Home

By Gordon McCrea Fisher gfisher@shentel.net

 

1. Great-Uncle Tully McCrea of Gettysburg and Olustee
Battery I of the U.S. First Artillery
West Point and George Custer

1.1 At West Point with Custer 
1.2 North versus South at West Point 
1.3 Enemy and Friendly Fire at Antietam (Sharpsburg) 
1.4 Stone Wall at Fredericksburg 
1.5 Rout at Chancellorsville 
1.6 Pickett and Stone Walls at Gettysburg 
1.7 From a Proclamation by Lincoln to Tully’s Legs at Olustee 
1.8  3rd Cousin Gideon Welles and 7th Cousin Thomas Wentworth Higgins on Olustee
1.9  Uncle Tully after the War

By Gordon McCrea Fisher     gfisher@shentel.net

1.1 At West Point with Custer

Tully McCrea was a great-uncle of mine by his marriage to my great-aunt Harriet Camp, daughter of George Hale Camp of Sackets Harbor, New York, sister of my grandmother Sophia Hale Camp, wife of my grandfather, Charles Wiley Fisher. Tully McCrea made a big impression in my family. My father, Tully McCrea Fisher, was named after him. My middle name is McCrea. My daughter Andrea’s middle name is McCrea.

Tully was born July 23, 1839 in Natchez, Mississippi, where his father had migrated from Christiansburg, Ohio, sometime in the 1830s. There he married Mary Jane Galbraith. They had six children. The first two children, both daughters, died of yellow fever in an epidemic of 1837-1838. Tully was the third child. Mary Jane died in 1849, shortly after the birth of her sixth child.

Tully’s father John McCrea, along with John’s brother-in-law, James Galbraith, traveled west to the California Gold Rush which began in 1849. They laid claim to some land near San Francisco, but didn’t live to defend their titles. John died of quinsy (abscessed tonsils) in 1853, and James of Panama fever (virulent malaria) later in the same year. So Tully was orphaned, and he went at the age of 14 to live with his uncle William McCrea in Christiansburg.

William and his wife had seven children. One of these, Belle McCrea, Tully’s first cousin, became a close childhood friend. When Tully was 19 years old, in 1858, and Belle was about 14, he got an appointment to West Point, and entered in 1858. Tully and Belle began exchanging letters almost every week. Tully’s letters have been preserved. Parts of them have been published, with accompanying narrative, in a book by Catherine S. Crary called Dear Belle: Letters from a Cadet & Officer to his Sweetheart, 1858-1865 (Wesleyan University Press, 1965). The preceding particulars and some of what follows, especially quotations from Tully’s letters, are taken from this work.

Tully’s roommate for his first year in the Academy in 1858 was George A. Custer, who famously was killed in Montana on June 25, 1876, by Sioux Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn River, known as Custer’s Last Stand.

Tully wrote to Belle about Custer in a letter of January 19, 1861:

"You may remember Custer, with whom I lived or roomed the first year that I was here. The great difficulty is that he is too clever for his own good. He is always connected with all the mischief that is going on and never studies more than he can possibly help. He has narrowly escaped several times before but unluckily did not take warning, and now it is late, and he will always have cause to repent of his folly. ….. In the first place you must know that each instructor prepares a list of subjects and questions for each cadet in his sections. ….. These subjects are prepared by the instructor and [the list] is always carefully hid from the cadets. If a cadet can by any means get a copy of his subject without the knowledge of his instructor, he can learn thoroughly that particular subject and is then sure of passing the examination. ….. Custer’s instructor boarded at the Hotel and Custer naturally supposed the list would be somewhere in his room. He went to the Hotel, managed to find out where his room was and was fortunate enough to get in without being discovered. He found the book in which the list of subjects were and was in the act of copying them when he heard somebody coming. He knew it would not do to be caught in a private room at the Hotel, so he tore the leaf out of the book and left as soon as possible. But in doing this he spoiled everything, for as soon as the instructor discovered that the leaf was missing he knew that some cadet had it. He therefore changed all the subjects and the risk and trouble was all for nothing. It would have been a much better plan if he had put the whole book under his overcoat and took it from the Hotel with him, for then he could have taken it into barracks, copied off the subjects, and then devised some way of getting it back to the instructor’s room. This might have been done by bribing one of the servants at the Hotel. But a person in a desperate fix like he was has not much time to think what is best but is very apt to follow out the first idea that is suggested. I am very sorry that he did not succeed for he has been a true friend to me and I am very sorry to see him leave."

Custer failed the examination, and Tully was assuming that Custer would be dismissed from West Point by the Academic Board. However, three weeks later Tully wrote to Belle that Custer, with his usual good luck, had been the only one of his class who failed the examination and nevertheless was reinstated.

A corroborating story about Custer is provided by a member of the West Point class who entered in 1859, Brigadier-General Peter Michie, told in a paper read Oct 4, 1893, at a meeting of the New York branch of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and published in Personal Recollections of the War of the Rebellion, Second Series, (1897). Michie says of his fellow students:

"They were all good fellows, about the same as are now found in every class: some careful in behavior and attentive to discipline, and others, on the contrary, quite the reverse. Custer, for example, was always in trouble with the authorities. He never saw the adjutant in full uniform that he did not suspect that he was the object of his search for the purpose of being placed in arrest, and to have five minutes more freedom he would cut and run for it, to delay if possible the well-known formula: "Sir, you are hereby placed in arrest and confined to your quarters by direction of the superintendent." He had more fun, gave his friends more anxiety, walked more tours of extra guard, and came nearer to being dismissed more often than any other cadet I have ever known. Custer said that there were but two positions of distinction in a class, -- head and foot; and as he soon found that he could not be head he determined he would support his class as a solid base, and though it required great circumspection and much ticklish work he succeeded in his lofty ambition. When Custer, the foot man of his class, stood before the superintendent to receive his diploma, the latter looked at him steadily for a moment, no doubt immensely relieved that his task of disciplining this spirited youth was happily ended; while Custer, on the other hand, was equally happy, as with a very low and apparently humble bow he received the coveted prize for which he had endured four years of a very precarious existence."

One may wonder why, as Tully McCrea reported, Custer was trying to steal information about an upcoming examination if he was so bent on being last in his class. Custer himself wrote about this not long before his death in some war memoirs. This is quoted by Frederick Whittaker who published in 1876, some six months after Custer was killed, an extended and influential biography, A Complete Life of General George A. Custer:

"My career as a cadet had but little to commend it to the study of those who came after me, unless as an example to be carefully avoided. The requirements of the academic regulations, a copy of which was placed in my hand the morning of my arrival at West Point, were not observed by me in such manner as at all times to commend me to the approval and good opinions of my instructors and superior officers. My offences against law and order were not great in enormity, but what they lacked in magnitude they made up in number. The forbidden locality of Benny Havens [an off-grounds tavern] possessed stronger attractions than the study and demonstration of a problem in Euclid, or the prosy discussion of some abstract proposition of moral science. My class numbered, upon entering the Academy, about one hundred and twenty-five. Of this number, only thirty-four graduated, and of these thirty-three graduated above me. The resignation and departure of the Southern cadets took away from the Academy a few individuals who, had they remained, would probably have contested with me the debatable honor of bringing up the rear of the class."

Morris Schaff, who was in Tully’s class at the Academy, tells another story about Custer, associated, he says, with "the fussiness of military life", in his book The Spirit of Old West Point (1907). The story has to do with some feathers strewn in what Schaff calls the "area", evidently a place of assembly well-known to all cadets:

"The feathers belonged to a buff rooster, the property of Lieutenant Douglas, whose quarters and garden lay below my window in the 7th, and below Custer’s, who lived in the tower-room of the 8th Division. We enjoyed seeing chanticleer as he led his little flock proudly around the garden after the vegetables were harvested, and hearing him crow defiantly from the top of the fence to all the roosters down the line of the professors’ quarters. And many and many a time at night, too, he brought to our minds the roosting flocks in the willows and locusts at home. But he crowed too often. Custer slipped down one night, took him from his perch, and later he was in a kettle boiling over the gas-burner, his feathers on an outspread newspaper. When the feast was over, the one delegated to dispose of the feathers was not careful as he carried them off, and the result was that the next morning there was a string of yellow feathers from the 8th Division clear across the "area."

"This delinquency, not recorded in the Military Academy’s Records, helped to break the routine, offering a pleasant relief and contrast at a time when clouds hung dark and passions were stirring deep. West Point has had many a character to deal with; but it may be a question whether it ever had a cadet so exuberant, one who cared so little for its serious attempts to elevate or burnish, or one on whom its tactical officers kept their eyes so constantly and unsympathetically searching as upon Custer. And yet how we all loved him; and to what a height he rose!"

It appears that Custer had many admirable qualities as a soldier and as a friend. He performed with ferocious and reckless success on the Union side in the Civil War. He was made a brevet brigadier-general on June 20, 1863 at the age of 23, the "boy general". In a letter to Belle of August 12, 1863, Tully wrote:

"Learning that Frank Hamilton was only three miles from where [Morris] Schaff was, I started in pursuit. His battery is now in Custer’s brigade of Kilpatrick’s cavalry division. I arrived at their camp just in time to see Custer before he left with his brigade for the lower Rappahannock. You may remember that he was my roommate my first year at West Point. He is the same careless, reckless fellow that he was then. By his continued reckless conduct before the enemy he succeeded in getting a position on the staff of General McClellan on the Peninsula and, when General Pleasanton was placed in command of the cavalry corps, he kept Custer with him. When the enemy crossed over into Maryland, Generals Meade and Pleasanton obtained for him a Brigadier General’s commission and placed him in command of one of the best brigades of cavalry in the army, composed of four Michigan regiments. I expect that he is the youngest Brigadier General that we have. He is the most romantic of men and delights in something odd. Last summer when he was in the Peninsula, he vowed that he would not cut his hair until he entered Richmond. He has kept his vow and now his hair is about a foot long and hangs over his shoulders in curls just like a girl. He was dressed in a fancy suit of velveteen covered with gold braid, with an immense collar like a sailor’s, with a Brigadier’s star in each corner. Put a fancy cap on his head, and a hearty smile on his face, you then have his ‘tout ensemble’. You may think from this that he is a vain man, but he is not; it is nothing more than his penchant for oddity. He is a handsome fellow, and a very successful ladies’ man. Nor does he care an iota how many of the fair ones break their hearts for him. What a monster! methinks I hear you say. Perhaps he is. But he is a gallant soldier, a whole-souled generous friend, and a mighty good fellow, and I like him and wish him every success in his new role of Brigadier."

