the fear and dread experienced
Union soldiers who charged Marye's Heights during the Battle
At the base of the hill was a sunken road behind a stone
wall, where Confederate Infantry four rows deep fired repeated volleys
into any Federals that approached. Artillery from
above covered the field and bodies were literally blown to bits
during seven futile attacks against this impregnable
battle was a total disaster for the Army of the Potomac and its leader
General Ambrose E. Burnside. (pictured
The late arrival of pontoons
necessary for the Union Army to cross the
Rappahannock River allowed time for the Confederate army to concentrate
hills outside Fredericksburg, Va and marshal a formidable defensive
line. Despite this, Gen. Burnside stuck to his plans to cross the
the town and attack the Rebel army. To slow them down, a brigade
Mississipians fired at the
engineers from houses in town, and kept the Yankee bridge
builders at bay for a better part of the day, Dec. 11th. An
artillery bombardment could not disperse the Confederates, but it
harmed the town. Eventually a
Union detachment had to cross the river in boats under fire, and storm
the town to drive away the deadly determined Southerners.
Frustrated Yankee troops shamefully
looted the town in the evening as they filed in from across the river.
The sacking of Fredericksburg is forever a black spot on the
record of the Army of the Potomac.
The rest of the Army crossed
the River on the 12th while Gen.
Burnside planned his attacks. His “Left Grand Division”
commanded by General William B. Franklin, was
to lead the
assault against the Confederate lines posted on a ridge
town. “Franklin and other generals proposed having the First
and Sixth Corps launch a massive assault against Lee's right
That afternoon, Burnside
promised he'd get orders to Gen. Franklin, then rode
away to visit other generals.
Franklin waited up much of the
night for instructions but the orders never
came. His aid delivered the promised orders at 7:30 A.M.
December 13th, — and they were vague.
(See discussion in the “Commentary” section on page 3).
Instead of a massive attack,
General Franklin chose to
interpret his orders conservatively, and ordered two
divisions to probe the Confederate lines in his front.
General George Meade whose division led one of the attacks
bristled at the prospect of an un-supported attack against a strong
Confederate line. “He complained to Franklin that
attacking with a single division would simply repeat the mistakes of
Antietam, where piecemeal assaults had yielded little but heavy
casualties. His division could take the heights Meade
believed, but could not hold them. Typically laconic,
Frankiln replied that these were Burnside's orders and they would be
General Meade was right.
Elements of his division broke through the Rebel defenses but without
supports they were forced to fall back sustaining heavy casualties.
The same happened with General John Gibbon's Division, the
other division to attack the Rebel defenses on Franklin's
half of the
According to Burnside's plan,
while the troops on his left
were rolling up the Confederate right flank, a co-ordinated Union
would begin against the Confederate left flank. Instead, an
ensued. Seven repeated charges melted away against
Confederate General Lee's impregnable position anchored at
“Union soldiers had to leave
the city, descend into a valley
bisected by a water-filled canal ditch, and ascend an open slope of 400
yards to reach the base of the heights. Artillery atop
Marye's Heights and nearby elevations would thoroughly blanket the
Federal approach. “A chicken could not live on that field
when we open on it,” boasted a Confederate cannoneer.3
“Soldiers could hardly forget the sights — hands,
legs, arms and heads
shot off and bodies mangled beyond recognition — reminding one Rebel of
hog butchering time back home.” 4
[Pictured are troops of Kershaw's and Cobb's Confederate Brigades
behind the stonewall at the base of Marye's Heights, Battle of
Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862.]
For some reason,
Burnside at his
across the river, thought General Franklin's attack was succeeding.
Expecting to hear that the Confederate right had collapsed,
kept up the attacks in front of Marye's Heights on the Confederate
left. The futile attacks continued
until darkness fell over the field.
“Of the 12,600 Federal soldiers
killed wounded or missing, almost two-thirds fell in front of the stone
On the morning of
14th, Burnside's generals talked him out of resuming the attacks
against Marye's Heights. The two sides endured an anxiety
ridden 'quiet day' while the Union generals decided their next move.
The uneasiness continued on the 15th.
At night on the 15th, and through the
early morning hours of the 16th, the massive Federal Army quietly
slipped back across the Rappahannock River. Before the
Confederates knew what happened, the pontoon bridges were taken up and
the Army of the Potomac was safe on the other side.
The “13th Mass.” were extremely
Fredericksburg. They did not participate in any of the iconic
dramas for which the battle is known. Their river crossing at
the lower bridge was un-opposed. They were not in the town,
so did not participate in the wild looting. They were thrown
out as skirmishers for the Left Grand Division, Dec. 12th, and remained
in that capacity for two days.
right depicts the
lines of battle about 1 p.m. Dec. 13th.
General John Gibbon's Division
was chosen to support Meade's attack against the
Confederate right. When the charge began the skirmishers of
the 13th Mass. regiment
were out of
ammunition. The advancing troops passed over them and they
fell back to the
rear, as ordered, to replenish their cartridge boxes.
Casualties for the regiment were light. Indeed when
private John B. Noyes returned to the regiment in late January, 1863,
he noted that “Our men talk more of the unsuccessful move
preceding Burnside's withdrawal from the Army [The 'Mud March,'
- 23rd, 1863] than of the
Fredericksburg fight.” 6
The part played by the 13th
Mass. regiment was straight-forward as
the narratives on this page prove. There is a lot of
repetition but each
account adds color to the overall picture. The summary by
Charles E. Davis, Jr., describes the horror of laying in front
of active field artillery; George Jepson finds humor in a
series of stories from the skirmish line; Sergeant
Austin Stearns gives a good
account of the banter between Reb and Yank, and the duties of the Color
On page 2, more vivid material details the experiences
of the regiment. Private Bourne Spooner
and others, provide
names and details of those killed and some of the wounded.
Sergt. John S. Fay gives a riveting description of
Don't miss the vivid letters of
private Charles F. Adams, (Co. A)
and Corporal George Henry Hill, (Co. B). There are
also rare company reports by First Lieutenants John Foley,
G) and Morton Tower, (Company B) in the Official Reports
section on page 3, and the story of Charles J. Taylor, one of the 4 men
killed at the battle.
1. Fredericksburg ! Fredericksburg!; George C.
Rable, University of North Carolina Press, 2002; (p. 184).
2. ibid; (p.
3. National Park Service, Fredericksburg &
Spotsylvania National Military Park, website; "Battle of
Fredericksburg" by A. Wilson Green.
4. Fredericksburg !
Fredericksburg!; George C. Rable, University of North
Carolina Press, 2002; (p. 290).
5. A. Wilson Green, for
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Military Park.
