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Joseph W. Crowther and the 128th NY Volunteers
Joseph W. Crowther and his brother Benjamin were born 29 Apr 1833 in
Sheepridge, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, to James and Eliza Ann
(Haigh) Crowther. The 1841 Huddersfield Township census lists four
other children. Sometime after 1841, the family moved to Fishkill,
NY. On 18 Aug 1852, Joseph married Sarah J. Hedden.
He made his living as a cigar maker.
On 20 August 1862 Joseph left Sarah at home with their (then) five
children and with Benjamin enlisted in Co. H., 128th NY Volunteers for a
period of three years. The roster describes him as 5' 4¾", with
light complexion, blue eyes, and sandy hair.
Why did Joseph and Benjamin and other immigrants join their neighbors
from Dutchess and Columbia counties?
The War against the Rebellion had been waged since
April, 1861. The false ideas of the North and of the South were
being dispelled. Men on both sides began to realize that the
citizens of the same Republic, and of equal determination and
bravery, were engaged in a deadly contest. With longer and better
preparation, and being upon their own ground, the greater victories
had been on the side of the South. Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, the
Shenandoah Valley, Harrison's Landing and the Rapidan, gave new
courage to the Confederates and opened the eyes of the North to the
greatness of the task at hand. President Lincoln has issued the call
for 300,000 more men. No longer was military service regarded a
pleasure excursion; nor was the bounty of one hundred dollars in all
from State, county or town sufficiently large to become a strong
inducement, as in the last part of the war. Thirteen dollars a month
in wages were a small attraction to draw men from their peaceful and
profitable employment in order to be made the targets for the
skilled riflemen of the South. The North was stirred by the
patriotic determination to maintain a united regiment. [Hanaburgh,
From Muster to Louisiana
Most of the volunteers who became the 128th, says Hanaburgh, were
native born, though there were some Germans, Irish, and English among
them. 1600 men volunteered--1021 were admitted. The regiment was
mustered on 4 September 1862 at Camp Kelly in Hudson, NY, under the
command of Col. David S. Cowles.
On Friday afternoon, September 5th, the Regiment
with full ranks left Camp Kelly. Our haversacks, which were new and
smelled of the varnish, were stuffed with the rations issued, a loaf
of bread, a piece of fat pork hot from the kettle, and a big onion.
we marched through the streets of Hudson, which were crowded with
our friends giving their adieus, and took the Steamer Oregon.
The steamer took them as far as New York, from whence they traveled
by train to Baltimore, by way of Philadelphia. They arrived in
Baltimore on 8 September and marched to their training ground south of
Baltimore, Camp Millington. Lawrence Van Alstyne
describes life in
Nothing of special importance transpired until the
11th of October, when the rebel General Stewart made his famous raid
into Pennsylvania and greatly frightened all the people of that
State. Orders were now received for the 128th to take two days
rations and be ready to move. We left camp at 10:30 A.M. and marched to the depot
of the Pennsylvania Central Railroad, and then lay in the streets
all night. At seven o'clock the next morning we took cars for
Gettysburg. ... A general and hearty welcome was given us along the
way by the people of the various villages, which was expressed in
their generous gifts of fruit, apple-butter, and eatables of all
kinds. ... We reached Gettysburg in the evening of the 13th, and
remained in the cars during the night. About ten o'clock of the
14th, the grand entree was made into the town, and quite hastily, as
it was reported that the enemy was advancing. We took possession of
the public square. The bakers supplied us, while lying in the
streets, with hot molasses "Bolivars" at low prices. ... The
Confederate calvary [sic] were reported to be within two miles of
the place when we took possession. The citizens were greatly
excited. ... On learning of our arrival General Stewart took the
gentle hint and fell back across the Potomac [Hanaburgh, 7].
On 9 November they were on the move again, on the steamer Arago
to Fortress Monroe, where they joined with other troop transports bound
for New Orleans.
We arrived off this Union Strong Hold on the
morning of the 10th. During the forenoon of this same day, there was
towed near us the famous little Monitor which had won the
signal victory over the rebel ironclad Merrimac. ...