Still, Custer seems to have been an accident looking for someplace to happen. In the disastrous engagement at Little Big Horn, Custer and more than 200 men under his command were killed. How it happened and why, what the effect was on the U.S. government’s treatment of Indians and on the attitudes of the general public toward Indians (and of the Indians toward the general public), and how much Custer is to be blamed for the outcome – these have been popular subjects for research and debate and speculation ever since.

 

1.2 North vs. South at West Point

In the months before the Civil War began, there was much discussion and rivalry between students at West Point who were from the North or the South as to where allegiance belonged. In his book cited above, Morris Schaff tells a story about Tully McCrea which illustrates the dissension:

"In October, 1960, some evil spirit stole his way into West Point and thence into the room of a couple of the bitterly partisan Southerners in my division. The next day – as a result of his visit – a box was set up at a suitable place, with a request that cadets should deposit therein their preferences for President of the United States. ….. A better scheme than this straw ballot to embroil the corps, and to precipitate the hostilities between individuals which soon involved the States, could not have been devised. … When the ballots were counted … the South with surprise and indignation found that there were sixty-four votes for Lincoln ….. At once, with almost astounding effrontery, the self-constituted supervisors of the election appointed tellers for each division to smoke out those whom some of them saw fit to designate luridly as "the Black Republican Abolitionists in the Corps." ..… When the tally was over, only about thirty could be found who had voted for Lincoln, and, according to the tellers, every one of these was from west of the Hudson River, the bulk of them from north of the Ohio; while it was notorious that every member of Congress east of the Hudson, save, possibly, Arnold of Connecticut, was a Republican! What had become of Lincoln’s backers from east of the Hudson? I suppose … when the dreaded tallymen came round, with their proverbial shrewdness they decided that they would give the world – at least a part of it – a "pictorial air" by changing their point of view from Lincoln and Hamlin to Bell and Everett. [John Bell, Senator from Tennessee, was a presidential candidate in 1860 who opposed secession.] Or had those descendants of the heroic Puritans who, unshaken, faced the question of the execution of a king, answered the tallymen with stern and resolute countenance, "What business is it of yours how I voted? You get out of this!" Whatever may have happened, according to the tellers there was not a single recorded vote from New England for Lincoln."

"One of the tallymen was from Vermont, a Yankee of Yankees, who, with humiliating subserviency, as it seems to me, accepted complacently the duty of unmasking his fellow Northerners for the scorn of certain partisan Southerners. While performing his despicable mission … he came to the room occupied by Tully McCrea of Ohio and G. L. Gillespie of Tennessee. With a loud and impertinent voice he wanted to know how they had voted. When McCrea announced his vote for Lincoln, the tallyman made a disparaging remark, whereupon McCrea told him in significant tones to get out of the room, and after one glance from Tully’s chestnut eyes he promptly complied. How often I have seen those same warm chestnut eyes swimming as they responded to the tender and high emotions of his heart! On account of his political views, a big Kentuckian, who fell at Chickamauga fighting for the South, picked a quarrel with McCrea and assailed him violently. Two or three years later, McCrea was called on once more to show his courage. It was the afternoon of Pickett’s charge, and all through those terrible hours he stood with his battery on the ridge at Gettysburg; over him were the scattering oaks of Ziegler’s grove; and with his commanding officer, Little Dad Woodruff, who there met his death, he faced the awful music. In one way I really think it took more courage to vote for Lincoln than to face Pickett; but however that may be, he met both ordeals well."

 

1.3 Enemy and Friendly Fire at Antietam (Sharpsburg)

The bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, began in the morning of April 12, 1861. Tully wrote the next day to Belle:

"I do not know whether I can answer your letter properly or not, for my thoughts are with Major Anderson and his little band who are fighting so bravely against such fearful odds at Fort Sumter. There has been great excitement and anxiety for fresh news here all day and every fresh arrival adds to the excitement. This morning’s papers stated that war had actually begun and this evening we hear that Fort Sumter and the Harriet Lane are on fire and one of the vessels of war sunk. This news is not believed and I pray that it may turn out to be false."

Tully also wrote to Morris Schaff about the attack:

"When the news of the firing on Fort Sumter was received the effect was instantaneous, every Northern cadet now showed his colors and rallied that night in Harris’s room in the Fifth Division. One could have heard us singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in Cold Spring [about 15 miles away]. It was the first time I ever saw the Southern contingent cowed. All of their Northern allies had deserted them, and they were stunned."

Tully was eager to start fighting in the war. However, what with one thing and another, he didn’t graduate from West Point until June 9, 1862. On September 17, 1862 he was introduced to battle as a second lieutenant in Light Company I of the 1st U.S. Artillery. On that date, in the vicinity of Antietam creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland, a bloody battle was fought. It is said that more men were killed or wounded on that day than on any other single day during the war. John M. Priest, in Antietam: The Soldier’s Battle (1989), computed the casualties to have been 12,882 Union and 11,530 Confederate. He finds the total number killed on both sides to have been 3,911. Lee’s army still held its position after the battle, but it appears to have been too weakened for Lee to have it follow the Union forces when they withdrew. Notoriously, General McClellan is said to have failed to take advantage of the Confederate weakness when he could have, and Lee’s troops were allowed to withdraw. On the other hand, the Union forces kept Lee and his men from fulfilling their aim of invading and carrying the war into Northern territory, north of the Potomac River. For this reason, some take it that the North scored a qualified victory. Others prefer to say the result was a draw.

Tully wrote to Belle on September 20, 1862, the third day after the battle:

"The firing commenced the next morning [September 17] about day[break] and continued all day. At first it was only an occasional shot from our skirmishers, but it soon increased until the roar of artillery and musketry was continual. We were kept in the rear until eleven o’clock, where we were ordered to go to the front and took up a position in the rear of a brigade of infantry that were flying like sheep. [The time was about 10:00 am and the position was about 150 yards in front of and a little to the right of the Dunkard (or Dunker) Church whose name is frequently mentioned in connection with this battle]. The rebels were pursuing them, but our men persisted in running before the guns, in spite of all our endeavors to get them to get from before the battery, so that we could fire at the rebels. At last our cannoneers became so impatient to fire that it was impossible to restrain them any longer, and the battery opened. Some of our own men, I have no doubt, were killed but it was better to sacrifice a few of their lives than to allow the rebels to capture our battery. Then I am not inclined to pity them, for they were running in a cowardly manner and they deserted the battery and left it without a particle of support. We were in a very critical position and, if the rebels had charged with their usual dash, they surely would have captured the whole lot of us, guns and all, for there was no infantry near us. Artillery is not able to defend itself, but must always be supported on each side with infantry to repel a charge of infantry of the enemy. We saw the Rebels were preparing to charge upon us, when we retired to the rear, took another position in the edge of the woods, and fired upon them again. We remained here an hour until the cannoneers were completely tired out working the guns. We went to the rear and another battery took our place. . . . . . By a miracle we only lost six men and four horses. Lieutenant Egan’s and Lieutenant French’s horses were both shot through the shoulders. General Sedgwick, who was standing to the rear of the battery, was wounded in two places and had his horse killed. Major Sedgwick, his aide and brother, was mortally wounded. The division to which I belong was in the hardest of the fight and lost very severely. One regiment, the 7th Michigan, went into action with 365 men and had 216 killed and wounded. One of the brigades only has left 900 men, not enough to make a good regiment. The Rebels lost more, I should think, than we did, for we had more artillery than they."

It is interesting to compare this report made three days after the battle with one historian’s description of this part of the engagement. L. Van Loan Naisawald writes in his Grape and Canister: The Story of the Field Artillery of the Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865 (1960):

"As Sedgwick’s beaten regiments fled eastward over the pike, Capt. F. N. Clarke, Sumner’s chief-of-artillery, ordered Battery I, 1st U.S., led by Lt. G. A. Woodruff, into an open field about 300 yards from the West Woods and a little to the right of the church. With horses straining in taut traces, the column wound into position." To give us a feeling of the tenseness of the situation, Naisawald has the horses straining. I doubt that this was reported on, or even consciously noticed, by any of the participants. "Woodruff called for canister, and as the crews readied the guns the lieutenant looked about for some infantry support. There was none, only disorganized or demoralized regiments streaming rearward in quest of safety. The hope that any of these would stand was nil. Woodruff saw that he would have to stand alone against the pursuing Rebels. So, spurring his horse, Woodruff trotted out in front of his guns. After waving his hands to clear the fleeing troops from his front, he sent his six Napoleons crashing into action at the long, hollering line of advanced Rebel infantry." Woodruff saw he would have to stand alone, so he trotted out in front of his guns, waved his hands to clear the Union troops out, and sent his cannons crashing? Maybe. But maybe what rose in his mind was something like, ‘Sweet Jesus, we’re stuck out here alone, and there’s nothing to do but make the best of it." It might make a nice movie scene to show the Union troops clearing away because Woodruff waved his hands at them, but really – does anyone think that any troops fleeing under these conditions would pay any attention to an artillery officer waving his hands at them?

Here is a report which shows a kind of transition between how things appeared to a couple of witnesses near the time of the battle, and how it appeared to them later. An artillery officer who took part in the battle, Lt. John Egan, one of the other officers in Tully’s battery, wrote some 10 or 15 years later (quoted by William L. Haskin in The History of the First Regiment of Artillery, 1879):

"About 10 o’clock a.m., Maj. Frank Clark [sic] (division chief of artillery), came to Woodruff and ordered him to hasten into position, that Sedgwick’s division was being driven back, and he wanted him to check the enemy. Woodruff at once started on a trot and, under cover of fragments of the division, succeeded in getting into position, unseen by the rebels, about one hundred and fifty yards in front, and a little to the right, of the Dunkard church. Waving out of his front Sedgwick’s retreating men, he opened with canister which the enemy got as nicely as could be wished. About thirty rounds from each piece were fired before he was checked and driven back. He then massed in rear of the Dunkard church, evidently to take the battery of the left flank by marching through a sunken part of the Hagerstown turnpike. Woodruff fired several rounds of solid shot which passed through the church, and very much disturbed the enemy’s formation, but he succeeded in getting well into the sunken road. The battery remained until firing began across its front. It then retired about seventy-five yards and again opened, and continued to fire till a line – part of the second corps – marched across its field of fire. It was then relieved and ordered to the rear. During the whole engagement the battery was without supports, and very important service can be claimed for it here. The rebel accounts show that it was the enemy’s intention to pierce our line at this point, capture the Hagerstown pike, and divide our army. The battery certainly prevented it. Woodruff handled it in a masterly way, and Gen. French afterward said that he never saw a battery go into action so handsomely. … At Harper’s Ferry, a short time after the battle, Gen. McClellan came to the battery camp, and thanked the men and officers for their conduct during this fight."

