NT: November 10, 1898 National Tribune: The Pennsylvania Reserves from Cold Harbor to Appomattox

   

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in Siege of Petersburg

Editor’s Note: This article was provided by and transcribed by K. S. McPhail (New Kent County History). 

Pennsylvania Reserves.

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Career of These Veterans from Cold Harbor to Appomattox.

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Organizations Which Did Gallant Service- Led by Good Officers, Discipline and Bravery Saved Them from Annihilation on Hard-Fought Fields- Memorable Combats.

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BY R. E. Mc BRIDE,
Co. C, 190th Pa.

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The division known as the Pennsylvania Reserves, which had among its officers during the first year of its service such distinguished soldiers as Meade, Reynolds, Ord and Seymour, finished its history May 30, 1864, at Bethesda Church. The men who had not re-enlisted went home, and the remaining fragments of these regiments were organized into two veteran regiments, numbered 190th and 191st, or 1st and 2d Veteran Reserves, with an aggregate of about 1,429 officers and men, the former under the command of Col. W. R. Hartshorne, formerly of the 13th Reserves; the latter under Col. James Carl, of the 6th Reserves. They constituted the Third Brigade, Third Division, Fifth Corps. For some cause Col. Hartshorne was absent until after the army reached Petersburg, and the 190th was commanded by Lieut. Col. Joseph B. Pattee, while Col. Carl commanded the brigade until Aug. 19, 1864.These men participated in the operations around Cold Harbor, though fortunately without loss, so far as can now be remembered or ascertained, except Serg’t Woodard, of Co. A, 190th, who was killed June 3. There may have been other casualties, but the records of that period are defective.

On June 13 they skirmished near White Oak Swamp, with a loss of two killed, 10 wounded, one officer and six men missing. In this affair Lieut. Col. Pattee’s horse was shot under him. Although the organization was so recent that the men had become but little acquainted with each other or with their officers, they acquitted themselves in a creditable manner. The night of the 13th they marched toward the James River, and reached a point near Willcox Landing on the14th.In this movement they started on the afternoon of the 12th, short of provisions, and no rations were issued till the afternoon of the 15th, except some fresh beef just as they were starting. We are not certain from the remarks occasionally dropped by the boys that this long fast made them any more religious.

On the 16th they were ferried across the river to Windmill Point, and in the afternoon marched for Petersburg.

The afternoon of the 17th the Third Division was in line on the left of the Ninth Corps, the other two divisions being held to meet any attack -which might come from the left.

In the fighting of the 17th and 18th the Fifth Corps advanced over open and difficult ground, exposed to heavy artillery fire, but the attack was well made, and the enemy was driven back to the position which they held during the subsequent siege. Gen. Grant writes to Meade June 18, 10 p. m.: “I am perfectly satisfied that all has been done that could be done.” The army then intrenched and awaited developments.

DOING THEIR DUTY.

The Veteran Reserves had their part in these events. The evening of the 18th found them on that part of the line near where Fort Haskell was located later, from which the spires of Petersburg were plainly visible, so close to the main works of the enemy that rifle-balls dropped far to their rear. They lost one officer and 20 men killed, nine officers and 85 men wounded. Lieut.-Col. Pattee was severely wounded, and was brevetted Colonel for gallant conduct. Capt. Robert G. Christnott, of the 190th, was killed, and Lieut. Ed. Greenfield was mortally wounded.

The Reserves were withdrawn from this part of the line, and rested for one day, on June 23. Next day they moved to the left, and relieved some men of the Second Corps on the Jerusalem road. Here they remained till about July 1, when they were placed on the line west of the road, their right extending to the road and facing the west.

Here they were engaged in work on a fort until about the middle of the month, when they went on picket further to the west and south. It was called picket, but in fact they were the only troops along that part of the line. Perhaps some of the readers of The National Tribune do not know that about this time the Army of the Potomac could not muster 30,000 muskets, so much had its ranks been depleted by losses, by the muster-out of regiments, and by the withdrawal of the Sixth Corps for the protection of Washington.