Our first government pay came at this place on the
19th. ... The 27th, being Thanksgiving, according to the
proclamation of President Lincoln, the troops were taken ashore to
attend religious services. Some time was allowed the men to roam
about the Fortress and the immediate vicinity, to wonder at the
strength of the great fortifications and to imagine themselves
crawling within the monster Lincoln Gun [Hanaburgh, 8-9].
The Lincoln Gun at
On 4 December the 128th got back on board the Arago and set
sail for New Orleans. The weather was stormy, as was the attitude of the
Old Neptune could not destroy the appetites and
desires of so many hungry men. For several days the rations were not
satisfactory. The pork was too lively when issued and the potatoes
not well cooked. On the 7th a rush was made for the pork barrels
sitting on the deck and under guard. The guards, equipped with only
side arms, were easily shoved aside, and the pork hurled about the
deck. ... This was the only time in the history of the 128th
when the men had occasion to unitedly make a demand for better
attention on the part of their regimental officers in regard to food
Approaching New Orleans on December 13th, they were quarantined
because of measles at the Quarantine Station, 72 miles below New Orleans.
"On the 22d," says Hanaburgh, "nearly two hundred of the 128th were
reported sick" [p. 14]. Over the next months sickness ravaged the
unit. On 5 January 1863 they moved to
on the steamer Laurel Hill.
Here we pitched our tents just within and north of
the line of breastworks. We were now on the historic grounds of the
battle of January 8th, 1815, which was fought by the American forces
under General Jackson and the British troops commanded by General
Packenham. With much interest we traced the line of earth-works
which were said to be the same in line as defended by Jackson,
though the earlier works had been largely made of cotton bales. We
examined the Live Oak trees under which Packenham died, and in which
are embedded some of the cannon-balls of that engagement. We climbed
the unfinished and decaying square tower, erected as a monument to
the memory of the brave Americans who defended their homes, but
which now seemed a fit emblem of the decaying patriotism of the
citizens of Louisiana. On the Anniversary day, January 8th, we
extemporized a celebration of the American victory, which consisted
of songs being sung, poems recited and various field amusements [Hanaburgh,
Jackson's defensive rampart at
Monument at Chalmette, which was still
unfinished when the 128th was encamped nearby.
Photo of the monument as it stood for
On 7 February the Laurel Hill transported them about a dozen
miles upriver to Camp Parapet (Metairie, LA),
assigned to 1st Bde., 2nd Div., XIX Corps, Dept.
of the Gulf, under the command of General Nathaniel P. Banks.
"Sickness still followed us. On February 18th the chaplain stated that
over forty of our regiment had been borne to their graves since we left
Hudson, and that full 300 were on the sick list" [p. 20].
On 19 March 1863 Benjamin Crowther died at Camp
Parapet of Typhoid Fever. He had been in service with the regiment
seven months and had not fired a shot. Lawrence Van Alstyne mentions him twice. On March 16:
"Ben Crowther is awful sick. He is a fine fellow and we hate
to lose him. He is of better stuff than the average of us. I
wish I could kill his nurse, for he has him tied down to the bed and
stand laughing at his efforts to get loose. But it is the only way
to keep him in one place, for he is out of his head. Talks to his
wife as if she was right by his side." And then on March 19:
"Poor Crowthers died very peacefully about noon to-day. His
cot is next mine and he seemed like one of the family to me. The
company has undertaken to raise money to send his body home" (Diary
of an Enlisted Man, p. 91).
They went on a raid on 18 April 1863 and captured a steamboat, the A.
G. Brown. On 12 May they set off toward Ponchatoula, LA, their
first experience of the Louisiana swamps. They captured the town
with little effort and stayed there until 19 May, when they returned to
Three days later the regiment began the march to Port Hudson.