6. John B. Noyes, letter to George Feb. 15, 1863.
Massachusetts Historical Society.
credits: All images are from the Library of
Congress digital images collection, with the following
exceptions: General Burnside from "The
Photographic History of the
Civil War" Francis Trevelyan Miller, New York, The Review of Reviews,
1911; David Sloss, from his descendant, Mr. Jim Perry; George Emerson,
from collector Scott Hann; Corporal George Henry Hill from his
Robbins, sent by Alan Arnold; Charles F.
Adams, from James Lowell descendant, Tim Sewell;
Capt. James A. Hall, from Army Heritage Education Center,
Digital Image database,
MOLLUS Collection; William Blanchard from artifacts dealer, Steve
Colors" by Austin
from "Three Years in Company K" Associated University Press,
1976; Barnard House & Franklin's Corps Recrossing the
River from sonofthesouth.net; Special thanks to my wife Susan
turned a poor photocopy from the Massachusetts Historical Society into
a beautiful portrait of N.M. Putnam. She also photographed
battlefield when I visited in February, 2012. The illustration
"Americans but Brothers" is by J. S. Barrows, from Carleton's "Stories
of Our Soldiers" The Boston Journal Newspaper Company, 1893.
have been EDITED in PHOTOSHOP.
Table of Contents
following is from Abraham Lincoln; Speeches and Writings, 1859 - 1865;
The Library of America. I have added a couple
paragraph breaks for easier reading.
President Lincoln was worried about the Army crossing the Rappahannock
River directly in front of the enemy.
Off Acquia Creek, Va
Nov. 27. 1862
Major General Halleck
I have just had a long
conference with Gen. Burnside. He
believes that Gen. Lees whole army, or nearly the whole of it is in
front of him, at and near Fredericksburg. Gen. B. says he
could take into battle now any day, about, one hundred and ten thousand
men, that his army is in good spirit, good condition, good moral, and
that in all respects he is satisfied with officers and men; that he
does not want more men with him, because he could not handle
them to advantage; that he thinks he can cross the river in face of the
enemy and drive him away, but that, to use his own expression, it is
somewhat risky. I wish the case to stand more favorable than
this in two respects.
First, I wish his
crossing of the river to be nearly free from risk; and secondly,
the enemy to be prevented from falling back, accumulating strength as
he goes, into his intrenchments at Richmond. I therefore
propose that Gen. B. shall not move immediately; that we accumulate a
force on the South bank of the Rappahannock — at, say, Port-Royal,
under protection of one or two gun-boats, as nearly up to twenty-five
thousand strong as we can. At the same time another force of
about the same strength as high up the Pamunkey, as can be protected by
gunboats. These being ready, let all three forces move
simultaneously, Gen. B.’s force in it’s attempt to cross the river,
the Rappahanock force moving directly up the South side of the river to
his assistance, and ready, if found admissible, to deflect off to the
turnpike bridge over the Mattapony in the direction of Richmond. The
Pamunkey force to move as rapidly as possible up the North side of the
Pamunkey, holding all the bridges, and especially the turnpike bridge
immediately North of Hanover C.H; hurry North, and seize and hold the
Mattapony bridge before mentioned, and also, if possible, press higher
up the streams and destroy the railroad bridges. Then, if
Gen. B. succeeds in driving the enemy from Fredericksburg, he the enemy
no longer has the road to Richmond, but we have it and can march into
the city. Or, possibly, having forced the enemy from his
line, we could move upon, and destroy his army.
main army would have the same line of supply and retreat as he has now
provided; the Rappahanock force would have that river for supply, and
gun-boats to fall back upon; and the Pamunkey force would have that
river for supply, and a line between the two rivers — Pamunkey
& Mattapony — along which to fall back upon it’s
gun-boats. I think the plan promises the best results, with
the least hazzard, of any now conceiveable.
Note — The above plan, proposed by me, was
& Gen. Burnside, on the ground that we could not raise and put
in position, the Pamunkey force without too much waste of time.
Top of Page
of the 13th Massachusetts' Actions in the Battle
The following is an excerpt from James Lorenzo
Bowen's work, “Massachusetts
in the War, 1861-1865.” Springfield, Mass.,
Franklin's Crossing over the
The Thirteenth with their
crossed the Rappahannock at Franklin's bridges, some three miles below
of Fredericksburg, early on the morning of the 12th, moving to the left
the river, where the regiment deployed as skirmishers, advanced to the
stage road, and remained during the night which followed and next
the opening of the battle.
The skirmish line moved
forward and engaged
enemy, keeping up a sharp fire till the division in line of battle
passed to the front. The eight companies of the Thirteenth which
been on the skirmish line for 24 hours then rallied on the two in
the regiment was sent to the rear for a fresh supply of ammunition.
was ready to resume active operations at the front the fight there had
practically ceased; General Meade's Division, the Third, had made its
magnificent attack, supported by the Second (Gibbon's), and the
forces had fallen back with heavy loss. General Gibbon was
Taylor assumed command of the division, placing the Third Brigade in
of Colonel Leonard.
Position was taken near the
where the brigade remained
during the night. It staid in that vicinity, in fact, till the
the Federal troops from that side of the river, no further fighting of
consequence taking place. Recrossing on the night of the
first bivouacked some two miles from the river, but on the 19th it
moved to the
vicinity of Fletcher's Chapel into a more permanent camp. The
Thirteenth during the battle of Fredericksburg
was but three killed and 11 wounded, its service on the skirmish line
saved it from the severe loss which had met the regiments forming the
battle. At the close of the engagement, though the largest
brigade in numbers, it had but 314 present for duty.
Four Men Killed
Though 3 men were officially reported
killed after the battle, another, died on December 19th.
The four men killed from the
regiment are, George E. Bigelow, Company C, died of wounds Dec. 19,
1862; Charles Armstrong, Company D, Charles J.
Taylor, Company D; and Edmond H. Kendall, Company D. Details
about all of their deaths can be found on this site. Armstrong,
Taylor and Kendall on page 2 of this section; Taylor & Armstrong
are reprised on page 3. George E. Bigelow
gets a special page to himself on the web page titled “Year End;
1862.” Kendall, Bigelow and Taylor all had wives and
children. I am not sure about Armstrong.
Unfortunately, I do not have images of any of these
Narrative from the Regimental History by
Charles E. Davis, Jr.
The following excerpt is from“Three
Years in the
Army: The Story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers.” Estes
& Lauriat, Boston, MA; 1894.