They were posted in strong rifle-pits, and were sufficient to hold this part of the line with reasonable security. In the latter part of June the 190th had been armed with the Spencer rifle, and an intrenched skirmish-line armed with this weapon was a formidable obstacle to any force.

They remained here 18 days. It was a period of comparative quiet, but yet of monotonous discomfort. The works which they held had been occupied by the Second Corps, had been taken and retaken, and the field contested with such determination that the ground was thickly marked with graves. Many of the dead had been so inadequately buried that the soil had been washed away from them and left exposed portions of the decaying bodies. There were swarms of flies, pestilential odors, and a thousand present reminders of “the wicked insanity of war.”

During July the loss was three wounded. There was a good deal of sickness, and the only wonder is that there was not more. Col. Hartshorne returned July 26, and assumed command of the 190th.

IN THE THICK OF IT.

The disaster which is ever memorable in the history of the Veteran Reserves occurred on Aug. 19. Warren was ordered to take and hold the Weldon Railroad. This was done on the 18th and 19th, and on subsequent days the rebels made desperate efforts to recover it. The wooded and broken ground of this region was very difficult for such operations, and there was much confusion and some misunderstanding of orders.

Gen. Crawford’s Third Division was on the right of the corps, with his right ”in the air,” and nothing between him and the Jerusalem plank road, a distance of about a mile. Gen. Bragg was ordered to support Crawford and cover this gap with skirmishers. By some misunderstanding he took position a mile or more to the rear.

Before this mistake could be corrected, Gen. Mahone with three brigades passed through the gap and furiously assailed Crawford from the rear while other troops engaged the front. A desperate conflict ensued, in which there was not much opportunity for military skill, but which furnished the severest test of the fighting qualities of both sides. Regiments and portions of regiments, both rebel and Union, were completely enveloped by opposing lines, and yet by some turn of fortune escaped.

Some appear to entertain the opinion that at this time the soldiers were weary of the war, and the fighting was merely a perfunctory performance. This idea originated from the Copperhead papers of the North and from wild-eyed orators afraid of the draft who howled for peace at any price, and depicted the awful condition of the army as an excuse for their own cowardly spirit and treasonable utterances. The real condition was quite the contrary. The soldiers fought with as much vim and enthusiasm, with as much skill and as desperate valor as at any period of the war. The same is true of both the Union and the Confederate army, and this spirit continued till the last shot was fired at Appomattox.

The following occurrence, the account of which is drawn partly from Confederate sources, took place during this struggle for the Weldon road.

STIRRING ACCIDENTS.

Gen. Hagood’s rebel brigade was at one time almost surrounded, and their surrender was considered certain. Capt. Dailey, of Cutler’s staff, rode among them, seized a battle flag from the hands of its bearer, and ordered the men to throw down their arms. Those immediately about him obeyed. Gen. Hagood, who was on foot, approached and demanded back the flag, and that he go back within his own lines, telling him that he was free to do so. Dailey began to argue the hopelessness of resistance. “Hagood cut him short, and demanded a categorical reply Yes or No. Dailey was a man of fine presence, with a flowing beard, and sat with loosened reins upon a noble-looking bay, that stood with head and tail erect and flashing eye and distended nostrils, quivering in every limb with excitement, but not moving in his tracks. In reply to this abrupt demand the rider raised his head proudly, and decidedly answered ‘No!’ “Hagood then shot him through the body, and he fell from his horse, Hagood then mounted the horse and ordered his men to make a hurried retreat.

Such was the situation of the Union troops that any effective fire would have been as destructive to friend as to foe, and so part of this force got through, though many of them were made prisoners.

This incident will serve to show the peculiar conditions of the fight, and also the spirit with which the battle was fought on both sides. Men were captured, and before they could be taken from the field the captors themselves were made prisoners. Gen. Crawford himself was at one time in the hands of the enemy, and escaped by some such turn of fortune.

At last the enemy was beaten at every point and driven from the field, and night found our lines firmly established. The prize of the combat, the Weldon road, was held by the Union forces, and the Confederates were deprived of another important line of supplies.

TAKEN PRISONERS.

