Showing posts with label 3rd Winchester. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 3rd Winchester. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Webb Hayes, Tuesday Evening, July 26, 1864

Tuesday evening, July 26, 1864. 

DEAREST: — We reached here today after two nights and one day of pretty severe marching, not so severe as the Lynchburg march, and one day of very severe fighting at Winchester. We were defeated by a superior force at Winchester. My brigade suffered most in killed and wounded and not so much in prisoners as some others. The Twenty-third lost about twenty-five killed and one hundred wounded; [the] Thirty-sixth, eleven killed, ninety-nine wounded; [the] Thirteenth, fifteen killed, sixty wounded (behaved splendidly - its first battle) ; [the] Sixth, four killed, twenty-seven wounded. In [the] Twenty-third, six new officers wounded and two killed - Captain McMillen late of [the] Twelfth and Lieutenant Gray, a sergeant of Company G. Morgan again wounded, not dangerously. Comly very slightly. Lieutenant Hubbard, late commissary sergeant, fell into [the] hands of Rebels. The rest all with us. Lieutenant Kelly slightly three times. Lieutenant Clark (late sergeant) not badly. All doing well. Lieutenant-Colonel Hall (Thirteenth) twice badly but not dangerously — a brave man, very. My horse wounded. This is all a new experience, a decided defeat in battle. My brigade was in the hottest place and then was in condition to cover the retreat as rear-guard which we did successfully and well for one day and night. 

Of course the reason, the place for blame to fall, is always asked in such cases. I think the army is not disposed to blame the result on anybody. The enemy was so superior that a defeat was a matter of course if we fought. The real difficulty was, our cavalry was so inefficient in its efforts to discover the strength of the enemy that General Crook and all the rest of us were deceived until it was too late.* 

We are queer beings. The camp is now alive with laughter and good feeling; more so than usual. The recoil after so much toil and anxiety. The most of our wounded were brought off and all are doing well. — Colonel Mulligan, commanding (the) brigade next to mine was killed. Colonel Shaw of [the] Thirty-fourth killed. 

As we were driven off the field my pocket emptied out map, almanack, and (a) little photographic album. We charged back ten or twenty yards and got them! 

There were some splendid things done by those around me. McKinley and Hastings were very gallant. Dr. Joe conspicuously so. Much that was disgraceful was done, but, on the whole, it was not so painful a thing to go through as I have thought it would be. 

This was Sunday, about 2 P. M., that we all went up. We shall stay here some time if the Rebels don't invade Maryland again and so give us business. 

I thought of you often, especially as I feared the first reports by frightened teamsters and cavalry might carry tidings affecting me. It was said my brigade was crushed and I killed at Martinsburg. By the by, the enemy followed us to that place where we turned on them and flogged their advance-guard handsomely So much, dearest, as ever.


* See Dr. Joseph T. Webb to Marietta Cook Webb, July 28, 1864

 [August 27, Hayes's command marched fourteen miles down the river road toward Harpers Ferry and camped below Sandy Hook. The next day the Potomac was crossed and a camp was established in the woods near Halltown, Virginia, a good location except that it was "too far from water.” Here the weary soldiers rested two days. Then, Saturday night, July 30, they marched back in the darkness, through dust, heat, and confusion, fourteen miles into Maryland; and Sunday ten miles farther on through Middletown to a wooded camp. Hayes writes: “Men all gone up, played out, etc. Must have time to build up or we can do nothing. Only fifty to one hundred men in a regiment came into camp in a body.”]

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 485-7

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Webb Hayes, July 29, 1864

HARPERS FERRY, July 29, 1864. 

DEAREST: — A fine day in a pleasant shady camp, resting. That sentence contains a world of comfort to our weary, worn-out men.

All are clothed and shod again, and general good feeling prevails.

We are joined by a large force under General Wright, who commands the whole army. It looks as if we would move up the Valley of Virginia again. If so the papers will inform you of our movements and doings.

I sent you a dispatch and letter after our return from the reverse at Winchester, but am not certain that either was forwarded.

I can only repeat what I have written so often, my love and esteem for my darling and my wish that she may be as happy as she has always made me. — Love to the boys and all the dear ones.

Affectionately ever, 

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 487-8

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Diary of Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes: July 21—25, 1864

Thursday (21st), marched to near Snickers Ford. Camped near Colonel Ware's. Fifteen miles. The next day, marched to Winchester. A fine town before the war. Eleven and onehalf miles. Saturday (23d), enemy reported in force approaching Winchester. Skirmished all day. Small force of Rebel cavalry fool ours. Seven miles. Sunday (24th), defeated badly at Winchester near Kernstown by Early with a superior force. My brigade suffered severely. Rebels came in on my left. Poor cavalry allowed the general to be surprised. Seven miles. All [that] night marching, twenty-two miles, to Martinsburg. My brigade covered the retreat. Retreated from Martinsburg; turned on Rebels and drove them out. Monday night to Potomac at Williamsport, [Maryland], twelve miles, a severe, sleepy job. Camped on Antietam near battle-ground.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 484-5

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Abraham Lincoln to Major General Philip H. Sheridan, September 20, 1864

EXECUTIVE MANSION,               
Washington, September 20, 1864.
Major-General SHERIDAN,
Winchester, Va.:

Have just heard of your great victory. God bless you all, officers and men. Strongly inclined to come up and see you.


SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 43, Part 1 (Serial No. 90), p. 61

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Luman Harris Tenney: Monday, September 19, 1864

Moved at 2 A. M. Slept with Houghton. Reached the Opequon about daylight, 2nd N. Y. charging. After this, constant charging till we drove a rebel brigade of infantry from fortified position. Very hard fighting. Gen. McIntosh always in the van. When Gen. Sheridan came up he patted Mc. on shoulder and said, “You have done nobly.” Moved to left. More charging on flank. Gen. Mc. and Chapman wounded. Purington in command. Just before dark whole rebel force was routed. Followed 8 miles and camped.

SOURCE: Frances Andrews Tenney, War Diary Of Luman Harris Tenney, p. 130-1

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Brigadier-General John D. Stevenson to Edwin M. Stanton, September 20, 1864 – 11:40 a.m.

HARPER'S FERRY, W. VA., September 20, 1864 — 11.40 a.m.
Secretary of War:

Just received the following official from General Sheridan, dated 1 o'clock this morning:

GENERAL: We fought Early from daylight until between 6 and 7 p.m. We drove him from Opequon Creek through Winchester and beyond the town. We captured 2,500 to 3,000 prisoners, 5 pieces artillery, 9 battle-flags, all the rebel wounded and dead. Their wounded in Winchester amount to some 3000. We lost in killed General David Russell, commanding division, Sixth Army Corps; wounded, Generals Chapman, Mcintosh, and Upton. The rebels lost in killed the following general officers: General Rodes, General Wharton, General Gordon, and General Ramseur. We just sent them whirling through Winchester', and we are after them to-morrow. This army behaved splendidly.

I am sending forward all medical supplies, subsistence stores, and all ambulances.

JNO. D. STEVENSON,        

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 43, Part 2 (Serial No. 91), p. 124

Lieutenant-Colonel James W. Forsyth to Brigadier-General John D. Stevenson, September 20, 1864 – 1 a.m.

Winchester, September 19 [20], 1864 — 1 a.m.
[Brigadier-General STEVENSON:]

GENERAL: We fought Early from daylight this morning until between 6 and 7 p.m. to-night. We drove Early from the Opequon Creek through Winchester and beyond the town. We captured between 2,500 and 3,000 prisoners, 5 pieces of artillery, and 9 battle flags, all the rebel wounded and dead. Their (the rebels’) wounded in Winchester amounts to some 3.000. We lost in killed, General David Russell, commanding division Sixth Army Corps; wounded, Generals Chapman, Mcintosh, and Upton. The rebels lost in killed the following general officers: General Rodes, General Wharton, General Gordon, and General Ramseur.* We just sent them a whirling through Winchester, and we are after them to-morrow. The army behaved splendidly.

Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief of Staff.

P. S. — Please hurry up all the medical supplies. We have about 2,000 wounded, and we should have them here as soon as possible.

* Error as to Wharton, Gordon and Ramseur.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 43, Part 2 (Serial No. 91), p. 124

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Addenda No. 2.The Battle Of Cedar Creek, Va., Oct. 19, 1864. And The Status Of The Sixth Corps With Generals Grant And Sheridan.

I was absent wounded in Vermont at the time of the battle of Cedar Creek, Va., and only know that my regiment fought desperately and lost heavily in killed and wounded. Captain Lucian D. Thompson of Waterbury, Vt. was decapitated by a solid shot from the enemy and Captain Chester F. Nye, Adjutant Wyllys Lyman and Lieutenants George E. Davis, B. Brooks Clark, Austin W. Fuller and George P. Welch were wounded. From June 1st to October 19, 1864, we had seven officers killed which included all the officers who originally went out with my old Company B, twelve wounded and two captured, making twenty-one in all. Surely, the blood shed in the Tenth Vermont for the preservation of the Union should satisfy the most exacting that the regiment stood up to the rack all through the Civil War from the time it entered it.

After the morning surprise at Cedar Creek, Oct. 19, 1864, just a month after the battle of Winchester, the Sixth Corps, I was told by officers of my regiment afterwards, was the only unstampeded infantry organization in the command around which General H. G. Wright soon rallied the better part of the surprised little army which Sheridan, after his historic ride of “Twenty Miles Away” from Winchester, found awaiting him ready to advance and again punish the enemy which it most effectually did. It was the last fight in the valley of the Civil War, and it was fitting that the Sixth Corps should have been allowed so largely to have so brilliantly rung down the curtain on the great Civil War stage in this section. The Sixth Corps was the mainstay of Sheridan's brilliant little army in the Shenandoah Valley campaign, and no one knew it better than he. When the spring campaign opened in 1865, He wanted it at Five Forks again, but Grant wanted it, too, at the same time to break the backbone of the Confederacy by breaking its lines in front of Petersburg on that memorable morning of April 2nd, 1865, which was the greatest possible honor of the day, and it did it. When given his choice by Grant of any corps in the army of the Potomac, Sheridan again called for it, too, a few days later, April 6, 1865, at Sailor's Creek, Va., the last real battle fought in the Civil War by the Army of the Potomac, when the Sixth Corps was rushed forward by Grant's order at pell-mell speed, where in another of Sheridan's characteristic, snappy, short, effective, two-hour fights, it largely helped to capture several — said to be eleven — general officers, 13,000* prisoners and a burning wagon train, almost an entire column, excepting about 2,000 of General Lee's fleeing veterans, including himself, three days before his surrender at Appomattox. It was fitting, too, here, that the Sixth Corps should largely fight this battle and thus again brilliantly and virtually finally ring down the stage curtain of the greatest war tragedy of modern times — The Great Civil War. Surely with all the brag and conceit in late years by members of other corps, that its corps was the best in the Army of the Potomac — and the Second as well as the Fifth were fine corps, and probably both these and the Sixth Corps were about equal — neither Grant nor Sheridan could have regarded the Sixth as an unreliable one, or second to any as a fighting corps however often members of other corps may conceitedly dub theirs the best in the army. And what other than the Sixth Corps can point to any such enviable repeated preferences on the part of both Grant and Sheridan, or to such a proud record in the closing scenes of the great rebellion? Would they not be glad to do so if they could? And still neither of the able commanders of the Sixth Corps — Sedgwick and Wright — have been honored by an appropriation for a monument by Congress in the capital city of the Nation which the Sixth Corps twice saved, once at the battle of the Monocacy, largely by the Third Division, July 9th, and again three days later largely by the First and Second Divisions at the battle in front of Ft. Stevens in the suburbs of Washington, July 12th, 1864, when Early came so near capturing the city.

I do not believe in being invidious, but having been satiated for years by the egotistic statements of the superior qualifications by members of other corps of their particular corps, especially in Washington, and knowing only too well from long experience that frequently true merit goes unrewarded in history and otherwise, because of an over-modest inclination to mention facts by those interested who can, when organizations and persons less worthy get more than is due by being more aggressive, is one of the reasons for my partially treating this matter. There was no corps, during the last few months of the war, to which Grant and Sheridan more frequently turned in emergencies than to the Sixth Corps, which is significant, as it shows their estimate of its merits as a reliable fighting corps, over all others. The Sixth Corps was ever proud of the Second and Fifth Corps and felt honored in being associated with such splendid organizations in the same army all through the Civil War, but the Sixth Corps yields the palm to no other in the whole Union Army east or west when it comes to fighting or any other soldierly qualifications pertaining to a model army corps.

Said General Grant in the closing scenes of the Civil War: “I can trust the Sixth Corps anywhere.” Said General Sheridan: “Give me the Sixth Corps and I will charge anywhere.”

* So reported then. Generals Ewell and Custis Lee surrendered to our brigade. The guard was about to force them to wade a swollen morass about fifty yards wide, waist deep, but Ewell demurred. The guard said he had to wade it going over for them, and that it was no more than fair that they should wade it going back. Ewell replied that it took brave men to do it under fire, but that the necessity no longer existed for any one to wade it going either way, and so won the best of the argument, and his wish.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 256-60

Monday, July 31, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, November 28, 1864

Well, this has been an interesting day, a great surprise; have been treated with great consideration — like a prince — by the board, and I never saw one of them before, nor had they ever heard of me that I know of. They made my mouth wound of so much interest it embarrassed me; I felt as though I was being lionized. The board is composed of a General and several other elderly medical officers of rank and age, and they have the consideration and tact — unlike Dr. Thayer — to treat any wounded officer and especially one who fought with Sheridan at Winchester, with distinguished respect. The first one who looked at my wound expressed great surprise at my “unusually interesting mouth wound,” as he termed it, and called for the doctors in the adjoining rooms to come and see one of the most interesting of the many wounds that had come before the board.* They all came, each in turn examining it, expressing great wonder, and asked many questions, indignantly inquiring why the Vermont doctors had sent me back to the front with jaws in a condition such as to render it impossible for me to chew solid food when it was known that hard bread and meats were the principal articles of food for troops in the field and with the stitches still in my lip and it not solidly healed. In reply I gave them my experience with Dr. Thayer of Burlington, Vt., and said I had not gone to the hospital several times during the war because of my pride and fear of inconsiderate treatment, although I had ought to have gone twice before when wounded, but feared I might be criticised if I did. They continued to examine the wound for some time expressing astonishment that it should have healed as much as it had so soon and would leave so little trace or scar externally in the end as it would, and highly complimented Dr. Rutherford who attended me. They finally drew aside for consultation, and when the examiner who had charge of the case returned and said that I could have my choice, take my discharge or return to the front, I was delighted, and chose the latter. He seemed surprised, and after hesitating a little looking steadily at me, said I had better consider the matter well; but I told him I had, that I could soak my hard bread in water, fry it with salt pork which would make it both soft and nutritious, and that I could get along. Seeing that I really wanted to return, he let me go. I received my discharge from the hospital this afternoon, have got my transportation, and shall leave to-morrow at 2 o'clock p. m. Captain Mattison, a fine little fellow, left this afternoon. We are all in good spirits to-night. But the Annapolis board of surgeons were clever gentlemen. Their sympathy and consideration was unusual.