‘roused at 3 A.M.,
before “Aurora showed her
brightening face,” as the poet says, and proceeded at once with
preparations for breakfast. At 4 o’clock we started
crackling snow for the Rappahannock River, which we expected to cross
upon our arrival ; but the completion of the pontoon bridge
by rebel sharpshooters until night, so we bivouacked in the woods near
by. Heavy cannonading was heard up the river at the town of
Fredericksburg all day, exciting the curiosity of some of the boys who
went up there to see the fun, and perhaps give a little advice to
“Fredericksburg The Night of the 11th”
sketched by A. R. Waud
The mist still clung to
the river and the lowlands as the army began to cross the
Our brigade was among the first to go over, and upon reaching the
opposite bank halted for further orders. As the mist rolled
and the sun made its appearance, it was a magnificent sight to watch
the troops, many of them in new uniforms, marching from all directions
toward and across the bridge and then double-quick up the opposite bank.
crossing a pontoon bridge men are cautioned not to keep step.
pontoon bridge in not a very substantial structure, therefore any
regularity of step would tend to sway it from its moorings.
then marched along the bank of the river in an easterly direction about
half a mile, and halted; where upon the colonel was asked by General
Gibbon if he could deploy his whole regiment as skrimishers at once,
and being promptly answered that he could, he was directed to do
so. The ground in front of us was a flat un-obstructed plain
considerable extent, where every man of the regiment could be seen as
deployed. On our right was a Vermont regiment and on our left
Pennsylvania regiment, also deployed as skirmishers. These
regiments constituted the skirmish line of the Left Grand Division, and
it advanced firing at will and slowly driving back the rebel
skirmishers toward their main body. After dark we arrived at
Bowling Green road, which, being a sunken road, afforded us protection
from the enemy’s fire. Here we remained all night as a picket
guard for the First Corps. The regiment was divided into
reliefs, each of which was sent out in turn some distance beyond the
road and within talking distance of the rebel pickets.
The Slaughter Pen Farm, Fredericksburg
National Battlefield Park. This land was aquired by the park in
The view is beyond the Bowling Green Road,
looking towards Jackson's Confederate line (the base of the ridge
in the background). Meade's Division was on the left,
Gibbon's Division, to the right. This view mostly
encompasses Gibbon's front.
the night the enemy set fire to some buildings near by, illuminating a
considerable extent of country, while hundreds of men of both armies
swarmed to the fences to watch and enjoy the sight.
night long we could plainly hear the sound of axes in the enemy’s camp,
which we subsequently learned were being used in the preparation of
obstructions against our advance in the morning.
While we were
deployed as skirmishers a captain of one of the companies observed a
man who, up to this time, had always failed to be present on any
important occasion, endeavoring to escape to the rear, when he called
out in a loud voice, “C — , get into your place, and if you see a
‘reb,’ SHOOT HIM!”
— “Shall I shoot right at him
?” whined C.
A few minutes later
he disappeared and
was not seen again until the
“surgeon’s call” was established in camp, some days later.
incident happened shortly after our skirmish line returned to the
Bowling Green road that afforded us a good deal of amusement.
boys had just started fires for coffee when a young officer, whose new
uniform suggested recent appointment, approached and with arbitrary
voice ordered the fires to be put out, at which the colonel exhibited
an asperity of temper that surprised us, who had never seen him except
with a perfectly calm demeanor. Our experience on the picket
had taught us how to build fires without attracting the attention of
the enemy, and we liked it not that a young fledgling should interfere
with our plans for hot coffee. The colonel’s remarks were
sufficient for our guidance, so we had our fires and our coffee too,
while the officer went off about his business.
occurred to add interest to the occasion. Our pickets, as
stated, were so near to those of the enemy that conversation was easily
carried on. One of the rebel pickets was invited to come over
make a call, though the invitation may have appeared to him very much
like the spider to the fly. After some hesitation and the
promise that he would be allowed to return he dropped his gun and came
into our line and was escorted to one of the fires, where he was
cordially entertained with coffee and hardtack, probably to his great
delight, inasmuch as coffee and hardtack were not so abundant in the
South as to allow a distribution of it as an army ration. “If
thine enemy hunger, feed him; overcome him with good.” Fill
with lead, good lead, was what we tried to do most of the
After he had enjoyed our hospitality as long as he dared he
day, while we
were halted at the
Bernard house, who should be brought in a prisoner but this
man, who was greeted with shouts of welcome and friendly shakings of
the hand. Some years after, one of the regiment, while
in Ohio, became acquainted with a man tarrying at the same
hotel. After supper the two sat down to talk, and very soon
conversation drifted to the war, when it was discovered that
had served in the army, though on opposite sides. The
learning that his new-found acquaintance was a member of the
Thirteenth, remarked that it was a rather singular coincidence,
was entertained by that regiment once at Fredericksburg, and a right
smart lot of fellows they were;” and then he told what has been
substance, related here. As our comrade was present at that
battle, and a member of the company that did the entertaining, he was
perfectly familiar with the facts, whereupon mutual expressions of
pleasure followed and an adjournment for “cold tea.”
9 o’clock in the forenoon we were again deployed as skirmishers, and
ordered to advance over the fence into the damp clayey soil of the
ploughed ground beyond, the enemy firing and slowly retreating.
“If your officer’s dead and
the sergeants look white,
Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight;
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
An’wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier.”
batteries were speedily brought into position, and began shelling the
woods, while the enemy’s guns, in turn, opened upon us. We
between two fires, and the greatest caution was necessary to prevent a
needless loss of life. Very soon we were ordered to lie down
close as possible to the earth in the soft clay, rolling over on our
backs to load our guns. We were now engaged in the very
service of preventing the enemy from picking off the men of Hall’s
Second Maine Battery, then engaged in shelling the enemy, from a
position slightly elevated in our rear. In order that this
battery might do as effective work as possible, it was
point its guns so as to clear us by one foot.
This was a
position to be in. An earnest protest was sent back
Hall, asking him to elevate his pieces, or every man of us would be
killed. Suddenly a shell or solid shot from this battery
the cartridge-box of one of the boys while he laid on his stomach.
of our number crawled out to where he lay and dragged him in.
lived about six days, having been injured in the hip. It was
enough to be killed or wounded by the enemy, but to be killed by our
own guns excited a great deal of righteous indignation. [George
E. Bigelow, Company C is the
only man killed who died a few
days after the battle. You can read about him on the “Year's End,
1862,” page of this site].
at right is Capt. James Abram Hall, 2nd Battery, Maine Light
About one o’clock a general
advance was ordered.
Those on the left moved first,* then came our brigade.
we advanced in front of our division until the firing became so rapid
that we were not only of no advantage, but interfered with the firing
of our troops, so we were ordered to lie close to the ground while our
troops passed over us. Toward night we were withdrawn to the
Bernard house, which had been turned into a hospital, and replenished
our empty boxes with ammunition.
Our losses were three men
killed, one officer and twelve men wounded,
making a total of sixteen.
As we were withdrawn
from the skirmish
line to the rear our appearance excited a good deal of mirth among the
old soldiers, who knew too well what rolling round in the mud meant,
for we were literally covered with the clayey soil that stuck to our
clothing like glue. We had had a pretty hard time of it, as
after each time we fired, we turned over on our backs to reload our
guns. Hours of this work had told on our appearance as well
as our tempers, so that when some of the men of a new regiment asked us
why we didn't stand up like men and fight, instead of lying down, we
felt very much like continuing the fight in our own lines, to relieve
the irritation we were suffering.
