In Camp at Aquia Creek
Chapter 13 (May 4, 1863 – May 15, 1863)
The loss in our regiment was 125 men. The number engaged was 3,500. The entire loss of our army was 16,030. That of the Confederate Army was 12,581, making a total of 28,611. Three thousand were killed on the field, and many more died in hospitals from wounds. When the remnant of our regiment left the field, the ground we had occupied was covered with the dead of the enemy, and scattered over the field were the dead and dying of both armies. Can you, dear reader, imagine the horrors of this battlefield with its thousands of dead and dying? All of them had loved ones somewhere. Here they lay on this field without care or sympathy from any one about them. Later on I will tell about some who lay upon this field for many days before being removed. If these 28,000 were to march in procession it would at least take five or six hours to pass a given point, and these were the flower of our country, men who died to offer their lives for their country’s flag.
We were now taken back to where General Geary had assembled his old division, when Colonel Pardee arrived with only a remnant of his regiment, including a few men of Company G, General Geary came out to meet us and shook hands with Colonel Pardee, and welcomed us, for the General thought that the entire regiment had been captured.
On May 4th, Monday, a new line of works about one and a half miles from the battlefield-and about the same distance from the Rappahannock River, had now been erected and we were placed in these.
There was very heavy cannonading in the direction of Fredericksburg and a heavy rain during the night. May 5th, from 9 o’clock until noon, we were engaged in erecting or strengthening our entrenchments. Heavy rain, with the Rappahannock rising rapidly, and the army retreating, made it difficult.
May 6th, Wednesday, the army retreated across the river at United States ford, crossing on a canvas pontoon bridge. The river was very high, and the cables by which the pontoons were anchored were cracking and snapping. The bridge was loaded so heavily that the boats almost dipped water, and every one was anxious to get to the northern side of the river. Had a cable snapped or a boat been punctured hundreds would have been drowned. Every precaution, however, was taken for the safety of the men. A man was placed in each boat for the purpose of watching so that nothing would strike or cut the canvas boats, and to dip out the water that was continually oozing thru the canvas. At last we were safely across and every one of us, I know, was much relieved. We marched to within a short distance of Harwood Church and encamped, traveling 13 miles. From the time we crossed to the south side of the Rappahannock at Kelley’s Ford April 29th, until the evening of May 6th, not a drum or bugle had sounded a note. But when we reached this camp north of the river, the drum corps of the different regiments gave us martial music, and the bugles sounded forth their beautiful calls. Every soldier in camp cheered, and members of Company G, as usual, had their mouths wide open and did their full part.
May 7th, broke camp, crossed Potomac Creek, passed Stafford Court House, and got back into our old camp at Aquia Creek landing about 2 p. m., traveling 12 miles.
May 8th, I first learned, thru Lot Ulrich, of the sickness of brother William, in the division hospital, which was located four miles from our camp. I asked for a pass to visit the Lieutenant but this was not granted me as no passes were issued at this time. Lieutenant Nelson Byers, who had command of the Company, (Captain Davis being home on furlough) told me that if I would report every morning and evening that I might go, and that if I was needed in camp he would see that I was notified. From that time until May 15th, whenever I was off duty I stayed with brother and attended to his wants as best I could. I would attend roll call in the morning then walk four miles, stay with him all day, come back in the evening to attend roll call at 8:30, then go back to the hospital and stay until morning, when again I would go to camp. H. J. Doebler, who was also wounded at Chancellorsville, was only a few tents from where brother William was lying. My brother-in-law, John Crossgrove, then sheriff of Union county, was written to by the Lieutenant, telling him of his sickness. He came to Washington, got a pass and came to Aquia Creek and arrived there on the morning of May 15th, only a little while before brother died. Arrangements were made for having the body embalmed and sent home to Selinsgrove for burial.