Aha! We may have uncovered the source of Naisawald’s report of Woodruff’s waving his troops away from in front of his battery. "Waving out of his front Sedgwick’s retreating men, he opened with canister . . .", says Egan, 10 or 15 years after the battle. But how does this square with Tully McCrea’s report, made three days after the battle, that "At last our cannoneers became so impatient to fire that it was impossible to restrain them any longer, and the battery opened. Some of our own men, I have no doubt, were killed but it was better to sacrifice a few of their lives than to allow the rebels to capture our battery."

In a letter dated June 15, 1875 in the same work by Haskin, Tully described the

canister fire this way (canisters were tinned iron cans filled with round iron or lead balls packed in sawdust – the balls sprayed in flight like a giant shotgun, and were deadly to infantry at relatively short ranges):

"Between our position and the Sharpsburgh [sic] pike was an open field over which the rebels were pouring to take possession of our line. We opened upon them with canister at short range, the volunteer battery on our right doing the same. It soon became too hot for them and they began to fall back, and soon regained their position on the other side of the Sharpsburgh road. . . . . . The battery at that time had such non-commissioned officers as Humphrey, Steward, McNally, Shannon, and a great many other old soldiers who had served with it for years. It worked like a machine and we put two rounds of canister a minute square in their faces at short range. After the battle we counted over two hundred dead rebels on this field, most of them killed with canister shot. We were relieved soon after by Franklin’s division and returned to the position we had left in the morning.

"Near night-fall of the same day, although we had only a few rounds of ammunition left, we were ordered to a new position just in front of the sunken road, where Richardson’s division of the 2d corps had had such a severe fight in the morning. We remained here without any further engagement until it was ascertained that the enemy had crossed the river and escaped. Why we did not pitch into them on the morning of the 18th is a mystery to me to this day."

So much for McClellan’s army not pursuing the Confederates after the battle at Antietam Creek. Tully does not mention in this letter any dead Federals on the field who were killed by canister shot, and indeed does not refer at all in this letter of 1875 to firing on his own troops, as he did in his letter to Belle of September 20, 1862.  Deaths by friendly fire are no longer put in view.

In the letter of September 20, 1862, the day after the battle, Tully wrote to Belle:

"I was on the battlefield yesterday where we were engaged and the dead rebels strewed the ground and in some places were on top of each other. Two hundred dead could be counted in one small field. The wounded had been removed. Late in the afternoon we were again ordered to the front and took up a position for the night in the midst of the battlefield and remained there with the dead scattered around us. This was a miserable night to me, for besides being in a position where we had to exercise extreme vigilance against an attack of the enemy, we were only one hundred yards from a cornfield which was filled with Confederate wounded, whose groans and cries for water could be heard the whole night. We could not help them, for they were outside of our lines, and we had no water for ourselves, if we could have went. At daybreak the next morning I went out to where they were, and I hope that I may never see such a sight again. At the foot of the hill was a ditch [the notorious Bloody Lane], in which the rebels had posted themselves, and the Irish Brigade had charged them. Yesterday 358 dead rebels were counted on the field where the Irish brigade had engaged them. But the gallant Irish men have lost nearly all of their own men."

In a letter to Belle of September 23, Tully wrote:

"Our corps was left to bury the dead and, although large numbers of our men were employed every day, on Monday morning [September 22], when we left, a great many were still unburied. It was absolutely necessary that we should quit the locality, for the atmosphere had become very offensive from the stench of the dead bodies."

1.4 Stone Wall at Fredericksburg

For a couple of months after the battle in Maryland, Tully was mostly engaged as a mustering officer. During this period, General George McClellan was replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac by General Ambrose Burnside. Tully, like many other soldiers in that army, was devoted to McClellan, and was very disturbed by the change of command. He wrote to Belle on November 12, 1862:

"I fear that the army is much demoralized . . . The dissatisfaction is open and expressed. I heard a colonel of one of the oldest and best regiments say today that, if General McClellan had only said the word, his regiment would have went with him. As it is, a great many of the officers of that regiment have resigned."

Later in November, Tully’s unit was encamped near Fredericksburg, Virginia. On December 18, he wrote to Belle about the battle which took place there on December 13, 1862. The Rebels were under the command of General Robert E. Lee. The Federals were ordered by Burnside over and over, some 14 times, to attack across an open plain spreading out from a ridge known as Marye’s Heights. The Confederates near the bottom of the ridge were protected by a kind of natural trench formed by a sunken road behind a stone wall, and their artillery up on the ridge had a formidable command of the plain. The result was a promiscuous slaughter. There were about 12,500 Union and 5,400 Confederate casualties. The Federals lost about as many as they had at Antietam, and the Rebels about half as many.

Tully wrote to Belle on December 18, 1862, about what he saw of Fredericksburg from across the Rappahannock River, after a Union bombardment on December 11 in which his battery took part:

"The city was fired in four places and large columns of smoke ascended from the burning houses. Nearly every house had been struck by the shot. But the most distressing sight was the women and children that we saw running from the burning buildings and seeking shelter in more secure places."

On December 12, Tully’s battery crossed the river, and entered the city of Fredericksburg. Tully wrote on December 18:

"Here I saw some of the most ludicrous scenes and at the same time the most disgraceful. Our troops broke into the houses and stole everything that they could lay their hands on. Everything that they could not eat or wear they destroyed in pure wantonness. Beautiful pictures, books, jewelry, ladies dresses, silverware, and in fact all kinds of household furniture. One soldier was seen with a nice silk dress, silk bonnet, and a silk parasol. I saw another with a silver fruit stand fastened to his belt and a silver castor stand in his hand. One soldier found a lot of beehives and brought enough to feed his whole company. But there is no use in enumerating instances. Every house was completely riddled. Our cannon balls made devastation enough surely, but after our troops had finished them nothing remained. I was surprised when we got into Fredericksburg to find so many women and children in the town who had been there the day before during the bombardment. Poor creatures! How I did pity them; they had not yet recovered from their fright. I talked with some of them and asked them how they felt when the cannon balls were flying so thick through the town. One poor widow woman that I asked said that she went into a cellar and prayed. Just imagine, Belle, how they must have felt with from sixty to one hundred guns pouring shot and shell into the town and at the same time the city on fire in several places, and not knowing when their own would be fired. How can one be surprised that they are determined never to give up. I never felt so much disgusted with the war as I did that day. I wish that the war could be brought to an end and put a stop to all this terrible suffering."

The romantic ideas Tully had about warfare when he left West Point, and which he seems to have retained even after taking part in the bloody battle of Antietam, were being dissipated.

About the battle itself on December 13, Tully wrote on the 18th:

"On Saturday morning the battle began and continued all day – the hardest fought, bloodiest, and most hotly contested of the war. I supposed we were going to have a hand in the fight, but there was no suitable place for smooth-bore guns. We were placed at the street crossings to protect the retreat of our troops if it became necessary, which seemed probable several times. The Rebel shells came down the streets and burst over the houses. I had two men wounded in my section. Our troops fought splendidly. They stormed the enemy’s position [Marye’s Heights] again and again, but it was in vain. The position was naturally strong and had been further strengthened by artificial means until it was impregnable."

In his letter to Haskin of 1875, Tully wrote:

"To take part in the battle of Fredericksburgh [sic] we left our camp near Falmouth early on the 11th of December, 1862, and before daylight were in position on the north bank of the river. The intention was, I suppose, to cover the building of the bridge and the passage of the river after the bridge had been built. But one rebel regiment, the 18th Mississippi, kept the whole army of the Potomac at bay for that whole day. The engineers had built the bridge about one-fourth way across the river, but could get no further, for every one who approached the bridge was shot down. The artillery was in close, easy range, and we fired a great deal of ammunition in trying to drive them out, but only succeeded in burning a few houses, for the rebels would not leave. Near sunset Col. (acting brigadier general) Norman J. Hall, 7th Michigan volunteers, formerly second lieutenant, 1st artillery, volunteered to cross the river in the pontoons and drive the Mississippi regiment out. The artillery kept up a furious fire to cover the crossing, but as soon as it stopped the rebels were up and at them. Col. Hall crossed his own regiment first, and the fight that it had with the Mississippians was the most exciting thing that I ever saw. Until the boats recrossed and transported another regiment, these two were alone and our men could not be supported. We could not help them from our side of the river, as we were as liable to shoot friend as foe. When the second regiment had crossed, the rebels were driven out of the town, the bridge laid, and Howard’s division crossed and held the town that night. . . . . . We crossed over into the town the next day, and were placed in position by sections near the edge of town, but behind our line. The idea was, I think, to form a new line in case our troops were driven back from their more advanced position out in the field. We were more or less under fire but did not fire a shot. We remained in the town that night and the next day, recrossed the next night, and went back to our camps. The gallant but unfortunate army had met with another fiasco, through bad handling and mismanagement."

So much for Burnside’s command at the battle of Fredericksburg.

 

1.5 Rout at Chancellorsville

Following the Union loss at Fredericksburg, Ambrose Burnside was replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac by Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker. Tully was not impressed. He wrote to Belle on January 26, 1863:

"Burnside was liked , although none had much confidence in his ability to command this large army. General [William B.] Franklin, who is regarded as the most able of the generals with the army, has been ordered to Washington like General [Edwin] Sumner, and Joe Hooker takes command. Dear me! This army is fast going to ruin. It is hard indeed after all the hardships, gallant fighting, and long service that it has seen that it should at last be disgraced, all for no fault of its own, but merely through the meddling of the officials at Washington."

On May 1-5, 1863, Tully participated in the battle of Chancellorsville. This is often said to have been the greatest victory of the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee. It was also the time of a great loss to Lee and his army. During the campaign his general, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, was killed, shot by one of his own – presumably it was friendly fire.

On May 10, 1863, Tully wrote about the battle:

"On Saturday [May 2], we were ordered up to Chancellorsville and remained there all day. In the afternoon, when the fight began, we took a position to the left of the Chancellor House. We did not have occasion to fire but were continually being fired into by the enemies’ artillery."

