Union General Jesse Smith in Washington Township – 1863

jessesmith

Jesse Smith, Findagrave website

ADJUTANT-GENERAL, STATE OF NEW YORK. –
No. 413. Report of Brig. General Jesse C. Smith, commanding, Eleventh Brigade, New York State National Guard, of operations June 16-July 19.

HDQRS. 11th Brig., NEW YORK STATE NATIONAL GUARD, Brooklyn, December 28, 1863.

COLONEL: On the morning of the 16th of June last, at about 9 o’clock, I received a telegraphic order from Governor Seymour, dates June 15, ordering all the regiments in my command to be ready to go to Philadelphia at once on short service. On the 18th, the Twenty-thirds Regiment, Colonel William Everdell, jr., 518 strong ; on the 19th the Fifty-sixth Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel J. Q. Adams, 409 strong, and on the 22d, the Fifty-second regiment, Colonel M. W. Cole, with 325 men, left for Harrisburg, Pa. The promptness, with which regiments responded to the call of the Commander-in-Chief was highly commendable.

On the 22nd of June, I received an order from Major-General [Harmanus B.] Duryea, commanding that division, that the Twenty-third, Forty-seventh, Fifty-second and Fifty-sixth regiments and such other regiments of the Second Division as should thereafter be designed for that purpose, were constituted a brigade under my command during the term of duty, in obedience to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. On the afternoon, of the 24th of June, I departed for Harrisburg, Pa., with Major Benjamin Haskell, assistant adjutant-general (chief of staff); Captain John Berry, aide-de-camp; Captain Lebbeus Chapman, jr., brigade quartermaster ; Captain Zachariah Voorhies, assistant commissary of subsistence, on my staff .

On the morning of the 25th of June, I reported to Major-General Couch, at Harrisburg, and afterward, on the same morning crossed the Susquehanna River, and reported to Brigadier-General Hall, then in command of Fort Washington, a newly erected fort of earthworks on the high ground directly opposite Harrisburg. Three of my regiments, the Twenty-third, Fifty-second, and the Fifty-sixth, were then located in and around the fort, having arrived there at different times from the 19th to the 23rd of June. The Forty-seventh Regiment was ordered to Washington, D. C., and did duty in Virginia. On my arrival to take charge of the three regiments of my command, a great state of excitement existed at Harrisburg and through the Cumberland Valley, in consequence of the near approach of General Lee’s army, and of the daily reports that he was marching on Harrisburg, by way of Carlisle, with a large force. The Eight and Seventy-first Regiment New York State National Guard, and one regiment of Pennsylvania militia, having been sent forward, under command of General Knipe, by the Cumberland Vallet Railroad to Shippensburg, and having fallen back from point to point as they were driven in by the rebels, presented the appearance of an advance guard of a large force, delayed the rebels a week or more in their advance, and enabled many other regiments to arrive at Harrisburg, and to throw up to quite formidable earthworks, to erect barricades across the roads through the mountain gaps, and to dig rifle-pits and make other defensive preparations . My hospital surgeon, Major E. Maloe, joined me here, and his services were very valuable at the hospital established near the fort. The entire force was constantly employed night and day, as the regiments arrived, in erecting these earthworks, barricades, &c., and in picket duty, and were saved from an attack from Lee’s army by the delay in its advance, occasioned by the militia force and demonstration, until the morning of the 30th of June. After having driven in our outer line of pickets, the rebels fell back under orders, as appears by General Lee’s report, to meet the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg.

On the 1st of July, the Twenty-second and Thirty-seventh New York State National Guard, with two regiments of Pennsylvania militia, and a battery of citizens artillery from Philadelphia entered Carlisle, 18 miles from Harrisburg, down the Cumberland Valley, and were that night shelled by Stuart’s cavalry, who burned the Carlisle barracks and other buildings. The militia stood their ground nobly, and the artillery is said to have done good service in the defense of the place. On the afternoon of the 1st of July, my three regiments, with the Eight, Eleventh, and Seventy-first Regiments New York State National Guard, and Miller’s light battery, attacked temporarily to the Eight Regiment National Guard, marched out from the fort opposite Harrisburg on the road toward Carlisle, the whole under the command of General Knipe, and went into camp, or rather into a field 7 miles from the fort, at about 9 o’clock in the evening. As we went into quartermaster, heavy cannonading was heard in the direction of Carlisle, and the light of the burning barracks was distinctly visible on the sky. This was as anxious night to our command, as the supposition was that Ewell’s corps of Lee’s army had returned to Carlisle, and attacked our militia there in force, and would capture them, and be down upon us the next morning. We had no intimation that on that day there had been a battle of Gettysburg.

At 2 o; clock the next morning, a staff officer came in from General Couch, with orders to get the baggage train back on the road to Harrisburg, and to have the men in readiness to march at a moment’s notice. At a 3 a. m. another officer came from General Couch, with peremptory orders to march back at once to the fort. Three retreat was then commenced, and continued for about 3 miles. We were then halted in the road, and remained there until near sundown, when we bivouacked on the bank of a beautiful stream for the night, and the next day (July 3) marched to Carlisle, about 15miles. The weather was very warm, the men marched with their knapsacks packed, their blankets rolled, their haversacks supplied with two days ‘ ration, and their cartridge-boxes with 40 rounds. The suffered greatly from this first march, and were compelled to leave their knapsacks and many other things that were afterward much needed.

