THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA.
UNDER date of June 26, 1862, President Lincoln issued an order that "the forces under Maj. Gens. Fremont, Banks and McDowell, including the troops now under Brig. Gen. Sturgis, at Washington, shall be consolidated and form one army, to be called the Army of Virginia." Maj. Gen. John Pope was appointed to the command of the army, and Gen. Fremont's forces became the First Army Corps. Upon the declination of Gen. Fremont to accept the command, Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel was appointed to the command of the corps, and assumed command on June 30th. The "Independent Brigade" of Brig. Gen. Robt H. Milroy, formed a part of the First Army Corps. It was composed of the Second, Third and Fifth Virginia Infantry, the 82d Ohio Infantry, companies C, E and L, First Virginia Cavalry, and the 12th battery Ohio Light Artillery. In the new organization of our brigade, we lost our old comrades of the gallant 25th Ohio, with whom we had braved many dangers, and whom we had learned to trust as the bravest of the brave in our little army. They remained in the corps, but in another brigade, the brave 82d Ohio taking their place with us. Independence day was duly celebrated by the brigade. The firing of cannon was the signal to form in line, and the brigade was drawn up to take part in the exercises of the day. The celebration was begun with music by the bands, after which a number of the members of our regiment sang, when the Divine blessing was invoked by the chaplain, Rev. Bolton. Maj. Webster, of the 25th Ohio, read the Declaration of Independence, and then followed a speech by brave Gen. Milroy, which wrought the command to the highest pitch of enthusiasm; and evoked rounds of applause. It was a lovely day, most fittingly observed.
Under date of July 4th, Gen. Pope issued an order directing Gen. Sigel to march to Sperryville by the way of the Luray valley. In reply to this order, Gen. Sigel forwarded to Gen. Pope, July 5th, his order organizing his corps into divisions, etc., among which is named the "Independent Brigade, Gen. Milroy; this will be the advance brigade." It can be said with all truthfulness, that this part of the order was strictly carried out, as we were always kept next to the enemy; in the front when we advanced on the enemy, and on the rear when we retreated. We broke camp on the 5th and started on our long weary march, not to end until we reached Washington. Our march up the valley to Luray was an uneventful one, except the suffering from intense heat, as we trudged, along hour after hour, with very little rest. Nearly half the regiment gave out from heat and exhaustion. We reached the little town of Luray on the 9th, marched over the Blue Ridge, and on the 11th went into camp near Sperryville, at the eastern base of the mountains. Passing through Luray, before reaching the mountain slope, great excitement was caused by some one firing out of the windows on our regiment. Inquiry developed the fact that the fire arm that hurled the deadly bullet, was in the hands of a woman. This was an incident a little out of the usual order, though we had become accustomed to the bushwhacking that greeted us on every march and from every hillside. The march over the beautiful range was an interesting one, though severe, and was made a joyous occasion by the happy spirited men of the regiment. A band of German singers in Company C enlivened the march by their singing, their strong and musical voices filling the woods, and giving new life to the men so weary from their fatiguing march. We remained at Sperryville until the 22nd, when we went to Woodville.
A report of the condition of our brigade while here, showed that we had present for duty 110 officers and 2,397 men, and in our entire army 2,473 officers and 49,328 men. We were now fully in the field ready for duty, with a small but courageous army, anxious to advance against the enemy. The men had the utmost confidence in Gen. Pope, and believed that a campaign of victories awaited them. On the 14th of July he formally addressed the officers and men of his army, in the celebrated letter which has been so much criticised.
We lay near Woodville until the 9th of August, preparing for the general advance that was soon to take place. July 18th we had a brigade drill, the first our regiment ever took part in, the brigade being commanded by Gen. Milroy, and July 29th we had a division drill under direction of Gen. Sigel. It was so novel to the men that they really enjoyed it, a fact that could not be stated of drilling in general, so far as it related to our regiment. A "war meeting" on the 27th, and a pole raising at brigade headquarters on the 31st, gave the occasion for a good deal of oratory. A speech from Gen. Milroy was always a treat to the men, as he was nearly as popular as an orator, as a fighting general. On the 5th of August, General Sigel led us in a sham battle, and it was exciting enough to arouse the enthusiasm of the most sluggish. August 7th we were reviewed by Gen. Pope, who was enthusiastically cheered by the men, to his evident delight.
We broke camp on the evening of August 8th, taking up the line of march at 11:30, arriving at Culpepper Court House next morning. We lay at this place until evening of the 9th, listening to the sounds of battle that came from Cedar Mountain, where a fierce battle was fought between Gen. Banks' corps, and the rebel forces. We waited anxiously for marching orders to proceed to the scene of action, but strangely enough we were kept in camp, unemployed, until night, when we were hurried to the front. In his official report Gen. Pope states that Gen. Sigel failed to march promptly from Sperryville as directed, and he was several hours late, rendering it impracticable for his corps to be pushed to the front as intended. The corps not being provided with rations before starting, had to be supplied from Gen. McDowell's provision train at Culpepper, rendering another delay necessary, so that our corps failed to get into this battle, as was designed. Had we been on time, no doubt a brilliant victory would have resulted, instead of a drawn battle.