Tully later said (June 15, 1875): "We were in battery just to the left of the Chancellor’s house when Stonewall Jackson overwhelmed the Eleventh Corps and saw that scene of disgraceful panic." This panic was the rout of General Oliver Howard’s Eleventh Corps, composed of the so-called Germans or Dutchmen. In later years, General Howard wrote in an article to be found in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (1887):

"I could see numbers of our men – not the few stragglers that always fly like chaff at the first breeze, but scores of them – rushing into the opening, some with arms and some without, running or falling before they got behind the cover of Devens's reserves, and before General Schurz's waiting masses could deploy or charge. The noise and the smoke filled the air with excitement, and to add to it Dieckmann's guns and caissons, with battery men scattered, rolled and tumbled like runaway wagons and carts in a thronged city. The guns and the masses of the right brigade struck the second line of Devens before McLean's front had given way; and, more quickly than it could be told, with all the fury of the wildest hailstorm, everything, every sort of organization that lay in the path of the mad current of panic-stricken men, had to give way and be broken into fragments.

"My own horse seemed to catch the fury; he sprang – he rose high on his hind legs and fell over, throwing me to the ground. My aide-de-camp, Dessaner, was struck by a shot and killed, and for a few moments I was as helpless as any of the men who were speeding without arms to the rear. But faithful orderlies helped me to remount. Schurz was still doing all he could to face regiments about and send them to Devens's northern flank to help the few who still held firm. Devens, already badly wounded, and several officers were doing similar work. I rode quickly to the reserve batteries. A staff-officer of General Hooker, Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Dickinson, Assistant Adjutant-General, joined me there; my own staff gathered around me. I was eager to fill the trenches that Barlow would have held. Buschbeck's second line was ordered to change front there. His men kept their ranks, but at first they appeared slow. Would they never get there !

"Dickinson said, "Oh, General, see those men coming from that hill way off to the right, and there's the enemy after them. Fire, oh, fire at them; you may stop the flight !"

" "No, Colonel," I said, "I will never fire on my own men !" "

                    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"No officers ever made more strenuous exertions than those that my staff and myself put forth to stem the tide of retreat and refill those trenches, but the panic was too great."

Total casualties at Chancellorsville have been reported as 17,287 Federal and 12,821 Confederate.

General Charles H. Morgan wrote retrospectively, quoted by Francis A. Walker in his History of the Second Army Corps (1887):

"The stampede of the Eleventh Corps was something curious and wonderful to behold. I have seen horses and cattle stampeded on the plains, blinded, apparently, by fright, rush over wagons, rocks, streams, any obstacle in the way; but never, before or since, saw I thousands of men actuated seemingly by the same unreasoning fear that takes possession of a herd of animals. As the crowd of fugitives swept by the Chancellor House, the greatest efforts were made to check them; but those only stopped who were knocked down by the swords of staff officers or the sponge-staffs of Kirby’s battery, which was drawn up across the road leading to the ford."

Edmund Kirby was in command of Tully’s battery at this battle, having taken over when the former commander, James Ricketts, was severely wounded at the first battle of Bull Run. Tully reported to Belle in a letter of May 7 that Kirby had been slightly wounded in the engagement, but he wrote later on May 10 that he had heard that Kirby’s leg had been amputated, and that there was small prospect of his recovery. Kirby died of his wounds on May 28, and Lt. George A. Woodruff assumed command of Battery I, U.S. 1st Artillery. In his letter to Haskin of 1875, Tully recalled:

"Kirby was not with his own battery when he was wounded. He had ridden over to the left, and while there took command of a volunteer battery which was in a tight place and had lost its officers. He was trying, I believe, to get the guns off the field to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. With the assistance of a regiment of infantry he succeeded, but received the fatal wound which cost him his life. We sent him to the rear in the ambulance belonging to the battery, and he went off in high spirits. The contract surgeon attached to our battery pronounced the wound a slight one, and when Kirby left, none of us thought but that he would be back again in a few weeks. As it turned out he was very badly wounded, and if his leg had been amputated on the field there is no doubt his life would have been saved. It was several days before he arrived in Washington, where the amputation was performed, but inflammation had then set in and it was too late."

Tully reported that his battery was ordered to move back from its position near Chancellor house overnight. Of the next day, when the battery returned, Tully wrote:

"We . . . arrived at Chancellorsville after the hardest of the fighting [on May 3] was over. We remained there until we were ordered to recross the river. We started about dark, marched all night through the mud and rain, and reached camp at nine o’clock next day completely worn out. Thus ended my share in the campaign, which in my opinion is a dismal failure. I am disgusted with this army and intend to apply today to the Adjutant General to be sent to my own company which is in South Carolina."

This was not yet to be. Tully had an appointment to keep in Pennsylvania.

 

1.6 Pickett and Stone Walls at Gettysburg

In the middle of June, 1863, Tully and the rest of the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac began an arduous move northwestward from Falmouth, Virginia. Tully wrote Belle on June 24, 1863:

"In marching from Centreville to this place [Gainesville] last Saturday [June 20] we crossed the battlefield [of First Bull Run] which still bears sad evidence of the bloody conflicts that have taken place there [July 21, 1861]. Whole human skeletons lie on the ground uncovered. The dead never have been properly buried, and the rain has in many places washed off what little dirt was thrown over them. In some places you can see the whole skeletons exposed, in others the skull, arms, and feet protrude through the earth. It was sad enough to see these lying about, evidence of the neglect that either we or the Rebels are accountable for. The citizens about here say that it was the Federals that buried them but I do not believe it, for we were not in possession of the battlefield after either fight. War has a strange tendency to harden men’s hearts and deaden the respect that we all naturally feel for the dead. I saw some of our soldiers pick up a skull that was lying beside the road, passing it from one to another, passing all kinds of heartless jokes upon it."

On June 30, 1863, Tully wrote Belle about his passage through the site the of Second Bull Run battle [of August 28-30, 1862]:

"Never have I seen such a horrible or disgusting sight. Our dead had never been buried, nor had any pretensions been made to do it. Our soldiers remained where they fell, nothing left but the bare skeletons and the tattered rags around them. It was estimated by some that there were three hundred skeletons in one small piece of woods. I saw a few lying by the side of the road and was satisfied with that, having no curiosity to search further."

In the same letter, Tully reports:

"On the march to Frederick on Sunday [June 28] we were all delighted with the news that General Hooker had been relieved and General Meade assigned to the command of the army. This is universally popular and received with great glee. General Hooker leaves the army with scarcely a friend in it. He has always criticized and vilified his superiors and was instrumental in General McClellan’s removal. His ambition has always aimed at the command of this army. He had his wish satisfied and, instead of accomplishing his boasted plans, he suffered an ignominious and disgraceful defeat at Chancellorsville, when most any of his subordinate commanders would have gained a splendid victory. His blundering was so apparent that when we returned to Falmouth the army had lost all confidence in him. Hence the general rejoicing at his removal and the total absence of sympathy over his downfall."

Tully wrote at length to Belle about his part in the battles from Antietam to Chancellorsville, but the only extended details about the battle of Gettysburg I know of from him date from many years later. They appear in the letter of June 15, 1875 that appears in the book The History of the First Regiment of Artillery by William Haskin, in an article dated February, 1896, called "Light Artillery: Its Use and Misuse", and an article dated March 30, 1904, called "Reminiscences on Gettysburg". What he did write to Belle on July 5, 1863, two days after the battle, was this:

"I take a hasty chance tonight to let you know that I am safe. We were in a terrible fight on the 2nd and 3rd. Woodruff [commander of Tully’s battery] was killed. All the officers of ‘A’ Company of the 4th [U.S. Artillery] were killed or wounded. I am in command of that and my own company. Please write to Eliza and Sam Talbot. I have not time as I march immediately. Yrs. in haste, Tully"

The terrible fight on the 3rd included the famous – or notorious – charge ordered by General Robert E. Lee, commander-in-chief of the Army of Northern Virginia, known afterwards as Pickett’s Charge, named for General George E. Pickett who was in command of the Confederate brigades which took part in it. Also associated with this action is the Confederate generals James Longstreet, commander of the First Army Corps of which Pickett’s division was a part.

The Confederate General James Longstreet had disagreed with Lee about where to attack the Federals. Some 14 years later in a paper he wrote in 1877, this is what Longstreet remembered having said to Lee:

"General, I have been a soldier all my life. I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions, and armies, and should know, as well as anyone, what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arrayed for battle can take that position."

What role Longstreet’s reluctance had in the failure of Pickett’s Charge, and the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, has been the subject of debate to this day.

The position Longstreet spoke of was toward the northern end of Cemetery Ridge, somewhat southwest of Cemetery Hill. At the time of the charge, Tully’s battery had been stationed in Ziegler’s Grove at the top of a little slope there, near the foot of Cemetery Hill, since the day before. Tully wrote in his letter to Haskin of June 15, 1875, 12 years after the battle:

"On the 3rd [of July, 1863], during the forenoon, we could see the [Confederate] artillery going into position opposite us, and occasionally a battery would open on us to get the range, but two or three of our batteries would reply and stop it. It was, I think, about two o’clock, when they opened fire upon our corps, the 2d, with, it is estimated, two hundred guns. How they did put the shot in!

"We returned the fire for a short time, when we received an order to cease firing and shelter ourselves as well as we could. By drawing back the guns behind a slight knoll we could shelter the men and guns, but the horses were exposed, and it was by this artillery fire that we lost so many.

"If their artillery had been as good as their infantry, our loss would have been very much greater; but as it was, a large majority of their projectiles were too high. They kept this up for a time which seemed to us an age, but which was in fact between one and two hours. Their plan was to demoralize that part of our line; and as our artillery had not replied for a long time, I suppose they thought they had succeeded.

"As soon as their artillery fire ceased we were on the qui vive to see what they were then going to do. We felt sure that all this was to cover an attack at our point or at some other. Our curiosity was soon gratified, for out of the woods opposed to us a long line of "grey-backs," a brigade of them, advanced. They were halted and aligned. Then another brigade appeared behind the first, and a third behind the second; in all, as we now know from rebel sources, twelve thousand men, the flower of Lee’s army. Soon they advanced, and the famous charge of Pickett’s division began.

"We had, beside our artillery, but one thin line of infantry to resist this, and I thought that our chances for kingdom come or Libby prison were very good. But they had undertaken a very desperate thing. They had to cross an open plain and march twelve hundred yards to gain our position. There was no shelter for them other than a small orchard. A house and barn near the orchard had been burned the day before, and the skirmishers had thrown down the fences.

