18 September 2013

A Green Regiment

BG Henry Lockwood
The 150th New York Infantry were one of three regiments assigned to Brigadier General Henry Lockwood’s Brigade.  Being a new brigade to the First Division in the XII Corps, it was posted as an independent brigade.  The 150th New York was raised in Dutches County, NY and carried the nickname of “The Dutchess Regiment”.  The regiment had mustered into Union service in 1862, but had been garrisoned, guarding Washington, DC and on the morning of 2 July 1863, had not yet been in action.  Their trouble in keeping up on the march, “full ranks, bright colors and clean uniforms” easily placing them apart from the veteran troops.

The 150th would arrive in Gettysburg from the previous night's bivouac in LIttlestown, PA at about 9am on the second of July.  The men could hear sounds of battle and knew of the fight which had taken place the day before.  The Colonel of 150th, John Ketcham moved along the line of his men offering up “encouragement and imparting advice” for the upcoming action.

After having been held most of the of the day just off of Culp’s Hill, Lockwood received orders about 5pm to move his men in support of General Daniel Sickles’ III Corps.  They marched out Schoolhouse Lane toward the sound of the battle.  The men passed and saw for the first time soldiers who were wounded in battle.  Their march ended somewhere near the Trostle house.  Here the men of the 150th along with the First Maryland Eastern Shore; the other regiment on site making up two of the three regiments in Lockwood’s Brigade, faced the enemy for the first time.  They formed and held a line, causing the Confederates in the their front; most likely the 21st Mississippi of General William Barksdale’s Brigade to retire.  It was at this time that Companies B and G of the 150th recovered three guns from Bigelow’s 9th Massachusetts Battery, pulling them off the field.  The men marched from the field back toward the Baltimore Pike, deploying in the early morning hours near Rugg and Kinzie’s Batteries, with the 150th near the Lightner house.
Trostle House with Company B and G Monument

The 150th received orders on the morning of 3 July to move to Culp’s Hill to support General George S Greene's troops, who were engaged with the enemy.  They arrived on the hill about 7:30am to find “a long line of hastily built breastworks filled with soldiers who were pouring an incessant fire in the valley below.”  They were ordered to relieve the 78th New York.  One soldier described the pits as “so long that we only occupied a small portion of them...the breastworks are made of logs, stone and dirt and are about 5 feet high. Private Charles Benton of the 150th said, “the smoke had settled so thickly in the timber that we could not distinguish them (the Confederates) clearly, and the spurts of smoke from their guns” gave the means of aiming.

Monument on Culp's Hill
Division commander General Lockwood, who was concerned about his green troops, told Colonel Ketchum that the 150th might need support, but Private Benton wrote of the men that he was “struck by the cool and matter-of-fact way in which our men loading and firing, while the dead lay at frequent intervals.”  Lockwood would say about the men; “That is the green regiment is it?  Well I wish to God they were all green.”  However even being behind the breastworks didn’t guarantee safty.  Men were killed  it was thought by Confederate sharpshooters in the trees.  Two such men whose death was witnessed were John P Wing and Levi Rust of Washington, New York.  They were “struck by the same ball, it going through John’s breast and then striking Levi Rust.  The latter fell at once.  John looked up to me, I thought as much to say, ‘That came close’, when he fell over on his hands and knees and settled down in death with only a groan.”

The men stayed in the breastworks for about two and a half hours, until the 102nd New York relieved them.  They returned again in about an hour.  Each man of 150th fired about 150 round while there.

23 August 2013

Thirty Minutes One Hunderd Thirteen Rounds

There is a monument on the corner of Carlisle and Lincoln St, that is mostly viewed in passing.  The monument is to Battery K of the First Ohio Artillery, known as Heckman’s Battery.  Brought out to the northwest part of town, as a part of a last ditch effort to hold or buy time for the retreating 11th Corps.  Most people visit Coster’s Avenue, if they visit this part of town at all.  Heckman’s really is worth a stop, they were the last  to leave the field.

Battery K of the First Ohio Artillery was raised in Cuyahoga and Washington Counties, and organized under Captain William L DeBeck at Camp Dennison in Cincinnati, Ohio, 22 October 1861.  A part of the 11th Corps, Battery K showed its mettle at the Battle of Chancellorsville, as the rest of the Corps retreated in front of Confederate General Thomas J Jackson’s assault, Battery K “remained like a solid wall” using canister to slow the Confederate charge.  Following Chancellorsville, Captain Lewis Heckman took over command of the Battery on 11 May 1863.

Captain Lewis Heckman was born 1823 in Germany.  At the start of the war he was living in Cleveland, Ohio, and making a living manufacturing fancy cakes and candies.

