Friday, June 06, 2014

Cedar Mountain panoramas/photos: 'Almost annihilated'

For my interactive battlefield panoramas of Antietam, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Harris Farm and Spotsylvania Courthouse, click here.

  PANORAMA 1: The center of the Confederate line was located here at Crittenden Gate.
       PANORAMA 2: The 5th Connecticut advanced from left to right at  Cedar Mountain.

It was so hot that some Union soldiers suffered from sunstroke and "lay by the roadside in almost dying condition" as their army advanced to fight the Battle of Cedar Mountain, near Culpeper, Va., on Aug. 9, 1862. Four regiments of Yankee infantry, including the 5th Connecticut, nearly pushed through the center of the Rebel line at the intersection of a farm lane and the Orange-Culpeper Road before enemy reinforcements stopped them. (Interactive Panorama 1)

An old Virginia state marker briefly explains 
Stonewall Jackson's role at the
 Battle of Cedar Mountain, the only battle where
the Rebel general is said to have drawn his sword.
"Battle commenced in the afternoon in earnest," 5th Connecticut  Sergeant Harlan P. Rugg  of Company I wrote in his diary.  "Our brigade ordered to charge and executed a bold, splendid charge, from woods across a wheat field (Interactive Panorama 2), driving back two or three lines or the enemy at the point of the bayonet and with the butt of the gun, but we have no support and are obliged to fall back. Myself badly wounded in the right shoulder by blow of rebel musket and taken prisoner but made my escape. Myself at field hospital near by. Apparently our regiment almost annihilated. Enemy threw shot and shell at hospital and along our line in the evening."

At least two 5th Connecticut national color bearers were killed and three were wounded during the charge. (The national flag was captured by the Stonewall Brigade.) According to another account, seven Connecticut soldiers who carried the colors were killed that day, "which does not seem improbable judging from the disastrous passage across the wheatfield." Color Sergeant James Hewison of Company D was so intent on avoiding capture and preventing the state colors from capture that he wrapped the flag under his uniform and crawled off the battlefield after he was wounded.

After Union infantry had closed on the Confederate line, savage hand-to-hand fighting broke out for 15 minutes. "There were few loaded guns on either side," a 5th Connecticut regimental historian noted. "Clubbed muskets and bayonets were the rule." In the melee, Lieutenant William Rockwell claimed that he shot six Confederates and that Rugg's Company I "fought like demons, strewing the ground with dead, so that one could scarcely step but upon rebel dead."

The 5th Connecticut suffered 179 casualties at Cedar Mountain, including 48 killed or mortally wounded -- the worst day by far for the regiment during the Civil War. After the battle, famed Civil War photographer Timothy O'Sullivan, one of Mathew Brady's crew, shot an image (see below) of fresh Union battlefield graves -- the second known such image -- with Cedar Mountain looming in the background.  I shot the present-day image from O'Sullivan's vantage point during my first visit to the Cedar Mountain battlefield in early April. (Click here for an excellent assessment by Gary Adelman of O'Sullivan's Cedar Mountain images.)

SOURCE:  Marvin, Edwin E., The Fifth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Hartford, Conn., The Press of Wiley, Waterman and Eaton, 1889

THEN AND NOW: In August 1862, Timothy O'Sullivan shot the image of fresh Union graves
 at  Cedar Mountain,  much of which is privately owned today. Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield 
works closely with the Civil War Trustwhich has saved 152 acres of the battlefield. 
 (O'Sullivan image: Library of Congress collection.)

1 comment:

  1. This is great stuff, John. My family was at the epicenter of the fighting in Culpeper that day: