New York Heavy Artillery at
The Republican Advocate
From the 8th Heavy Artillery - The Charge at Cold Harbor.
Company H, 8th N.Y. Artillery,
3d Division, 2d Corps,
Cold Harbor, Va.
June 4th, 1864.
We reached this place Thursday about 11 o'clock a.m. and took possession of the rifle pits we now occupy. The rebel works are about two hundred rods in advance, and they are strongly entrenched. We were then the front line, with the exception of the sharpshooters, who occupied a few pits on our right. About 3 p.m. it was reported that we were to charge their works, and that the charge was to be made at 5 that day-and that was the order - but for some unknown reason it was deferred until 4 the next morning.
During that night the rain fell heavily. The morning was chilly, cloudy and dark. We were awakened and had just time to sling on our things, when the order for "charge" came, and the 8th-twelve hundred - instantly, bravely, and freely mounted and were over our works, with arms at a trail, bayonets fixed, and on the "double quickstep." Order was tolerably persevered, but in our company there was a tendency to crowd to the right, and it was more like a crowd or rabble (being sometimes six or eight deep) than two ranks as there should have been.
Braver hearts never rushed to battle, and never was a charge more deadly and of so little avail. We had orders in no case to fire until the command was given, and we all knew it would be useless to do so until we mounted their works. The moment we mounted our works a deadly, sweeping fire was opened upon us from thousands of muskets, as well as a few batteries. The men began to fall before we got twenty feet from our works, and there was two hundred rods to pass over before we got to their works, and almost all the way we would be exposed. On, on we went - the double-quick turned into a run. This kept up until we were too tired to go faster than a brisk step; for the distance was so great, and the ground so uneven and muddy, that we soon tired out.
We kept on at the same pace, until some of the most advanced reached the rebel parapet; but of all that started not more than one third reached there. And what could they do? Nothing but die, and those who had not fallen took refuge in rifle-pits. - This was the maneuver of our company and I think the others were similar, and the casualties about the same. Dead and wounded lie from the pits we left to the rebel works, but at the works they were almost heaped in places.
We lay under cover of the pits until the middle of the afternoon when an order came from Capt. Baker, (the supposed surviving senior officer,) to start back one by one to the works we occupied in the morning. At dark all the unharmed had returned. We had roll-call and of the hundred and twelve of Co. H, that went at the word of command only fifty-six responded to their names. Out of the number missing, as near as we can judge, fifteen or more are killed and the rest wounded, and in every variety of forms from the slightest flesh to the deep and mortal. Almost all the wounded were got off during the night. - There are some still missing and it is not known whether they are dead, wounded or prisoners. Of the number of casualties I will now mention some that will be of interest to you. The Capt. was sick and did not go in. Lieut. Wiard led our company and escaped unharmed. Lieut. Robinson, wounded in the shoulder; Lieut. Raymond, still missing and supposed dead; Lieut. Weiner, slightly wounded. Of the sergeants none were harmed. E. Whitman, supposed dead; J. Webber, dead; W. Fenner, dead; E. Cope, dead; W. Skidmore, supposed dead; R. Cook, supposed dead; W. Fidinger, slightly wounded; J. Fidinger, seriously in five places; D. Fenner, wounded; L. Fenner, wounded. - This is all in the Co. I think you are acquainted with. Col. Porter, killed; Major Willert, wounded. The number of officers killed I do not know, but at least two thirds are wounded. Other companies, I think, lost about the same as ours.
The charge was bravely made, but of no avail. Some of our wounded lay within a few feet of the rebel works all day, and under cover of the darkness, and din of battle, crept off. Lieut. Robson was one of them and what he suffered all that livelong day would fill volumes. The ground was perfectly level and a little descending towards their works. With his cup he scooped out a hollow nearly deep enough for his body, and he thinks only for this he would have been shot again, for there was a constant fire kept up over him from both sides. Several who fell like him were again shot by this fire. The rebels asked them to come over and have their wounds dressed. Robson asked them if they would dress his and they said 'yes,' but the fire was so thick that he could not until dark, and just before dark the rebels made an attack on our left, which drew the attention of the whole line in that direction, and under cover of this he came off, together with several others; but it is reported that two went over to "their lines," - Cox and Haight, of Idleport. The wounded have been taken to the hospital, and the dead are buried, and to-day, at 10 a.m., the remnant of the 8th lie quietly behind the breastworks we at first occupied.