The men of Battery K came onto the field in the early evening of 1 July 1863 with 4 Napoleon; 12 pounder smoothbore cannons.  They had been held on Cemetery Hill since arriving in Gettysburg, but with the collapse of the Union line north and west of the town, Battery K was rushed forward to hold back the Confederate advance, so the 11th Corps men could retreat through the town to Cemetery Hill.

Heckman and the 118 men of the battery had to of seen their posting as a suicide mission.  As the Union troops of the 11th Corps streamed past, the men of Battery K began firing as soon as their front was clear, as the enemy was already in range.  In the roughly 30 minutes the battery was in place they fired 113 rounds of canister.  Confederate Brigadier General Harry T Hays, whose men faced Heckman, wrote that the “fire to which my command was subjected from the enemy’s batteries was unusually galling.”

In the end the men could not hold their position.  They were surrounded and were only able to pull 2 guns off, the other two pieces being captured by the 6th North Carolina of Isaac Avery’s brigade.  Union Major Thomas Osborn, who commanded the 11th Corps Artillery wrote of Heckman, that he “worked his battery to the best of his ability, the enemy crowded upon it, and was within his battery before he attempted to retire...I think no censure can be attached to this battery for the loss of’ their guns.

Battery K retired with their 2 remaining Napoleon's, back to Cemetery Hill.  They went to the west side of the Baltimore Pike, falling in with Colonel Orlando Smith’s Brigade.  It was clear however that this Battery was too disabled to be of service and was sent to the rear for the rest of the battle.

Besides losing the 2 cannons, the short 30 minute fight cost Heckman’s Battery, 2 men killed, 11 wounded, 2 missing and 9 horse dead.  Heckman served to the end of the war and died 1 August 1872 in Rocky River, Ohio.

20 June 2013

The March Of The Sixth Corps

Parts of the 6th Corps were involved in the fighting at Gettysburg.  They were placed covering both flanks of the Army, should Confederate General Robert E Lee have seen fit to move any of his troops to the far left or right, as he had done at Chancellorsville and other earlier battles.  The arrival on the field of the 6th Corps’ about 15,000 me in the early evening on 2 July 1863, lifted the morale of the Union troop in the line there.  But the true trial for the men of the 6th came from their 30+ mile march into Gettysburg in less than 18 hours.

Wednesday 1 July 1863 saw the 6th Corps; the largest of the Corps in the Union Army of the Potomac, encamped at Manchester, Maryland.  The 15,697 men settled in for a well deserved rest, and the residences of the town turned out to view the boys in blue.  It was dark when the commanding General of the 6th Corps, John Sedgwick received his first orders from Union General George Gordon Meade.  Sedgwick started his 36 Regiments and 8 Artillery Batteries on the road to Winchester.  The second order from Meade’s Headquarters set the tone for the march, it read, “general battle seems to be impending tomorrow at Gettysburg: that it is of utmost importance that your command should be up. He directs that you stop all trains that impede your progress, or turn them out of the road.  Your march will have to be a forced one to reach the scene of action, where we shall probably be outnumbered without your presence.”

Brigadier General Frank Wheaton’s Third Brigade of the Third Division led off the march at about 9pm.  The column stretched out for 10 miles.  The night was described by Andrew Bennett of the 1st Massachusetts Light Battery as a “typical July night, the sultry air retaining the mid-day heat, there was an uncomfortable closeness.

There was a late night countermarch, taking the Corps along a narrow road.  They formed again on the Baltimore Pike, and the march to Gettysburg continued.  When the 6th Corps reached the Maryland / Pennsylvania state line, the men of the 93rd Pennsylvania felt inspired to un-shuck their colors and sing “Home Sweet Home”.  By 8am the 6th was moving through the town of Littlestown, Pennsylvania, with ten more miles to go.

The long hot night was followed by and even hotter day.  The description of the march given by James Bowen of the 37th Massachusetts, relates the hell of all of those miles.  He wrote, “It was a hot, breathless July day.  The sun poured down with merciless, unbroken heat and dust that rose in great lazy clouds from the highway enveloped man and horse, general and private alike, in its all, embracing mantle of torture.  How exhausted lungs panted for one full breath of pure, cool fresh air!  Panted only to be mocked by the bitter, burning, dust - laden blast that seemed to come from the mouth of a furnace.  What wonder that he sunstroke was omnipresent along the line - that strong men gasped and staggered and fell, while the thick blood burst forth from mouth and nostrils.”  Another soldier in the Corps said, “Men reeled and staggered along as if drunken.  A man would fall 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 comrades” would march on.

Sometime around 1 pm the men of the 6th stopped just long enough to make some coffee, then they pushed on.  A Union Signal Officer was the first to see “Uncle John and the 6th”, he reportedly said, “Glory be.  Hallelujah: The 6th Corps is coming.  The 6th Corps is coming.”  The Corps came up to Rock Creek in the early afternoon.  These men had been marching for 17 or more hours, covering somewhere between 32 and 35 miles.  Most of the men dropped “to the ground and lay like logs.”