* This wound has since cost me several hundred dollars for skilled medical treatment, and will probably never cease to trouble me. It was one cause of my retirement from active service in the regular army. Two or three expert doctors have written it up for medical journals, and one, Dr. Anderson of Washington, D. C, only recently for a New York medical journal.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 233-5

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Wednesday, September 21, 1864

I was moved up to Winchester yesterday with the rest of the wounded. The city is one vast hospital — in fact nearly every house is used to accommodate the wounded, and it was a smart place of about four thousand before the war, but now is one of about ten thousand, owing to this battle. Most of the wounded officers were left at Taylor's Hotel. The surgeons for home. Well, let them go, they are deserving of such joy! It's a good regiment. My wound has gotten very sore and painful and don't give me a moment's peace. My system is beginning to feel the strain, too, and my tongue seems paralyzed yet. I can't utter a word. At any rate I'm not noisy company for anyone — not even the ladies here who are very sympathetic.

No. 10 – Taylor Hotel. Winchester. Va.. used during the Civil War by the Union and Confederate armies as Headquarters and Hospital. 1861-65. Said to have sheltered 1.300 wounded of both armies after Sheridan's battle of Winchester, Sept. 19, 1864; it was here Lieut. D. G. Hill, Tenth Vermont Volunteer Infantry, died. It is now (1908) vacant.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 210-3

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Tuesday, September 20, 1864

My wounds were very painful during the night, my lips and face are terribly swollen and my jaws are in shocking condition, but I'm thankful it is no worse. My side and chest are very lame, but I hope it is nothing more serious than a bruise or contusion. Lieut. Hill has had his leg amputated, but I don't think he can live, the stump is so short — poor, brave, gallant, natty Hill with the most of life before him.

Sheridan's loss was 5018 of which 4300 were killed and wounded. Early's loss was about the same. About 850 of his wounded fell into our hands. Our division lost 600 in killed and wounded and seventeen are missing, more than both of the other two divisions of our corps together. Our regiment lost twelve killed and forty-six wounded. Sheridan captured two thousand prisoners, five pieces of artillery and nine battle flags. Generals Rhodes and Godwin of Kershaw's Division were killed, and General York lost an arm. I saw Major Dillingham at a distance as he lay stricken, when I entered the hospital grounds yesterday. He was no shirk in battle but valiant. We feel like sparing him least of any, and had not looked for it, therefore it is a great shock. Only a moment before the order to advance he was talking with several officers near me and was in the best of spirits which, it occurred to me at the time, greatly contrasted with my feeling for I never dreaded more to go into battle. I was greatly but silently depressed.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 209-10

Monday, May 1, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 16

But Lee never in war arose to such sublime heights if indeed ever in a military sense.

Even Longstreet's Chief of Artillery, General Alexander, a man of splendid sense and judgment, in his “Military Memoirs of a Confederate,” holds that the real crisis of the War did not occur until Grant's movement against Petersburg, which is correct, and that his strategy in that campaign was well planned and successfully executed. He acknowledges that Grant completely out-manoeuvered Lee for the last three days during the Petersburg movement, thus saving his army from attack by the combined forces of Lee and Beauregard, which is also correct. Imagine Lee's disappointment when he found out what had been going on after Grant had crossed the James river! It completely checkmated him, even his last kick — Early's Shenandoah Valley campaign — proving worse than a failure it so weakened Lee's army. Think you Lee then thought himself a greater field marshal than Grant? Or after being continually flanked by him from the Rapidan to Petersburg and later to Appomattox where his surrender occurred?

In bringing up this matter at this opportune time when contrasts can be sharply and tellingly drawn as at Winchester and Gettysburg, my purpose has not been to disparage anyone unfairly, but to get at the truth as I see it for the sake of true history. So long a time has elapsed since the war that I look upon it and its actors dispassionately, and I can award praise or censure on either side whenever deserved with calmness and impartiality. Therefore if, as a veteran, I have advanced any new ideas on a subject necessarily somewhat perplexing to the general public, at any period, my object in treating it will have been accomplished.

Possibly there may be some excuse for such as did not fight in the Army of the Potomac three years and have not read the latest history on the Civil War and made it a study, erring in their estimates of the leaders in that conflict. I always, even during the war, thought the South had abler men to command its army of Northern Virginia even in that army than Lee, but none more lovely in disposition and character. He was a good man and good but not a great general; and, much less, in the same class with Marlborough, Wellington, and others of modern wars, or Grant, Sheridan, and others of the Civil War, which facts prove. Any man who is a military expert familiar with the subject both from participation, history and study, if of good judgment and honest, will readily concede this. Lee's distinguished lineage has nothing to do with his military history. He should be judged on his own merits in such a way, but his antecedents and charming personal character seemingly makes it difficult for most writers to place him in a military sense where he belongs. In my opinion, all things being equal, he was no match for Grant.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 207-9

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 15

My sympathy in a military and every other sense so far as the enemy is concerned, goes out to Longstreet sitting on the fence with bowed head, a picture of despair and blasted hopes probably not only on account of a useless slaughter of his brave men which he foresaw, but because of a loss of faith in the ability of his chief and in consequence the loss eventually of the cause of the Confederacy; and what thoughtful military man of experience can't see what else for scapegoats are always found for such occasions on which to try and lay the blame. But it won't do with ripe scientific military men nor would it with Lee were he living, for when too late he doubtless saw his mistake, as he acknowledged like the man he always was to his veterans, when returning from the slaughter after the assault that the calamity of defeat was all his fault.1 How pathetic!

Longstreet's heart was doubtless breaking when Pickett seemingly too thoughtless to comprehend the situation rode up to Longstreet and then “gaily” to his command in the midst of the artillery fire preceding the assault, and asked if he should commence the charge.2 Longstreet's heart and tongue were doubtless as good as paralyzed or at any rate refused to perform their function, and he answered with a sad and silent nod.

How any military student of age and extended experience in warfare — for few others are expert judges — who ever studied the country north of the Potomac river, field and battle of Gettysburg or Antietam, can class Lee with Marlborough and Wellington, it is difficult to understand; and Lee's mistakes here were by no means his only. He never found his superior, though, on the battlefield until he met Grant when, for the first time, he found a genius who didn't know what it was to retreat before the Army of Northern Virginia, nor did Lee ever advance again but to be checkmated. Prior to that the Army of the Potomac had taken care of itself single-handed — so to speak—as it would have done anywhere after 1862, if placed in line and told to fight, if let alone: it would have carried any man at its head through to victory, as it did Meade at Gettysburg, and especially in such a place as that when so much depended upon it.

It was the intrepid men with the guns, many of whom were more competent in battle than some of their officers, who largely won the battles, and not unfrequently because of greater physical endurance and undaunted courage led in the hottest places by scores in all assaults, for otherwise but few battles would have been won. To be in such company was an inspiration for such men knew no fear and they were not reckless either, but coolly alert in taking every advantage of surroundings and conditions, as well as of the enemy. Such needed no officer to lead them, but they would be devoted to one who had the pluck to go with them, and fortunate was he who was strong enough to put fear behind him and do it. It is more elevating morally to be born with such a gift than rich.

