Letter about the 2nd battle of Fredericksburg - questions
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Author:  Ed K [ Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:06 am ]
Post subject:  Letter about the 2nd battle of Fredericksburg - questions

The following letter, written by Frank Edgerton, informs James I. Vandeberg’s father of Van being wounded at the 2nd battle of Fredericksburg. Frank was Van’s tent mate and both were of Company “C” 1st USSS.

Camp Near Fredericksburg Va.
May 5, 1863
Mr. Vandenberg Dear Sir,
I am requested by your son to write to you and let you know that he was wounded last Sunday in the Battle near Fredericksburg. He was hit in the right shoulder with a musket ball. While lying down it broke the collar bone and two of his ribs. The doctor says it is not a dangerous wound. Van feels good and is in good spirits. I think he will be able to write himself in a few days. I went over to the hospital last night to see him. He looks first rate. He told me to tell you not to write to him until you heard from him. I think he will be sent away in a day or two. I am going to the Hospital again this afternoon to take him some things. I will do all I can for him while he is here. We are sorry to lose him from our Company for a better and braver boy we never had.
Captain Baker says tell Van’s father that he was doing his duty nobly when he was wounded. We had 21 killed and wounded in our Company, 9 of which were killed. If anything happens to Van while he is here, I will let you know as soon as possible.
Frank R. Edgerton
On April 27th 1863, the regiment was used to fill holes in the union line during the Battle of Chancellorsville. – 1) Does anybody have any information on the action of the 27th of April, being Van was not wounded until the 3rd of May, and probably took part in the 27th action?

The Battle of Chancellorsville - Sunday, May 3rd, 1863
The Battle of 2nd Fredericksburg

With 21 casualties, in an already reduced company, it appears Company “C” must have really been in the thick of things. 2) Does anybody have any maps for the 2nd Battle of Fredericksburg for troop placement, or any other information like officer’s reports, etc.

It is also interesting to note that Frank refers to “Captain Baker”. Baker was the 2nd lieutenant when they enlisted.

Author:  BrianTWhite [ Thu Jun 04, 2009 12:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter about the 2nd battle of Fredericksburg - questions

The Battle of Chancellorsville did not happen until May 1st and ended on May 4th. The Sharpshooters remained in camp until April 28th, when they packed up and marched to the left of the army below Fredericksburg; while here they witnessed the storming of rebel earthworks at "Fitz Hugh Crossing" by the Iron Brigade. They remained here under arms until the early afternoon of April 30th, when General Sickles received orders to change his position to the right flank. Once on the field, the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters were deployed in front of the main lines as skirmishers.

On Sunday, May 3rd, the regiment was heavily engaged as skirmishers, used to flush out groups of Confederates concealed in woods, and as support for artillery batteries. When the morning began, they were in a position more or less directly between the Confederate left flank and the right flank of the Federal 3rd Corps; Hancock's 2nd Corps lay behind the 3rd, regrouping. During continual heavy skirmishing Company C made a headlong charge into a group of rebel soldiers when they were surprised in the woods. Lt. Gardner Clark ordered the rush and about 80 men drove the rebels away...realizing that the sharpshooters did not have their bayonets fixed, some of the enemy shot down a handful of the men at point-blank range before being surrounded and compelled to surrender.

Here is a list of killed, wounded, and missing from the regimental history:

"Co. C - Killed: Lt. Byron Brewer, Sergt. John G.S. Evans, Corp. Henry A. Hood, Privates W. S. Parker, John Price, Harmon Wise. Wounded: Capt. James H. Baker, left breast, slight; Sergt. E. A. Wilson, hand, slight; Sergt. Porter W. Barker, hip, leg amputated, mortal; Corp. E. J. Southworth, left side; Corp. Leonard Bissel, abdomen, mortal; Corp. Dexter Field, leg and hip; Privates James I. Vendeberg, side, mortal; Henry A. Gilchrist, foot; R. S. McClain, upper arm; Stiles. H. Wirts, leg; Fred. Jarvis, arm; James Dillabaugh, shoulder; Geo. R. Brown, Charles. H. Johnson. Missing: Martin J. Watson, slightly wounded; Joshua Robinson."

There's a discrepancy between the regimental history's and Frank Edgerton's accounts of Vandeberg's wounding but I would tend to believe the immediacy of the letter written on May 5th.

Pvt. Harmon Wise, shot through the chest and killed instantly by a rebel he ordered to surrender during Company C's charge: http://seekingmichigan.org/u?/p4006coll3,1200

Edwin A. Wilson, wounded in the hand at Chancellorsville when he was a sergeant, shown here after his November 21st 1863 promotion to 1st Lieutenant: http://seekingmichigan.org/u?/p4006coll3,1071

Captain James H. Baker's frock coat, in storage at the Smithsonian. His engraved silver whiskey flask is on display at the Michigan State Library and Museum in Lansing, MI. http://www.geocities.com/Nashville/3077/html/baker.html

Author:  Ed K [ Thu Jun 04, 2009 3:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter about the 2nd battle of Fredericksburg - questions

Your information is extremely interesting. Your comments and research is much more than I expected as to the 1’st USSS and Company “C’s” involvement in this battle.

I am sure the company historian will be glad to hear Van’s wound was not mortal. In fact he was in and out of the hospital for some time, but took part in the Kelly’s Ford skirmish in early November, 1863.

