Marching Toward Kelly’s Ford
Chapter 26 (July 26, 1863 – July 31, 1863)
While here Captain Davis, who had been home on sick furlough, returned to us and we were all glad to have him with us again. He brought many messages for the boys from their loved ones back in old Selinsgrove, and many were the questions asked him concerning the old folks at home.
July 26, Lieutenant Nelson Byers left us to go to Philadelphia for the purpose of getting recruits for our regiment, which at this time numbered less than three hundred men. In the yard at General Slocum’s headquarters was a fine well, around which a guard was placed and no one was allowed to get any water except for use at headquarters. The house occupied by Slocum had evidently been used as a hospital during a battle some time before.
A few days after headquarters had been established (the well was a draw well) the bucket had been let down for water and to the surprise of the drawer part of a man’s leg which had been amputated in the hospital and thrown down the well, was in the bucket. This, it was said, was the cause of the removal of our camp next day, and the boys were all happy that they had not been allowed to get any water from the moss covered bucket that hung in the well.
The first evening we encamped here a goodly number of the boys gathered brass carbine cartridges (a cavalry battle had been fought here and the ground was strewn with cartridges) and these were placed upon the railroad track which ran thru camp for quite a distance. After dark some time a freight train came up from Alexandria and when the wheels of the engine struck these cartridges they exploded and made quite a racket. The engineer thought he had run into a Rebel camp and was being fired upon, stopped, reversed his engine and ran his train back a few miles to Catlett’s Station. There he learned the truth of the situation and brought his train back again. The boys who did this work were soon scattered by the guards, and each one skedaddled to his respective company. Lewis Millhoff of Company G, was the only one captured. Of course the only guilty one, he was placed under guard at General Geary’s headquarters during the night and released in the morning.
Saturday, July 31st, struck tents, passed Warrenton Junction, crossed Cedar Creek, and went into camp on the north bank of the Rappahannock River only a short distance from Kelly’s Ford. where we had crossed while on our Chancellorsville campaign just about three months before. Marched 20 miles.
Orders were given to erect our tents and we, of course, expected to remain all night and have a much needed night’s rest after a hard day’s march. After dark some time, orders were sent around by General Geary to strike tents and pack up quietly, and soon we were marched down to the river where the pontoon train was ready with their canvas boats. Several boats were pushed off into the river and loaded with men, the writer and several of the company among them, and hurriedly departed for the southern shore. As soon as we landed the boats returned for more men. Those that had already crossed formed a skirmish line in the shape of a half moon, with flanks resting on the river, and as each detachment was landed, this skirmish line was extended. Under this guard the bridge was completed in a very short time and the troops began crossing. However, before the bridge was quite finished the Rebel cavalry pickets discovered that the Yankees had played a trick on them, by pretending to go into camp and then in the stillness of the night, when all of us had lain down for a good night’s rest, we had been roused out of our slumber and taken across the river before they discovered the move.
The Rebel cavalry of course advanced. Our skirmishers kept quiet and got down into the high grass and when the cavalry was near enough our line fired into them and their surprise was so complete that they about faced and skedaddled. By daylight our whole corps was again south of the Rappahannock. Our entire regiment was placed on the skirmish line during Sunday, August 1st.
In the evening we again re-crossed at Kelly’s Ford on the pontoon bridge and encamped for the night. At the Battle of Gettysburg, George D. Griggs, (nicknamed Colonel) unnecessarily exposed himself to the enemy, but when we got to the Rappahannock River he was very despondent, and seemed to have a dread of crossing the river. He had a premonition that if he crossed to the south side he would never get back alive. When we did get back Jake Garman (nicknamed Yankee) tapped Griggs on the shoulder and said, “Colonel, you ain’t dead yet.” Strange, but he soon became the same Colonel Griggs and as jolly as ever.