When this affair began the Reserves were at the front as skirmishers. They repulsed a determined front attack without much difficulty or loss, and supposed that all was well, but while their attention was thus engaged a rebel line-of-battle was closing in on their rear. Many of the officers and men knew nothing of this until ordered to surrender. Some, however, discovered the situation, and succeeded in evading capture. Nearly three fourths of them yielded to the inevitable, and were made prisoners. One officer and four men were killed, one officer and 17 men wounded, 30 officers and 591 men were missing. Of those who were captured 251 died in prison.

About 300 men were left from this disaster. Of the officers who escaped were Capt. Birkman, Capt. Kinsey, Lieut. Peacock and Adjt. Wright, of the 190th; Capt. Norton and Lieut. Slater, of the 191st. Lieut. Steele, of the 190th, was desperately wounded, and Lieut. Henry L. Stock was killed.

On the 21st the Reserves assisted in repulsing a stubborn attack of the enemy near the Yellow House, and had a chance to even matters up a little by inflicting heavy loss on their assailants. This was the only time they fought from behind intrenchments, except skirmish-pits. Capt. Birkman was in command.

The same day they were transferred to the First Brigade, and on the 12th of the following month they were transferred to the Second Division, where they remained till the close of the war.

Lieut.-Col. Pattee, though still suffering from the wound received June 18, and also one received May 30, returned about Sept. 1 and took command of the two regiments, which acted as a single battalion from this time till the close of the war.

Sept. 30 they participated in the battle of Poplar Springs Church, in which they lost two men killed, one officer and two men wounded and one missing.

The officer wounded was Adj’t Wright, a German. He was struck about the head by a musket-ball, and fell to the ground senseless. He was supposed to be killed, but presently he scrambled briskly to his feet and exclaimed, with evident confusion of mind: “Py ____ I votes for Lincoln !”

In the movement on Hatcher’s Run, Oct.27-28, they were on the field, but did not become engaged, and suffered no loss.

This was the year of the Presidential-election, and the Pennsylvania soldiers voted. The ballot of the Reserves was as follows: Lincoln, 272; McClellan, 125. Total, 397. On the somewhat violent supposition that none of the boys who were under the legal age did any of the voting, the command must have numbered well beyond 400 at this date.

Winter quarters were now built, and the boys hoped for a quiet time, but in this they were mistaken. On Dec 7 the Fifth Corps started on the Weldon raid. The object of this was to tear up some more of the Weldon road and to create a diversion which might favor Gen. Butler’s expedition against Wilmington, N. C.

The Notaway River was reached in the evening. During the night the corps crossed the river, and pressed on toward the Weldon road, reaching it not far from where it crosses the Notaway River. The work of destruction began toward evening, and continued during most of the night. Those who witnessed the night work, lighted up by bonfires of ties, will not soon forget the stirring scene as the men whirled the rails and attached ties over from the road-bed with shout and ringing cheer, and then wrenched the rails apart and ties from the rails, and built great fires of ties, on which the rails were heated and ruined for future use.

Toward morning the work ceased, and the men got such sleep and rest as they could with the chill night and their wet blankets.

Early in the morning the work was resumed and continued all day. In the evening, leaving everything but arms and accouterments where they took sapper, the troops crossed a small stream and tore up the road to Hicksford, on the Meherrin River. This place was held by a considerable force of infantry and artillery, but no attempt was made against them, as the expedition had now accomplished all that was intended.

During this night work a man of the Reserves was caught under the track as it was overturned, and instantly killed. This was the only casualty which occurred in the command during the raid.

This was a night of great suffering for the men. The mud was deep, and a storm of sleet and snow, driven by a strong wind, rendered the tedious hours almost unendurable.

Next morning the return march began. The ground was not sufficiently frozen to bear up, and the days march was made through the icy slush. The mud was so deep that it came far above our shoe-tops, and with the cold and gritty mud, the chafed feet of the men rendered marching one continuous torture. They struggled on heroically through this clay and the next. This brought them again to the Notaway River, which they recrossed in the evening and camped for the night not far from where they spent part of the night on their outward march.