*Meade's Division is on their left and
So far this month we had
the cold and from frequent show-storms, but this night (the 13th) was
bitter cold, and the suffering of the wounded must have been very great.
by Davis on Skirmish Duty
To be thrown out as
skirmishers in front of a line of battle, the observed of all
more dangerous than when touching elbows with your comrades in close
order, but as a matter of fact it is not generally attended wtih so
great loss. It is a duty requiring, when well done, nerve and
coolness on the part of both officers and men. You are at
liberty to protect yourself by any means that may be afforded, such as
inequalities of the ground, a bush, a tree, a stump, or anything else
that you may run across as you advance. The fire which you
receive is usually from the enemy's skirmishers, and is less effective
than when directed toward an unbroken line.
You are supposed to load, fire,
and advance with as near
perfect coolness and order as you can command, becaue on that depends
the amount of execution you are able to perform. It is no
place for skulkers, as every man is in plain sight, where his every
movement is watched with the closest scrutiny. As soon as the
skirmish line of the enemy is driven back, the main line advances, and
very soon the battle begins in earnest; whereupon the skirmishers
in close order and advance with the rest of the line, except in cases,
like the one just related, when it was necessary to replenish the boxes
We had acquired a good deal of
proficiency by constant drilling for many months in this particular
branch of the tactics, long before we were called upon to put our
knowledge into practice. We growled a good deal at the
colonel in the early days of our service for his persistence, but we
had already realized how valuable a lesson he had taught us.
There were occasions, as will be seen later on, when this kind of
service was very dangerous; but, as a whole, our losses on the skirmish
line were lighter than some other regiments, and we think it is not
unfair to attribute the fact to the thorough instruction we had
received. It was an old story, — the oftener a man does a thing,
the better he can do it.
Table of Contents
from the Battlefield; Charles Adams, Co. A
Follen Adams of Company A, gained notoriety after the war for his
series of humorous poems titled, “Little
Jacob Strauss,” or “Leedle
Strauss,” written in German
Dialect and published in various
incarnations throughout the late 1800's. Several of his war
letters are in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical
He joined the regiment as a recruit in August, 1862.
Charles Follen Adams to Sister Hannah,
14 December, 1862; Charles Follen Adams Papers, Massachusetts
Historical Society. Used
Battlefield about 8 P.M. Sunday Dec. 14th
Dear Sister Hannah,
suppose that you have received the news of the taking of Fredericksburg
before this mail came off the
14th. We were out round where
we could see the fun though we took no active part in the fight as it
mostly by artillery. I say we as
Walter joined us to day & is now with us.
Day before yesterday we crossed the Rappahannock
river on a pontoon bridge in pursuit of the Rebs & our Co
& one other
were deployed as skirmishers & as we were the head regiment of
it brought us right in front of the whole army corps. We came
late in the afternoon to the woods
where they the Rebs made a stance & had thrown out their
consequently we stopped just in sight of them to inform our troops of
whereabouts. We were on picket guard
that night & could hear their voices in the woods &
they were making
breastworks all night. Yesterday we had
a rousing battle. It commenced
early in the morning
lasted all day & still continues. We are now
supporting a battery not being engaged at this
We can hear the firing of the skirmishers
just over the hill but are not allowed to show our heads where we can
is going on. I thought I would just
write a few lines though I don’t know when I can send it. It
was an awful day yesterday I can tell you
the whole rebel army or at least a large part of it is supposed to be
concentrated here. We have thousands of
troops in the field & reinforcements coming in all the
I don’t know the result of yesterdays
fighting but there must have been thousands killed on both sides it was
continual roar of artillery and musketry till late at night.
We advanced to the front & engaged the rebels
advance troops while our line of battle formed, when we laid low
them to pass over us as we were ordered back as a reserve. We
went back & got more ammunition &
then went back to our position in the reserve.
We laid on the field all night with our equipments on & this
took our present
position supporting a battery & there is a fair show
another engagement immediately. One poor
fellow is just being carried by me as I am writing this probably a
as they are now blazing away good from over the hill. I hear
that A. P. Hill commands the rebel
forces in our front. On our side, Hooker has the center, Sumner
Franklin the left of our army. Our
division is on the extreme left & commanded by Gen Taylor as
was wounded yesterday. The rebs fought
like tigers, in the woods as usual, & their sharpshooters in
trying to pick us off, and they came pretty near it as I could almost
wind of their bullets they came so near to my head but luckily none of
were wounded - - - There seems to be a movement among our troops
battery is coming up I will close for tonight and write in the morning aps.
I believe there is an armistice
a man just taking letters
Walter says he will write soon
Got the box all safe
much obliged eatables mostly
*Walter is Walter S. Fowler, fellow recruit
of Company A, he was wounded at Antietam.
Top of Page
Jepson's Reminiscence of the Battle
The regimental roster states, Boston clerk, George E.
Jepson, age 20,
mustered into Company A as a
private, at Fort Independence, July 29, 1861. He served 3
the regiment. In January, 1863 he was detailed at
headquarters. His ancestors were Revolutionary War
soldiers, and he was proud of this heritage and his military
service. Many of Jepson's articles appeared in the pages of the
13th Regiment Circulars.
following article was first published in the Boston Journal,
December 13, 1892, for the 30th Anniversary of the Battle of
Fredericksburg. It was reprinted in the 13th Regiment Association
Circular #19, Dec. 1906, where I found it. Only a few
contemporary references were omitted from the latter publication,
— otherwise the text is the same.
I have left the later
version in tact but restored the original
introduction from the newspaper edition, for its interest, and
re-inserted the paragraph headings from the same, as it makes easier
BOSTON JOURNAL, December 13, 1892:
Thirty years ago to-day came the battle of
To-day the anniversary is celebrated by the Thirteenth Massachusetts,
which fought in that awful scene of carnage. Comrade Jepson, now
in the Custom House, who participated in that strife as one of the
brave Thirteenth, tells to the Journal readers the story of the battle
on the left. The Thirteenth Massachusetts — was formed from the
old Fourth Battalion of Rifles — the Old Boston City Guard — which went
to Fort Independence in May, 1861. There the Thirteenth Regiment
was formed, Captain Samuel H. Leonard of Worcester, now a Brigadier
General, was Lieutenant-Colonel. Mr. Jepson enlisted at the
beginning, with W. J. Trull, (afterward Colonel). Both were 17
years old, but at that time recruits were required to be at least 20
years old in order to enlist, so they gave their age as 20. The
three years before their legal service age was reached they spent in
the Thirteenth. They were in eight general engagements. At
Fredericksburg the Thirteenth were out as skirmishers. Mr. Jepson
is now connected with the Custom House and resides at Watertown.
