JOSEPH LESAGE, Sergeant, Company "G"

Submitted by Todd Knight & John W. Coffey.

     Joseph Achilles LeSage was the son of Julius Lesage (1st WV Cavalry) and Mary Bellemere, both French immigrants. He was born 3 October 1838 in Philadelphia, PA and died 28 Jan 1892 in Huntington, Cabell County, W.Va. His early childhood was spent in New York and Philadelphia. He came to Cabell Co., (West) Virginia with his family in 1850 (see biography of Julius Lesage). Together with his father, Lesage enlisted in the Union army at Ceredo, (West) Virginia) on 26 September 1861 and was assigned to Company G, First (West) Virginia Cavalry. He received an honorable discharge on 21 November 1864. He married on 1 March 1864 Mary Catherine Elizabeth (“Bettie”) Dovel, daughter of Isaac Dovel and Esther Keyser of Ironton, OH. (She was born 30 August 1839 in Stanley, Page Co., VA, and died 21 August 1917 in Page Co.). They raised two sons. After the war, LeSage lived for a while in Ironton before moving back to the family farm at Lesage’s Landing. He was a devoted member of the Grand Army of the Republic and attended many of its encampments. However, physical disabilities resulting from his war service increasingly limited his life. Joseph LeSage died in Huntington, Cabell Co., WV on 28 January 1892. Joseph and Bettie LeSage are buried at Spring Hill Cemetery, Huntington.

     Children of Joseph LeSage and Mary Catherine Elizabeth Dovel:

     Isaac Richard LeSage was born 12 April 1866, Lesage’s Landing, Cabell County, WV, and died 30 April 1947, Huntington, Cabell County, W.Va. He married Mary Elizabeth Humphreys 22 December 1897. He was a prominent physician in Huntington.

     Joseph Columbus LeSage was born 2 February 1871 in Huntington, Cabell Co., WV, and died 7 June 1941 in Huntington. On 30 June 1896 he married Anna Hope McCullough of Huntington. His career was in the postal service including several years as postmaster of Huntington.

Ironton Register, 22 December 1887
Interesting War Experiences
NO. 58
From Hanover, Pa., to Hagerstown, Md.

Some of the work of "Kilpatrick’s Cavalry"
from June 30th to July 1863.

A Sketch of the "Haps" and "Mishaps" of a
Dismounted cavalryman in front of
"Stuart’s" Pursuing Troopers.

by Jos. A. LESAGE, Co. G., 1st W.Va. Cav.

     I being a member of "Kilpatrick’s grand old" third division, first brigade, I will give a graphic account of some of our work from Hanover, Pa. to Hagerstown, Md. On the 30th of June, our brigade entered the town of Hanover mid the cheers and good wishes of the citizens, who had prepared for us in the way of decoration and good things to eat, of which they gave us freely; that is those who were fortunate enough to be in the advance, but my regiment, the 1st W.Va., being one regiment from the rear, made me think I was not going to enjoy any of the delicacies, but my time I thought had at last come to get a portion and I was just in the act of reaching for it when lo! the deafening thunder of artillery was heard in our rear, followed by a shell which exploded in our ranks. Then the citizens as well as delicacies all disappeared in less time than it would take me to relate it. So, you see I did not share the feast, but I shared something else. We were quickly ordered to counter march and charge the enemy. A hand-to-hand fight ensued, and in less than 30 minutes the rebels were driven out of the town. The enemy’s loss was about 25 killed. We captured quite a lot of Johnnies, among the rest a Lieutenant Colonel and also the battle flag of the 13th Va. Cay. So ended the day’s work. The next two days were spent in marching, counter marching and skirmishing with Stuart’s cavalry, and on the morning of the 3d of July, our brigade was marched around the rear of the rebel army, making a circuit of their left wing and around the rear of our own army and placed in position on our extreme left wing. There we remained the rest of the day.