"A slight depression or valley was between their position and ours. Could a finer target for artillery practice be imagined? Three lines of infantry, two deep, advancing over such ground in the very face of our artillery.

"As soon as it was seen what was coming, a look of stern determination settled upon every man’s face, artillery and infantry alike. This was, it must be remembered, the afternoon of the third day, and every sneak and coward had found safe shelter in the rear long before. There were now there none but men determined to do or die.

"As soon as the rebel line advanced, all of our artillery, to the right, left, and front of them, that could be brought to bear, opened upon them. They soon discovered that we were not badly demoralized. Battery I, having smooth-bores, loaded with canister and waited for them to get nearer. When we opened on them one could see great gaps swept down. There were three lines, remember; it was impossible to miss. We had forty rounds of canister to each gun and they got the most of it. They marched bravely up in face of it all and part of them penetrated our line on the left of our position. But their number had then been so reduced that they could make no fight and were taken prisoners. Directly in front of where we were, when not fifty yards off, they hesitated and wavered. Then our infantry charged and captured the greater part of what was left. Gettysburgh [sic] – the greatest battle of the war – was there won. Lee had lost his Virginians, the flower of his army, and gave it up."

In the article of 1904, some 40 years after the charge took place, Tully wrote, evidently making some use of his letter of 1875:

"[The] artillery fire of the enemy … suddenly ceased, and we were all on the Qui Vive to see what was to happen next. We had not long to wait before the men in gray began to pour out of the woods on Seminary Hill opposite to our position, and they continued to come until there were eighteen thousand of them . . . It was a grand sight, for it is reserved to but few to see eighteen thousand infantry making a charge. . . . When I saw this mass of men, in three long lines, approaching our position, and knowing that we had but one thin line of infantry to oppose them, I thought our chances for Kingdom Come or Libby Prison were very good. Now this is where our artillery came in, saved the day, and won the battle . . . As the enemy started across the field in such splendid array, every rifled battery from Cemetery Hill to Round Top was brought to bear upon their line. We, with the smooth bores, loaded with canister and bided our time. When they arrived within five hundred yards, we commenced to fire and the slaughter was dreadful. Never was there such a splendid target for light artillery."

In volume 2 of his book The American Conflict (1866), Horace Greeley quotes a decription of the Lee-Longstreet-Pickett charge by a journalist, Whitelaw Reid, writing under the name "Agate" in the Cincinnati Gazette. Greeley doesn’t date Reid’s article but it must have been written at most a couple of years after the battle, since Greeley’s second volume was published in 1866. This time the action is described in newspaperly rather than soldierly terms. Greeley says:

"Now let us hear ‘Agate,’ from our side, describe that last, determined effort of the Rebellion to maintain a foothold on the free soil of the North:

"The great, desperate, final charge came at 4. The Rebels seemed to have gathered up all their strength for one fierce, convulsive effort, that should sweep over and wash out our obstinate resistance. They swept up as before: the flower of their army to the front, victory staked upon the issue. . . . . . So it was along the whole line; but it was on the 2d corps that the flower of the Rebel army was concentrated; it was there that the heaviest shock beat upon, and shook, and even sometimes crumbled our line. . . . . . Hancock was wounded; Gibbon succeeded to the command – approved soldier, and ready for the crisis. As the tempest of fire approached its height, he walked along the line, and renewed his orders to the men to reserve their fire. The Rebels – three lines deep – came steadily up. They were in point-blank range.

"At last the order came! From thrice six thousand guns, there came a sheet of smoky flame, a crash, a rush of leaden death. The line melted away; but there came the second, resistless still. . . . . . Up to the rifle-pits, across them, over the barricades – the momentum of their charge, the mere machine strength of their combined action – swept them on. Our thin line could fight, but it had not weight enough to oppose to this momentum. It was pushed behind the guns. Right on came the Rebels. They were upon the guns – were bayoneting the gunners – were waving their flags above our pieces.

"But they had penetrated to the fatal point. A storm of grape and canister tore its way from man to man, and marked its track with corpses straight down their line! They had exposed themselves to the enfilading fire of the guns on the western slope of Cemetery hill [where Tully’s and the other artillery batteries were]; that exposure sealed their fate. . . . . . It was not a rout, it was a bitter, crushing defeat. For once, the Army of the Potomac had won a clean, honest, acknowledged victory. " "

Tully continued his description of the attack in his article of 1904:

"As their men [the Confederates] were killed or wounded, the others would close toward the center, and by the time they reached our lines it was a mass of men without organization. But they did reach it, through all of that terrible cannonade, and at one place penetrated it, but there were so few left that they were too weak to be effective and were captured. It was the splendid work of the artillery that saved the day and gave us the victory."

The 6 smooth bore cannons of Tully’s Light Company I of the U.S. 1st Artillery, called Napoleons, were among some 100 Union artillery pieces which figured strongly in the repulse of Pickett’s brigades, and therefore in the reversal of fortune of the Confederates at Gettysburg. In particular, some 25 of these guns were those of the artillery brigade of the Second Army Corps consisting of 5 batteries, including Tully’s battery, arrayed at the northernmost end of the Union line. It is somewhat appropriate to speak of "Tully’s battery" here since when the charge began, the commander of the battery was Lt. George Woodruff, but when the charge was over, Tully had had to take over. Woodruff was wounded during the engagement and taken to the rear, where he died the next day. Tully describes Woodruff’s work before he was hit:

"When the enemy’s artillery fire ceased and we saw his infantry preparing to charge our position, Woodruff had his guns run to the crest of the hill and gave the necessary orders to prepare for the struggle which was coming. He would not fire a shot until the enemy got in close range where our canister would be most effective. At the command ‘Commence firing’ everybody worked with a will and two rounds of canister per minute were delivered from each gun. The slaughter was fearful and great gaps were made in the mass of the enemy upon each discharge."

Francis A. Walker in his History of the Second Army Corps in the Army of the Potomac (1897) describes Pickett’s Charge this way:

"In his survey of the Union line General Lee had hit upon the ground occupied by the Second and Third Divisions of the Second Corps as that upon which his assault should be directed. It will be necessary, therefore, to describe the nature of this position with some fullness. Separating Cemetery Hill, so called, from Cemetery Ridge is a small wood, known as Ziegler’s Grove, to which is posted Battery I of the First Artillery, under Lieutenant Woodruff. This battery, well advanced to the front, holds the right of the Second Corps line. It is supported by the One Hundred and Eighth New York; next comes the division of Alexander Hays, in two lines, the front line posted behind a low stone wall. Perhaps three hundred and fifty yards from the grove the stone wall runs westward (that is, toward the enemy), to enclose another and more advanced ridge. Here the wall is lower, and is surmounted by a country post-and-rail fence. Hays’ left is formed of Smyth’s brigade and Arnold’s Rhode Island battery; Webb’s brigade of Gibbon’s division connects with Hays’ division at the angle; on his line is posted Cushing’s battery (A, Fourth United States). Hall’s brigade, also of Gibbon’s division, continues the line southward; with it is Brown’s Rhode Island battery. Harrow’s brigade, with which is Rorty’s New York battery, continues Gibbon’s line. On his front and Hall’s the stone wall is replaced by an ordinary rail fence, which has been thrown down by the troops to gain some slight cover. Still farther to the south, in a clump of trees and bushes, lies Stannard’s Vermont brigade of Doubleday’s division.

"The ground thus described was to constitute the scene of the approaching collision, but as yet this was known only to the Confederate leaders. The great assault was to be prepared for by a cannonade, the like of which has rarely, if ever, been known upon a field of battle. At precisely one o’clock two cannon-shot in quick succession, gave the signal, and instantly the Confederate position was, for three miles, wrapped in flame and smoke. Nearly one hundred and forty guns opened at once on the Union lines. The air shrieked with flying shot, the bursting shells sent their deadly fragments down in showers upon the rocky ridge and over the plain behind; the earth was thrown up in clouds of dust as the monstrous missiles buried themselves in the ground, or glanced from the surface to take a new and, perchance, more fatal flight; on every hand caissons exploded, struck by iron balls which but a half-minute before had lain in the limber-chests of batteries a mile away. All that is hideous in war seemed to have gathered itself together, to burst in one fell tornado upon Cemetery Ridge.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"The main fury of the cannonade fell, of course, upon the batteries of the Second Corps, occupying the ground which Longstreet’s columns were even now forming to assault; and well did those gallant officers and men stand in their place, and make answer that day for their cause. The volunteers batteries of Arnold, Brown, and Rorty vied with the splendid regular batteries of Woodruff and Cushing in cool bearing and scientific precision of fire. Out of those five batteries were killed two hundred and fifty horses, and men fell by scores at the guns or bringing ammunition up through a literal storm of shot and shell. But not a cannoneer left his post. There was no flurry and no fuss. Monotonous discharges followed the command, ‘Number one, fire!’ ‘Number two, fire!’ as regularly as if the battery were saluting an inspecting officer. From the left, McGilbray’s forty-four guns, with Hazlitt’s rifles far away down on Little Round Top; and from the right, on Cemetery Hill, Osborne’s batteries gave a loyal support to the over-weighted artillery of the Second Corps.

"The cannonade has lasted an hour and a quarter, and the ammunition of the artillery is getting low. Brown’s battery, which had suffered severely on the previous day, is ordered from the field, and Cowan’s New York battery takes its place, The other batteries are directed to cease firing, that they may be ready for the infantry charge soon to follow. From right to left our fire dies down, which the Confederates interpret to mean that our guns have been silenced by their greater weight of metal; and, for a few minutes, they lash our lines with redoubled fury.

"And now, in the edge of the woods, the column of attack is seen forming. There stand the Confederate chiefs, grim and resolute for their great emprise. Well they understand the desperate hazard of the struggle to which they are called; Longstreet, to whom has been assigned the conduct of the day, hesitates. He has to be reminded more than once that precious minutes are passing. At last the die is cast, the word given, and the splendid column, fourteen thousand strong, is launched against the Union line.

"Of Pickett’s division, Garnett and Kemper are in the first line, Armistead in support. On Pickett’s left is the division of Pettigrew. The advancing line offers a tempting mark to the artillerists on the Union center and left; but, with an hour and a half of such work behind them, and with what is plainly before them in the next half-hour, it behooves our men to husband their strength and their ammunition. And so, for hundreds of yards, this column moves, in full view, almost unmolested, on it hostile errand. The Second Corps batteries have a special reason for being silent. They have nothing but canister remaining, and must await close quarters. But now the brigades of Pickett, making a half-wheel to the left, in order to bring themselves directly face to face with Hancock, expose their right flanks to McGilvray’s and Hazlitt’s guns, while Osborne’s batteries, from Cemetery Hill, open on Pettigrew’s division. Undaunted by the sudden and tremendous outburst, Longstreet’s men rush forward, over fields and fences, without wavering or staying in their course. But Wilcox, who should have been on their right, failed to move in time, exposing thus the flank of the main column. And now the moment of collision is approaching. Pickett’s division and a portion of Pettigrew’s directly in front of the position occupied by Gibbon’s (Second) division of the Second Corps. The main body of Pettigrew’s division is equally close to Hays’ (Third) division of the Second Corps. Behind Pickett are the brigades of Lane and Scales.

"Up the slope the Confederates rush with magnificent courage. At tow or three hundred yards the Union infantry opens its deadly fire, but still the assailants push forward, undaunted, though Garnett falls dead in the van. And here appears the first serious consequence of Wilcox’s failure to come up on the right. This has left open Pickett’s flank on that side, and Hancock, easily the best tactician of the Potomac army, and always on the front line of battle, eagle-eyed, sees and seizes the opportunity. Galloping to Stannard’s brigade, he directs him to move his regiments to the front and attack the flank of the assaulting force. And now the collision – for which these thousands of Confederates have crossed the bloody plain, and for which those soldiers of the Union have waited, through all that anxious time – comes with a crash and clamor that might well appall the stoutest heart. Upon the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-first Pennsylvania, of Webb’s brigade, posted on the low stone wall, falls the full force of Longstreet’s mighty blow.

"Like leaves in autumn gales the Philadelphians drop along the line. Now the position of the Seventy-first is carried, and the right of the Sixty-ninth is thrown over upon its centre; now the Confederate flags wave over the stone wall; the men of Kemper and Armistead, of Garnett and Archer, pour in through the gap, led by Armistead in person, and beat down Cushing’s gunners over their pieces. The gallant and accomplished young commander of the battery gives one last shot for honor and for country, and falls dead among his men. For the moment that great and long-prepared charge is successful. Meade’s line is broken. In the very centre of the Union position, crowning Cemetery Ridge, wave the flags of Virginia and the Confederacy.

"Meanwhile Pettigrew’s brigades are engaged at close range with Hays’ division. Deployed at fifty to two hundred yards, they maintain an unavailing fusillade, which is responded to with fearful effect by the cool and hardy troops of Hays. The regiments of Smyth’s brigade, now commanded by Colonel Pierce, of the One Hundred and Eighth New York, for Smyth has been wounded in the cannonade, bear themselves with a gallantry that cannot be surpassed. The Twelfth New Jersey, First Delaware, and Fourteenth Connecticut, on Smyth’s left, pour in a deadly fire, before which the Confederate line curls and withers like leaves in the flame. While Pettigrew is thus engaged, Lane and Scales, of Pender’s division, thrust themselves into the fight, finding a place where they can, among the fighting brigades. Wright, Thomas, and McGowan advance nearer the scene of conflict, to cover the retreat or to crown the victory. And so, for an awful quarter of an hour, the two lines stand confronting each other, here two hundred yard apart, there but forty, pouring upon each other a close and unremitting fire.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"It must be evident, even to one who knows nothing of war, that such a strain as this could not be long continued. Something must give way under such a pressure. If one side will not, the other must; if not at one point, than at another. The Union infantry has come up somewhat tumultuously, it is true, but courageously, nay, enthusiastically, and has formed around the head of Longstreet’s column four ranks deep. Armistead is down. Every field-officer in Pickett’s division, except Pickett and one lieutenant-colonel, has fallen.

"The time has come to advance the standard of the Second Corps. With loud cries and a sudden forward surge, in which every semblance of formation is lost, the Union troops move upon the now faltering foe. One moment more and all is over. The most of the surviving Confederates throw themselves on the ground; others seek to escape capture, and retreat hurriedly down the hill and across the place, which is once more shrieking with the fire of the artillery, now reinforced by Weir’s, Wheeler’s, Kinzie’s, and other batteries.

"Then did the Second Corps go forward, "gathering up battle-flags in sheaves," and gathering prisoners by thousands. Thirty-three standards and four thousand prisoners are the fruits of that victory. And so Fredericksburg is avenged! Yet not without fearful losses. Hancock has fallen, desperately wounded, in the moment of victory. Gibbon and Webb are also wounded; while in the Second Division, on which fell the utmost weight of the great assault, five battalion commanders have been killed. Scarcely any regimental field-officers remain unwounded. The corps artillery, too, has suffered an extraordinary severity of punishment. Cushing is dead, and Woodruff and Rorty; Brown is wounded; Arnold alone remains at the head of his battery."

Capt. John Hazard of the 1st Rhode Island Artillery reported on August 1, 1863, as commander of the Second Corps Artillery Brigade, in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion:

"At 6 p.m. the enemy advanced in force, and, after a sharp contest, our lines were pushed back several hundred yards, the two batteries on the left – Battery B, First New York Artillery, and Battery B, First Rhode Island Artillery – conforming their movements to that of the infantry. Upon gaining a more commanding position upon the crest of the hill, a rapid fire was opened upon the enemy, causing great slaughter, and steadily driving them back.

"The two batteries on the left, being at the main point of attack on the left and center of the line, suffered most severely. Battery B, First New York Artillery, lost 1 man killed, 8 men wounded, and 13 horses disabled. Battery B, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, lost 1 man killed, 7 men wounded, and 2 missing. This battery was exposed to a most severe infantry fire: 24 horses were killed and 6 disabled, and it became necessary to send two guns to the rear. First Lieut. T. Fred Brown was severely wounded in the neck by a musket-shot while gallantly commanding the battery, and the command devolved upon First Lieut. W. S. Perrin. First Lieut. Samuel Canby, Battery A, Fourth U.S. Artillery, was severely wounded in the hand.

"The morning of July 3 was quiet until about 8 o’clock, when the enemy suddenly opened fire upon our position, exploding three limbers [two-wheeled vehicles to which caissons or gun carriages could be attached to form four-wheeled vehicles to be drawn by two horses attached to the limber] of Battery A, Fourth U.S. Artillery, but otherwise causing little loss. Little reply was made, save by Light Company I, First U.S. Artillery, which battery during the forenoon had eight separate engagements with the enemy.

"At 1 p.m. the artillery of the enemy opened along the whole line, and for an hour and a quarter we were subjected to a very warm artillery fire. The batteries did not at first reply, till the fire of the enemy becoming too terrible, they returned it till all their ammunition, excepting canister, had been expended; they then waited for the anticipated infantry attack of the enemy. Battery B, First New York Artillery, was entirely exhausted; its ammunition expended; its horses and men killed and disabled; the commanding officer, Capt. J. M. Rorty, killed, and senior First Lieut. A. S. Sheldon severely wounded. The other batteries were in similar condition; still, they bided the attack. The rebel lines advanced slowly but surely; half the valley had been passed over by them before the guns dared expend a round of the precious ammunition remaining on hand. The enemy steadily approached, and, when within deadly range, canister was thrown with terrible effect into their ranks. Battery A, First Rhode Island Artillery, had expended every round, and the lines of the enemy still advanced. [Alonzo H.] Cushing [commander of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery] was killed; [Joseph S.] Milne had fallen, mortally wounded [he was of the First Rhode Island Artillery, but attached to Cushing’s group]; their battery was exhausted, their ammunition gone, and it was feared the guns would be lost if not withdrawn.

"At this moment the two batteries were taken away; but Woodruff still remained in the grove, and poured death and destruction into the rebel lines. They had gained the crest, and but few shots remained. All seemed lost, and the enemy, exultant, rushed on. But on reaching the crest they found our infantry, fresh and waiting on the opposite side. The tide turned; backward and downward rushed the rebel line, shattered and broken, and the victory was gained. Woodruff, who had commanded the battery through the action of July 2 and 3, fell, mortally wounded, at the very moment of victory. The command of the battery devolved upon Second Lieut. Tully McCrea, First U.S. Artillery." . . . . . . .

"First Lieut. George A. Woodruff, commanding Light Company I, First U.S. Artillery, on July 3, while the rebel lines, after a most successful and daring advance, were being pushed back in destruction and defeat. To the manner in which the guns of his battery were served and his unflinching courage and determination may be due the pertinacity with which this part of the line was so gallantly held under a most severe attack. To the manner in which the guns of his battery were served and his unflinching courage and determination may be due the pertinacity with which this part of the line was so gallantly held under a most severe attack. Lieutenant Woodruff was an able soldier, distinguished for his excellent judgment and firmness in execution, and his loss is one which cannot be easily replaced. He expired on July 4, and, at his own request, was buried on the field on which he had yielded his life to his country."

Tully McCrea concluded his letter of 1875 this way:

"In this action I commanded the right section, Egan the left, and the first sergeant, John Shannon, the center. After the fight was over and I had time to look around, we had but four guns left, and I could not find Woodruff or Egan anywhere. In the midst of it all an order had been sent to Woodruff to send a section to occupy a gap on our left, by a battery which had had enough and had concluded to retire.

"We found Woodruff at last behind a tree, near the ground that Egan had vacated. He had been picked up when he was shot and placed there for shelter. He was wounded while Egan’s section was moving, or directly afterward, and I knew nothing of it until the battle was all over. He was shot with a musket ball through the intestines, and, although he lived nearly twenty-four hours, he never uttered a moan or complaint. The doctor said that from the nature of the wound his suffering must have been intense. He died on the 4th in a little stone school-house about two miles in read of where he was shot, and we buried him there and marked his grave so that his father afterward found it.

"After the battle Egan and I were all the officers left of the six belonging to the two regular batteries of the 2d corps. The other one was Cushing’s. Cushing and his officers were all killed or wounded, and the battery, toward the end of the fight, was commanded by the first sergeant, Fuger, now an officer in the 4th artillery. After the battle the two batteries were consolidated.

TULLY McCREA,

Captain 1st Artillery,

Brevet Major, U. S. A.

[June 15, 1875]

There have been numerous different estimates of the numbers of casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Union is said to have had around 18,000 killed, the Confederates somewhere between 2,500 and 4,500. Numbers wounded were about 14,500 Union and 12,800 Confederate. There were about 5,300 listed as missing on each side. Counting the missing along with the killed and wounded, the total number of casualties for both sides was about 50,000.

