Saturday, April 8, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 4

About a half mile to the right or north of the pike and about two hundred and fifty yards in front of our line of battle before advancing, a little to my right, the rivulet before mentioned, where the enemy was, heads, running in a partial semicircle the slightly convex side towards the right half of the Tenth Vermont and the concave side caused by a bend in the rivulet virtually at its source was largely in front of the Second brigade; (See No. 8 illustration) the stream runs southerly and drops rapidly after crossing the pike thus forming a gulch similar to the one we came up from the Opequan in, but apparently deeper and narrower near the left front of the Second Division. This sudden drop to the left of the turnpike made the divide here running north and south quite decided being fully ninety feet high or more which will probably partly account for the enemy's mostly being to the right of the pike there being no protection immediately west from the divide running North and South. In my front on the right of the pike this divide was about fifty feet high running out rapidly on to almost level ground in front of the right of the Second Brigade of our division to my right,* which made its position untenable as the ground was swept by both the enemy's artillery and infantry.

No. 4 - Sheridan's Winchester, Va. battle-held looking northerly from near the pike showing the height of the divide running east and west;also the infantry and artillery swept flat ground in front of the Tenth Vermont and Second Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps; also the open distant ground  over which the Nineteenth Corps charged with virtually no enemy's infantry in its front, but a little artillery in its distant front. Its unbroken advance over the open distant field was a beautiful sight. Numbers 3 and 4 illustrations show the ground over which our entire infantry line of battle swept in the first assault. The Nineteenth Corps was beyond the first timber on the ravine running centrally across the picture its left resting about on the extreme right of the ravine. Russell assaulted largely over the foreground in No. 4. [Click on photo to enlarge.]

* In my letter about this battle to Chaplain E. M. Haynes, our regimental historian, which he used in his history of the Tenth Vermont, I stated that this ravine headed near my front towards the pike and ran northerly, the bottom spreading out fan-shaped to my right in front of the Nineteenth Corps. I got this impression from the fact that the pike is considerably raised where it crosses this ravine to my left, and looked so much higher than the source of the rivulet to my right that I supposed it headed there and ran northerly. The stress of circumstances or conditions were such when I was advancing under a scorching fire and twice wounded, and the divide is so very flat at the point where the creek first starts, that a hasty glance such as one would get in assaulting, will easily account for such an optical illusion. Under such conditions, too, distances seemed greater than they really were.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 155-7

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