Anyone who has read Lincoln's telegrams and letters to Meade imploring him not to let Lee escape across the Potomac after Pickett's suicidal charge which is only exceeded in American War history in lack of ability by Abercrombie's maladministration of his Ticonderoga campaign in the Colonial war in 1758. cannot possibly think Grant or Sheridan would have showed so little military genius; and it is a disappointment to one in mature years who fought continually under Meade in youth about two years to find that he was so lacking in sagacity and military enterprise as to not take advantage of his great opportunities. He was all right when a subordinate, but out of place as chief.

It was largely lack of ability on the part of commanders of the Army of the Potomac as military men until Lee met Grant, which in contrast makes Lee appear to some unread in civil war history so much more brilliant than he really was as a military man. It was very generally supposed during the war it was interference from Washington that caused a lack of success on the part of the Army of the Potomac, but official correspondence between Lincoln and others at Washington with the different commanders of the Army of the Potomac published since the Civil War shows that it was largely due to their downright ignorance of how to conduct a campaign until Grant took command, which rendered it absolutely necessary to interfere. To a man of long expert military training some of the questions asked by commanders of Lincoln and others, are astonishing. They not only show a lack of judgment, self reliance and ability, but in some cases utter incompetency; and when such didn't asked to be relieved from force of circumstances, they had to be. In most cases it was disingenuously claimed by the incumbent that they were handicapped by the Washington authorities, which is probably what largely created the false impression that they were much imposed upon. The government doubtless considerately thought it could not afford to let the truth be known for obvious reasons, and besides it was doubtless thought such men might be efficient in a less responsible position in cases of emergency and their usefulness would be impaired if the real facts were made known; hence the position of Lincoln and others near to him in Washington in such a respect was not only a noble self sacrifice, but must have been even more trying than at any time or even now generally known. Under such circumstances any ordinary commander of the Confederate Army would appear to good advantage as Lee did, which, to any but one who is expert, is misleading. He had military talent but it even was never fully developed. His was not Genius:

“Genius spreads its wings
And soars beyond itself, or selfish things.
Talent has need of stepping-stones; some cross,
Some cheated purpose, some great pain or loss,
Must lay the groundwork, and arouse ambition,
Before it labors onward to fruition.”

1 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 19-33.
2 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 19-65.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 203-7

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 14

Who but Sheridan, as at Cedar Creek, Va., Oct. 19, 1864, just a month to a day after his splendid victory at Opequan Creek, Sept. 19, 1864, or Winchester, Va., as now more properly known, could have rallied a defeated and routed army en route to the front and after and so enthused it in the act, simply by dashing, alert and crafty through its broken ranks after a twenty mile race with time from Winchester, with flashing eyes, bared head and waving hat, on a spirited foaming horse, shouting to his men: “Get back into line, men! Get into line, quick! We can lick ’em! We can lick h--1 out of ’em yet!” and do it almost at once, even as brilliantly so as at Winchester a month previous? How often are such things done? Such a man outclasses all others in military history, not excepting Wellington or Marlborough, for such a man as Sheridan is without a peer as a field marshal in the annals of warfare; and had he been found sooner and given greater responsibilities he would not only have surely proved it, but would have more fully electrified the world than he did and have been its idol as a military genius and hero for all time.

He or Grant would never have used such woefully poor judgment as to have assaulted an army equally as valiant, splendidly posted, fully as large, if not larger than their own, across an open, level space without cover quite a mile in extent, as Lee did at Gettysburg on July 3, 1864. If that act showed ability, good judgment, or a military genius, then I am lacking in mature sound judgment, and my lifetime of military training, including my three years and threescore battles or more in the Civil War and in Indian wars, has been in vain. This would be equally true even though the armies had been equal in numbers. General Longstreet's suggestion to Lee to place his army on General Meade's flank between him and Washington would have been a splendid substitute for Pickett's forlorn charge.1 It was abler and just what Grant did with Lee hardly a year later, successfully and repeatedly and forced Lee back to Richmond and Petersburg, as the world now knows, which indicates superior generalship both on Grant's part as well as Longstreet's.

Would either Grant or Sheridan have lost their cavalry for several days, as Lee did, when on such a campaign in an enemy's country or anywhere else?2 Would either, with three such splendid cavalry divisions as Meade, not have used a part of one division if necessary to have patrolled barely seventy-five miles between York, Pa., or the Susquehanna, and the Potomac river, in order to detect any movement by the enemy on Washington? Would this have made the Union Commander, whoever he might have been, timid about moving to any point where battle was offered, fearing a fake attack by Lee in order to cover a movement on Washington or Baltimore? One brigade would have established a line of patrol posts less than a quarter of a mile apart of six men each, which would have detected at once any movement south by Lee, or if preferred, posts one-eighth of a mile apart of three men each.

Would Grant or Sheridan have remained so near a great battle as at Gettysburg, July 1, 1864, and not have furnished an opportunity for another soul-stirring poem like “Sheridan’s Ride”? When they were informed that the enemy had attacked their forces barely three hours’ ride away, would they have loitered a whole day away like dullards, as both army commanders did at Gettysburg?3 Aye! either would have made the ride in two hours or even less, and even though their steeds were as black as night, on their arrival at Gettysburg they would have been as white as snow or as foam could have made them; and, still better, they would not only have known, too, through their cavalry, spies, etc., for we were at home among friends, where Lee's army corps were, but when each broke camp to concentrate at Gettysburg, and their own corps close by them would have been there in season to have met the enemy in at least equal numbers, instead of being outnumbered all day July 1, two to one, as was the case.4 If necessary, too, as at Opequan Creek, Sept. 19, 1864, the different corps would have marched at 2 o'clock instead of 8 o’clock A. M. or even earlier if thought necessary.

Was there any excuse for the Confederates not driving the Union forces from the field in a rout on July first? They would have done so, too, except that their forces were fought in detail, its reserves not even being brought into action when needed.5 Did Ewell take the best advantage of his opportunities? The enemy outnumbered us quite two to one the first day from first to last after the battle commenced, but still at the first dash of two brigades of our Infantry — Wadsworth's Division — against two brigades of the enemy, when Reynolds was killed, we placed hors de combat over half of each of their brigades and captured Archer, a brigade commander; and still the enemy had two brigades in immediate reserve as support, but they were not used.6 This is what I call fighting an army in detail, a total waste of material. In case Sheridan hadn't thrown his support or reserve — Russell's division — into the fight at the right moment at Winchester, Va., Sept. 19, 1864, his results would have been equally as ignominious as his victory was brilliant, because he did use his reserve correctly on that occasion; and so it would have been with the enemy at Gettysburg had it used its reserve. It would probably have captured many of our men and driven the balance of them from the field in a rout, as Sheridan did Early at Winchester, Sept. 19, 1864; there was nothing to prevent it.

Does Lee deserve being classed among the greatest field marshals of modern times for such field marshalship as was displayed at the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg? But, says the incompetent critic who forms his conclusions from gush, policy, favoritism, sentiment, or weakly otherwise, instead of for the sake of truth and correct history, Lee wasn't there! Aye! but wasn't it an alert Commander's—a genius's —business to have been there? What was he in Pennsylvania for or selected and paid for handling such an important matter to the Confederacy for? Who gave the order to concentrate for battle at Gettysburg but he?7 Does not every experienced soldier know that under such circumstances no one can tell exactly at what moment a battle will commence? And would not an alert, sagacious commander have made a forced night ride in order to have been with the first of his forces on the field? Lee knew he was going to fight if the enemy would fight him, but Meade didn't; hence Lee knew exactly what to do.8 A great field marshal would have been more alert — on hand — it seems to me.

Lee commanded in person the second day at Gettysburg, and not only failed to attack early in the morning, when he should, but, as usual, when he did, fought his army in detail using Longstreet's corps largely against two of our corps in turn which, being overwhelmed by numbers, and Meade failing to reinforce them, as he should or not have sent them where he did, they were of course forced back to their proper positions onto the correct line of battle beyond which they should never have been advanced, and with a sagacious, alert, competent commander would not have been except the whole army advanced together in a general assault which it should have done anyway after Wright's brigade was repulsed.9

From first to last in the battle of Gettysburg, I fail to see anything to commend on the enemy's part in any of its generals except in Longstreet; nor on the Union side so far as Meade was concerned, but do in many others, and especially Buford, Reynolds, Doubleday and Howard, each of whom in turn successively commanded our forces in the order mentioned without being routed, against great odds under exceedingly trying circumstances owing to Meade's failure apparently, to fully grasp the situation fourteen miles away. It shows what splendid fighters Buford, Reynolds, Doubleday and Howard's men were to stand off double their number for an entire day, with what help they got from Schurz's men.

That Lee did not grasp the situation is evident or else he would have assaulted our lines early on the morning of July second before Meade's forces arrived on the field. It is said he did give the order to do so, but if he had been a great military genius wouldn't he have seen that it was done? Instead of this owing largely probably, to Meade's lack of alertness and enterprise, Lee from lack of sagacity became apparently dizzy and unbalanced, as was most of his command, because of his apparently misunderstood partial successes, of the first and second days' fights, and was so criminally lacking in good judgment on the third day as to be led into the mistake of ordering Pickett's charge which, for obvious reasons, could only result in calamity to the Southern cause.10 This even an amateur soldier of ordinary judgment should have been able to have foreseen.

1 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 29-30.
2 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” p. 12.
3 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 16-17.
4 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 19-33.
5 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 19-33.
6 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 19-33.
7 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” p. 57.
8 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 52-3.
9 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 34-45.
10 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 34-45.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 197-203

Friday, April 28, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 13

“At the critical moment General Wright, who was for the day in command of the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps, though (as he says) ‘it was too early in the battle to choose to put in the reserves, still, seeing that the fate of the day depended on the employment of this force,’ promptly ordered in the First Division with two batteries; it marched gallantly down, with its full Division front, to the very face of the enemy, relieving the Third Division, which, reforming, presently took up its position still further to the right, where the interval had before been left. Sheridan held back General Upton's Brigade of the First Division until it could strike the flank of the charging column of the rebels, when it made the most remarkable and successful charge of the day, completely breaking up the rebel assault, and permitting our shattered line again to knit itself into coherence. General Upton was there wounded and the brave unostentatious Russell, the idol of the Division he commanded, was shot dead, while personally employed restoring the broken line.

“The two hours following were spent in re-arranging the troops, issuing ammunition, and making dispositions for another advance.” * * *

General Russell's Division started to march on the field en masse and deployed en route; it was one of the grandest sights of the day or entire war. I never saw such splendid discipline under fire in a large body of men. It didn't relieve our brigade in the sense taken above, but did in partially drawing the enemy's musketry and artillery fire from us, which was appalling and effective. Our Brigade didn't reform. I was close on the enemy's rail breastworks in the ravine with my men leading the assault. There was no chance to reform: it was give and take. Russell's men didn't even get the opportunity of getting near enough the rebels to get satisfaction, for they ran when my men and I were within a rod of their works directly in front. There was no considerable bend in the road or anything else that obliqued my men either way to any great extent. The enemy ran before Russell was within effective striking or flanking distance. The enemy didn't charge. If General Upton assaulted its flank it wasn't here. I am emphatic in this, for not twenty seconds after I was twice almost simultaneously wounded during the enemy's last volley, it was running for dear life and Sheridan thirty seconds later was on his horse on the high ground close in my rear looking through his field glass to see where the enemy was going to make a second stand, and at other things evidently displeasing to him on his left, where Colonel Walker and the Second Division were. The whole field of active fighting could be seen from here. Five of the battlefield views herein were taken from this point. Colonel Walker is such a graceful, fluent writer it is a pity he couldn't know the whole facts about the battles the Vermont troops were in. His works would doubtless then be charmingly interesting and entertaining.

As several eminent persons, mistakenly as I think, in recent years, in a moment of weakness and gush have classed General R. E. Lee as one of the greatest of modern field marshals, and as the battles of Opequan Creek or Winchester, Va., Sept. 19, 1864, and Gettysburg, Pa., July 1-3, 1863, both of which I have carefully studied, furnish an excellent opportunity for a few pertinent questions as to the ability of Generals Grant, Sheridan and Lee to plan and manage successfully great battles, I cannot refrain from taking up the matter at this point, and I defy any honest man of expert judgment to successfully controvert my stand.

It might as well be said of Sheridan or of Grant, as it has already been of Lee by partial and incompetent judges, that either of the former were the equal of Marlborough or Wellington, and far more truthfully so than of Lee. Had the fortunes of war placed Sheridan in command of the Army of the Potomac at any period of the Civil War, there is no doubt but what that war would have developed in him a field marshal exceeding in dash, ability and brilliancy any military genius of either ancient or modern times. He was a born soldier, unspoilt by training, success or anything else, and was blessed with splendid common sense. He was a genius, for, says a popular poet:

“There is no balking Genius. Only death
Can silence it or hinder. While there's breath
Or sense of feeling, it will spurn the sod,
And lift itself to glory, and to God.
The acorn sprouted — weeds nor flowers can choke
The certain growth of th’ upreaching oak.”

One secret of Sheridan's success lay largely in his ability to so plan a battle as to fight his whole command effectively all at once, and in such a way that with his dash and unexpected coup de main, the enemy was usually whipped before the fight was fairly commenced. With Sheridan in command during the Civil War, President Lincoln would never have had to urge action on the part of the Army of the Potomac as with McClellan and others, except Grant, when ready to fight, nor would it have been fought in detail, which was invariably a fatal fault with both armies, for Sheridan didn't fight that way; there were no unfought reserves in his army. When he struck it was with so much method, dash, determination and judgment it brought brilliant results, such as astonished even his own army, which always expected victory, as well as the enemy and every one else; and in consequence he could accomplish more with fewer men than any other General in the army; not only because he used his force to the best advantage by fighting it all at once, but because his personal magnetism, or hypnotism, enthused the men and gave them confidence, which is a great thing in battle; besides, they had implicit faith in his ability, splendid judgment and quick perception on the battlefield, which are indispensable gifts in a great General; and when combined with an alert, active temperament such as his, it was grand. He was a great field marshal. This is proven from the fact that anything he undertook in the Civil War was not only well done if decently supported, but he proved himself grandly equal to any occasion on the field of battle, wherever the fortunes of war placed him — not tamely so, but brilliantly; he electrified his men as well as the world by his splendid dash, pluck and surprisingly overwhelming victories. A slight reverse not only left him undaunted but, like a raging lion, it seemed to arouse his wonderful gifts and raise him to such sublime heights it awed one; so that the moment the eye of his command caught a vision of him at any distance on the battlefield, his very pose and action was such it electrified and imbued his men with the same spirit of conquer or die that dominated him, and no enemy could or ever did stand for any length of time before his intrepid command.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 192-7

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 12

“We now opened fire for the first time during the day, in the direction of the regiment or brigade that had so frightfully thinned our ranks, but they were almost out of reach from us, as well as we from them. At this moment, however, the Third Division approached them and they filed away.”

