Slike strani

disputing every inch of his ground. His lines extended around Spottsylvania Court House, between the Po and Ny rivers in a position well supported by breastworks and protected by forest and marshy land. Our own lines were well brought up, the Ninth Corps holding the extreme left, General Willcox's division resting on the Ny, at the point which Colonel Christ had won. In the course of the afternoon, a determined attack was made by the corps, in conjunction with the Army of the Potomac. It resulted in placing our lines in immediate proximity with those of the enemy. General Potter's division attained a point within a short distance of the Court House. The advance was made in a very creditable manner, in the face of a heavy and destructive fire. After holding the position for a short time, General Potter was ordered to retire for nearly a mile, to a point selected by Lieutenant Colonel Comstock, under the direction of General Grant. The withdrawal was made against the remonstrance of General Burnside, and the mistake was afterwards seen-unfortunately not till it was too late to rectify it except by hard fighting.

But the Ninth Corps suffered a severe loss in the death of General Stevenson, the commander of the first division. He was killed early in the day by one of the enemy's riflemen, while near his headquarters. Born in Boston, on the 3d of February, 1836, Thomas Greely Stevenson was especially fortunate in his family, his education and his social position. He was the son of Hon. J. Thomas Stevenson, well known as an able lawyer and a sagacious man of affairs. He was educated in the best schools in Boston, and at an early age he entered the counting room of one of the most active merchants of that city. There, by his faithfulness in duty, his promptness and his generosity of disposition, he secured the entire confidence and love of his principal and the high esteem of the business community, and a brilliant commercial career opened before him. But when his country called him, he could not neglect her summons. The parting words of his father to himself and his younger brother, when they left home for the field, well


express the appreciation in which his domestic virtues were held: "Be as good soldiers as you have been sons. Your country can ask no more than that of you, and God will bless you."

In the spring of 1861, he was orderly sergeant of the New England Guards, and upon the organization of the fourth battalion of Massachusetts infantry he was chosen Captain of one of its companies. On the 25th of April, the battalion was sent to garrison Fort Independence in Boston harbor, and on the 4th of May, Captain Stevenson was promoted to the rank of Major. In this position he was distinguished for an excellent faculty for discipline and organization which was subsequently of great benefit to him. On the 1st of August he received authority to raise and organize a regiment of Infantry for a term of three years, and on the 7th of September, he went into camp at Readville with twenty men. On the 9th of December, he left the State of Massachusetts with the 24th regiment-one of the finest and best drilled, organized, equipped, and disciplined body of troops that Massachusetts had yet sent to the war. His regiment was assigned to General Foster's brigade in the North Carolina expedition, and he soon gained the respect and friendship of his superior officers.

The conduct of the 24th regiment and its commander in North Carolina has already been made a matter of record. When Colonel Stevenson was assigned to the command of a brigade in April, 1862, the choice was unanimously approved by his companions in arms. General Burnside regarded him as one of his best officers. "He has shown great courage and skill in action," once wrote the General, "and in organization and discipline he has no superior." General Foster was enthusiastic in his commendation. "He stands as high as any officer or soldier in the army of the United States," said he, "on the list of noble, loyal, and devoted men." On the 27th of December he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, and on the 14th of March, 1863, he was confirmed and commissioned to that grade. In February, 1863, he accom

panied General Foster to South Carolina, where his brigade was attached to the tenth corps, and where he served with great fidelity and zeal throughout the year under Generals Foster, Hunter and Gillmore. In April, 1864, he reported to General Burnside at Annapolis and was assigned to the command of the first division.

General Stevenson was peculiarly known and respected in the army for his bravery and coolness in action, his skill in organization, and for his faithful care of the troops under his command. He exercised a personal supervision over the execution of his orders, and was not content till he had fully ascertained that every thing had been done as it should be. The report of the 44th Massachusetts regiment, which was in his brigade in North Carolina, bears especial testimony to this trait in his character.

