[From the Richmond Dispatch, April 5, 1896]
JENKINS' BRIGADE IN THE GETTYSBURG
Extracts from the Diary of Lieutenant Hermann Schuricht,
of the Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry.
Idlewild (near) Cobham, Va., April 1, 1896.
To the Editor of the Dispatch:
I see from various articles in the Richmond papers that the management of the cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign is being criticized; and, having participated in this campaign as an officer in General Jenkins' Cavalry Brigade, and being in possession of a "diary," in the German language, kept by me during those memorable days, I may be able to give some additional evidence assisting to establish the historical truth. To this end I take the liberty of sending you a translation from my "Diary," pertaining to the movements of the cavalry from June 15, 1863 (the day we crossed the Potomac into Maryland and Pennsylvania), to July 14th (the day we recrossed the river to the Virginia side).
First Lieutenant of Company D, 14th Virginia Cavalry.
From Lieutenant Schuricht's Diary.
June 15, 1863.--Fatigued, but hopeful, and encouraged by the results of our glorious battle of yesterday, at Martinsburg, Virginia, we were called by the sound of the bugle to mount horses. As early as 2 o'clock in the morning we advanced towards the Potomac. We reconnoitered first to "Dam No. 5," and, returning to the road to Williamsport, Maryland, we rapidly moved to the river. Fording the Potomac, we took possession of Williamsport, and were received very kindly by the inhabitants. Tables, with plenty of milk, bread, and meat, had been spread in the street, and we took a hasty breakfast. Soon after this we rode towards Hagerstown, Maryland, where we arrived at noon, and were enthusiastically welcomed by the ladies. They made us presents of flowers, and the children shouted, "Hurrah for Jeff. Davis!" The ladies entreated us not to advance into Pennsylvania, where we would be attacked by superior forces. However, we sped on, and when we came in sight of Greencastle, Pennsylvania, General Jenkins divided his brigade in two forces. My company belonged to the troops forming the right wing, and pistols and muskets in hand, traversing ditches and fences, we charged and took the town. The Federal cavalry escaped, and only one lieutenant was captured. After destroying the railroad depot, and cutting the telegraph wires, the brigade took up its advance to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. No other Confederate cavalry force seems to co-operate with our brigade, numbering about 3,200 officers and men. Our vanguard had several skirmishes with the retreating enemy. On the road we found several partly burned wagons, which they had destroyed; and at 11 o'clock at night, we entered the city of Chambersburg, and on its eastern outskirts we went into camp.
June 16th.--Early in the morning our pickets were attacked by the Federals, but the enemy was repulsed, and we made some prisoners. A railroad bridge and telegraph connections were destroyed by our men. General Jenkins ordered the storekeepers to open their establishments, and we purchased what we needed, paying in Confederate money. The inhabitants had to provide rations for the troops and we fared very well, but their feelings toward us were very adverse. However, a number of them, belonging to the peace-party, treated us kindly, especially were the Germans in favor of peace. Many inhabitants had fled in haste from the city, but owing to the suddenness of our approach, clothes and household utensils were left scattered in the streets. I was ordered, with part of my company, to move this unprotected property safely into the houses of its probable owners. At 9 o'clock at night General Jenkins had his brigade alarmed, to see how soon the troops would be in readiness for action, and was much pleased with the results.
June 17th.--Early in the morning the citizens were ordered by the general to give up all weapons, and we received about 500 guns of all sorts, sabres, pistols, etc. The useful arms were loaded on wagons and the others were destroyed. About 11 o'clock news reached headquarters of the advance of a strong Yankee force, and consequently we evacuated the city and fell back upon Hagerstown, Md.
June 18th.--My company on picket, and I am officer of the day. Nothing of the enemy.
June 19th.--The company was ordered to Waynesborough, Pa., to capture horses and cattle in the neighborhood for our army. A powerful thunder-storm surprised us at night, and we took refuge on a large farm. The proprietor was obliged to furnish us with rations for ourselves and our horses.
June 20th.--We succeeded in capturing a number of horses and some cattle. At noon we came to
the farm of an old Pennsylvania German. He was scared to death at catching sight of us, and
shouted "O mein Gott, die rebels!" I soon reassured him, telling him that no harm should result to
him if he furnished us with a dinner and rations for our horses, and we were well cared for. A
Federal cavalry regiment passed in sight of the place, fortunately not discovering our presence,
and I concluded to march with my company to Lesterburg, Md., where the citizens furnished us
with supper. We camped for the night in an open field, midway between Lesterburg and
A DANGEROUS SECTION.
June 21st and 22nd.--The 14th Virginia Cavalry Regiment readvanced towards Chambersburg, Pa., but Co. D, in charge of Captain Moorman and Major Bryan, of Rodes' Division, was detailed to proceed to the South Mountain to capture horses, of which about 2,000 had been taken there by farmers and industrial establishments to hiding places. We again passed through Lesterburg and then entered the mountain region. It proved to be a very dangerous section for cavalry movements. At 11 o'clock at night we came to Use's Iron-Works. Mr. Use, upon demand, furnished provisions, but as we discovered on the following days, secretly informed the farmers and troops of our approach.
June 23d.--At dawn we moved on by roads to Caledonia Iron Works, catching only twenty-six horses and twenty-two mules, the great bulk having been moved on upon Mr. Use's messages of warning. We obliged the overseer of the place to provide us with rations, and about 2 o'clock in the afternoon we advanced with forty of our men in pursuit of the Yankee guard and the horses in the direction of Gettysburg. About two miles beyond Caledonia Iron Works we discovered the road to be blockaded, just where it entered into dense woods. Major Bryan called the officers together for consultation, and an attack was resolved upon. I was ordered with nine men to approach the blockaded place and to clear it. I directed four men to approach the barricade to the right of the road, where they were protected by bushes, while I took the open field to the left with the others. There were about twenty-five men awaiting us, lying in ambush, but they disappeared in a hurry as we drew near. We quickly removed the obstructions, and as soon as the road was clear Captain Moorman charged, with twenty-five men, in pursuit of the Yankees. I followed him with my squad as soon as our horses were brought up. The Federal infantry took refuge behind a company of Union cavalry hiding in the woods, and the troopers turned their horses' heads when we rushed upon them. We were frequently fired upon in our pursuit, and one private, Amick, was mortally wounded. Major Bryan, recognizing the dangers of further advance, ordered us to break off the pursuit, and we slowly returned to the Caledonia Iron Works. Having passed the buildings we were again fired upon from ambush. This section of Pennsylvania seems to be full of "bushwhackers." At Greenwood we met our rear-guard, in charge of the captured horses, and required the citizens to feed men and animals. During the night we marched by way of Funkstown to Greencastle. Twice we came very close to strong cavalry detachments of the enemy, but escaped their attention.
June 24th.--We rejoined the regiment at Chambersburg.
June 25th.--Captain Moorman reported sick, I took command of the company, and was ordered to Shippensburg. We camped several miles beyond this place, in the direction of Carlisle. We had several encounters with the enemy.
June 27th.--The entire brigade moved on to Carlisle, and after some skirmishing with Pennsylvania militia on horse we passed the obstructions and fortifications, and occupied the city at 10 o'clock. About 3 o'clock General Ewell's Corps arrived. We advanced towards Mechanicsburg, Pa., and camped during the night about five miles distant from the town. Our pickets were attacked several times.
June 28th.--After some skirmishing with the Federal cavalry we occupied Mechanicsburg, and upon requisition were treated by the citizens to a delicious dinner. Probably the frightened people gave up to us the meals prepared for their own table. Thus, greatly gratified and reinvigorated, we advanced towards the Susquehanna river, and about four miles from Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, we took position on a dominating hill. Jackson's Battery, belonging to our brigade, came up, and the artillery fire with the enemy ensued, lasting until nightfall. General Jenkins took position on Silver Springs turnpike, a road parallel to the Carlisle-Harrisburg turnpike, and I was ordered with my company to select a place of concealment east of Mechanicsburg, in order to protect our connection with Carlisle.
June 29th.--In the morning I received orders to meet General Jenkins and to act as his escort. We
reconnoitered to the right of the Harrisburg turnpike, charged on the enemy's outposts, and
viewed the city of Harrisburg and its defences. This was the farthest advance made by any
Confederate troops during the campaign. During the following night I again received orders to be
in ambush, although I and my command were nearly exhausted by constant and exciting service.
