With an Empire State Tenderfoot at Gettysburg
The 150th New York had spent the first 10 months of its service on quiet guard duty in Baltimore, Maryland. The men, well-drilled but as yet unblooded, were pulled from the Baltimore defenses in June 1863 and assigned to General Henry Slocum's 12th Army Corps to take part in turning back Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania. Captain Joseph H. Cogswell of Co. A of the 150th was one of the "tenderfoots" who marched into Pennsylvania.
"Twas the longest march our feet had ever made at one pull, and many complained," Cogswell explained. "In the night we were greeted with a soaking rain, which was by no means welcome to those who neglected to put up their tents. The rain had not ceased at sunrise nor yet at 8 o'clock, our starting hour. The slight mud was better than dust; the rain slackened and visited us by showers through the day. We made a 17-mile march Friday, halting at "Popple Springs," towards night. Many a one sought the ambulance that day, and blistered feet was the rule and not the exception. Those who had long, heavy boots suffered most. For my part, a pair of high-laced English walking shoes, with broad soles and low heels, kept me from any soreness, and I feel slight fatigue. I think the officers complained as much as the men."
The regiment, part of General Henry H. Lockwood's brigade, arrived at Gettysburg on July 2nd and went into action on Culp's Hill where the following day, the regiment would capture nearly 200 Confederate infantrymen in their first action of the war. Captain Cogswell's account of Gettysburg appears courtesy of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center.
Union Infirmary, Baltimore, Maryland
Sunday, July 12, 1863
We left Camp Belger June 25, 3 p.m., for where? none of us scarcely knew. It came out after a time that Monocacy Junction was our goal. We marched in dust and heat to Ellicott's Mills, (12 miles,) a station on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and then we bivouacked under our shelter tents. Our knapsacks had been left behind to come on by cars. The 1st Maryland Potomac Home Brigade, Colonel William P. Maulsby, joined us on the way, and we were under command of Brigadier General Henry H. Lockwood, from Delaware. 'Twas the longest march our feet had ever made at one pull, and many complained. In the night we were greeted with a soaking rain, which was by no means welcome to those who neglected to put up their tents. The rain had not ceased at sunrise nor yet at 8 o'clock, our starting hour. The slight mud was better than dust; the rain slackened and visited us by showers through the day. We made a 17-mile march Friday, halting at "Popple Springs," towards night. Many a one sought the ambulance that day, and blistered feet was the rule and not the exception. Those who had long, heavy boots suffered most. For my part, a pair of high-laced English walking shoes, with broad soles and low heels, kept me from any soreness, and I feel slight fatigue. I think the officers complained as much as the men. We got a small piece of fresh beef for each company that night. The rain did not fail us, and as we did not know how essential to our success a rise in the Potomac might be, could not see the use of quite so much of the article at the time.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, we moved, a sadder if not a wiser lot of men. "If ever I start out on a march again, I'll know what to wear on my feet," was an oft-heard expression. We were promised a 17-mile march again, but it was nearly if not quite 20. We got to Monocacy Junction about sundown, and at once pitched our tents on a hill lately chopped of its timber, leaving the brush and stumps for our use. Our camp overlooked a large district, and nearly the whole was filled with the Army of the Potomac. Commissary wagons, quartermaster's wagons, ammunition wagons and headquarters wagons were packed by hundreds, or strung out by miles. And the artillery, cavalry, and infantry filled nearly all the space not devoted to wagons. To such neophytes as the 150th, this was a grand and imposing sight. And at night the thousands of campfires made a rare and beautiful spectacle, and worth all our march to see. On Sunday we rested—of this I cannot be mistaken. Most all were willing to obey the keeping the Sabbath in this respect. The captains had to make out their muster rolls. We fancied we would remain and guard the large bridge at this place, but at 4 a. m. Monday, the drum called us up, and we found we had orders to report to the Commander of the 12th Corps, General Henry Slocum. (I presume you know him—he was in the House when the Colonel was in the Senate.) Our way lay through Frederick City, but before we reached it we halted for about six or eight hours, to let three or four Army Corps pass us. Our regiment got much ridicule for having never been out before, and were advised to lighten their loads, which they did to a great extent, giving away blankets, overcoats and extra clothing. By the way, the rain kept up its visits. Our Quartermaster, with a few who had been kept back, joined us Sunday, and brought on the knapsacks.
Our long detention gave us a short march, and we went into camp just the other side of Frederick about 3 p.m. Here we had more rain, and an early start the next morning. Rations began to be in demand and our supply was limited. Tuesday, June 30th we made about 18 miles, halting at 4 p.m. Many were out of shoes, and a great many were sore footed, but all were good natured. Bruceville was the name the store, shop and bridge rejoiced in; it certainly wasn't Spruceville. The country we passed through this day was equal to western New York. The people made our extremity their harvest. One charged and got from me 75 cents for a loaf of bread!