After this long day some parts of the 6th Corps were thrown into the fight on the lower part of Little Round Top, on the evening of 2 July 1863.  In the early morning of 3 July 1863 more members helped hold and recapture Culp’s Hill.  Still other men among the Corps held the far left and right flanks of the Union army.  These were strong well trained and dedicated men.  General Alfred Torbert who commanded the First Brigade of the First Division wrote that they “arrived with only 25 men absent and they came up by morning.”

05 April 2013

A Field Surgeon

In a little strip of woods known as Stony Hill there is an important rock.  Now on the Gettysburg Battlefield there are a lot of rocks, but this one is special.  It sits across the road from the monument to the Irish Brigade, in behind another larger rock. What makes this rock important is the brass plaque memorializing the surgeon of the 32nd Massachusetts.  It is the only known monument to a Civil War surgeon on the battlefield.

The 32nd MA was a part of the 2nd Brigade, First Division of the V Corps.  The 2nd Brigade was led by Colonel Jacob Sweitzer, and was made up of the 9th and 32nd Massachusetts, 4th Michigan, and 62nd Pennsylvania.  On 2 July 1863 they were rushed to the support of the III Corps in the Wheatfield.  They deployed on the Stony Hill facing towards the Peach Orchard, with General RĂ©gis  de Trobriand’s Brigade of the III Corps on their left and Colonel William Tilton’s Brigade of the V Corps on their right.  The 32nd was on the left of the Brigade, their position was exposed and Sweitzer gave orders to the Colonel of the 32nd; Colonel Robert Prescott to “change his front to the rear, so as to give him the benefit of elevated ground and cover of the woods’.#  They came under fire almost as soon as they deployed from Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw’s South Carolinians.

Following the 32nd onto the field was their head surgeon, Major Zabdiel Boylston Adams.  Dr Adams was born 25 October 1825 in Boston, MA, a part of one of that city’s oldest families.  He spent two years at Harvard before being “rusticated” to Bowdoin College, where he graduated with honors in 1849.#  [Joshua L Chamberlain was in the class of 1852.]  Adams finished his medical training at Harvard Medical.

He volunteered his services to Massachusetts Governor John Andrew, and was commissioned Assistant Surgeon in the 7th MA in May 1861.  Adams was with the 7th for the Battles of Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Fair Oaks.  On 26 May 1862 he was commissioned Head Surgeon for the 32nd MA.  He was with them at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Burnside’s Mud March.

When the 32nd took the field in the late afternoon of 2 July 1863, Dr Adams went with them.  He set up his field medical aid station behind some large rocks, maybe 50 yards behind the front line.  Adams used a flat rock there as his surgical table# [this rock is in front of and to the right of the one with the plaque].  Staying in place as the men of the V Corps retreated off the Stony Hill, Adams didn’t leave until the last moment.  He reported looking a Confederate Officer right in the eye as he was coming off the field, and of having a shell explode, covering him with dirt.#

Throughout the 3rd, 4th and 5th of July Dr Adams stated that he operated non stop.  Most likely he performed the operations at the Michael Fiscel Farm south of White Run.#  While in the middle of an amputation on the 5th of July, he lost his eyesight.  Adams wrote of it that, “I was in the act of amputating the leg  of a wounded Rebel, had removed the limb and was proceeding to tye up the spouting arteries when my sight completely failed me, fortunately assistance was at hand.”#

Dr Adams would return home following his days at Gettysburg.  His eyesight would return and in early 1864 he would become the Major of the 56th MA, leading his men in Battles at the Wilderness and Petersburg.  He was wounded 3 time, almost losing a leg, and was a POW at Libby Prison.#

Following the war Adams returned to his home in Framingham, MA.  He would found the Framingham Union Hospital and serve as  the medical examiner for the 8th Middlesex District.#  He died 1 May 1902 in Framingham after falling over a dam in Southboro, MA#, he is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge,MA.

As to the rest of the men of the 32nd MA, they were ordered into the Wheatfield twice on 2 July.  The first time in support of the III Corps, the second time in support of the II Corps, First Division troops belonging to Brigadier General John Caldwell.  This time they found themselves along a stonewall on the left side of the field.  They were under heavy fire and were soon engaged in hand to hand combat as Confederate troops surrounded them.  One member of the 32nd; Oscar West, remembered the order to retreat as, “left face every man get out of this the best way he can.”#  The company lost 33.1% of its men in the Wheatfield fight#, they would spend the 4th and 5th burying their dead, before leaving the battlefield that evening to follow Lee’s Army south.