The Battle of Fredericksburg;
General George G. Meade commanding the 3rd Division of the 1st Corps, protested the orders to attack by division only, without supports, exclaiming to his superior, General William B. Franklin, the mistakes of Antietam would be repeated at Fredericksburg, — heavy casualties without results. General Meade was correct; and, very angry. The battle on the left, at Fredericksburg, could have been won, if the initial success of General Meade's and General Gibbon's break-throughs had been properly supported. But they were not and the two divisions fell back with heavy casulties. Alas, Burnside, unaware that the attack on the left had ceased, kept hurling more and more men into the impregnable Confederate position on the right, stacking up dreadful casualties while awaiting news of successful results on the left. Burnside's plan proved to be sound, (if risky), but it was ineptly executed and a total disaster; a Burnside trade-mark perhaps.
This website concerns itself primarily with the
experiences of the “13th
Mass” soldiers, so to that end, page 3 presents reports relavant only
to their part in
the battle. They were skirmishers for
the division and escaped with light casualties. Colonel Leonard's
report of his regiment and a compiled list of casualties is here.
There are also reports for Companies, B, E and G. I have included
General Nelson Taylor's Report for the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st
Army Corps, to which the regiment belonged. And, because the
shots from his 2nd Maine Battery resulted in the wounding and death of
Private George E. Bigelow, Company D, I have transcribed Captain James
A. Hall's report. A few more particulars regarding some “13th
soldiers are also here.
Sergeant David Hicks' memoirs were sold at auction and his thoughts regarding the fight at Fredericksburg happened to be part of the sales pitch. They are useful to us here, as he is another voice from the ranks, and hopefully more of his entries will come my way. George H. Maynard, of Company D, was granted a Medal of Honor, in part for his actions at this battle. In 1919, his “13th Mass” comrade Walter Swan wrote an article about Maynard. Its interesting to compare this story with the narrative of Bourne Spooner on page 2. The third new source presented here is a letter written by C. J. Taylor, which remarkably came to me a few months ago while I was in the midst of rebuilding these Fredericksburg pages.
In June, 2018, a gentleman contacted me via email and
said he had just purchased a letter written by C. J. Taylor at a
Culpeper, VA antiques/flea-market. The regiment of the soldier
was unknown when he purchased it. The letter's author turned out
Charles J. Taylor, Co. D, “13th
Mass,” one of the four men killed at Fredercksburg.
Because of the purchaser's initiative to reach out to me, I can
offer a brief glimpse in to the personality of poor Taylor. He
left behind a wife and two children when killed.
The remaining material on this page is commentary on the
campaign from regimental historian Charles E. Davis Jr., & Sergeant
Austin C. Stearns. And, Harper's Weekly gives a look at the
workings of a
Field Hospital, in “Behind the Lines at Fredericksburg.”
This section of the website concludes with a letter to the army penned
by a distraught President Lincoln, despondent over the results of
PICTURE CREDITS: All images are from the Library of Congress digital images collection, with the following exceptions: Morton Tower, John Foley, Col. Leonard, Capt. James A. Hall, from Army Heritage Education Center, Digital Image database, Mass. MOLLUS Collection; George Emerson, from collector Scott Hann; Behind the Lines at the Battle of Fredericksburg from Harper's Weekly on-line, sonofthesouth.net. ALL IMAGES have been edited in photoshop.
A post-war journal titled, “Extracts from letters written while in active service in the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Gulf during ‘Our Civil War,’ by David F. Hicks.” appeared for sale at Heritage Auctions.
Heritage described the document:
“There are 121 pages of entries that include extracts of documents as well as assorted anecdotes and reminiscences. It appears these are mostly transcribed by Hick’s wife, but it seems to have been a collaborative effort with at least three different hands evident.
“Sergeant David F. Hicks served in Company B, 13th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers. He enlisted at the start of the war in April, 1861 and was mustered out in July, 1864 as a lieutenant, after much illness and being wounded in battle multiple times. He went on disability in 1866 and died shortly thereafter.
“Mrs. Hicks spends five pages towards the end of the journal summarizing her husband’s last few months in the army, speaking in the third person. Apparently, the time spent in the Army of the Gulf was fatal to him, as the effects of malaria, fever and ague resulted in his death from complications of heart disease after his discharge. This journal was assembled as a memorial to him and a tribute to his service in a noble cause.”
A few scans of the actual document were presented on the Heritage Auctions website, including the following summary by Mrs. Hicks of her late husband’s military career:
“One night at the time Burnside got stuck in the mud he was notified that his rank would be sergeant Major bringing him right in to the line of promotion, but the next morning he received a letter from Gov. Andrew, in which his commission was inclosed, it came from the President of the United States, per Order of the Sec. of War. Only young men of experience and ability were selected to Command colored troops, as they had never been tried as soldiers. I have this from good authority. He had been in the Army two years and they only allowed him to come home for three days; during that time, he paid his respects to the Gov. and Mr. Reed, who was on the Gov. Staff presented him with a sword, which is now in my possession.
Mrs. David F. Hicks.”
Another anecdote from the journal [transcribed from a page scan] sounds like a description of the Battle of Chantilly, September 1, 1862.