He is a member of the Isaac B. Patten Post 81, Watertown, G.A.R.
FREDERICKSBURG - DECEMBER
BY GEORGE E. JEPSON. [1906 version.]
Forty-four years ago, on the
13th inst., Burnside's army
Rappahannock and brought on the battle of Fredericksburg.
Forty-four years ago!
veteran can realize such a lapse of
since the occurrence of an event every incident of which to him who
participated in it seems — or so seems to the writer — as fresh and
vivid as though it all happened but yesterday! A remarkable
was in some features that distinguished it from battles in general.
The sudden shock of hostile
forces unexpectedly meeting at the
intersection of lines of march, as at Gettysburg; the rapid overtaking
of the enemy, checking his advance and compelling him to turn at bay
like a cornered rat, as at Antietam; the halting of a flying
full retreat, and the tremendous impact of advancing columns, as at
second Bull Run, each event bringing on the clash of arms with scarcely
an interval for thought — the serried ranks being precipitated upon
each other in the excitement and fervor of hot passion and under the
spur of suddenly aroused combativeness — a slap in the face as it were,
awaking ready resentment and quick reprisal — all this was vastly
different from lying for days, ingloriously inactive, awaiting the
means to cross a broad river, beyond whose watery barrier tantalizingly
stretched an unobstructed path to the goal that had so often and so
mockingly eluded, so to speak, our persistent and bloody endeavors to
attain it; beholding a position of incalculable importance
peaceful occupancy, gradually being covered by a hostile army, while
we, in enforced idleness, witnessed
day by day the augmentation of the enemy's forces and noted his busy
toil and strenuous preparations to strengthen and render
impregnable a vantage ground formidable enough in its natural naked
Days of Anxiety
Such were the days of anxious
and harassing contemplation during that
interval “between the enacting of a dreadful thing and the first
as the Federal army lay along the Stafford and Falmouth Heights waiting
for the pontoon trains, which seemingly were never to arrive, and for
the word to “forward” from its
But at last the pontoons came,
the bridges were laid, and on
the 12th of December, the advance of the army proceeded to cross.
Army of the Potomac Crossing the
Rappahannock River December 12th 1862.
On the Left.
My individual reminiscences
are confined to the battle on the
left, “part of which I was, and all of which I saw. Our regiment
Thirteenth Massachusetts — had from
its organization developed an adaptability for light infantry tactics
second to none in the army, its effectiveness due partly to its
personnel and largely to the fact that our Colonel, the late Samuel H.
Leonard, was one of the best and most indefatigable masters of drill in
the service. So we were perfectly at home when, on reaching
southern bank of the river, we were deployed as skirmishers.
enemy was at first in sight, and, unlike the experience of our comrades
on the right, our crossing was unopposed.
As the bugles sounded to
advance, the long line of skirmishers
briskly forward, until passing over a rising ground the broad plain,
whose present smiling and peaceful aspect was in less than twenty-four
hours to be disturbed by the horrid din and turmoil of contending
armies, burst upon the view.
Bisecting this plain could be
seen a long row of evergreen
planted at wide intervals apart on an embankment, indicating one of
those beautiful roadways for which this section of the Old Dominion is
justly celebrated. It was the famous Bowling Green or
The buildings in the distance
line the Bowling Green Road as it appears today. The
'13th Mass' took their position in the road the night of the 12th.
From this perspective the regiment advanced to the
road from the river, (coming towards the viewer). The hills
distant background are probably Stafford Heights, across the river,
which were lined with Union Heavy Artillery.
A Line of Gray.
And now, midway of the plain
and against this dark background,
emerged into view an opposing line of gray-clad riflemen — the enemy
was before us, prepared, apparently, to dispute the right of way.
In appearance only, however,
for as we advanced the “Johnnies”
retreated and we wonderingly saw them clamber over the roadbank and
disappear. Thus far not a shot had been fired, which told to each
that the opposing force was composed of veteran troops with nerves too
well schooled to lose self-control, forget discipline and become
at the first sight of an enemy.
Undoubtedly each man's pulse
was a little quickened, as we
and nearer, at the seeming certainty that behind the frowning
embankment hundreds of death-dealing tubes were levelled at us; but
sounded the bugles, and on we went, mounted the bank
and through the gaps in the cedars beheld our foe slowly retiring
behind a ridge of land on the other side of the road and which ran for
a long distance parallel with it.
Once in the roadway the bugles
signaled to halt, and the
both mental and physical powers was relaxed for the present at least.
An incident or rather a series
of incidents, not uncommon in
situations later in the war, but of which I believe this was among the
first, marked our occupation of the Bowling Green road. It
was apparent that the Confederates had established their outposts along
the parallel ridge in front of us; and it soon became equally evident
that the battle was not to be joined that day, and that our skirmish
line was as far advanced as was practicable without precipitating an
All remained quiet in our
front; not a shot had been fired,
mutual understanding not to begin hostilities appeared to have been
established in some indefinable way between the two picket
Moreover, from time to time a Confederate would come out a few paces
from the ridge and shout some good-natured badinage at us, to which we
responded in a strain pitched to the same tune.
A “Grayback” With a Handkerchief.
At length a “grayback” was
seen to advance, waving a
offering to meet one of “you-uns” half way for a friendly confab.
ready response greeted the proposal, and one of the Thirteenth was soon
sent forth with a well-filled haversack containing sugar, coffee, salt
and hard tack, the joint contribution of his messmates.
The advance of
the friendly foes,
deliberately timed so that
meet at a point equi-distant from either line, was eagerly and
excitedly watched by both sides. As the men neared each other
seen to extend a welcoming hand, and then as the palms of “Johnnie”
and “Yank” met in a fraternal grasp an electric thrill went straight to
the heart of every beholder.
Such a wild, prolonged and
hearty cheer, such a friendly
Yankee shout and rebel yell as swelled up from the opposing lines
surely was never before heard! The contents of the
were soon transferred to the adventurous reb, who in turn loaded our
man down with native tobacco and bacon.
As the afternoon wore on
numerous similar affairs occurred,
good fellowship being manifested. It was learned that our
opponents were the Nineteenth Georgia Regiment; they told us that
had tasted neither coffee, sugar nor salt for months.
A Different Kind of a Meeting.
We were fated to meet a large
part of this regiment later on
day, but as prisoners — and very cheerful ones, too — taken at the
charge of our line.1 They
were as fine a set of fellows, for
we ever met during the war — intelligent, in short, excellent specimens
of American manhood, among them being a graduate of Harvard College,
whose name I have forgotten.
All that night we remained on
picket; no quieter night was
in winter quarters. But at daylight the stir and bustle and
movements, the steady tramp of men, mingled with the vibrations
of artillery wheels and rumbling of heavily loaded ammunition wagons,
betokening an army on the march, were borne along on the morning breeze.
