The Battle of Fredericksburg;
Dec. 11th-15th, 1862

Part 2; More Stories

“High up in the air, near Falmouth, a huge balloon was stationed, from which a fine view of bad generalship could be had.” — A Soldier in the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.

Buddy Secor; Slaughter Pen Farm, b & w photo

“Slaughter Pen Farm” photographed by Buddy Secor.

Table of Contents


This page offers 3 wonderfully detailed accounts of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers at the battle of Fredericksburg.  These stories were un-available when I posted the original narrative in 2012.   Collectively, the new material presented here provides information associated with 3 of the 4  fatal casualties suffered by the regiment at the battle.  They are Charles Armstrong,  C. J. Taylor and Edmond H. Kendall.  (Information on the fourth fatality, George E. Bigelow,  is posted at the "Year's End" page of this website).  The most comprehensive detail here, is found in Private Bourne Spooner’s memoir titled “In The Ranks.”  It was sent to me by Maxine Glenn, a direct descendant of Private Spooner.

Maxine transcribed the document from the original hand-written memoir.  Private Spooner relates his experiences on the skirmish line with precise detail.

A second new source is the story from Bivouac magazine published in 1884, possibly written by Lieutenant Edward Rollins, Company D, a veteran of the regiment, and one of the 3 editors of Bivouac magazine.  This anecdote recounts Edmond H. Kendall’s ominous conversation with his friend Gilbert H. Greenwood the day before the battle.

The third new reference posted here, is a Worcester, Massachusetts newspaper article, authored by a veteran of the regiment in 1870.  He recreates the emotional drama experienced by the men as the impending battle approached.  This article titled, “The First Defeat at Fredericksburg” opens the page.

Sam Webster and John S. Fay's memoirs found here, were posted on the original Fredericksburg page of this website in 2012, but they are equally remarkable accounts of the regiment in battle.  Fay describes the furtive retreat of the Army of the Potomac, back across the Rappahannock river to safety.  A detachmentl of 13th Mass. pickets under command of Major J. P. Gould were among the very last troops to re-cross, thus ending General Burnside's campaign.

A Note About The Photographs

Buddy Secor, portrait

This page is graced with the images of photographer Buddy Secor.

Buddy Secor of Fredericksburg, has granted me permission to use his work in the past.  More of his images can be viewed on flickr under the pseudonym "ninja pix."  Buddy lends his talents to the American Battlefield Trust.  He took the Grand Prize in the Trust's 2012 photograph competition, and he took 2nd Place in 2010 at the National Cherry Blossom Festival of Washington, D.C.

His haunting landscapes of the Slaughter Pen Farm, where the 13th Massachusetts fought, and his close up soldier portraits [re-enactors] add greatly to the  recreation of these  dramatic events and the corresponding emotions evoked in the narratives.  The work transcends the aesthetics of this page.

See more of Buddy's photos here:  Ninja Pix.

PICTURE CREDITS:    All images are from the Library of Congress digital images collection, with the following exceptions:  Turkey in flight from Wikimedia Commons; Charles Reed illustrations from New York Public Library Digital Collections,  [];  "The Federal Attack at the Slaughter Pen Farm" from Battles & Leaders of the Civil War, People's Pictoral Edition, Century Company, New York, 1894.; Portrait of Private Bourne Spooner from Frohne's Historic Military Auctions, Oshkosh, Wisconsin;  General Nelson Taylor's image is from the (now defunct) website "Generals and Brevets,";  Captain Augustine Harlow, Co. D,  is from the Army Heritage Education Center, Digital Image database, Mass. MOLLUS Collection;  The Brushfire image was found at accompanying the article "Brushfire Season Arrived with a Vengeance..." by Peter R. Barber, April 23, 2018;  Corporal George Henry Hill from Hill's descendant, Carol Robbins, sent by Alan Arnold; The Frederic Remington illustration of three soldiers examining their sore feet is from Civil War Times Illustrated; The photographs of the battlefield marker for Taylor's brigade were taken by Susan Forbush, when we toured the battlefield together in 2012;  Buddy Secor's photographs include:  The Slaughter Pen Farm at Sunset, (two images), soldiers around the campfire, and the brass battery crew in action.  ALL  IMAGES have been EDITED in PHOTOSHOP.

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National Aegis, Worcester, Mass; The First Defeat at Fredericksburg

This article has a good description of the psychological strain on a soldier during the approach to battle — if read carefully through the narrator's hyperbole.

National Aegis, Worcester Mass. March 5, 1870.

The First Defeat at Fredericksburg.
By a Member of the 13th Massachusetts Regiment.

[From the Sunday Times.]

Wild Turkey in flight

We had been gizzagging from Aquia Creek, Va., in a series of bivouacs and camps, more or less in the snow, with as little knowledge of the morrow’s direction of route as the children of Israel had in the desert.  Three recent facts had reduced us to the indifference of fatalism;  the first was that a chartered vessel at Washington, half laden with our Thanksgiving dinner from home, had been officially taken to transport Government stores to Beaufort.  The second was our New England regiment celebrating that time honored day, in dining upon an average of four hard tack each.  The third was a wild turkey  flying over the camp, chased by the regiment, without success, and the subsequent aggravation, half an hour after, of the delusive bird being seen to come out of some brush near the surgeon’s tent and fly off.  Could more trying circumstances afflict the Yankee mind?  Nevertheless, we did the best to show our value of the present moment by continually building huts, of which we left specimens in all stages of progress at each halt, accordingly to the length of stay.

When we were ordered to break camp it was always done cheerfully, with a vague hope of  “something turning up,” at least by way of change, to occupy the mind which otherwise was in a mental eddy caused by the uncertain current of events.  We finally settled down in a wood a few miles below Falmouth, and, happy in a flooring of corn stalks, luckily found, crawled under our little shelters — the last order to commanders of companies being, to be ready to rise at 2 A.M., to march at 3 o’clock towards the Rappahannock (some three miles distant,) by which we understood the grand advance, or another experiment with the Army of the Potomac of  “On to Richmond” was to be made.  The intelligence was received mechanically, and the sleep of irresponsibility came as usual.  But in my case it was interrupted about one in the morning by the Adjutant breathing through the cotton roof the delicious intelligence that the signals would be one hour later.  A new lease of additional sixty minutes of unconscious happiness.  “Very good,” I replied in a double sense, and with a half paralyzed ejaculation of thankfulness, rolled oblivious on the corn stalks, whereof may the owner be blessed for not knowing we were coming to appreciate his thrift!  And touching these stalks — as other needful things on our route it was marvelous how the military mind put itself in the way of special dispensations, only in one case thwarted as by a shrewd Virginian, who, hearing of our approach, immediately got out all his teams, and laying violent hands on his fences, transported the same to his house, where searches after fuel were “brought up” by a sentry (procured from the General.)

Charles Reed Sketch; Canteen Wash

Rat tat-tat, etc., made the order a reality.  Indistinct figures, with weird gesticulation, groped about for the locality of last evening’s fire, yawns, coughings, sneezes and heads colliding with trees with emphatic verbal detonations, gradually gave life to the thick grove of wood.  Hatchets clicked in every direction, and an hundred little flames illuminated groups whose shadows loomed gigantic.  Canteens clattered away in the direction of a newly discovered spring.  Horses whinnied for their scant supply of corn, and the mules made night hideous with their horrible cries.  Men who had been outside the wood blundered back in the wrong directions.  The headquarters' wagon was loaded with lantern assistance, and much private swearing by the “detail.”  More shrieking by the mules, and a  nasal tremolo from the horses for corn, and the wagons creaked away, swaying and jolting amid many anathemas by the teamsters.

Every one was quietly disposing of his well earned meal, when a dull heavy rumbling roar of a cannon some miles up the river was heard, followed by a confused jumble of sounds, coming nearer from camp to camp till it resolved into cheering, which we took up in turn.  The drum rattled confusion increased, the cries of “fall in” in various directions.  There was a quick consumption of the last drops of coffee and bits of hard bread, scrambling into equipments and search after missing articles, and the fires died out as the companies silently filed out of the wood into the open ground, and looked undefined to one another in the dark gray atmosphere.

The crisp snow crackled under the feet as we filed through paths in the wood, silent and with an increasing sense of coming danger.  The darkness slowly gave way to the cold light, defining the gaunt trees that seemed to pass us in review for the last time.  Peculiar apathy stole over us, and when any word was spoken, the voice sounded vibratory, and the response was in an absent one.  We passed pickets of cavalry, men and horses looking wearied with the night watch.  We mentally calculated how far from the river we were and what resistance would be offered at the crossing; or, how soon the pontoon bridges would break up when the still air was broken upon by a crash of artillery — the rapid discharges mingling with the whiz !  and bursting of shells in a continuous roar.  The confusion, as to the positive direction of the fire, was increased by the echoing and rattling among the leafless branches of the forest about us.

Several men were at this time much deranged in their internal economy (a fact,) and were allowed to fall out.  A few looked blanched, and hardly any one but felt peculiarly uncertain, and extremely anxious to know the worst and have it over.  So the step became a brisk one, till finally we came out in the more open ground, where the general hospital tents were pitched.  Here we ascertained that the firing had been exclusively from our side.  It appeared that the lower pontoon bridge (near which we were,) had been nearly completed under cover of a heavy mist on the river, when the engineers were discovered by a rebel regiment on picket near by, who opened at once a brisk fire of musketry which brought a hail of shells in reply, driving them back to hills nearly a mile distant.  These elevations, occupied by the enemy, commanded the general level towards the river, while our nearer positions controlled the stream, and could protect the crossing.  Fredericksburg, two miles above, was still under fire, to dislodge sharpshooters from the nearest houses, which was done so late that the grand crossing after some movements in the evening, was deferred till the following day.

