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Chapter 8: Meade and Lee's game of strategy

This time however there was no long delay to refurnish and recruit. Lee crossed the river on the 15th of July. On the next day, the 16th of July, the Army of the Potomac began its advance into Virginia by the same route it had used after the battle of Antietam. The 121st, now reduced to fourteen line officers present for duty, with Major Mather in command, took up the line of march through Boonsborough, Middletown and Burkettsville to the old crossing of the Potomac, at Berlin. Lieut.-Col. Olcott, Captain Gordon and Lieut. Bates were left behind sick. Captain Galpin and Lieutenants Paine and VanScoy with an escort of men, were sent to Washington to bring a squad of conscripts to the regiment. Having crossed the river at Berlin on a pontoon bridge, the advance continued past Lovettsville, Uniontown, Snickersville, and on the 23d of July Ashby's Gap was reached. The movement was continued through New Baltimore to Warrenton where a rest of a couple of days was enjoyed. Then the Second Brigade was sent back to New Baltimore five miles distant from the rest of the corps where it remained for some time. Its location rendered picketing necessary on all sides of the camp, as Moseby with his guerrillas was known to be in the vicinity. An attack was made which Comrade Beckwith graphically describes.

“On Sept. 4, a squad of Rebel cavalry broke through our picket line and attempted to capture [94] General Bartlett, who had his headquarters near the picket line in the yard of a mansion about six hundred yards from our camp. A farm road ran from the New Baltimore Pike to this house and continued to another house a quarter of a mile farther on. We picketed this road between these two houses. About one hundred yards from the General's tent, near the house, and to the left, the brigade band was camped. In the orchard at the right the headquarters tents were pitched. The house and orchard were surrounded by a high and strongly built fence. The attack was made about two o'clock in the morning. The 96th Penn. was on picket duty. The squad rode boldly up to the picket on post. He halted them and asked who they were and their reply was, ‘Cavalry men, friends, returning from a scout.’ He ordered them to dismount, advance, and give the countersign. The leader rode up quickly presented his revolver at the picket's head and ordered him to surrender. Instead he leveled his gun and the leader fired into his face, jumped his horse on him, knocked him down, and with his company rode up to the house. Coming to the band tents and mistaking them for the General's, the attackers fired into them and one shot pierced the bass drum. Others of the party discovering the mistake rode round in front and made the General's tent their target. Roused by the firing he jumped up, seized his revolver, and running out into the orchard began to return the fire. By this time the camps were aroused and the long roll sounded. We all tumbled out and on a run made for headquarters, but the Rebs had made good their escape. General Bartlett, ready and intrepid soldier that he was, had seized his revolver instead of his pants, and fought his would-be captors in the uniform nature had furnished him. He got scratched up some with briars, [95] but next day laughed heartily over the adventure.”

As a participant in this affair the writer feels justified in correcting somewhat the Colonel's version of it. The officers' tents were located just behind the first row of trees in the orchard, three or four yards from the fence. The guerrillas did not any of them get inside the fence but fired into the tents from the outside. The General and several of the other officers took position behind the nearest apple trees and returned the fire. Captain Richards, the odd genius of the staff, the night before, having declaimed his usual speech, “Hanni-bul and Skipi-o were two great com-pe-ti-ters. They passed over into Af-ri-ca and wag-ged war against each other,” took out his revolver and laid it on the stand at the head of his cot, exclaiming, “There, I am ready for the guerrillas when they come.” His revolver spoke more than once in welcome to the raiders and in louder tones than did that of the General, who the next day lamented the smallness of his weapon, and declared that at every shot he felt more like throwing the weapon at them than firing it again. The writer was roused from sleep by the firing and driven out of his tent by a bullet passing through it, and with an orderly ran down to the yard where the horses were kept, and got there just as two of the raiders rode up to the gate. A couple of shots from the orderly's revolver convinced them that they did not want the horses, and they joined the band as they rode away. Whether any of the band was wounded we never knew; but the man on picket and one of the band were wounded. Two attempts were made to capture some of the guerrillas, but without success. In one of these expeditions Moseby's home was visited, located on the side of the mountain between Thoroughfare Gap and the New Baltimore Pike; and some of his turkeys were [96] captured, but severely settled for by Colonel 01-cott's orders.