“In one of the battles, if my memory served me right under General Pope, Which General Gordon describes in his “book,” was fought on an eminence. It commenced in the afternoon; the cannonading was terrific and there was a dreadful thunder shower going on at the same time, but they kept on fighting. The Rebels sent word to General Jackson that their powder was wet, he sent word back if theirs was wet, the Yankees must be also, and to keep on. Mr Hicks said that the Rebels were so near, that they could feel the smoke in their faces, they fought until nine o’clock at night, they slept on their Arms, and at sunrise the next morning they were up and at it again. At last his Company was reduced to a handful. At the foot of the hill ran a little steam of water, which was shown
on a map in General Gordons book, it had become swollen and very muddy, from the recent rains. When they found they were reduced to a handful, and it was no use, Mr Hicks said that they ran down this hill, and plunged in to this stream boots and all and filled their canteens and drank this water, and it tasted better than any water they had ever drank, their throats were so dry from the powder.”
Unfortunately only a few brief excerpts from the entire document were shown. But some of Sergeant Hicks’ initial comments on the Fredericksburg Campaign appeared unedited. I offer them here. I can only hope more of this document becomes available for reference in the future. — B.F.
Letter Excerpt of David Hicks, Company B
Camp near Falmouth, Va
our whole army retreated across to this side of the Rappahannock. The result of this battle is the loss of 15,000 men, killed and wounded and the knowledge that the enemy have quite as large an army as our own, in front of us, and that they are posted in an almost impregnable position, if attacked on the front. Our regiment did not suffer much as we were deployed as skirmishers. Three killed and twelve wounded. I wish I could see you all once more. The reaction on my nerves after a battle most always makes me despondent sometimes a little homesick. This owing to my temperament which is imaginative and uneven. I suffer much from this cause. Yet I have never been away from the post of danger. Truly these are times which try mens souls.
GLC03393.29 “Report of the Proceedings of Co. B; Lieut. Morton Tower to N. W. Batchelder.” (The Gilder Lehrman Collection.) Not to be reproduced without written permission.
Reports of the proceedings of Co. B. 13th Mass. Vols. on the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, & 16th days of Dec. 1862.
Crossed the Rappahannock River on the morn. of the 12th with one commissioned officer and twenty six enlisted men — were deployed as skirmishers on the afternoon of the same day — on the morn. of the 13th, the Company were ordered to assemble on the right, which, was accordingly done. By some mistake Company B, and two other companys were taken to the rear – But were soon ordered back by order of General Tayler, when we immediately deployed as skirmishers — in the rear of the 83rd N.Y. and passed — directly to the front at which time, Privates J. A. Young & W. F. Blanchard were slightly wounded — both in the leg — We were Engaged with the Enemys skirmishers — until — the — Action commenced — when we were ordered to the rear. — On the night of the 13th our Division were ordered to the Left. —
On the 14th & 15th we laid on our arms all day —
On the night of the 15th we were sent to the extreme left — and front to strengthen the pickets — where we remained until the morning of the 16th We were ordered to assemble — and fall to the rear — Crossed the Bridge and Bivouacked on the north side of the Rappahannock river —
Lieut Morton Tower —
GLC03393.56 “Report of Lieut. John H. Foley to N.W. Batchelder, Dec. 1862.” (The Gilder Lehrman Collection.) Not to be reproduced without written permission.
Lieut. Col. N.W. Batchelder,
As 1st Lieut. Comd’g Co. G, 13th Mass. Vols. I would make the following report.
On the 13th December 1862, this Company was the reserve of the right wing of the Battalion who acted as skirmishers. When the Brigade advanced, Captain [Eben W.] Fiske ordered his Company to rear, saying Lieutenant Foley you will take command. Upon going to the rear I received a wound which disabled me for the time. I then ordered Sergeant [Samuel C.] Whitney to take command and go further to the rear.
I learn upon good authority that Sergeant Whitney conducted himself in a creditable manner And would respectfully recommend him for promotion.
Friday Dec. 12th, 62
Saturday Dec. 13th 62
about 8 P.M. Monday December 15th when we recieved [sp] orders to recross the river. The Privates and Non Commissioned Officers of my command conducted themselves in a brave and soldier like manner and to my entire satisfaction
[December —, 1862.]
Sir: I have the honor to make the following report of the doings of the regiment in the late action across the river near Fredericksburg :
In obedience to orders, we crossed the river at the head of the brigade, about 10 a.m., and soon after were marched nearly 2 miles to the left, beyond the Bernard mansion, when the regiment was deployed as skirmishers, covering the entire left flank to the river. After advancing about half a mile, crossing a ravine, the direction was changed to the right, and the left wing brought up toward the Bowling Green road. When approaching near it, the enemy’s pickets were discovered posted in the road. They slowly fell back as we advanced, and possession of the road was gained without firing a shot, covering the front of the brigade, and extending nearly a quarter of a mile to the left, where we joined pickets established by General Meade’s division. The regiment remained in that position all night.
About 9 A.M., Saturday, the 13th General Meade’s division changed position to the right, and were placed with the front resting on the road, when I asked to have my left wing rallied to the right, which was granted. Before the movement was completed, an advance was ordered, and the right wing was moved to the front about five hundred yards, into an open field, where the enemy’s pickets were. They fell back as we advanced, exchanging shots, to the woods in our front. This ground was held until 1 P.M., when the ammunition was exhausted. At that time the brigade was advanced over the line of skirmishers toward the woods, and we were ordered to the rear to get ammunition, when the engagement became general. The skirmishers were assembled on the right and left, and retired in good order. I remained on the left of the line of skirmishers, covering the battery (Captain Hall’s) with four companies, until there appeared to be a general retreat, when I marched them to the rear, near the Bernard mansion, and re-formed the regiment and obtained a supply of ammunition. At this time (about 4) I was ordered to assume the command of the brigade. The officers and men, I am pleased to say, performed their duties promptly and faithfully.
