Tuesday, 02 July 2013 12:32 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
If you should place your left hand with the fingers extended, on a map of the state of Pennsylvania, drawn upon a scale of six miles to an inch, with the second finger pointing Northwesterly to the village of Gettysburg and about two inches from it, you would have a good idea of the situation of the several corps of the Army of the Potomac on the last day of June, 1863, by letting each finger nail resent an army corps, the index finger representing the lst and 11th Corps together with two corps near the knuckles of the middle fingers, while the thumb would represent the 6th Corps away off to the right near Manchester, Md., ready to make a forced march to Baltimore, in case the rebels should make a sudden dash towards that city as it was rumored they intended doing. We, of the 6th Corps, had been marching steadily to the North every day since we broke camp near Acquia Creek, Va., nearly two weeks before.
We had a hard march of twenty miles on the 30th of June starting at 4 A. M. and had camped on both sides of the Baltimore Pike about 2 p.m.. Rested the balance of that day and all that night. There was a sort of understanding that Stuart’s Cavalry were raiding somewhere in that section and our business was to guard the right flank of the army and be ready to go to the relief of Washington, Baltimore, Harrisburg or even Philadelphia, all of these cities being supposed to be in danger from a sudden dash of the enemy.
All day of July Ist, we lay under temporary shelters, the hot sun casting its rays upon us as we lay on our blankets, in the in the improvised shades, blessing the good fortune that afforded us the chance for rest after the many days of continuous marching.
The day passed on in this way and just after sunset, when we had disposed of our coffee and hard tack and were sitting around enjoying the cool of the evening twilight, some of us saw a mounted officer come galloping down the pike from the West.
His horse was covered with dust and foam, its flanks bloody from continued spuring. He drew rein as he neared us and shouted, "Where is Corps Headquarters?" "Over there," we answered and pointed to a little knoll about forty rods distant where he could see the Headquarters flag, waving in the twilight, He struck spurs to his horse and dashed in that direction, leaped from the saddle and rushed into the tent.
In a moment more, all was hurry and confusion, the bugles sounded the assembly, and orderlies and staff officers were rushing in all directions to the headquarters of the several brigades, whose bugles again sounded the call, and officers rushed out shouting to the men "pack up, pack up and fall in". In an incredibly short space of time the men were in line, knapsacks and accoutrements on, ready for the march. Of course we were curious to know what all this meant. It was always a mystery to me, how news traveled through the ranks of an army.
In a few minutes we learned that a battle had been began at a place called Gettysburg. That General Reynolds, who commanded the lst Corps, had been killed. That the Wisconsin regiments had been in action and been badly cut up. That Colonel Fairchild had been badly wounded, Colonel Stevenson killed and that many of the men from our state had been killed and wounded. That our forces there had been fighting against odds, and were compelled to give ground. That we were to join the rest of the army at Gettysburg, where a great battle was to be fought, and where we would be needed. "Gettysburg. Where is Gettysburg?" "Thirty-two miles away." "Thirty-five miles away," was the answer, for the divisions were scattered over more than two miles of ground.
Our first division soon took up the line of march and plodded on for about half an hour when the word came from the rear, "Halt!" Somebody had blundered and the wrong road and had gone two or three miles out of the way. We had taken on four or five extra miles to the thirty-two or thirty-five we were expected to travel before we reached the battle field. "Countermarch by file left," and back we went over the fields and finally we filed on to the pike we supposed, began swinging along toward Gettysburg to help our comraades.
It seems however, that General Sedgwick on hearing of the battle, issued orders to Taneytown where was Army Headquaters, and it was upon the Taneytown road, we marched until well on towards morning, a line of direction widely from the point of our ultimate destination. General Wright says "during the night and some time after crossing the Baltimore and Gettysburg Pike other orders were received. changing the destination of the corps and directing the marches to Gettysburg."
We had thus lost valuable time and added several miles to the distance we must necessarily travel. The head of the column was turned to make a cross-cut to reach the Baltimore and Gettysburg Pike again. According to the statement of Captain T. W. Hyde of the 7th Maine, (afterwards Brigadier General) then serving on the staff of General Sedgwick, this occurred about three o’clock in the morning and we had been marching since nine o’clock the night before. Captain Hyde was at Taneytown which was Army Headquarters and was inrstrusted by General Meade with orders directing corps on Gettysburg. His statement is that he met the corps on Taneytown Road about 3 o’clock in the morning, and that the corps had made a "a cross-cut of a few miles to the Baltimore Pike," Those "few miles" made many added weary foot-steps, before the night fell.
The night was cool, the road smooth and clear and we marched silently and swiftly along. Suddenly from away towards the head of the column was heard the strains of a band, breaking through the stillness of the night. The men caught the cadence of the music and fell into the marching step.
