QUINER Vol. 10: 7th and 36th Wisconsin at the 2nd Battle of Petersburg, June 18, 1864

   

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The Seventh and Thirty-Sixth Regiments—Interesting Details.

The Madison Journal has correspondence from the 7th and 36th Regiments, actively engaged before Petersburg, containing some interesting incidents we have not seen elsewhere referred to. Lt. Col. Mark Finnicum, in command of the veteran 7th, writes officially to Gov. Lewis, detailing the part taken by that regiment in the assault made on the enemy’s works on the 18th, at Petersburg:

“The regiment was formed in the second line of battle on the right of the 1st brigade, 4th division, 5th army corps. At 2 o’clock p. m., the order to move forward was given, and the lines moved across an open field towards the enemy’s fortifications of heavy earthworks, which were some half mile distant, through a galling and terrific fire of musketry and artillery. The second line, after advancing about two hundred paces, took the double quick and came up with the first line, a part of which took the double quick with us. We advanced within one hundred paces of the enemy’s works, where we were compelled to halt in consequence of the lines on our left faltering; the regiment then being seventy five or eighty paces in front of any connecting line on its left, which line on the left was forced to seek protection in a ravine which receded at an angle of about fifty degrees from the direction of the line of battle of the 7th. We held the ground in this position for an hour and a half, during which time a rebel battery, in addition to their infantry fire, was hurling its iron hail almost directly against our left flank. The ground in our front ascended at an angle of about fifteen degrees a short distance, and then ran back nearly level to the rebel works, which sheltered us from their fire in that direction. Our batteries were throwing shells directly over our heads to prevent the rebels from advancing from their works in overwhelming numbers and taking us all prisoners, and in consequence of having to aim very low, many of their shells struck the ground within twenty feet of our front.

Having five shovels in the regiment, we immediately commenced throwing up earthworks on our left flank to protect us from the enfilading fire of the enemy’s infantry and artillery, the men at the same time digging and throwing up the earth with their bayonets and tin platters in front.

I directed Major Richardson to run the gauntlet of fire if possible, and report our condition to brigade headquarters. He did so, but unless a general assault could be made on the rebel lines in our front and on our left no succor could reach us, which it was impossible to do at that time.

In this condition we hoped the rebels would not charge upon us for an hour longer, at the expiration of which time we believed we could have our works sufficiently strong to resist them, but not being disposed to let us entrench and then fight us, they formed a line at right angles with our left flank and advanced to within seventy-five yards of us. At the same time a heavy skirmish line was marching by the right flank at right angles from the right of their line on our left, and directly in our rear, and covered by a hill intervening between them and our own receding line on our left. We opened fire on the line on our left, and at the same time a part of the troops faced by the rear rank, and delivered their fire on the rebel skirmish line. We fought them in this way as long as it was possible to hold our position, and we were compelled to fall back to our right and rear through a more deadly fire than even that through which we advanced to near the position from which we moved, which we did in preference to Libby prison or Belle Island.

A correspondent from the 36th gives the following interesting particulars with reference to that regiment in the same fight:

“Again has our noble regiment of brave men been sacrificed, for I can call it nothing else when a single regiment is started upon such a hopeless charge as we went on yesterday.

Our brigade was massed in ten lines of battle to charge some sixty rods on strong works which had repulsed three or four strong charges before. The thing looked hopeless, and none of us expected to get there. Our brave Col. Savage addressed himself to us in this wise just before we started; ‘Boys, I have but one thing to ask of you, and that is if I am wounded so I can’t go, that three or four of you will carry me up to the enemy’s works at the head of my regiment.’ The 36th occupied the fifth and sixth lines, but when we were ordered forward the veterans ahead showed so much reluctance in going that the 36th, starting in splendid style, by the time we got to their works through the blackberry brambles, had passed over or through three or four of them. As there was no firing until we were close up, we thought they were reserving their fire for a terrific discharge, intending to level us all at once, but the works proved to be held only by pickets who when we got close up, fired and ran.

The brigade advanced three quarters of a mile farther to the edge of the woods, when we stopped and rested, and breakfasted on crackers and water. The rebs were strongly entrenched about thirty rods ahead in an open field, and gave us spice enough in the way of minies, wounding several men and Lieut. Galloway, of Co. K, mortally.

The Thirty-Sixth was then ordered to march by the flank half a mile through a dug out road, and then in line of battle up to the crest of a hill. There was a brambly hedge along the crest, and the tebels were strongly entrenched sixty rods in front, across an open field. Soon we were ordered to charge the works, which we were fools enough to do, supposing that we were to move simultaneously with other men or be supported.

Col. Savage stepped out and said to us—‘Boys let us give three rousing cheers and charge these works for the honor of Wisconsin, ourselves, and our other regiments in this army.’

The cheers were given, and then he drew his sword and waving it over his head shouted, ‘Men follow me,’ and dashed through the hedge with the boys all after him. The moment we came in sight how the balls did fly and the men drop. Although every man did his best, Col. Savage led us by about two rods till he was shot in four places about twenty rods from the hedge. Major Brown,1

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Source:

  1. Quiner, Edwin B. Quiner Scrapbooks: Correspondence Of The Wisconsin Volunteers, 1861-1865, Volume 10. 2010 (first published electronically). Letter. Madison, WI, p. 120, col. 3 to p. 121, col. 1.

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