     On the day following, that memorial Fourth of July that I shall never forget, was devoted to charging "Hood’s" division of rebel troops. One of those charges in particular will long be remembered by the boys of the 1st W.Va. Cav. It was the one that was described by one of the Cincinnati papers (a few days after the battle) as being the event which turned the tide of the contest in our favor. The order to make this charge was given by Gen. Kilpatrick to Gen. Farnsworth, commanding our brigade, whereupon he turned to Col. N. P. Richmond, commanding 1st W.Va. cavalry, and ordered him to take his regiment. We formed close column in squadron. We had not charged more than 400 yards when we came in close quarters with Hood’s division, whose first volley killed our Gen. Farnsworth and Capt. Harris, Co. F, 1st W. Va., and wounding several other officers. After the charge, the day was considered won, for just about this time, cheer after cheer went up all along the line, and the word passed from mouth to mouth that the rebel army was retreating. Then followed a lull of the clamor of battle only to be resumed by Heaven’s artillery. The sky had been observed to be lowering, and soon the elements opened forth a tremendous deluge of water which fell, not by drops but by sheets. Then we were called off the field (for it was now getting dark) and taken to the foot of the hill and ordered to hold to our horses and make ourselves as comfortable as possible, but from the way the rain was falling it seemed like a mockery to talk of comfort, but yet I must confess that I did sleep while crouched in a fence corner, and I expect would have slept on had it not been for Kilpatrick’s bugler, who made it his business to call us to horse at 4 o’clock.

     We were ordered to fall in line and draw rations, for we are going somewhere to do something, but who knows where or what? Not the "soldier boys", but it is evident the work is not all done yet, for soon as "Orderly" rides up to our commander and hands him our orders. A few minutes more and the bugle sounds to mount. 'Tis a relief from standing in the mud and rain. The order is then given "forward march," and on we go along the foot of the mountain in a southwesterly direction. We now and then make long detours to go around the spurs of the mountain, but yet we can not see what we are after, and by noon we are many miles away from Gettysburg, but on we go at the same rate all afternoon. In the evening our road turns abruptly to the right and we travel a little northwest. After continuing in this direction for some time, we began to ascend the mountain, the road is narrow with rock and brush on either side. The word is passed along from one to another that we are on the road to "Monterey Gap", or Monterey Springs. This leads up the mountain to the gap and intersects the road on which Lee’s train was retreating toward the Potomac. Before reaching the gap, the column was called to a halt, and as the regiments had been changed several times in the progress of the march, my regiment (1st W.Va.) had been placed in the rear; therefore, we could not well understand the cause of the halt at first, but our ignorance was of short duration for we were soon informed by the sound of musketry and artillery in front of the column that our advance had struck the business end of something. This halt was only for a few minutes, for soon one of Kilpatrick’s aides came riding back along the column and ordered Col. N. P. Richmond of the 1st W.Va. Cav., to take his regiment up front. At the time I thought strange of such a move, but all old soldiers learned to obey orders and ask no questions, so on we went at a speedy rate until we reached the head of the column, which was then in the gap. Then for the first time, we fully realized what the trouble was. The rebs had a battery of artillery in position in the gap ready to receive us, and were giving us grape at a lively rate, which caused our officers to think seven times before speaking once. It was now midnight and raining harder than ever. Up to this time several orders had been given to other regiments to charge the rebel battery, but no charging had been done, so our Capt. John A. Byers of Co G. 1st W.Va., volunteered to lead the charge and immediately called for volunteers, wherein a mixed crowd fell in from different companies to the amount of 200. All the while we were getting ready, the rebs were passing us grape from their battery. The darkness was so dense that we could not tell what kind they were but we took them in all the same. While we were forming up, seconds appeared like hours, but at last the order came. "Boys, draw sabres and prepare to charge; let everyone 'yell' as loud as he can." The the order "charge" and at it we go, striking at everything that looks like a man. We seize the battery, it is tumbled over the embankment down the mountain side; then we turn our attention to the foremost end of the train, all the while making more noise than a "pack of wild Indians." We find it a hot place, as we have it hand-to-hand. Sabres and revolvers are used rather freely. We soon began to take in prisoners. At first we did not know what to do with them, but we soon found Sergeant John McNorton, of Co. G. with a squad of boys who were taking charge of the prisoners and we gave them over to him. The road on which we were charging was a good turnpike and down grade. I being mounted on a good horse and being so enthused that when I got fairly underway I could not realize whether I was riding or flying. I knew I was going through the air at a terrible rate. Thus we went till we reached the foot of the mountain.

