BY: Captain J. C. M. Hamilton
"What the devil-hic-do you want?"
The General rode on. That evening the entire division was drawn up en masse at headquarters to hear in perfect silence and with uncovered heads, out of respect to a brave and chivalrous foe, the order announcing the death of Stonewall Jackson. After the reading of the order our maudlin Captain yelled out lustily: "Three cheers for the death of Jackson!" calling on the regiment to respond. Not a man opened his lips. General Graham and Colonel Berdan, out of respect for the Captain's past life and qualities as a soldier and his many commendable traits, relieved him from command, put him under arrest and requested his resignation.
Captain Isaac Rodgers took command and was commissioned major. He afterwards fell in the great charge at Spottsylvania Courthouse, while leading the regiment on the morning of the 12th of May, 1864, Major Jones was commissioned lieutenant-colonel, although he was still a prisoner. A consolidation of the brigades and the breaking up of the Third Division of the Third Corps(Sickles') made us the Third Brigade of the First Division, commanded by Major-General D. B. Birney. The Command of the brigade was given to Colonel R. De Trobriand, of the 73rd New York volunteers.
On the 11th of June our brigade, composed of the 110th Pennsylvania, 30th and 5th Michigan, 20th Indiana, the 17th Maine, 40th New York, and 2nd United States Sharpshooters, joined Birney at Potomac Creek Bridge. The second day's march found us at Bealton Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Here Lieutenant-colonel D. M. Jones rejoined us, having been exchanged, and took command of the regiment. We hovered between there and Centreville for some time, guarding wagon trains. After camping two days at Centreville orders came for the march and at 3 PM we started, on as beautiful a day as I ever beheld. Before another hour it was raining as I never saw it rain. The road, fields everything were submerged. Hollows in which not a drop of water had flowed were now raging torrents. The Captain of the writer's company wandered too close to the side of the road. The bank gave way, having been undermined, and he went sprawling full length in the stream as it came pouring down the hill. Darkness came on, and such darkness the boys said they could feel it, cut it, handle it. The only possible way to know whether on the road or not was by keeping close to your neighbor in front.
Some time about midnight, the darkness having somewhat lifted, we stopped and stacked arms in the midst of a mud hole two feet deep, a park of artillery having just left the place. We wrapped our heads and bodies as far down as the blankets reached. The gain blankets issued to the soldiers were long and narrow, and if a man would wrap himself lengthwise they would not go all the way around his body. Those portions of the legs uncovered by the blanket were exposed to the rain and mud. The next morning the clouds were gone, and the 110th were packed in a train of army wagons and on the way to Fairfax Station for supplies for the army. Guerillas hovered around in all the woods. The trip took us across the battlefield of Chantilly, where the gallant Kearney fell the 1st of September of the year before. We now belonged to the same division which he had commanded on that fatal day. After our return to the brigade we crossed the Potomac at Edwards' Ferry. We took the towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to Monocacy Aqueduct, near where we went into camp about 1 o'clock at night with about two-thirds of the men, the rest having given out on the march.
"Pack up! Pack up!" came the word again at 4 o'clock in the morning. The orders of the 110th were to report to General Patrick at Edwards' Ferry. A thrill of joy ran through the ranks at the thought of going on provost guard duty under Patrick. At Edwards' Ferry nearly the entire command was kept night and day pushing and helping the mules to pull the wagon trains from the pontoon bridge to the top of the hill, a half mile away. The wagons stuck fast in the mud and could not be moved without assistance. In this way we helped the trains of the entire army of the Potomac up that hill, where the mud was axle deep. After the trains were across, the pontoon bridge had be lifted from the river, placed on the canal and started toward Washington. Early in the morning we started to follow the train as rear guard. At Poolville Colonel Jones received word that Stuart's Calvary had crossed the Potomac between us and Washington, had burned the pontoon bridge that we had shipped before we left the river and was after the wagon train guarded by us. The train was some distance ahead of us, and we, therefore, marched rapidly. That evening we entered Frederick City, Md. It has been maintained on good authority that we marched forty-five miles that day. Here Colonel Jones reported to General Patrick, and received orders to join our brigade at the front. So perished our hopes of relief from hard service.