The siege began 24 May and lasted until 9 July. Joseph seems
to have missed the action, however, for the company muster roll for May
and June 1863 lists him as "sick at Camp Parapet." A
detachment muster roll for the same period lists him as present at Camp
In July 1863 the regiment was reassigned to Col. Oliver P. Gooding's
3rd Bde. They marched from Port Hudson to Baton Rouge,
and then, on 15 July, took the St. Charles downriver to
Donaldsonville. A communication dated 2 Aug. gives their location
as Madame Seager's plantation on the Mississippi River; Hanaburgh says
they were twelve miles from Donaldsonville at Mrs. Thompson's sugar
plantation at Hickory Landing [p. 83]. They were
then assigned to protect the river boats, and transferred their camp to
Plaquemine on 14 August. At the end of the month they appear on the roster of
the 2nd Bde. 1st Div. On 28 August they
boarded the Arago for Baton Rouge, where they remained until
On the 6th of November Company "H.," Captain
Sincerbox, was sent again to Plaquemine. Soon after their arrival
they were mounted and did duty as scouts and mounted videttes. They
made excursions to Indian Village and the adjacent country daily,
and had, as described by one of their number, "what the boys called
a regular pic-nic, as the foraging was excellent, with just enough
brushes with the guerrillas to make it exciting." On the 19th of
November this company was ordered to return to Baton Rouge, and now
resumed its regular camp duties [Hanaburgh, 89].
On 19 Feb. 1864 they were
reassigned to 3rd Bde. (Col. Jacob Sharpe), 2nd
Div. (BG Cuvier Grover), XIX Corps. Their strength now was down to
655 (24 killed, 93 wounded, 100 died, 113 discharged, 62 detached, etc.)
From 22 March to May they participated in Banks' Red River
Campaign. They moved to Alexandria where they waited while Banks
fought unsuccessfully up river. On 14 April the 128th left to join the
main force, to help them return down river. They marched above the
rapids and embarked on the Chenango for Grand Ecore, disembarking
on the 16th. They worked on defenses until the 21st, when the army was
assembled and ordered south. Hanaburgh quotes a regimental poet [p.
In eighteen hundred and sixty-four
We all skedaddled from Grand Ecore.
At Monett's Ferry
(Cane River Crossing) on 23 April they met the Confederate cavalry.
The position [of the Confederates] was a perfect
Gibralter and could be defended by a handful against fearful odds.
... Directly in front was an open field inclining by a gentle slope
toward the front, while nearer the works the ground was covered with
trees, bushes and fallen timber. ... As we made the charge across
the open ground we received a heavy fire from the rebel rifles, but
in less than twenty minutes the bluff was ours with a large number
of prisoners. The colors of the intrepid 128th were the first
planted upon the heights. ... "At the close of this fight the rebel
Texans in our front did the most cowardly act I ever witnessed.
After they were surrounded one gang deliberately fired upon us from
the cover of a rail fence. How we escaped death was a miracle. They
then threw down their rifles and in the most abject manner begged
for quarter, which I firmly believe would have been denied us had
our positions been reversed. Though they ill deserved it, this was
granted" [Hanaburgh 104-105].
days later they were back in Alexandria.
Alexandria was evacuated on 14 May, the river being damned to allow
the stranded fleet to float safely over the falls.
On the 16th they marched in line of battle at Mansura Planes, and at
7 A.M. encountered enemy fire.
Then commenced ... one of the finest military
spectacles they ever beheld. ... All of Bank's Army was marshalled
on this plain, and where every division and brigade, and gun was in
plain sight. Battery after battery was pushed forward, and opened
fire to dislodge the rebels. The cavalry skirmishers became fiercely
engaged. The infantry were pushed rapidly forward and to different
parts of the field to protect the guns. ... as our forces advanced
the cannons were pushed ahead. Caissons with ammunition rushed over
the field. The shots of the enemy would strike in front of our
brigade, and rebound over our heads, or at times pass beyond us. ...
After this magnificent artillery duel of some two
hours, our whole army was advanced. But it was not the intention of
Taylor to engage in a regular battle with our forces, and again
wisely drew off his troops [Hanaburgh, 114].
On the 18th, Colonel Bailey, who had constructed the damn at
Alexandria, was called to build a bridge to allow the army to cross the
Atchafalaya; "the bayou ... was greatly swollen, and now between 600 and
700 feet wide. Twenty-two boats were lashed together and formed into a
pontoon." The 128th had been on picket duty and was called in and sent
across the bridge first; the next day, they were "double quicked back to
the bayou, as the enemy was making a desperate attack on the rear guard.
We remained at the river until the last man had crossed" [Hanaburgh
By the 22nd they were
safely back to the Mississippi.