The band was playing the "Old John Brown" Battle Hymn, and as they reached the chorus, first a score of voices, joined the words to the music, then a hundred, then a thousand, and soon ten thousand voices rolled out the battle song,
"Glory, Glory Hallelujah,
His soul is marching on,"
All night long we marched in this way. The bands of music alternating with the shrill fifes and rattling drums, then for a time we plodded on in silence with the mechanical route step. Then the music of the band would throw us marching step, and "tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys went marching" until the grey dawn of July 2d, found us far on the way.
So far as my memory, serves me this was the only march of that character where the 6th Corps used music on the route. Occasionally when passing through a city, the bands would play, but I have no recollection that we ever used music to march by when simply on the route. Whoever was responsible for it, it was certainly a happy inspiration and helped the men wonderfully. We pushed on all night at a wonderful pace, and my recollection is that we rested but once, or at the most twice, during the whole night, and then simply by sitting by the roadside for a few moments.
In the early morning, we filed into some fields by the road side and were ordered to make coffee, but the time allowed was so short that more than ‘half of the men were unable to get coffee made and resumed the march without it. On and on we went, one weary mile following another and as the sun mounted upward, the heated rays came down with oppressive force.
About 11 o’clock we reached that part of the pike over which the troops in advance of us had passed with their artillery and trains, the day and night previous and the road was covered with dust three or four inches deep, which rose in great clouds and nearly stifled us. There was no music and no singing now, we were fast reaching the limit of human endurance. Men reeled and staggered along as if they were drunken. Ever and anon a rifle or musket would fall clattering on the stony pike, as the man who carried it collapsed and sank in’a quivering heap in the midst of the roadway. He would be seized and dragged to the roadside, his musket laid beside him and his comrades would resume their places in the ranks and struggle on.
There was much to inspire the men in their dogged resolution’ to push on, for by this time we could hear the sullen roar of the artillery engaged in battle ahead of us, and we knew that the largest corps in the Army of the Potomac was sorely needed. Then, too, we had passed out of Maryland into Pennsylvania, and we were in the land of our friends. As we marched past the farm houses we could see a starry flag hung out and the women in the porch would look at the exhausted, dust covered men, with pitying sympathetic eyes. as the column struggled on.
They stripped their houses of food and drink to pass it out to the weary and hungry men.
One incident that I shall never forget. At a large farm house stood near the pike with rare thoughtfulness the people had brought out a number of tubs and pails and placed them along the side of the road. An old man and a boy were busy drawing water from the well and a portly matron and two handsome girls were keeping the tubs and pails filled with cool sweet water. Their faces were flushed and they trembled with the exertion. I said to the lady, "Madam, that work is very hard on you." She said, "God bless you, I don’t feel it. I have two boys somewhere among you and I would not want them or their friends to pass their mother’s house without at least a cup of cold -water." I passed on, I trust she met her boys and that they lived to be a comfort to her in her old age. I do not think she and her girls ever realized how their acts, and the acts of others like them, nerved the men of the Army of the Potomac to stand in the breach at Gettysburg.
About one o"clock, or a little after, we came to what appeared to be the ‘divide’ where the land began to slope toward Gettysburg. The rumble of the cannonade became plainer, and faraway where the green of the trees met the skyline we could see the white puffs stand out in the blue sky, indicating where the shells were bursting above the trees, on the crest of the hills.
The sight acted on the men of the 6th Corps as the spur acts on the jaded horse. Every man quickened his step and we pushed on down the miles of descent yet to be covered before we could reach the battlefield. The country was spread out before us like a vast panorama, and as we came nearer we could see the army occupied a position almost in a semicircle with one flank resting on a small mountain, which we learned afterwards was Culp’s Hill, and the other on a larger elevation which we later knew by the name of Little Round Top. We went on and on until it seemed as though the road would never end, or as if the hills receded from us as fast as we were able to approach them. At last we began to descend into what seemed to be a valley lying behind the circle of hills on which our army lay.
As we came nearer, our practised ears could detect the continuous roll of musketry amid the pauses of the artillery, nearer yet and we could see a stream of wounded men coming down the slopes from the hills. We left the pike and struck across the fields towards Little Round Top which the rebels were trying to reach and which our comrades of the Third and Fifth corps were defending with strenuous courage and energy. We arrived on the field of Gettysburg at a critical moment. Sickles had been driven back, broken and in disorder, from the Peach Orchard. The rebels had pierced our lines and were struggling to maintain a hold upon Round Top. The leading brigade of the 6th Corps marching column never halted but went right into action from the line of march.
