as having been on the battlefield twice since the fight occurred within a year (1908) for the purpose of trying to correct false history and maps, I know whereof I write. I desire to impress this on all historians for I know of no one living who, owing to my elevated advanced position on the battlefield knows more of it. These two small divides before mentioned meet each other at right angles forming a letter T. The pike crosses the horizontal part of the T on leaving the gulch we came up from the Opequan in, and virtually runs along the first mentioned divide slightly to the left of all rivulet sources running southerly, forming the perpendicular part of the T towards Winchester.

Sheridan's Sept. 19, 1864. Winchester, Va. battle-field looking
southerly from the hill Just north of the pike running along the
east side of the ravine occupied by the enemy's infantry. The
sunk pike borders the edge of the wood from left to right. The
foreground was assaulted over by the Tenth Vermont. The
distant open field through the gap in the trees was charged
over by the Vermont Brigade and Second Division, Sixth Corps.
[Click on photo to enlarge.]

* For nearly a score of years after the Civil War while in the Sixth U. S. Cavalry, I, as well as all other officers, had to map the wild country over which we scouted for hostile Indians on the plains between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. We used the prismatic compass bearings and odometer measurements, at the same time sketching the country passed over, showing all springs, rivulets and streams, their bank formations, all divides, buttes, mountains, etc., with elaborate notes, and sent the same to the Engineer Officer of the Department, from which all public maps have since been made of that country now largely in use. This in a measure had made me expert in treating such matters as well as battlefields. Never having seen a map that was correct of the locality about Winchester regarding Sheridan's battlefield in the first assault on Sept. 19, 1864, or the position of the enemy's Infantry, artillery, etc., and as so many writers wrongly describe this assault, I concluded before having my diary typewritten for publication to visit this part of the battlefield in order to give a fairly correct description of it; and the one herein is as accurate as can be given without the use of the prismatic compass, odometer, etc.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 153-5

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