Of Alabama, Genesee Co.
From the 8th Artillery - Correspondence of the Republican Advocate.
Head Quarters, 8th N.Y. Artillery,
4th Brig., 2d Div., 2d Corps,
June 8, 1864.
Friend Waite: - Five days ago this morning we made a charge on the rebel works and lost over 600 men; a great portion of the killed were left on the field, within ten yards of the rebel works, between our regiment and the rebels, and it was impossible to get them, as a man could not show his head without being instantly fired at by a dozen sharp shooters. Our regiment charged right up to the rebel works, which are situated on the brow of a hill, but received such a tremendous cross-fire of grape, cannister and musketry that they were ordered to fall back in the ravine, only a few yards, where breastworks were thrown up under the most trying circumstances: but our men never flinched an inch, but strictly obeyed orders.
Col. Porter fell at the head of his regiment, pierced with a dozen balls, and lay on the field thirty-six hours before we could get him off, which was under cover of darkness. - Our Brig. Gen. was also wounded. Last evening at 7 o'clock the joyful tidings of a flag of truce was announced, and we went out to look after our dead. I hope and pray it may never be my fortune to behold such a sight again. The ground was strewn with our dead, but they were in such an awful condition, it was impossible to recognize any one except by their clothes, or papers found on them. They were all as black as the blackest negro you ever saw, and were covered with maggots, and a most sickening stench arose from their remains which it was almost impossible to endure. They were all buried as soon as possible, as only one hour was allowed us; at the expiration of which time we were obliged to retire behind our works again.
It was rather a singular sight to see the rebels and our men mixed up and conversing together in a pleasant manner, as though they were the best of friends instead of mortal enemies. I conversed with several rebel officers, and one of them showed me a Richmond 'Examiner' of yesterday, and wished to exchange it for one of our late papers, but as I had none, I could not effect the exchange. They said they received Richmond papers daily, it being only 8 miles distant. While conversing with them they remarked if we would not fire any more on them, they would not on us, until another general engagement, and not a single shot has been fired since from either side, although it is now 11 o'clock, A.M. It is as quiet as though the two armies were a hundred miles apart, instead of being only a few yards, and the rebels stand upon their breastworks and talk to us, and several exchanges of papers have taken place this morning. It seems like Sunday at home, for every day since the battle it has been one continuous crack! crack! and we have lost men every day.
Yesterday we lost one killed and three wounded. Our band is now playing, and the rebels seem to enjoy the music as well as ourselves. As near as I could learn, Lt. Raymond, of Elba, was taken into their lines, as they said they took in a sandy complexioned, stout built Lieutenant of the 8th Artillery, which answers to his description. There is also some doubt in reference to Lieut. Gladden of Le Roy -some think he is still alive and a prisoner, while others think he is dead. No one could be recognized, and the remains ere in such a state of decomposition that they could not be handled, but were simply covered up where they were found.
P.S. - I see the Richmond papers announce Lieut. Campbell, of Co. M, 8th Artillery, a prisoner and wounded. He is from Niagara County. J.R.C.