From 30 May to 5 June they marched from Morganza to the Atchafalaya
River. Along the way they ransacked a plantation house.
Hanaburgh stated that "This was the only time in all the writer's
three years of army experience where he ever saw Northern soldiers
destroy furniture, or purposely injure the homes of the southern people"
They were inspected on 14 June by Gen. Dan Sickles. On the
19th, they embarked on the Polar Star and went up the river to
Port Adams, Mississippi; they returned promptly to Morganza and then, on
2 July, took the City of Memphis for Algiers, opposite New
Orleans, to prepare for transport back north.
The Shenandoah Campaign
The 128th embarked on the Daniel Webster on 20 July, their
destination unknown. The sealed orders were opened when they were out of
the Mississippi, and they headed for Fortress Monroe. From there, they were
quickly dispatched to defend Washington from Jubal Early, arriving on 29
July. Hanaburgh writes,
As soon as we had our baggage unloaded, we fell in
line and marched up 7th Street, and then down Pennsylvania Avenue to
the White House. Here we halted, stacked arms, and gave three hearty
cheers for President Lincoln. The excitement produced by Early's
raid had not yet passed away. Fear was shown in the people's faces, and by their voices. Soldiers by thousands had passed through these
streets, many from the Western battle fields and long marches, yet
we appeared strange to the citizens, because we were so sun-burnt
and black. Some asked us if we were Mexicans. We had been near the
border of that land and felt the blaze of almost the same tropical
sun. Tanned and hardened by exposure, "Banks' Foot Cavalry," as we
styled ourselves, seemed like strangers from a foreign land. [Hanaburgh,
General U. S. Grant, wanting to free Washington once and for all from
the threat of attack, created the Middle Military Division, and on 7
August placed Sheridan in command of an army of more than 40,000 men
with the mission of driving Early from the Shenandoah and destroying the
crops upon which the army was able to sustain itself.
The 128th went up the Potomac to Harpers Ferry, and began the march
At 5:30 of that morning [10 August] the 128th left
its camping ground. We marched through Charlestown, past the
court-house so famous in history as the place of the trial of [John]
Brown and his associates, about 7 o'clock, and halted near the field
where John Brown was hung. Here we sung again the song so often made
to ring out before, of "John Brown's body lies mouldering in the
grave, etc.," and caught new inspiration from his enthusiasm.
Believing in the maintainance of law, and fighting for its
supremacy, we could view the hero from a higher standpoint than a
law-breaker. evidently his insurrection was a violation of existing
laws, but just as evidently, from the Gospel standpoint, and from
the higher public sentiment of the present day, these laws which
sustained slavery, were a violation of humanity and justice [Hanaburgh
On 1 Sept. 1864 Joseph was promoted to the rank of corporal, but was
"reduced" for playing dice with James C.
In the next weeks, the action intensified. Sheridan began his
advance to drive Early from Winchester.
The Battle of Opequon (Third Winchester)
On the evening of September 18th, we received
orders to have four days' rations in our haversacks, and to be ready
to march. Reveille sounded at 1 A.M.,
Monday, the 19th. At two o'clock, and three hours earlier than
Sheridan had told Grant he would be ready to move, the army was in
motion. Wilson's cavalry were sent ahead rapidly to carry the ford
of the Opequan, and to seize the long and deep defile on the east
bank through which the main column would have to pass. ...
At day-break, Wilson's cavalry was over the
Opequan and in possession of the narrow gorge. In this sortie the
cavalry swept all before them till they secured a space within two
miles of Winchester and sufficiently large for the deployment of our
forces.... The 128th of Sharpe's brigade, nineteenth army corps
crossed the ford at 8 A.M.,
and continued to march through the gorge, and then turning to the
right of the pike, were formed in line of battle....