Franklin's Crossing

Pontoon bridges at "Franklin's Crossing" 2 1/2 miles below Fredericksburg, VA., laid April 29, 1863 — From plain above river bottom Bridges were laid here in December, 1862.  Taken May 2, 1863 by Andrew J. Russell.   Click to View Larger

The succeeding morning, while the mist still hung in the river and lowlands, saw the army in motion and advancing to the bridges, which would allow ten thousand to pass in an hour.  Our brigade crossed among the earliest and rested in close order on the opposite bank from which was witnessed the magnificent sight of thousands pouring from the wood openings as far as the eye could see above and below.  The plain was black with them, one mass of bayonets glistening in the morning sun — all converging to the bridges, with artillery and cavalry streaming along, the organizations marked by the bright red stripes of the national colors, or the blue and white of the battle flags disappearing at a run down one bank, to double quick up the opposite one with ringing cheers, every man in heavy marching order as a band near the bridge played “Dixie.”  Meanwhile the enemy, as if unwilling  to disturb so superb an exhibition, manifested no objection; their skirmishers or pickets falling back as we deployed and advanced, deliberately going over the fences without a shot from either side till the general body of our wing of the army finished deploying and rested for completion of the movements on the right near Fredericksburg.

Buddy Secor Photo; Slaughter Pen Farm at Sunset

The Slaughter Pen Farm, Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park, as photographed by Buddy Secor.  Confederate troops were positioned in the woods on the horizon line.  The 13th Mass were deployed as skirmishers in the foreground fields..  This is an excellent representation of the landscape as they viewed it back at the Bowling Green Road the night of the 12th, December.

Our regiment remained in the road [parallel with the hills] on picket duty, and as night drew near, we could mark by the smoke of camp fires the encircling rebel lines, and the outposts of the enemy within rifle shot, the men on duty being visible against the mist rising in the lower ground near the wooded hills beyond.  The sharp cutting wind swept across the field, rendering rest almost impossible, the fires burning one side, while the opposite side was chilled to the vitals.  The enemy set fire to some buildings between the lines, illuminating the neighborhood, and bringing into relief thousands of our men, who swarmed to the fences curious to make out the cause.  Numberless axes were heard on the rebel side, cutting down trees for obstructions to our expected advance on the morrow, and the novel sound of a dog fight was heard somewhere among them.

The morning was enshrouded in heavy dampness as we arose and made hurried preparations for a breakfast.  It had hardly been enjoyed before orders for a forward movement came;  our regiment, on picket, being required to advance over the fence as skirmishers.  The moment our boys leaped into the field (ploughed ground of damp clay earth) the vigilant enemy made the air sing with their bullets, firing as they retreated, occasionally disabling a man, till, after proceeding a few hundred yards, the various lines were ordered to lie down, the skirmishers keeping up a brisk fire.  Two of the enemy’s batteries, respectively opposite the extreme right and left of our portion of the general line, (under Franklin,) opened diagonally upon us with such accuracy of aim that unquestionably they had the distances well established.  Both of these were silenced by the superior working of our pieces; for, like our cavalry, the artillery had as a whole attained superior character to that of the enemy.

Artist Alfred Waud's sketch of Gen. Humphreys Attack on Marye's Heights

Alfred R. Waud sketch of General A. A. Humphries' attack against the stone wall.  The general appears in the middle of this sketch tipping his hat.

The misfortunes of the day going on in the rear of the city were unknown to us.  If ever men in this war were slaughtered blindly, it was there.  Meanwhile we remained quiet, expecting each moment the order for advance, and receiving a sprinkling of leaden pellets in exchange for our own skirmishers' efforts, who were only twenty paces in front of our first line.  Being in heavy marching order the weight of the knapsack had overbalanced many in the act of lying down, plunging them head foremost into the miry soil that besmeared all, causing much humorous comment on one another’s appearance.

sketch of General Meade's attack at Fredericksburg

The Federal Attack on the Slaughter Pen Farm.  Union troops rush over the railroad tracks in their front, and into the woods beyond where they meet the enemy, for a knock-down, drag-out fight.

The day was passing well into the afternoon, and for hours the troops had lain in the mud.  The skirmish line were getting out of ammunition, which, being reported to the General, orders came for them to retire for a supply; but hardly had they passed the first line on the ridge opposite our left, when the thin blue smoke of musketry began to run along.  At the same time the batteries increased their fire, all the troops rose up, and immediately after both lines advanced at a quick step — and along the whole front one continuous crackling of musketry went up, with screaming shell and all the noise and confusing movements of battle, among which could be heard shouting.  One regiment alone faltered (but it was not an Eastern one,) and with oaths and threats was driven forward; while as an opposite case a Maine regiment, of no experience and little thought of, [16 Maine — B.F.] dashed at once into the thick of the affair and literally ran over a rebel light battery.  Nearly every gun of the reserves appeared to be in motion.  Troops in line, by the flank or in column, were moving up at the double quick, regiment after regiment, bearing the dear old flag pointing forward from every direction, and one after another swallowed up in the bluish gray smoke of battle that hung like a pall of death above the declivity, and among the trees of the elevations beyond.

A Zouave regiment running by the flank was easily marked by their bright scarlet dress till they were lost in the confusion.  [Collis Zouaves — B.F.]  From the opposite side of the river our batteries gave their most rapid fire of shells, which screamed above the host fighting beneath.  The enemy’s artillery was not idle, throwing shot and spattering mud even among our men who were filing their cartridge boxes near the distant ammunition wagons by the river bank.  Caissons were hurriedly filling up and driving off at the gallop, and in the midst of these some one hundred and fifty prisoners were brought in, who expressed a wish to be “taken out of range.”  Near by amputations were going on in a large stone mansion, stretchers and ambulances coming and going with their fearful loads, and a stream of wounded men able to walk, proceeding over the bridges to the hospitals on the opposite bank.  High up in the air, near Falmouth, a huge balloon was stationed, from which a fine view of bad generalship could be had.

Frank Lumley Illustration of Wounded be carried to hospitals at Fredericksburg

The approach of night brought back to order the broken ranks, and rest to wearied limbs.  Between the picket lines lay the dead and mortally wounded of either side, waiting for the blessed flag of truce to remove them on the morrow.  Meanwhile, as one disabled man has told, they lay almost too frozen to groan.  Fortunately, during the two successive days of the battle there was fair weather, so that many wounded could lie with some comfort upon straw outside the crowded hospital tents.  The scene here (on the north side of the river) had been busy with ambulances, discharging their loads and departing for more.  Men selected for operations were continually being carried on stretchers to the house and exhibited general eagerness for the opportunity and impatience when delayed.  Men with recently amputated limbs showed little of the prostration common in home hospitals, and often sat or stood up, with apparent freedom from much suffering, conversing or reading, or lay quiet, observant of what was going on.  Some carried in for operation held closely clasped a Testament, miniature, or other probably association with home.  One poor fellow being told he had but a few minutes to live, turned his mind to the other world, and sank away with the language of the blessed Word upon his lips.  In the pocket of another on the point of burial was found a small Testament, with the injunction upon a fly-leaf, that if he “should die upon the field of battle or in a hospital,” that the reader would communicate with his friends as addressed.

Among the many sufferers, but little noise could be heard except, perhaps, one delirious.  At night there was a faint moaning, with an occasional sigh or groan, but the delirious man would shout imploringly to the phantom doctor he thought had neglected him.

Occasionally some hospital attendant, lantern in hand, would pick his way quickly to a surgeon’s quarters, from which shortly he would be joined by the occupant, to return and enter one of the large hospital tents, a corner of which would be illuminated and marked with a giant shadow of the doctor stooping over some sufferer.  A murmur of voices would be heard and the attendant would hurry out for some essential, and bring perhaps another surgeon.  The shadows flickered confused against the canvas; words of direction, in short decisive tones, and a sudden misfortune is met with a prompt and skillful remedy.  There is a momentary pause, and a hand, administering a stimulant or sedative, partially shuts off the light. For short time silence follows, when the watchers, reassured, come out of the tent, the principal surgeon leaving brief instructions with the attendant, who softly returns to the patient, examines him curiously, and setting down his lantern once more appears in the open air, yawns, wearily, rumples his hair about in a feverish way, and with dry eyes gazes around confusedly, when a noise of tossing about in the tent again makes him all alert, and darting in he finds his restless patient making effort to rise.  The touch of control on the half delirious man is answered by remonstrative accents in unintelligible fragments of syllables.  “Lie quiet, old fellow,” says the attendant, trying to readjust the displaced blanket.   The familiar tones arouse to consciousness the dreamer, and staring for a moment, he says : — “Jim, is it you?   I thought it was sunrise at home — give us some water, — I’m as hot as ——— .”   The wounded man with a half sigh, half groan, and yet refreshed, again lies down as his friend arranges his pillows of straw, and props up the disabled limb.

wounded men at a field hospital, close up

Outside the tents are the more slightly wounded men, lying in rows near the fence, and other favorable localities. One doubled up against a tree and half stripped, is sorely hurt but not dangerously, in the stomach, and, thus propped up as the most comfortable position, is almost immovable.

Another hurt in the feet, probably, and with some object in view, moves along on hands and knees.  Excepting these, most lie motionless upon the straw and are oblivious of suffering.

The day brings with it the relief of light and dressed wounds.  Rapidly the ambulances convey to the railroad load after load of the wounded or the disabled sick.  The long blue lines of infantry on the opposite side of the river stretching for miles, facing the elevations occupied by the enemy, still remained undemonstrative, the occasional crack of a sharpshooter’s rifle alone exhibiting the belligerent relation between the opposite forces.  It was evident that the initiative must soon be taken by one party or the other, and a possible success of another engagement would leave the Federal forces in a very depleted condition.  The propriety of recrossing the river was recognized by the commanding officer — Gen. Burnside — and acted on at night.  The entire army was brought safely over, none knowing of the general movement till daybreak disclosed the act to the astonished enemy as well, who captured only some of our pilfering “bummers’ in the city, and a solitary Zouave in his shelter upon the opposite bank, who were led away to the great satisfaction of our men.

Thus ended another game of military “blind man’s buff” with the only army where its leaders were not allowed their common sense and judgement.

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Private Bourne Spooner's Memoirs

Private Bourne Spooner's recollections are vivid and make the reader almost feel as if he were present with the soldiers on the battlefield.   He mentions his comrades Edmond H. Kendall,  Charles Armstrong, and Charles J. Taylor.  The 3 of them were recruits of 1862, who joined the regiment in the field near Cedar Mountain, August 18, just in time to participate in General John Pope's disastrous retreat in the Summer of '62.    All three of these men were Fredericksburg fatalities, and Spooner describes the circumstances of their deaths.  He mentions the wounding of Corporals William R. Champney and George Lyford, who were both eventually mustered out of the service because of the wounds they received here.  Comrades Gilbert H. Greenwood, Walter C. Thompson, and Captain Augustine Harlow are also present in this narrative of the battle.

Detailed as it is, Spooner's memoir was written post-war, and a few of his details differ slightly with some other accounts.  A brief discussion of these discrepancies follows the memoir.

In the Ranks
Transcribed by Maxine Glenn


Private Bourne Spooner, Company D

After reaching the neighborhood of Fredericksburg we encamped for some days somewhere between Falmouth and Aquia Creek.  The weather was clear, but cold, and we had only our thin shelter tents for housings.  I remember one place in particular where we camped on a bleak side hill.  During the daytime we were in a state of partial thaw, while every night after roll call at nine o’clock, the men would huddle in front of their company quarters around campfires and when passably warmed would creep into their dog kennels, button up the canvas as well as they could, huddle up with all the clothing they could muster, two or three together, and then try to sleep.  Even in our sleep, however, there was an all pervading sense of discomfort, and at last the chill would be decided enough to wake one up entirely.  Then, one by one, the men would creep out of their canvas tents, gather together the embers or go off in the dark in quest of more fuel, and soon all hands would be out again around the fire.  Thus, this process would be repeated, sometimes three or four times a night.

If we should ask why at this time the soldiers could not keep themselves warm, night and day, the reply is that in military movements at this late season a good deal of suffering from the cold is inevitable, because one cannot conveniently carry on his back in the day’s march enough clothing to keep him even tolerably warm in the night’s bivouac.  Thus, the one prevailing sentiment of the army at that time naturally was to go into “winter quarters.”  The temper of the northern people at this time, however, was strongly “on to Richmond,” and the correspondents in the field reflected this spirit at home in their communications, rather than represented the actual state of feeling in the army.  Thus, a good deal of deception was kept up throughout the war, and the army was always represented as “spoiling for a fight,” when in fact it was always in the latter years of the war pacifically inclined and never wished for an encounter unless under favorable circumstances with good chances for success.

My narrative brings me now close on to the great battle of Fredericksburg.  It appears that when the army first moved into this locality the town of Fredericksburg might easily have been secured.  It was but feebly garrisoned by a mere lookout post, as the main body of Lee’s army, having the outer circle in the march, was stretched along the whole distance between Fredericksburg and the lower Blue Ridge passes.  As the golden opportunity was not seized, Lee took the natural advantage of this oversight and strongly fortified the Fredericksburg heights, which were naturally defensible.

View of Fredericksburg from Confederate High Ground

General Lee fortified the heights outside Fredericksburg with artillery.  Confederate earthworks are pictured here in the foreground, with the town of Fredericksburg visible in the distance.    Federal troops were slaughtered in the open fields between the town and these heights during repeated attempts to take the hill.  The National Cemetery currently exists on the hill pictured; formerly known as Willis Hill.

There was much talk at this time about winter quarters, and at one of our camping places it was believed we were to make permanent stay; but after several log houses were well under way, we were ordered, like the Wandering Jew, to keep moving.  We bivouacked one night at the edge of a kind of swampy piece of underbrush, and during the evening there came the rumor of impending battle.  Next morning [Thursday, December 11 — B.F.] long before daylight we were aroused and ordered to strike camp.  In the light of a waning moon we took up our line of march in the direction of Fredericksburg and the river.  There were patches of snow on the ground here and there, and the morning air was chill and keen.  After marching, I cannot recall now how far or how long, our ears were saluted by the clear, distinct “boom” of cannon coming from our right front.  It was the first time it had been heard for several weeks, and it told that at last we were on the verge of another battle.  The dread sound sent a thrill through every breast; the ranks were closed up and steadied and we still pressed on.  The moon was still our guiding light, and we passed on through alternate woods and fields.

At last the morning found us massed and screened from the enemy’s view in a wooded gorge, which sloped down to the river.  The firing had now become brisker, and a lively long-range artillery duel was in progress between the heavy pieces on either side, posted up and down the river.  We were not allowed to stray from our resting place for wood or water, but the ice from a frozen rivulet at our side afforded a few of us an opportunity to make some coffee in our blackened tin pots.  Others, after having got somewhat accustomed to the pounding of the artillery, dozed and napped to make up for their broken night’s rest.  On one of the hilltops at our right, not far from us, were a section or battery of heavy pieces, I think Parrotts, which were firing across the river (not to be seen from where we were).  A few of our men went to a point where they could watch results.  They reported that after firing without any apparent success, the cannon were finally trained upon a piece of woods.  After one or two shells had been dropped into it, there rushed out a crowd of rebel soldiers seeking a place of safety.  The field beyond was covered with snow, against which, as they streamed over it, their dark forms were easily discernible.

Our waiting in the gorge was for the completion of the pontoon bridges, the construction of which was going on below under the cover of the artillery fire.  There was an occasional spattering of musketry, if I remember rightly, while this work was going on but not much to speak of.  The fierce whizz of the shells as they cut through the atmosphere was more discernible, as being more prolonged and continuous, than the discharge of the cannon.  There was also that peculiar sonorous, ringing echo following the flight of every shell, which is always to be heard when these deadly missiles pass over water and large open spaces.

I cannot recollect just how long we remained there on the verge of the battle.  I think, however we passed the night there and did not pass down to the river until the early morning of the next day.  [The Regiment did pass the night here and crossed the next morning, on Friday, December 12.  Sgt. Stearns had the same difficulty remembering the date of the crossing.  B.F.]   At any rate it was before daylight of that or the following morning that we passed down the bluffs and found ourselves on an extensive plain between them and the river.  The column moved slowly with many stoppages, and it was not until long past daylight that we reached the bridge.  In the meantime the order to load but not to cap our pieces had been give and executed.  It was given while we were on the move and, as it was for me always a very difficult thing to load while in motion, I went along quite a piece with the gun in one hand, the iron rammer in the other, and the cartridge just inserted in the mouth of the barrel.  At the first stop, however, the cartridge was rammed “home,” the rammer returned to the pipes, and I was ready for emergencies.

And this naturally leads to the question:  Why were not our armies, in the long war in which we were engaged, finally supplied with breechloaders?  To be sure, our cavalry were armed with the breechloading Sharps and Spencer carbines, but why were not the ranks equally as capable of using these complicated but more available small arms as in the great continental armies of Europe?  I am inclined to think, however, that the utility of these arms is greatly overestimated.  It is the man and not the firearm which tells in a battle.  Steadiness and nerve and not the mere multiplication of shots is what does the work.  Now I have no doubt that to a certain extent the use of these rapid shooters tends to weaken the morale of the man, causes him to rely too much upon his arms, to fire at too long a range and to shoot too ineffectively.  The greater difficulty of loading with a muzzleloader will cause him to be more sparing of his powder and lead and to shoot only when it will tell upon the enemy.

Well, we finally reached one of two pontoon bridges lying not far apart and passed over to the enemy’s side.  The cadence of the step was broken to prevent the swaying of our floating support, as was always done when passing over such supports.  Reaching the thither shore we passed up upon another plain similar to that we had left on the other side.  As the troops filed across they debouched to the right and left  as they were directed.  Not far from the bridge was a large body of cavalry in solid mass.  Lines of infantry were also resting on their arms.  Our brigade turned to the left; passed down a piece; halted.  There was a strange, impressive, ominous silence over the whole scene.  On our front a half mile or more away there was a slow cracking from the skirmish line, but this did not break the unnatural stillness that reigned.  We formed as a rear line of battle and halted.  There was talk that we were to be the reserves, but the rumor was not credited as it was not in accordance with our usual experience.  I had a copy of a late Harper’s Magazine with me and tried to divert my mind, as I sat upon my knapsack behind the line of stacked arms, by looking at its pages; but it was of no use; the situation was too awful to admit of that.  Everyone felt that we were on the very brink of an awful battle, which might be precipitated at any moment.

We were again ordered to “fall in.”  Our own and the regiments round about were ordered to close by division in mass.  “Double column to half distance; battalion forward — face — march” was the order given to each command in low but distinct words.  It was executed promptly and quietly in each instance.  Soon we were ordered further to the left as an extension of the lines.  We finally reached an old stone mansion standing near the river bank surrounded by outbuildings and a park of noble trees — the whole establishment had a grand, manorial appearance and had evidently been the home of one of the very F. F. V.’s. ["First Families of Virginia."]   At this place the 13th was deployed as skirmishers, and then we moved a short piece further to the left with the solid columns following behind.

sketch of Mannsfield, the Bernard Mansion, no longer standing

Mannsfield, the Bernard Mansion mentioned in the narrative.  The building was destroyed during the war and the site is now crowded with houses.

As reinforcements were steadily coming in behind and a further extension of the line was contemplated, the order was given to the 13th to right wheel as skirmishers.  As our line extended perhaps over half a mile with a good sized swamp in front of its centre, which the command had to divide to get around, we were some little while in executing this manoeuvre.  Just after we had begun this wheel a single bullet came singing, nearly spent, over towards our part of the line, which was near the right and the pivoting point.  But there was no succeeding shot, nor any reply to it.  At the other end of our line the men came more nearly in contact with the enemy’s skirmishers in wheeling around; but the latter fell slowly back as our forces approached keeping about a long-range musket shot apart.  Soon our whole line was faced squarely to the front, and now instead of being the extreme left of the line we were near the centre, perhaps, of the left grand-division of the army under the command of General Franklin.  This grand-division consisted of the Sixth Corps on the right and our corps (the First) on the left.  Subsequently we moved forward and occupied the old stage road to Richmond, which was on our front.

It was now nearly sundown, but no battle had yet taken place.  The Confederates threw a few shells on our right, and one of them exploded in the air a few rods above our heads, leaving a little puff of smoke to mark the spot but doing no damage to anybody.  However, there was comparatively little desire at this time on either side to precipitate hostilities.  In the road we had now gained we remained that night.  As dusk fell and it became evident there was to be no battle that day, the troops behind us began to busy themselves in preparing their evening meals, and campfires started up in every direction.  As we were at the extreme front and acting as skirmishers we had of course to keep up our watchfulness of the enemy.

Buddy Secor Photo, Slaughter Pen Farm at Sunset

Photograph by Buddy Secor; Slaughter Pen Farm at Sunset

The road in question was one of those kind peculiar to Virginia but unknown to the New England states.  It was sunken somewhat below the level of the fields on either side and flanked by high embankments.  A row of pine or cedar trees ran along each bank, and there was also, I believe, a sort of a hedge extending between.  The road was an excellent defensive line and afforded a pretty good base for offensive movements.  Indeed, the banks were high enough to conceal the movements of troops passing along this road from the sight of the enemy.  We clambered over the first bank and arranged ourselves along behind the second one.  The hedge afforded many excellent loopholes through which to shoot, and we could have awaited an attack from the enemy at this point with the greatest equanimity.

The 13th then received orders to act as pickets, and when it was dark a portion of the regiment was thrown in front of the road for this duty, while the rest, acting as the relief, stayed where they were.  Fires were forbidden, in accordance with the usual directions, but as they could not be seen by the enemy behind this ridge of earth they were soon suffered to exist where they had been lighted.  Buddy Secor Photograph, Re-enactment Soldier at CampfireI spent the first half of the night as a part of the reserve.  The field in front of us had been grown with corn during the previous season, and the stacks were still standing.  Those of us at liberty took these stalks for bedding, and as the nearest line of stacks was quickly depleted I had to venture out in the dark quite a distance towards the enemy before I could get enough for a bed.  I went out, I believe, three or four lines, which Chris Magraw thought was quite a daring venture.  I made my bed in the gutter behind the further ridge.  I had lately received a box from home containing among other things some chocolate in cakes.  I recollect I cut off a square of this and, getting some rather muddy water by breaking the ice which had formed in shallow patches along this gutter, managed to get up a supper, which was very palatable and refreshing after the excitements and fatigues of the day.  In fact, after it had become apparent that there was to be no battle that day, the strain upon our nerves was relaxed for the moment, and we busied ourselves as usual with our evening avocations.

All knew and felt, however, that the army was on the eve of a bloody encounter and that the terrible work was only postponed for a day at the most.  That night after our suppers were over and the fires had begun to smolder we mounted the parapets to see and hear what we could of the enemy.  The sharp ringing of their axes was heard for several hours as they were engaged in felling trees at the further limit of the field on our front and in a piece of woods a little to our left.  Also, sometime during the evening a barn within their lines at nearly our direct front was fired, probably to give a better range to some of their artillery.  It formed a glorious bonfire.  The flames as they mounted up the structure soon illumined the whole region about with their bright glare, and around the burning mass could be seen the dusky forms of the rebels, who, by their capers, appeared to highly enjoy the spectacle.

Sometime in the night I was called to go on duty.  My beat was next to that of Charley Armstrong.  Two musket shots were fired during the night on either side, but that was the total of hostilities on our part of the line of battle.  Armstrong appeared rather nervous and thought he could detect once or twice someone approaching him in the dark.  About midnight there was an angry colloquy on the rebel skirmish line, apparently between an officer and  a picket, about some little matter, I think the building of fires.  I have forgotten the precise words said, but one or two vehement expletives were thrown into the conversation.1

Among our new recruits besides Armstrong were a man named [Charles J.] Taylor and another named [Edmond H.] Kendall, whose brother had been killed at Antietam.2  While we were passing these momentous hours on the skirmish line, Corp. [Gilbert H.] Greenwood said to Kendall that inasmuch as his shoes were nearly worn out he intended to supply himself the following day from some dead man, with a pair of good boots.  Kendall replied with the familiar proverb (if I’ve not forgotten it)  that “those who wait for dead men’s shoes are sure to go barefoot.”  Taylor, I afterwards heard, had the premonition that night that he was not to survive the following day’s battle and so turned some of his personal effects over to Maynard, with whom he was acquainted before the war, with the directions to send them to his friends at home.  Towards morning, I believe, I had an opportunity for further rest and lay down and slept until after daylight.

Winslow Homer illustration of Federal Skirmishers

The morning hours of Saturday, the memorable 13th of December, were passed in quiet preparation for battle.  Gaps were dug in the road embankments to facilitate the passage of artillery, and the lines of battle were formed several deep.  It was about 9 o’clock, I believe, when the advance was finally ordered.  The 13th retained the van as skirmishers and advanced a few rods into the field and halted.  The brigade under General Nelson Taylor clambered over the road and formed in line of battle behind us.  Company D formed the right of the skirmish line, and a Vermont regiment, I believe, connected with us on the right.  General Franklin, Commander of the Grand-Division, directed the forward movement of the two corps under his command, and his position I afterwards understood was near where we were.  He sat on his horse rather nervously chewing the end of a cigar after he gave his final directions, and I have heard warmly praised the steadiness with which the 13th advanced as skirmishers.  I don’t recollect of hearing any firing either up or down the line then, or previous to the time we advanced, and the New York Herald gives the 13th the credit of opening the battle.

Well, we were finally moving towards the enemy.  Our hearts were in our mouths, for we terribly realized the awfulness of the bloody drama we were opening.  For the first few rods there was no opposition, but we had not advanced far into the field when the deadly, spiteful hiss of rifle bullets was heard all about us.  The field we were traversing was an extensive plain, apparently with a nearly level surface, and stretched back from the road where we spent the night to a line of wooded crests, which were occupied by the enemy. Charles Reed illustration of a skirmisher struck by a bullet  During the early morning of the eventful day there was a heavy fog, which no doubt served in a  large degree to screen our preparatory movements from the enemy.  But the real work had now commenced.  We returned the fire as well as we were able as we moved along.  I recollect in particular the savage “smack” with which the bullets every now and then tore through the dry husks of the corn stacks all about.  About this time Corporal [George A.] Lyford received a shot through his foot and went hobbling to the rear, and Corporal [William R.] Champney received a wound in one of his arms, which disabled him from further duty.  This opposition, and the necessity of replying, made our advance more difficult, and the lines behind us crowded close upon our heels.

We then came to a sort of halt and returned as rapid a fire as we were able to.  About this time I recollect seeing Taylor kneeling down and firing and heard him call out to Orderly Sergeant Thompson, “Orderly, I’m getting short of cartridges!”  Whether before this or just after, the fire with which we were met was supplemented by artillery,  I don’t know, but as it proved we were not destined to advance far in the direction of the foe before we were met by a most terrific artillery fire plumb in our faces.  The ground, as I have before stated, was level, and as the pieces had been brought down so as to play upon us at point blank range, hardly a single missile passed us at an elevation higher than our heads.  Part of the pieces apparently fired canister and the others shrapnel.  The shells exploded about our ears in rapid succession, ploughed into the ground about our feet, or passed through the air with a ring which, from their very propinquity, left a stunned sensation in our ears.  And at every discharge we could see amid the surrounding smoke the red flames as they leapt from the cannon’s mouth.

The troops immediately behind us were the 88th Pennsylvania Regiment, which, after standing this fire for a few minutes, broke into a disorganized mass and streamed to the rear.  I, with a few others of Company D, got mixed-up with these men and was carried rearwards a few steps with the tide.  Then it flashed through my mind, “Here’s another Bull Run; it must not be.”  I stopped and called out to my comrades to halt and rally.  I found, too, that the panic had extended only to the 88th.  On the left of the 88th was the 97th New York Regiment, which I saw had remained intact, the men kneeling down and presenting a firm front to the enemy.  Though several of our company were born along a short distance with the fugitives, they all rallied immediately except one, a half-witted fellow, one of our new recruits, who found a hiding place somewhere to the rear.  Just how long we were exposed to this murderous, short-range artillery fire I don’t know, as one cannot judge of time under such exciting circumstances.  One thing is certain, that our skirmish line in our neighborhood concentrated their fire on the battery and soon drove it from the field.  Company D occupying the right of the regiment extended over a space just about covering the face of this battery and received the whole brunt of its fire.  But when the pieces were hauled off the musketry slacked up too, though fierce cannonading was still heard above and below us.

The lull gave us an opportunity to see the extent we had suffered.  One of the objects to meet my eye was Taylor with his body drawn up into a sort of sitting posture, supported by his knapsack which was stuffed quite full.  He was quite dead; his waxen face was turned back, with open mouth and staring eyes.  I imagined he had been struck by a shell or canister and expired almost immediately.  Further down the line Kendall lay dead (I did  not happen to see him) with the top of his head carried away by a cannon ball of some kind.  Greenwood, with whom he had had the conversation respecting the shoes the night before, during this lull put in operation the purpose he had formed by pulling off Kendall’s boots and putting them on!   Greenwood did not act upon the desire for plunder usual in such cases; but being poorly shod himself he knew that the deceased had sooner that he should have had the boots than a stranger.

The lull must have lasted some time, but I cannot form a clear conception of how long.  A rod or two in front and a little to the right of the spot where I was were the bodies of three, I think, men, probably of the 88th, who had been struck down by an exploding shell and fallen one upon the other.  While the fury of the fight lasted they were unnoticed, but when the lull succeeded they could not but be observed.  For a brief time they remained perfectly quiet and were supposed to be dead, but after a while they began to writhe, draw their knees up and toss their arms, though utter no sound.  They were evidently all mortally wounded and past consciousness, but their contortions formed one of those peculiarly sickening sights which the battlefield always discloses.  During the lull either Armstrong or myself unstrapped the cooking utensils from Taylor, which had been carried, if I remember right, dangling below his knapsack.  Anyhow there was a little friendly rivalry between myself and Armstrong as to whom should have the tin mug left by Taylor.  However, as it was but little better than the one I already possessed, I let Armstrong have it.  While the quiet reigned some of the officers of the line of battle behind us strolled out to where we were (some two or three rods in advance of them) to look at the dead bodies which lay around — apparently more from mere curiosity than to discover who they were.

After a while, however, the skirmish firing was renewed, by which side begun I don’t recollect.  We skirmishers lay or kneeled down, in the furrows, which ran directly forward towards the enemy.  I heard distinctly the rebel officer give the command “commence firing!”  Being nearsighted myself, I could not see the forms of our foes, who were lying, precisely as we were, in the other ends of the furrows.  However, I could see the puff of smoke which followed each musket shot and then hear the sharp “ping” of the bullet as it sped past our heads.  I cannot recall the sequence  in which the events I am just relating occurred, but the events themselves are firmly fixed in my mind.  The body of Taylor was a little in front and to the left of where I lay.  As his legs were drawn up and his back supported in a sort of sitting posture by the well-stuffed knapsack, his body presented quite a prominent object for the rebel marksmen, and many of the bullets came unpleasantly near me.  While this was going on, Armstrong, instead of making a cover of the lifeless body, went and kneeled down right in front of it and began firing.  He had not fired many shots before a bullet came, which struck him in the thigh and passed up into his body.  I distinctly heard the “smack” of the bullet when it struck him, and then the grinding sound which followed as the bullet crushed through the bones and buried itself deep in the vital parts.  Armstrong uttered a prolonged “Oh!” and one or two went to his assistance.  Captain Harlow tied his handkerchief or something around his leg, but I told him that the bullet had passed further in and that the real injury was higher up.  This was the only time during the war that I heard a bullet strike a man or grind into his flesh.  Some stretcher bearers soon came up and carried poor Armstrong to the rear.  I learned afterwards that he died that same day and that before his death he said he was not afraid to die but did not want to die so far from home.3

Alfred Waud sketch of a soldier on the ground

While this skirmish firing was going I adopted a method of loading and firing which was very well adapted to the circumstances.  I found that by doing the work in a slow, methodical manner, I had the advantage of keeping my nerves steady and myself constantly employed.  First I drew out a paper of cartridges from my cartridge-box, then tore off the wrapper and lay the loosened cartridges down upon it.  Then I drew out some precision caps from the cap-box and lay them down on a similar paper.  Then, tearing off the powder end of the cartridge, I placed it in the muzzle of my rifle, and rolling over upon my back I rammed it down and lay the iron rammer down beside me without returning it to the pipes.  Then, rolling over upon my stomach, I primed, capped, leveled the piece and fired.  I aimed down and a little to the left of the furrow in which I lay, which was about the spot where I imagined my vis-a-vis to be ensconced.

I recollect, too, very distinctly, as I lay there on the skirmish line the appearance of the sky above me.  It was in part a “mackerel” sky, while about the zenith there was a long sweep of thin white cloud with a twirl at one end very similar to a scroll, or to the figure a grainer would make with a sweep of his brush.  Between the cloud rifts the sky was blue and clear.  This may appear to a reader a very trivial and extraneous matter, but it is one of the features of that day which is indelibly fixed in my mind.

General Nelson Taylor

After a while the firing on both sides slackened and nearly ceased, and then it was suddenly quickened upon the rebel side.  Instead of replying with equal spirit, our men, probably to avoid drawing the fire each upon himself, gradually ceased and hugged the ground the closer, which emboldened the enemy to fire the faster.  General Nelson Taylor, our Brigade commander, seeing the turn affairs were taking cried out in his stentorian tones, making a distinct pause between each word:  “Whatarethoseskirmishersabout;   commence firing!”  We at once began again with great spirit and in a few moments completely silenced the enemy.  About this time, however, a heavy cannonade had begun on both sides, and the shells whizzed harshly to and fro over our heads.  Where we were, however, we were comparatively free from injury from this source, though fully in as much danger from our own as the enemy’s missiles.  Indeed, one of the men in our regiment  further down the line, while lying as we then were prone upon our faces, had the lead packing, which flew off one of our own shells, plough into his back causing a frightful wound and speedy death. [Probably George E. Bigelow, Company C, who died Dec. 19. — B.F.]

A word here as to our commander, General Taylor:  he commanded us only in this one battle and took General Hartsuff’s  (who was the most popular and beloved general officer we ever had over us) place who was wounded at Antietam.  General Taylor had been a prominent local Tammany politician in New York and was strongly devoted to the McClellan regime, and the latter having been disposed, Taylor, I believe, resigned his commission soon after Fredericksburg.  The latter had a stern, sedate and rather Puritanical appearance strangely in contrast with which one would suppose would be the character of such a person.4

To resume the narrative, the firing was now becoming hot, and the order was finally given to the lines behind us to advance.  Having pretty much exhausted our ammunition, the 13th was not called upon for further duty.  The battle lines passed over us and pressed forward, and the rebels met them with fire from their solid battalions.  I believe the line, after advancing not far beyond where we had lain, halted.  Then followed a crash of musketry and a line of dim smoke hung above their heads.  The battle was now raging in dead earnest on this part of the field.  The air became thick with bursting missiles.  Bullets whizzed and shells exploded all around.

No sooner had the line passed beyond us than the 13th was ordered to the rear.  Instead of concentrating at once in the centre of our line, some of us on the extreme right (now faced about) struck a beeline for the road we had vacated in the morning.  And here comes in an incident which illustrates the need of having good visual organs if you are a soldier.   Just as we were passing to the rear a Union battery was brought upon the field in front of the road towards which we were heading.  The artillerists waved their hands to motion us out of the way.  The others seeing their danger jumped into a ditch which happened to be near and crouching down ran off to the right until the front of the pieces was uncovered. Buddy Secor Photo; Artillery FireI, unheeding, kept due on, and of course the artillerymen couldn’t delay firing for one or two stray soldiers and so banged away.  Several shells apparently passed close to my head and left a ringing sensation in my ears which lasted some time.  Escaping this danger, however, I soon joined my comrades marching slowly in column towards the rear.  As we passed further from the front the shells became fewer, and the few that did reach us, after having just experienced so much fiercer a fire, were scarcely noticed.  Under other circumstances, however, the same shells would have produced something of a commotion and more or less dodging.

We recrossed the old Richmond road, or the Telegraph road, where we had lain the night before and I believe halted there a few moments and then passed on down the declivity towards the stone mansion before mentioned.  On the way to the rear we escorted a hundred or so rebel prisoners belonging to an Alabama regiment — 19th, I think.5  All this while the battle was raging fiercely.  All along the ridge where the road ran we could see our batteries engaged in a heavy cannonade;  see the rebel shells bursting in the air; and beyond hear the prolonged crash of the terrible musketry.  I observed two or three caisson explosions, one on our own side.6   A column of smoke shot vertically upwards and then spread outwards, umbrella-like, the report of the explosion clearly distinct and much louder than the others.  However, we were then comparatively out of harm’s way, though many of the shells passed over our heads and some sped clear over the river behind us.

Humorous sketch by WInslow Homer; A Shell is Coming

Passing through the park fronting the stone mansion (then used as a hospital) we halted in an open space beyond on the river bank.  Here one or two ammunition wagons were brought up, and we were furnished with a new supply of cartridges.  The few shells that came near us now became more unpleasant, and while we remained here the regiment availed itself of the top of the river bluff for a protection.  Then we moved into the park before mentioned and halted again, stacked arms and unslung knapsacks.  Our locality soon became an object of interest to the rebels, and the shells began falling about us with unpleasant frequency.  Of course, waiting there, we had to grin and bear it as best we could.  What gave a rather comical appearance to the scene was that all who could availed themselves of the noble trees there for protection and behind of some of the largest trunks was a string of ten to twenty men, one behind the other.  The hindmost man, of course, had the poorest show for safety.  It was at or near this place, and by a shell, that the distinguished cavalry officer, General Bayard, was killed.7

While we were there night began to fall and the battle cease.  Supposing, of course, that I should have time I scrambled down the steep bluff behind the mansion to fill my canteen at the river.  When I returned the regiment had gone, I knew not whither, and could find no one who could direct me to it.  My knapsack was also gone, containing many articles I had recently received from home and, what was of more value at that time, a good blanket with it.

I spent the night with one or two other stragglers in the park.   Never in my life did I pass a sadder night.  I had found myself, to be sure, alive and uninjured after the day’s battle, as I had hardly expected would be the case, but for all that my soul was never more enshrouded in gloom.  The casualties of the battle in Company D were six, the person not heretofore mentioned being Corporal Thompson who was slightly wounded in the rear while lying upon the skirmish line.8  The loss of Company D balanced that of the rest of the regiment, our company suffering greater than the others because it just about covered the face of that battery which played into us as we advanced.

I forgot to mention in its proper place that I assisted Captain [Augustine] Harlow [pictured] to carry off the field his small pack, in addition to my own knapsack, gun and accoutrements, and this being his first experience in actual battle his nervous system was so much exhausted that he could little more than support himself.  Captain Augustine Harlow, Company DIt was also Orderly Thompson’s baptism of fire, and he (contrary to general expectation as he had been something of a bully) bore himself with great bravery through the fight.9  Another thing which I had overlooked was that many of us on the skirmish line while affectionately hugging mother earth got our clothes badly smeared with mud, and the muddier specimens (of whom I was one) had to bear with a little good-natured raillery on the part of those who came out with the cleanest shirts.