A report of the casualties has been made in full.*
Hoping that my actions meet with your approval, I am, very respectfully, your obediant servant,
Capt. W.T. Hartz
*The list of wounded mentioned was incorporated into a
chart for the brigade totals. Colonel Leonard reported 1 officer
enlisted men wounded, & 3 enlisted men killed for a total of 16
casualties. Searching the rosters of the regiment and other
sources I compiled the following list, one soldier short of the
Names in red were fatalities. You can see all the men
killed were recruits who joined the regiment in August, 1862.
WILLIAM F. BLANCHARD; age, 23; born, Boston;
mustered in as
priv Co. B, July l6, '6l; wounded, [accidentally]
Nov. 28, '6l,
[& again] Aug. 30, 62, [& again] Dec. 13,
'62. This is Blanchard's record through the Battle of
Fredericksburg, but he would continue to have a long and interesting
military career. He was captured at Gettysburg, escaped, and
would be captured and escape again during Grant's Overland
Campaign. Later he gained a commission in a Colored Regiment,
where he continued to serve with distinction.
JAMES A. YOUNG; age, 18; born, Boston; fisherman;
mustered in as priv., Co. B, July 16, '61; mustered out, Aug. 1, '64;
wounded at Fredericksburg, December 13, '62; residence, Newport street,
Dorchester, Mass. (1894).
CHARLES ARMSTRONG; age, 22; born, Boston; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. D, Aug. 6, '62; killed, December 13, '62.
GEORGE E. BIGELOW; age, 22; born,
clerk; mustered in as
priv., Co. C, Aug. 5, '62; died of wounds, December 19, '62.
George left behind a wife and infant child.
EDMOND H. KENDALL; age, 30; born,
Mass.; clerk; mustered in as priv., Co. D, Aug. 4, '62; killed
'62, at Fredericksburg. Edmond left behind a wife and
His younger brother, James T. E. Kendall, was in the 13th Mass, and
died of wounds received at the Battle of Antietam.
CHARLES J. TAYLOR; age, 30; born,
mustered in as priv., Co. D, Aug. 13, '62; killed December 13, '62, at
Fredericksburg. Charles left behind a wife and two children.
WILLIAM R. CHAMPNEY; age, 26; born, Boston;
in as priv., Co. D, July 16, '61; mustered out as Corp., May 7,
account of wounds received at Fredericksburg;* residence, Winter
Somerville, Mass. (1894.) [*Roster mistakenly said Antietam —
GEORGE A. LYFORD; age, 23; born, Boston;
mustered in as priv Co. D, July 16, '61; mustered out as Corporal, for
received at Fredericksburg, December 13, '62; Washington, Jan., —
promoted to Corp., July, '61; residence, Rouseville, Pa. (1894).
WALTER C. THOMPSON; age, l8; born, Woburn, Mass.; clerk; mustered in as private, Co. D, July 20, '61; mustered out as sergeant, Aug. 1, '64; wounded, December 13, '62.
JOHN H. TOWNE; age, 23; born, Brighton,
sailor; mustered in as private, Co. D, July 16, '61; mustered out, Jan.
10, '63; wounded at Fredericksburg. December 13, '62; residence,
JOHN H. FOLEY; age, 23; mustered in as 2d lieut., Co. G, July 16, '61; mustered out, March 29, '63; promoted to 1st lieut., July 26, '62; wounded December 13, '62; afterwards served as 2d lieut. in Mass. H.A.
DANIEL B. GRAY; age, 23; born, Broomfield, Me.; powder merchant; mustered in as priv., Co. H, Aug. 31, '62; mustered out, Aug. 1, '64; wounded, December 13, '62.
CHARLES E. PAGE; age, 22; born, Norridgewock, Me.;
shoemaker; mustered in as priv., Co. H, Feb. 12, '62; wounded at
Fredericksburg, December 13, '62; promoted to 2d
lieut., 4th U.S. Colored Troops, March 5, '63; was captured at New
Orleans, while on detached service, June 23, '63. Page studied
medicine after the war and became a doctor.
JOHN F. BATES; age, 26; born, Weymouth, Mass.; shoecutter; mustered in as priv., Co. K, July 16, '61; mustered out, Aug. 1, '64; taken prisoner December 13, '62; again at Gettysburg; residence, Weymouth, Mass. (1894). [The Roster says "taken prisoner" not wounded, but as the incident occured at Fredericksburg, perhaps Bates was wounded. — B.F.]
GARDNER R. PARKER; age, 24; born, Lowell, Mass.; freightman mustered in as priv., Co. K, July 16, '61; mustered out, April 20, '63; wounded, December 13, '62; residence, Worcester, Mass. (1894).
Near Falmouth, Va., December 18, 1862.
Captain: I beg leave to submit the following, as a report of the operations of my battery in the engagement on the south side of the Rappahannock, on Saturday, December 13, 1862:
The battery was ordered into position by Colonel Wainwright, at 9 a.m., in the corn-field on the south of the Plank road, and on the left of General Gibbon’s division, to support its left flank. A battery of the enemy at the time was playing upon us, and did us considerable harm for a short time; but, as we opened upon them with shell, they soon ceased firing, or turned their fire in another direction. This battery was 1,600 yards diagonally on our right flank. As there was considerable smoke, it was difficult to tell the effect of our shots upon them. As the heavy mist which hung over the field cleared away, I found I was exposed to a cross-fire from a battery of the enemy, 700 yards directly on our left flank, which opened with a rapid and well-directed fire of solid shot, which was very galling. After firing for some thirty minutes, I was ordered to cease, by order of General Reynolds, as we were firing over our own infantry.
We did not open upon the battery on our left flank, there being a mass of our own troops intervening; besides, there were other batteries farther to our left, which opened upon it, and soon caused it to change position.
By order of General Gibbon, I sent my caissons back across the road, under cover; not, however, until a limber chest of one of them had been blown up. The guns were kept in position, firing only occasionally into the woods, until 2 p.m., when we commenced shelling the woods in front of us, where our infantry were about to advance, and also fired some 60 rounds at the battery which was playing upon General Meade’s left flank as his division advanced.
This battery of the enemy opened with ten guns, which were engaged by some forty from our lines, making it difficult to tell the effect of any one of our batteries, but the enemy’s guns were soon silenced, and three of their caissons blown up. This battery was 1,300 yards diagonally on our left flank.
When General Gibbon’s line went forward, he ordered the battery to advance, posting it within 200 yards of the woods, into which he directed a rapid fire of shell, continuing it until General Gibbon’s division fell back, retiring some distance to my rear.
I now discovered a body of the enemy advancing from the woods, in front of my left, and opened upon them with case shot and canister at 200 yards distance. The effect of this last fire was very effectual, cutting down men and colors. My last round of ammunition being fired, I was obliged to retire, and, in limbering to the rear, five horses were shot from my left gun, and I was obliged to leave it upon the field for a time, as I had only horses enough to get the others away. As soon as I had got from under the fire of the enemy’s musketry, I halted my guns, taking four horses from one of them, and with 6 men I returned to my abandoned piece and dragged it safely off the field. My horses had become so reduced, I could only move with three pieces, and with them, by order of Colonel Wainwright on the 14th instant I reported to general Doubleday, on the extreme left of the line, and took a position assigned me by Captain Reynolds, chief of artillery, where we remained for a short time only, when we were withdrawn 200 yards by General Reynolds, as the enemy’s skirmishers were annoying us somewhat. We occupied the last named position until 7 p.m. of the 15th, when, by order of General Reynolds, I recrossed the river, and took position on the hill covering the bridge on which General Franklin’s troops were crossing.
My casualties during the engagement were 2 men killed, 14 wounded; also 25 horses killed and 6 wounded.
Eleven hundred rounds of ammunition were expended.
I have the honor to be, captain,
with respect, your obedient servant,
Capt. George F. Leppien,
NOTES. Captain Hall was dueling with Confederate
Captain John B. Brockenbrough's Artillery battalion of 12 guns.
Though Union artillery made an easy target for the better concealed
Confederates Captain Hall kept his composure during the
bombardment. While he was chatting with Colonel Adrian Root, a
Rebel shot blew up one of his limbers. Hall “dismounted and
sighted the nearest gun. When he ordered it fired, a shell
shrieked across the sky, and the ensuing blast revealed the captain had
blown up a limber. Hall, with calculated sang froid, resumed his
conversation.” —From The Fredericksburg Campaign by Francis Augustín
O"Reilly, LSU Press, Baton Rouge, 2006; p. 158 - 159. The
Confederates blasted in the woods by Hall's battery were probably
those of James A. Walker's Brigade of Virginians, Ewell/Early's
Captain: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Third Brigade in the action of the 13th instant, together with the reports of the commandants of the regiments composing the brigade:
On the morning of the 13th, by direction of Brigadier-General Gibbon, commanding division, I formed line of battle south of and parallel to the Bowling Green road, about two miles south-east of Fredericksburg, Va. This was executed under cover of the Thirteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, then deployed as skirmishers. My command was arranged as follows (Thirteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, deployed as skirmishers), commencing from the right of the line: First, Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers; second, Ninety-seventh New York Volunteers; third, Eighty-third New York Volunteers; fourth, Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers. Having the line formed, I was then (about 9 A.M.) ordered to advance it to within about 300 yards of the skirt of a wood covering a range of hills immediately in our front and the grading of the Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad.
In the execution of this order I drew the fire of the enemy, whom I found strongly posted in force in the wood and behind the railroad track. The skirmishers being within good range, a lively fire was kept up by them with effect on both sides. The line not being in range, I caused the men to lie down, to avoid as much as possible the effect of the enemy's artilllery, which had opened upon my line from right to left.
Finding the right of my line exposed to two or three of the enemy's guns, using grape and canister, I ordered the Eighty-eighth Regiment forward under the cover of a slight elevation of ground, with directions to fire a volley at the battery. This was executed, and had the desired effect. The pieces were silenced and immediately withdrew, but most singular to say, apparently frightened at the noise they had made themselves, with a few exceptions the whole regiment turned and ran toward the rear. With the assistance of my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Post, and an intervening ditch, I succeeded in stopping this disgraceful and causeless retrograde movement, and getting the regiment back upon the brigade line again, where it remained during the rest of the engagement, and fully retrieved itself by its firmness and steadiness thereafter.