...At a quarter before twelve o'clock, upon
Sheridan's signal, the whole Union line moved forward at a double
quick and became engaged. Wilson pushed Lomax back on the extreme
right of the enemy's line. The struggle of supreme importance came
in the centre. Upon the nineteenth corps and Ricket's division of
the sixth corps devolved this bloody task. These must sustain the
burden of the day. Sharpe's brigade moved forward in line of battle
in the following order: The 156th New York, 38th Mass., 128th and
176th New York. The movement was through a thick woods of young
trees to open ground. ... It was a charge with bayonets set along
the whole line of our division. We pushed back the advance line of
confederates and threw them somewhat in confusion.... Comparatively
few men fell until we were within 100 yards of the rebel lines, when
the enemy poured upon us a most deadly volley of musket balls and of
grape and canister. So many of our men fell that the lines swayed
and weakened. The command came from an officer to "lie down," but
the enemy now made a charge upon our weakened lines. We could only
give way and fall back in considerable disorder. ... The line serged
back under the murderous fire to a ridge that ran parallel to the
wood, and here, partly protected by this rise of ground, a temporary
stand was again made. ... [This] allowed Grover time to order
up two guns of the First Maine battery.... This fire checked the
progress of the enemy. The 131st New York now took advantage of a
little wooded ravine and made a flank movement upon the rebel
advancing column and poured into it such a volley that it recoiled.
A second volley sent the confederates backward with quite a squad of
prisoners left "gobbled" between that advancing regiment and our
... At three o'clock the turning point came. ...
Crook had moved up the right bank of the ravine, called the Red Bud,
and attacked the right flank of Early. ... Soon we could see Crook's
men gallantly making headway against the storm, yet dropping by
scores. It was too much for our boys to stand, and the entire
division, without orders, opened a tumultuous fire and advanced.
About this time Sheridan, on his black charger so famous in history,
rode along the lines, and swinging his hat, cried out to us: "Give
them hell, boys, my cavalry is in the rear." With a shout we bounded
a rail fence ... and rushed forward with double energy, pushing the
rebs before us until their men were formed on the ridge overlooking
Winchester, and partly entrenched by the works of Fort Colyer. We
were crowding forward with bayonets fixed, making short halts at the
fences to take breath, when the most exciting and inspiriting scene
ever witnessed in battle broke upon our view. Crook had made a half
wheel with the eighth corps and was flanking the enemy, while still
further to the right, and almost in their rear, Torbert was just
emerging from a thick wood with a long line of cavalry in battle
array. Rapidly and with seemingly an ever increasing speed, these
horsemen drew nearer the retreating confederates. ... With a wild
rush, our long line of infantry closed in on the bewildered foe. As
Torbert's horsemen came near the fort and the enemy, they drew their
sabres, which flashed in the glowing sun, and began the work of
dreadful carnage. The whole left wing of Early gave way in great
confusion, the centre was pressed back by Emory and Wright, and the
left wing followed in the great rout. ...
... The report to the War department gave the
Union loss of that day at 5,018, including 697 killed, 3,983 wounded
and 338 missing. ... The 128th had seven killed and seventy severely
wounded [Hanaburgh, 144ff.].
The Battle of Fisher's Hill
I've already mentioned their role at Fisher's Hill on 22 Sept.
Later in life, Joseph recalled that at Fisher's Hill he received a
hernia while throwing up breastworks. He never mentions it
in the diary, however, and seems to be engaged in normal duties,
including construction of breastworks and roads.
On the evening following the Opequan victory, Sheridan wrote to
Secretary Stanton: "We have just sent the rebels whirling through
Winchester, and are after them to-morrow." Early retreated twenty miles,
taking up a new position on Fisher's Hill.
The camp of the nineteenth corps was roused at 3
A.M. on the 22d. At
day-break our line was moved further to the left. Three lines of
earthworks were formed, the third, or Sharpe's brigade, being in the
advance. The forenoon was spent in strengthening our entrenchments.
At noon the 128th, with the 176th New York as a support, was ordered
to drive in the rebel pickets, sharpshooters and skirmishers, from
the rifle-pits in front of Fisher's Hill. The regiment was deployed
as skirmishers at close intervals. In a gallant style they advanced
on a double-quick and drove the rebs from their rifle-pits on the
summit of a hill and in front of their main works. The support
coming up a once, we held the ground while a fatigue detail with
tools and rails hurried forward and entrenched the position. Then a
battery was run up and opened fire, driving the enemy to the heights
of Fisher's Hill, distant about five hundred yards. Barely had the
regiment gained this hazardous position before General Sheridan,
attended by a single aid, joined us, and in his characteristic way,
freely exposed himself to the fire of the enemy. Our forces held
this position and kept up a continuous fire until the final assault
was begun. ...