Our approach to the field of conflict at night was one of the most picturesque scenes we had ever witnessed. At intervals along the way were camp fires shining brightly; the signal officers were transmitting their signals by lights, the beautiful colors gracefully waving in the air like fairy wands, while in front the booming of cannon, with the flash that accompanied the fatal missiles lighting up the night, made a scene ever to be remembered. It was beautiful, and the animated scene was further enlivened by the rude sounds of war that came to us from the front. The long column marched steadily forward to the mountain, where they encamped for the night. The firing of cannon ceased about midnight, when the weary troops lay down on their arms to rest, ready for the carnage that they believed the morrow would bring. Alarms were frequent during the night, but no serious collisions took place. During the night Jackson withdrew his troops about two miles from our front, and in the morning Milroy's brigade pushed forward and occupied the ground, and for some time had quite heavy skirmishing with the enemy. The day was exceedingly hot, and ere long there was a cessation of hostilities. The next day was spent by both armies, under a flag of truce, in burying the dead, for which duty our regiment was detailed. The men of the two armies mingled freely together and talked over the results of the battle. It was a strange, though not unusual, scene, and the friendliness expressed was one of the inconsistencies of the war. During the night of the 11th, Gen. Jackson evacuated his position in front of us and retreated across the Rapidan river, leaving many of his dead and wounded on the field, to be taken care of by our army. The next day our brigade and the cavalry started in pursuit of the retreating confederates, following them to the Rapidan, where we rested. Our whole army was pushed to the front on the 4th, our right, under Gen. Sigel, resting on Robertson's river.
Before a week had elapsed, Gen. Pope became assured that nearly the whole of the confederate army, at Richmond, had left there and were concentrating in his immediate front, with the intention of overwhelming him before he could be joined by any part of the army of the Potomac. He then fell back beyond the Rappahannock, and by the 19th his army was posted for eight miles along the north bank, from Rappahannock station to Warrenton Springs. Across the river was Lee with 85,000 men, being the whole of his army except D. H. Hill's and Holmes' divisions, opposing the 45,000 of Pope's command. On the 19th our brigade received orders to march, and on the evening of the next day, we went into camp at the Sulphur Springs, where we lay until the next morning, when we marched to Kelly's Ford, a few miles from Rappahannock station. An almost continuous artillery fire had been kept up between the two armies since the morning of the 20th. Lee made repeated efforts to cross the river at various points, and along the whole line of eight miles the firing was kept up, but with little loss on either side. At the Ford we met the enemy, but failed to bring on an engagement the first day. We watched the enemy closely and prevented them from doing any damage to any part of our lines. On the 22d there was more serious work, and after an engagement of some hours, we drove the enemy and took possession of the field. The loss was slight, but the work, was severe and trying. This engagement is referred to as Freeman's Ford in General Milroy's report. In this battle, so vividly referred to by Gen. Milroy, ours was one of the regiments that lay in the woods, as reserve for our batteries. While we received but little injury, it was a place of the most trying character, lying so long under the fire of the enemy's batteries, yet not permitted to respond. The bursting shells that were hurled into the woods, sent pieces whirling and wizzing in every direction, so much so, that there was a constant feeling of uncertainty as to injury that might follow. It was no uncommon thing to see one of the men pick up one of these pieces, which he watched as it lazily made its way among the branches of the trees, and then fell to the earth, sometimes too much spent to inflict damage, while again with force enough to destroy life, if any unfortunate came in its way. Yet amid all this danger and confusion, with our own gallant batteries hurling death and destruction at the enemy, it was a common sight to see weary men lying behind logs or sitting behind trees, sleeping as soundly and sweetly as if in the quiet, and safety of camp. But how those messengers of death screamed as they sped, and shook the very air as they exploded, in that historic wood! This tested the courage of men often more than the exciting charge, or the steady fire in column. Milroy's veterans were equal to any demand made upon them, and their hard service in the battle field, their skill in the bush with the guerrillas, and their undaunted and untiring forays on scouts, gave them the kind of endurance and courage, that made even this kind of warfare tolerable. There was no flinching and where the order came for more active work, they were alert, active and vigilant, and as brave as the most noted soldiers in history. We held our position undisturbed during the night.
On the morning of the 23d we left Kelly's Ford, our brigade bringing up the rear of the corps, marching toward Sulphur Springs, where we engaged the enemy. Our battery began shelling them, and then our infantry opened a brisk fire on the infantry of the enemy, who were soon forced across the creek and were compelled to retire behind their batteries. The confederates had torn up the bridge, thus preventing our advance, except the few cavalry that crossed over, and, darkness coming on, Gen. Milroy encamped his brigade a short distance back from the banks' of the creek. The next day was a more stirring one, bringing with it some of the severest fighting we had yet experienced. Our brigade opened the ball in the morning, and was under fire nearly the whole of the day. On the 24th an incident occurred out of the regular order, that caused great fun afterward, but was exceedingly dangerous at the time. The Second and Third Virginia regiments were marched up near where the confederate artillery had been doing good service, and ordered to fire into the woods where the artillery had been posted. Not being able to elicit any response to our attack, the regiments began to cheer, and gave three old-fashioned cheers, followed by three groans for Jeff Davis. Before the groans had fairly been uttered, there was a storm came out of that woods that discouraged all further cheering. We fell hastily back, and it was not often that any troops ever were subjected to such a raking from grape and canister as we then had. Fortunately we got under cover of the trees, and as shot after shot was fired into us, we dropped behind the logs and trees and escaped injury, except in the case of Charles W. Sivert, of Company I, who was shot in one of his legs, which was amputated, and Wm. McGully, of Company D, who lost his right leg by one of the grape shots striking him in the knee, and severing the leg all but the muscles in the rear part of the knee. Dr. Hazlett afterwards amputated it.