TO HOLD THE TOWN.
June 30th.--Early in the morning I was ordered to report with my company at headquarters, and General Jenkins directed me to proceed at once with my company and one cannon of Jackson's Battery to Mechanicsburg, to hold this town until ordered otherwise, and to destroy the railroad track as far as possible. I could learn nothing definite concerning the army and General Lee's plans. General Rhodes, I was told, occupied Carlisle, and General Early, York --with the latter was White's Cavalry--while General Imboden's Brigade protected our line of communication with Virginia. Greatly flattered to be entrusted with an expedition, properly belonging to an officer of higher rank, I started my command to Mechanicsburg, and when we came in sight of the town I dispatched a patrol to reconnoitre. A small company of Federal cavalry had just occupied the place, but retreated upon our approach. Without delay I marched into town and posted my pickets. The place appeared to be evacuated by the inhabitants; they all kept indoors. I posted my command on an elevation east of the town, overlooking both the railroad and the turnpike, and ordered my men to demolish the railroad track. We were repeatedly interrupted in this work by the reappearance of Yankees, and had to keep up a lively skirmish all day. We also observed many and demonstrative people in the woods, some distance to our right, and I ordered Lieutenant Jackson to warn them off by some shots. At sunset a courier was sent from headquarters ordering me to leave Mechanicsburg after dark and fall back to Carlisle. There we met Jenkins' Brigade, and Captain Moorman rejoined his company and took charge of it. The entire command continued then to march to Petersburg, Pa., where we arrived about 2 o'clock in the morning. We encamped there, but expecting an attack, our horses were held saddled and our arms ready to hand.
July 1st.--At daybreak we were again in the saddle and on the road to Gettysburg. During the forenoon we heard heavy cannonading from that direction, and soon we learned that the two hostile armies had met unexpectedly. The Federal troops were finally defeated, but the loss on both sides was heavy, and that of the Union army the most severe. General Reynolds, the commanding general, was among the dead, and thousands of prisoners were taken by our victorious troops.
July 2d.--In the morning we advanced into the valley between Seminary Ridge and the mountain
range held by the Union army. Jenkins' Brigade was posted in a piece of woodland, part of
yesterday's battlefield, in sight of the seminary and the city of Gettysburg. Both armies had been
reinforced and concentrated during the night. General Stuart, with the main force of our cavalry,
was not at hand, and for want of cavalry the defeated Federals had not been pressed, and still held
and fortified the eminence, above Gettysburg, controlling the valley. Our forces were in
possession of the town. We were wondering at the silence prevalent, only in long intervals the
report of a gun was heard. General Jenkins resolved to reconoitre, and I was of his companions.
Arriving on top of a hill our party attracted the enemy's attention, and we were fired upon. A
shell exploded among us, wounding the General and his horse. The hours dragged on wearily,
until in the afternoon twenty-seven Confederate batteries opened fire on the enemy's lines. The
Federal artillery replied at once, and soon the rattling noise of the fire of small arms joined in the
terrible accord of battle. Several infantry regiments en route for the bloody field passed by our
position, and I was struck by the composure and determination the men displayed. The contest
lasted until 9 in the evening, but scanty reports came to us respecting the course of the battle. At
9 o'clock our brigade was ordered back some miles towards Petersburg. Hungry and fatigued, I
slept while in the saddle, but suddenly awoke, hearing my name called by the adjutant of the
regiment. The brigade had just met General Stuart, who, with his cavalry corps had, after severe
engagements with the Federal cavalry at Hanover, brought with him 200 wagons, and 1,200
horses and mules, captured in the vicinity of Washington city, and, after having repulsed the
enemy's attack, he now wanted an officer to inform Generals Gordon, Heth, and Early that he did
no longer require any of the reinforcements he had asked for. I was selected to carry these
messages, and all the directions regarding the headquarters of said generals, General Stuart could
give, was: "You will find them somewhere on the left wing of our army; numerous men wounded
in to-day's battle will cross your way, and they can tell you." I galloped off, and soon met many
suffering victims of the bloody struggle. Finally emerging from a dark forest, a wide field, brilliant
in the moonshine, was before me, and I observed a very slender line of soldiers in a hollow, within
200 yards of the enemy's sharpshooters. "Where will I find General Gordon's division?" I
enquired from an officer, who came to meet me. Pointing to a line of soldiers stretched on the
ground, and holding their muskets in their arms, he replied in a most mournful voice: "This is
what is left of it." A few minutes later, General Gordon approached us, returning from an
inspection of his scattered command, and I delivered to him General Stuart's message. "It is lucky
for General Stuart," he answered, "that he does not require the regiments asked for. I have none
to spare." Under similar discouraging circumstances I was received at Gettysburg by Generals
Heth and Ewell, and several times on my way thither, the sharp whistle of a bullet sent after me by
some Yankee outpost, touched my ear. Gettysburg impressed one like an enormous hospital--and
a Yankee surgeon told me that there were about ten thousand of their wounded within our lines.
