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 202: Race Against Time Started, Terminated at Appomattox April 9
By Miss L. Pearl Palmer
Sometime in the forenoon [of April 1, 1865] we met Gen. [Phil] Sheridan [just before the Battle of Five Forks]. We opened ranks and he, with his cavalry, passed through. Many and loud were the cheers that were given for our gallant little Phil, as he rode by.
At this time there was a terrible roaring, as if every available piece of artillery of both lines had been brought into action.
Shortly after noon, at the intersection, of two roads, we met an officer and his staff, who proved to be Gen. Custer. He gave orders to Col. [Gustavus] Sniper to push forward as rapidly as possible, for they could not hold the position much longer. Col. Sniper, immediately gave the order to double quick. After two or three miles of this, we came in sight of heavy masses of Union troops which proved to be of our Division [First Division, Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac]. They were forming a charging party seven lines deep. Our Brigade [1/1/V/AotP], being the first, was placed upon the right, and our company being Company A, was placed upon the extreme right.
The order was given to forward! We burst in over the entrenchments, striking the enemy in the flank and rear; Sergeant Thomas Williams of Company A being one of the first inside their lines. We swept down the inside of their entrenchments, our Regiment capturing a battery, and William Williams of Company A capturing an ambulance containing a rebel officer.
The fight lasted until after dark. Here were captured 5,000 prisoners. Lee’s right wing had been substantially demolished, and now, as darkness fell, by Grant’s orders, our guns in position before Petersburgh opened from right to left making the night lurid with a bombardment that proclaimed the signal victory which had just been achieved.
Our Division and Regiment [185th New York] pushed northward toward Hatcher’s Run to support McKenzie’s Cavalry [Division, Army of the James]. Here we went into camp for the night on ground we had captured that day. Richard N. Clough and several others were wounded.
Next day [April 2, 1865] Company A was sent out to reconnoiter in different directions but saw nothing of the enemy. The country here, in places densely wooded, was interspersed with small streams and swamps. The roads were in wretched condition, hardly passable in some places for wagon trains and artillery. It was no uncommon sight to see wagons sunk in the mud to their bodies.
On the morning of the third [of April 1865], wild cheers were heard sounding along the lines announcing the news that Richmond and Petersburgh had been evacuated the night before. Now commenced the grand race against time which terminated at Appomattox April 9. We met no resistance of note, but pushed steadily onward through mud and mire, road conditions being such that it was well nigh impossible for the quartermaster to keep us supplied with rations, but as the victory was soon to be ours, we forged ahead without complaint.2
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: November 29, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 4
- NP: December 6, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 5
- 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. ↩
- “Historical Review of the Town of Lysander.” Baldwinsville Messenger. December 13, 1945, p. 3, col. 2-3 ↩