The artillery engagement mentioned in Gen. Milroy's report, of this day, was the greatest of the war to our brigade, and it was certainly one of the grandest sights that man ever witnessed. It was in fact a tremendous artillery duel, in which the skilled gunners of both sides exerted themselves to the utmost. Our regiment lay in the rear of our batteries, and though somewhat exposed, viewed the scene with an absorbed interest. We lay back of the brow of the ridge, and as the thunder and roar of the artillery seemed to shake the very earth, we could see the belchings of the enemy's guns, and notice to some extent, the effect of the good work of our gunners. How the shot and shell flew and shrieked through the air above and about our lines! What excitement stirred the hearts of the brave men who calmly went at their work, as if it were mere play! It was a hard and a gallant fight, but the guns of the enemy after a while became quiet, and the victory rested with the batteries of the union army.
The same evening we received orders to proceed to Waterloo Bridge, arriving there about 5 o'clock, where we immediately went into action, the artillery doing good service, and the skirmishers preventing the enemy from gaining any advantage. Even after night had closed over the scene, the enemy kept up the firing, at times opening furiously on us with small arms, which we returned to their satisfaction. The next day, the 25th, the action was resumed with all the fury of demons. The artillery was at times deafening, while the steady crack of the musketry showed where the battle was in progress. There was glorious work performed at Waterloo Bridge, enough of itself to immortalize the brave men that took part in it, and it was one of the most dangerous places in the campaign of Pope. Those of the men not engaged, or while at rest, found but little safety anywhere. It seemed as if the confederates had a full range of the whole field, and that there was no place too remote for their deadly bullets, whose zip at unexpected places, kept the boys in a state of uncertainty and doubt. Still there was no shirking, and when the call came for active duty, and that of the most desperate kind, it was performed well. Lieut. John R. Frisbee, of Company D, with a squad of men, was ordered to fire the bridge, which duty he performed with a courage of the most exalted character. With the fierce firing between the opposing forces, that on the part of our brigade to divert the enemy's attention from the squad at the bridge, and on their part to prevent this action, it made the situation an exceedingly trying one to the brave men, but the bridge was doomed from the moment the order came to our regiment to destroy it, and though it burned slowly, and it seemed like an age almost until it was useless for its purpose, there was no faltering on the part of any.
The men in squads, of their own accord, at one time, went to an exposed point where, as sharp-shooters, they did an immense amount of damage to the enemy and made him observe a caution that must have been galling and trying. Dark put an end to the conflict, and after nightfall we retired from the scene of danger. We left about 9 P. M. and arrived at Warrenton next morning at daylight. It was a hard march after our severe campaigning, and many a comrade fell by the wayside, worn out, and so exhausted that further advance was impossible. But not long after the command was at rest in camp, the weary men rejoined their companies, again ready for the arduous and dangerous duties before them. We lay at this place until the 27th, when we marched toward Gainesville and had an exciting day of it. Upon arriving at Broad Run, four miles from Gainesville, the bridge was found to be on fire and the confederate cavalry and artillery drawn up on the opposite side. Maj. Kreps, commanding the cavalry detachment of our brigade, immediately charged the enemy and put them to flight. The pioneer corps was at once set to work and in fifteen minutes the artillery crossed the bridge. On the 28th we marched toward Manassas Junction, arriving within a mile of the Junction at noon. In the afternoon the brigade joined the corps near Groveton, where it rested until morning. During the evening, and until about 9 o'clock, the firing was very heavy and severe, but our brigade was not engaged in it.
The following is Gen. Milroy's report of the operations of his brigade to this time:
On the 19th we marched all day, passing through Culpepper, and encamping at midnight about four miles north of that place, on the Sulphur Springs road.
On the 20th at daylight resumed march toward Sulphur Springs, reaching there at 5 p. m., without any signs of the enemy in our rear. Started on the morning of the 21st with brigade in advance of corps, in the direction of Rappahannock station, and reinforced Banks and McDowell, who had thus far prevented the enemy from crossing the river at that point, and found a heavy artillery engagement going on. We arrived about noon, and were ordered to rest near Gen. Pope's headquarters until a position in the field could be assigned me. About 2 p. m, I was ordered to advance toward the river and take position on the right of King's division. After advancing about a half mile my brigade was divided, yourself, General, (Sigel) taking two regiments along the road, myself moving with the other two through the fields, a small squad of rebel cavalry, who had been watching our movements from the edge of the woods in front of us, fleeing at our approach. Upon arriving at the edge of the woods I halted my column and allowed the sharpshooters and skirmishers some five minutes in advance. I then started my two regiments, crossed the woods, about a quarter of a mile in width, and halted, finding ourselves on the right of the line of skirmishers then engaged, established by Gen. Patrick of King's division. Remaining here some two hours, the enemy making no demonstration, I fell back to the fields, in the rear of the woods to rest for the night. In the meanwhile you, General, had placed my infantry and battery in position near the road on my right. Thus disposed of, we rested until the following morning.
