Barney crosses the Rapidan
As told in Shirt-tail Sunday: Barney Rosenblatt, Part 2 – Barney enlists in the Union Army, Barney had set up camp two miles from Brandy Station. Barney awoke the next morning to a battering storm that drenched his tent. It was miserably cold and wet until the next day. The skies cleared and the soldiers were just getting comfortable when on April 1 they were ordered to break camp and march to Stevensburg, Virginia to join up with the Artillery Brigade of the Second Corps. They packed up their tents and started the two-mile march to Stevensburg.
As they marched, they were saluted by soldiers along the road who were veterans of previous battles. They knew the 4th NYHA had left its heavy guns at the forts in Washington. They expressed their derision for Barney’s regiment as it passed by asking, “How’s your heavy infantry?” and “What is the size of your siege guns?” and “How are your fortifications?”
Halfway to Stevensburg, the skies opened up once again. The regiment made camp in Stevensburg only to be greeted on waking the next day with four inches of snow on the ground. The rain and snow continued to make life in camp cold, wet, and miserable for the next week. Like the other soldiers, Barney would find the only way he could stay dry would be to crawl into bed and cover himself with his rubber blanket.
Company D was re-assigned to the Artillery Brigade of the Fifth Corps and camped with that corps in an orchard next to a dilapidated brick house about 1 mile from the village of Culpepper, Virginia. On April 19, Company D was assigned to guard the ammunition train for the Artillery Brigade.
General Grant described the wagon train:
With a wagon-train that would have extended from the Rapidan to Richmond, stretched along in single file and separated as the teams necessarily would be when moving, we could still carry only three days’ forage and about ten to twelve days’ rations, besides a supply of ammunition. To overcome all difficulties, the chief quartermaster, General Rufus Ingalls, had marked on each wagon the corps badge with the division color and the number of the brigade. At a glance, the particular brigade to which any wagon belonged could be told. The wagons were also marked to note the contents: if ammunition, whether for artillery or infantry; if forage, whether grain or hay; if rations, whether, bread, pork, beans, rice, sugar, coffee or whatever it might be. Empty wagons were never allowed to follow the army or stay in camp. As soon as a wagon was empty it would return to the base of supply for a load of precisely the same article that had been taken from it. Empty trains were obliged to leave the road free for loaded ones. Arriving near the army they would be parked in fields nearest to the brigades they belonged to. Issues, except of ammunition, were made at night in all cases. By this system the hauling of forage for the supply train was almost wholly dispensed with. They consumed theirs at the depots.
General Grant, headquartered with the Fifth Corps in Culpepper, was setting his plans in motion for an attack on the rebel forces in Virginia. On May 4, the entire corps set out for the Rapidan River.
Ten days’ rations, along with a supply of forage and ammunition, were taken in wagons. Beef cattle were driven with the wagon trains, and butchered as wanted. In addition, each soldier carried three days’ rations in haversacks and fifty rounds of cartridges.
Diaries, letters, and books written by other soldiers in Barney’s regiment provide a vivid description of what they and Barney experienced during their war service.
Captain Henry Brown (in Company H) described the 23-mile march to the Rapidan River:
The day is warm and pleasant, and the men with characteristic recklessness have thrown away one article after another, till many are reduced to pants, shirt, hat and musket, and the line of march from Culpepper is littered with coats, blankets, and knapsacks.”
Trying to lighten his load, Warren Works (in Company K) said he threw away everything but his rubber blanket and his half of a pup tent, including three day’s rations.
Barney marched with Company D as it crossed the pontoon bridge over the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford. Like other pontoon bridges, it had been constructed by placing boats side by side from shore to shore and then placing heavy planks on top of them.
After crossing the river, the troops stopped at the old Wilderness Tavern and set up their tents in a field near the Lacy family’s house.
General Warren, General Meade and General Grant occupied the Lacy House (also known as Ellwood Manor) for their headquarters. Owned by the Lacy family, which had long since decamped for points farther south, the house was located just west of the Wilderness Tavern. The Orange Turnpike ran north of the house.
To be continued: Part 4 – Barney fights the rebels at Harris Farm
New York State Military Museum and Veteran’s Research Center website, 4th Artillery Regiment (Heavy), NY Volunteers Civil War Newspaper Clippings. http://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/artillery/4thArtHvy/4thArtHvyCWN.htm [accessed Dec. 3, 2014]
The Diary of a Line Officer, Captain Augustus C. Brown at Openlibrary.org [accessed Dec. 30, 2014]
Heavy guns and light: a history of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery, by Hyland C. Kirk, 1890, New York: C.T. Dillingham
Grant, Ulysses S. Personal Memoirs. New York: C.L. Webster, 1885–86; Bartleby.com, 2000. http://www.bartleby.com/1011/. [accessed Jan. 27, 2015].
Image: Germanna Ford, Rapidan River, Va. Artillery crossing pontoon bridge; O’Sullivan, Timothy H., 1840-1882, photographer; May 4, 1864; Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-cwpb-00327; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Accessed April 27, 2015 at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003000463/PP/.