State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

With the Second Pennsylvania Reserves


The next morning at five o'clock we weighed anchor, and again started on, accompanied by the ferry boat Chancellor Livingston, and about one p.m., came to anchor near the mouth of the river, where the rest of the flotilla soon afterwards arrived. The day had been a stormy one, but as the wind lulled in the course of a few hours, we again got under way, and passing into Chesapeake bay, headed to the south and at sunset entered the York river, passing by Yorktown and Gloucester City and coming to anchor during the night off West Point at the confluence of the Pamunkey and Mattapony rivers. 

Early on the 11th we again got under way and entering the Pamunkey, steamed rapidly up it. This river winds through a low, flat country, and on account of its exceedingly crooked course, it was interesting to watch our flotilla with their bows sometimes pointing in every direction. In fact when a strange steamer was discerned, it was impossible to tell whether she was going up or down the river, and when one was but a half mile from us in a direct line she was many times that distance off  by the river. A "dark," who had resided in the neighborhood, it was said, answered that it was so crooked in some places that it was impossible to cross it, as no matter how often one rowed over, he would invariably find himself on the same side. We soon commenced meeting Government transports, mostly steamers and schooners laden with forage for the cavalry and artillery. The farther we ascended the more numerous they became, until they numbered hundreds lining the banks of the river for a long distance and obstructing the navigation. About nine o'clock we arrived at the White House, where we landed and stacked arms, awaiting orders.

The boys having had time to wash themselves and replenish their stock of tobacco, the brigade formed and marched up the railroad about two miles, passing an establishment "for the embalming the dead," whose proprietors distributed to their anticipated customers a bountiful supply of handbills. Moving into a field to the left, we bivouacked for the night. Here our baggage was reduced to the lowest possible amount, the officers being required to send to the landing ill but a small valise or knapsack, and the companies being allowed their cooking utensils only. Orders were issued to cook three days' rations, we borrowing from the First and Fifth kettles for the purpose.

At nine o'clock the next morning, we formed and marched off up the railroad which runs nearly due west from here, passing Tunstall's Station. The country through which we moved was mostly low, heavily wooded, and interspersed with numerous swamps. In some places where there were deep cuts, there were large deposits of marine shells and corals that indicated that at one time this portion of the Peninsula had been the bed of the sea. The same formation was found in other portions of the Peninsula. The day being excessively warm many of the men threw away their overcoats and blankets to lighten their loads. About four o'clock we passed Dispatch Station and moved to the right of the road and encamped on the edge of a heavy wood near the Chickahominy river, we having marched ten miles. Through the day we heard the slow fire of heavy guns.


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The only communication between the two banks of the Chickahominy were Bottom's, New and Mechanicsville bridges, the two latter being completely enfiladed by the enemy's batteries upon the commanding heights opposite, supported by strong forces, having numerous rifle-pits in their front, which would have made it necessary to have fought a sanguinary battle, with not a certain prospect of success, before a passage could have been secured. Therefore, to have advanced on Richmond soon after the battle, it would have been necessary to march the troops from Mechanicsville and other points on the north bank of the Chickahominy down to Bottom's bridge and thence to Fair Oaks, a distance of twenty-three miles, which in the condition of the roads would have required two days to accomplish with artillery, by which time the enemy would have been secure within his entrenchments, but five miles distant.


On the 13th of June we rested. In the afternoon orders were received to be prepared to move at daylight the next morning. Soon after orders were issued to move immediately, then orders came to draw five days' rations, three of which were to be cooked and two put in the knapsacks. By the time we had got through, about eleven, news was received that an attack had been made upon "Tunstall's Station," in our rear, and our brigade was ordered out. The night was a beautiful moonlight one, and after a march of eight miles we reached there, but the enemy had left. The "Bucktails," Fifth and Eighth were posted on the different roads, and we ordered to occupy a commanding position and hold the station.