It is difficult to conceive why if the enemy could fire at the union forces here they could not return the compliment, at any rate to one who has so recently studied the ground. It was a good thing the Third Division was ’round to drive the rebs away, otherwise they might have more “frightfully thinned” Col. Walker's ranks. It would be interesting to know exactly how many men Col. Walker lost here.

“When this was discovered, and after gaining breath, our own advance was resumed, but with little pretense at order. Emerging upon the plain before us at the summit of the hill we had climbed, we again turned obliquely towards the road and charged upon a long breastwork filled with rebels, in our immediate front. The retreat of their comrades from the ravine apparently demoralized them; many fled, many more were captured; in fact as we clambered over the parapet it seemed as if the prisoners who then surrendered exceeded in number our entire Brigade.”

I saw this movement when the men advanced seemingly to me in an undeployed skirmish line over the open flat ground beyond the ravine not shown in No. 7 illustration, but further to the right. It was a weak force and could not have met any determined resistance from any considerable body; indeed there was but a small force of the enemy's infantry on that part of the field.

“But we did not stop to count them or to care for them. The principal position of the enemy in this portion of the field had now been gained, and we rushed onward toward the distant spires of Winchester, with shouts and cheers, now thoroughly excited by our unexpected success. A battery of the enemy was before us, but it limbered up and retired as we advanced. Several times it turned, fired a round of canister, and resumed its flight. At our left the other Brigades of our Division were seen moving on in our support. At our right an unfortunate ridge now rose, parallel with our line of advance, along the top of which ran the road so often referred to, and which hid our friends from view; we could only hope that they were equally successful, and push wildly forward. A point was reached probably three-fourths of a mile beyond the entrenchments where we had captured the prisoners, when luckily a ditch running across our path suggested cover and a pause. This ditch was reached only by the colors of the Fifth, with perhaps two hundred men from the various regiments. Exhausted with running, they opened fire as vigorously as they could, but a line of rebels was seen gradually collecting in their front, as the fugitives were rallied, and the position held by our troops was presently dangerously threatened. And now to their dismay, the Brigade on the higher ground to their left saw reason for retiring and called for them to follow. What it could mean they did not know, but it seemed prudent to withdraw, if only for the purpose of keeping up the connection. An officer sent to investigate soon reported that at least a Division of the enemy were far behind their right in an orchard, which they supposed had been carried by the Third Division. Orders were given therefore to fall back to the line of the army, following the low ground on the left, thus keeping under cover of the hill at the right, the enemy meantime being absorbed in their movement against Ricketts; and thus the detachment successfully escaped from its dangerous position and re-formed with the balance of the Brigade near the works we had carried, being as before on the right of the other Brigades of our Division, connecting with and at first even in front of the support which was put in to meet the emergency.”

Having watched this whole proceeding, which Sheridan saw, too, through his field glass just behind me, after I was wounded and the enemy from the ravine in my front and its artillery were in full retreat, it reads absurdly. The action of the enemy in Col. Walker's front largely depended on that of the enemy in ours, which had been routed and was in full pell mell retreat when Col. Walker's men were advancing in small irregular groups away from the before-mentioned ravine (see No. 7 illustration) they were so seemingly anxious to leave. As a matter of fact if they had swung to the right in and on the high ground west of the ravine, together with the left of our brigade, they would have done much more effective service. The retreating battery mentioned — and others further north not mentioned — retreated because its infantry in the ravine in my front was routed. As a matter of fact these Second Division men were operating comparatively uselessly far on the enemy's rear right flank and were in a dangerous situation as soon as the bulk of the enemy's infantry in my front should reach that neighborhood. I saw this, as did Sheridan, and it was one thing that caused him to put spurs to his horse and dash away to send a staff officer to recall these forces. The five succeeding quoted paragraphs are disingenuously conceived and misleading. They are worse than worthless for historical purposes because mischievous. The Vermont Brigade was too grand a body of men to be mortified by exaggerations and overdrawn situations. The truth is glorious enough, and to write on such a basis is dignified and fair.

“We afterwards learned that a break had taken place on the right which for a time seemed likely to result in complete disaster. The report in our Corps was, that the Nineteenth, advancing through a long stretch of forest and at first successful, had afterwards been repulsed, and fled in disorder, many of the fugitives even going back to the Creek, and that our Third Division had been checked soon after we lost sight of it, presently becoming more or less involved in the flight of the Nineteenth Corps. On the other hand Gen. Emory, commanding the Nineteenth Corps, in a letter published in the World, which was fortified with affidavits, insisted that the break began at the right of our Third Division, which led to the turning of his left and the consequent retiring of his Corps. The official reports disagree as much as the letters of the correspondents, who of course reflected the opinions of the several headquarters to which they were attached, and who created considerable ill-feeling by the discrepancies in their accounts, and by their insinuations; the truth is probably between the claims of both, and the real cause of the enemy's temporary success seems to have been the unfortunate bend in the road above mentioned, which interfered with and destroyed the symmetry of our first advance. Our Third Division obliqued to the left as it moved against the enemy, following the order to guide on the road, (there were few or no fences in that vicinity) and so left an interval between its right and the Nineteenth Corps, which appears to have gone in impetuously and with little order; the enemy presently made a counter-charge, and, luckily for them, struck the gap with a heavy force, crumbling off the troops on either side of it, and causing the troops on each side of the interval to think that the others had let the enemy through. The front line of the Nineteenth Corps was almost entirely disorganized, and was replaced by the second line, while only the right of our Third Division was broken up, its left with our own Division merely retiring a short distance under orders, as was necessary in order to keep a continuous front.”

This is widely erroneous; Emery's left was somewhat broken at first by the terrific shelling from our front, but it was only in the edge of the shell storm at first when going through the wood. His alleged collapse virtually of the right of our Third Division, or Second Brigade, going through the narrow belt of timber behind which we formed, is correct as before stated, for it was immediately on my right, and I know it; it was largely what we halted and laid down for after getting through the timber. We feared being flanked; but the delay was short, for I almost immediately moved forward with my men and others alone over that flat, unsheltered ground, then being unmercifully swept by artillery and musketry till it was virtually untenable. The Nineteenth Corps instead of obliquing to the left towards us to shorten the interval and help us, intuitively obliqued the other way; but fortunately there was no road or bend in it to blame it to. In my opinion it was as clear a case of shirk as to the left of the Third Division, or a desire to find an easier point to attack. Emery's corps didn't retire that I know of, and our brigade I know didn't. The marching of his troops in two long lines was one of the spectacular sights of the day; it was a beautiful feature. It assaulted to the north of the slight divide running east and west, where I saw no infantry nor artillery except a little of the latter far across the breaks. The enfilading infantry and artillery fire from our front at first was about all Emery had to fear, but his Corps soon obliqued away from it. There was no counter charge by the enemy in my front or to either side, and in this I am emphatic, as well as in the fact that general officers were not where they could see as well as I. There has been more fiction written about this fight than any I was ever in.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 187-92

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 11

The following pertaining to Sheridan's battle of Winchester has been discovered since writing the foregoing. It will be answered in detail. Says Col. Aldace F. Walker in his “History of the Vermont Brigade in the Shenandoah Valley, 1864,” pp. 91-100:

“Our movement commenced at 3 o'clock Monday morning, September 19th, Getty's Division having the advance, the Vermont Brigade being the last in the Division. Striking directly across the country, at first in the darkness, we presently reached the main road from Berryville to Winchester, and moved down it to the crossing of the Opequan. This stream is considerably below the level of the adjoining country, and the road on its further side keeps the low level of the stream for a mile or more, winding through a long, tortuous wooded ravine, our unobstructed passage whereof was for the time a mystery. It seems that Wilson's Division of cavalry had already cleared the way and was then holding desperately a position that it had gained with considerable loss, but which proved a most admirable one in which to deploy our line of battle.