After half past 1 in the morning I arrived at the camping place of my regiment.
THE THIRD DAY.
July 3d.--At 4 o'clock in the morning we mounted horses and, through fields and on by-roads, advanced to our extreme left, attempting to flank the enemy's army, and to cut off its way of retreat. Our sudden attack on their rear was a success, nearly fifteen minutes passed before they replied to the discharge of our artillery. For nearly an hour, the air was alive with shells-- we lost men and horses, and finally we changed position and dismounted to charge the enemy on foot. General Fitzhugh Lee commanded our left wing, Generals Hampton and William H. F. Lee, our centre, and Jenkins' Brigade formed the right wing. My company was ordered to the extreme right on the slope of a hill. Our opponents poured a rain of bullets and shells on us, but were forced slowly to fall back. We lost heavily--Lieutenant Allan, of our regiment was killed at my side. In the evening, General Hampton charged upon the Union cavalry, they could not withstand his attack, their line broke, and they fell back. It was a day of triumph for the Confederate cavalry, but unfortunate for the main force of our army, ended this third day of the battle. The roar of cannon, and the rattling volleys of infantry fire had told us that desperate fighting was carried on along the entire line. The results and details of the struggle were not, however, positively known to us when we moved back towards Hunterstown and encamped on fields and meadows.
July 4th.--At daybreak I was ordered to take charge of all members of the regiment, whose horses
were not in marching condition and needed shoeing. There were about forty men to follow me
and we started to find the field forges, but in vain. We were sent from place to place, and at last I
was told that they had been ordered to join the wagon train on the Chambersburg road, and
moved to the rear. This was the first information I received of the retrograde movement of our
army. I resolved then to try Gettysburg, and passing the house where our wounded general was
quartered, I enquired about his health, and also if Gettysburg was still in our hands. The general's
adjutant laughed at my doubt, and we rode on. We repassed the first day's battlefield and
ascended the road to the city, we suddenly saw a large column of Blue-Coats before us. We were
only about 100 yards apart, and I commanded to halt. Observing another large body of Federal
infantry coming down hill on our left, I ordered my men to turn back. Coming to the foot of the
hill, I met Adjutant Fitzhugh on his way to Gettysburg. He doubted our observation and I offered
him our escort. When we came to the brow of the road--from where the lines of the Federals
could be plainly seen--we halted. They had not advanced, evidently not knowing what to make of
our approach, but a gun was fired on us from the top of the hill above the city, and we all turned
again. The adjutant hastened to remove our general to some place of safety. Following the road
to Petersburg, we met General Stuart and his staff. He enquired where we came from, and if the
Yankees were moving on, and upon my report, he turned off towards Cashtown. There was no
escort to protect him, but he declined to have ours, seeing the condition of our lame horses. I
took the same road and in the village we discovered a blacksmith shop. We helped ourselves and
had the horses quickly shod. Fortunately we were not molested by the enemy. At night, stormy
weather set in and we took refuge in a large barn.