Brig-General Grover, commanding the second
"To strengthen and shorten our line it became
necessary to drive the enemy and to occupy their lines. This was
handsomely done by the 128th New York, Lieut.-Col. James Foster
commanding, under a vigorous fire of musketry and most terrific
shelling, ... when the order to advance was received along the whole
About 5 P.M., Sheridan rode along our lines with his hat in his
hand and was heralded by deafening cheers given by each regiment as
he proceeded. Now was heard the noise of battle far away on the
right. This was the signal that Crook had succeeded and was sweeping
everything before him. Almost instantly the nineteenth and sixth
took the double-quick and moved to the assault. Down the steep side
of the ravine, over Tumbling Run, and then up the scraggly and
almost inaccessible sides of Fisher's Hill, our men rush. The 128th
and the 176th being on the advance line had the advantage when this
scramble began and first gained the heights. ...
We halted on the heights, expecting to bivouac as
darkness had set in, and we were worn out and hungry, not having
food since morning. Grover's division was ordered to follow the
routed and fleeing enemy. This was to move in the darkness over
strange ground, and against a foe we could not see. The division
broke into column, our brigade in the advance. We had made about
five miles when crash came a volley from an ambuscade to the left of
the road. At the same time a shell came sweeping down the road. An
irregular volley was instantly fired into the woods, to the left
from where the fire came. We went into line of battle and halted.
The halt was brief, when on we rushed at double quick and captured
the gun. ... Colonel Foster says that Sheridan here rode up to him
and exclaimed "Colonel, halt your command, You're plenty near enough
to the enemy. Damnation, you aren't afraid." [Hanaburgh, 152ff]
Left end of Early's line was on the
Marker just below railroad track
(detail below, with position marked).
Hill at right end of Early's line,
assaulted by Grover's division. Based on the maps I've seen, and the
descriptions my grandmother gave of what her grandfather had told her,
this seems to be the hill that my great-great-grandfather charged up.
The Battle of Cedar Creek
Their final battle was Cedar Creek, on 19 October 1864.
Sheridan had gone to Washington and had stopped in Winchester on his
return. Early returned, and was back on Fisher's Hill.
The army, as it lay at Cedar Creek, was under the
temporary command of Wright. The position was a bad one, as it had
twice been emphatically condemned by Sheridan. In front flowed the
Cedar Creek in its last bend before the waters mingled with those of
the Shenandoah. ... To the right of the eighth corps, with the left
resting on the pike, was Emory with the nineteenth corps. This was
upon the crest of a hill which rose steeply and distant a hundred
and fifty feet from the Creek. ... The second division under Grover
joined on the road, with Dwight's division formed on the right, the
whole line being of a crescent shape....
Meanwhile Early was making his plans. His army was
lying in force at their stronghold on Fisher's Hill. ... [H]e went
to the summit of Massanutten Mountain where the confederates had a
signal corps stationed, and with his field-glass took observations.
"There was a magnificent view," [General John B. Gordon] says: "The
Shenandoah was the silver bar between us. ... In front of Belle
Grove mansion I could see members of Sheridan's staff coming and
going. I could not imagine a better opportunity for making out an
enemy's position and strength. ... The camp was splendidly exposed
to me. I marked the position of the guns, and the pickets walking to
and fro, and observed where the cavalry was placed." ... That night
... he ordered his men to leave behind their canteens, sabres, and
everything that could make a noise, and, with the strongest
injunction of silence and secrecy, moved forward in single file
along the mountain side. ... It was a desperate undertaking, but the
confederates were becoming desperate, and hinged all upon a last
struggle in the valley. ...
...[O]ther and complete arrangements were made by
Early .... In front of the nineteenth corps were a part of Kershaw's
division of Longstreet's corps and all of Wharton's. Directly in
front of the position held by our brigade, whose left rested on the
pike, forty-eight pieces of artillery were massed, supported by
dismounted cavalry. On their extreme left was Rosser's cavalry and
some light artillery. In this attitude Early's forces awaited
sufficient light to make the leap. ...