“As we filed out of the ravine which toward the last was lined with wounded cavalrymen, we found Sheridan, his headquarters fixed on a conspicuous elevation, personally superintending from the commencement the operations of the day. It was to be our first battle under his command, as well as his first independent battle; the troops were hitherto destitute of all enthusiasm for him; fortunately, however, no impression save a favorable one had as yet been received, it being universally conceded that he had so far handled his army handsomely. And it was with great satisfaction that we found him in this early twilight at the very front, and under the fire of the enemy, carefully attending to details which we had been accustomed to see more celebrated commanders entrust to their staff.

“Our Division promptly relieved the cavalry and formed its line facing west, the Third Brigade which was in advance going to what was to be the extreme left of the infantry line, resting on Abraham Creek; the First Brigade following, took up its position on the right of the Third, and our own Brigade filled the remaining distance between the First and the road on which we had reached the battlefield. It had been intended to place us in two lines, but the unexpected extent of the ground we had to cover forbade that formation. We were just on the hither edge of a narrow fringe of wood that concealed us from the enemy; the Sixth Vermont was thrown forward as a skirmish line perhaps one hundred yards to the further side of the little forest, and at once engaged the enemy's skirmishers.”

About three regiments, I believe, of the First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps, were to the left or south of the road, so the Vermont Brigade didn't reach to the pike.

“Near us in the road at our right was a rebel field work, taken by Wilson in the night. The hill on which it was situated commanded the country in both directions, and it was already occupied by a battery engaged in feeling the enemy, which was answered vigorously, many of the rebel shell plunging over into the troops as they successively came up the road.

“Our Division thus formed in a single line was the only Division on the south or left of the road. The Third Division, Ricketts’, followed us and prolonged the line across and on the north of the road, placing its two Brigades in two lines. The First Division, Russell's, came next, and was drawn up behind the Third as a third line or reserve, also somewhat overlapping the right of our Brigade.”

About three regiments or more of the Third Division, Sixth Corps, I believe, were south of the road, on the right of the Second Division. When General Russell's Division charged it was about two hundred yards to the right of the Tenth Vermont, or about seven hundred yards or more to the right of Col. Walker's brigade.

“Then to our surprise no more troops appeared, and our Corps was alone confronting the enemy. There were two or three anxious hours, but Early was engaged in hurrying up his detachment from Bunker Hill, which this delay gave him ample time to do, and made no assault. It was said that the Nineteenth Corps, being ordered to follow the Sixth, had filed into the road behind our wagon train, instead of keeping closed up on our column. It is certain that with this loss of time, from whatever reason it occurred, we lost the opportunity of attacking the enemy in detail, and gave him time to prepare for our reception. It was noon before the Nineteenth Corps had reached its place and was formed in three or four lines on the right of the Sixth.”

The Nineteenth Corps was formed in two lines on the right of the Sixth.

“Our men during the forenoon had been resting, sitting or lying on the ground. When at last the disposition was completed and the signal gun was fired, they sprang to the ranks, and the line advanced. Particular instructions had been received to the effect that the road was to give the direction of attack, and that the guiding regiment was to be the left regiment of the Third Division, just across the road from our right.”

The guiding regiments were the Tenth Vermont and Fourteenth New Jersey, on the right of the First Brigade, about the center of the Third Division.

“In passing through the bit of trees in our front, which was filled with underbrush, our line was necessarily thrown somewhat into confusion. When we emerged from the wood and the ground over which we must make our attack was developed, the prospect was appalling. The hill gradually sloped away before us, for a quarter of a mile, to a long ravine, irregular in its course, but its windings extending either way as far as we could see. The ascent beyond it was in most places sharp, and the enemy held its crest in force, perfectly commanding with musketry and artillery the long slope down which we must pass, though the acclivity on the further side of the hollow was so steep as to actually present a cover from their fire—if it could once be reached.

“When this fearful prospect opened the line involuntarily halted, and the men threw themselves on the ground as was their wont when under fire. Our own Brigade was properly waiting for the movement of the guiding regiment which lay across the road a little to our rear, and which could not be prevailed upon to stir. To add to the peril of the situation, the road, instead of continuing straight on, as seems to have been expected, here made a bend to the left so that our original orders could not be obeyed without an amount of obliquing that would have resulted in demoralization; from this cause our own Brigade was soon afterwards thrown into temporary confusion, and the Third Division was presently so disorganized as to be unable to resist a counter-charge made against it by the enemy.”

The whole line in front of the enemy's infantry in the ravine in front of the Third Division halted after through the narrow belt of timber behind which we had formed, as the trees, brush and terrible shelling had broken the lines and the advanced men where I was laid down to avoid the storm of shells which filled the air till the men got together, which they soon largely did. It was here found the Second Brigade on my right had excusably gone to pieces, the ground in its front being untenable, which caused some delay; but soon we advanced alone without that Brigade, as did the Nineteenth Corps. This was why the Tenth Vermont or guiding regiment, at this time where I was, didn't move forward sooner. The bend to the left in the road is largely a myth. The line of battle wasn't formed at right angles with it which, as the line advanced led to some confusion, as our colors had to be kept on the pike. There was no counter charge in front of where I was in the Tenth Vermont or disorganization, except in the Second Brigade, but what was soon remedied. The enemy could do more effective work by remaining in cover with little loss, which it did.

“At length the commander of the Brigade at our right crossed to our side of the road and urged us to set his men the example. Col. Warner took the responsibility, brought the Brigade to its feet, corrected the alignment, and gave the command to advance, which was promptly obeyed. The Third Division followed and the line was again in motion. But our point of direction was lost, for we were in advance of our guides, and when it was seen that owing to a curve in the ravine before us the cover on its further side could be reached much sooner by obliquing sharply to the left, we took that direction almost by common consent, and left the road-side.”

Why shouldn't Col. Warner with virtually no enemy in his immediate front be able to set an example of advancing his line when the Third Division was up against the real thing, it being confronted with overwhelming numbers of the enemy's infantry in the ravine and artillery back of it in our immediate front pretty much all that confronted the army in that midday assault? The situation in front of our lines is fully explained in this work elsewhere, and an alleged “bend” in the road or a “curve” in the ravine will not suffice to excuse the troops on our immediate left for not at once helping to flank the enemy's infantry from in front of us in the ravine, at once when on high ground across the ravine instead of running off on the field on a comparatively useless easy task and then have to come back. Where was there any infantry of any amount except in the ravine in front of the Third Division? Why not give the Third Division its due? The killed and wounded tell the story. Didn't our Division have about as many killed and wounded as both the First and Second Divisions together, although smaller than either? No fair-minded soldier or person can study the illustrations even, in this work, and fail to see the facts.