Ready for Business.
It was not far from 8 o'clock,
I think, that the division of
Pennsylvania Reserves came up, and immediately their pioneers attacked
with axe, pick and shovel the road bank and soon a sufficient space was
cut out for the passage of the troops and artillery. The
will never leave me of the advance of the leading brigade as in close
column it marched, gallantly out upon the open plain. The
evidently a blunder, for while they were still in motion General Meade,
at that time commanding the division, attended by his staff,
rode up to
the gap, pausing there to survey the field.
As I stood at my elevated post
on the embankment I could have
him by extending my arm. He sat his horse for a moment, and
excitedly raising both hands, cried:
“Good God ! How came
that brigade out there? No
no supports! They will be cut to pieces!”
And then he quickly dispatched
an aide with some order to the
troops, who were seen to hastily deploy, and another to hasten up a
battery which soon came thundering through the gap and unlimbered just
as a single shot came plunging along from the opposite woods followed
by crash after crash from the rebel guns, and the air was filled with
the shrieks of flying shells and solid shot!
The battle on the left had
Panoramic view of the Slaughter Pen
toward General Meade's position on the battlefield. General
Meade's Division attacked toward the ridge in the background.
Our division — Gibbon's — was
being formed to the right of
at this moment, and in the midst of this storm of shot and shell, we
were hurried in that direction and thrown out to cover the former's
Meanwhile the rebels had
withdrawn down the slope and along
railroad track, and the ridge just relinquished was now occupied by our
skirmishers. The “picnic” of the day before was evidently not to be
repeated; a bloody struggle was before us.
I remember how fair a morning
it was, how balmy, even though
midst of December, was the air, and how cheerful the sunshine as we
moved out and took our station along the ridge, hearing at the same
time the furious battle that was raging on the right, and eye-witnesses
of the obstinate and bloody fight that Meade was making on our left.
But now our own part of the
field was to be involved. On a
ground at our rear Hall's 2nd Maine battery had gone into position, and
now his guns began to play over our heads into the woods that partially
screened the Confederate works.
We were forced to lie down,
for the Federal missiles came
low, Hall being compelled to depress his pieces in order to
plunging fire into the enemy's line. As an illustration of our
from this source, following the discharge of one of the Maine guns, we
heard a terrific screech down the skirmish line, and suddenly beheld a
knapsack hurled into the air and one of our boys — of Company H, I
think — was borne to the rear, dying, we were told on the way.
had torn through his side. [This
is most probably George E. Bigelow, Company C. He died on the
December. — B.F.]
A Rebel Battery.
A rebel battery
posted in the
edge of the woods was severely
our line of battle, which was lying down behind us waiting for the word
to go into action, when Hall, suddenly concentrating the fire of all of
his guns on that point, effectually silenced the rebel
the momentary lull that followed this achievement all eyes were at once
directed toward the silenced battery by a terrific explosion, followed
by the unique spectacle of an enormous and perfectly symmetrical ring
of smoke rising slowly over the tops of the trees and sailing
gracefully away until it became dissipated in the distance.
A Rebel Caisson Exploded.
Hall's last shot had exploded
a rebel caisson, killing and
was afterward learned, a large number of men. 2
But meanwhile we skirmishers
were not idle. The rebel
had ensconced themselves among the limbs of the opposite trees, and
were popping away at us and picking off the officers in the line of
battle behind. Our own rifles were hot with constant firing,
tree that sheltered a “Johnny” was made the billet for many a
What execution our shooting did, as a whole, it was hard to tell.
now and then saw a rebel slide down from his cover and limp away;
it was at least equally effective, if not more so, than that of the
enemy, for as we lay at the regulation distance of five paces apart the
intervening ground was literally peppered with hostile lead, but up to
a certain period not one of us had received a scratch.
My Immediate Neighbor.
My immediate neighbor on the
left was N. M. Putnam.3 “Put,” as
familiarly called, was the model of a soldier; one of those men
sturdy New England build, morally and physically, always ready for any
duty, and who could never acquire, apparently, the first principles of
the art of shirking, whether it was that of the most disagreeable
police duty or the more dangerous one of keeping his file in the face
of bursting shell and a storm of leaden hail, presenting, moreover, the
rare example of an old soldier who never drank a drop of intoxicating
liquor, never smoked or chewed tobacco, was absolutely insensible to
the fascinations of poker, loo or seven-up, and was never known to
indulge in even the mildest and most innocuous cuss word.
[Nathaniel M. Putnam,
It happened, on this of all
days, to be “Put's” turn to carry
wash-basin, a new and glittering affair recently bought of the sutler.
We all had our knapsacks on,
and as we lay on our bellies —
that position, turning sideways to load — it might have been thought
such an object, slung on the back of a knapsack, would
afford a first-class mark for a Southern rifleman.
We noticed, indeed, but
without divining the cause, that the
coming a litlle thicker and faster about the particular spot where we
lay, until a “Bucktail” — one of the famous Pennsylvania regiments, so
named because they had adopted the device of wearing a buck's tail on
their caps — who was next to me on the right, sang out:
“Tell that cuss to take that d — tin
pan off 'm his back !”
A Bright and Shining Mark.
I passed the warning to “Put”
just at the moment when there
sharp pish of a bullet, accompanied by a slight tintinnabulation — I am
sure that must be the right word for it — and “Put” hastily tore off
the basin. Such a comical look of stupefied consternation
came over his
face as he held up the bright object and exhibited a jagged hole
completely through it, that we who beheld it fairly yelled with
laughter. The next instant, with a frantic gesture, “Put”
thing from him, and it rolled with many a grotesque gyration down the
slope almost to the rebel lines. That was close shooting, and
Northern veterans have good reason not to deny the abilities of
friends the enemy” in that line. We all remember the
characteristic story of the Northern traveler who witnessed the
Kentucky lad sboot a squirrel dead with his pea-bore rifle and who
began to blubber on examining his prize. “What's the matter,
Why do you cry?” “Pap will give me a lickin' 'cause I didn't
varmint through the head!”
The Bugle — “Fall Back.”
But now a sudden commotion in
the rear, and the sound of our
fall back, told that our long, harassing, and nerve-wearing duty was
Grandly came forward our line
of battle, and the New York
front we had been covering — the noble, gallant, whole-souled boys of
Brooklyn and New York city, with whom we had fraternized since the
early days of '61 — opened its ranks to permit us to pass through, and
then with a word of cheer that involuntarily partook, perhaps, of the
nature of an adieu, we passed to the rear.4
Breathless We Waited!
A minute, five minutes,
perhaps more, perhaps less, for who
time at such a moment, and then a flame of fire and a cloud of smoke
shrouded them from our view, as volley after volley of
musketry, punctuated by the deep diapason of cannon and bursting shell,
thundered and echoed over the plain.