The weather too grew colder, and by morning the ground was frozen solid. The men were all footsore; and they hobbled along painfully.

Reaching the vicinity of Petersburg, the men built Winter quarters for the second time, and resumed the usual routine of camp life.

AGAINST THE REBEL RIGHT.

On Feb. 5 was begun another movement toward the rebel right. Since the destruction of the Weldon road during the raid of December the rebels had brought supplies by wagon from Hicksford to Petersburg by way of the Boydton plank raid. Grant determined to break up this line of supply.

The cavalry, under Gregg, was to push rapidly to Dinwiddie Courthouse. Warren was to take position half-way between Gregg and Hatcher’s Run; Humphreys, with two divisions of the Second Corps, was to take position on Hatcher’s Run at the crossing of Vaughn road and at Armstrong’s Mill. Below the confluence of Hatcher’s Run and Gravelly Run the stream is known as Rowanty Creek. The road to Dinwiddie crosses this creek at Wm. Perkins’s. The crossing was disputed by a small force of rebel infantry. The corps reached this place about 10 a. m., and found some cavalry skirmishing with the enemy, but unable to drive them away. The Third Brigade was ordered forward to accomplish the task.

The Reserves, under Pattee, came up at a double-quick, and when about opposite the Perkins buildings were ordered to file right and deploy skirmishers. As they deployed they also began to advance, and by the time the rear of the command had left the road the others were charging across the held toward the enemy. They expected to “rush” the rebels, but on reaching the creek they found it too deep for fording, and the enemy in good rifle-pits on the other bank, about 25 yards away.

At first their fire was lively, but soon they became rattled, and would scarcely risk their heads above the pits for a moment. Trees were chopped down so as to fall across the stream, and on these part of the men crossed while the others kept up a rapid fire. When enough of the men were over a rush was made for the pits, and the affair was quickly ended. Some of the defenders escaped, but 27 were captured.

When the work was about finished the rest of the brigade reached the stream in line-of-battle, and received some of the last bullets fired by the rebels. There was no need to bring them down, as the Reserves were getting on very well. They were quite strong enough, and there was no necessity of exposing a larger number of men to the fire of so small a force of the enemy.

The bridge was rebuilt by 1 p. m., and the corps passed on to the Vaughn road. The remainder of the afternoon was spent in this vicinity without any evidence of the presence of the enemy in force, and about 9 p. m. Warren was ordered to the right, where Humphreys had experienced some hard fighting. It required until 6 a. m. to reach the point designated, as a storm had come on and the night was dark. The weather had turned very cold, and the men got neither rest nor sleep,

At 12:15 p. m. on the 6th Warren received orders to make a reconnaissance to the south and west of Hatcher’s Run, to ascertain the position of the enemy. Crawford was on the right with the Third Division, Ayres on the left with the Second Division, and Griffin was in reserve with the First. The ground was mostly covered with timber and thick brush.

While this advance was in progress some stampeded cavalry ran into Ayres’s line, throwing the Third Brigade into confusion. The division moved on without waiting for this brigade to get righted up, and when it moved on a little later it got in too far to the left, and became exposed to a flank fire. It held its own, however, for nearly two hours, and was then withdrawn. The Reserves lost nine wounded, and the total loss of the brigade was 71.

By the morning of the 7th the storm had cleared away and the ground was frozen. During the forenoon the Reserves were thrown forward as a reconnaissance, and found that the enemy had retired within their lines, leaving only a thin skirmish line.

The Union intrenchments were now extended to Hatcher’s Run at the crossing of the Vaughn road. The Second Corps held the left of the line, and the Fifth Corps was massed in the rear of the left of the Second, and picketing the left of the army. For the third time this season the men built Winter quarters.

The 157th Pa. was added to Col. Pattee’s command in the latter part of March, giving him in all about 500 men. The three fragments were never actually consolidated, but acted together as a regimental unit.