The next night as we went into camp in a clover field, not far from a village called Woodstock, one of my mess-mates came up with a loaf of bread-a Pennsylvania loaf, as we called it-a roll of butter and about a gallon of fresh milk. Never to my recollection before, or since, have I tasted anything that had been to the same quality of goodness possessed by that bread, butter and milk. From the time our army had commenced passing, a farmer's wife and daughters had been baking and giving out bread to all who called. We passed the headquarters of the army at Tarrytown in the evening of the 30th of June, and joined the brigade in the camp near Emmittsburg that night. The next day, the 1st of July, while we were in line for muster for pay, which occurred the first of each month, we received the news of the battle then in progress at Gettysburg, and of Reynolds' death. Orders came to start for that place immediately. The troops took the fields and every available way of getting along, while the artillery occupied the pike, the only road. After marching about two miles General De Trobriand received orders to return with his brigade to Emmittsburg and guard the pass through South Mountain. The 110th camped that night in the yard of the convent. The gentle sisters seemed a good deal alarmed at the advent of the soldiers and prospect of war at their door. At 2 A.M. De Trobriand received orders to go to Gettysburg, and at 4 we were on the way. Our regiment was detailed as rear guard, and the writer's company, "C," for the guard proper. Our duties compelled us to search each side of the road and drive up all stragglers and skulkers. The road was full of them and we drove them along like a drove of cattle. At the Pennsylvania line, near a red barn, an orderly came with a message to the captain, I.F. Hamilton, afterwards lieutenant colonel of the regiment, to hurry forward will all despatch. Some time afterwards the writer was sent with a squad of men to gather a number of men who were hid in a meadow. We could see dozens of them in the tall grass as we came in sight. They were watching for the rear guard. As soon as they saw us every head disappeared like a lot of turtles in a pond when a stone is pitched at them. After the task was done, we came to the farmhouse, where we found the mother and three daughters. Two of the girls were anxious to take guns and go along with us into the fight, for all knew that a great battle must be fought near them in a very short time. The other daughter could not be whiter in her robe of death than she was that day from fright and anxiety. Near this same house a cavalry battle was fought and General Farnsworth was killed, his body being badly mutilated. I have often wondered what those girls did then.
At this point another peremptory order came that we must press on as fast as possible. We could then hear firing to the left of the road. Had we been twenty minutes later we should have been captured or cut off from the army entirely. When we arrived at the peach orchard our skirmishers were but a few rods to the left of the pike, and falling back. Our line of battle was facing us as we turned off the pike and went down to the little land that divided the orchard to the right.
As we turned the corner an host of the gentry of the country, in all sorts of dress, from the fine silk hat to the roughest homespun, riding all kinds of animals, from the nondescript plug to the most fiery steed, came into the peach orchard. They, no doubt, had come to see a battle, and were anxious to get a view of the rebels. Their number and our appearance at the same time attracted the attention of a rebel battery that had a good range, and soon the shells commenced to drop among them, burst overhead and all around them. In a twinkling the horses were rearing and plunging, hats flying, riders tumbling with eyes sticking out of their heads. Amidst the most unearthly yelling the horses ran in one direction while their riders went another. I do not know whether any of them were killed or not. We were not anxious to wait and see. We joined the rest of the regiment not far from the foot of Little Round Top. We sat down to rest, but immediately the 100th was ordered out to support its skirmish line, composed of the 2nd United States Sharpshooters, who were being heavily pressed. We hastened forward and took position to the right of the Rose House yard. While this occurred Sickles made the advance movement for which he has been censured so much, and for which he has just strong defenders. As soon as the line of battle was in position, the 100th was taken back into that portion of the wheat field separated from the main field of the arm of wood so well known. We passed forward and down the wooded, rocky bluff, now cleared of timber, into a ravine in front and took position on the right of the 5th Michigan. Scarcely had we got into position when we heard the fearful rebel yell. On they came like an avalanche. A drove of cattle, pasturing in the wood, rushed madly down in front of their line. Nearly the entire drove fell at the first fire.
On came the enemy, nearer, but slowly, a step at a time. They had met a living wall, but could not pass it. The fight raged away to the peach orchard and beyond, around to the left in the Devil's Glen. Tobias, my friend, died at my side; Walker, in front; Burley, Core, Herrick and many others were killed. Barto fled to a rode to screen his body and rest his gun - took aim, but did not fire. Lieutenant Copelin went to urge him. A bullet had crashed through his brain. His finger was on the trigger, the eyes glaring defiance at the foe-stone dead. Colonel Jones Fell. Major Rodgers picked up the stalwart forum of his commander; bore him to a place of safety, and returned to take command of the regiment himself. At last the enemy commenced to yield, until all were gone from the in front of the 5th Michigan and 110th Pennsylvania.
De Trobriand says he should at this time have ordered an advance, could he have had support. We had a few moments to breath and look at the scene of desolation. The sun was scorching hot. The tide of battle swept to the rear, to the right, to the left. The Acting Adjutant rushed to the top of the bluff, saw the enemy wrapping up to the left and at the foot of Little Round Top. To the right Graham had been swept from the peach orchard; Humphrey's Division was falling back. Hancock was rushing in to stem the tide on the right. Sykes, of the Fifth Corps; Zook, of the Second; Crawford, Vincent, Weed and part of the Sixth Corps were rushing in on the left. Sickles and Graham had fallen. The adjutant called to Major Rodgers what he had seen. "About face!" cried the Major. "Double quick!" We climbed the bluff, and made our way back through the wheat field across the road. General Zook, who bravely led his men to our rescue, fell where his monument now stands. General De Trobriand complimented the 5th Michigan and 110th Pennsylvania highly for their heroic defense of the ravine.
We took position in a piece of woods in the rear and bivouacked for the night. We had entered the ravine with sixteen officers and 134 enlisted men. Our loss was six officers and 47 men, in all fifty-three, a fraction over one- third of our entire command. Our position that night was near the headquarters of General Birney, in command of corps after Sickles was wounded.