... [T]he day was just beginning to dawn and a
heavy fog hung over the ground which prevented our seeing what was
taking place in our immediate front ....
The enemy's cavalry ... captured the pickets in
front of the eighth corps. Then Kershaw, dashing forward with a
division of infantry, plunged upon the sleeping camp of Crook, and
put Thoburn's division into utter confusion. It was the custom of
the nineteenth corps when in the presence of the enemy, to stand at
arms at daybreak. The most of the nineteenth corps were also
expecting to go out on a reconnoissance [sic] that morning, and had
already prepared their breakfast, and were waiting orders to march.
Emory himself was dressed, his horses saddled, and he preparing to
make the start. The rebels, under Kershaw, had come with a rush over
the breastworks of the eighth corps, and seized the guns. They now
turned this artillery upon Hayes to the extreme, and down upon the
nineteenth corps. ... Gordon was moving to our rear, with the
intention of breaking up the nineteenth corps. "But," says Benson,
"he reckoned without his host, for here took place the most
desperate fighting during the battle, the bayonet and the clubbed
musket being freely used. How the old corps fought is bet told by
General Sheridan's official report, 1,595 brave men killed and
wounded. ... Pressed in front by Longstreet's men, and the entire
line enfiladed by the rebel artillery, the nineteenth corps began to
retire. "Successively," says Irwin, "the brigades of the nineteenth
corps began to give way; yet as they drifted toward the right and
rear, in that stress the men held well to their colors, and although
there may and must have been many that fell out, not a brigade or a
regiment lost its organization for a moment." ...
The entire army now fell back fighting to a point
between Newtown and Middletown, a distance of four miles, before we
could get our line straightened out, and ready to fight on equal
It was now about 10 A.M.
and the battle had been raging about five
hours. Then came a lull of nearly two hours. ...
"While we were halted and busy re-forming," says
Benson, "preparatory to resuming the fighting, loud cheering was
heard to the left of our line. We were not kept long in suspense as
to its cause. Sheridan had arrived, mounted on a powerful black
horse he rode at great speed down the front of our line, waving his
hat and calling out words of encouragement to our men." Sheridan had
spent the night at Winchester, and in the morning started with his
staff to return to his army. He had not proceeded far before he
heard firing, and soon understood the sounds he was approaching.
Putting spurs to his black horse Winchester, he pushed
forward, and soon met men running to the rear as fast as they could
go. ... He called out to his men to face about and drive the enemy
before them. He was met with shouts along the way as he passed, and
the men did face about by hundreds to take hold with new courage.
"Shortly after Sheridan had passed, between one
and two o'clock, the enemy, under Gordon and Kershaw, were seen
advancing directly for the centre of our (Grover's) division. On
they came confident of crushing all opposition. Perfect quiet
reigned within our lines until they arrived within about forty yards
of us when the entire division arose and delivered their fire. The
fire was frightfully effective. The enemy fairly staggered,
attempted to rally, and finally broke and fled. This was the turning
point in the battle. Almost immediately our bugles sounded to fix
bayonets and then to charge. Our (2d) division was in the advance.
... Simultaneously with our advance, the cavalry charged diagonally
across our rear to the left, over the meadows, and the route of the
enemy was complete. We never halted, but kept them on the jump until
our old camps were reached...."
... Early's complete defeat had now destroyed his
reputation among the confederates, and his army was shattered beyond
the possibility of a re-organization. [Hanaburgh, 161 ff].
Map of Cedar Creek Battlefield at
Cedar Creek Battlefield
Foundation visitor's center.
Stickley Mill, burned by
Sheridan's men in October 1864. Pickets from 128th New York were posted
in this area.
Monument to the 128th NY just
up route 11 from Stickley house and mill.
Belle Grove and panoramic view of the
Cedar Creek Battlefield.
Sheridan's horse, Winchester, in the Smithsonian today.
Sheridan's Ride, by
Thomas Buchanan Read.
that they were on garrison duty at Kernstown (Camp Russell) and Winchester.
Joseph Crowther's diary begins 9 November 1864. From this point on, I'll
intersperse quotations from Hanaburgh within the diary to provide
Camp Russell, Kernstown, VA.