THE FINAL CAMPAIGN

March 29 began the final campaign. The corps crossed Rowanty Creek at Monk’s Neck Bridge, the scene of the sharp skirmish which the Reserves had Feb. 5. Again the Third Brigade had the advance. The 210th Pa. was deployed as skirmishers, while the Reserves were put in line-of-battle. This gave the latter occasion to exercise the great American privilege of finding fault. The boys watched the men of the 210th as they deployed their skirmish-line with deliberate exactness, and criticized every move and grumbled to their heart’s content. The enemy did not dispute the crossing of the creek.

The line of march was now the same as on Feb. 5, but on reaching the Quaker road the Second and Third Divisions moved up it some distance and formed line-of-battle facing west. The First Division passed up the road farther toward the Boydton plank road, and about 4 p. m. encountered the enemy and drove him back to where the road crosses Hatcher’s Run.

When the Second Division formed line-of-battle the 210th Pa. was again deployed as skirmishers, and after some firing sent back one prisoner. This was the only sign of rebels in this vicinity on the 29th. The Reserves were deployed later, and remained on skirmish-line till morning.

The left of the army now extended to the Boydton plank road, the left of Griffin holding that road, his right joining the Second Corps near the Crow House, Crawford on the road, thus covering the left flank, and Ayres in reserve. The object of subsequent movements was to extend our position farther tot he left, and flank the rebel position on the White Oak road.

The morning of the 30th, while Griffin was putting his lines in proper shape along his front, Ayres was moved across the plank road to extend our lines to the left. The Reserves were deployed as skirmishers, and pressed forward until their line, joining the pickets of the First Division on the right, and facing the rebel position along the White Oak road at a distance of from a half to a quarter of a mile, extended almost to Wm. Dabney’s. Here they threw up skirmish-pits.

At 4 p. m. Wilcox’s Confederate division made an attack on Griffin’s front, but was easily repulsed. In front of the Reserves the rebel fire increased somewhat, but they did not advance.

A heavy rain storm began on the 29th, which continued till the night of the 30th, rendering the roads almost impassable, and adding greatly to the discomfort of all.

IN A TIGHT PLACE.

About 10 a. m. on the 31st the Reserves were relieved by men of the Third Division, and moved toward the left to rejoin the brigade. Before this was accomplished the flank and rear attack began. Col. Pattee promptly grasped the situation. He halted his command and brought it to a front, thus facing toward the picket-pits which his men had held the past 21 hours. The men who had relieved them were unable to withstand the attack then being made by a brigade from the rebel works. The success of this attack would render still more desperate the position of the two divisions now assailed on the left flank and rear.

Waiting a few moments, while the bullets pattered like hail-stones and shells from the rebel artillery screeched and bellowed through the brush, Pattee ordered the men to deploy. At the same time they advanced and went to work. They seized the nits along part of the line, and from these they easily checked the advance of the enemy, but on their left the pits at once became useless because of the advance of the enemy on the flank and rear.

Soon the entire line was turned to the left backward as they faced the foe. They were finally forced into the shape of an oxbow, the enemy closing in on all sides except a comparatively narrow space toward the rear. This space was at right angles with the line they at first held. Through this they finally made their way, but continued the contest with renewed determination.

They had now reached a point where the rebels were on ground a little higher than that which they occupied. Behind them was a wooded ridge, and a narrow open space from 50 to 75 yards wide lay between them and the enemy. Across this the Reserves poured their bullets with such effect that the rebels could advance no farther, but they held stubbornly to the ground and answered shot with shot, while their artillery still pounded away on the right flank with shell. After this had continued some time, Mink’s Battery opened from the ridge and fired rapidly with canister. Whatever you may read about this light, whoever did well or ill, set it down as fact that when Mink’s Battery opened fire the Pennsylvania Veteran Reserves i.e., Col. Pattee’s command were in front of then:, facing the enemy, their right within four rods of where it was in the morning, their left merely swung around a quarter of a circle. Here they stayed till this part of the day’s work was over. They were in close contact with the rebels all through, and did not consider themselves whipped at any time.

Gen. Gwyn says in his report: “Great credit is due Brevet Col. Joseph B. Pattee for the able manner in which he fought his command on the skirmish-line, without any support or connection with the right or left. The designs of the enemy to turn back our flanks were effectually frustrated by the determined manner in which his men disputed their advance.”