On the morning of the 22d I was ordered early to take the advance in the direction of Freeman's Ford, about one and one-half miles in front and to the right of us, where the enemy had massed the night previous, and were then holding the ford. When within a quarter of a mile of the ford, in order to reconnoiter and select position, I hurried forward, accompanied by my cavalry, being screened in my approach by a long belt of pines bordering on the rivet. Arriving at the edge of the pines I halted my cavalry and, accompanied by my staff, crossed the road and ascended an eminence commanding the ford. Scarcely three minutes had elapsed when the enemy opened upon me from two batteries with grape and shelf. I immediately hurried my cavalry across the road to a safe position, and ordered my battery, under Capt. Johnson, forward on the double quick. In less than five minutes after receipt of the order he had his pieces in action amid a perfect shower of shot shell and canister from three of the rebel batteries, and in ten minutes after had silenced their heaviest battery. He continued engaging the enemy for about two hours, compelling them to constantly change the position of their guns, when, his ammunition giving out, I asked for another battery. Capt. De Beck's battery of McLean's Brigade, was sent me, he in turn being relieved by Capt. Buell, of the reserve artillery, in about two hours. The enemy ceased firing about 3 p. m. My infantry, which at the commencement of the action I had placed under cover of the woods on either flank of the battery, had suffered but little, some two killed and 12 or 13 wounded by canister and shell.
About 3 p. m., wishing to ascertain the cause of the enemy's silence, I determined to cross the river, and accordingly sent for my cavalry, numbering about 150 effective men. I then crossed the ford, sending a company of sharpshooters across and deploying them, ordering their advance up the hill occupied in the morning by the enemy's batteries, myself with my cavalry in the meantime going around by the road. Arriving at the summit of the hill, I discovered the greater part of the enemy's wagon train, accompanied by their rear guard, moving up the river in the direction of Sulphur Springs. Their cavalry, upon discovering us, gave the alarm, hurrying off their teams and stragglers in the greatest confusion. I posted a platoon of cavalry as videttes, at the same time throwing forward 20 of my sharpshooters, who commenced skirmishing with the rear guard. Being merely reconnoitering, and not having sufficient force to pursue their trains, I ordered my two remaining companies of cavalry into line, under protection of the hill. The remainder of the sharpshooters I deployed as skirmishers, ordering them to feel their way into the woods on my left. They had scarcely entered the woods when they met the enemy's skirmishers, and from their number and the length of the line I inferred that they had a large force to back them. Shortly after they opened a heavy fire to my left and rear beyond the woods I had thrown my skirmishers in, which I afterward learned was the attack of the enemy upon Bohlen's brigade, which had crossed the river below me. It now being sundown, and not being allowed to bring any force across, I returned, my brigade resting for the night without change of position.
At 7 a. m., 23d received orders to move in the direction of Sulphur Springs, my brigade bring up the rear of the corps. When a short distance en route I was directed to take a road on my left, a rougher but shorter route to the Springs, the main body of the corps having continued on the main road. Upon coming into the main road again I found myself in advance of the corps. When within a mile of the bridge across Great Run I found our cavalry in line of battle behind the woods. Upon inquiring the cause, I was informed that the enemy were in force at and across the run and had fired on them. Upon this information I passed them with my brigade, and finding the rebel guns in position across the creek, I placed my battery in a commanding position on this side and commenced shelling them, at the same time throwing my infantry into the woods, who soon found and opened a brisk fire into the rebel infantry in front of them on our side of the creek, my men being exposed from the commencement to a cross fire of grape and canister from a masked battery across the creek. But notwithstanding all these odds we soon forced them across the creek and to retire for protection behind their guns. The enemy having torn up the bridge, and it now being dark, I encamped my brigade for the night a short distance back from the banks of the creek.
Next morning, 24th, a strong pioneer force having been put to work on the bridge to repair for our artillery to cross, I crossed my infantry upon the sleepers, not waiting for my cavalry or artillery. I deployed a strong skirmishing party and was soon on the track of the enemy, who had fallen back during the night to their main body, which had crossed the river by the bridge at Sulphur Springs, my skirmishers advancing as far as the Springs. As soon as my infantry appeared on the hights commanding the bridge across Hedgeman's river, the enemy, who were in position, opened f1re from the opposite shore. I sent back for my battery and returned this fire. The other batteries of the corps soon coming up, a general artillery engagement ensued, which resulted in our driving their gunners away, leaving their pieces very temptingly displayed. Wishing to take advantage of this unexpected opportunity in securing their guns, I had just crossed the bridge, with one of my regiments following close behind, and when nearly in reach of the prize found myself in a hornet's nest. As if by magic the hills and woods became alive with the enemy; the deserted batteries were suddenly manned and a semi-circle of guns, nearly a mile around us, commenced pouring a steady stream of shell and canister upon the bridge. I called to my regiment, which was then crossing, to retire, which it did in very good order and rapid style. Our batteries immediately responded to their fire, thus drawing their attention away from us. In a moment the air was fairly alive with shot and shell, and I took advantage of their elevation to join my command. At this juncture I received orders to take the advance of the corps in the direction of Waterloo Bridge, six miles above Warrenton Springs. I got my brigade in motion and arrived at the bridge at about 5 P. M. I placed Dieckmann's battery in position on a commanding eminence on the left of the road and near the bridge, immediately opening fire upon a rebel battery across the river, at the same time throwing my skirmishers down near the bridge and along the bank, where they were soon engaging the rebel skirmishers. Thus matters stood when darkness partially put an end to the firing, but the enemy opened on us furiously several times during the night with small arms, which was promptly replied to.