“Our whole Brigade, every man at the top of his speed, making for the coveted protection of the hill beyond us, plunged pell mell into the hollow. The troops at our right and left were lost sight of. The ravine was of some considerable width and its bottom was marshy, being the head waters of a little branch of Abraham Creek. The steep slope on its further side was covered with evergreens six or eight feet high. To our intense consternation, as we reached its swampy bottom, we saw at our right, at short pistol range, at least a full regiment of the enemy drawn up in line near the point where the road crosses the hollow, in anticipation of our taking precisely the course we did, and firing coolly, as rapidly as they could load, directly along our line, thus enfilading us completely. Its position is indicated on the plan. The slaughter was for a few moments murderous. We could not retreat, for we should again enter the fire that had been mowing us down in the charge, now cut off by the hill before us. We therefore floundered on, our coherence entirely lost, entered the clusters of evergreens through which the cruel bullets whistled fearfully, and at last, a confused mass at best, those of us who escaped unhurt reached comparative safety under the very crest of the hill, and high above the deadly hollow.”

The probabilities are that old soldier-like seeing or suspecting the true situation, the men intuitively or purposely obliqued away to an easier place of attack; at any rate they did it. Yes, the rebel regiment which was seen in the ravine was in front of the left of our brigade, but crossed to the north side of the pike to my front early in the fight leaving no rebel force in the ravine south of the pike in front of the Second Division on the left of ours.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 180-6

Monday, April 24, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 10

So far as this first assault is concerned it can be summed up quite briefly. The only considerable amount of the enemy's infantry in the immediate front of the Union infantry line of battle was in the ravine in front of our division, and it was about two hundred and fifty yards away from where we formed line behind the woods; it was a very strong force. If the troops to our right and left instead of instinctively obliquing away from us veteran like to an easier place in their right and left fronts respectively, had guided on our division as it is claimed they were directed to do, they would have had an enfilading fire on the enemy on our front, the same as General Russell's division would have had when it filled the gap to my right which the enemy knew would make their position untenable and so instantaneously retreated in a rout when it saw him coming dangerously near, his right flank overlapping their left. When Russell's movement was executed the Nineteenth Corps' lines of battle hadn't even broken. There was no considerable number of the enemy before it within striking distance so far as I could see, and therefore nothing to break its lines so far as the enemy was concerned until it reached the breaks in its front.

The Vermont Brigade could have easily advanced at any time of the assault or any other part of the Second Division, as there was nothing to speak of — as virtually acknowledged by Colonel Aldace F. Walker of that brigade in his “History of the Vermont Brigade in the Shenandoah Valley, 1864”— in its immediate front except about a regiment of the enemy which crossed the pike from his right and the left of our Brigade to my front.* (See No. 7 illustration). Had the Vermont Brigade borne to its right instead of its left it would have done much more effective service, as it would have been on high ground overlooking the enemy in my front when out of the ravine. In this instance the credit given this excellent brigade in at least one Civil War history is erroneous, without the Third Division was expected to whip at once and alone a considerable part of the infantry and artillery of Early's army in its immediate front, no small part of which was in our regimental front and its immediate right. In proof that there was no considerable rebel force in front of the Second Division to the left of the pike until Early's second stand, the reader is invited to examine the official War Department map of this battle and note the fact; but aside from this I know there was none. What, therefore, was to prevent the Second Division or Vermont Brigade from advancing? Unlike our front, where the strip of timber was narrow, with the enemy strongly posted just beyond, the scrub or second growth oak, etc., in front of a part of the Second Division next to us, extended from the top of the ridge or divide which ran several hundred yards southerly, down to the bottom of the ravine a hundred yards more or less, which covered here the Second Division's advance and the cleared ground beyond, after emerging from the wooded side hill and ravine towards Winchester, contained no force of the enemy, as there was no immediate protection for it, sufficient to prevent its or even the Vermont Brigade's advancing, or the enemy would have done so. (See Nos. 3, 7 and 8 illustrations.) I mention this here because I know the facts in the premises, and because this Division is complimented —unfortunately, but probably unwittingly so — in one or more histories for advancing, in unpleasant contrast to our Division, which was up against the real thing, and its advancing depended largely on the help or enfilading fire along our front, we had a right to expect from the troops which should have guided on us from both flanks, but which we never got, as they pulled away from us. It was useless to try to take such a place as confronted the right of our regiment and Division by assaulting from its immediate front (see Nos. 5 and 6 illustrations), as the enemy had to be flanked out of its position, which is what Russell's men would have done on the rebel left in case the enemy hadn't seen them in season to get away and thereby saved many casualties on both sides, and probably largely there the enemy's capture.

There were none of the Second Brigade of our Division on my right after advancing through the woods, nor had there been up to the time General Russell's command filled the gap occasioned by the Second Brigade's absence, together with the space caused by the Nineteenth Corps obliquing to its right. It being level, shell and bullet swept, it was untenable until a force came large enough to drive the enemy's infantry from cover, as Russell did. (See No. 5 illustration). I was the only officer except Adjutant Wyllys Lyman, who is deceased, so far ahead at that time on my part of the battlefield, and I can make affidavit to this statement. We and a goodly number of scattering men who generally led in most assaults were within a rod of the enemy's strongest manned works, which no map in existence shows that I have seen, where I was twice almost instantaneously wounded when the enemy ran as it saw General Russell's Division coming, as though their lives depended upon it, and I know whereof I am writing.

General Sheridan made no mistake when he selected the First Brigade for the centre and most important point of his line of battle, nor was it a mistake to place our regiment and the Fourteenth New Jersey — with direction for the rest of the army to guide on our Division in the first assault, for the road was practically straight — squarely across the pike, with their colors on it, with such men as Corporals Alexander Scott, F. H. Hoadley, Tenth Vermont, and other of the color guard like them, to keep them there, for such men would go wherever told to, if into the very jaws of death. The leaving off from the official map of this battle of the enemy's infantry in the ravine in front of the Third Division (see Nos. 6 and 8 illustrations), is a great injustice to our regiment, which never wholly fell back, but the usual per cent. of men under such circumstances stubbornly pressed forward under the most trying circumstances at any rate where I was. The leaving off of the enemy's infantry in my front, where it was strongest, is misleading and is doubtless what has caused so many wrong descriptions of this fight. No one can give a correct description of it where I was except at that point during the fight. The enemy contested this point more stubbornly than any other during the day and it was here the most intrepid of our men assaulted; it was the doorway to the great battlefield, and if the enemy couldn't hold this point it couldn't hope to any other, and didn't. Although our division was smaller than either of the other divisions of our Corps, its loss was much heavier. General Grant had one hundred shotted guns fired on his lines in front of Petersburg in honor of this day's victory by Sheridan. A citizen of Winchester told me that one of the saddest things he saw during the day was a horse going through the streets of the city with two badly wounded and one dead Confederate soldiers on it — probably chums — the latter thrown over the horse's back with his head and arms hanging on one side and his feet on the other; but war is a cruel teacher and produces the most shocking sights imaginable. It is not pleasant to record and much less dwell on them.

No. 9 – Straight view of about a half mile of the pike looking westerly towards Winchester, Va., from the divide on Sheridan's battle-field, Sept. 10. 1864. Observe the cut through the divide for the road. 

* Haynes’ “History of the Tenth Vermont Infantry,” p. 253.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 175-80