Report of General Joseph Knipe At Waynesboro, Encamped at Washington Township

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Union General Joseph Knipe

HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF THE SUSQUEHANNA, Waynesborough, July 11, 1863.

 

The brigadier-general commanding calls the attention of the command to the certainty of an early with the enemy, and it is strictly enjoined upon brigade, regimental, and company commanders to attend at once to the condition of the arms and ammunition of the men under them. No time is to be lost in putting the arms in perfect order, and seeing that the boxes are filled with cartridges. The rations on hand must be cooked and out in haversacks, so that no detention will ensue when the order to march is given, and also that the men may not suffer for food when it may be impossible for the supply trains to reach them. By order of Brig. General W. F. Smith, commanding First Division:

ALEXANDER FARNHAM, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

Promulgated by order of Brigadier-General Knipe:

ROBERT MUNCH, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General .

Also the following.

Preparations were immediately made to carry out the above orders. Rations were procured and cooked under the directions of Quartermaster John C. Mullett, and orders were received to form in line at 3 p. m. of the 11th instant. Here, at this time, we joined you brigade for the first time, having been separated, as before mentioned, during our stay at Waynesborough, and marched down the hill on to the road; halted for the other regiments in our brigade to come into line, where we had to wait one full hour before they came into line, a delay, I am happy to say, which the gallant Sixty-eight regiment never caused any officer or brigade while in the service, being always prompt . Preparations being completed, orders were given,

“Battalion, right face; forward march!” and we were off for “Dixie, ” our march being on the direct road to Hagerstown from Waynesborough . Outmarch was with quick step for the first 4 miles. When we arrived at the Little Antietam – a river, from the heavy rains which had fallen, had become much swollen, and was very rough and rapid, the bridge over which had been destroyed by Lee’s army, on their retreat after the Gettysburg fight, only three days before, which we had to ford -we had now advanced some 2 miles across the line into Maryland, After fording and getting everything across, our march was slow and cautious, being in close proximity with the rebel pickets, and every moment expecting an engagement . Marching slowly, the night very dark, mud deep, we came to a halt in an open field about 10 o’clock, where the division bivouacked for the remainder of the night having sent out pickets and taken every precaution against a surprise . Before arriving where we bivouacked, my sickness became so severe that I was obliged to turn over my command to Lieutenant-Colonel Swift, and stopped, accompanied by Surgeon-

22nd New York State National Guard in Washington Township, July 1863

History of the Twenty-Second Regiment of National Guard of the State of New York, George Wood Wingate, 1895, New York, NY. Pg. 293-301.

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George Wood Wingate

 

JOINING THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.

After the regiment had eaten a light breakfast of hard-tack, the rain ceased and the skies cleared up. Leaving Altodale ]Mont Alto], Wednesday, July 8, the division followed the course of the Little Antietam, in a southwesterly direction, to Waynesborough, most of the time wading in mud over their ankles, and sometimes to their knees, and went into camp in some woods on the Waynesborough and Hagerstown pike, about two miles beyond, having marched about eleven miles. Here it became a part of the Third Brigade, Second Division of the Sixth Army Corps, whose white cross, artistically carved out of cracker, was at once adopted by a number of the regiment. In the subsequent maneuvers it became a part of the Army of the Potomac.

Waynesborough was a pleasant little place, with many pretty and patriotic girls, the prettiest the men had seen since leaving Carlisle. The town, however, had been so cleaned out by the enemy that one could not even buy a tin cup. The foraging parties of the regiment scoured the country both in and outside the pickets with untiring zeal, but the results were meagre enough. During the three days they remained there, the Twenty-second had almost nothing to eat the first day and but a bare sufficiency afterward. Fortunately, there was nothing to hinder their sleeping, washing the mud out of their clothes (which they had to do piecemeal, having no others), and watching them while they dried. The Confederates were nearby, and in strong force, their pickets being but two miles distant; and officers and men were required, by special orders, to be always on the alert. No passes whatever were permitted to be issued.

Gen. Meade, in his report of the battle of Gettysburg, makes the following allusion to the arrival of the brigade, though he erroneously makes Boonesborough, instead of Waynesborough, the place where the division first joined him: It is my duty as well as my pleasure to call attention to the earnest efforts at co-operation on the part of Maj.-Gen. D. N. Couch, commanding the Department of the Susquehanna, and particularly to his advance of 4,000 men under Brig.-Gen. W. F. Smith, who joined me at Boonesborough just prior to the withdrawal of the Confederate Army.

The following report of his arrival was made by Gen. Smith to Gen. Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General of the Army of the Potomac:

Waynesborough, July 8, 1863. My command arrived here to-day, and finding Gen. Neill here have encamped so as to render him all possible assistance till definite instructions are sent to me. My command is an incoherent mass, and, if it is to join the Army of the Potomac, I would suggest that the brigades, five in number, be attached to old divisions, and thus disperse the greenness. They cannot be manoeuvred, and, as a command, it is quite helpless, excepting in the kind of duty I have kept them on in the mountains. I have here about 4,000 men, and, I suppose, 2,000 have straggled away since I left Carlisle.* * Mainly from illness, poor food and worn-out shoes.

Gen. Knipe is the only one I have with me who is at all serviceable, and he is anxious to get back to his own brigade in the Twelfth Corps. I am utterly powerless, without aid, and in the short time allotted to infuse any discipline into these troops, and, for the reasons given above, make the suggestion as being for the best interest of the service.

This suggestion of Gen. Smith was a wise one, at least, as far as the New York troops were concerned. The trouble with them was the inexperience of their brigade commanders and the want of confidence the men felt in them. If mixed with the veterans of the Potomac, and put under experienced officers, their efficiency would have been doubled.

