1864 diary by Charles T. Pierce of the 5th New York Cavalry, Co. G, with fantastic content from the summer of 1864 when the regiment was engaged during the Overland Campaign and the Wilson-Kautz Cavalry Raid. Cannonading commenced this morning at about 5. Burnsides force came up this morn.
We marched directly to the front. Two brigades of rebs were taken prisoner. / 10.00 104 prisoners taken on the left wing. The 6th corps broke and our men rallied at Wilderness Church. Firing commenced again at 11.00 last till 18.40 ceased till 4.45 except once in a while artillery and slight skirmishing.Hard fighting ensued several charges made. The prisoners sent in of yesterdays fight amount to 3100. / 6.15 Charging on the right flank our forces driven back. The wagon train moved back and artillery forward.
Our cavalry were ordered up to stop the men from running back. The Battle continues the next day, on 7 May 1862: Infantry were sent up again and the demoralized reformed sent forward.
The 107th Regt NYSV were the first to brake of the 9th Army Corps. [John] Hammond and stopped for Hd Qrs of division. The Rebels made their appearance and gave us a few shell and solid shot. We kept in perfect order and were again out of range of their guns. The 22nd NY Cavalry broke and ran.Riderless horses passed by us in the pike. All the companies accept [except] 9 & 8 cut off by the rebel gunners taking charge of the Plank road by the Ford. The 22 NY cav broke out at 3 sharp and the others became panic-stricken and all ran. 6th NY cavs being on the extreme right did not participate in the scrimmage. We started to Boise station via of Humphries Ford crossed the Rapidianarrived at the station at 12:50 p. Sunday, were fired on by the guards of the station and have not heard the results of today's fight. Gen Sedgwick was killed today. Gen hooker lost 700 men prisoners and took 1100.
18 Pensia Cavalry made a charge on Spotsylvania and took 1500 prisoners. On the 12th Pierce reports, 4:45 a. The cannon commenced this a.
Lee is reported as having masked his whole force on our right wing. Reported that enemy are in rear of our baggage wagon. I was ordered to General Fennis hd qrs to keep the men and sharp lookout and some made a charge took 180 rebs. / 10.00 Very heavy cannonading on right keeps increasing. I learned from headquarters that no enemy were between Baggage Train and our forces.Decisive work is going on now. The hardest fighting of the war is taking place. It had rained nearly all day. / 3.00 Gen Hancock reported to have captured one division of rebels.
Musketry is terrible and has been for 3 hours. / 3.35 Cannonading is abating./ 4.00 We left Pickett and went to the regiment. Lee asks for armistice to bury his dead. General Grant answers'I'll bury them for you. / 5.10 all fighting stopped except stuttering shots.
Work of the day report officially as follows, 34 pieces Cannon captured by our men. Grant fell back last night. On the 14th and 15th of May, Pierce reports skirmishing with the 13th Virginia Cavalry before fighting in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on 16-18 May 1864, when he writes, We were started out again in Pursuit. Together with the remainder of the Brigade detest and sent to produce.
The 9th VA Cavalry met them south of the woods Massaponax Church, made a charge and drove them over the Massaponax Creek into the woods we crossed the creek and picketed the opposite side during the night. I went around among the citizens of the place. We'drew' a few things necessary &c. Ordered out at 9 a.Went on the hill opposite the rebels12m. Crossed over the Massaponax Creek and engaged the rebs after about 2 hours more we had to leave them. They shelled us and gave us solid shot. The bat on left company G to charge alone, they run to the rear. I had my horse shot in the hind while on the charge. Part of the Vets return18th. Started out over the creek again to try them again, Advance constantly under the command of Lt Col Hammond.
Got into line in the woods at 2:30. The first shot has been fired on our advance and one near wounded of another co. / 230 Fell into line in a semicircle on a by road. They gave us one volley. We had another hard Skirmish.The rebs made a charge on us and were repulsed. From the 20th until the 25th of May, Pierce describes constant skirmishing with the Rebels, including a meet-up with John Mosby, 20th. Started out for Bowling Green at 11:20 p.
Arrived at 8:45 a. Went through the town and counter marched met toward the Milford railroad station and soon came in contact with the rebs. After a sharp fight of 1 1/2 hours we drove them from the station with but little loss on our side from our co one John Vandermark.We live pretty well on the fat of the village. I spent part of the afternoon and evening with one of the families of the place played on the piano and sung several pieces.
