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 Post subject: Fredericksburg question
PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:02 pm 
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In the following letter from James I. Vandeberg, Company “C”, 1st USSS, he states Company “C” was in a ditch, across the river, on the near side of the battle. However, they were not engaged in the battle.
Does anyone have a relief map or decent photo showing this location, and its proximity to the action? I have seen photos and paintings of a ditch and embankment alongside the river looking back towards the town on the other side, and I was wondering if this was the ditch he was talking about. If this was it, how would this correspond to the proximity to the battle?


“Camp Near Falmouth VA
Dec. 28, 1862

I again sit down to let you know I am still alive and well. The reason I have not written before, I waited a long time to hear from your first but I have almost gone with the idea of ever getting a letter from you.
I am well and as rugged as ever. Our Regiment was not engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg, but we were across the river. We crossed Sunday morning and lay in the ditch until Monday night when we came back to our old camps again. That was a very hard fight, thousands of lives sacrificed and all to no purpose. I think Burnside was very much the blame in crossing so hasty as he did. The Rebels had a position they would hold against three times their number”.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:40 pm 
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Ed,

Here's a link showing where the different divisions were located:

http://www.historyofwar.org/Maps/century_3_074_fredericksburg_base.gif

The 2nd USSS belonged to Doubleday's First Division of the First Army Corps, which was deployed to the far left flank of the Federal army. According to the regimental history they were first deployed with their left flank on the river bank. They were engaged throughout the 13th, 14th, and 15th of December and used as skirmishers to silence Confederate sharpshooters and artillery. On December 14th, the right wing of the skirmish line, commanded by Captain Dudley Chase (Co. A), was ordered to charge a piece of woods to drive away rebel infantry. At another point in the battle, infantry skirmishers on the left came under a heavy fire from confederates; they figured out that the infantry could not accurately shoot back so they were in exposed positions. Fearing that the constant firing would bring on a much larger fight, the 2nd USSS was ordered to conceal themselves among the Federal infantrymen and pick off the exposed rebels. This worked and quickly ended the incessant firing. When they weren't skirmishing, the 2nd USSS was laying down in open terrain and suffered through sporadic artillery barrages.

I have no doubt that the ravine or ditch that so many Sharpshooters referred to in their writings is the one directly in front of Doubleday's division in the map. It seems that the left flank skirmishes were back and forth affairs so this terrain would have been crossed a number of times and would also have provided some shelter during the artillery barrages.

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Wambaugh, White, & Company
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Randolph Mess, U.S. Sharpshooters


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:18 pm 
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Your map is fantastic. I have not had a chance to completely review it, but eventually it may yield what I want. At this time it is not yet clear whether Van’s Company “C”, 1st USSS was with the 2nd USSS or not. Throughout the war they always seemed to be separated, and rarely fought together as a division. In fact they were usually under two completely different brigade generals, with individual companies being “farmed” out to even others.
Thanks


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:42 pm 
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Wait a second...I messed up! I was thinking Vandeberg was in Co. C 2nd USSS, Pennsylvania, instead of the Michigan company of the 1st Regt. :lol:

The following is an excerpt from the regimental history, "Berdan's U.S. Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac" by Chas. Stevens.

"During this sanguinary battle the First Sharpshooters were held in reserve. On the 13th they occupied a position on the north bank of the Rappahannock, and on the following day, crossing the river, remained in the town until the 15th, when they were ordered to the front on the picket lines where considerable firing had taken place..."


The after action report of Lt. Colonel Caspar Trepp, 1st U.S.S.S.:

"On the 13th I received an order to march with the division, and was assigned a place in the column in rear of Phillip's battery and bivouacked for the night near it, about half a mile from a bridge over the which the rest of the division crossed the Rappahannock. On the 14th at about half past seven A.M. I received an order to cross the river and report immediately to Gen. Griffin, which order was obeyed, and the regiment entered Fredericksburg at about eight A.M. At about noon on the 15th, by order of Gen. Wilcox, four companies of my regiment were sent out on picket duty, under command of Major Hastings, on the left, to connect with Gen. Franklin's picketss, and cover a space not before covered. I carefully examined the ground and personally superintended the posting of the pickets, making perfect the connection between Gen. Franklin's right and the block house by the railroad. This detachment remained on the outposts until it was withdrawn by order of Gen. Humphreys, at about half past six A.M. the next day. At about five P.M., by order of Gen. Griffin, I sent two companies, under Capt. Seaton, on picket on the right. These remained on the outposts until three o'clock next morning, when they were relieved by order of Gen. Griffin. On the 16th, by order of Gen. Griffin, the regiment, excepting the four companies on the outposts, crossed the Rappahannock at about six A.M. at the upper bridge. The said four companies retired as follows: three companies of reserves under Major Hastings, in column, and one company, the last on the outposts, as skirmishers under Capt. Marble (Company G), bringing with them a number of stragglers from different regiments. The regiment was in camp at about noon, all present. There have been no casualties in my command during the period."