At about 1 P.M. I was ordered to advance my line, which I did, to within a short distance of the wood, when the whole line became briskly engaged. The enemy seemed to concentrate the most of his fire on the two regiments on the left of my line (the Eleventh Pennsylvania and Eighty-third New York), which, from casualties and other causes, soon melted away, when the Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel Lyle, was advanced and took their places on the left of the regiments on the right (the Ninety-seventh New York and Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania), which regiments were marched a short distance to the right to make room for and unmask the advancing line.
The two last-named regiments remained on the line and sustained themselves to the last, and did not leave the field until the whole division retired, which was about 2.30 p.m. The troops, generally, composing this brigade displayed a great deal of bravery and courage; none more so than the Ninety-seventh New York, commanded by Colonel Wheelock. This regiment stood firm from first to last. Lieutenant-Colonel Batchelder, [pictured] commanding the right wing of the Thirteenth Massachusetts, deployed as skirmishers, is entitled to much praise for the skillful manner in which he maneuvered his command. Colonel Coulter, of the Eleventh Pennsylvania; Captain Hendrickson, commanding Eighty-third New York, and Capt. J. A. Moesch, of the last named regiment, are also entitled to honorable mention for their brave and gallant conduct on the field. There are many others in the command equally entitled to a classificaction with the above list, with whose names and persons I was not sufficiently familiar to remember, and trust that the omission of any deserving name will, in consequence, be overlooked.
The especial attention of the commanding general is called to the regimental reports, herewith submitted, and to the honorable mention of names contained therein.
In conclusion, I should feel that I failed to do my duty if I omitted to acknowledge my great indebtedness to my two aides, Captain Hartz, assistant adjutant-general, who was wounded, and Lieutenant Post, aide-de-camp, for their able and timely assistance, particularly to the latter, whose gallantry and intrepidity in assisting to execute and to convey my orders could not be excelled.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Capt. J.P. Wood,
The drawing represents a general view of the battlefield as seen by the reserves, the line of battle off in the distance, next the artillery and second line of infantry. To the right there is a battery planted on a little hill. Across the road fresh troops are seen rapidly marching into the woods toward the front to reinforce our worn-out soldiers. Near the centre are generals, with their staffs, watching the fate of the day. The road is blocked up with cavalry, infantry, artillery, and ambulances, going to and fro, carrying their burden of wounded to the rear. On the house seen near the centre are stationed officers with signal flags. To the left is a house used as a hospital, and still further are a batch of prisoners taken off by a file of our men.
“All this and more is seen by the reserve, patiently waiting until their turn shall come to take part in the struggle of the day. The wounded are brought past them, carried so that their injuries are terribly apparent to those who are forced to stand still and coolly view their sufferings, not knowing how soon the same fate may be theirs. The air resounds with shrieks of agony, and the ground near the surgeon's table is strewed with amputated limbs. Such sights as these make some hearts sicken and sink despairingly, while in others it makes the desire to be avenged burn only the more fiercely, especially whenever and anon passes by the familiar form of a late comrade in arms, fearfully mutilated or crippled for life, or perhaps dying. One poor soldier is borne along, who, in spite of his pain, renders his last tribute of respect to his commander and cheers him as he passes.
“Out of the ambulance and supply-wagon, nearest the hospital, the wounded are lifted one after another, and laid side by side to wail wearily until the surgeon can attend to them. One loyal soldier, who has charge of the prisoners, has captured a rebel flag, and is significantly trailing it in the dust as he walks along.” December 27, 1862.
The following article written by Walter E. Swan, Secretary, Thirteenth Regiment Association, appeared in Circular #32, 1919.
Major George H. Maynard, one of the oldest living members of our regiment, has with some reluctance consented to my giving an account of some of his experiences during the Civil War which led to his being awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor:
The major informs me that the main features connected with his military service are a matter of record in the War Department at Washington. It seems that George had military aspirations from his earliest days, for as a boy of four, in the school house at Waltham, Mass., a wooden sword with which he was playing, and which was evidently a specimen of his Yankee skill with the jack-knife, attained an appearance of being blood stained. The teacher, watching the little fellow, saw him cut gashes in his fingers and squeeze the blood upon the wood. “As clearly as if it were but yesterday,” she writes, “I remember how the sight of the child's blood made my woman's heart feel pale, and I exclaimed; 'Why, George, you must not cut your fingers !' Turning his dark, curly head and upturning his bright face to me, he replied: 'It don't hurt.' He was by no means a cruel-hearted boy, but affectionate, though a plucky little fellow.”
When the Civil War broke out and the regiment was being recruited, George enlisted in Company D, and he participated in every march and engagement in which the regiment took part until February 17, 1863, when he was commissioned as lieutenant in the 5th U. S. Volunteers. He was promoted to Captain January 17, 1864, and was later brevetted Major to date from March 13, 1865, for distinguished and meritorious services, being mustered out of the service with his regiment at New Orleans, La., September 21, 1866.
At Antietam, when our
was within a few hundred feet of the Confederate alignment, none
got it more hotly than Company D, then under Lieut. [Abel H.]
