95th Ohio at the Battle of Richmond Part II

    Cruft rallied his troops and once the situation stabilized, he and General Manson determined to give battle once more. He redeployed the brigade on the right of the Richmond-Kingston Pike near White’s Farm along a ridge with skirmishers deployed well in front of the line, and artillery placed on high ground near the road.
Brig. Gen. Charles Cruft

    The 95th Ohio, anchoring the left of Cruft’s line, was stationed behind a worm rail fence along a cornfield, with its left flank resting on the intersection of the pike with Duncannon Road. The 66th Indiana, 18th Kentucky, and 12th Indiana were placed to their right.

The second Federal position was located at the intersection of Duncannon Lane and the Richmond-Kingston Pike. The 95th Ohio rallied from their earlier defeat near Mount Zion Church, and kept up a stiff fight for nearly an hours against McCray's Texans. The veteran troopers kept up cover while the 95th Ohio blazed away its ammunition at the Texan skirmish line; thinking they had the Rebels on the run, the regiment advanced south but were stampeded when McCray's men rose from the ditch where they had hidden and poured in a volley at 50 yards distant.
(Map courtesy of the Battle of Richmond Visitor's Center)

    Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Churchill, commanding the Confederate Third Division, pushed forward McCray’s dismounted cavalrymen to attack the Union lines. “The fire of the enemy’s artillery and musketry was most terrific, while we replied only with artillery. I then ordered my command to lie down, protected by a fence and a ditch and for a full five minutes, we did not fire a gun in response to their terrible fire,” he wrote. Cruft’s men battled a thin Rebel skirmish line, blazing away their ammunition, putting up a good fight. “This long rest encouraged the men of the 95th Ohio and 66th Indiana, who thought it meant that McCray’s troops were demoralized,” wrote historian Earl J. Hess. “They impulsively moved out from their strong position to attack the Confederates. It was a horrible mistake.”
Various flags carried by Confederate troops at Richmond.
(Battle of Richmond Visitor's Center)

    “When they arrived within 50 yards of my line, the order was given to rise, fire, and charge, which order was promptly and gallantly obeyed,” Gen. Churchill wrote. “The enemy could not withstand the desperate courage of my men, but still for a while they contested every inch of ground as they were driven from it, until finally…they gave way in every direction.”Casualties were heavy, and the entire Union line “broke and fell back in confusion.” Cruft tried to swing his two remaining regiments to meet this new threat, but the lack of drill manifested itself as the troops could not maneuver under fire. “The attempt to maneuver was a failure, and the men broke and fled down the road. The flying masses drifted up the road and through the fields in the direction of Richmond.” Cruft, Manson, and their staffs endeavored to rally the men, but it was, as Cruft reported, “a hopeless task.”

The intersection of Duncannon Lane and Kentucky 421 (Richmond-Kingston Pike) in 2017.

    “The retreat from this point soon degenerated into a rout,” Col. McMillen reported. “No effort was made to rally the men until within sight of the town of Richmond.” The second Union line had held for perhaps an hour. “We retreated again about two miles and were met by General Nelson and staff. The general was raving mad, as the battle had been brought on against his positive orders,” wrote Sergeant Phelps. “He soon brought order out of disorder, and soundly berating colonels and generals, he ordered a fire upon the advancing foe.” Upon hearing news of the engagement, the burly 300 pound Nelson had ridden hard from Lexington, sword in hand but still dressed in civilian clothes: a blue blouse and white pants. He soon made the air blue with oaths. The raging general rode among the troops, alternatively cursing, berating, shouting, and striking men with the flat of his sword or with his bare fists. While Nelson’s example restored some semblance of order, he resorted to outright lies to keep his raw levies in line. Oliver Haskell of the 71st Indiana remembered Nelson shouting that 12,000 reinforcements “would be up to our assistance, when the truth was there was no reinforcements within our reach.”

The third and final Federal position was located within the Richmond city cemetery.
(Map courtesy of Battle of Richmond Visitor's Center)

    Nelson formed the two shattered brigades into a ragged line of battle near Richmond Cemetery, adjacent to the old encampment of Cruft’s Second Brigade. All told, roughly 2,500 men remained in the ranks; the 95th Ohio had about 300 men out of the 864 that marched into battle that morning, the rest killed, wounded, or captured. “Every man knew that it was the last and most desperate battle of the day,” wrote an officer from the 12th Indiana Infantry. “That upon his own nerve depended the entire result of whether we were to remain there or retreat to the Kentucky River.”