The advance and the retreat,
the repeated charges and final
repulse, the brave stand-up fight our boys made, the useless,
purposeless holocaust — all this is history, engraved forever on the
hearts of the American people.
And so, for us of the
Thirteenth, ended the battle on the
NOTES: 1. The 19th Georgia was
Brigade, which was overrun by the initial attack General Meade's
Division of Pennsylvania Reserves. About one-hundred of the
Georgians were taken prisoner when the Yanks surrounded their flank on
2. Hall's Maine Battery blew up a caisson in Capt. James B.
Brockenbrough's Confederate Battalion.
3. The earlier version of this article published in
December, 1892 had this contemporaneous line about Putnam; "My
immediate neighbor on the left was N.M. Putnam, late of Hyde Park, whom
we, his few surviving corades sadly bore to his last resting place at
Forest Hill, only last spring.”
4. In the 1892 version Jepson says
of the 9th NY, "...and between whom and the old Thirteenth a perfect
Damon and Pythias subsisted...”
Table of Contents
of David Sloss, Co. B
When the above article appeared in the 13th Regiment
Association Circulars, it prompted this response from the former
color-bearer of the State Flag,
David Sloss, which was printed in Circular # 20, Dec., 1907.
Sloss settled in Chicago after the war, and was a policeman.
His descendant shared the post war image with me.
Chicago, Dec. 5, 1906.
Dear Comrade Davis :
I received your
circular to be
with you the 13th, and as I
will not be there, and as Jepson's article, on Fredericksburg
interested me very much, I thought my experience there might interest
you, as every one's story is different and we all like to tell what we
have done in the past, and having time to burn and a constant physical
reminder of those days; but my pen is not as skilled as you
fellows. But you know the old adage, “Fools step in,” etc.,
and this is
as cheap a way as I can do in return for all your kindness to one of
the carriers of your old white flag. This is not taken from
I have a diary and a letter of the 17th of December, 1862, so
I will just
copy them. The diary tells only
cold facts, but the letter is more minute :
“December 12, — Crossed the
Rappahannock River about nine
o'clock. Thrown out as skirmishers. Our line of advance
carried me through the slave quarters. We were around what was
afterwards the 'Stone Hospital.' In one of the huts I found a
iron caldron which was full of boiled turnips. I fished in
the pond and
got a pig-skin about a yard long. I had no sooner held it up
bayonet than it began to disappear, but I saved about a square foot of
the turnips, which had coated it quite thick, and even now I smack my
lips over the memory of that sweet taste that I got on that bright
December morning so long ago.
“We advanced over the Bowling
Green road and halted where the
incident of Blanchard (the old one) going out to meet the 19th Georgia
man occurred. Also the Irishman's remark that the Georgians
and they had their valises in the trees.
“December 13. — Cold night.
Called in to the regiment in the
morning. Shelled pretty lively. Picked up a
pocketbook with two hundred
twenty-nine dollars, and fifty cents in stamps. This was in
Green road. A shell had killed some officer on horseback, and
pocketbook was lying in the road and half of the regiment had passed it
by; as they were jerked away over the road they didn't see
it. It was
new, also the bills, and I carried it long after the war until it was
worn out. The road was all in confusion. We went in
skirmished for an hour, when we lost four killed and fifteen wounded,
two in Company B. General Gibbon, our division commander,
the 9th New York over us, and Johnnie Bell told George Hill to bid
'good-by' for him. He was hit in the belly and died during
Johnnie Bell's father and mine
were friends, and as I was told
to look out for him when he came out to the 9th as a recruit after the
Antietam fight when we were living off that corn field, on mush only.
You can imagine he needed all my assistance, and our sutler's
keep him from that terrible disease, home-sickness, and the golden
syrup at a dollar a can to help tide over that eventful two weeks until
we got the regular supply.
We then went down to the river
to get ammunition, then went
and supported Doubleday at an artillery duel. Two caissons
“December 15. — The whole
regiment on picket duty.
In at 2 A.M. Found the army had re-crossed. We were
Taylor's brigade and he did nobly and also Gibbon, who was wounded in
the wrist. Bayard was struck by a shell and died in front
of the Stone
Hospital. There was a crude map in the letter which I found
The two Company B men wounded were, Privates James A. Young, and
William F. Blanchard. Sgt.
George Hill, Co. B (see his letter page 2) was a resident
Maine before and after the war.
2. Brig-Gen. George D. Bayard (see article "Mannsfield" below).
Top of Page
The Bernard House
Bernard Mansion was a prominent landmark on the battlefield were the
13th Mass. fought. It is mentioned in David Sloss's letter
above as “the stone hospital.” The 13th Mass. regrouped here to
ammunition after their skirmish of two days. The following
article about the Bernard House, or “Mannsfield” as it
was known, is an excerpt of a post, “Digging Mannsfield,” dated
December 3rd, 2010, on John Hennessy's [Fredericksburg National
Battlefield] blog “Mysteries and
Conundrums.” Please see
the 'links' page of this site for
more information. (I have omitted the 2nd part of the article
about Park Service excavations.)
Mannsfield by John Hennessy
Spotsylvania has been
particularly hard-hit by
the loss of historic homes over the decades. In some areas,
can travel miles without coming upon an antebellum home — this on a
landscape that was once liberally dotted with them. Some
succumbed to war, more to neglect. And a few disappeared to
bulldozer's blade. Of all those that have vanished, none in
day shined more brightly than Mannsfield.
remains of Mannsfield, probably in the 1870's. The ruins of
big house are at center; the north wing at left, and the
wing just on the right edge. These ruins stood until the
It stood about two miles south
of downtown Fredericksburg,
on the banks of the Rappahannock River. Mannsfield
is today most famous as the site where Union general George Dashiel
killed at the battle of Fredericksburg —he was mortally wounded in the
yard and died just four days before what was to have been his
day. But, in fact, Mannsfield was probably the most impressive
plantation in the Fredericksburg
region, and one of the oldest, too. It was built in 1765-1766
Page III,* and it was close to being a literal copy of Richmond
County’s Mount Airy, where Page’s mother grew up a Tayloe (the only
difference I can see is the design of the riverside entryway—otherwise
places seem to have been identical; Mount Airy still
stands). Page was
the Fredericksburg region’s
first congressman, selected to the Continental Congress in 1777, at age
died in 1803 and is buried in the nearby family cemetery—the only
feature of the Mannsfield complex.