The language of a friend, who furnished the material for the above sketch of General Stevenson's career, will hardly be considered too strong or too partial an estimate of his character. Certain it is, that his loss was felt by, all his brother officers with profound sorrow. A personal friend, a meritorious soldier, a trustworthy and noble man had been taken from the midst of them, and they will agree to the summary which a not too indulgent pen has traced. "In his military career he was honored far beyond his years, but not beyond his acknowledged deserts. Many, who were older and of larger experience than himself sought his counsel and his aid. He was peculiarly fit for a leader. Quick in the perception of danger, cautious in preparing for it, he was as bold as the boldest in confronting it. He shrank instinctively from all unnecessary display. Modest almost to bashfulness he was nevertheless very determined in the support of opinions which he had deliberately formed. He felt the weight of the large responsibilities which constantly devolved upon him, but he never shrank from them. Conscientious in the discharge of each duty, he made for himself a record of honor in the military annals of his country. True manliness was his marked characteristic.

Generous, truthful, liberal in his judgments of others, forgetful of self, genial in his disposition and frank in his intercourse with every one, he made many friends. The easy familiarity, for which he was noted, never detracted from the respect which the true dignity of his character inspired.

"Upon the arrival of his remains at Boston public honors to his memory were promptly tendered by the authorities both of the city and of the State; but his family, acting upon what they knew would have been his own wish, decided that the last tributes should not be attended by any public display."

The command of the first division devolved upon Colonel Leasure of the 100th Pennsylvania, until the arrival of Major General Thomas L. Crittenden, who had been assigned to the position. This officer had previously been on terms of intimate intercourse with General Burnside, had served with General Rosecrans in East Tennessee, and his arrival in camp on the 11th was a source of much gratification. But little was done by either army on this day except some very lively skirmishing. The weary soldiers enjoyed a brief period of repose, to which a refreshing shower of rain gave additional zest. It had been a week of toil and blood. The ground had been well fought over, and as General Grant changed his base of operations, from the Rapidan to Fredericksburg, the roads in the rear of the army, to the Rappahannock and the Potomac at Belle Plain, presented a sorry spectacle. Fredericksburg was filled with wounded soldiers. Even the forest recesses of the Wilderness hid many a poor fellow, who had crept away to die. Many of the severely wounded were still lying upon the field under the rude shelter of hastily constructed booths of boughs and canvas. The medical department worked with all diligence and the efforts of the delegates of the Sanitary and Christian Commissions were beyond praise. A large army leaves in its track desolation and misery. Such battles as had been fought since the opening of the campaign seemed to drench the soil with blood and fill the air with groans of pain. Scenes of most piteous interest were exhibited on every hand.

On many hearts and homes the shadows of darkest bereavement had fallen, and the bright spring time sun was clouded with grief. Patriotism and duty required a heroic sacrifice.

The battles of the week culminated on the 12th, when the fighting was resumed with redoubled energy. General Hancock's corps, in the early dawn, made a particularly gallant attack upon a salient of the enemy's works, striking them upon his right centre, and completely surprised the foe in that quarter, capturing and sending to the rear General Johnson's division almost entire, with its commanding general. Twenty pieces of artillery also fell into our hands. Our whole line was closed up. The Ninth Corps dashed into the fight with the utmost enthusiasm and speedily joined General Hancock's troops in their daring adventure. For an hour or two it seemed as though our men would carry everything before them. But at nine o'clock, the enemy had become fully alive to the necessity of resistance, and made a counter attack against our lines. For three hours longer the fight continued with exhibitions of the most desperate valor and with terrible carnage. The rebel columns of attack dashed in vain against our lines, advancing with unflinching resolution, and retiring only when broken up by the withering and destructive fire which was brought to bear against them. At noon, the enemy gave up his attempts to force back our troops, but he had succeeded in preventing our further advance.

General Grant was not yet ready to stop the conflict. He determined, if possible, to turn and double up the enemy's right flank. It was a desperate enterprise. The enemy's right was resting on marshy and difficult ground. But after a temporary lull, to afford a little rest to the tired troops, the battle was renewed in the early afternoon. Our troops were massed upon our left, the Ninth Corps occupying a conspicuous position. Rain had commenced falling in the morning, and the field of battle became a mass of gory mud. Still the struggle was once more entered upon with unflagging courage. Again and again did our troops press forward to be met with a most stub

« PrejšnjaNaprej »