The seven weeks spent at New Baltimore were improved by daily drills and tactical exercises. It was here that Captain Wilson obtained the young puppy that afterwards became a feature of Brigade Headquarters, and attached himself to General Upton whenever he started out on any movement.

On the 15th of September the army advanced beyond Culpeper to Stony Mountain, and after several days, to Cedar Mountain. Lee had retired behind the Rapidan where he remained until the beginning of October. On the 5th of October he began a movement to interpose his army between the Army of the Potomac and Washington by crossing at Germania Ford and pushing on rapidly to Centerville, the key to the old Bull Run battleground.

To counteract this movement Meade maneuvered as if about to cross the river farther up. The Sixth Corps was ordered to build extensive fires as if a large force was concentrated at that point, but the corps was to be held in readiness to move at a moment's notice. The next night the fires were rebuilt, but the corps moved rapidly toward Culpeper, a force of cavalry being left to bring up the rear. All night long the march was continued, and with only a short halt for breakfast, was continued to Rappahannock Station where at noon it crossed the river, and joined the rest of the army, advantageously posted for any attack that might be made upon it. The rear guard of cavalry was closely followed by a large force of the enemy. But no attack was made and thus the first move in the strategic game was won by Meade. General Lee, however, turned the head of his army to the left and attempted to pass the right flank of the Union [97] army in an attempt to thus gain the vantage point at Centerville. Meade crossed the Sixth Corps over the bridge at Rappahannock Station and it advanced toward Brandy Station in line of battle. This was the most spectacular movement the writer saw during the war. The country was open, and nearly level, the morning was fine and the sun shone brightly. The line of battle, extending about three miles, advanced slowly and steadily, the flags floating in the gentle breeze, the sunlight flashing from their arms, and the batteries in regular formation following close behind the infantry. In front of the advancing line a force of cavalry were in almost constant conflict charging and repelling the charges of a like force of Rebel cavalry, but constantly advancing until Brandy Station was reached. The writer followed closely after the cavalry, and was equally interested in watching the frequent charge and recharge of the cavalry and the steady advance of the beautiful line of battle. In the morning however he was wakened by a squad of cavalry, to find the brigade gone, and he alone of the foot soldiery at Brandy Station. The return to Rappahannock Station that he made was much more rapid than the advance had been. Meanwhile Meade had divined the purpose of General Lee and began a rapid race back to Centerville along the line of the railroad. The infantry used the railroad track as a road, leaving the dirt road for the trains and batteries. The route lay through Bristoe Station, Manasses, and Bull Run, and the head of the army filed into the old fortifications of Centerville just before the advance of the old corps of Stonewall Jackson came in sight of them.

Colonel Beckwith tells of several experiences of this march that will interest other members of the regiment. We “passed Bristoe Station about 3 [98] o'clock and crossed a stream, called Broad Run, on the high trestle that carries the Orange and Alexandria Railroad over the stream. I had an experience crossing that bridge that I shall never forget. We marched in double file, stepping from tie to tie. Now and then the ties would be close together, making a gap of several feet to the next tie. This would make the men hesitate until the two in front had gotten fairly across and out of the way before the necessary jump was made, and those behind would crowd up to the waiting men. I got on all right for a time, but suddenly felt myself getting dizzy, and knowing that I should certainly fall to the ground and be crushed if I advanced farther, I crouched down to the track and placed my musket across the gap in the ties and made up my mind that I would stay there until I could go on safely again. The fellows behind were not suited with my partial obstruction of the bridge, but I paid no attention to their orders to get up and go on. After remaining there a short time and accustoming myself to the distance, I got up and went on without trouble, thankful at my escape from sure death. It was reported that night that several persons had fallen and been killed. Ordinarily I could have gone over all right, but the lifting of the foot of the man ahead confused me and I lost power to judge the distance. Just after crossing the bridge a considerable battle broke out in our rear and the musketry firing indicated that a large infantry force was engaged. This battle was between the Second Corps and the pursuing Rebels, and resulted in their defeat. We encamped near a deep railroad cut, and one of the men ran headlong over it while escaping from a friend upon whom he had been playing some prank, and plunging down to the bottom was badly injured.”