July 5th.--In the morning we rode to Cashtown, where I met General Fitzhugh Lee, and then we marched by way of Summits, then place of our engagement of June 23d, to Greencastle. The enemy attacked General Lee, but was repulsed with heavy loss. At 12 o'clock at night we met General Imboden's brigade, in charge of the wagon-train. The road was a sorry condition, on account of the rain, and cut up by the wagons, some of which had to be left behind. At Greenwood and Greencastle the train was attacked by Federal cavalry, but they were repulsed without being able to do much harm. All our men discussed our serious defeat at Gettysburg, its causes and probable consequences, and all seemed to agree that the disadvantage arising from our extended line was the cause of the disaster. Our army surrounded the Union army in the shape of a horseshoe, and, therefore, reinforcements could not, in case of need, be promptly rendered by one part to the other. The enemy, on the other hand, had the advantage of a concentrated, hilly position, which we were unable to take, after the success of the first day's battle had failed to follow up, thus allowing the defeated army time to fortify and be reinforced. All regret the loss of the brave soldiers, estimated at from 15,000 to 20,000.
July 6th.--In search of Jenkins' Brigade, I marched to Hagerstown, Md. I was enjoying a delicious dinner at the Washington Hotel when one of my troop informed me that the enemy was in town. I called my men together; we heard the shooting between some cavalry of the Wise Legion and the Yankees in the streets, and we hastened to assist the small Confederate force. We came too late. Colonel Davis, commanding, had his horse killed, and was taken prisoner, and his men were falling back. Fortunately, a regiment of Confederate infantry entered the city at this critical moment, and we proceeded to drive the Yankees out of the city. They were in strong force, and skirmishing was kept up until half-past 5 o'clock, when Jenkins' Brigade came to our succor. The Union cavalry retreated, but surprised our wagon-train at Williamsport, and destroyed a number of wagons. We encamped near Hagerstown.
July 7th.--Captain Moorman reported sick, I took command of Co. D, 14th Virginia Cavalry. We marched towards Sharpsburg, and had some skirmishes with the enemy, who left several dead, wounded and prisoners in our hands. It was a reconnoitering movement. In our advance we passed an interesting group--Generals Robert E. Lee, Longstreet and others. About three miles from Sharpsburg our course of march was changed, and we advanced towards Boonsborough. About five miles from this village, we encamped. The rain poured down and the creeks and the Potomac began to rise.
July 8th.--Early in the morning I received orders to report with my company at General Robert E. Lee's headquarters. The General was already waiting, and instructed me to leave half the company with him, and to take the van with the other half. He also directed me to attack the enemy's outposts whenever I should meet them, and to send a messenger to him in such an event. We had not advanced far when we saw a Federal vidette, and charged upon it. We surprised the whole outpost, killing two. I sent word at once to General lee, and waited further instructions. About 9 o'clock heavy cannonading was heard in the direction of Boonesborough, and soon after I received order to advance to the field of action. The enemy made up a very strong force of cavalry, artillery and infantry. General Fitzhugh Lee attacked the left wing of the Federals, General Jones their centre, and Jenkins' Brigade was to fight the right flank. At 10 o'clock, and about two miles from Boonesborough, we came under the enemy's fire. We dismounted, and the whole brigade charged on the enemy's position behind stone fences and in the woods, yelling almost like Indians. We drove them back about a mile, and held our ground, in spite of a terrible carnage of bullets and shells. At 7 o'clock I received order to slowly fall back, when the enemy made desperate efforts to cut us off in a defile near Antietam bridge, but got out of the scrape unhurt. The field of action was the historical ground known as the battlefield of Sharpsburg, or, as the Federals term it, Antietam. On our side several officers and men had been killed. I lost three men, and my uniform jacket showed a bullet-hole. When we fell back we had only two cartridges left per man. The aim of this engagement was to ascertain the position and strength of the Federal forces which are reported to concentrate at Frederick City. Another great battle seems to be imminent.
July 9th.--At 7 o'clock in the morning our cavalry force again advanced towards Antietam, and lively skirmishing ensued. We fell back, fighting constantly. At 5 o'clock in the evening we were reinforced by a regiment of infantry, and our assailants were repelled. These bloody engagements, surely, are but preludes of battle. A report is current that Major-General D. H. Hill is bringing on two divisions from Virginia. Captain Moorman reported for duty, and took command of our company. During night we camped near the day's position.
