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Chapter 33: the advance to Culpepper and Bealton.

The Nineteenth regiment left Morrisville on September 12th with the Second Corps, which marched in support of Buford's cavalry in the advance to Culpepper.
1‘September 12, 1863. The day is very sultry and hot. Can just breathe. Many are falling out. A number have fainted and fallen in their tracks. The mules are falling dead along the line of march. In the afternoon a heavy thunderstorm came up, drenching us to the skin, which greatly refreshed us. Camped at night in the woods. Heavy showers all night, making it very uncomfortable for us, but we must take it as it comes.’

This march was not long or rapid, but it was, perhaps, the most distressful ever made by the Second Corps. In the shade of large trees the temperature rose in the forenoon to 106 degrees. The sun beat upon the troops with terrible power and during the march of eight miles not less than one-third of the command fell by the way-side, overpowered by the extreme heat. The shower, however, proved a blessing to all, and the march was continued to Bealton Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, a point which few would have reached but for that refreshing shower.

The command halted at Bealton Station for the night and all but a few of the stragglers, restored by the same cool shower, rejoined it. Here it was learned that Chamberlain, with the Maine Brigade, had, at noon, by a most gallant charge, carried Lee's works at Rappahannock Station and now held the line of the river.

On the following day, Sept. 13, the corps crossed the north fork of the Rappahannock at Kelley's Ford on a pontoon bridge [264] and camped a little north of Culpepper. Here the cavalry and artillery had a short engagement with the enemy, capturing two guns and a number of prisoners.

On the 15th the march was resumed, the regiment moving through the town and pitching camp until the 16th. On that day it reached the Rapidan River, near Raccoon Ford, where pickets were established on the North bank, relieving cavalry which went to the rear. The rebel pickets were on the opposite bank within pistol range and shots were frequently exchanged.

Camp was pitched a short distance from the river and here the Corps remained until the 30th of September. During this time one half of the Corps was constantly on picket duty on the north bank. Nothing but the brawling current of the narrow stream (at that season perhaps 20 yards wide and 2 feet deep) at any time separated the two armies.

‘September 18, 1863. All the privates, except the cook, sent out on picket.’

‘September 19, 1863. Non-commissioned officers sent out on picket. The rebs are just across the river, within speaking distance. The pickets frequently cross and exchange papers, etc.’

‘September 21, 1863. Ordered to turn out at daylight, and remain under arms until sunrise, every morning.’

The regimental return for September, 1863, is as follows:

Col. Devereux, still on detached service, Boston harbor.
Lieut. Col. Wass, in command 3d Brigade, 2nd Div., 2nd Corps.
Major Edmund Rice, in command of regiment.
Co. C.Second Lieut. Joseph W. Snellen, promoted from Commissary Sergeant, to date July 16, 1863.
Co. E.Capt. John P. Reynolds, Jr., returned Sept. 1, and mustered as captain to date Feb. 27th.
Co. F.Capt. Chas. M. Merritt, on detached service, General Martindale's headquarters, Washington. Transferred from Co. G to Co. A, as First Lieutenant on account of non-muster. Mustered as Captain by order Sec'y of War to date Nov. 1, 1861, and transferred from Co. A to Co. F, Sept. 26, 1863.
Second Lieut. John J. Ferris, in command Co. F.


Co. G.First. Lieut Dudley C. Mumford, in command of company.
Asst. Surg. W. D. Knapp, returned to duty Sept. 25, 1863, from hospital.
Second Lieut. Charles L. Merrill, transferred to Invalid Corps, S. O. 202, Headquarters Second Corps, Aug. 30.
John Y. Small, private, Co. A, promoted to Commissary Sergeant, Sept. 25, 1863, at Raccoon Ford, vice Snelling, promoted to Second Lieutenant.
Private Adolph Mahnitz, Co. B, returned at Morrisville, Va., Sept. 6, from prisoner of war, captured July 1, at Taneytown, Md.
Private John Doherty, Co. E., prisoner of war.