The Second Brigade turned to the right and strengthened the broken lines at once. The rebels saw the reenforcement and withdrew their attack.
The men of the 6th Corps marched forty-two miles in nineteen hours to the help of their comrades and went directly into battle.
Wheaton’s and Fustis’s Brigades of the Third Divison were in the lead and went into action between divisions of the 5th Corps. The 139 Pennsylvania Regiment of the former, losing twenty, and the 37th Massachusetts, of the latter, 47 men killed, wounded and missing. Bartlett’s Brigade of the lst Division went into action with them. Neill’s brigade was sent to the right of the line and took part in the action there. Torbert’s brigade of Jersey troops, was sent to the center, and went into line with the lst Corps under General Newton. Torbert states that he arrived on the field of battle with but twenly-five men missing from his brigade and that these joined the ranks before morning.
The balance of the corps was held in reserve, and were moved to different points as appeared to be necessary and used in strengthening the line at various points of the line of battle, the larger part being placed the extreme left under the command of Major General Wright. The corps, although mostly held in reserve, was nearly all within line of fire and every division lost a few men, the entire loss of the corps being two hundred and twelve killed and wounded and thirty missing. After the battle the entire corps followed in pursuit of the enemy as far as Fairfield Pass but did not attack in force, although several times the rear guards came in touch and there was some lively skirmishing and a number of prisoners were taken.
I find no mention anywhere in any of the reports of Corps or Division commanders, of the fact, that immediately upon starting out on the march from Manchester at 9 o’ clock in the evening previous, a mistake was made by which we were compelled to march some distance before reaching the Taneytown road, thus increasing the length of our march as near as I can estimate, a distance between three and four miles more. The reports of the different corps and division commanders estimate the length of the march made by the 6th Corps, as from thirty-two to thirty-six miles. It is possible that the mistake made by taking a wrong road at the beginning of the march was confined entirely to the lst Division, as I find a statement that the 2nd Division in which was General Neill’s brigade, did not start for Gettysburg until about one o’clock A.M..
My estimate is that we must have added to the direct distance between Manchester and Gettysburg, which I am informed is thirty-five miles, as follows, by error in taking the wrong road at the start one and one-half miles and back making three miles, and be marching two sides of a triangle on the Taneytown road and thence across to the Baltimore Pike at least four miles more, making the entire march forty-two miles instead of thirty-six as mentioned in the official reports.
Gen.Wright in his report on the Gettysburg Battle says: "Great credit is due to officers and men for the excellent spirit manifested by them all. The fatiguing and extraordinary march accomplished in reaching the Battle-field and it is the more creditable as they had already almost unprecedented marches, and were to some extent ex rest."
Report to Fifth Wisconsin Association 1904 BY J. S. ANDERSON.
Monday, 01 July 2013 19:53 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
June 29th, march northward by Lewistown and Mechanicsville to Emmittsburg, twenty-four miles. Gen. Hooker was today relieved and Gen. Meade succeeds to command.
June 30th, march about eight o'clock to March's Creek and bivouac in line of battle, eight miles.
The Iron Brigade, on the 31st of June, marched in the following order: First, Second Wisconsin; second, the Seventh Wisconsin; third, the Nineteenth Indiana; fourth, the Twenty-fourth Michigan; and fifth, the Sixth.
The Iron Brigade was, as the rest of the army, mad clear through. Cornelius Wheeler
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 11:04 | Written by Compiled by James Johnson
A clip from the Racine Advocate of June 17th following in reference to the courtesies interchanged between the pickets of our armies on either side of the Rappahannock. Here is a note sent by rebel soldier across the Rappahannock to our boys shows that hostile forces are not all the time seeking opportunities to kill each other. The way the correspondence was conducted, was clever. The boys took a piece of board or plank, and shaped out as boys do, play boats, rig a mast and sail and set the rudder so as to directed the craft across the river. In this was the goods sent the rebels, coffee, tea, sugar and such luxuries as are unknown among the the rebels. In return the rebels would load the small craft with tobacco, secesh papers &c., and start it back again. In this way, since the battle of Chancellorsville, the rebels have tried to increase their scanty rations by fishing in the Rappahannock and on one occasion the Belle City Rifle boys swam across the river, helped the rebels free a small seine they had and shared with them the fish caught. On many occasions rebels pickets have proposed to our boys that privates on each side would shoot their officers and then peace would immediately be restored. There is but little doubt but that Stonewall Jackson fell a victim to this feeling among the rebel privates. Gentlemen of Co. F, 2d Reg. Wis. Vols:- Hereby transmit a paper of yesterday hoping that its contents may afford you some assurance at least if not instruction. Allow us to compliment you on the successful and timely withdrawal of General Hooker. Earnestly desiring that peace may come soon, I describe myself, Private N. Fitzgerald, 2d Richmond Howitzers P.S. Please send over, if convenient, a copy of the New York Herald or Times, or any other paper you may happen to have we will send you some Richmond papers tomorrow at 11"o'clock. Yours, &c., Private Joseph A. Yates, 2d Richmond Howitzers. Gentlemen of the 2d Wis"- According to your request we will send you the old one Wall Song book. Also the Confederate Jordan. This book has been very roughly used though it is the best we can do at present. We will also send you a paper of yesterday though there is not much news in it. If we get any papers this after noon we will try and send you one; if you should have any we hope you will do the same. Co. I, 19 Ga. Vol.