Old Court House, Winchester,
January 1865 they transferred to garrison duty at Savannah, until 5
March. They were on garrison duty in North Carolina, with
assignments at Wilmington, Morehead City, and Goldsboro. A
communication by MG J. M. Schofield on 18 March notes that they were
then "en route to the front, repairing wagon roads." On
29 March Schofield ordered them to temporary duty at Kinston. On 9
April BG Harland ordered them to "proceed by first train to Goldsborough and report to Col. N. W. Day." They left on 11
April. On 2 May they returned to Savannah. They spent a
short time in Augusta in May/June.
Joseph's diary mentions that on 6 June they were inspected at Augusta
by Brevet BG Edward L. Molineux, and that an order was read
congratulating them on their service.
General Order #11
In compliance with orders from HQ department of the
south, the following regiments whose terms of service expire before
the 30 September will prepare to rendezvous at Savannah, with a view
of being mustered out of the service: 22nd, 24th, 28 Iowa, 128th &
131st New York.
Officers and men I congratulate you that the time
has at last arrived when you may return to your homes and families and
once again reserve [sic] the peaceful advocations [sic]
You have faithfully and bravely fought for your
country and can always bear in your hearts the proud consciousness of
having done your duty.
I, who have had the honor of fighting with you, can
testify to your valor and good conduct in the field--your obedience to
orders and discipline while on the march and in camp.
In this bidding you goodbye on your approaching
departure to your distant homes, let me express to you my thanks and
appreciation of your soldierly behavior and hope that you and your
families may enjoy the peace you have so gloriously won.
On 12 July 1865 the regiment was mustered out at Savannah, and began
the journey home. Joseph Crowther's diary ends 21 July in Albany, NY.
After the War
The only written records of Joseph Crowther I have after the war are
his pension records. They document his service, and show
deteriorating health after 1890. The hernia that he received at
Fisher's Hill and his impaired vision were the basis for applying for a
military pension in 1891 An 1892 medical evaluation describes him
as being poorly nourished, with rheumatism, heart problems and failing
eyesight. A pension document in 1898 asked, "what record of
marriage exists?" He responded, "The fruits of a large
family" (eleven children).
By 1920 he was living with his son Albert B. Crowther at 22 Derby
Ave. in Seymour, CT (see the photo of him outside the house with
Albert's wife, Carrie). This was the time when my grandmother,
born in 1903, recalled that he would tell her stories of his war
service. At his next medical exam, in 1921, his occupation is
listed as "formerly auger and bit maker." He was 5'
4" and 120 lbs, with cataracts in both eyes, completely blind in
the left and only able to perceive light with the right. He had scars
from bullet wounds under his left eye and his left side, as well
as shell wounds on his left upper leg. He is said to be "so
totally and permanently helpless from blindness and senility as to
require the constant aid and attendance of another person." After a
final illness of five months, during which he was cared for by a
granddaughter, Cora Louise Price, he died 17 Jul 1925 in Bridgeport, CT,
and was buried 20 July 1925 in Seymour, CT, with funeral conducted by
Rev. J. W. Davis with G.A.R. ceremonies.
For further reading:
- D. H. Hanaburgh,
History of the One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth
Regiment, New York Volunteers (U. S. Infantry) in the Late Civil War.
Pokeepsie [sic], NY, 1894. Reprint edition. Salem, MA: Higginson Book Co.,
- Bud Miller, Full Measure of Devotion:
The Columbia Companies of the 128th NY. N.p., 1977.
- Dean Thomas,
NY Infantry Volunteers. Unit
roster, some photos (Hudson River, 128th Memorial at Poughkeepsie,
recruiting poster, 128th Monument at Cedar Creek, and a page of
photos of individual soldiers).
New York State Military Museum page on the 128th (and see the
general page of the
State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center).
- CWSAC Battle Summaries (The American Battlefield Protection
- Port Hudson
- Shenandoah Campaign
Places mentioned in the diary:
Other personal accounts:
- Bud Miller, Full Measure of Devotion:
The Columbia Companies of the 128th NY (N.p., 1977), p. 24.
- Ibid., p. 4.
- Ibid., p. 20.
- Ibid., p. 22.