Our army is moving over the Massaponax River flanking the enemy. Left there at 11:30 a. For Milford Station arrived at 2:30 p.
Was not allowed to remove the saddles, expect to move on again front with main army. / 4.00 We are in line for moving, marched to Bethel Church, arrived at 7:45 p.
Went into camp late in the evening in a clover field23rd Called out 4:30 a. Placed in line of March for the rebs, found them 10.20. Pickett drove them in advanced on to Mount Carmel Church arrived at 11:35. The rebs opened on us a few rods south of it with artillery the first thing. The cavalry was dismounted and forwarded as skirmishers, were driven back at first, gained our ground.
Batteries came up heavy cannonading from our side, not much reply. Rebs throwing up men with works opposite the Monkey (south arm) River. / 6.55 Very heavy cannonading on both sides. / 7.10 Infantry open very sharp / 7.40 20 corps charge and take a battery of theirs. / 7.50 Incessant firing perfect roar.
/ 9.30 Musketry ceased. / 10.10 Cannon occasional24th 11.05 Cannonading commenced hard on both sides with solid shot and shells. Occasional shots / 4.00 hard fighting commenced continued till 7:1025th Our regiment on enemy flank doing good execution26thCaptain Brian's reported not wounded but prisoner.
The regiment had a few day's rest before fighting begins again on 1 June 1864 in Ashland and then Salem's Church, Virginia: June 1st Skirmishing commenced this morning very sharp seized in about half-an-hour occasional shots. / 5.10 Commenced shelling the rebs / 5.30 They fall back on advance. / 7.40 They open cannon on us ran over shots. / 8.10 We stack them again and drive them at every point.
Set fire to the water tank & tear up the track. I talked quite a while with a citizen, he was northern sentiment. We give them thorough work for 1/2 hours and then we have to retreat via of RR. Our cannons cover the retreat our wounded are only post there2nd.We lay still till 4 p. Went as escort of ambulance train to White House Landing went part of the way and halted for rest of the night. It rained all the time. I got wet through and slept In the mud till morning and co. Stood picket3rd We made advance on the enemy at Salem Church and drove them back with but little loss to ourselves. Firing commenced on our left very heavy, cannon and musketry. We are ordered to stand to horse in readiness for then we again repulsed them, driving them some 1/2 miles. We went back a short distance and camped for the night4th8.30. Heavy fighting commences, the rebs try to break our lines on the right flank, did not succeed.
Our Cavalry lay still all day near Salem Church. The 5th New York were engaged in the Battle of Cold Harbor at Bethesda Church, with Pierce reporting on 11 June, Whole Brig went out together with the artillery and engaged Longstreet's Corps driving them back and held the position till the Infantry came up. Co then is ordered back, 5 men killed and wounded from the reg" For the next several days the regiment moves towards the James River, with perpetual skirmishing along the way ("Met the rebs and they repulsed uswe send up River for reinforcement's and held them back on our flank on the right). The regiment was then tapped for the Wilson-Kautz Cavalry Raid to disrupt rail lines around Petersburg, culminating in the disastrous Battle of Ream's Station on 29 June 1864, with Pierce describing the mayhem as Union cavalry attempted to escape the Confederates surrounding them.Before the Battle, Pierce describes moving towards Petersburg beginning 17 June: start for Petersburg March through a cloud of dust till 9:40. Camp five mile short of destination18th. Start at 8:15 a. After breakfast back to Prince George at Blackwater. Heavy cannonading and musketry on our right in the direction of Petersburg21st.
Hard fighting in direction of Petersburg. Received orders at regimental hd qrs to be ready to start tomorrow. Rations dealt out for 5 days for men and two for horses considerable bustle in camp preparing22.
Called out at 1:20 a. Orders to saddle and pack and get ready for a move. We started at 4:30, whole Brigade. We crossed RR at Reams Station found it in Flames at 11:25the enemy made a dash on the rear of our column but with little effect save to cause them to'close up' very sudden.
Make a halt to feed our Squadron, was sent out on front as picket. Made a halt for the night near the Ford station on Peters RR which was burning23rd. Saddle and pack up was heard from our company Commander. After that was done we fell in line and advanced, reached Fords station on Peters and Lynch Railroad and found two trains of cars and their engines burning. They having been captured by our forces in the advance, also station buildings and woods a little further on our route we found store houses containing cotton.