Here is the next letter from Van. It was tough to read, and I am still not clear as to the name of the 1st Lieutenant. Do you think it could have been Floyd Willett?
Potomac Creek
May 11th 1863
Dear Parents
I write a few lines to let you know that I am yet alive. My wound is pretty severe but I think it is mending. I was lying down when I was hit. The ball broke my ribs and collar bone about half way below the shoulder blade on the right side. It was a pretty close call for me. There was eight others wounded and killed and thirteen wounded.
I suppose that we will be sent to some northern hospital before long. Then I shall get my discharge or a furlough and some S____el ?. We had____ first lieutenant ? Rilt he was shot there with a solid shot.
I can write no more at present & you will do well if you can read this.
You may direct your letters to the Regiment.
good bye
James I Vandeburg

Plus, if you have any maps of this engagement, I would certainly appreciate it. Either post as normal for the benefit of all, and/or email me direct at edkunze@gmail.com

Author:  BrianTWhite [ Thu Jun 04, 2009 4:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter about the 2nd battle of Fredericksburg - questions


The regimental history is a great resource. It was completed by Charles Stevens, a prominent member of Co. G (Wisconsin) 1st U.S.S.S., in 1892 and has since been reprinted and edited several times. Stevens uses war-time accounts from surviving Sharpshooters to add some "meat" to the history; a lot deals with what his own company faced and the book focuses primarily on the 1st Regt. only but does have some 2nd Regt. accounts. Reprints surface on eBay now and then but I think I bought mine online from Amazon.

It's incredible that Van recovered from a bodily would such as the one he received, and it's even more incredible that he returned to active duty with his company. No doubt he was a Union man through and through! I'd be interested in hearing what he had to say about Kelly's Ford; my colleague Bill Skillman and I are making a second pilgrimage there this year to tromp around the land and do some research for an article about the Sharpshooter's involvement there. We stumbled upon the site last April before doing an interpretive talk at Malvern Hill and were amazed to find it practically undeveloped. We scaled the plateau that the 2nd U.S.S.S. used to cover the 1st U.S.S.S.'s forced crossing, we walked throughout the flood plain directly across from where the rebel rifle pits were below the mills of "Kellysville", we found one original rifle-pit or dug out, and I even stripped down to boxers and forded the river to see how deep it was (pretty darn deep where the center of the 1st U.S.S.S. forded!).

The lieutenant that Van mentions in his letter is Byron Brewer. He was 23 years old and lived in Alpine, MI before enlisting on August 21st, 1861 in Detroit. He was elected corporal immediately and was later promoted to sergeant on Oct. 31st, 1861, and 1st Lieutenant on August 31st, 1862. Brewer was slightly wounded both at Gaines' Mill and Glendale in 1862, and an alleged THREE times at Second Bull Run where he was left for dead, captured, exchanged, recovered and later joined Company C. At Chancellorsville, Lt. Brewer was with his company on the skirmish line when he was shot through the body by a rebel cannon ball.

Here's a charcoal sketch of Brewer, likely done when he was a corporal or sergeant. Too bad we cannot see the rest of the portrait! http://trees.ancestry.com/view/military.aspx?tid=3571940&pid=-1716779001&gss=seotrees

Author:  Ed K [ Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Letter about the 2nd battle of Fredericksburg - questions

Again, thanks for all the information. I will try and have my sister get the book. I live in Mexico and have no way to get it here. But, I do visit family in California every 6 months or so, and can get it from her then.

In my research, and specifically Kelly’s Ford, I really haven’t gotten that far. This is all I have to date, including his letter about the skirmish.

XXXII – Letter of Nov. 13, 1863

Camp near Brandy Station VA
Nov. 13, 1863

Dear parents,
It is some time since I heard from you or since I wrote you. But we have been on the move almost every day for two weeks, until there are four days at that time has been spent in building us a shanty.
I am well as usual. One week ago today our Company had quite a skirmish before they reached the river. (1º) When they got within a few rods of the river the Reg't assembled and charged across the stream and up to the rifle pits in the opposite side. When they got near, the Rebs commenced firing from their pits, but our regiment with such a rush that they did not kill many of our boys. They charged the pits and captured about four hundred and fifty Rebs.
I was back about a hundred rods (2º) on the hill but I could see it all. It was a gallant thing. There was three killed and nine wounded in the regiment. Our company had Henry Townsend killed and Ed Southworth had to have his right leg taken off just above the knee. He was the same one that was wounded when I was. We have been working three or four days on our house. We have got a board shanty with a floor in it, two bunks and everything comfortable for winter quarters. We drove the Rebs out of their quarters and took theirs to build ours. We do not know whether we will stay here all winter or not, but I hope we will. It is raining very hard tonight.
No more at present
Write soon
Good bye
James I. Vandeburg

1º) The Union Army of the Potomac's commander, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, divided his forces just as Lee expected. He ordered Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick to attack the Confederate position at Rappahannock Station while Maj. Gen. William H. French forced a crossing five miles downstream at Kelly's Ford. Once both Sedgwick and French were safely across the river, the reunited army would proceed to Brandy Station.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_ ... Station_II

(2º) A rod is a unit of length equal to 5.5 yards. 100 rods would then be 550 yards, or about 1,650 feet. 550 yards was considered to be a very good shooting distance for the Sharpshooters.

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