The arrival of the Army of the Potomac at Centerville, [99] before it was seized by the Confederates, was the second victory of Meade over Lee in the strategic game. Lee withdrew and on the 19th of October Meade began again to follow him, moving out toward Thoroughfare Gap, New Baltimore and Warrenton, which was reached on the 22d, and a halt of over two weeks was made. Camp was broken on the 7th of November, and an advance made to the Rappahannock River, where Lee was found occupying a strong position along the south side of the river and with a considerable force on the north bank, at Rappahannock Station. The Sixth Corps arrived opposite the position at the station, and found the enemy stationed as follows:

A strong redoubt on the bluff, at the point where the railroad had crossed the river on a high bridge, was occupied by a battery and a full complement of soldiers for a garrison, a line of rifle pits extending up the river until a bend in the river interrupted it. A pontoon bridge spanned the river just above the ruins of the former bridge. These entrenchments were occupied by the 5th, 7th and 54th North Carolina regiments and a Louisiana brigade formerly commanded by Stonewall Jackson, and a famous New Orleans battery. The railroad approached the river by an embankment of considerable height. The writer stood on that embankment and watched the battle as long as it was light enough to see. The charge upon the redoubt was made before it was really dark, and the approach of the attacking brigades under the partial protection of the railroad embankment, the rapid formation of the assaulting column, the desperate conflict on the ramparts and in the fort itself transpired under his full view. The assault on and capture of the breastworks to the left of the fort were revealed only by the flashes of the [100] guns. On the next day he had the pleasure of examining the records of the regiments and the battery that had been captured, and retained possession of several documents that seemed especially interesting.

The part taken by the 121st in this battle was this: General Sedgwick, determined to storm this position, had selected the First Division for the duty. The column of attack consisted of the Third and Second Brigades. General Russell commanded the Third and General Upton (then Colonel) the Second. General Bartlett had been assigned to temporary duty with the Fifth Corps. General Russell was to attack the redoubt and Colonel Upton the rifle pits. The men of the Third Brigade advanced late in the afternoon, protected somewhat by the railroad embankment, until within the immediate vicinity of the fort, when the conflict became hand to hand; and the fort was taken at great loss to the assailants, and to the utter surprise of the defenders, who had boasted that it could not be taken from them. The Second Brigade was delayed somewhat by the character of the ground to be passed over, a strip of woods, a depression containing water, and a marshy hollow. As soon as the ground permitted the front line was formed, consisting of the 5th Maine on the right and the 121st on the left, connecting with the line of the Third Brigade. Companies B and D were deployed as skirmishers under command of Captain Fish. Comrade Beckwith gives the best close — up account of the fight thus: “We moved forward briskly and soon discovered the Rebel skirmish line. They waited a good while, an age I thought, before they fired on us, and I knew somebody would get hit. Finally they let go and we started on a run after them, and they skedaddled. One fellow waited until [101] Jack Marden, one of our boys, got close to him, and then fired and hit Jack. But the ball, striking something in Jack's pocket, glanced off. The Rebel shouted, ‘I surrender,’ but Jack shot and wounded him badly. He said that he belonged to the 6th Louisiana, Hays' brigade, Early's Division, Ewell's Corps, and his name was Slidell. The artillery in the fort was now firing rapidly and the cannon shots flew over us and went after our fellows who were coming up behind. The Reb skirmishers kept falling back, but kept up a sharp fire. We connected on our left with the 6th Maine, and in half an hour after starting we drove in their skirmishers, they jumped over the breastworks and we busied ourselves firing at them. Just at sunset the reserves came up, the 95th and 96th Pennsylvania, and joined the line of battle behind us. As they started to advance Captain Fish ordered us skirmishers to charge, and going forward on a run, with a yell, we came to the rifle pits, and jumping on them the Rebels in them began to run. We did not fire until we got inside the rifle pits, and the fire of the enemy was not very severe. Captain Fish ordered everybody to surrender. Almost at the same time our regiment, and the 5th Maine, came up on our right and just ran over the troops in the pits. We were ordered to go to the bridge and prevent the Johnnies from crossing. We quickly ran down to the river and found the bridge and halted the Rebs as they came up. In the meantime our fellows got around them on the right, and the whole crowd surrendered. Our casualties were Captain Casler, shot through the arm, and Orderly Sergeant Joe Rounds, shot in the arm. Hawley Platt, one of the finest fellows in the regiment, a member of Company D, was killed. Our entire loss was four killed and twenty-two wounded. Major Mather was in command of the [102] regiment and gained the high opinion of the men for his coolness and ability. Colonel Olcott was away, nursing the injuries he had received from falling off his horse some time before.”