     By this time we could see that day was breaking, which enabled us to realize what we had done. Then the rest of the regiment came up and then the rest of the division. The train was ordered parked and burned. Our work from midnight July 5, to daybreak of the 6th, footed up 1800 prisoners, 1800 horses and 200 wagons. The prisoners and horses were taken out over a mountain path, as the rebels had possession of all the roads by which we could make our escape. Therefore our whole division was in a trap and it took generalship on the part of Kilpatrick to get us out, but he proved himself equal to the emergency as he had on other occasions, and we came out all right, not to say anything of the hard work and marching.

     Once out of the dilemma, the 1st West Va. Cavalry was ordered to Hagerstown, Md. As we neared the town we came to a halt, and officers held a short consultation, and it was decided to charge the town. lt so happened that Co. G. was in the advance, therefore we took the lead. Lieut. Win. St. Clair commanding the company, gave the boys the order to draw sabre and charge. So we went on into the town, but on reaching it found we had company, for we discovered Gen. A. J. Jenkins, Brigadier of rebel Cavalry, was in town also. After charging up and down through and about town, our regiment formed and marched out. I must here state that our regiment was the rear regiment of the part of our army that was then marching toward Williamsport. After leaving Hagerstown Lieut. St. Clair was placed in command of the rear squadron as a support for the section of artillery that was left behind to protect the rear of the column, that was marching on that road. Then Lieut. St. Clair placed me in charge of a squad of men as the extreme rear guard, with orders to remain pretty well back. I was obeying orders by remaining on the edge of the town until the column had moved pretty nearly out of sight, which did not take a great while as they did not march more than a quarter of a mile until they took a road which turned abruptly to the right.

     By this time they were out of sight, then I started very leisurely, but when I had reached the angle with my squad, I heard a terrible noise in my rear, which caused me to "tip toe" in my stirrups in order to make more thorough observations of the threatening tumult, but imagine my feelings when to my surprise I saw Jenkin's rebel cavalry cutting across the field which formed the angle of the two roads. I took in the situation at a glance. They were trying to cut my little squad off from our support in order to take us in out of the wet. We had either to make a rush for our support or to be rushed to "Richmond", but our faithful horses proved equal to the emergency, for I and my little squad made it to our artillery just in time to get out of the way, and form on the left of the section, for they had seen the whole affair, and had their pieces loaded with double charge of grape and as soon as we had passed the muzzle of the cannons, the rebs were right at our heels, but when the foremost men saw what they had run into, they came to a halt, but it was too late, for when they stopped, it did not take more than a minute for their whole column to jam the road full from fence to fence. Then in a moment more, both pieces went off at once. Reader, can you imagine the spectacle which lay before our eyes. I will not undertake to describe it, but will leave it to your imagination. By the time the smoke had cleared away, the cannons were reloaded with grape, and again the rebels came to meet their fate. Once more they were mowed down like grass, and the 3rd time they came. This time they directed their fire to my side of the road, which told a fearful tale for me, as my good and faithful horse had his heart pierced by a rebel bullet, which caused him to rear straight up, and threw me to the ground - when he fell he was dead. Just think of my situation without a horse, and in the midst of the enemy. But just at this time, the rebels became engaged with the artillery, and I thought it a very good opportunity to start on the home run and not wait for orders. I had not proceeded far, when here came the artillery fairly flying past me. I tried my best to take passage on one of the pieces, but they did not appear to have any use for me, so I was left behind. In a few minutes here came "Billy" St. Clair. He appeared to be in a hurry, but he said to me, "Joe I’ll ride up to this fence, and you can get on behind me, and I will try to carry you out." I accepted his proposition and did get on, but after all I thought we were not going fast enough so I slid off behind and told the Lieutenant to go on and I would try the virtue there was in running on foot. I tell you I did my level best for about four miles.

