Background music, "The New York Volunteers," courtesy of Civil War Midi Page (link has been broken since 8/2001--this points to Web Archive version).

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' 4", 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, 1].

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. [Hanaburgh, 3]

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 camp.

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 Fort Monroe.

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 men.

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 [Hanaburgh, 13].

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 Camp Chalmette 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, 17].

Jackson's defensive rampart at Chalmette.

Monument at Chalmette, which was still unfinished when the 128th was encamped nearby.

Another view

Photo of the monument as it stood for decades, unfinished.

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 Camp Parapet. 

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 Parapet.

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 March 1864. 

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.) [Hanaburgh, 90].

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. 102]:

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].

Two 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 115].

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" [Hanaburgh, 119].

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, 128].

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 toward Winchester. 

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 133].

On 1 Sept. 1864 Joseph was promoted to the rank of corporal, but was "reduced" for playing dice with James C. Thayer. 

In the next weeks, the action intensified.  Sheridan began his advance to drive Early from Winchester.

The Battle of Opequon (Third Winchester)

Map

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 brigade.

... 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 division, says:

"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 line." ...

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]

Map

Left end of Early's line was on the above hill.

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 terms. ...

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.

sherccsm.jpg  - 178 K

Sheridan's ride.

Sheridan's horse, Winchester, in the Smithsonian today.

Poem: Sheridan's Ride, by Thomas Buchanan Read.

After 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 additional context.

Camp Russell, Kernstown, VA.

Old Court House, Winchester, VA.

On 5 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] of life.

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.

Commanders

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MG Phil Sheridan

MG Nathaniel Banks

MG Dan Sickles
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BG Edward L. Molineux
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BG Cuvier Grover
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Col. Oliver P. Gooding

 

 
Col. David Smith Cowles

Lt. Col. James Smith
   

For further reading:

Regimental History:

Maps:

Engagements:

Places mentioned in the diary:

Other personal accounts:

Miscellaneous


Notes

  1. Bud Miller, Full Measure of Devotion: The Columbia Companies of the 128th NY (N.p., 1977), p. 24.
  2. Ibid., p. 4.
  3. Ibid., p. 20.
  4. Ibid., p. 22.