The morning of the 3rd found the corps en masse in the wood in rear of the main line of battle. We knew well a desperate encounter ? for time for development. Speculation was rife among the men as to the point where the blow would fall. To the right the Twelfth Corps had regained their position lost by withdrawing Geary to our support on the left the evening before. The ?ball? opened with three hundred cannon. Cemetery Hill was ablaze, and through the clouds of smoke could be discerned the figures of the cannoniers at work. The shrieking of shells through the air ricocheting on the ground and bursting in all directions, made our high and exposed position an unenviable one, but there were few casualties. When our batteries ceased replying to the enemies, we saw, as if they rose out of the ground, in the distance a line of gray nearly a mile in length. There were batteries and another line of gray. They marched slowly as if on parade. "Fall in!" came the command, and to the right at a double quick we went in plain view of the advancing hosts of the enemy to take position in rear of Hancock's line. The rebel batteries hurled their shells thick and fast into our lines; one burst over our heads, slightly wounding Lieutenant Copelin, and the writer, and another lit in the line of battle in our front. A man covered with dirt ran back into our line. An officer of our regiment caught him, saying: "Hold on my man; are you wounded?" "Yes."
"Where?" said the officer.
"Here, and here." But he could show no marks but dirt. "You had better go back to your command," said the officer, and the man went back.
The force of Longstreet's assault being spent, the sharpshooters massed in our rear were called out and sent forward over the fields to gather all those who had not surrendered or escaped. In a little while General Meade rode down in rear of the front line. Never, except at the surrender at Appomattox, did he receive such hearty cheering. That night De Trobriand's brigade and another relieved those on Hancock's front line. There our men for defenses had thrown together fine rails, stones, anything within reach. During later campaigns they would have been thought poor defenses indeed. The right of the 110th that night rested at the clump of trees and bushes, that still stands, on the line to the right of which Hancock was wounded. A picket line was thrown out in front. All night long came the most agonizing appeals from the plain in front covered with the wounded and dying enemy. "Water! Water! For God's sake give me water!" "Help! Help! Oh, must I die?" and similar appeals were heard all night. July 4th we spent in burying our own and the enemy's dead in our front. The enemy left our front that night. The 5th it rained hard nearly all day, and the next morning the Army of the Potomac left the victorious field of the greatest battle of modern times.
Our corps took the Emmittsburg Pike again, bound, all knew, for "Old Virginia" again, with very slight hopes in the breast of the rank and file, at least, of being able to bag the rebel army before they crossed the Potomac.
As we passed through Frederick City again we saw dangling on a rope from the limb of a tree the body of Richardson, the spy, caught by Buford's men, and by the general's order hanged. As soon as we saw him we recognized the Maine chaplain who had given us such delightful entertainment in the Spring of '62. After the first battle of Winchester, and the pursuit of Jackson had stopped, the 110th had been sent back to guard Winchester. Part of the regiment went along the pike to Bunker Hill to repair the road. On the 5th of May we had received orders to rejoin the division near Harrisonburg. On the march to the front there joined us a man who claimed to be chaplain of a Maine regiment, belonging to Banks' Corps. He was a jolly preacher, full of jokes and songs, patriotic and otherwise. We were delighted with him, gave him the best we had, all the information we knew, and all that our fertile imagination could invent. He had a number of songs printed and distributed among the boys.
Among the number was a song, entitled the "Battle of Winchester," a stanza of which I still remember:
Brave Shields was then our man,
Brave Shields was then our man:
With Northern grit and Irish wit,
Brave Shields was then our man.
We had defeated Jackson badly in that battle and in consequence were inflated with vanity enough to think that Shields' Division were about the only troops in the army that amounted to much. On rejoining our division our jolly good fellow, the preacher, was gone. The next time we saw him he was hanging to the limb of that tree just outside of Frederick City. We camped that night on the West side of South Mountain, a short distance from the battlefield. Some time after midnight something startled the men from their deep sleep. Hundreds sprang to their feet, and, half awake, ran in all directions. The whole field was a scene of confusion, the stampede being caused by the mules of a wagon train parked on the mountain above breaking loose and running down among the sleeping men.
After passing Boonville the roaring cannon announced that our advance had found the enemy at Williamsport ready to give us a warm reception. I always thought General Meade did a wise thing in not attacking the enemy in our front, for they certainly had a very strong position and were well fortified. Had French's Division at Harper's Ferry destroyed their bridge and fortified, instead of coming toward Gettysburg, perhaps Lee would not have fared so well. We crossed the Potomac at Harper's Ferry and went over Louden Heights. In the valley we nearly lived on blackberries, the fields and roadside being black with the berries. Thus ended the 110th Regiment's Gettysburg campaign. We had done a great deal more marching then most of the army; had been in every engagement fought, except those of the cavalry; had lost over one-third either killed or wounded; had done fatigue duty that taxed the men to their utmost at Edwards' Ferry, night and day, and, without any rest, joined the army in time to help fight the greatest battle of the war. Footsore and weary, we lay down to rest in camp at Warrenton.