The Losses of the 8th Artillery
We are under obligation to Lieut. John R. Cooper, Adjutant of the 8th Heavy Artillery, for the following list of the killed and wounded of their Regiment in the battle of Cold Harbor: Partial List of killed and wounded of the 8th N.Y. Artillery, June 3d, 1864. Killed. Col. Peter A Porter; Capt. A Gardner, I; Lieut. F.S.Brown, B; Lieut. J.A. Caldwell, A; Corp. Olin Clark, C; Corp. Cornelius Churchwell, C; John Rivers, C; Patrick Hauratty, C; Edgar Austin, C; Chas. Briggs, C; T. Woods, C; G.W. Pier, C; W.G. Moore, C; John Herberger, C; Chas. Bateman, C; Company B reported 32 killed and 3 wounded Corp. Soseph[sic] Weber H; Fred. Bargamaster, H; J.M. Daniels, H; Wm. Fenner, H; Eli Cope, H; Henry T. Clark, I. Still on the Field. John Scanlon, C; W. Stanly, C; C. Hiller, C; M. Gleason, _; John Reed, G. Wounded. Major J.M. Willett, seriously; Lieut. James Lowe, right thigh, Co. B; Lieut. D.S. Pitcher, B; Lieut. Eli P. Nichols, slightly, B; Capt. W.J.Hawkins, dangerously; Lieut. Samuel Sully, knee, F; Lieut. S.K. Greene, severely, leg, A; Lieut. Thos. Mayberry, and 25 enlisted men, Co. C. Lieut.M.N. Coel__ad, seriously, I; Lieut. G.D. Church, head, slightly, K; Lieut.Thos. Wescott, head, severely, K; Lieut. W.B. Hard, badly wounded and missing, probably killed; Lieut. Archibald Winne, leg, H; Lieut. W.H.Raymond, dangerously wounded and missing; Lieut. G.D. Gladden, dangerously wounded and a prisoner, M; Lieut. Arthur L. Chase, dangerously, D; Lieut. James Robson, arm and side, H; Corps. M.J. Winslow, face, H; Chas. Cox, wounded and missing, H; H.B. Sanisbury, arm,H; Privates Thos. Anthony, leg, H; A.Allen, wounded and missing, H; F. Dorson, leg, H; D. Fenner, arm, H.J.Fidinger, 5 places, seriously, H; Geo. Howard, side and arm, H; John Hicks,side, H; T. Johnson, leg, H; D. Johnson, leg, H; A; Wm. McMillen, arm, H; J.Leabody, side, H; P. Murphy, leg, H; P. Stephens, leg, H; M. Sutfin, leg, H; Frank Wood, wounded and missing, H; James Wood, leg, H; Thomas Warner, leg, H; Wm Callan, leg, H; Corps D. W. Kinney, dangerously thigh, G; Lewis Fuller, one of color bearers, thigh, G; Privates, Wm. Bohine, foot, G; Rolla Wilson, head, G; Cassius M. Dodge, foot, G; N.F. Sowen, G; Corp, E.S.Randall, I; Privates James Avery, I; L. Blond, I; Joseph Cook, I; Henry Church, I; John Curtis, I; Elis C_appel, I; Private Wm. Daton, I; Albert Etherington, I; Harlow Fordham, I; Wm. H. Fuller, I; S. Farr, I; C. Gibhard, E. Henderson, I; E. Henderson, I; P. McConald, I; E. _. ___, I; M. Mc_ie_,; Nicholas _ove, I; H.D. Persins, I; R.E. Robinson, I; Ashley Randall, I; S.C. Ransom, I; Wm. Sharp, I; J.M. Sherwood, I; Riley Stephens, I; John Walter, I; A.J. Williams, I; J.E. Young, I; James ___; Nathaniel Randall, I. And hundreds of others in the Regiment. J.R.C.
Linda Conpenelis Schmidt, of Western New York, is the author of several local history books of Genesee County: The People of the Poor House; Mary Erwin, Poetess of Bethany; and The Town & The People of 19th Century Bethany. She has transcribed and submitted nineteenth-century newspaper articles for various online message boards and mailing lists, and she has been a contributor for the Buffalonian.com website. Her ancestors have been a driving force in her interest in U.S. history, including her ggggrandfather John Burns of Pennsylvania, of Scottish descent, who fought and died as a Patriot in the Revolutionary War; her gggrandmother, a Cherokee, who walked the Trail of Tears; her ggrandfather, John Burns, a Confederate soldier of the 26th Mississippi regiment which fought at Fort Donelson; her grandfather, Philip Conpenelis, who immigrated from France, later returning to France as a member of the U.S. Army 106th F.A.; and her father, Robert P. Conpenelis, who as a First Lieut. in W.W. II, piloted C-47s in the Southwest Theatre. She maintains a website at Wings Tales and Leaves ~ArkWebshost.com/family/bluebird/