 

1.7 From a Proclamation by Lincoln to Tully’s Legs at Olustee

After Lt. Woodruff’s death during Pickett’s Charge, Tully expected to succeed him as commander of Battery I, and he was supported by the other men of his company and by the officers of his brigade, including its commander John Hazard who was then a captain. However, Tully wrote Belle on August 6, 1863:

"I received an order from General Meade yesterday morning placing Lieutenant [Frank S.] French in command, and that too after I thought that everything had been settled. My immediate commanding officers in this Corps knew nothing of the order until they received it and they were as much surprised as myself. Lieutenant French has not yet made his appearance and I rather think that he is ashamed of the manner in which he has obtained the command from me against the wishes of all the officers of the brigade. This will be a very unpleasant place for him, for he is disliked by all and particularly by the officers serving with battery. His success in obtaining the order is explained by telling you that he is a son of Major General [William] French, a friend of General Meade and General [Henry J.] Hunt, Chief of Artillery. I think that I shall leave the Company the first opportunity. I shall hate to do so, for I have been intimately connected with it so long that it would be like leaving home and you know how hard it is for me to part with anything to which I have become attached."

Tully applied for transfer to Company M of the U. S. 1st Artillery, then under the command of Captain Loomis L. Langdon, which at the time had been stationed for some 18 months at Beaufort, South Carolina, near Charleston. He was first assigned to Company K, but then went to Company M. He reported there in mid-September of 1863. This was, as the saying goes, good duty. Tully wrote that Companies D and M were camped together and had the finest camp he had ever seen. There were picnics, oyster bakes, and lots of young ladies to flirt with. However, for Tully, this lasted for only a couple of months. The company was then sent to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where things were not so nice, though quiet enough. During this time, Tully was finally promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

On February 5, 1864, Tully wrote to Belle:

"A large expedition is leaving here today. I think the destination is somewhere in Florida . . . . . General Seymour, my favorite general here, is in command and, if we have an opportunity, there will be some hard fighting and someone will be hurt." On February 12, he wrote: "After we left Hilton Head we found out that we were destined for Jacksonville, Florida . . . . . We arrived at Jacksonville [2 days later] . . . . . We pushed ahead every day [after a stop at Camp Finnegan from which the Rebels had fled a few hours before] until we arrived here last night, fifty-two miles from Jacksonville [at a place called Sanderson]. We have been subsisting almost entirely on the country and find it very slim living. We have named this camp ‘Camp Misery’ because we are halting here in the rain without anything to eat, either for ourselves or our horses. I find that campaigning is not done here as it is in the Army of the Potomac, with system and order."

The battle of Olustee is also known as the battle of Ocean Pond, the name of a lake near Olustee, Florida. Olustee was a station for the Florida Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad, about 15 miles east of Lake City, which is about 50 miles west of Jacksonville. The battle is not one which has captured the imagination of many people who have dwelled on the Civil War, nor is it one which had anything very influential to do with the course of that war. However, as Catherine Crary puts it in her book Dear Belle, it was not a minor engagement for Tully McCrea.

The battle, which took place on February 20, 1864, came about this way. On December 8, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction (in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol VII, 1953). In it, Lincoln invokes his "power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States" and observes that

"a rebellion now exists whereby the loyal State governments of several States have for a long time been subverted, and many persons have committed and are now guilty of treason against the United States", but that "it is now desired by some persons heretofore engaged in said rebellion to resume their allegiance to the United States and to reinaugurate loyal State governments within and for their respective States."

Therefore, says Lincoln,

"a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves . . . . . upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath inviolate."

Wording of the oath to be signed is given:

"I, ---------, do solemnly swear, in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all acts of Congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far as not repealed, modified or held void by Congress, or by decision of the Supreme Court; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves, so long and so far as not modified or declared void by decision of the Supreme Court. So help me God."

Lincoln adds that

"whenever, in any of the States of Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, a number of persons, not less than one-tenth in number of the votes cast in such State at the Presidential election of the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty, each having taken the oath aforesaid and not having since violated it, and being a qualified voter by the election law of the State existing immediately before the so-called act of secession, and excluding all others, shall re-establish a State government which shall be republican, and in no wise contravening said oath, such shall be recognized as the true government of the State . . . . . "

John Hay, who was later Secretary of State under McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, was at the time of the proclamation a 25-year-old secretary and companion to Lincoln. On December 9, 1863, he wrote in his diary (Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, ed. Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger):

"Whatever may be the results or the verdict of history the immediate effect of this paper is something wonderful. I have never seen such an effect produced by a public document. Men acted as if the Millennium had come. . . . . . [Rep. Owen] Lovejoy seemed to see on the mountains the feet of one bringing good tidings. He said it was glorious. I shall live he said to see slavery ended in America . . . . . Horace Greeley went so far as to say it was "Devilish good!" "

On the Battle of Olustee web site, maintained by Thomas R. Fasulo (a Vietnam veteran, and Civil War reenactor), there is this succinct description of some events leading up to this battle:

"In early 1864, Union forces mounted their largest military operation in Florida, an expedition that culminated in the Battle of Olustee. Both political and military considerations played a role in the campaign. 1864 was a presidential year, and various factions within the Republican Party hoped to organize a loyal Florida government in time to send delegates to the Republican nominating convention. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase was particularly intrigued with this possibility. Chase's protegé Lyman D. Stickney, the Union Tax Commissioner for Florida, lobbied hard for an increased Federal military presence in the state. President Lincoln became aware of Chase and Stickney's machinations, and Lincoln himself hoped to see a loyal Florida government returned to the Union under the terms of his December, 1863 Reconstruction Proclamation.

On January 20, 1864, John Hay traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where he delivered to General Quincy A. Gillmore the following letter from Abraham Lincoln:

"Major General Gillmore

I understand an effort is being made by some worthy gentlemen to reconstruct a loyal state Government in Florida. Florida is in your department & it is not unlikely that you may be there in person. I have given Mr. Hay a Commission of Major and sent him to you with some blank books and other blanks, to aid in the reconstruction. He will explain as to the manner [of] using blanks, and also my general views on the subject. It is desirable for all to cooperate; but if irreconcilable differences of opinion shall arise, you are master. I wish the thing done in the most speedy way possible, so that when done it lie within the range [of the] late proclamation on the subject. The detail labor of course will have to be done by others; but I shall be greatly obliged if you will give it such general supervision as you can find consistent with your more strictly military duties."

Hay says of Gillmore’s reaction to the letter:

"He seemed perplexed rather & evidently thought he was expected to undertake some immediate military operation to effect the occupation & reconstruction. He dwelt on the deficiency of transportation in the Dept. & the immobility of his force for purposes of land attack. He has only now after great efforts succeeded in mounting a regt. of infantry for Cavalry service, &c. &c.

"I told him it was not the President’s intention to do anything to embarrass his military operations – that all I wished from him was an order directing me to go to Florida & open my books of record for the oaths: as preliminary to further proceedings.

"He said we would speak further of it."

On February 4, Hay noted in his diary: "General [Truman] Seymour today had a review of the corps [at Hilton Head] which is to invade Florida, 6000 men, black and white infantry, Artillery & Mted Inftry." In the evening, says Hays, General Gillmore explained to him his plan, and gave him a letter to Headquarters, Dept. of the South, Hilton Head, in which Gillmore states that he will land a force at Jacksonville. Hay’s next few diary entries deal mainly with his own trip at sea down to Jacksonville, where he arrived on February 8. He observed on February 10 that he had had posted the day before a number of copies of Lincoln’s proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction. The next day after that, February 11, he describes how he got a number of Confederate prisoners of war to sign the oath which appeared in Lincoln’s proclamation. On February 12, he wrote:

"My first days operations in Jacksonville were such as to give very great encouragement. I enrolled in all 60 names – some of them men of substance and influence. The fact that more than 50 per cent of the prisoners of war were eager to desert & get out of the service shows how the spirit of the common people is

broken . . . . . There was little of what might called be loyalty. But what I build my hopes on is the evident weariness of the war & anxiety for peace."

On February 12, Hay boarded ship to sail back to Hilton Head, South Carolina. On February 21, the day after the battle at Olustee, he wrote:

"Bingham woke me up with the miserable news of [Col. Guy V.] Henry’s death, loss of 7 pieces, capture of 400 wounded & our total repulse, about 7 miles beyond Sanderson [a railroad station town about 7 miles east of Olustee station]. . . . . ." The next day, February 22, Hay wrote that he had been informed that a number of officers, including Tully McCrea, had been wounded, and that Col. Charles W. Fribley had been killed.

Each side had about 5000 troops in the battle. Union losses were 203 killed, 1,152 wounded, and 506 missing, a total of 1,861. The Confederates lost 93 killed, 847 wounded, and 6 missing, a total of 946. In Haskin’s history published in 1879, the commander of Company M, to which Tully McCrea was attached at Olustee, Capt. Loomis L. Langdon, gave a more detailed list of casualties for this battery:

"Privates Allen, Connellan, and Wheelan were killed at the pieces. Private Little was mortally wounded and died on our hands. Privates Monks, Narciss, Sorge, and Zürcher were captured by the enemy and reported officially by him two days later as mortally wounded. These last four were New York volunteers attached to the battery. Total killed, eight. Badly wounded and captured by the enemy, Privates Shea, Dripps, and Loughran. Wounded, one officer, twelve regulars, and five New York volunteers (attached), viz.: Lieut. Tully McCrea, shot twice in the left leg, shattering the bone; Sergeant Sweetman, Corporal McChesney, Privates Costellow, Fells, Furman, Harrison, Kelleher, Cox, Montgomery, Gordon, Storm, and Delaney (regulars), and Privates Enright, Aurbach, Murphy, Montagnon, and Oswald (New York volunteers attached). Thirty nine horses were killed or disabled, and three out of the four Napoleon guns belonging to the battery were lost, together with most of its baggage and camp equipage."

Langdon adds:

"The only officers with the battery during the battle were Capt. L. L. Langdon, commanding, and Lieut. Tully McCrea. The latter had been promoted the previous November from second lieutenant in Battery M to be first lieutenant in battery K, but was attached to battery M while awaiting the necessary orders to join his proper company. He was conspicuous in the battle for his intrepidity, and when shot down was fighting in the advanced line."