     Then I came to where our column had forsaken the road, and turned abruptly to the left across the country. Just as I was about to leave the pike, I heard the sound of a horse’s hoofs behind me. I turned to see what it meant, and to my great joy I saw it was a riderless horse coming straight toward me. In a moment I thought just what to do, as it appeared to be a providential means for me to be carried out of my dilemma. So I just posted myself squarely in the road, and as he attempted to pass me, I seized him by the bridle and brought him to a standstill, not waiting for a word of command I mounted my new charger. He was a good quiet horse. He did not move while I was mounting, and to my great disappointment I could not get him to move after having mounted. I tried every way to talk him into the notion. I even planted both heels into his ribs, but he was like the "Dutchman’s horse at the foot of the hill." I then saw what the trouble was, my providence was what we cavalry men used to call a "pegged-out" horse, which had gotten under headway on the down grade, and could not stop without some force was brought to bear against him. So I quietly slid off and left him standing, and if he did not change his mind I expect he is standing there yet.

     I now began to look around to see what would be the next best move, for I was expecting the rebs every moment. That thought caused me to use the best generalship I could command, for I thought I would rather die than be taken prisoner. While slipping through the woods, I saw a house some little distance to my right. I thought I would make my way there as best I could and obtain admittance and remain there until dark. Then, under cover of darkness, I would be guided by the campfires if it should be my good fortune that our army should camp anywhere in the neighborhood. I soon made my way to the house. lt appeared to be large and roomy, and I thought to myself that I had found a haven of rest, but poor mortal man is doomed to disappointment. I approached the front and began to rap, but could not get a reply; so I continued to rap, and after so long a time a woman came to the door and opened it just wide enough to allow me a good view of her nose. Said I to her, "please allow me in the house as I am afraid I will be captured if I cannot get to secrete myself somewhere." She said, "no sir" and with a slam closed the door in my face, and locked it. I thought I would play a yankee trick by asking her for a drink of water and when she would open the door to hand me a drink, I would seize the opportunity and rush past her, and once in the house, I did not think she could put me out. This was a thought of a moment. Then I attempted the ruse but it would not work for she answered me from within, that there was a spring down in the field. I saw that I was foiled, but I soon thought of another plan to get the door open. I asked her to please hand me a cup to drink out of but her prompt answer was that there was a gourd down at the spring. I could not enter that house so I resolved to do the next best thing. As it was now sunset it would not be long before I would be hidden by the friendly darkness, so I went in search of the spring, which I soon found, and sure enough there was the gourd. This spring was not in a house as old Virginia springs are, but down in a deep depression deep enough to have hidden a man and horse from view. This proved to be the very place for me at the time for I now felt relieved of the fear of being seen by the enemy. I occasionally crawled up the side of my hiding place to take a view of the surrounding country. Here I remained till it was quite dark. Then I bade adieu to my place of concealment and began to look out for campfires which I thought our boys would build to make coffee and fry "sow belly," which we did not have time to do since the day before. I did not have time to wait until my expectations were realized. I now saw a light place in the distance, as though it might be the light of campfires.

     Now another trouble presented itself to my mind, was it the camp of friend or foe. Here again, I thought I would trust to providence, hoping it would turn out more favorable with me this time than it did in the case of my experience with the Providence house. I now set out in the direction of the lights proceeding slowly and cautiously until midnight before reaching the camp, which proved to be that of our boys. Then I drew a long breath of relief Then came the tedious task of finding my own company among a mixed, noisy army, but the task was soon accomplished. The boys were both glad and surprised to see me as they had considered one lost. After the many questions and congratulations common to soldiers on such occasions, I put about to getting me a square meal. This ended the 6th of July.