During the night of the 31st the Reserves marched with the Second Division to the vicinity of Dinwiddle Courthouse. They counter-marched some distance and took a road west to J. M. Brooks’s, near the road from Dinwiddie to Five Forks. Here the division waited from early morning till about

The Reserves were thrown out toward the north or northeast as skirmishers, but nothing came of it, as the enemy had retired to Five Forks during the night The First and Third Divisions reached this vicinity early in the morning and massed north of the Second.

At 1 p. m. Gen. Sheridan gave the order for the corps to be brought forward and formed for the attack. The Second Division, on the left of the Third, was formed near the Methodist Church; the Third Brigade on the right, the Second on the left, the first in reserve close behind the others. Of the Third Brigade, the 4th Del., Capt. W. H. Mc Cleary, was on the left; next was the 3d Del., Capt. J. H. Cade; then the 191st Pa., Capt. Perez L. Norton, and the 157th Pa., Maj. E. T. Tiers. This whole line was under command of Lieut.-Col. J. B. Pattee, of the 190th Pa. The 190th Pa. was deployed as skirmishers, under Capt. R. M. Birkman. The 210th Pa., Lieut.-Col. E. L. Whitman, formed the second line of the brigade, their right reaching to the road leading north past the church, and a little south of the church.

At 4 p. in. the formations were completed and the attack began. The skirmishers moved out of the fringe of woods in which they had formed, and immediately came under fire from rebel skirmishers along the White Oak road. At first they moved forward at a brisk walk; but as the rebel fire grew hotter they dashed forward with a shout, and charged for the timber and rough ground from which the fire came.

The enemy gave way before them, and fled at first north and then west, though constantly resisting. This brought most of the skirmishers north of the “return” of the rebel works, across the Sidnor farm. They kept extending to the right and advancing as they followed the rebels, and this caused them to execute a left wheel, which naturally resulted from the position of the opposing force.

The close of the fight found part of them west of the Ford road facing south, in front of the Third Division, and part east of that road. Here they encountered Mayo’s Brigade, and withstood it with little direct assistance, although part of the Third Division was close behind them. The rebels stood up to the work gallantly for a time, and at close range poured in such a fire that it looked as if they would annihilate their antagonists; but the contest was not so unequal as it seemed. The Spencer rifle in the hands of the Reserves proved itself a destructive weapon, and the men in gray paid dearly for their valor. Soon the officers attempted to get the brigade out by a left face.

A BROKEN BRIGADE

Now was presented a curious and interesting phenomena. At one moment was extended through the woods a line-of-battle, a brigade- an organization dominated by that something called discipline- a splendid fighting machine, tempered and tested in the flame of the fiercest battles of modern times; the next moment discipline vanished, the line went to pieces as if each one of its units had suddenly acquired some force which rendered them mutually repellant. They were no longer soldiers, but only men, with arms in their hands, it is true, some of them panic stricken and some as full of fight as ever, yet that brigade had ceased to be. Some who lied toward the west escaped, but a large number were made prisoners, credited of course to the Third Division.

Meantime, the rest of the Reserves came on with their gallant comrades in the line-of-battle. On receiving the fire on their left flank, the command was wheeled to the loft. A very rough piece of ground had broken their front, and this was the cause of the apparent confusion which is sometimes mentioned in this connection. The change of front was made successfully, and then the division went right over the rebel pits. If Gen. Sheridan did any “rallying” of these troops it was not visible, to the naked eye.

The Pennsylvania Veteran Reserves have honorable mention in the reports of this critical battle. Gen. Gwyn says that “Col. Pattee displayed great courage and ability in the manner in which-he led the first line-of-battle being constantly at the front, keeping his command well in hand, and pushing the enemy with great vigor, capturing many “prisoners, wagons ambulances, and two guns.”

PURSUING LEE

The pursuit, of Lee’s army began at once.