July 11th.--At daybreak we again advanced about half a mile, to protect the infantry, throwing up a
long line of zigzag rifle ditches and abattis. At noon we fell back to the rear of the infantry, and
were ordered to the right flank of our line of battle, which, I am told, is to be commanded by
General Longstreet. Passing the double row of rifle-ditches, we saw several batteries of artillery
bringing up their guns. The right flank of our army occupies a range of hilly woodland, and I
think it is a strong position. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon Jenkins' Brigade is drawn up in line of
parade, and first an order of General Robert E. Lee was read, complimenting us on our good
services before and during the battle of Gettysburg, and expressing his confidence that we will
render similar good service in the impending battle. This was followed by the reading of a circular
of General Stuart, stating that the cavalry, after having successfully checked the advance of the
enemy, would be posted at the flanks of the army to take very active action in the coming battle.
Any task entrusted to his men they are expected to fulfil, and officers and men must impress upon
their minds that no wavering or giving way can possibly take place during the coming struggle.
These very serious communications were received by the men with that firmness and cheerfulness
characteristic of Southern soldiers. All of us were aware of the dangers surrounding us--the
Potomac swelled by the heavy rains of the last few days, impeding our retreat, and the enemy's
forces much larger than our decimated and almost exhausted regiments. During the afternoon
silence prevailed along the entire line, but about 7 o'clock in the evening the enemy advanced to
reconnoitre our position. Our artillery kept strictly silent.
FULL OF ALARM.
July 12th.--The day was full of alarm and excitement. The news of the surrender of Vicksburg had reached us, and a report was circulated that a strong Federal army was concentrating at Winchester, Virginia, to cut off our retreat. It was also stated that the Federal cavalry had destroyed the pontoons, brought up from Richmond for bridging the Potomac, and that our supplies of provisions and ammunition were giving out. At three o'clock in the afternoon, our brigade received orders from General Fitzhugh Lee, to proceed to our left wing, between Hagerstown and Williamsport, and there we remained for the rest of the day and the following night, ready for action.
July 13th.--At daybreak we marched to the centre of our line of fortifications, reaching on the right to the Potomac, and on the left to the hills about one mile from Antietam. We were ordered to dismount, leaving every fourth man in charge of the other's horses, and we took the places of the infantry in the rifle ditches. The retreat of the army to Virginia had begun, the enemy hesitating to give battle.
July 14th.--At 3 o'clock in the morning, Captain Moorman instructed me to call in at about 5 o'clock, our outposts, but to keep up the camp fires and quietly withdraw to Williamsport, where I was to ford the Potomac. Everything was carefully done according to orders, but without my knowing then that I was in command of the last Confederate troops leaving Maryland. General Fitzhugh Lee was awaiting us on the bluffs on the Virginia side with his division, and Federal cavalry and artillery appearing on the Maryland side after I had safely crossed the river, we marched on towards Martinsburg.
A War Letter.
As bearing directly upon the contents of the above, the republication of the following letter is timely:
(Correspondence of Richmond Enquirer.)
General Jenkins' Brigade,
Near Harrisburg, Pa., June 30, 1863.
Messrs. Editors--Our last communication was dated Carlisle, Pa., June 27th. That day General Rhodes' command came up, and General Jenkins' Brigade passed three miles beyond and encamped for the night.
The next morning we entered and occupied Mechanicsburg, seven miles distant from Harrisburg. In the evening we advanced and harassed their pickets a few hours, and then fell back a mile or two and encamped. Next morning we advanced again, and kept up lively picket skirmishing all day.
The Baltimore battery played upon the enemy's outposts occasionally on two roads. In the afternoon Jackson's Battery--which belongs to General Jenkins' Brigade--came up, and was placed in position on the left. It worked admirably, and, covered by it, Lieutenant-Colonel Witcher, with his brave men, charged and took the enemy's outpost. At the same time, General Jenkins, with Captain Moorman's company, under command of Lieutenant Schuricht, acting as his escort, made a reconnaissance on the right, and obtained a pretty fair view of the enemy's position, fortifications and probable strength, and again fell back and encamped on the same ground of the previous night.
This must be regarded as very daring for such a small force to hold in check a large army, sent for the defense of their capital, so long.
The contemplated move of the present day is not known to the writer. The boys are faring sumptuously every day. This is a land of plenty, and the citizens express a willingness for them to avail themselves of their hospitalities for self-protection. More anon.
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 24, pages 339-351)