Thursday, 13 June 2013 14:14 | Written by Compiled by James johnson
The following correspondence between Col. Fairchild and Mrs. Edger O'Connor we be read with pleasure and satisfaction . the 2d Wisconsin well never forget their lamented colonel: Headquarters, 2d Wis Vols Inf., Below Falmouth, Va. June 9th, 1863 My dear Madam:-The officers and soldiers of this regiment who served under your late husband, our Colonel, have delegated me to ask your permission to erect over the grave a suitable monument in token of our respect and esteem for him as our commanding officer. I trust yourself and his father and mother will not object to this as we wish sincerely to thus testify in a lasting manner our admiration for him as a gentleman and gallant officer who fell while bravely leading us on to battle. An early answer will enable us to move in the matter before the coming battles. With kind regards to the Judge and Mrs. O'Connor, I am Your friend, Lucius Fairchild
Mrs. Edgar O'Connor, Beloit, Wis. Beloit, Rock Co., June 15th, 1863
Col. L. Fairchild::-Dear Sir:-Your favor of the 9th inst. I have just received and I can fully appreciate your request for a early answer. In reply I would say that words fail to express my emotion on receiving this and other proof of the high regard which is entertained for the memory of my dear husband by his fellow soldiers. Believing that I understand the noble feeling which prompted the offer, I gratefully, tearfully, yield to you and the soldiers he loved so well, the sacred privilege of performing the last outward tribute of respect that can be paid the dead. I hope also that this generous act will be the means of silencing a few evil minded persons here at home who have by base calumny sought to destroy his reputation and which is I confess very trying to my sensitive nature, this I trust will prove to all that his soldiers who had the best opportunity of knowing him are willing to defend his honor. It is a pleasure to me to know that they know him as I did, that his goodness was never implored in vain and that if he was not always able to prevent an abuse of power, he always inspired the sufferer's heart with hope that last consolation to the affected. For this reason and their former association with my husband, I will ever feel deeply interested in the welfare of the soldiers of the gallant 2d Regiment and that their wives and mothers may be spared the anguish of my heart is the earnest prayer of her who subscribes herself. Respectfully J. O'Connor
Friday, 24 May 2013 17:56 | Written by Edited by James Johnson
First Sergeant James Tyler of Co E, 14th Wisconsin
Thursday, 21, 1863 Vicksburg
The morning was fine and was very warm. The Firing did not become general till about 8 h A.M. neither side seamed to be in any hurry to open the Ball. E & H Co. were on fatigue in the night digging rifle pits. It looks now as if the intention was to seag Vicksburg. Rained quite a heavy shower about Noon and the after noon is cloudy. We have gained No advantage on the center as I can see. Firing continued Late to night.
Morning fine but there was a shower about 2 Oc P.M. The Reg was called to attention at 8 Oc A.M. to charge on the Rebs breast works the charge was Made at about 12 o'clock we gained nothing only To loose a good many men 1 killed and 12 wounded. I never suffered so much in all my life as I did Through the after noon I had to lay flat on the ground And not move to keep the Rebs from seeing me I Crept from under the fort after dark on my knees
Morning cloudy Jacob Williams and I lost the Reg and we were the most of the fore noon to find it Again. There was no fighting only by the sharp Shooters in the rifle pits and the artillery that was Pretty sharp all day. There is two of the wounded men of E. Co. still on the field where we charged Yesterday. There was two showers this after noon. Capt. Henry went and tried to get the wounded boys Off the field but the pickets would not let him out Oh the horrors of war.
The day was fine and very warm the fighting has been done by sharp shooters and Artillery and that Was not very heavy part of the day. The Reg did not have any thing to do to day. Sergeant Smith came In off the field he was not wounded as bad as was Thought for. Capt and 4 of the boys went to find Sergeant Stone and he was gone. I am acting Orderly Being the only non-commissioned officer but What was wounded in the Co. In charging on the Rebel breastworks, the loss of the 14 Reg was in Killed and wounded were 107 privates and officers.