It has always been a mystery to me why those Johnnies did not kill every one of us, and how any of us escaped. Colonel Upton not only encouraged his own men, but instilled fear into the hearts of the enemy by the little speech he made before ordering the final charge, after the short halt near the breastworks. He said: “Men of the 121st New York, your friends at home and your country expect every man to do his duty on this occasion. Some of us have got to die, but remember you are going to heaven. When I give the command to charge move forward. If they fire upon you, I will move six lines of battle over you and bayonet every one of them.” The colonel of the 54th North Carolina regiment, who was captured, said that the Yankee officer who led the charge in his front was a smart fellow and fooled them. They thought there was a column in mass moving on them, as they had seen a great body of troops formed and moving on them before dusk. Some years ago the writer visited the flag room in the capitol in Albany and heard a like story from an officer of one of the Louisiana regiments. He was visiting the capitol on some official business and, having some time to wait, fell into conversation with the curator of the flag room, who was one of Upton's men in the battle. The officer told him that they were utterly discouraged by Upton's speech, and believing it was true, surrendered without much resistance.

One of the 16th men told the writer of his experience in this action. He was a skirmisher and as he leaped upon the embankment of the pit one of the Rebels fired at him, exclaiming, “I got you,” [103] but missed, and the next moment was impaled by the bayonet of the intended victim.

A second feature of the battle that deserves notice is the slight loss to the assaulting column. This seems to be due in large measure to the fact that the first volley of the defenders at the skirmishers who first leaped upon the earthworks was fired almost perpendicularly and did little execution, and before the rifles could be reloaded the main line was upon them. The confusion of it all was described to the writer by Colonel Edwards after the battle. He said that as he with a few men were gathering up the prisoners, and had more of them than of his own men, he came upon a Rebel colonel with his men drawn up in order. Upon his demand for the surrender of the regiment the colonel hesitated until Edwards turned to the motley crowd following him, and shouted, “Forward, 121st New York and 5th Maine!” Upon this the Rebel surrendered. Too much credit cannot be given to the regiments of the Third Brigade for this victory. It was their magnificent valor in assaulting and capturing the fort and battery on the left that made the rest of the fighting so comparatively easy and bloodless. The loss of the 5th Maine in the affair was ten killed. Eight regimental flags were captured, four by the 5th Maine and four by the 121st New York.

In this battle Capt. Robert P. Wilson was wounded, a bullet passing through one of his wrists, but he came out at its close carrying one of the captured flags and riding a little iron grey mare, so familiar a sight to our men on every battle field in which the brigade was engaged up to this time. This was his last battle, however. He returned to brigade headquarters after the wound had partially healed, but only to resign his office [104] and his commission and retire to private life. Comrade Beckwith says that the men nicknamed him “Snoop,” but adds that he did not know why, and speaks of his profanity at Salem Church. But in both instances it is evident that the captain had risked his own life to rescue men who were not conscious of their own peril. The writer was intimately associated with Captain Wilson, as clerk in his office at brigade headquarters for over a year and a half, and had good opportunity to learn his nature and character. He was always kindly and considerate of others, was never profane or vulgar in his conversation. While not a strict abstainer, I never saw him intoxicated in the slightest degree. He was a quick and capable business man, and not a small part of the efficiency of the brigade as a fighting unit was due to his courage and cool-headedness. His weird signature was a revelation of the unusual character of the man. His equal did not succeed him as assistant adjutant-general of the brigade, though Capt. William P. Roome ran him a close second. Captain Wilson entered the service as second lieutenant of Company D, 16th New York, was made adjutant September 20, 1861; promoted to captain and assistant adjutant-general of United States volunteers March 11, 1863, and afterward commissioned as major of the 121st, which he declined. He resigned from the service February 18, 1864, and died October 18, 1886. His grandfather was with General Washington at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, and to him was assigned the duty of transferring twenty-eight flags from their British bearers to American sergeants, and when the Army of the Potomac was in that vicinity in 1862 Captain Wilson invited General Bartlett and the other brigade officers to accompany him to the field where this transaction had taken place. [105]

The importance of the victory at Rappahannock Station is revealed by the fact that a special order was issued by General Meade expressing his own and the President's admiration and gratitude for the exploit, and especially mentioning the brilliant and successful charge made by the First Division. It is couched in these words: “To Major-General Sedgwick and the officers and men of the Sixth Corps participating in the attack, particularly to the storming party under Brigadier-General Russell, his thanks are due for the gallantry displayed in the assault on the enemy's entrenched position at Rappahannock Station, resulting in the capture of four guns, 2,000 small arms, eight battle flags, one bridge train and 1,600 prisoners. The commanding general takes great pleasure in announcing to the army that the President has expressed his satisfaction with the recent operations.”