The next morning (July 4), our column, having been united to the brigades of General Ewen and Crooke, and a bridge of Pennsylvania militia, under command of Colonel Brisbane, with Landis’ battery of artillery from Philadelphia, which was now attached to our division, in command of General Knipe -in all about fifteenth regiments of infantry, one battery, and one light battery of artillery -moved out on the Mount holly road, south from Carlisle, and away from all railroad communication. About 12 o’clock it commenced to rain, and continued through the afternoon and night. The road led through the South Mountain, and was very narrow and muddy. The men marched through mud and water, oftentimes kneedeep. The Twenty-third Regiment, having had some of its men nearly drowned while fording a stream, had to stop for the night. The men of the other regiments struggled and straggled through, but when we halted for the night, at 9 o’clock, scarcely a “corporal’s guard” was present.

The next morning (the 5t of July), without anything to eat, and without waiting for the command to come up, we were marched over the mountains about 5 miles, and encamped; here we gathered some bread and other eatables from the neighborhood.

The next day (the 6th of July) was another rainy day, and night founds us on the road from Gettysburg to Chambersburg, on which the day before the rebels had retreated, without rations, the men sleeping on the west ground in an orchard; General Knipe and myself and our staffs without anything to eat excepting a little prepared coffee and a peace of bread. Captain Cipperly, additional aide-de-camp, at this time reported to me for duty.

The following night, the men having encamped in a piece of wood, found themselves immersed in water in the morning. Our supplies, which were to have come forward, had gone by mistake to Gettysburg. My quartermaster was directed to gather up all loose horses and wagons, and was then sent to Shippensburg from supplies. These did not reach us until after we had arrived at Waynesborough, on the 10th of July. We here (Waynesborough) connected with the Army of the Potomac, and had two or three days of rest. From this place, on the 12th and 13th, we marched to within 1 or 2 miles of Boonsborough, Md. Here w encamped again in the rain, and with scant rations. The next day we advanced on the National road toward Hagerstown, about 2 miles, and as we marched we heard the firing on the Potomac, as Kilpatrick engaged the rebels while crossing. A general engagement was expected, and our force stood in line of battle on the field where Kilpatrick had fought on the Friday proceeding, in readiness, if called upon as a reserve force to the Army of the Potomac, then in front of us.

In the afternoon, we were informed that General Lee had recrossed the Potomac River with his whole army. The next morning we were dismissed by General W. F. Smith, and my command, including the Eight and Seventy-first Regiments with Generals Ewen’s and Crooke’s, were placed in command of General Ewen, and directed to march to Frederick, where we would embark for home.

The march to Frederick, on the 15 of the July, was 18 miles over the South Mountain, and without rations. The men, supposing that Frederick was the termination of their day’s march, came in to that town in good order ; but when, after dark, the command was ordered by the commanding officer to march to the railroad junction, 3 or 4 miles farther, they became disheartened, and, having no rations served them since the day before, they suffered much from hunger and fatigue, and as they went into camp at 9 o’clock at night, one man of the Twenty-eight Regiment actually died from exhaustion – an unnecessary hardship, because the troops were on the homeward march, and did not obtain transportation for the next twenty-four hours . The following night the troops were embarked, in a most severe rain-storm, on board of cars for Baltimore, Md., some of the men in open cars, exposed to the storm. The entire next day was spent in reaching Baltimore, and the whole of the night of the 17th and of the of the 18th were spent in getting to Harrisburg, and many of the men in open cars, exposed to the rain an night air.

On Sunday, the 19th of July we came from, Harrisburg, and arrived in New York in the afternoon. The command in fifteen days were marched over 100 miles, most of the time in the rain, without proper clothing or shoes for many of the men, with scarcely half the ordinary rations of soldiers, and those irregularly supplied . With little or no covering at night, not even blankets or shelter tents, it is not to be wondered at that many have suffered and that others have died from sickness contracted in this short campaign; and when the facts shall be fully collected and properly detailed, I am sure that the General Government will be satisfied that if ” little or no reliance can be placed upon the paid militia ” (General Halleck’s report), it has at least contributed something toward the safety of the capital of the State of Pennsylvania, and of the great railroads that cross the Susquehanna River at or near that place.

The Sixty-eight Regiment New York State National Guard, from Chautauqua County, were with us at the front, and did yeomen’s service with axes in leveling a forest around, and marched with us the entire route. There was also another column, consisting of Pennsylvania Militia, under the command of General Dana, that went down the Cumberland Valley Railroad after it was reconstructed in part, and joined the Army of the Potomac near Hagerstown. The officers under my command having been required to make a report of their several regiments directly to the Commander-in-Chief, have, as I am informed, made such report.

The Fifty-second and Fifty-sixth having furnished to me copies, which have been printed, I annex. The Twenty-third and Forty-seventh Regiments have not made to me any reports. Too much praise cannot be given to the officers and men of the several regiments of my brigade for the promptness with which they responded to the call of the Commander-in-Chief, and for their endurance of fatigue in their duty, of throwing up embankments, felling forests, and marching through such and extent of country, so poorly as they were supplied with clothing, with camp equipments, and with rations. By the activity and energy of the different members of my staff, the several regiments in our column of march were much assisted, and their wants and suffering greatly alleviated.

Respectfully, yours,

JESSE C. SMITH,

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