And here is a new map...basically the "top half" of the other one I included earlier: http://www.historyofwar.org/Maps/century_3_074_fredericksburg_top.gif

Another, simpler one that shows the after battle locations of the commands in charge of the generals mentioned in Trepp's report: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3c/Fredericksburg-HookerAssault.png

Yet another that shows landmarks/troop positions without all the clutter: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/fredericksburg/battle-map-fredericksburg.jpg

We can use details in Lt. Col. Trepp's report and these maps to determine where the four companies, and the later two, were deployed. General Franklin's right flank, which was where the four companies were initially deployed "to the left", can be seen well in the third map. The Sharpshooters in those four companies basically covered the ground between Franklin's right near a creek called Deep Run and a "block house" by the railroad. The location of the two companies later deployed to the right was directly under Marye's Heights, over the same land that the 2nd Corps charged over during the height of the battle. I am sure of only two of the companies that deployed (Cos. F & G), and with six total on the picket/outpost line, that left four in reserve. I cannot say exactly where the reserve might have been located, but Trepp would have been with them; since he received orders from Generals Willcox, Humphreys, and Griffin, he was likely near them. This could place the reserve companies immediately in the drainage ditch seen in the last two maps and labeled both "ditch" and "canal" in the first map.

If Company C was in reserve they would have gone to ground and laid in place until orders moved them or deployed them. A drainage ditch or even dry canal would be the perfect place. Being so close to Marye's Heights, which is where the principal action occurred, would definitely qualify Vandeberg and Company C as being "on the near side of the battle."

One last thing, and it's very cool. A cuff sized rubber eagle button was dug at the Kenmore historical home property near downtown Fredericksburg. Whether this is a relic of the 1st U.S.S.S.'s deployment after the battle, or an item dropped when the estate was used as a field hospital after the Wilderness in 1864 we probably cannot say. Very compelling though...it's at the bottom of the website linked here: http://www.kenmore.org/kenmore/kp_arch.html

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Brian White
Wambaugh, White, & Company
http://www.wwandcompany.com
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Randolph Mess, U.S. Sharpshooters


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:58 pm 
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Your information is extremely helpful. It is tough trying to go back almost 150 years and reconstruct situations. Fortunately the war was well documented, and people like you and this discussion board have really put in the hours to understand the documentation.
Even though Vandeberg states in his Dec. 28 letter – “Our Regiment was not engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg, but we were across the river.” I knew some of them had to be involved with the fight, because it appears several companies had losses.
These are letters to his parents. Even the common soldier understood the needless slaughter, and what the newspapers would do with it, so he may down play his own role or exposure in the fighting.
Even though Trepp states there were no casualties on the 14th and 15th under his command, it is possible the following men were loaned out to other commands. It is not yet clear as whether these men died from their wounds from Fredericksburg, or a separate action. Or disease is always a possibility (even though the USSS had fewer losses to disease than most units).

Tyler, Tobin K. Private 1st Berdan Sharpshooters C
Died - 14 Dec. 1861

Townsend, G. H. Private 1st Berdan Sharpshooters G Died - 28 Dec. 1861
Zimmerman, G. Private 1st Berdan Sharpshooters C Died - 28 Dec. 1861
Rutherford, S. D. Private 1st Berdan Sharpshooters E Died- 30 Dec. 1861

Again, thanks for all the help, and now I have a few hours of studies ahead of me. Plus, I have several more letters and I will be posting similar questions from time to time.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 3:45 pm 
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Ed,
The dates of the deaths of the Sharpshooters you mention were all in December of 1861 not 1862. These fellows would have died at Camp of Instruction in Washington. I know that Samuel D. Rutherford Co. E - 1st Regiment, died of disease and is buried at the Soldier's Home Cemetery in DC.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 4:04 pm 
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Bingo...Thanks for the obvious. I can't believe I can mess up a whole year.
I am still laughing at myself.


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