The following official communications show the situation at this time.

Brig.-Gen. Thomas H. Neill to Gen. Williams: Headquarters Light Division Army Of The Potomac, July 9, 1863.

“Baldy” (W. F.) Smith is here with his command. Col. Gregg, with a brigade of cavalry, who leaves for Boonesborough, will send this. A scout brings information that Lee has one corps intrenched on the Williamsport pike from Hagerstown, another on the Boonesborough pike, and Early is said to be up toward Middlebury between Newcastle and Hagerstown.

The news of the capture of Vicksburg is confirmed. Have sent a cavalry reconnaissance toward Hagerstown this morning. It has not returned.

Since writing the above, have felt the enemy’s pickets, with a regiment of cavalry, at a bridge four or five miles from Hagerstown. They are stubborn. We drove them away, but they returned as we retired.

Gen. Smith is in with his mixed command. Am delighted to have the benefit of his counsel and advice. We are all right, but watch Early’s division on my right toward Middlebury.

Asst. Adjt.-Gen. Williams to Gen. Smith: Headquarters Army Of The Potomac, July 9, 1863.

The army will occupy the line from Boonesborough to Rohrersville to-day. The army (men and animals) is very much exhausted, and cannot advance as rapidly as desired. Although the information respecting the position of the enemy is not very definite, yet he is believed not to have crossed any large part of it over the Potomac, but is concentrating it between Hagerstown and Williamsport. Under these circumstances, definite instructions cannot be sent to you. You will look to the security of your command; join this army when you can do so with security, unless the operations of Gen. Couch require you to unite with him. Definite instructions will be sent you as soon as practicable. Although highly desirable that Gen. Neill should join his corps, yet he must be governed by your instructions.

Gen. Smith to Gen. Couch: Waynesborough, July 9, 1863.

I am here awaiting orders from you or Gen. Meade, and am much in want of shoes, and will be happy to ride over and see you when you arrive at Shippensburg.

Gen. Smith to Gen. Williams:

Waynesborough, July 10, 1863. I had proposed to move the command to join the Army of the Potomac to-morrow morning, but, in consequence of your dispatch, shall await orders, and do my best here. The cavalry made a scout to-day, and found the rebels strongly posted on the right bank of the Antietam, below Leitersburg. I fear, if I am kept here to make a long march, I shall not be able to get into the fight.

On July 9 (Thursday), the division was greatly fatigued and very hungry. The commissary reported: We shall have no rations to-day, as the Government train from Harrisburg has not been able to reach here, roads so bad and bridges washed away. A little bread was obtained and a slice issued to each man.

On July 10, the rations had not arrived, but some food was obtained at the houses. The men bathed in Antietam Creek and found it a great relief as some of them had not had their clothes off for over two weeks. That night the Twenty-second had dress parade, the first since leaving camp at Harrisburg.

The following general order was read in front of each regiment of the brigade: Headquarters First Division, Dept. Of The Susquehanna, Waynesborough, July 11, 1863.

The brigadier-general commanding calls the attention of the command to the certainty of an early engagement with the enemy, and it is strictly enjoined upon brigade, regimental and company commanders to attend at once to the condition of the arms and ammunition of the men under them. No time is to be lost in putting the arms in perfect order and seeing that the boxes are filled with cartridges. The rations on hand must be cooked and put in haversacks, so that no detention will ensue when the order to march is given; and also that the men may not suffer for food when it is impossible for the supply trains to reach them. By order of Brig.-gen. W. F. Smith.

This was very necessary. The incessant rains, the fording of streams and sleeping on the wet ground had kept the men’s guns (muzzle-loaders) in horrible condition. They had nothing with which to draw the charges.

Once the regiment formed in line to fire a volley and not twenty rifles were discharged at the command, and fully ten minutes were spent before the greater part of the wet loads could be fired.

The gray uniforms of a number of the regiments of the division were not approved of by the veterans of the Army of the Potomac, and those wearing them were advised that their health would be improved by their exchanging them for blue blouses before they got into action, as there was great danger that they might get fired on from the rear as well as from the front.

MARCHING THROUGH MARYLAND.

Friday, July 10, the Twenty-third and Seventy-first went out two or three miles on the Greencastle pike, where they remained for the day. During the afternoon of Saturday, July 11, distant cannonading was heard, caused by Gen. Meade’s feeling the enemy at Williamsport. Reports were current throughout the division of another battle in which Lee had been worsted, and the excitement was great, although such matters had got to be such an old story that the feeling was less than would be supposed. About dusk, on the division marched for Maryland in high spirits. On the way, the Twenty-second marched and counter-marched a good deal, losing three hours’ time and its temper, in consequence of Gen. Ewen having forgotten that in going through a strange country he could not get on well without providing himself with a guide.

Consequently, it was not until after dark that it reached the Antietam, at Scotland’s Bridge, although this was only about two miles out. The bridge had been burned, and was still smoking, and the men were ordered to ford the stream. As no one knew the depth, the men took off their trousers, or rolled them up to their hips, only to find the water not two feet deep.

Once across, a pleasant moonlight march over a first-rate road soon brought the column to the border; and when the officers announced, “That house marks the line, boys!” it was with no small gratification that the men shook off the dust from their feet, singing, with great impressment, the Union version of ” Maryland my Maryland,” together with a number of parodies not very complimentary to the ” men we left behind us.” It appears from the records that some objection was anticipated on the part of a portion of the troops to their being sent out of Pennsylvania. Nothing of the kind ever existed in the New York regiments, and they heard of nothing’ of it among their Pennsylvania associates.