On September 30, the Nineteenth regiment was withdrawn from the front and posted at Mitchell's Station on the railroad to protect the corps train. This was an excellent camping place. It was near Cedar Run, a small river, and there was an opportunity to bathe and wash clothes. Save the occasional shot of a picket, nothing disturbed the general quiet until October 11, when the regiment was ordered to fall in and begin a rapid march northward.

The rest of the Second Corps had been relieved by the Sixth Corps on October 5 and had returned to Culpepper, encamping near the town. Here it remained until the 11th, when the entire army was withdrawn to the North bank of the Rappahannock.

At daylight on the 11th, the regiment recrossed the river, rejoined the Second Corps and halted at Rappahannock Station. During the day it lay quietly in bivouack, while other troops went hurrying North. It was here erroneously reported that Lee had begun his march upon Culpepper. As a result of this report, early in the morning of October 12, the Second, Fifth and Sixth Corps and Buford's Cavalry re-crossed the river and deployed upon the magnificent plain stretching from the southern bank to and around Brandy Station, advanced in the full ‘pomp and circumstance of war’ to find and strike the enemy, if at Culpepper. [266]

Lee, deceived into the belief that Meade, by breaking his communication with the capitol had begun a bold movement upon Richmond, gave evidence before night that his columns, recalled from their northern march, were hurrying to throw themselves in front of the Second and Fifth Corps.

At lark these corps had gone into camp upon the wide plain. Fires were built, as usual, and nothing more than an intent to remain and in the morning to renew the advance, was discernable.

About 9 P. M. details were made to keep up the fires until midnight and in the deepest silence the two corps moved hurriedly to the North. At 11 o'clock they had re-crossed the river, and through the night, side by side along the railroad, the two columns pushed their rapid march. After sunrise the Second Corps halted at Borden's House for rest and breakfast. In an hour the march was resumed. Hour after hour, the tired troops hurried forward, until at 3 P. M. once more they halted, this time at Catlett's Station. There was no food to be had and while the men were resting here Gen. Meade and his staff rode through the ranks and was loudly saluted by the hungry boys in a good natured way with cries of ‘Pork’ and ‘Hard Tack.’

The regiment had marched twenty miles that day, over a very muddy road across which many trees had been felled. Many groups of prisoners, on their way to the rear, were passed.

Gen. Francis A. Walker in his ‘History of the Second Corps,’ says:

The Second Corps, which had marched from near Culpepper to Bealton on the 11th, and on the 12th had marched from Bealton to Brandy Station, again took the route for Bealton, at 11 o'clock that night.

As the column approached Bealton there was heard what seemed to be a rapid and persistent tire of skirmishers, and the troops, who had ‘caught on’ to the general situation, at once concluded that Lee had gained our rear and that another battle of the John Pope order was imminent. On arriving at Bealton, however, it was found that the noise was occasioned by the destruction of a large amount of small arms ammunition, ordered by some over zealous subordinate.

The troops were tired enough to sleep at Bealton, but the [267] time was not come for rest, and indeed, the movement upon which the Second Corps had entered was to be the most arduous in its history.

Pushing northward to the support of Gregg, and marching all night, Fayetteville was reached about 6 o'clock in the morning and the troops were told to get their breakfast.

‘The halt made the evening before,’ says General Warren in his official report, ‘but little more than sufficed for the establishment of the sentinels, preparation of meals, etc., so that sleep had scarcely closed the eyes of one of the command since they awoke on the morning of the 12th.’

‘After only three quarters of an hour, however, the order to ‘Fall In’ was heard, and the tired men, who had scarcely been allowed to prepare coffee, were again summoned to the route. The day's march was long and wearisome; the distance was not great, but such were the delays and interruptions, due to the presence of the Third Corps on the road in front, and the necessity of guarding continually against attacks on our left flank, that it was not until 9 o'clock in the evening that the corps bivouacked on the south side of Cedar Run, not far from the little village of Auburn. Thus ended the 13th of October.’