On the morning of the 25th the batteries on both sides opened again and continued through the day without serious loss to us. About 3 P. M. I received orders to burn the bridge at once at all hazards, and to this end brought forward my four regiments of infantry to engage the enemy's infantry, concealed in the woods near the bridge on the opposite bank. By keeping up a steady artillery and infantry fire, I succeeded in covering a party firing the bridge, which, being of heavy oak, burned but slowly, and it was not till dark that the bridge was entirely consumed. We then received orders to march to Warrenton; my brigade to bring up the rear of the corps. We left about 9 P. M. and arrived at Warrenton next morning at daylight. Here we remained in camp until the morning of the 27th, when we received orders to take the advance in the direction of Gainesville.
My cavalry, upon arriving at Broad Run, within four miles of Gainesville, found the bridge on fire and the rebel cavalry, with one piece of artillery, drawn up on the opposite side. Maj. Krepps commanding my cavalry detachment, immediately ordered a charge, and after two successive charges succeeded in putting them to flight. By this time my infantry had arrived and I set the pioneer corps to work repairing the bridge, which was executed with such promptness that in fifteen minutes after we were enabled to cross our artillery. Meanwhile I had pushed ahead with my cavalry and infantry in the direction of Gainesville. When within two miles of Gainesville, I sent a platoon of cavalry with a regiment of infantry and a section of my battery to hold the road leading to Hay Market station. With the rest of the brigade I continued on the main road, and upon approaching Gainesville found we had intercepted Longstreet from joining Jackson, Ewell and Hill, who had just passed up the railroad toward Manassas Junction. At Gainesville we took some 200 prisoners, stragglers from Jackson's army. There received orders to halt my brigade for the night.
This historic battle was opened on the morning of August 29th, by Milroy's brigade, and some fierce fighting was done. The confederate forces were in position from Groveton to Sudley Ford, Jackson's left, under Hill, stretched northward toward Sudley Ford on the Bull Run; then came Ewell's division under Lawton, in the centre; then Jackson's own division, now commanded by Starke, on the right, resting near the little hamlet of Groveton. His force lay mainly behind an abandoned railroad, whose deep cuttings formed a strong intrenchment, and the ground was thickly wooded. The confederate artillery was mainly massed in on low ridges in the rear of the right. Jackson's front fell back about half a mile until they reached the abandoned railroad, where a fierce combat ensued. Gen. Milroy's brigade formed the centre of the corps, and took possession of an elevation in front of the "Stone House" at the junction of the Gainesville and Sudley Springs roads. Gen. Schurz formed the right and Gen. Schenck's division the left. Our brigade was thus again placed face to face with the old Stonewall forces, whose bravery and prowess we had to meet in a most sanguinary conflict. It seemed to be our fate to fight this gallant command. Our first experience was at McDowell, then at Cross Keys, and now at Groveton, on the historic fields of Bull Run. The confederates had the advantage of being sheltered by the railroad cut, equal to breastworks, where they could meet our assaults, and be in less danger than we were. In the order of battle named, we advanced from point to point, taking advantage of the ground before us, until our whole line was involved in a terrific artillery and infantry contest. For four hours, 6:30 to 10:30 a. m., our whole force was hotly engaged, our brigade and Schurz' advancing one mile, while Schenck advanced two miles. The confederates being driven behind the imbankment, the order was given to drive them out if possible, when Milroy and Schurz charged fiercely upon the entrenched forces of the enemy, but were driven back with great loss; the charge was repeated and again repulsed. The enemy then threw forward large masses of infantry against our right, but was driven back three times by the troops of Milroy and Schurz, who stood like veterans, but were now so hard pressed by the overpowering numbers hurled against them, and so weakened by losses and exhausted by fatigue, that reinforcements were sent to them; and the attacks of the enemy were quieted for a time. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon, some regiments were sent forward to relieve Milroy's brigade, which had maintained their ground for 8 hours against greatly superior numbers, and suffered great loss in dead and wounded.
The second day's battle was as fierce as the first, in which our brigade took a prominent part. Sigel was informed by Pope that it was his intention on the 30th, to "break the enemy's left," and that he, with the First Corps, should hold the center, with Gen. Reno on the right, and Gen. Reynolds on the left. Sigel's corps took position behind Groveton, on the right of the Gainesville turnpike. In our immediate front was massed apparently the whole force of the enemy. Gen. Reynolds on the left, was in a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, while Gen. Porter went to the front, into the woods where our corps lost so heavily the day before, and became engaged with the enemy who were sheltered behind the same old railroad cut. At the same time the enemy opened with shell and solid shot against our center and left wing. Thus the battle continued, and about 5 P. M., Gen. Sigel received a dispatch through Gen. McDowell, and written by Gen. Porter, requesting McDowell to "push Sigel forward," and the latter immediately made arrangements to comply with the order. While executing his movements Gen. Porter's troops came out of the woods in pretty good order, bringing a great number of wounded with them. In reply to a question from Gen. Sigel why they were retiring so soon, they said they were out of ammunition. Sigel then held his troops well together to prepare for any movement of the enemy. Incessant volleys of musketry betrayed the enemy in great force on our left, and Milroy was sent there to assist McLean's brigade. The fighting became terrific, constant and furious. Gen. Milroy, with his brigade, and some other regiments, which he had brought forward, repulsed the enemy on the left with great loss, the General having his horse shot under him. Our forces on the left, who had met the furious assaults of the enemy, were overpowered and came rushing out of the woods, panic stricken and demoralized, leaving Milroy to face the advancing and exultant foe, who followed our men to the edge of the woods. The official report of Gen. Milroy, relates in graphic language the fight that then took place between his forces and the enemy. A better contested line was not maintained in the battle, and despite the superior numbers against us, we held our ground until the attack at that point ceased. The battle on this evening was one of the most furious and determined of the war, and only the superior strength of the enemy, prevented a complete and glorious victory by our troops. The whole field seemed to be alive with the bursting and screaming shells, which filled the air with missiles of destruction, and a dense smoke, the incarnation of the horrors of war. Amid all that destruction, in the very presence of death, with men falling in every direction, our brave boys stood to the work, and none more nobly than our own regiment.