Gen. John B. Gordon of the Confederate Army says that he was sitting on his horse, not much more than a stone's throw from the river, when the charge upon the entrenchments began, and that neither General Early nor any other of the officers standing there expected the “brilliant success” of the charging force. Their confidence no doubt was based on the fact that the regiments in the fortifications were all veterans of many battles. The North Carolina regiments had been in Pickett's famous charge at Gettysburg, and the Louisiana troops had won the title of the “Louisiana Tigers” by their previous savage fighting.

On the same afternoon the Third Corps, a little farther down the river, had succeeded in forcing a crossing of the river and occupied the earthworks of the enemy with the capture of 400 prisoners.

The Fifth Corps, on the right of the Sixth, came [106] up to the river in time to prevent any escape in that direction, and it is worthy of note that the division of the Fifth Corps that connected with the Sixth was commanded by General Bartlett, whose transfer to that corps soon became permanent.

A few days after the Battle of Rappahannock Station, November 9, a detail of ten men from each of the four regiments that had taken part in the assault, was made to carry the captured flags to army headquarters. Colonel Beckwith was one of the ten from the 121st, and thus graphically describes the event: “We went to army headquarters and presented the captured colors to the general commanding, George G. Meade, who receiving them commended us very highly for the great service rendered the country and the gallant and brilliant achievement of the assaulting column. He ordered Rappahannock Station inscribed on our colors, and assured us that another opportunity would be given us to distinguish ourselves. This last remark was the subject of some comment, and I heard a number of our men say that they were not particularly anxious to get into another such scrape, believing that the next time they would not escape so fortunately. From Colonel Upton's talk to us, from the newspapers, and from the inquiries of soldiers of other commands, we came to know that the affair at Rappahannock Station was thought to be a very brilliant one, had given us great renown, and many of our men were inclined to boast of it.”

In this third event in the game of strategy General Meade certainly gained a decided success.

The next day when the corps crossed the river and advanced to Brandy Station the opposing army had withdrawn behind the Rapidan, leaving its partially built winter quarters in our hands. The haste with which they had left their position was [107] indicated by the finding of freshly killed beeves not yet cut up. The estate upon which the 1st Division encamped at Brandy Station belonged to John Minor Botts, one of the rare Union men of the south. One day he approached the headquarters of the 2d Brigade, but being clad in citizen's clothes, Captain Wilson's dog refused to let him approach, and had to be called off with stern reproof.

The encampment at Brandy Station was maintained only long enough to repair the railroad back to Centerville and bring up needed supplies, when another advance began. General Lee had distributed his army south of the Rapidan River, in positions favorable for winter quarters, and General Meade thought that by a rapid advance, he might attack and defeat the division that was encamped along Mine Run. In this movement the 3d Corps, commanded by General French, moved very slowly and made several blunders as to roads, and so obstructed the 6th Corps following, that the 121st bringing up the rear of the corps did not cross the Rapidan until after daylight on the 27th. This delay enabled General Lee to concentrate his forces behind the defenses of Mine Run, and greatly strengthen them. It was after sunset of the next day before the Sixth Corps occupied its allotted position in front of the Confederate entrenchments. A council of officers was called, at which General Sedgwick expressed his confidence that he could successfully assault the works in his front. But in the morning when the attack was ordered to be begun, General Warren who was to begin it, hesitated, and waited for further instructions from General Meade, who revoked the order for the assault and directed the return of the army to its former camp on Hazel River. The position occupied by the Second [108] Brigade was a very pleasant one and the winter was passed without further effort to attack or repel attack.