When the rapidly thinning line and the failing ammunition led
brigade commander to order a retrograde movement by the left flank into
the woods and thence to the rear, Private Maynard, with Corporal Geo.
N. Emerson of Company B, (pictured,
right) remained at the front, each taking cover
a tree, having still some ammunition in their boxes. Suddenly
heard a cry from Emerson and sprang to his aid, though the minnies were
zipping and shell and round shot tore across the field. He
taking the corporal off in the face of the fire to the cover of the
woods and thence to the rear. While passing through the trees
heard a cry for help from another wounded soldier, and Maynard,
depositing the corporal, promptly returned and was fortunately able to
bring away his comrade Edward A. Pearson, of his own company.
giving the helpless soldier water obtained from canteens taken from
dead comrades, Maynard returned to the front and continued the fight,
joining General Mansfield's line.
At Fredencksburg, December 13, 1862, the regiment was deployed as skirmishers, advancing several hundred yards toward woods in the front, and having driven the rebel skirmish line to cover behind trees and a railroad embankment, and, having held its ground for four hours, the skirmish line was ordered to lie down to escape the storm of grape and canister sweeping over it. Private Charles Armstrong, lying nearest to Maynard, sprang to his feet to fire and was immediately shot. Maynard crept over to him and with his Blanket strap effected a tourniquet which stopped the flow of blood from a wound just above the knee. He could do no more at the time, and returned to his position in the skirmish line. Becoming drowsy for a few moments from exhaustion, he was awakened by the advance of the line of battle and the tramping of men over him. Getting upon his feet he discovered his own company moving to the rear and followed it back nearly to the Bowling Green Road, when the recollection of Armstrong, helpless out there in the line, turned, him back.
He returned to find the line of battle hotly engaged and only a hundred yards in front of his former position. With great difficulty he found his comrade and it required considerable effort to drag him back to the rear of a battery. There Maynard left him till he could bring help and a stretcher, which he did. Finding Captain Harlow of his company and stating the case, the captain ordered him to remain with Armstrong until he could send an ambulance. Armstrong died that night.
During the Major's service he took part in twenty engagements, among them the battles of Manassas, Antietam and the siege of Port Hudson. After the surrender of Port Hudson he was appointed assistant provost marshal of that post, and later provost marshal and provost judge of the District of West Florida, serving in that capacity until relieved to take part in the advance on Mobile, Ala. After the taking of Mobile his regiment was ordered to Appalachicola, Fla., and he was appointed provost marshal and acting mayor of that city. When the regiment was ordered to Dry Tortugas he was appointed provost marshal of the post. Later he was in command of Fort Barrancas, Pensacola Harbor, and then was assigned to the headquarters of the department of Florida for special secret service by order of the Secretary of War to send an officer through the State to determine the truth or falsity of the reported kidnapping of negroes and their being taken to Cuba and sold into slavery; also to learn to what extent smuggling was being carried on at the different ports on the coast.
While a captain in the 82nd U. S. Volunteers Maynard was brevetted major for gallantry in action. At the battle of Marianna, when the colored soldiers would have killed Confederate cavalrymen whom they had taken prisoners twice, because, the troopers opened fire upon them after having once surrendered, he by his own force and courage prevented at the muzzle of his revolver a general massacre of the Confederates.
The main road entering Marianna was narrow, said brother officers of the 82nd and officers of the 2nd Maine cavalry, with houses on both sides of the street. About 300 yards from where the Federal troops halted was a barricade across the street of wagons and carts of all sorts. Captain Young, 7th Vermont Infantry, A. A. A. General, and Captain Maynard, Provost Marshal, were at the head, and one side, of the column. General Asboth in command ordered two companies of the cavalry to charge. They advanced about two-thirds of the way to the barricade when the enemy opened fire upon them, and they came rushing back pell-mell. This was a sore disappointment to the general and as the retreating cavalry rushed past he exclaimed, "For shame! For shame!" and as soon as they had reformed, he said, “Follow me,” and gave the order to charge.
General Asboth, Captain Young and Captain Maynard led the charge and just as they leaped the barricade on their horses (all three being bunched together) the enemy fired, wounding General Asboth through the face and arm, and instantly killing Captain Young by Maynard's side. Captain Maynard drew rein, faced the blacksmith shop full of the enemy, and shot their major commanding through the shoulder.
The cavalry were detained somewhat by the barricade, and General Asboth's horse ran away when he was shot. For the time being Captain Maynard was alone. When the cavalry came up he directed them regarding the General and the location of the enemy. Colonel Zularsky, who had dismounted some of his men, then came up on the flank, and was told the situation by Captain Maynard. The enemy were posted behind houses on one side of the street and on the opposite side behind gravestones, in the blacksmith shop and behind, and in the church. The engagement lasted about three-quarters of an hour when the enemy, made signs of surrender and orders were given to the Union troops to cease firing. Immediately the enemy commenced firing again and in the second firing shot a colored soldier.
The escape of the major during this encounter was certainly miraculous.
Illustration of George Maynard in Action at Marianna, from “Deeds of Valor" painted by 13th Mass. comrade, artist Henry Bacon.
The above described record led the Major's comrades in arms to exercise their influence to obtain proper recognition of his services before he should have passed the final muster. Brevet Maj. Gen. George L. Andrews (U. S. A. Retired), Maj. Henry A. Harris and officers of the 82nd U. S. Vols., Gen. Samuel H. Leonard, Lieut.-Col. Hovey, Capt. Livermore and officers and enlisted men of the 13th regiment petitioned the authorities in Washington, and the result was a letter from Gen. Russell A. Alger, Secretary of War, dated March 22nd, 1898, which said:-
“You are hereby notified that, by direction of the President and under the provisions of the act of Congress approved March 3, 1863, providing for the presentation of medals of honor to such officers, non-commissioned officers and privates as have most distinguished themselves in action, a Congressional Medal of Honor has this day been presented to you for most distinguished gallantry in action, the following being a statement of the particular service, viz: —
“At Fredericksburg, Va., December 13, 1862, this officer, then private Company D, Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, was with his regiment, the advance skirmish line of the division, when a general advance of the troops was ordered, and the skirmishers assembled in the rear.
“It was then found that a wounded and helpless comrade had been left on the former skirmish line, but Private Maynard voluntarily returned to the front, under a severe artillery and infantry fire, and brought his helpless friend to a place of safety.”
The death of Charles J. Taylor is described in some
detail by Private Bourne Spooner. The 30 year old recruit joined
the “13th Mass” in August, 1862. He was among the first batch of
or so recruits to find the regiment camped near Cedar Mountain, on
18, and marched the next morning in General John Pope’s hasty retreat
to Rappahannock Station. (The second batch joined the regiment
while it was on the march into Maryland some weeks later).
Remarkably, a letter written by Taylor was discovered in
June of this year,  at an antiques/flea market shop outside
Culpepper, VA — a most unlikely place. The purchaser wrote to me
and sent a
scan of the letter! It was illegible because 1/3 of it had torn
been scotch-taped back together, — backwards! That problem
was resolved with Photoshop. Here is a brief
glimpse into the life of
recruit Charles J. Taylor, writing from Hall’s Hill, September 5, 1862,
where the regiment had a short rest following the battles of
Thoroughfare Gap, 2nd Bull Run, and Chantilly. He had been in the
service just over 2 weeks. The letter addresses his parents,
Daniel and Phoebe Taylor.
Halls hill Va Sep 5 1862
again to night and are expecting to starte evry minute and so I am in a very grait hurry. I wrote to you about the battle on saturday in my other letter so I will onley state that there has a good many of the boys came in since I wrote but there is a good many that is missing yet we all stand it very well but the martching so mutch rather takes the tuck out of us but I think that I stand it about as well as any of them for I haven't lost but about a lbg since I commenced haying but I am a little worried out martching so mutch tho I have got a pretty sore mouth and I want you to send me some golden seal fast as soon as you can you must tell jims folks to write to me and be sure to tell gillberts folks to be sure to write to me for I am very anctious to hear from all know I have found out where to direct to tell them all that they must excuse me from writeing for I cannot get hardly time to write to you and I could
and I could not have wrote this if I had not wrote by a fire built side of an old stump but meby we wont bee hurried so al ways I hope not at any rate I wrote to you that we had no chaplain but we had the good fortain to meet one to day, but I have not found out what denomination he belongs to yet but what I have seen of him I guess that he is a good man his name is clarke he is from tienesty I want you to send me six or eight envelopes and a few stamps for it is almoste impossible to get them here I maid out to get some papers to day I got 40 cts worth of stamps for change and put them in the center of my testament and one very warm day when we was on a martch I sweat so that I wet it clear threw and all of them
or else I would have had enough to lasted me a good while all of them things that mother put up for me is gone to ashes but the testament and that I keeps closte by me but I would rather lost that than to have lost that handkerchief of mothers I wish that you would get wilbers likeness taken and also mothers and send them to me and finally boath of yours and the babies and send them to me to I saw William sharpe this morning for the first time he has ben up to the hospital since the regiment left harrisons landing I must close for it is getting late and my fire is getting lo tell aunt marry and uncle John that they must write to me give my respect to all
Truly yours C J Taylor
Charles left behind a wife and two
children when he was killed at Fredericksburg. He had been
It was then that 23 year old Charles, of Boston, married 23 year old Artemisia Ann Howe, at the pretty little village of Newfane, Vermont. On December 11 1854, their first child was born, a daughter named Mary Abbie Taylor. Two years later the couple had a son, Edwin C. Taylor, born on September 9, 1856. The children were 12 and 9 years old respectively, when their father was killed. Their mother filed for a widow's pension in January, 1863 and was granted $8 month starting in March, 1863. A year later, on March 4, 1864, Artemisia married again.
She married Alured P. Newell, age 36, of Wardsboro, Vermont. In 1866 Alured and Artemisia applied for and received an additional pension of $2 per child, payable until the children were age 16, according to an act of Congress dated July 25, 1866.
I would like to be able to add that the children of Charles J. Taylor thrived into adulthood, and had many descendants of their own. Such was the case of Private George E. Bigelow, another “13th Mass” casualty of Fredericksburg whose tragic death had a bitter-sweet epilogue in the proliferation of his line. Unfortunately that is not the case here. Charles and Artemisia's children quickly drop from sight. There is no subsequent information on Mary. Edwin Charles Taylor shows up in 1880 living in Brattleboro, VT, occupation; Sailor. And the story ends there.
Artemisia and Alured had a child of their own, Norman Newton Newell, born July 15, 1868. He lived until November, 1949, a resident of Brattleboro, VT. Artemisia's second husband Alured died at age 57 on May 5, 1885, also at Brattleboro. In 1900, August 25, Charles' widow passed away at age 68.
