Editor’s Note: In the mid-1940’s the Baldwinsville (NY) Messenger reprinted a lengthy series of articles on the 185th New York and other New York Civil War units from 50 years earlier, originally published in the Baldwinsville Gazette, which detailed the history of the town of Lysander, New York. This article is one part of a sub-series in this set detailing the 185th New York and its experiences at the Siege of Petersburg. I found these articles while searching through the always fascinating Fulton NY Postcards site. This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
Augustus M. Rice, the original author, was a member of Company A, 185th New York. Rice enlisted at the age of 18 as a private on August 22, 1864 in Lysander, to serve for one year. He was mustered into Company A on September 19, 1864 and was discharged on June 3, 1865 in Washington, D. C.1
HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE TOWN OF LYSANDER
Part 200: Lines of Battery B Extended To and Across Hatcher’s Run
By Miss L. Pearl Palmer
On the fifth of February, 1865, orders were received to be ready to march at a moments warning. On the sixth we moved out of camp before daylight, in light marching order, leaving a guard to look after our equipage, and headed in the direction of Hatcher’s Run. This time, the men were aware that a march in this direction meant business and it surely did.
Before noon all along the line they were heavily engaged. This was the second battle of Hatcher’s Run and lasted until the next day. Our brigade [First Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac] was held in reserve until about the middle of the afternoon when we were hastily ordered to relieve the Second Division of the Fifth Corps—a Division composed principally of regulars. Marching down through the woods, we saw by the dead and wounded that were being borne to the rear, that the division had lost heavily.
As our brigade moved onto the field, Ayer’s [sic, Ayre’s] Division [2/V/AotP] moved off. At this moment there seemed to be a lull in the fight, yet an occasional shot from the enemy informed us that they were close at hand. Scarcely had we moved from flank into line, when we were met by a heavy volley. Our brigade commander, Col. [Horatio G.] Sickle [sic, Sickel] [of the 198th Pennsylvania], was wounded and carried off the field, Col. [Edwin S.] Jenney [of the 185th New York] then taking command. Col. Jenney, thinking the position too exposed, ordered the brigade forward. He cleared the field and took a new position. Adam Tuger, father of F. P. Tuger, was killed and several of our men wounded. We held this position until dark.
Company G had been detailed as skirmishers. Not hearing from them, Col. Jenney became anxious as to their whereabouts and ordered Major Bush to go out and bring them in if possible. Bush started out, and not keeping to the left far enough, was captured within sight of our lines. [Lieutenant] Col. [Gustavus] Sniper then informed Col. Jenney that if it was in the power of any man to find Company G, Lieut. William A. Brooks of Company A could do it, and Col. Jenney reluctantly gave his consent. Col. Sniper asked “Billy” if he could find the company, receiving the answer, “I can try.” Brooks took a Springfield rifle and started out, soon returning with the company.
We retained our positions until evening, when we fell back under cover of darkness to our main line, where we entrenched and held the position.2
It rained all night, the rain freezing as it fell. As we came up here in light marching order, we were without blankets or tents, and not being allowed a fire even to cook coffee, we passed a very uncomfortable night. Many of our wounded doubtless died from exposure, as some of them were found in the morning with their clothing frozen to the ground. Next morning [February 7, 1865] the enemy tried to regain the position they had lost, but in vain.
Now had been accomplished that which had been undertaken in October last—our lines had been extended to and across Hatcher’s Run.3 Our brigade was complimented here in general orders issued by General Griffin, our division commander. As has been stated, we were here without our camp equipment, but this was soon transferred and we proceeded to rebuild our winter quarters, this being the third time we had built quarters for winter. The engineer corps laid out the lines on the field we had taken, and we proceeded to throw up the works.
On the second day after the fight [February 9, 1865], the regiment was called into line and formed in a hollow square. Prior to this Col. Jenney had tendered and received his resignation. The command was turned over to Lieut. Col. Sniper he being promoted colonel. After making a farewell speech, complimenting the regiment, Col. Jenney departed for home. Here we lost a brave and gallant young officer and a rigid disciplinarian. Perhaps it was his strict discipline that made the regiment what it was in the hour of need.
Considering the hardships we endured throughout the winter, our men kept up good spirits and were exceptionally healthy. Several of them secured furloughs and came home for short visits. None of our men deserted. Undoubtedly our company was as orderly as any in the army. No severe punishments were inflicted aside from occasional visits to the guard house. Tying up by the thumbs, or bucking and gagging were never seen in our company streets.4
The Baldwinsville NY Messenger 185th New York Series, 1945:
- NP: October 4, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 1
- NP: October 25, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 2
- NP: November 22, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 3
- NP: December 6, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 5
- December 13, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 6
- 185th Infantry CW Roster. The NY Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, 17 Feb. 2010. Web. 26 July 2016. Accessed Augustus M. Rice entry from the 185th New York Roster. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Battle of Hatcher’s Run, or more specifically the fighting done on February 6, 1865, is what Rice is describing here. The 185th New York, as part of Griffin’s First Division, Fifth Corps, was called upon to stabilize the lines after successive Confederate divisional attacks drove back the divisions of Crawford and Ayres near Dabney’s Saw Mill. Griffin’s men held on, as Rice notes, until night, preventing a disaster. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Rive is referring to the Battle of Boydton Plank Road, aka the First Battle of Hatcher’s Run, fought on October 27-28, 1864 in the same area. The Union had established a foothold across Hatcher’s Run during that operation…and used it to their advantage in this early February 1865 fight. ↩
- “Historical Review of the Town of Lysander.” Baldwinsville Messenger. November 29, 1945, p. 3, col. 1-2 ↩
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