The Mine Run campaign though it did not result in the expected heavy fighting was not without incidents of great interest to the members of the 121st. When the Third Corps unexpectedly encountered a portion of General Ewell's corps and a lively little battle ensued, the First Division of the Sixth Corps was sent to the support of the troops engaged, and the Second Brigade, leading the Division and moving up to the position designated, was waiting for further orders. General Sedgwick with his staff rode up a little distance from the regiment and dismounted for a few moments' rest, reclining on the grass. The battle was raging in front and presently two men appeared, bearing on a stretcher an apparently wounded man. Just as they were passing the general, a shell burst killing one of the bearers and wounding the other. The one on the stretcher leaped to his feet and ran to the rear. This was an illustration of the craft displayed by some men to escape going into battle; but it also emphasized the fact that thinking men soon learned that the safest place for a man to be was where he ought to be; that the effort to escape danger by craft and cowardice was not often successful, and was likely to bring its penalty in some unexpected way.

In maneuvering for position the location of the Sixth Corps was on the extreme right and on the night of the 30th it was moved very quietly under cover into a woods and formed into four lines. The Second Brigade was the first line, the place of honor but also of extreme danger. No fires were allowed and the night was very cold, so that the men had to keep themselves from freezing by running round and round in the snow. Colonel [109] Beckwith gives his personal experience.

We stacked our traps and left a guard over them. As soon as it was light our batteries opened, and the Johnnies replied showing that they were on hand ready for business. They threw a shot just over us, and we got it and examined it. It was a fine piece of English workmanship, nicely varnished and evidently of recent manufacture. We heard that General French had advanced, and found Mine Run too deep to ford, and that he had given up the attempt, and we went back to our original position. When I got my knapsack from the pile it had been opened, and with other things my diary was gone. I mourned its loss greatly because it had a full account of the events in the regiment.

That night I was wakened and detailed to go on picket. Barr and Baldwin were also on the same detail, and we went out and relieved some fellows who were nearly frozen, lying in the skirmish pits without fire, and with very little to eat. As soon as daylight came several shots in our front and bullets flying close to us, gave warning that our foes were alert and knew our exact position. So without fire, all through that cold winter day, watching for an advance, and dreading an order to drive their skirmishes, we lay there and suffered, and hailed with joy the friendly darkness of night, which permitted us to rise up and stretch and pound ourselves to restore our chilled circulation. Finally at midnight orders came to march silently, and assemble on our left. We were so benumbed that we could scarcely move. At last we reached the road and began moving toward the river. I kept along with the column until we came to what appeared to be a tannery which had been burned and was still a great mass of embers. Seeing it I made a beeline for it, and the way I soaked up heat was a [110] caution. Lying down on some bark I got a good nap before a cavalry man woke me up and said, “Get out of here, the Johnnies are coming and will gobble you up.” I started down the road and in a short distance, not more than a mile and a half, came up to our rear guard. Passing our picket line and reserves, and continuing I joined the company in camp just across the river in the woods. On the next day we went to our old camp. While on the march a general rode by, and someone in the column set up the cry “Hardtack,” which was taken up all along the line. This angered the general, and attaching blame to our regiment, we were severely reprimanded and given some extra picket duty.

On the 23d day of December General Bartlett rode into the camp and was greeted with cheers and made a speech which Comrade Woodcock reports as follows:

Soldiers and Comrades in Arms:
It is with great pleasure I meet you here tonight. I have, even amid the cares of my office, often thought of the brave and gallant 121st. You have won laurels for yourselves and for our noble Empire State. From the first time you met the enemy's infantry in a fierce engagement and received that fearful baptism of fire and blood, I have ever thought of you as a regiment that can be relied upon. Your heavy loss at that time attests your bravery. Two hundred and seventy-three of your companions disappeared, some never again to rejoin you, others to suffer in our hospitals. Certain death seemed imminent to you all, still with the valor of veteran soldiers you manfully stood your ground; only yielding when driven by superior numbers and at the point of the baynet.

When you first became identified with my [111] brigade you were untried, and at the first fierce engagement with the enemy I withheld you, and it was with a good deal of fear and anxiety that I awaited your first hour of danger. For the honor of our State I was anxious until you proved yourselves worthy of the State to which you, and I, belong. I should not hesitate now, should I be called upon, to place you at the post of danger. Where I would trust an old and well-tried regiment I would trust you. Under any circumstances I would rely on you. The enemy acknowledged your superiority and all concede your efficiency as a regiment. But I have little time to speak. When I left the brigade, on that very day, under Colonel Upton, you won a name that will be imperishable. Your courage stood a stirring test, but you were not wanting. I allude to the battle of Rappahannock Station. You placed yourselves almost upon the very pinnacle of glory. You accomplished there what few regiments ever did. I was with you. I have but the gleanings left. Would to God every regiment would do as much! This accursed rebellion would soon be put down.