The next day we started "early in the morning," on our way. We reached the "land of brotherly love," and headed towards Gettysburg, halting in a woods about seven miles south of that place. We got the news of that day's fight, of the death of Reynolds, of our being driven back, and made up our minds we were in for a fight. At 2 am. July 2nd, the reveille started a weary lot of men from their needed rest. The cup of coffee was soon made, the hardtack cracked, and our line was formed. The general informed us that we must leave our knapsacks for the wagons to bring up—that a forced march of nine miles was to be made in three hours, and we prepared for it. Our course lay due north, and to the right of Gettysburg. We passed General Meade's headquarters and held on our march till we arrived to the front—the extreme right. The 12th Corps held this position. Our line was formed, and we rested. We had nothing to do all day but listen to the roar of cannon to the left and watch movements generally.
About 6:30 or 7 p.m., an order came for our two regiments to hasten to help the center, and we were off, marching by the flank right into it. Shells cracked around us soon,—dead men and defunct horses and mules, broken wagons, caissons, and the debris of battle strewed the way. Arriving near our place we deployed into line of battle, and pushed ahead, beyond the line the Rebs. held, they falling back and offering us no sight of their gray backs, for the distance. This position we held some time, and then were ordered back to our camping ground of the day. Cos. B and G dragged off from an adjacent field three brass 12 pounders of one of our batteries which the Rebs had once that day. I think it was 10 p.m.. when we got back again. We lay on our arms all night in line of battle.
|Edwin Forbes' painting "Culp's Hill July 3rd" gives one an idea of the type of cover the 12th Corps built up to protect their position. The corps held their ground despite repeated determined attacks by Ewell's Corps on July 2nd and 3rd.|
Friday July 3rd at 2 a.m., we were up again and advanced. General Richard Ewell was in front of us, and the day before had gained a slight advantage; and made his boasts that he would have our portion, a certain hill, if it cost him every man he had. His men were not 80 rods from us and were occupying a position of our rifle pits. We advanced towards the woods, in line, and halted, and my company and afterwards a part of Co. G were ordered to hold the edge of the woods as skirmishers, which we did; the boys obeying well. A little before 4 a.m., the Colonel sent us word to return to the lines with my company. Meanwhile Bess' Battery, (Regular) of six light brass, 15 pounders, had been stationed on a hill to the left, and our two regiments were ordered up to support it. Then, at just 4 a. m. they opened, shelling the woods terribly for a half hour. Then one Maryland regiment was ordered into these woods to drive the Rebs out. As soon as they were well in, a rattling fire of musketry began, and in twenty minutes our friends came out minus three officers, 20 killed and 100 wounded. The enemy had posted themselves behind a strong stone wall and had our folks nicely. We formed again in front of the woods, but they did not come out.
About 6 o'clock we were ordered around to the left of our position and into some rifle pits, on the brow of a hill looking down into a valley that run out towards where our first line had been. These pits were very long, and five or six regiments could be in them at once. Our boys did not know where they were going, but forming line of battle, with our colors flying, we rushed on with such a cheer as would have done your heart good to hear. Our orders were to fire till relieved, and we did. The men averaged 100 rounds in the two hours and 40 minutes they were in. About all the firing was at random, as the Rebs were in the valley below or on the slope beyond, hidden by the trees and foliage, but they were there; and so incessant was our fire that they could not form for a charge. The valley was literally covered with dead Rebs. Some of their sharpshooters, by climbing trees, could get at us in the pits, and sad to tell, we lost seven good men, and 22 wounded. Co. A lost Corporal John Van Alstyne, Private John P. Wing, Private Levi Rust and Private Charles Howgate. They were all killed instantly. I have written to Van Alstyne's parents today. Our men all behaved nobly. I am proud of Co. A. Lieutenant Henry Gridley was standing at the side of John when he fell. Rust and Wing were three feet from me.
When we were relieved, we fell back out of range, and then went in again towards noon, resting after two hour's work. At 2 p.m. "the great cannonading" of the war began, and we were under a storm of shot and shell, yet none of us were hurt. At 4 p.m. we were drawn off towards the center as reserves but were not called. The field had been won by hard fighting along the whole line. July 4th we waited for orders in a dampening rain. July 5th, ditto, till sundown, when we marched nine miles to Littlestown, and camped. Here we got sight of our wagons and got out shelter tents. July 6th, we marched about two miles, and rested for the day. July 7th, at 2:30 a.m. we were called, formed line at 3, and marched to within five miles of Frederick City, 27 miles, over the worst of roads, and in a heavy rain. I was attacked with Diarrhea at noon, and at night felt used up—got no supper. July 8th, marched 6-1/2 miles in the mud and rain, and then I had to give up. I was completely exhausted and was ordered to Frederick; but there being no place in Hospital or Hotel for a man to stay, I was sent to Baltimore. I am better, and hope to be back soon. When I left the regiment, they were on their way west from Frederick City, chasing up Lee. Quite a number of the boys gave out from exhaustion, at Frederick. Sergeant Borden for one, George Willson, Color Corporal of my company, was struck in the forehead by a ball, but only slightly injured. Corp. W. C. Willson was left behind, sick in hospital here.
I believe I have now given you a correct "log" of our operations. If it is worth reading, peruse it. It is well to give such advice on the last line.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Joseph H. COGSWELL,
Capt. Co. A, 150th N. Y. S. V.
Post a Comment