There was a strong impression among the men of the Thirteenth that General Franklin had not given that cordial suport to General Burnside that became a general who was determined to win. As we retreated to the north bank of the river, crestfallen and disgusted, very emphatic expressions of condemnation were made on his apparent lack of sympathy with Burnside's movement. The following is the order sent to General Franklin about which there has been so much criticism :
Army of the
Major-General Franklin, Commanding Left Grand Division, Army of the Potomac :
General Hardie will carry this despatch to you, and remain with you during the day. The general commanding directs that you keep your whole command in position for a rapid movement down the old Richmond road, and you will send out at once a division, at least, to pass below Smithfield, to seize, if possible, the heights near Captain Hamilton's on this side of the Massaponax, taking care to keep it well supported and its line of retreat open. He has ordered another column of a divison or more to be moved from General Sumner's command up the plank-road, to its intersection with the telegraph road, where they will divide, with a view to seizing the heights on both of those roads. Holding those two heights, with the heights near Captain Hamilton's, will, he hopes, compel the enemy to evacuate the whole ridge between these points. I make these moves by colunms distant from each other, with a view of avoiding the possibility of a collision of our own forces, which might occur in a general movement during the fog. Two of General Hooker's divisions are in your rear, at the bridges, and will remain there as supports.
Copies of instructions given to Generals Sumner and Hooker will be forwarded to you by an orderly very soon.
You will keep your whole command in readiness to move at once, as soon as the fog lifts. The watchword, which, if possible, should be given to every company, will be “Scots.”
I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully, your obediant servant,
JNO. G. PARKE,
General Franklin says that in the state of facts existing when it was received, “General Burnside's order, though incongruous and contradictory on its face, admitted of but one interpretation ; viz., that he intended to make an armed observation from the left to ascertain the strength of the enemy, an interpretation also given to it by both of my corps commanders.”
The causes for the disaster at Fredericksburg are several and were freely discussed as usual by the boys, and many were the theories advanced. Some laid the blame to this cause and some to that, and after a free exchange of ideas, it was decided that as far as the left was concerned, Gen'l Franklin was responsible. And these are [the] reasons. The old spirit of McClellanism was still in the army, and of all the old officers, Franklin was the most devoted; he either would [not] or could not give up the idea of McClellan greatness, and [t]hen Burnside ordered him to attack and take the enemies position, and if he wanted more troops, to send for them. Let us go more into particulars.
[Maj.-Gen. William B. Franklin, pictured]
These are the facts, for we were there and saw what I now write and to a certain extent participated in them.
The grand division of Franklin were composed of the 1st and 6th corps in the following order on the left: the 2nd division, Gibbons, on the right of the corps joining the left of the sixth, the 3d division, Meade, on the left of the second; and the 1st, Doubledays, on the left of the 3d and reaching back to the river.
In front of the old 1st corps commanded by John F. Reynolds stood the veterans, tried in many a battle of Stonewall Jackson, his men partialy sheltered by the railroad and the timber.
When the advance was ordered and the old division of Gibbon, the Pennsylvania Reserves of Meade, with the Iron brigades of the 1st, there was fighting of the highest order; on they went, driving the rebs from the railroad and through the woods, advancing the line a good half mile, but all this had not been done without a fearful loss in killed and wounded, and so when Stonewall hurried up his reserves, the weakened lines of Gibbon and Meade after a most stubborn resistance was forced back. The golden opportunity for Franklin was to send the division at the bridge into the fight; if that had been done the story of Fredericksburg would have had a different ending. That division thrown into the fight at that most critical moment would have turned defeat into a most splendid victory.
But instead, he (Franklin), sent away to Burnside three miles away for reinforcements, which the gallant hero quickly sent, but before they could reach the field, although they double-quicked it almost all the way, the day was lost. To show the desperation of the fight, and how our boys tried to gain a victory, let me tell what some of the 16th Maine said.
One said when they had driven the rebs through the woods, they could see just beyond the teams parked, and the teamsters were making frantic efforts to get away, while farther up the valley a large mass of rebel troops could be seen coming at the double quick; soon they were upon them, and as no help was near they were forced to fall back, fighting all the way.
Another said, when speaking of how near they were, that “Old Mr. Libbey his chum speared three of them,” thus showing how near we sometimes got.
But such was the fate of war; the gallant Burnside took the whole cause of the failure upon himself, blameing no one, and the battle of Fredericksburg passed into history.
Pictured above, Artist Arthur Lumley sketched General Burnside visiting with General Franklin, December 14th 1862, giving him the order to evacuate his position on the battlefield.
To the Army of the Potomac:
I have just read your Commanding General's preliminary report of the battle of Fredericksburg. Although you were not successful, the attempt was not an error, nor the failure other than an accident. The courage with which you, in an open field, maintained the contest against an entrenched foe, and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and recrossed the river, in face of the enemy, show that you possess all the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of the country and of popular government. Condoling with the mourners for the dead, and sympathizing with the severely wounded, I congratulate you that the number of both is comparitively so small.
I tender you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.
*Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! by George C. Rable, UNC Press Chapel Hill & London, 2002. This is a wonderful book on the Campaign.
© Bradley M. Forbush, 2017
Page Updated September 20, 2018.