Three cheers and a tiger were given for General Bartlett, also for Colonel Upton, who protested saying, “Steady, steady men, place it where it belongs, upon General Bartlett.” Three more cheers and a tiger were given to both General Bartlett and Colonel Upton, and the men dispersed to their quarters in the best of spirits.

Another event that deserves consideration was the breaking up of the Third Corps and the assignment of the regiments to the Sixth Corps.

The conditions of life in a winter camp are so well described by Comrade Beckwith that his description ought to appear in the history of the regiment. He says, “We passed the winter of 1863 [112] and 1864 in camp near Hazel River. We picketed out toward White Sulphur Springs, and our pickets connected with the cavalry pickets a line of which extended for many miles to our right and rear, covering the railroad which was our source of supply. Soon after our return from Mine Run, we got nicely and comfortably fixed in camp, and whenever the weather permitted some duty or drill was the order of the day, to keep the men occupied and fit. Our mails came regularly, and sutlers had an abundant supply of all sorts of good things. An amusement hall was built and an amateur troop gave interesting entertainments. Checkers, chess and cards were favorite amusements in camp, and the festive and alluring game of poker, though forbidden, was extensively engaged in, the stakes being small on account of the scarcity of money. Many of our wounded and sick were returned to the regiment and it began to look like the old time solid battalion of the preceding winter. Boxes of good things from home, made life pleasant and cheerful, and camp life in winter quarters was voted by all the best thing yet in army life. So the winter passed away in pleasurable employment and amusement. The regiment became expert and noted for its efficiency in drill and discipline, and its dress parade had a large number of spectators from the neighboring commands.”

Hazel Run is a brook of considerable size that rises in the ridge of hills that form the watershed, between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, and flows into the Rapidan about half way between Mine Run and the junction of the two rivers. General Meade retired from Mine Run across the Rapidan, and established winter quarters in the angle made by the rivers, the Sixth Corps being located along Hazel Run. He might easily have [113] retired down the left bank of the Rapidan and occupied the heights behind Fredericksburg, but that movement was forbidden by orders from Washington.

On the 27th of February the Sixth Corps was ordered to support Custer's cavalry on a reconnaissance in the direction of Charlottesville. A disagreeable storm made the expedition a very trying one and the four days absence from camp made the return to its comforts very enjoyable. But who of that weary muddy company will ever forget the sight of the innumerable mass of crows that had taken possession of the camp, and were literally covering the ground, in spite of the guard left to protect it from marauders!

It was at this camp too that Chaplain Adams of the Fifth Maine became a familiar figure to the members of the 121st. He had previously ministered at the funerals of different members of it when asked to do so since the resignation of Chaplain Sage, near Gettysburg, but now he was asked to conduct services regularly. The Fifth Maine had built a fine chapel and an invitation was given the 121st to worship with them. When the Fifth Maine was discharged soon after, Chaplain Adams received and accepted an invitation to become chaplain of the 121st, and after that the religious features of army life in the regiment were administered wisely and efficiently, to the great advantage of the moral and spiritual interests of all. Doctor Adams' appointment was made by Governor Fenton at the earnest request of all the officers of the regiment.

During the winter also the regiment lost several of its commissioned and non-commissioned officers, who were transferred to colored regiments and to higher commands. Major Mather and Captain Hall were transferred respectively to the 20th [114] and 43d regiments of U. S. C. regiments as Lieutenant Colonels. Captain Campbell and Lieutenant Bates were made Colonels and assigned to the command of the 23d and 30th U. S. C. regiments. Lieutenant Gary and Sergeant Major Andrew Davidson were made captains in the 23d and 30th. Sergeants W. Ward Rice and Nathaniel Gano were also commissioned for service with the colored troops. These commissions were all granted after an examination by a board appointed for that purpose, and the result was creditable to the regiment and its commanding officers. Colonel Campbell's examination was so creditable that he was made a member of the Board of Examiners. Lieutenants Henry Upton and Henry B. Walker resigned on account of wounds and were honorably discharged. Captain Fish and Lieutenant Morse were detailed to staff duty at brigade headquarters.

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