In this destructive battle, the loss of the enemy in killed and wounded was 8,400, while our total loss in killed and wounded was over 10,000. The loss of our brigade was 70 killed and 286 wounded, being tenth in the order of losses, dead and wounded, out of 46 brigades that took part in the battles, and eighth in the order of the number killed. The total number of our brigade in the campaign was 2,507, and many of these were sick and unable for duty long before the ten days' fighting began, and not over 2,000 were actively engaged, showing a loss of fully 18 per cent in this brief campaign alone. It was a severe, hard campaign, and our brigade was handled with a skill and bravery not excelled by any brigade in the entire army. Both Gens. Pope and Sigel referred in the highest terms of praise, to the gallant conduct of Gen. Milroy's brigade, and great credit was given it for the excellent work done by it. In the terrible and unequal light on the 29th, when the Second was sent to support the Fifth Virginia and Eighty-second Ohio, the regiment lost fully one-fifth of all its members present, killed and wounded, in a very few minutes, and yet the next day the brave boys left took their places, and with the rest of the brigade, now scarcely more than a regiment, held in check the force of rebels that had turned the left flank of our army, which is reported fully in Gen. Milroy's report. The men of the regiment had fully proved their bravery, skill and tenacity of purpose, and if they had never fought a battle afterward, they would have had glory enough for one regiment. The fighting on this day was as severe as any that our regiment ever experienced; and those who were in the vicinity of that left flank on that occasion, will never forget it as long as memory lasts. The panic stricken, stampeding forces, that we were sent to reinforce, were fairly mowed down by the rebel batteries, and had our brigade not been protected as it was, the carnage must have been horrible.
The losses in our brigade were as follows: Third Virginia, 8 killed and 31 wounded; Fifth Virginia, 13 killed and 62 wounded; Eighty-second Ohio, 24 killed and 99 wounded; battery, 1 killed and 4 wounded; Second Virginia, 24 killed and 90 wounded. Our regiment sustained more than one third of the losses of the brigade. The following are the names of the brave men who were killed in our regiment: J. B. McMillen, Company B; August Davis, John B. Wiley, Company C; Ira Chase, James Quest, Company D; Lieut. H. B. James, Geo. S. Butcher, Rob't M. Adams, Jacob W. Cox, Elijah Hall, Jacob Ritchie, Thomas Smith, Company E; John Murry, Peter Cassidy, Alex. Dunn, James A. Gardner, Company F; Henry Burskell, Michael Keville, George Kramer, Theodore Martin; Charles Schmitz, Fritz Strickel, Company H; Chris Deitrick, James Gradner, Company K.
The following is Gen. Milroy's report of the work of his brigade in this battle:
Next morning, 28th, I took the advance toward Manassas Junction, arriving within a mile of the Junction at noon. I halted to await further orders. I accordingly turned my infantry aside into the shade of the woods and sent my artillery ahead as far as the Junction, there being no water for them nearer. Upon visiting the railroad station at the Junction I found an immense amount of government stores in cars, which were yet burning, having been set on fire by the rebels the night previous, after having helped themselves to all they could carry off. At 3 P.M. I received orders to join the rest of the corps, then marching in the direction of New Market. I accordingly moved across the country and soon overtook them. After marching about an hour skirmishing commenced in front. I was ordered to go forward and take position on Schenck's left, and pressed forward through the woods and underbrush in the direction of the rebel firing, which seemed to recede as I advanced. It finally grew dark, but I pushed forward in the direction of the firing, which had gradually grown into the thunder of a desperate battle. It becoming so dark, and the nature of ground not admitting of my battery being pushed forward, I left it in charge of two companies of infantry and started forward with my four regiments in the direction of the heavy tiring, which suddenly ceased with great shouting, indicating, as we judged, a victory by the rebels. It being now 9 o'clock, and the darkness rendering the recognition of friend or foe impossible, I withdrew to my battery, which was on a line with the front of the corps, then fully a mile in my rear, resting my brigade here for the night.
On the following morning, the 29th, at daylight, I was ordered to proceed in search of the rebels, and had not proceeded more than 500 yards when we were greeted by a few straggling shots from the woods in front. We were now at the creek and I had just sent forward my skirmishers, when I received orders to halt and let the men have breakfast. While they were cooking, myself, accompanied by Gen. Schenck, rode up to the top of an eminence, some 500 yards to the front to reconnoiter. We had no sooner reached the top than we were greeted by a shower of musket balls from the woods on our right. I immediately ordered up my battery and gave the bushwhackers a few shot and shell, which soon cleared the woods. Soon after, I discovered the enemy in great force about three-quarters of a mile in front of us, upon our right of the pike leading from Gainesville to Alexandria. I brought up my two batteries and opened upon them, causing them to fall back. I then moved forward my brigade, with skirmishers deployed, and continued to advance my regiments, the enemy falling back.
