Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The 48th/150th: Cold Harbor

May turned to June. . .and the slaughter continued.
150 years ago, the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania once more found themselves in the midst of heavy battle-action, on a blood-stained field, this time at an obscure Virginia crossroads northeast of Richmond named Cold Harbor. Already during the past month, since crossing the Rapidan on May 4 to its crossing of the Totopotomoy on May 30, the regiment had lost nearly 200 soldiers.
On that June 3, 1864, at Cold Harbor, another 68 were destined to fall. . .
"On To Richmond"
(Harpers Weekly)
Long after the war, Sergeants Alexander Reid and  William Wells, respectively of Companies G & F remembered well the carnage of Cold Harbor:
        Reid: "Skirmishing and artillery firing took place daily, and on the 3rd of June we were very actively engaged at Shady Grove Church. It rained a little the night before, and after a breakfast of coffee and hardtack we dried our blankets at the fire, and at seven o'clock in the morning had formed in line of battle, Company E being deployed as skirmishers to the front. The ground over which we had to advance was a clear field, and at once we were ordered to advance, guide centre, the skirmishers in our front. The crossed the gully which intervened between us and the enemy; we followed closely after; and, as the skirmishers arose on the high ground again, they met those of the enemy, drove them back on their entrenched line of battle and took a few prisoners out of an old log house, who had not had time to get away. Before we got into action we could Winlack's heroes, the skirmishers dropping fast from the destructive fire of the enemy. Company E falling back into line, we were ordered to halt and commence firing, the enemy being about eighty yards to our front, behind a line of breastworks, with a battery. Things soon became lively for all hands.
        "In addition to the heavy infantry firing from the enemy, we were subjected to a galling fire of grape and canister. We threw up a line of breastworks in a very short time, and occupied them the rest of the day. The following morning, June 4th, Companies G and F were ordered by Colonel Pleasants to the enemy's line, which, on reaching, we found evacuated, and saw nothing but some new-made graves, many dead battery horses and a limber chest, left by the enemy. We advanced as skirmishers for a mile beyond, and found nothing but one lonesome straggler in a farm house, and then returned to the regiment."
         Wells: "We had fallen back from Armstrong's Farm, where Major Gilmour had been wounded on May 31st, in accordance with Grant's inevitable movement, 'from right to left,' and on June 2nd, stacked arms in a large open field, near a fine country mansion, standing back some distance from a well-defined country road. Batteries, baggage wagons and ambulances were parked back of, and around, the mansion, while General Officers, probably Grant and Meade, and their staffs, unmounted, stood around. If I remember rightly, a violent storm, accompanied by much lightning and thunder, burst upon us early in the afternoon. In the midst of this, a heavy discharge of shot and shell poured into us from the woods beyond the road, showing that the enemy had followed our line of march, and had opened upon us with the intention of surprising and stampeding the entire combination, troops, batteries, ambulances, wagons, etc., but they were soon undeceived, for, as if by magic, everything became active. The horses had not been detached from the guns, wagons, nor ambulances; therefore, it was the work of a few moments for the latter to move to the rear, and the former to the front. Mounted officers flew over the field from right to left, muskets were unstacked, and the troops were moved rapidly to the front: a rapid transformation from peace to horrid war, as the entire surroundings evidently indicated as much surprise to general officers as to the men. It seemed but a few moments before we were lying along the road, some firing and others, with the small intrenching shovels, bayonets, tincups, anything that could remove dirt, throwing up intrenchments, for the troops had learned their value by sad experience, while our batteries in the rear literally filled the woods with bursting shells. The enemy evidently failed in their object, for they soon gave up their attack, but not before we had a strong work erected. The next day, the 3rd, the entire line was advanced, as the enemy had fallen back to a strong line of works erected during the night. . . .
      ". . . .in no other engagement of the 48th did they expend more ammunition than in this battle; besides, our line was so close to that of the enemy's battery that we were subjected to the bursting of our own shells; so much so, that our batteries were compelled to move their position further to the right, where the fire enfiladed the enemy guns but one had been destroyed, and, to finish the job, a gun was drawn by hand around the right of the 48th and soon dismounted this one. With nightfall the battle ceased. In one company of the 45th Pennsylvania, on our left, all the officers had fallen, a corporal alone being left in command. The 48th in this fight was on the extreme right of the army. Advancing on the 4th, thirty-nine dead horses and the dismounted battery, together with several hundred small arms, were found behind the rebel works; while the dead, wounded and dying, lay thick around. The enemy had fled during the night, evidently in haste, though they had tried to remove their disabled guns by hand. To increase the efficiency of their works, they had placed many of their dead on top, the commander of the battery among them. Our fire must have been very effective, for the trees in the woods behind them showed our firing to have been very low."

Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW
In a letter to editors of Miners' Journal, Colonel Henry Pleasants recorded that, once more, the regiment had been engaged in a heavy fight and that they had suffered severely. He also boasted however, with a bit of exaggeration, that the Confederates to their front had retreated and, "judging from the number of dead and quantity of arms left behind on the field, their loss in our immediate front must have been over one thousand. We exploded one of their caissons; another was left behind, and over thirty artillery horses lie dead in front of the 48th."

In his report, Pleasants also included a list of the killed and wounded, the names of those who fell 150 years ago. . . from June 1-June 3, 1864:

Killed/Mortally Wounded: (16)

*George Betz: Company A (Died June 7, 1864)
*David Williams: Company E
*Sgt. Thomas Tosh: Company E (Died July 7, 1864)
*Daniel Reedy: Company E (Died July 6, 1864)
*James Bradley: Company F
*Edward Pugh: Company F
*William Smith: Company F
*Corporal Alexander Govan: Company G
*James Allison: Company G
*Joseph Alexander: Company H
*John Clark: Company I (Died June 8, 1864)
*William J. Price: Company I
*Benjamin B. Kershner: Company I
*Jeremiah Willouer: Company I (Died June 22, 1864)
*George Dresh: Company I
*Jacob Lauby: Company K

Wounded: (51)  

*William Koch: Company A
*John Hegg: Company A
*Simon Snyder: Company A
*Elias Lins: Company A
*Corp. Monroe Heckman: Company A
*James D. Ash: Company A
*Samuel Eckroth: Company A
*Isreal Britton: Company A
*Sgt. Samuel Strauch: Company B
*Sgt. Robert Campbell: Company B
*1st Lt. Charles Loeser: Company C
*2nd Lt. William Clark: Company C
*Patrick Farrell: Company C
*John Dolan: Company C
*Thomas Boyle: Company C
*Daniel Boyer: Company E
*John Clemens: Company E
*Robert Beverage: Company E
*Patrick Brennan: Company E
*Charles Quinn: Company E
*Albert Cummings: Company E
*Sgt. James Easton: Company F
*Cpl. Robert D. Paden: Company F
*George H. Jones: Company F
*Jacob Kuhns: Company F
*William E. Duffy: Company F
*Cyrus Haines: Company F
*James Hoult: Company F
*Sgt. Charles F. Kuentzler: Company G
*Cpl. John Hatton: Company G
*William Martin: Company G
*John C. Benedict: Company H
*Sgt. Henry Bernsteel: Company H
*Cpl. Henry C. Matthews: Company H
*Cpl. William A. Lloyd: Company H
*Joseph Hayes: Company H
*Anthony O'Donnell: Company H
*James Welsh: Company H
*William Davis: Company H
*Edward Metz: Company H
*1st Sgt. Oliver A.J. Davis: Company I
*Sgt. Jacob Ongstadt: Company I
*Cpl. E.C. Kehl: Company I
*Peter Keller: Company I
*William Owens: Company I
*John H. Cooper: Company I
*William Kramer: Company I
*H.W. Haas: Company K
*Milton Nagle: Company K
*William G. Keiser: Company K
*Thomas Hudson: Company K

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