The fourteenth day of October was a memorable one in the history of the Nineteenth regiment, as well as of the whole corps. Before four o'clock in the morning, the corps started, as rear guard of the retreating army and crossed Cedar Run in a heavy fog at Auburn, which is described by Stewart's biographer as ‘a little hamlet consisting of the residence of Stephen McCormick, a post office and a blacksmith's shop.’ Ewell was closely pressing the rear and left of the corps as it made the crossing, and Job Stewart, who had been caught the day before between two corps of the army and had remained hidden in a thick pine wood during the night, opened with artillery on the larger part of the first division which was massed on a hill back of Auburn; the remainder, Brook's brigade, being thrown out to the front, covered the route to Greenwich, from which direction the rebels were making a heavy pressure, while Carroll's brigade was helping Gregg's cavalry hold them back on the southerly side of the run, in the direction of Warrenton. [268]

This fire from Stewart, coming as it did from the rear, on the road to Catlett's Station, over which the corps must pass to Centreville, its objective point, was a genuine surprise and threw the men of the First Division on the hill into momentary confusion, as it was well directed and rapid. A heavy fog enveloped the country, consequently the operations of the rebels were veiled from view of the Division commanders.

At this time the Third Division was moving down the Catlett's. Station road, followed by the Second, which was then crossing the difficult ford of Auburn. A brigade of the Third Division immediately threw out skirmishers and formed line of battle, which, with the help of artillery, soon had Stewart in full retreat down the Catlett's Station road, which was soon clear of the enemy.

While this was going on there was considerable excitement, for it was not known exactly where the enemy were. The cannon shot coming from every direction seemed to indicate that the rebels held every avenue of escape, but with the retirement of Stewart, the road to Catlett's was opened and over this the Second Division took the advance. The Third Division lay in line of battle until the Second had passed and then followed.

‘Everyone was perfectly well disposed to march,’ says Warren, ‘and there was, for the once, no complaint as to the pace set by the head of the column.’ The First Division still held its position. Gen. Walker mentions the following incident as taking place at this time. ‘A powerful battery, supposed to be Jones' battalion of sixteen pieces, among them some 20-pounders, opened from the direction of Warrenton and even further to the South, gallantly replied to by Arnold's ‘A,’ First Rhode Island which, having been in action against Stewart, had literally executed the order,—seldom, if ever heard except on the drill ground,—‘Fire to the rear! Limbers and caissons, pass your pieces.’ The shells of still another Confederate battery, which had got around upon the Greenwich road, flew in a direction exactly opposite to that taken by the shells leaving Stewart's staff.’ It was said by Major McClellan, of Stewart's staff that shots from Stewart's guns passed clear over the Union troops and fell among the advancing lines of Ewell, on the other [269] side, actually checking their advance. This shows how closely the corps was invested at this time.

On arrival at Catlett's the division halted until the First was able to get away from the enemy and join them. Thus far the Nineteenth regiment had met no loss, although several times under fire. The regiments had started out on the 12th with boxes full of ammunition and twenty rounds in knapsacks, with five days rations on the person in addition to their ordinary equipment. Gen. Walker says: ‘All the diminution that had occurred in their heavy burden being in the hard tack and salt pork eaten at two or three short halts or gnawed or nibbled on the march.’

On the arrival of the First Division, the line of march was taken up for Bristoe Station; the Second Division, commanded by Gen. Webb, with two batteries of artillery, taking the northwesterly side of the railroad; the Third Division, under Gen. Alexander Hayes, taking the south-easterly side, and the First Division, under Caldwell as rear guard. Col. Mallon commanded the third brigade of the Second Division, in which was the Nineteenth, commanded by Col. Wass. The column moved rapidly on, every man intent on getting as far ahead as possible. There was no voluntary straggling.