Gen. Schenck's division was off to my left and that of Gen. Schurz to my right. After passing a piece of woods, I turned to the right, where the rebels had a battery that gave us a great deal of trouble. I brought forward one of my batteries to reply to it, and soon after heard a tremendous fire of small arms, and knew that Gen. Schurz was hotly engaged to my right in an extensive forest. I sent two of my regiments, 82d Ohio and Fifth Virginia, to Gen. Schurz's assistance. They were to attack the enemy's right flank, and I held my other two regiments in reserve for a time. The two regiments sent to Schurz were soon hotly engaged, the enemy being behind a railroad embankment, which afforded them an excellent breastwork.
The railroad had to be approached from the cleared ground on our side through a strip of thick timber from 100 to 500 yards in width. I had intended with the two regiments held in reserve, Second and Third Virginia, to charge the rebel battery, which was but a short distance from us over the top of the hill to our left, but while making my arrangements to do this I observed that my two regiments engaged were being driven back out of the woods by the terrible fire of the rebels.
I then saw the brave Cols. Cantwell and Zeigler struggling to rally their broken regiments on the rear of the forest out of which they had been driven, and sent two of my aides to assist them and assure them of immediate support. They soon rallied their men and charged again and again up to the railroad, but were driven back each time with great loss. I then sent the Second Virginia to their support, directing it to approach the railroad at the point on the left of my other regiments, where the woods ended, but they were met with such a destructive fire from a large rebel force that they were soon thrown into confusion and fell back in disorder. The enemy now came on in overwhelming numbers. Gen. Carl Schurz had been obliged to retire with his two brigades an hour before, and then the whole rebel force was turned against my brigade, and my brave lads were dashed back before the storm of bullets like chaff before the tempest. I then ordered my reserve battery into position a short distance in the rear, and when five guns had got into position, one of the wheel horses was shot dead, but I ordered unlimbered where they were, and the six guns mowed the rebels with grape and canister with fine effect. My reserve regiment, Third Virginia, now opened with telling effect. Col. Cantwell, of the 82d Ohio, was shot through the brain and instantly killed while trying to rally his regiment during the thickest of the fight.
While the storm was raging the fiercest Gen. Stahel came to me and reported that he had been sent by Gen. Schenck to support me, and inquired where he should place his brigade. I told him on my left and help support my battery. He then returned to his brigade, and soon after, being attacked from another quarter, did not again see him during the day. I was then left wholly unsupported, except by a portion of a Pennsylvania regiment, which I found on the field, and stood by me bravely during the next hour or two. I then rallied my reserved regiment and broken fragments in the woods near my battery and sent out a strong party of skirmishers to keep the enemy at bay, while another party went forward without arms to get off as many of our dead and wounded as possible. I maintained my ground, skirmishing, and occasionally firing by battalion, during the greater part of the afternoon.
Toward evening Gen. Grover came with his New England brigade. I saw him forming a line to attack the rebel stronghold in the same place I had been all day, and advised him to form line more to the left and charge bayonets on arriving at the railroad track, which his brigade executed with such telling effect as to drive the rebels in clouds before their bayonets. Meanwhile I had gathered the remnant of my brigade ready to take advantage of any opportunity to assist him. I soon discovered a large number of rebels fleeing before the left flank of Grover's brigade. They passed over an open space some 500 yards in width in front of my reserved regiment, which I ordered to fire on them, which they did, accelerating their speed and discomfiture so much that I ordered a charge. My regiment immediately dashed out of the woods we were in, down across the meadows in front of us after the retreating foe, but before their arriving at the other side of the meadow the retreating column received a heavy support from the railroad below them, and, soon rallying, came surging back, driving before their immense columns Grover's brigade and my handful of men.
An hour before the charge I had sent one of my aides back after a fresh battery - the ammunition of both my batteries having given out - which arriving as our boys were being driven back, I immediately ordered them into position and commenced pouring a steady fire of grape and canister into the advancing columns of the enemy. The first discharge discomposed them a little, but the immense surging mass behind pressed them on us. I held on until they were within 100 yards of us, and having but a handful of men to support the battery, ordered it to retire, which was executed with the loss of one gun. I then rallied the shattered remnants of my brigade, which had been rallied by my aides and its officers, and encamped some three-quarters of a mile to the rear.
The next morning, 30th, I brought my brigade into position assigned them, and remained in reserve until about 4 P. M., when I threw it across the road to stop the retreating masses which had been driven back from the front. I soon received an order to move my brigade off to the left on double quick, the enemy having massed their troops during the day in order to turn our left flank. I formed line of battle along the road, my left resting near the edge of the woods in which the battle was raging. Soon our troops came rushing, panic stricken, out of the woods, leaving my brigade to face the enemy, who followed the retreating masses to the edge of the woods. The road in which my brigade was formed was worn and washed from three to five feet deep, affording a splendid cover for my men. My boys opened fire on them at short range, driving the rebels back to a respectful distance. But the rebels, being constantly reinforced from the masses in their rear, came on again and again, pouring in advance a hurricane of balls, which had but little effect on my men, who were so well protected in their road intrenchment. But the steady fire of my brigade together with that of a splendid brass battery on higher ground in my rear, which I ordered to fire rapidly with canister over the heads of my men, had a most withering effect on the rebels, whose columns melted away and fast recoiled from repeated efforts to advance upon my road breastwork from the woods. But the fire of the enemy, which had affected my men so little, told with destructive results on the exposed battery in their rear, and it required a watchful effort to hold them to their effective work. My horse was shot in the head by a musket ball while in the midst of the battery cheering on the men. I got another, and soon after observing the troops on my left giving way in confusion before the rebel fire, I hastened to assist in rallying them, and while engaged in this the battery took advantage of my absence and withdrew.
I had sent one of my aids shortly before to the rear for fresh troops to support this part of our line, where the persistent efforts of the rebels showed they had determined to break through. A fine regiment of regulars was sent, which was formed in the rear of my brigade, near the position the battery had occupied. The rebels came around the forest in columns to our right and front, but the splendid firing of the regulars with that of my brigade, thinned their ranks so rapidly, that they were thrown back in confusion upon every attempt made.
Shortly after sunset my own brigade had entirely exhausted their ammunition, and it being considered unsafe to bring forward the ammunition wagons where the enemy's shells were constantly flying and exploding, and the enemy having entirely ceased their efforts to break through this part of the line and had thrown the weight of their attack still farther to the left, I ordered my brigade back some one-half of a mile to replenish their ammunition boxes and there await further orders. I remained on the field.
Feeling certain that the rebels had been completely checked and defeated in their attempt to flank us and drive us from the field, I felt we could now securely hold it until morning, by which time we could rally our scattered forces and bring up sufficient fresh troops to enable us to gain a complete victory on the morrow. I felt certain that the rebels had put forth their mightiest efforts and were greatly cut up and crippled; I, therefore, determined to look up my little brigade and bring it forward into position, when we would be ready in the morning to renew the contest.* * I left the field about 8 P. M. in possession of our gallant boys, started back in the darkness, and was greatly surprised, upon coming to where I expected to find my brigade, with thousands of other troops, to find none. I kept on a half mile further in painful, bewildering doubt and uncertainty, when I found you, general, and first learned from you, with agonizing surprise, that our whole army had been ordered to retreat back across Bull Run to Centreville.
On the 3d of September, the brigade was in the defences at Washingington, and the army of Virginia, which had fought and suffered so heavily, was merged into the army of the Potomac. We were so used up by our campaigning, that we were left in the defenses, while fresher troops met Lee in Maryland, and defeated him at Antietam. We lay here until the 29th of September, drilling, recuperating, and enjoying occasional visits to the capital, when we were ordered to return to Western Virginia.
On the 25th of July, Capt. Ewing received orders to turn over his guns at Warrenton, and the company was virtually disbanded, the men being divided among other batteries, Buell's and Dieckmann's batteries receiving the main portion. On the first of August Capt. Ewing was detailed as ordinance officer on Sigel's staff. Lieutenants Morton and Shearer were in West Virginia with a part of the battery, and had no part in this campaign. Orderly Sergeant Rook with one sergeant and eighteen men, was placed in charge of the four caissons, battery wagon and forge, and ordered to report to Capt. Buell, who had command of Sigel's artillery reserve corps. Stephen Ripley and two or three others were with the captain at Sigel's headquarters, handling ordinance and acting as aids on the general's staff. Sergeant H. A. Evans was assigned to Capt. Buell's staff, and was a witness of that gallant officer's death, receiving his death wound on the 22d at Kelly's Ford. Gen. Milroy's graphic report of the work of the artillery that day, tells in an interesting way of the hard fighting, and of the discomfiture of the enemy. While Capt. Buell's guns were sending hot shot into the ranks of the confederates, Sergeant Evans rode up to the captain to make a report, when a shell screamed through the air, struck and passed through the captain's horse, and striking and mortally wounding the gallant captain, who died from the wounds the next day. Sergeant Evans then returned to Buell's battery, now commanded by Lieut. Hill, and took command of the right piece of the left section, to which he had been formerly assigned.
Dieckmann's battery, to which a part of battery G men were assigned, is specially mentioned in Gen. Milroy's report of the engagement at Waterloo bridge, where for parts of two days they made things lively for the enemy. They were near the bridge, and vigorously shelled the opposing forces, while Lieut. Frisbee and his brave men were burning the old bridge. Before the advance to Waterloo bridge, Milroy's forces had a severe fight, which tested the endurance of the men, and showed the skill of our gunners.
The bloody work was continued, and at Bull Run the batteries with which our boys were connected, won imperishable renown. Buell's battery on the first day was actively engaged, the section in which Battery G boys served, being sent to Gen. Heintzelman, and were put in Gen. Kearney's division, where they had to meet and repel the attack of the confederate cavalry, firing all their ammunition, and then falling back to the rear. They refilled their caissons, and on the second day the section was ordered to the left, and had only got into position when Sergeant Davis of Buell's battery was shot, and the command of the section devolved on Sergeant Evans of battery G. This was the end section on the left, and when the confederates made their charge on the batteries, it was one of the tightest places of the battle. Good work had been done by the gunners, and the forces of the advancing, exultant enemy were considerably punished, as they charged forward, but despite all the hard fighting, they could not be stayed, and they broke through our lines. The section was out of ammunition except some canister, when the order was given to fall back. One of the guns was loaded to the muzzle with the canister, and when the confederate infantry came steadily forward in a solid mass, with bayonets fixed and with the determination to sweep all before them, and when within fifty or sixty feet of the gun, our men fired right into their faces, with terrible destruction. They did not stop for an instant, nor did they fire a shot, but pressed forward. The battery immediately started for the rear, and the confederate officer gave the command to fire, when the air seemed to be fairly blue with the explosion, the bullets whistling and singing, carrying death with them, three gunners and two drivers being killed, among the rest being Albert Kincaid of battery G, a brave, noble young man, loved by all his comrades. The sections were reunited at Arlington Heights, and went with Milroy's brigade back to Western Virginia.