Editor’s Note: Henry Fitzgerald Charles of the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry (dismounted) wrote a short memoir based on his diary from the Siege of Petersburg in 1864/65. A transcription of this memoir was placed online in 2001 as a part of the web site The Civil War Diary of Henry Fitzgerald Charles, by the web site’s owner and Henry F. Charles descendant John Neitz. Mr. Neitz made the appearance of this memoir at The Siege of Petersburg Online possible, and I thank him greatly for his cooperation. The transcription on this page is copyrighted by John Neitz as a part of his web site and may not be reproduced without his express written consent. All rights reserved.
The Fifth Corps and the Stony Creek Raid1
(BTC Editor’s Note: The following text describes Warren’s early December 1864 Stony Creek Raid.)
Then we went back to Mead Station, began mounted picket duty – mostly scouting. Then we made a raid to Stony Creek Station, one of the Rebs’ supply depots – burned it, destroyed trains and railroad. We laid in as reserves for a while and watched the rest do the work.
Then we were rearguard coming home. Then that’s when the fun began. There was only one place to cross a swamp, so when most of the army was across, a piece of artillery got stuck in the mud, which then blocked the road. We tried to keep the Rebs back that were following us, but it was impossible. They got behind us and on both sides. We used all the fire we had but they enfenced us and we could not go forward. They opened fire on us and we tried to go thru the swamp and we were so mixed up and so close that the sabers had to be used frequently. I was lucky that I was a little further away and off came my gear so I could move faster. I had not drilled on saber exercise as on account of my stiff hand. I seen one man who was shot fall off his horse into the mud puddle. We could not help and reported him killed. He was carried on the rolls as killed for three months. Then he came back – exchanged. The ball had struck him above the ear and went round in front to the opposite ear and left him, but the skin was ripped open as though you had cut it with a knife.
Well, at last we got started, but the Johnnies followed us real good. So we put the first cavalry in ambush along the road. They left us stay on our horses. We let the Johnnies get opposite us and then opened fire on them. We had the 16 shooter, you load them one day and shoot all day next. We gave them one volley and were not bothered anymore that day with them.
By riding so fast most of the boys had lost their hats in the raid and when we got to Point City again the settlers [sutlers?] had hats with nice brims, which they wanted five dollars for. Most of the fellows fell in love with them and I did too, but I loved the five dollars more. While we were being engaged I lost my hat and as the troops passed by us I saw lots of hats being tumbled around by the wind. I dismounted to get one, but changed my mind mighty quick when I seen how close the Rebs was. Had I not done so, they would have had me before I had the hat.
There was also several negroes with the column when we left the station. They certainly were some group of pickininnies and were from three days to one hundred years old. All those that were big enough to carry something did so. They had axes, shovels, cradles, anything imaginable. Some were only half dressed; others fairly well dressed. They crowded the road so we on the horses went into the fields. We speeded up the horses so we would not have to carry their stuff. They got hold of several of our packhorses – wish they would have gotten them all, as they were always a nuisance. They were used mostly for carrying gear and for the officers. They could have done without necessities as well as we. The negroes were all retaken and taken back to Stony Creek. I certainly pitied them but was glad to be relieved of them. But such are the fortunes of war.
After Stony Creek we laid on a big plantation. They had a lot of molasses in barrels. We withdrew it and filled our canteens. It was very clear but it did not have a good taste. We took it back to camp and cooked taffy out of it, but one dose was enough for each of us, as I never took a physic that worked so well. There was a lot of shoats at the place and we got to butchering them. I got interested in three and put them on the horse over the saddle and I started back to camp where I would split my pork prize with the boys. We hid some in the bushes and some under a blanket and when we wanted some we would cut some off to cook and then pull the blanket back over it. Next day, the Rebs came and I put a pig and my gear over the saddle but we were pushed too fast and I used my bowie knife to cut my saddle straps – that’s the quickest way to unload a horse. I was glad I had my bowie knife as I had loaned it to a friend in Co. B and I thought it was gone for good, but he just brought it back two days before I really needed it to get the pigs and get rid of them. We eluded the Rebs and back to camp where we rested for several weeks and did our share of picket duty.