We marked our roads with devastation and destruction. We meet with no opposition till we reach little Nottoway Creek en route for Bronxville station when the enemy open on us with cannon, our advance held their attention while Gen Kantz command past as I left and burn the station the railroad track.Our reg sent for at 6:10 p. To report to Gen Wilson. They are immediately ordered in line as skirmishers dismounted Lt Colonel Hammond accompanying them into the road, find the line so irregular that with his usual marked percussion, he helps them until he finds where the line should be and about 11 p.
There was some sharp fighting done in the evening from 7 to 10. Our forces drove them over the railroads Peters and Lynchburg25. Up at 3:30 fed horses but no time to get breakfast started. Arrived at Drakes Branch about 11 a. Had opportunity to rest and eat our breakfast.
Our advance reached Roanoke station at about 2:45 p. And receive a warm welcome. The enemy stood their ground and we are unable to move them from their fortifications on the opposite bank of the river. They are in rifle pits and have sharp shooters that keep our men back.
1st & 6 & 11 PA lose over 100 men in killed and wounded. 17 officers killed and wounded in the fight. Kantz men took possession of the bridge over the river but not a man among them had a match to set fire to it hence had to leave it. Stayed overnight at this place26. The enemy giving us shell to spur us on our way, but they do but little or no harm.
We find the depot buildings this morning and took course for our line. Arrive at Christianville at 5:20 p.
Found a building containing shelled corn brought by farmers. It contained near as I could ascertain by papers we found their 2936 bushel of shelled corn. They being too strong for us to dislodge. The most of the 2nd Brigade were in the fight dismounted and more captured by the enemy after going to within 2 and 1/2 miles of Reams.
We engage them all again. They open on the advanced guard formed a masked battery with canister.
We advance men on their works, but find they have infantry and Cavalry in over powering numbers and after making a good trial our men cease operation for a time. Gen Wilson and staff rode around among the commands with a look which indicated trouble. He goes once more to the front of the lines, shots are fired and again he came back and the men begin to see that we are surrounded and the question goes from one to the other wonder what's to be done, but the question was soon answered for at 12:20 as I came out of the woods I saw the blacksmith's forge on fire. The supply train getting together to share the same fate and next our sick and wounded what's to become of them? Pierce continues, And then commenced the retreat or I should say stampede, one living mass of human beings started off at a common pace but soon it was quick and to the top speed every horse, the sound and fields of either side were one panic-stricken demoralized moving column, among the rest one piece of artillery was brought away out of the 20 which had been with us.
We were about 1 mile Northeast of the Rowanty creek where the retreat commenced. I could but think and look upon with horror little thinking I was to witness where. On reaching Stoney Creek the enemy not being in strong force rapidly pursuing. This scattered fragments of regiments, men formed east of the river to make a stand. Men were seen forming in rank with no arms, some no ammunition, having lost or thrown away one or the other or both in the general melee of the hourthe report of arms of our skirmishers tell us they are coming and we make preparations.
Volley after volley go from our men but still they advance in overpowering numbers time and time again but what is seen in our rear is a bridge and eager man and hearts partaking as it seemed of the spirit of their riders strained every nerve to gain the opposite banks. Some cross the bridge others plunged headlong down the rocky and precipitous bank. Some were crowded off the bridge. Horses riderless and men unhorsed making every effort to gain the shore while around them all the bullets around them like hail in a hail storm. Efforts were made on the opposite shore to wall and harden the bridge but to no effect.
I hauled it among the few who did and retreated, my revolvers the only weapon I had, I having discharged them before I left the field on the other side. God forbid that my eyes should ever behold another such scene. The road of retreat was field as before on the same one we came on, but our number was seriously decreased how much I know not.
Other information is included in the diary, such as the roll for Pierce's Co. G of the 5th New York Cavalry, a list of approximately 50 books owned by Pierce, a clipping of a poem entitled "Thou Art Not Forgotten", a news clipping of the 5th NY Cavalry's impressive performance at the Battle of the Wilderness, including how Pierce's Co. G "opened the great battle", and much more including a list of Civil War battles, and a list of men in the regiment fit or unfit for duty, along with the fitness of the horses. Leather pocket diary with flap measures 3" x 6". A few loose pages, and some pages that are composed in pencil are smeared, but accompanied by near full transcriptions.
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