I passed the night beside a flickering campfire, not very comfortably without my blanket, and my rest otherwise disturbed by oppressive dreams.  During the following day (Sunday)  [Sunday, December 14 — B.F.] I roamed about in search for my regiment but could not find where it lay.  The battle had not been renewed, though there were preparations for its renewal going on all about.  I haven’t a recollection now of much that occurred that day.  I remember, however, that in the course of my wandering I passed at one time well out to the front, where fatigue parties, making the most of the lull, were gathering up the dead and wounded.  On the further side of the Telegraph road lay a row of a dozen or more of the dead, each one covered by a blanket.  Having lost my own blanket with my knapsack the night before, I was strongly inclined to appropriate one of the coverings of the dead, but succeeded in finding one without the necessity of doing so.  I passed a portion of the day near the swamp spoken of as having been passed while in skirmish array on Friday.  I describe it as a swamp; it was rather a deep wooded dell.  The edges sloped steeply down to the bottom, which was probably swampy.  At the edge of this dell were some field hospitals and here and there little patches of newly made graves.

That evening the heavens were illuminated with a brilliant display of the aurora borealis.  I happened to fall in with a Massachusetts soldier.  The weather was not as I recollect particularly chilly.  “They are probably having sleighing at home,” he remarked.  Somebody, whether myself or not, I do not recollect, replied rather mournfully, “We are having slaying here.”  This stranger said that his home was in Amesbury, and I asked him if he knew or had ever seen the poet, Whittier.  He replied that he was a shoemaker and that Whittier frequently visited the shop where he worked.  His manners and appearance, he said, were very ordinary and that he was not known as a poet but as a friend and neighbor.10

On Monday, I think in the afternoon, I rejoined my regiment.  It was lying in a field in the rear of the lines of battle considerably to the left of the lines. brush fire [This was Monday, Dec. 15 — B.F.]  Some rations I think were served out, which came very acceptable to me.  The only noteworthy event I recollect of the day was that just before dusk some of the fire kindled the grass round about and burned over a few square rods with great rapidity.  As unexploded shells were lying all about and were liable to be exploded we all set to put out the flames, and among those who were particularly active in this work were some artillerymen whose battery was posted near us.  They doffed their jackets and went to fighting the fire with them with a will, well knowing their caissons were equally in danger.

Marching orders were received after dark and also I believe to keep our campfires in full blaze.  Half the regiment under Major Gould had gone on picket, I believe, in the afternoon and were not with us.  We packed up and started, I believe about nine o’clock.  We moved up the river towards the pontoons.  We passed along through the region where at nightfall the army was on bivouac, and now nothing but deserted campfires were to be met.  Hardly a living creature was to be seen in long stretches which a few hours before had been teeming with life.  We moved silently and swiftly forward.  We soon found that the movement was a retreat.  We finally came to a pontoon bridge a little beyond the stone mansion.  A large bonfire of cracker boxes illuminated the entrance to the bridge.  A keen, brisk breeze was blowing from the enemy’s side which prevented them from overhearing the movements of our wagons and artillery.  The detachment left on picket under Major Gould was about the last to recross the river.  As they withdrew at night from the outer picket lines, they passed a few sharpshooters on their knees with guns at the ready and silently peering into the darkness toward the enemy.  When our men had passed they too joined.  The withdrawal was one of the most successful ever made; the enemy had no intimation of what was going on.  When Major Gould and his men recrossed the bridge, the pontooners had already begun to take it up.  So the 13th was the first and the last on this memorable field.

NOTES:  1.  Charles Davis, Jr. noted in the regimental history that Colonel S. H. Leonard, in a rare instance, lost his temper, and had some words with a "green" officer from another unit, about the men lighting fires in the road that night.  This may be the incident Private Spooner is remembering, but Spooner says it happened in the enemy lines so Spooner's memory would have to be in error for this interpretation.  See Davis's account on previous page.
2.  Edmond Kendall's brother was an original member of the 13th  Massachusetts.  The roster states  James T. E. Kendall was age  25, when he enlisted July 16, 1861.  He died of wounds received at Antietam, October 1, 1862.  Edmond's age is listed as 30 in the roster.
3.  Spooner's account here does not agree with other sources, that claim George Maynard tied the tourniquet around his friend Armstrong, and later carried him to the rear after the skirmishers had retreated to the Bowling Green Road!  Supposedly George Maynard then discovered Armstrong had been left on the field and returned at great peril to bring him in.  Maynard was granted the Medal of Honor in part for this deed. (See Walter Swan's article on page 3 of this section.) This said, Spooner's account seems more immediate.  And Spooner claims it was Taylor who was Maynard's friend.  The problem is Taylor was dead, and Armstrong was still living.   Spooner does say others came up, so Maynard was probably among them.  It is just a question then, of when Armstrong was carrried to the rear.
4.  Charles Wainwright Chief of 1st Corps Artillery, noted in his journal, February 6, 1863;  "...Just before I left Brigadier-General [John C.] Robinson reported to the corps and was assigned to the Second Division.  [Gen. Nelson] Taylor was much provoked at it as he expected to retain that place, if [Gen. John] Gibbon did not come back;  he sent in his resignation at once, and went home in the same train that I went by.  It was pretty hard on Taylor to have a man thus put over him, for he is a first-rate officer, and though his commission as brigadier-general only dates from August, he has commanded a brigade since April last."
5.  All other 13th Regiment sources claim these were Georgia troops, Austin Stearns even stating some were from Macon.  George Jepson in his article on page 1,  says they were the 19th Georgia.  Spooner has the number correct.  Perhaps Private Spooner is remembering the Alabama troops of Col. Edward A. O'Neil's Alabama Brigade captured in the Mummasburg Road at the Battle of  Gettysburg.  In that instance, there was confusion as to whether the captured troops were from North Carolina or Alabama.   Alabama makes more sense logically according to the logistics of the July 1st battle.
6.  Perhaps this is one of Captain Hall's limbers which exploded during the fight; 2nd Maine Battery.
7.  Union General George Dashiel Bayard was killed at the battle of Fredericksburg —he was mortally wounded in the front yard and died just four days before what was to have been his wedding day.
8.  Walter C. Thompson, Company D.
9. Possibly Sergeant John L. Thompson, Company D.
10.  The Poet is John Greenleaf Whittier, (1807 - 1892).  He settled in Amesbury, Mass. in 1836.  His home is a museum today.  He was an important abolitionist.

A Few Comments on the Narrative

As intimate as this narrative is, it was written after the war, (about 1871) and it is not clear if Spooner remembered all the details correctly, — or if others made mistakes.  For what its worth, Spooner was a newspaper man after the war, and the veracity of much of his narrative is re-enforced by Sam Webster's brief journal entries, below.

The first discrepancy is a minor one.   Spooner said Gilbert Greenwood removed the boots from Kendall’s dead body.  Another account of this story from Bivouac Magazine, 1885, presented at the bottom of this page, differs somewhat in detail.

The anonymous author of that article wrote that he took the boots from Kendall’s body and presented them to Greenwood, who then put them on.  The author also claims to have removed Kendall’s personal artifacts to give to Captain Harlow, as it was evident there wouldn’t be time to remove Kendall’s mangled body from the field.  This is a slight detail but worth noting, and Spooner did say Kendall was further down the line and that he did not see him.  The  anonymous author may be 1st Sergeant Edward F. Rollins, [later 1st Lieutenant] an editor of Bivouac magazine.  But that is only a guess.

A bigger puzzle is the story of Charles Armstrong.  Spooner’s narrative is very specific regarding his interactions with Armstrong and what he witnessed during the battle.  He wrote:

“Armstrong uttered a prolonged “Oh!” and one or two went to his assistance.  Captain Harlow tied his handkerchief or something around his leg, but I told him that the bullet had passed further in and that the real injury was higher up.  This was the only time during the war that I heard a bullet strike a man or grind into his flesh.  Some stretcher bearers soon came up and carried poor Armstrong to the rear.”

This suggests Armstrong was carried to a hospital in good time.

A slight problem with this arises from another account of Armstrong's wounding that involves George A. Maynard, also of  Company D.   Maynard’s version of the story differs from Spooner’s account.  Maynard claims it was he, not Captain Harlow, who tied the tourniquet around Armstrong’s knee.  Spooner did say one or two went to Armstrong's assistance.  But Maynard also says Armstrong was left on the field after the regiment fell-back to the Bowling Green road, and that realizing this, he returned to the battlefield, under fire, to drag his wounded friend to safety and get help.  He reported this to Captain Harlow who ordered Maynard to remain with Armstrong until an ambulance could be brought.  George Maynard was awarded the Medal of Honor, in part for these actions at Fredericksburg.

Bourne Spooner's observation that stretcher bearers soon came up and carried Armstrong to the rear, may have been a casual statement tacked on to bring the incident to a close within his own narrative, but this is a disappointing assumption considering the detail that precedes it.  In any case Spooner's story is a little different than  Maynard’s story.

Spooner does mention comrade George Maynard in his narrative, but it regards his prior friendship with Charles Taylor, another of the fatal casualties at Fredericksburg.

Maynard’s story as told by Walter Swan in 1919, is presented on page 3 of this section.

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Sam Webster's Summary of the Battle

Sam Webster, the young drummer boy from Martinsburg, Va., who joined the regiment at Williamsport, Maryland in December, 1862, wasn't in the fight at Fredericksburg, but recorded the following  details in his memoirs.  Excerpts of this diary (HM 48531) are used with permission from The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

Friday, December 12th
     Crossed the river before the fog lifted this morning.  Regt. deployed as skirmishers about noon.  Moved down the river and wheeled out facing the heights, opposite a mill, or a little below at a brick house.  Fredericksburg was occupied yesterday evening.  Got some cabbage leaves and boiled for supper.  I laid at night with the drum corps, in a group of cedars, on a hill to the N.E. or up the river from the mill.  Regt. on picquet.