Of the battle at Bristoe Station, First Sergt. Milton Ellsworth of Co. C, says:

The 59th New York, of our brigade, was deployed on the left as flankers, to watch for the rebels, who were expected to appear at any time. When the column crossed Kettle's Run, the flankers were drawn in and did not go out again after crossing, probably thinking it unnecessary. After marching quietly along for some time, with our left flank thus unguarded, I saw some men marching along, dressed in blue, where our flankers should have been. Knowing that we had none out, I at once suspected them of being rebel skirmishers, disguised as Union men. I called the company commander's attention to them, asking who he thought they were. He said ‘Flankers.’ I said that these were drawn in when we crosssed the stream. He acknowledged that this was so and, looking back, saw the 59th New York following.

At this moment an aide of Gen. Webb's staff was passing [270] and his attention was called to the strangers. He supposed that they were the 59th New York, but on learning that it was in column, he immediately reported the matter to the general, who ordered that the 59th New York be at once sent out; deploying as skirmishers, it advanced up the hill toward the strangers, who at once showed their true colors by immediately halting, facing to the right and commencing firing; the 59th continued to advance, answering the enemy's fire until it came too strong for it to cope with by appearing over the hill in line of battle.

The Nineteenth then fell back slowly, firing as it came. They were at a point where the railroad embankment was about three feet high and at once crossed, by order of Major Rice, who took command when Col. Wass was wounded, to use it as a breastwork, directing the colors to keep down and out of sight. The rebels moved down the hill. We lay quietly, having the greatest confidence in our ability to take care of them, until they came very near to us, when we arose and emptied our guns in their faces and cheered and charged over the road. This was rather more than was expected; they were taken by surprise and many surrendered and some broke and ran. We followed them up the hill, capturing one field officer and several line officers and all the men (450 in all) except a few who went over the hill to their reserve.

The rebels had exposed one battery of five pieces in front of the wood and upon this the Second Division concentrated its fire. After the capture of the prisoners, the Major sent out companies K and E as skirmishers and Lieutenant John B. Thompson, who had command of the two left flank companies of the Nineteenth, not wishing to weaken his line, allowed Sergeants Corrigan and Maloney and private Johnson, all of Co. E, to advance to the pieces. They destroyed one gun and brought in two and a limber and four horses. Men were at once furnished from the First Minnesota and Andrew Sharpshooters, who brought in the other two pieces. Sergeant Corrigan limbered up one of those taken by the Nineteenth, mounted the saddle leader and drove it in triumph down the field and over the railroad track with a bump into the lines, amid a shower of balls from the enemy and a storm of cheers from his comrades. [271] The conduct of the men in this spirited affair was excellent and that of the recruits particularly so, as this was their first engagement.

The casualties were: Lieutenant Colonel Ansel D. Wass, commanding the brigade, wounded slightly at the opening of the engagement.

Captain J. F. Plympton and Lieutenant W. F. Rice, wounded in scalp.

Lieutenant John J. Ferris, wounded slightly in the ear.

Sergeant Dunbar Ross, Co. D, severely wounded in the head,—since died.

Hill's loss was enormously disproportionate to the forces engaged.2

The strength of the regiment in this engagement was but 190 officers and men. Colonel Mallon of the Forty-Second New York, commanding the brigade, had been killed early in the action and the command of the brigade devolved upon Lieut. Col. Wass, of the Nineteenth Massachusetts.

In relating the incidents of the battle, General Walker says: “And soon four hundred and sixty prisoners, with two colors, are brought from under the very noses of the supporting brigades of Davis and Walker, while five of Poague's guns are drawn across the track by the rollicking skirmishers, each piece bestridden by a crowing ‘Yank,’ and so ‘first blood’ and ‘first knock down’ are awarded to the Second Corps. It was at the time related that these men, brought into the line of the Second Division, recognized their old antagonists of Gettysburg, and on seeing the white trefoil of their captors, exclaimed ‘Those damned white clubs again.’”

1 This and other similar quotations which follow are extracts from a diary written by Lieut. Joseph E. Hodgkins, of Co. K.

2 The loss of the enemy in front of the regiment was greater than the total number of men in the Nineteenth.

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