It appears that two squadrons of the Fifth United States Cavalry, under the command of Captain Royall, stationed near Hanover Old Church, were attacked and overpowered by a force of the enemy's cavalry, numbering about one thousand five hundred men, with four guns, who pushed on towards the White House in hopes of destroying the stores and shipping there, but the fortunate arrival of the Third Brigade of Reserves frustrated their design. Upon the enemy's arrival at the station a portion of them dismounted and awaited the arrival of the tram, upon which they fired, killing one man and wounding several others. The engineer immediately put on steam and succeeded in running the train through. After this they set fire to the station-house and a car loaded with grain, and then tearing up a rail retired to a neighboring wood to await the arrival of another train now due. Upon the arrival of our brigade, however, they skedaddled.


The next morning a number of laborers, who had escaped and hid themselves in the woods came in, as also Colonel Gr. B. Hall, Second Excelsior Brigade, who fell from a platform car and was captured by the enemy. They bound his hands together and tied him to the stirrup of one of the men, but during the confusion of their skedaddle upon our arrival, he managed to give them the slip. The bodies of two or three poor laborers who had been wantonly killed were found and buried. Near the station they captured and burnt a number of Government and sutler wagons, from which they got considerable liquor, and some of them indulging rather freely, they were found lying around loose in the woods next morning and brought in. A Dutch butcher of Richmond came riding in, in a most glorious state of felicity, tickled half to death with the fun of the night before, which he related to us with great gusto, and proposed taking a drink with any one who had liquor, and shooting the Yankee prisoners. The terror of the poor devil upon discovering his mistake, almost instantly sobered him, and the boys, after frightening him to their hearts' content "bucked and gagged" him, and turned him over to the guard.


The day being excessively hot, we were moved across the railroad to a wood upon a hill, where we remained until the next morning. During the night companies K and H, Captain Smith and Lieutenant Kennedy were sent on picket, and Lieutenants Jack and Black were sent out with detachments to scour the woods, the latter returning with five prisoners.

On Sunday the 15th, the enemy having all disappeared, we returned to our former camping ground, the weather being oppressively hot and the men straggling much. The entire damage done by the enemy, besides that referred to above, was the killing of several of the guard and teamsters at Garlick's Landing, and the burning of two schooners laden with forage, they making the entire circuit of the army, repassing the Chickahominy at Long Bridge. It is somewhat remarkable that this raid was commanded by Fitz Hugh Lee, and executed a few days after the return of his mother to Richmond, from a visit to the White House, where she had been furnished with a pass and escort by General Fitz John Porter, who was a welcomed guest to her hospitalities prior to the war.

More effectually to conceal from the enemy our positions and numbers, orders were issued prohibiting the sounding of all calls, and ordering the tying to trees of any who discharged their pieces. Every morning early the enemy opened on our fatigue parties at work on the bridges, which the boys said was "Jeff calling the roll."


On the afternoon of the 6th the division was formed at five o'clock to receive General McClellan, but we were disappointed, and after waiting an hour we returned to our quarters. The next day we formed at nine, A.M., to receive the general, and remained in position until twelve, P.M., and reformed at six, when orders were read to us to march the next morning, which were received with enthusiasm. During the evening we were busy cooking rations, and at throe the next morning, companies B and A, Captains McDonough and Neidé were recalled from picket. At five o'clock we moved off in a northwesterly direction parallel with the Chickahominy, and after marching eight miles encamped about noon near Gaines' House, and about three hundred yards from the river.




 -Our Campaigns: Or, The Marches, Bivouacs, Battles, Incidents of Camp Life and History of Our Regiment During Its Three Years Term of Service
 Evan Morrison Woodward* 1865




*The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant & Adjutant Evan M. Woodward, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 13 December 1862, while serving with 2d Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry, in action at Fredericksburg, Virginia. First Lieutenant Woodward advanced between the lines, demanded and received the surrender of the 19th Georgia Infantry and captured their battle flag.
General Orders: Date of Issue: December 14, 1894
Action Date: December 13, 1862



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