Saturday, December 13th
     After the line was established last night some of the boys had communication with the rebels between the lines.  Blanchard, of  B., talked with one, who has been captured.  Regt was on duty until the general advance, and was then withdrawn for cartridges, after which it was put in line of battle.   Kendall and Taylor are dead.  Taylor was torn to pieces by a shell.  W.C. Thompson, next him in the skirmish line, was out of cartridges and as Taylor's cartridge box was thrown near him got up to see if there were any in it.  As he did so he was wounded — not seriously.  Lyford got a ball in left foot.  Armstrong is nearly dead, and Champney wounded.  The 16th Maine* did good work today.   Nothing to the left of us but the Penna Reserve — who got upon or over the heights, but not being promptly supported by the 6th corps (the other corps of our — the Left-Grand Division) had to come back.**

Sunday, Dec'r 14th 1862
     It was quiet last night.  Armstrong is dead.  Lyfford has lost half his foot, and his knapsack.  Springer of Co. E., an old sailor, crept out to the Bowling Green Road which has a row of cedars and a ditch at each side, and put out the light of a  rebel sharpshooter who was picking our lines from a tree top.

*The 16th Maine

Fredericksburg was the first battle for the 16th Maine.  They were a rookie regiment that arrived in Washington, DC shortly before the Maryland Campaign began.  A mix up of orders forced them to march along with the veteran troops to the Antietam Battlefield.  Fortunately they did not participate in combat, but they were subject to much ridicule from the veteran regiments for a variety of other misfortunes, most notably their lack of equipments and proper clothing that was left behind at Washington.

On the march south to Fredericksburg the 16th Maine was moved from the third brigade to the first brigade (Col. Adrian R. Root) of Gibbon's Division.  (the 13th Mass were in the 3rd brigade).

Fredericksburg was their first battle, and the 16th Maine advanced further than any regiment in their brigade.  They penetrated the Rebel lines, but with no supports were forced to fall back.  During the retreat they lost heavily.

The regiment's casualties were horrible as listed in their regimental history;  57 dead, 34 mortally wounded, and 134 wounded.  “Out of four hundred and seventeen men who went into the fight, but one hundred and fifty-four answered to the rollcall that night.  Of the missing enough have turned up so that we now have nearly two hundred men of those who were in the battle, for duty.”

**Penna Reserves

General Meade's Division of Pennsylvania Reserves led the attack of the Left Grand Division.  Meade's 1st brigade, Colonel William Sinclair, penetrated deep into the Confederate position in the woods on the left of the Union lines, and routed Maxcy Gregg's Brigade and James Archer's brigade, including troops of the 19th Georgia, so prominently mentioned in anecdotes from the 13th Mass.   The breach in the Confederate lines resulted in a desperate search for help.  News of the crisis reached General Jubal Early, posted farther back in the woods, and although he had other orders, he sent Col. Edmond Atkinson's brigade into the fray.  Atkinson's counter-attack drove the Pennsylvania Reserves from the woods.  General Early ordered another brigade forward and re-established the Confederate line.  General Meade's penetrating force was driven back to their own lines with heavy casualties, support coming too late to help them hold their advanced position.

Comments on Sam's Diary Entries

Sam references William Blanchard's parlay with a Confederate skirmisher from the 19th Georgia, the evening of the 12th, so beautifully described in George Jepson's article on page 1.   In February, 1863,  Private John B. Noyes met up with Blanchard, in Washington, D.C., and in a letter to his sister dated February 4th wrote, “Blanchard  had his shin bone shattered at Fredericksburg.”  This was not the end of Blanchard's impressive military career however.  More information can be found on Special Section of this website titled “Around Washington.”

The deaths of Kendall, Taylor, & Armstrong have already been described in Private Spooner's narrative.  Kendall's record appears in the Bivouac article that concludes this page.  Regarding the other wounded men, George Lyford and William R.  Champney would muster out of the service because of the wounds they received at Fredericksburg.  Lyford's muster out date is not recorded in the regimental roster.  Corporal Champney mustered out May 7, 1863.

Corporal Walter C. Thompson recovered from his wounds and continued to serve in the ranks.  He mustered out with the rest of the regiment on August 1, 1864.

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John S. Fay's Memoirs

Sergeant John S. Fay, Co. F,  gives a gripping account of the retreat.  I have omitted his description of the river crossing, and picked up his narrative at Noon on the 12th, when the regt. took position in the Bowling Green Road. Spelling errors are included.

We remained here [the Bowling Green Road] all the afternoon and night none of us being allowed to sleep and we was so near the rebel lines that we could not have a fire which was anything but agreeable, it being a very cold night, so we whiled away the time watching the rebels and the stars, and wishing that morning would come, although we all expected when daylight did appear there would be a big battle commenced.  About three o’clock in the morning it began to be foggy, and soon the fog was so dense that we could not see fifty feet from us.  But we could hear the rebels buisy at work on their entrenchments prepaired to recieve us in the morning.  When it was day light the fog was so dense that we could not see but a few yards from us, and we ventured to build firs and make us some coffee, which we hastly drank.  We all was so tired and exausted that we would go to sleep in a few minutes if we allowed ourselves to keep still.

About eight o’clock, we was advanced about fifty yards and our pioneers filled up the ditch in three or four places, and made roades for our artillery to pass over on, we was as still as possable about it so the rebels could not hear what we was about, the fog preventing [them] from seeing us.

About ten o’clock, the fog suddenly cleared away and the sun came out warm and pleasant.  The brigades of our division was immeaditly formed in line-of-battle and ordered across the road and we was ordered to advance our skirmish line.  The rebels opened on us a heavy, [fire?] but we laid low and advanced on our hands and knees until we reach  the brow of a slight declivity, when we returned their fire the best we could but they had a great advantage over us being in a wood where they could cover themselves behind treese, while we was in a open field lying in the mud with no cover.

Slaughter Pen Farm - 13th Position

Position of the '13th Mass' & Taylor's Brigade at the Battle of Fredericksburg.   This is the advanced position of the line of skirmishers.  Jackson's Confederates occupied the woods in front.  The view has changed little since 1862.  The map on the marker is inset below and shows the position on the battlefield from which this photo was taken, namely, where Taylor's Brigade began their advance.

Battlefield Location Map

Every time we raised up to fire three or four bullets would wiz by our head and there was a continual shower of bullets falling about us.  We kept up this kind of fighting about four hours and a half, when our ammunition became nearly exausted.  About half past two a general advance was ordered along the whole line, and our Regiment to the rear for ammunition.

While waiting for ammunition the roll was called and we was surprised to find our loss so light.  The loss in the whole Regiment was only 4 killed 10 wounded and 2 missing.  By what miracle so many of us escaped no one can tell.

The battle was now raging with great fury in our front and on the heights up at Fredricksburg.  [Marye's Heights]  We had to wait a long time for ammunition and while we was waiting our position was such that we could see nearly the whole length of the line from the heights down to the extreme left of the line, and it was a sight that I never shall forget it was the most sublime and awful scenes that I ever saw.

I have been in large battles before but I had never been in a position where I could see, but comparatively few of the troops engaged.  As it is well known we was badly defeated in that battle the cause of which I do not pretend to know.  After receiving our ammunition we was ordered forward and formed in Line-of-Battle in the rear of the road that we was on guard in the night before.  We remained in this position until the night of the 15th when five Companys of my Regiment including my own, was ordered to the front on pickett.

Our pickett line was established very near to theirs, so near that we could hear them talk quite plainly, there being a strong south wind blowing.  We had made arrangements with them not to fire unless one side attempted to advance so the night was passed very quietly, until three o’clock in the morning, when we had orders to pack up and start for the rear as still as possible.

Orders was all given by signs, not a loud word being spoken.  When we got back to the place where we left our Brigade, we found everbody gone but the fires was still burning.

We now learned that our five Companys and one Company of sharp shooters was all the troops there was on that side of the river, the army having retreated and left us there.

When we found how we was situated, we was anxous to get back, not liking the idea of being taken prisioners.  We was two miles from the bridge, and daylight fast approaching.  There was nearly a full moon, but the clouds had kept it hid most of the night, but now they began to break away and the moon, at times would shine very bright.  We was afraid the rebels would discover our absence from the pickett line, and we knew if they did they would advance and perhaps cut us off from the bridge as some parts of their line was [as] near to it that we was.

After replenishing the fires so as to keep them burning bright we started for the bridge – keeping as much as possible in the shadows of the trees and reached it a little before daylight.  We found it all ready to be taken up at a moments notice.  They had about given up all hope of seeing, or hearing from us again, except as prisioners of war.

The detachment was under the command of Maj. Gould, and too much credit cannot be given him for his successful retreat.  We marched up on to the bluff where we could have a good view of the south side of the river as soon as it was daylight, the rebels discovered that we had abandoned our picket line and immeditely commenced to advance, seemingly greatly astonished to find that we had successfully retreated without their hearing us.

Franklin's Division Recrossing the River

“Franklin's Division Recrossing the River,”  Sketch by T.R. Davis for Harper's Weekly

We marched back about three miles from the river and encamped until the 19th when we marched about eight miles to the eastward, to a place called Fletchers Chapel near Belle Plain Landing where we pitched our camp for the winter.

We remained here doeing the usual camp and picket duties without any important interruptions until the 20th of January 1863.

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Letter of Corporal George Henry Hill, Co. B

George Henry Hill

George wrote a short one page note from the battlefield, Dec. 15th, to his father, to tell him he was alive.  He wrote a longer descriptive letter to his favorite Aunt two days later, Dec. 17th, once the army had re-crossed the Rappahannock River.  I am very grateful to George's descendant Carol Robbins and her friend Alan Arnold for sharing George's portrait, and his letters, and allowing me to post them.  George is one of my  favorite letter writers in the regiment.

In this letter George states two men of his company were wounded in the fight.  They are William F. Blanchard, and Private James A. Young.  Their names are stated in Lieutenant Morton Tower's Report posted on page 3 of this section.  He gets the number of killed wrong, (yes the transcription is correct) but in the excitement of the times that is expected.

Opposite Fredericksburg Va
Wednesday Dec 17th 1862

Dear Aunt Fanny

                                                                            Again I  have been in  battle and again escaped without a scratch.

            We crossed the river last Friday morning on “Pontoons.”  After what seemed to me the whole Army, had crossed, our Regiment was thrown out as scirmishers on the “left flank’.   We could plainly see the Rebel scirmishers about three hundred yards in front of us retiring as we advanced.

            We advanced about two thirds of a mile where we remained until Saturday morning acting as a Picket guard during the night.  We were now about five hundred yards from the thick woods which completely surrounded the plain upon which our Army lay.   The Rebels had not fired a shot in answer to our tremendous cannonading of Thursday and a doubt was felt whether they were there in force or not.  But there lay the woods and if they were there we knew a fearful slaughter must take place before they were routed.

            Saturday morning came and at 9 O’clock A.M. we were ordered to advance again as scirmishers.  We crossed the road and advanced to within two hundred yards of the woods when whiz, whiz, whiz,

P. 2.

Came the bullets and down we went flat in the mud.  Now commenced scirmishing in earnest.  We roled on our backs to load then turned over and raised up on one knee and fired.  This was kept up until 3 o’clock P.M.  I tell you the balls came near me.  Every time I would draw my ramrod of course my Arm would be raised up and I was sure to get the attention of two or three rebs and the benefit of their shots.  Again when I got up to fire I would see the bullets strike all around me and most of them would throw dirt upon me but fortunately none hit me.  I certainly expected to feel one every moment.  You may bet I lay mighty close to “Mother Earth” when it was not actually necessary for me to be up.  At 2 o’clock the “Line of Battle” advanced over us and we being nearly out of ammunition were ordered to the rear for more.

            Now commenced fighting.  The roar of musketry was terrific.  Now we knew that the Enemy was there and in tremendous force.  I never saw our Army fight so well as it did that afternoon.  Not a man left his place but it was no use these woods with the fortifications behind them was too much for us.

Our boys drove the rebs out of a small strip of woods and across the Rail Road but could not hold the ground and so fell back.    I know not what took place in the Center or on the Right.  The papers have probably told you all about it.  I

P. 3.

    have not seen a paper for over a week.

            Our Brigade and Division lost very heavily.  Our Regt lost only 5 killed and 12 or 15 wounded.  My company had two wounded.  We  laid in Line of Battle until Monday night when we returned quietly to this side of the river.  At dark we were all on the other side and when morning light broke over the plains it revealed to “Johny Reb” nothing but emptiness.  Even the pontoons were all removed.  We were fortunate to get out of so bad a scrape so easily.  Burnside I beleive calls it a “reconnoisance in force,” a few more such and the Army is gone up.  The position which they hold can never be taken in force.   It must be flanked.  Where we go next I know not but not across the Rappahannock at this point you may rest assured.  I received your kind letter yesterday.  It came in good time.  Thank you for the Contents.  I received the Box from the boys at the store last week.  I had quite a sick spell just before we started on our last march but I am all right now.   I regret to hear that Mr. Cutter is so unwell.  Hope to hear of his recovery when next you write.

            Yes, I am promoted to “Corporal” which relieves me from camp drudgery and from guard duty as far as standing “on post” is concerned.  I have charge of one of the “reliefs.”  When I have posted them I return to the guard house and sit by the fire until the two hours have expired, then wake another Corporal who turns out his “relief” and relieves my men while I “turn in” and go to sleep.  I neither smoke nor chew tobacco neither do I drink anything intoxicating.  I have plenty of writing paper now but am sometimes bothered for Postage Stamps.  I believe I was writing the Tuesday night  you speak of and I know I was thinking of home for I am always doing that, and as far as wishing for something to eat I guess there was no doubt about that for we were short of rations about that time.  I believe I have answered your letter now.  I wish you would see Aunt Adda and tell her I will answer her letter as soon as I can.

Our Division General, Gibbons, was wounded.  He is a brave man as is also Gen Taylor of our Brigade, now in command of the Division.  Col Leonard is in command of the Brigade.  The whole Brigade will not number more than 700 men now.  It is so cold that I can hardly hold a pen therefore I will not try to write any more now.  Excuse Haste and accept with much love from your aff. Nephew

                                                        George H.

Write soon.

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Waiting for a Dead Man's Shoes

The following article was found among the pages of Bivouac, A Military Magazine, Volume 2, p. 72, 1884.  One of the editors of Bivouac was Edwin Rollins, a former Lieutenant of Company D, 13th Massachusetts.  Rollins held the rank of 1st Sergeant, Company D at the battle of Fredericksburg.   He may be the author of this story.  I have seen this tale told more than once in the literature of the 13th.  Bourne Spooner commented in his narrative, that Edmond Kendall, one of the subjects of this piece, had a brother in the regiment who was killed at the battle of Antietam.  That would be James T. E. Kendall, age 25, died of wounds October 1, 1862.


Frederic Remington Illustration, 3 soldiers, 1 with a sore foot

The night before the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, my regiment had acted as skirmishers in front of a portion of the left grand division which had crossed the Rappahannock during the day, and, after dark, occupied the Bowling Green road, or “pike.”  We built little fires to make our coffee, while the skirmishers of the enemy were within speaking distance only a few rods south of the “pike,” in a plowed field.  Our videttes in front were chafing with them, while we stood around our fires, protected by the banks of the sides of the road, talking over the probabilities of a heavy battle on the morrow.

Comrade Gilbert H. Greenwood said to Comrade Edmond H. Kendall, both of my company:  “If you see any one killed tomorrow who has a good pair of boots or shoes on, I want them, as mine are all gone;”  at the same time holding up one foot showing the shoe and stocking worn through to the flesh on the bottom of his feet.

Kendall replied, “you know the old adage, ‘he that waits for a dead man’s shoes may go a long time barefoot.’”

“If we may believe the Johnnies in front we all stand a good chance to be dead men soon,” replied Greenwood.

At day break the next morning our line advanced as skirmishers under a sharp fire from the rebel skirmishers as they fell back to the cover of a piece of woods over a field sloping down toward the south near the “pike” and farther on becoming a level plain.  When we were about half way across this level and the fire from the woods became so sharp we were ordered to halt and lie down on the frozen plowed ground, and thus continued the fighting.  The sun came out warm and thawed the frozen ground, while we, rolling over on our backs to load and back again to fire, soon became covered with red mud.  This continued for some time, when the enemy, as if anxious to bring on more quickly the great shock of arms, while we were only playing the prelude, ran out two pieces of artillery on our right which partially enfiladed the skirmish line, and commenced firing canister, which, owing to the long range, did not seem to do the execution they desired.  We laid as close as possible in the furrows of the field, firing at the gunners on the right and the sharpshooters up the trees in our front.  A few of our men had been hit.  The gunners commenced throwing shells and with more fatal execution.  Kendall was struck.  By raising myself on my hands and looking along the line of skirmishers, I saw his struggles for a moment, and then the body laid still — dead.

The men on each side of me, and about twenty feet distant were both wounded, one staggering to the rear in a dazed way, the other dying where he lay.  A lull in the firing took place soon after, the two pieces of the enemy being driven back by one of our batteries in the rear.  We commenced that morning with sixty rounds of ammunition, which was now nearly expended, and during this lull I went along the left of the line to get ammunition.  Approaching where Kendall’s body lay, I stooped to pick up his cap.  As I did so the top of his skull dropped from it.   I reflected an instant:  the advance was momentarily expected to take place from our troops who were massing in the rear, and I thought that his body could not be gotten away before the field would be strewn with the wounded and dead from the lines about to charge over it.  I concluded not only to take the ammunition from his cartridge-box, but took his boots off and gave them to Greenwood, near by, saying to him, “do you remember the conversation around the fire in the Bowling Green ‘pike’ last night?”

He replied, “yes, and I thought then the conversation ominous of what might happen to one or both of us today.”

I also took the letters and valuables from my dead comrade and carried them to our captain.  The firing again became general, as the advancing troops behind us came up on the charge.  They stepped over us as we lay in our little muddy beds where we had rolled over and over in our work of loading and firing, and the enemy’s artillery poured upon the advancing mass its terrible torrent of shot and shell.  We were ordered to go back for ammunition, and, as the troops passed us going forward to sustain the charge, we were food for their mirth.  They greeted us with remarks like the following:   “Why didn’t you stand up to it?”  “Say, mud !  where ye goin’ with that regiment?”  “You better go back to the river and wash,”  etc., etc.  We thought that if they had been where we had during the last five hours, their joviality would change to gloomy forebodings of defeat.

Greenwood wore those boots until he was wounded, at Chancellorsville, the following spring.  He died a few days after, adding another name to the roll of honor of our company and regiment.  The record of Company D, Thirteenth Massachusetts, is as follows:

“Edmond H. Kendall, private — recruit.  Born at Sterling, Mass., 1831.  A clerk previous to enlistment – Aug. 9, 1862.  Killed at the battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862.  He left a widow and one child.  In action at Rappahannock, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg.”

“Gilbert H. Greenwood, private.  Born at Gardner, Mass., 1839.  A chairmaker previous to muster-in — July 16, 1861.  Wounded while on a reconnaissance in front of the works at the battle of Chancellorsville, May 4, and died at Douglas Hospital, Washington, D.C., May 16, 1863.  A corporal at time of death.  In action at Falling Waters, Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville.”

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"We was badly defeated in that battle the cause of which I do not pretend to know."