Stuart Barnett's romantic
vision of the west (front) facade of Mannsfield, showing the main house
The house was anything but
understated, built of sandstone
blocks with two advanced, detached wings linked to the main house by a
covered walkway. In the main house was nearly 7,000 square feet
space, plus an elaborate basement. By the time of the Civil War
Bernard owned it), thirty outbuildings sprawled across Mannsfield’s
(one of the biggest plantations around), including a stable, corn
machine house, three barns, dairy, garden
pump house, meat
house, three poultry houses, ice house, a
house, overseer’s house, blacksmith shop, tobacco
house, and six slave
(the site of some of these cabins, which in 1860 housed some of
slaves, is in the park off Lee Drive). Mannsfield’s
it got attention in both peace and war. Washington
reputedly visited here; so too did Union
luminaries in 1862. For long stretches of 1862 and 1863, the
Confederate hands. Indeed, it was by the hands of Confederate
big house burned, accidentally, in early April 1863.
standing ruins, looking at the west facade — looking southeast likely
in the 1870's. The north wing is at left, the ruins of the
house faintly visible at center, and the remnants of the south wing at
The ruins of the main house and
the decaying remnants of the
wings stood for six decades, until the early 1920s when artist Gari
acquired the accessible stone from the then landowner, R.A.
local news reports, Melchers used stone from Mannsfield to build his
studio on the grounds of Belmont.
*As with many Colonial gentrymen,
confusion reigns when it
comes to names and generations. There were in fact six Mann
One — Mann
Page’s younger half brother — died soon after birth. Most
presence in the lineage and designate Mann Page (born 11749) of
Mann Page III, though in fact he was the fourth to bear that
be thankful Page wasn’t a Fitzhugh. There were TEN William Fitzhughs
the 18th century, scattered from Chatham to Annapolis.
Table of Contents
with Company K"; edited by Arthur Kent; Fairleigh
Dickenson Press; 1976. (p. 144-148) Used with Permission.
Just before the battle, Austin Stearns, now a
Corporal, was appointed
describes the event and the actions of the regiment on Dec.
12th & 13th. The sketch is his own. Note: Sgt.
Stearns confuses dates by 1 day. The army did march down to the
river on the 11th but they crossed the morning of Dec. 12th, and fought
the morning of the 11th of Dec. 1862, in a thick fog, we marched down
to the banks of the Rappahannock river about three miles below
Fredericksburg; we were the left of the army. While
halting a few moments waiting for the troops to cross on a
bridge, Cap't Hovey ordered me to report to the color sergeant as a
corporal on the color guard; the boys of K crowded around,
to shake hands, and all to say “Good by,” for they said
“You are gone
up now.” At Antietam, all the color guard but one
killed or wounded, and judging from that, they thought my turn had come.
Color guard is composed of two Sergeants who carry the colors, one the
National and the other the State, and eight corporals whose duty it is
to guard the colors, and under no circumstances to allow the colors to
In a battle it is a
great honor to take the
colors of the enemy, and it is also a great dishonor to lose the
colors, consequently the colors draws the hottest fire and some of the
most desperate fighting takes place at the colors, and although at
it is a post of great danger, it is at all times a post of honor.
crossed the river, and fileing to the left marched down its banks.
After passing a large stone house, the regiment, with the
the color company, deployed as skirmishers; the rebel
in full view in the large open plain. The fog lifting at this
time, and the sun coming out in all his glory, made a grand and
beautiful sight; not a single gun was fired on either side, the
falling back in slow and even step as our own boys advanced.
the distance of a half mile from the river ran the Bowling Green Pike
with a hedge on either side, and when we were ready to advance and
occupy it, we thought they would dispute our possession, but no they
quietly fell back to the field beyond. So passed the
11th. [12th — B.F.]
Troops were getting into position all day long, and far up
the river we
could hear the great guns of both sides as they were maneuvering for
position. We could see the signal flags of the enemy, and the
guns on “Marye Heights.” Night settled down, our
boys on the
skirmish line held the pike, and we of the colors lay directly behind,
while the line of battle lay in our rear. I went up to the
of the regiment during the night, drawn thither by a bright light
caused by the burning of several hay stacks within the rebels
lines. The night passed without any other alarm; to sleep was
of the question.
The 12th [13th — B.F.] dawned bright and
clear; we were
cooking our coffee early so as to be prepared for whatever might turn
up. The skirmishers advanced beyond the pike, but no firing
our front. Private Blanchard of Co. B took his gun and,
it up in the ground by the bayonet, went boldly over to the rebel line
to have a little chat with them, and trade some coffee for
tobacco. Blanchard asked them “why they did not fire on our
when we advanced”; they said “they did not like to
be fired at any more
than we did, and as we did not fire they had no occasion
asked “when they would,” and they said “the next
time you advance on
Blanchard went back to his place, and soon the
given to “advance the skirmishers,” and the firing commenced.
rebels had now fallen back to the woods, and, lying behind the trees,
had a better chance to pick us off who were in the open field without
any shelter. They soon made it hot for us; some of the boys
back a few steps to take advantage of the ground. Gen'l
saw it and rode boldly up to the line and said “Boys why do you suffer
those fellows to creep up on you in that way; your guns are as good as
theirs; use them.” The bullets flew thickly around and we
expected to see him fall, but he rode back unharmed.
Although he sent his overcoat
afterwards over to [Edward] Lee our
tailor to be
mended and there was six bullets holes in the cape.
last all the preparations were complete and the line of battle was
ordered to advance, and the skirmishers were ordered to fall back after
several hours of fighting. As we had used up about all our
ammunition we were ordered to fall back to the big stone house and
reform and refill our boxes. As we crossed the pike I saw
sitting on his horse; a few moments later and he was instantly killed
by a solid shot.
While being served with
ammunition I saw a
fellow brought in on a stretcher who thought he was desperately
wounded, one foot almost off he said; some of the boys examined
could not find a scratch. A shell had come pretty close and
frightened him; the stretcher bearers had found him lying on the
and thought him hit.
After being supplied we again
moved to the
front, and while going we met a squad of reb prisoners coming to the
rear. “What regiment,” some of the boys asked; they said “
Georgia.” Warner of K asked them “What part of
Georgia”; “Macon,” they answered. He lived in Macon
the war, but
there were none that he knew. While we were talking the
came over, striking the ground and throwing the dirt over us.
of the rebs, laughing, said “That is one of Stonewalls pills,
do you like to take them.” “Oh, well enough,”
they dont come any nearer than that.”
Another one of our boys
said “We're going to have Richmond now”; “Well,”
laughing heartly, “You'll find two Hills, a damned
Longstreet, and a
Stonewall before you get there.” All this happened
then it takes to write it.*
When we got back to the pike,
we found the brigade there, they
been driven back after some severe fighting.
fighting on the left was over for this day, and we held the same
positon that we did in the morning, [with] nothing gained, but
thousands killed or wounded. Night coming on, we lay in line
battle awaiting the morrow.
*Generals Ambrose P. Hill and Daniel H.
Hill, General James Longstreet, & General Thomas J.
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