    Nelson ordered the 95th Ohio placed at the center of the line, with the left of the regiment placed amongst the tombstones of the Richmond Cemetery while the right overlapped the pike and was posted behind a corn field. The Confederate troops, exhausted but sensing victory, renewed their attack around 4 o’clock. “At the graveyard, the rebels advanced on us through a cornfield. Here Col. McMillen was shot in the hand and many our men were killed and wounded,” Sergeant Phelps stated. The men of the regiment had been instructed to aim low into the cornfield. “I think the stalks were well flayed as we fired briskly as the enemy advanced, but they did not scare worth a cent.”
The old section of Richmond Cemetery- the 95th Ohio fought amongst these
stones in the waning hours of August 30, 1862.

    General Nelson stormed up and down the line, shouting ‘Boys, if they can’t hit something as big as I am, they can’t hit anything!’ Nelson soon was shot in the gut, and left the field. The Union line sagged, then broke again as the men fled to the rear in a “general stampede. Both officers and men became reckless of all restraint or command, and rushed pell-mell to the rear amidst a mingled mass of horses, wagons, and artillery in an utter rout,” wrote General Cruft. “It now became a matter of individual safety, and the mass scattered, each one taking course as he was able.” There would be no rallying the survivors this time.

    A brigade of Confederate cavalry had ridden around the Union position to set up an ambush along the pike north of Richmond. They didn’t have long to wait. A mob of panicked men streamed from Richmond, right into the line of fire of a battery and the cavalrymen swooped in. Major Paul Hammond of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith’s staff recalled that the “havoc was frightful, and the Federals threw down their arms and surrendered in crowds and of the few who escaped, not one in ten carried his musket with him.”
Madison County Courthouse
Richmond, Kentucky

    The raw troops, exhausted and demoralized after a hard day’s fighting, were spent. “When this last line was abandoned, we fell back to town and the Seminary being right in my way, I lay down on the back porch completely exhausted and worn out,” Lt. Thomas M. Robertson of the 71st Indiana wrote. “I was soon a prisoner.”

    The Confederates gathered prisoners by the hundreds and thousands- ultimately more than 4,300 men were given their paroles. The evening of the battle, the Union prisoners were corralled within the iron fence that then surrounded the Madison County Courthouse. (That fence now surrounds Richmond Cemetery where the third phase of the battle was fought.) Colonel John Scott of Kirby Smith's cavalry reported that he had a "ten acre lot full" of Federal prisoners.

    It was an unmitigated disaster for the army, and for the 95th Ohio. Regimental losses totaled 26 men killed, 86 wounded, 2 missing, and 540 captured: a loss of 75% of the men that marched into battle that morning. The rest of the army fared even worse- official figures show 206 killed, 844 wounded, and 4,303 men captured out of roughly 6,850 engaged, a casualty rate of 78%. The Confederates lost but a fraction of that: 78 killed, 372 wounded, and 1 missing for a casualty rate of less than 7%. A Rebel captain surveying the battlefield the following day stated “that the ground was strewn with the dead and dying soldiers-some were being buried, others were dying, others with their legs and arms being cut off. Their sufferings were great and in every hospital that could be established, there was piles of arms and legs as high as the tables.”

Some of the items that belonged to General Mahlon Dickerson Manson are on display at the Battle of Richmond Visitor's center including his rank insignia, Colt .36 caliber pistol, and a copy of Hardee's Tactics that was picked up on the battlefield by a Confederate soldier. Interestingly, Manson acquired the book in a like manner- he picked it up on the battlefield at Mill Springs, Kentucky eight months earlier.

Battlefield relics on display at the Visitor's Center. Known as the Rogers House, the building served as Manson's headquarters in the early phase of the battle and as a hospital in the latter stages. David Jones gave us a nice tour of the visitor's center when we visited and reported that they had recently acquired Bull Nelson's major general's commission. This new addition will be placed on display sometime in August 2017.

Marker in front of the Madison County Courthouse describes the scene after the battle.

For further reading on the Battle of Richmond, I'd recommend Kenneth Hafendorfer's book The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky or D. Warren Lambert's When The Ripe Pears Fell, both available through the battlefield bookstore at http://battleofrichmond.org/#/mercantile/4567618012/Books or through Amazon.


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