Editor’s Note: This article was provided by David Welch (100th Pennsylvania Roundheads) and transcribed by Jackie Martin.
STORIES OF CAMP AND WAR
SKIRMISH AT FORT STEDMAN
Member of “Roundheads” Tells Graphic Story of Fight in Which Commander Was Captured.
“I was one of the Roundheads, and came from the left of Petersburg on November 29, 1864, and our corps, the Ninth, relieved the Second Corps, and occupied the lines from the Appomattox river to Fort Mikle. Division Commander Gen. Orlando B. Wilcox had his headquarters in the Friend’s house, nearly directly back of Fort Stedman. Our brigade, the Third of the first division, occupied the lines from Fort Stedman to Fort Haskell, writes Phillip Crowl of Beaver Falls, Pa., in the National Tribune. In Fort Stedman was the first battalion of the 14th N. Y. The 59th Mass. was nearby in the rear of Fort Stedman, in rear of Battery No. 10. In a clump of pines on the left of Fort Stedman was the 3d Md., then Battery No. 11, then the 31st Mass., then Battery No. 12, and the 100th Pa. (Roundheads) occupied the rifle pits up to Fort Haskell.
On the morning of March 25, 1865, just as our drum corps was getting out to beat reveille, the ball opened. It was 5 a. m. Co F was the second company on the right when the fort was taken. The enemy filed right through to our rear, and formed in two lines, and came advancing upon us. Co. D of our regiment was thrown back, and we, skirmishing, fell back to our works. In the meantime our colonel, James Pentecost, rode down to the right of the line, and said: “Boys, our brigade commander, Gen. Bonaparte McLaughlin, of the 57th Mass., is taken prisoner.”
Col. Pentecost then ordered us to fall back to our works.
Col. Pentecost then ordered us to the other side of the rifle pits and into Fort Haskell. We obeyed orders, and mounted on the front of the works inside of the abatis and dug right out for the fort.
We got as far as the little run that went through our works, when I stopped and crawled upon the works to get a parting shot at the Johnnies, and the first thing I heard was: “Surrender you Yank.”
When I got to my feet there were 15 or 20 Johnnies with their guns trained on us. They captured our First Lieutenant, Ed McMillen, Fife Maj. Steward Alford and a recruit by the name of Rankin, all of Co. F, and some others of the regiment. Silas Alford, of Co. F, was killed right alongside of us. Col. James [sic, Joseph H. Pentecost was the Colonel of the 100th PA] Pentecost was mortally wounded, just on the other side of the works, dying the next day.
Then the Johnnies started with us prisoners over to their main line of works. I was wounded and left lying about 50 yards in front of our own company’s works in a gopher hole with Steward Alford, who had escaped the notice of the Johnnies as they were hustling to get out of the place when the balls were making the dirt fly.
Alford and I lay in this hole all the time the fight was going on, and could see the enemy in our works and also see them trying to storm Fort Haskell. They would get over the rifle pits and try and get around in front of the fort, but were cut down.1
- “Skirmish at Fort Stedman.” Bluffton (IN) Chronicle. January 22, 1913, p. ? col. ? ↩