Longstreet’s Corps was at Amelia Courthouse, eight miles away on the morning of the 4th, and the balance of Lees army was so near that it was all concentrated by the next morning. Only the Fifth Corps and the cavalry confronted his army for an entire day. On the 6th the Fifth Corps reached Sailor’s Creek, after a rapid march of 32 miles. It was not engaged in the fighting there.

On the 6th the Fifth Corps occupied Prince Edward Courthouse, crossing the Lynchburg road at Rice’s Station, making a distance of 53 miles.

April 8 the corps made another long and tedious march. The Lynchburg road was crossed again about noon at Prospect Station. From this point the match was obstructed somewhat by the troops of Gen. Ord, who made frequent halts for some cause. At 2 a.m. a halt was made about two miles from Appomattox Station. The men were badly worn out and suffering from lack of provisions. Few had tasted food all day, and while many broke down under the fearful strain, others held on with grim determination, resolved to “be in at the death.”

At 4 a. m. the bugle sounded and the men were aroused, some of them from an almost deathlike sleep of extreme fatigue, to push on to the closing scene of the National drama.

Lee’s entire army had bivouacked near the Courthouse the preceding evening, and this morning they proposed to “brush away the cavalry” and continue the retreat to Lynchburg. Had it not been for the hard march of the day and night before made by the infantry he might have accomplished his purpose.

The cavalry became heavily engaged, and was pushed back by the rebel infantry. Ord’s men deployed north of the Lynchburg road, attacked, and at first were repulsed with considerable loss.

Gen. Ayres, who was-in advance, led his division to the sound of the firing. Pattee’s command was at the rear of the division. Gen. Ayres ordered him forward to skirmish, while he formed the rest of the division in two lines-of-battle.

The men forgot their aches and blisters, the fever of weariness and hunger as they double-quicked toward the front Pattee gave the command to deploy, and the line stretched out toward the Lynchburg road, facing a little north of east At the same time Pattee galloped to the front to see how matters were going beyond the fringe of trees in which his line deployed. He found the cavalry slowly yielding before the enemy, and without waiting he ordered his men forward.

The opposing force was a skirmish-line followed by a line-of-battle, while artillery was planted on the ridge west of the town. The skirmish-line did not obstruct the advance for a moment; but as a rise of ground was surmounted, across the field beyond stretched a line-of-battle with the stars and bars floating defiantly over it, while the guns thundered from the ridge beyond.

Pattee thinned the more exposed right of his line, and pressed forward to get the right flank of the enemy. The line-of-battle began to wriggle like a beaten snake; and soon, not rapidly, yet not in good order, it disappeared over the ridge. The battery continued to fire until the left of the command charged down the road against them, when they finally joined the discomfited infantry in a hurried retreat through the town.

GOOD FIGHTING

Gen. Gwyn speaks of Col. Pattee in relation to this affair as follows: “He attacked and scattered the enemy’s skirmishers, and then drove a line-of battle from two positions, captured a limber, and would have doubtless taken two guns, with little support near, had not a flag of truce appeared in his front which compelled him to order a halt.

Gen. Ayres says: ‘”in the case of Brevet Col. Joseph B. Pattee, Lieutenant-Colonel, 190th Pa., I have already recommended him for the brevet of Brigadier-General for his good conduct under my own observation, particularly on the 9th instant. The halt was made near the village, and although the flag had came in, trouble was not yet ended. Some rebels north of the road and town opened fire, and a number of the boys advanced and drove them away. There was probably firing also from some of the houses of the town, as Pattee in his report speaks of this. By this fire a young cavalryman was killed. To this day his name is unknown.

The casualties of the command in this attack cannot be given, and the reports are probably incomplete. Lieut. W. M. Slater, 191st, was seriously wounded, but there is no indication of this in the report.

The Pennsylvania Veteran Reserves with their victorious comrades gladly turned their faces toward home and peace, careless of fame or glory, satisfied that the great conflict had ended right.1

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Source:

  1. McBride, R. E. “Pennsylvania Reserves. Career of These Veterans from Cold Harbor to Appomattox.” National Tribune 10 November 1898. 1:1-6 and 2:3-4.

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