About ten days after the battle, on March 1, 1864, Tully wrote Belle from the hospital at Beaufort, South Carolina, to which he had been evacuated:

"I was shot through both legs – compound fracture of the left and a flesh wound through the fleshy part of the right, both below the knee. Neither wound is dangerous, but the one in the left leg has been very painful. I was compelled to ride two nights and one day over the rough roads in an ambulance and all the next day was at sea in a steamer bound for this place. The torture was very great and I have never before suffered such physical pain. As soon as I arrived here everything was done that was possible and I have received every attention from kind friends among whom are several ladies. I have everything that I can desire and, as I am now getting over the prostration caused by the bad journey, I am feeling quite comfortable and getting along famously."

John Hay, Lincoln’s companion and agent in Florida, was about 25 years old at the time of the battle of Olustee. So was Tully McCrea. As a matter of fact, so was George A. Custer, though he was not in Florida.

We have mentioned in passing Custer’s illustrious if reckless record in the Civil War, and commented on his eventual rendezvous at Little Big Horn in 1876, during the Indian Wars. As to John Hay, he wrote on March 1, 1864, about ten days after the battle at Olustee: "I am very sure that we cannot now get the President’s 10th [10% of eligible voters to sign the oath] & that to alter the suffrage law for a bare tithe would not give us the moral force we want." The end result of Hay’s venture into Florida is described by Tyler Dennett in John Hay: From Poetry to Politics (1933): "The effort was premature, perhaps ill-advised, and came to nothing. Hay dismissed it in a single modest sentence in Abraham Lincoln: A History (1890; written with John G. Nicolay, another of Lincoln’s secretaries) "The special duties assigned to him [i.e., to Hay by Lincoln, in Florida] occupied little time: there were few loyal citizens to enroll." "

 

1.8 3rd Cousin Gideon Welles and 7th Cousin Thomas Wentworth Higgins on Olustee

Gideon Welles, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, turns up in my family history as a 3rd cousin (4 times removed).  As a matter of fact, so does his wife, Mary Jane Hale.  Gideon and Mary Jane were first cousins.   The Secretary wrote in his diary on February 27, 1864:

"[William H.] Seward [Lincoln’s Secretary of State] told me, in a whisper, that we had met a serious reverse in Florida. It is not mentioned in the papers. This suppressing a plump and plain fact, already accomplished, because unfortunate is not wise. The Florida expedition has been one of the secret movements that have been projected, I know not by whom, but suspect movements that have been projected, I know not by whom, but suspect the President has been trying a game himself. He has done such things, and, I believe, always unfortunately. I may be wrong in my conclusions, but his Secretary, John Hay was sent off to join the forces at Port Royal and this expedition was then commenced. Admiral Dahlgren went off on it without orders from ne, and had only time to advise me he was going. Though he has general directions to to cooperate with the army, he would not have done this but from high authority."

Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) turns up in my family history as a 7th cousin (2 times removed).  When a colonel in the Union army, Higginson formed and became the commander of the 1st South Carolina Colored Volunteers.  This unit later became the 33rd USCT (United States Colored Troops).  His book Army Life in a Black Regiment (1870) seems to have been used in connection the film Glory about black troops in the Civil War.  He was a Unitarian minister, though rather too radical even for the Unitarians.  He is known for his longtime correspondence with Emily Dickinson, and for over-editing her poems after her death.  Besides working for emancipation of slaves, he worked on behalf of women's rights, for temperance in the use of alcohol, and for other reforms.  He was a prolific contributor to literary magazines of his time, and wrote histories, a novel, and other works.  His unit was exempted from transfer from South Carolina to Florida in time for the battle of Olustee because some of his men had smallpox. 

This is what Higginson wrote about the battle of Olustee, as recorded in The Complete Civil War Journal and Selected Letters of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, edited by Christopher Looby (2000):

"Camp Shaw [Beaufort, S.C.], Feb. 23, 1864 [3 days after the battle]:

"There was a sound of revelry by night at our pretty ball, in a new great building, beautifully & laboriously decorated. . . . . . All would have gone according to the proverbial marriage bell, had there not been a slight possible shadow over all of us from hearing vague stories of a lost battle in Florida, & from the thought that the very ambulances in which we rode to the ball were ours only until the wounded or the dead might tenant them. Gen. Gillmore only came, I supposed, to put a good face on the matter -- for although he is not a man of the sentiments, still we all knew his military reputation could ill afford so damaging a blow & he certainly cares enough for that.  He went away soon & Gen. Saxton went; there was a rumor that the "Cosmopolitan" [a ship] had actually arrived with wounded; but still the dance went on.  There was nothing unfeeling about it; one gets used to things; & it seemed not unnatural to cross question an officer just from Jacksonville as to whether the casualties numbered more or less than a thousand, and then to moot the other question whether on a lady's card one stood engaged for the tenth dance or the twelfth, when suddenly there came in the midst of the dances – 

"There came a perfect hush, the music ceasing, a few surgeons went hastily to & fro, as if conscience stricken (I think they might have been) . . . . . & as we all stood wondering we were 'ware of General Saxton, who came hastily down the hall, his pale and handsome face more resolute even than usual, & looking almost sick with anxiety.  He had just been on board the steamer, there were 250 wounded men just arrived & the ball must end.  Not that there was anything for us to do, but the revel was mistimed & must be ended -- it was wicked to be dancing, with such a scene of suffering by.
. . . . . . . . . .

"On board the boat among the long lines of wounded, black & white mingled, there was the wonderful quiet which usually prevails on such occasions.  Not a sob or groan, except from those undergoing removal.  It is not self control, but chiefly the shock to the system which wounds, especially gunshot wounds invoke, & which almost always keeps the patient stiller at first than at any other time . . . . .

"As to the fight itself, I do not know how much will be made public, but it is useless to disguise that it was an utter & ignominious defeat -- not ignominious as to the men who behaved well, but as to the generalship which could be caught in a shallow trap in a dangerous country.  Gen. Gillmore last night threw the responsibility as he did after Fort Wagner on Gen. Seymour [this was in South Carolina, where an assault was made on July 18, 1863, by troops under Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour, spearheaded by the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment which was decimated when the attack failed miserably, but which nevertheless took part in the battle of Olustee – John Hay wrote in his diary that Gillmore said after the defeat that this is what comes of not following orders, referring to Seymour] -- but it was he & he only [i.e., Gillmore] who diverted 10,000 of his 20,000 men upon a secondary enterprise perfectly understood by the enemy, who had an interior line of railroad by which he could be confronted with a superior force at any point.  Knowing the country as I do in Florida I have always held that to penetrate it for any distance was a thing to be attempted with the greatest caution -- the enemy possessing the greatest advantages if disposed to use them.  There was nothing to be gained by victory beyond a member of Congress [there were accusations in the papers that the main point of the expedition of Hay to Florida was to get him elected as a Republican to Congress]; while the loss includes more than a thousand killed & wounded, half in the enemy's hands -- four or five cannon -- & large supplied of stores destroyed by fire to keep them from the enemy.  Now our troops are falling back on Jacksonville & we are likely as not to be kept from further advance."

On February 29, Higginson wrote: "But for a few trivial cases of varioloid, we should certainly have been in that disastrous fight. We were confidently expected for several days at Jacksonville, & Gen. Seymour told Col. Halliwell that we being the oldest colored reg’t would have the right of the line, or the foremost place. Of course we should, & should probably hv. lost severely, as the 54th [Mass.] did, though there were only three officers wounded there & slightly, -- unlike the other colored reg’ts engaged. This was certainly missing danger & glory very closely."


1.9 Uncle Tully after the War

The battle of Olustee ended Tully’s combat tour in the Civil War. After he got out of the hospital, he became for a while an instructor at West Point. In Haskin’s history, the roster of the 1st Regiment of Artillery for Jan. 1, 1865, has Tully listed as a brevet major as of February 20, 1864, the date of the battle of Olustee (presumably retroactively), and as an Acting Assistant Professor of Geography, History, and Ethics at the Military Academy. However, he switched to mathematics, and is listed by Frederick Rickey, a professor and historian of mathematics at the USMA, as having taught mathematics from 1864-1866. Tully was stationed later at Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor, New York, where he met my great-aunt Harriet Camp, and they were married on May 20, 1868. Tully and Belle had broken off their relationship in September of 1864, when he visited her in Ohio shortly after he got out of the hospital. Tully stayed in the army, and retired in 1903 as a brevet brigadier general, with forty years of service. In The Spirit of Old West Point (1907). Tully’s classmate, Morris Schaff, wrote of Tully: "He is now retired, a brigadier-general, and when I last heard of him, he was living at Atlantic City. I imagine him watching the long waves endlessly breaking on the beach; and I hope that as again and again they swish up toward him and sadly lull away, nothing but pleasant memories come back of our boyhood days." Tully died in 1918, at age 79. His wife Harriet, my great-aunt, died the year before. They left one child, Alice.

In the Biographical Register of Officers and Cadets of the U. S. Military Academy, one finds, after a summary of Tully McCrea’s combat service "during the Rebellion of the Seceding States", the following (kindly supplied to me by Susan Lintelmann, Manuscripts Curator, USMA):

"Quartermaster, 1st Artillery, June 20 to Nov. 20, 1866, at Ft. Hamilton, N.Y.; on Recruiting service, Dec. 6, 1866, to Mar. 20, 1867;

(Captain, 42nd Infantry, July 28, 1866)

in garrison at Madison Barracks, N.Y., Apr. 10 to Aug. 1867,-- and Ft. Porter, N.Y. to May 9, 1868; in conducting recruits to the Pacific Coast, to July 10, 1868; as Quartermaster of the Military Academy, Sep. 30, 1868, to Aug. 28, 1872;

(Unassigned, Apr. 22, 1869)

(Assigned to 1st Artillery, Dec. 15, 1870)

as Deputy Governor of the Soldiers’ Home, near Washington, D.C., Sep. 15, 1872, to July, 1875; on leave of absence, July to Oct., 1875; in garrison at St. Augustine, Fla., Oct. 23 to Dec. 2, 1875,-- Ft. Trumbull, Ct., Dec. 9, 1875, to July 29, 1876, -- Ft. Sill, I.T. [Indian Territory], Aug. 16 to Nov. 22, 1876m—Washington Arsenal, D.C., Dec. 4, 1876, to Apr. 5, 1877,-- Ft. Trumbull, Dt., Apr. 7, 1877, to Nov. 11, 1881, except while engaged in suppressing Railroad Disturbances in Pennsylvania, July 28 ro Oct. 24, 1877,-- Presideo, San Francisco, Cal., Nov. 18, 1881, to Dec. 10, 1883,-- Ft. Winfield Scott, Cal., to Oct. 1, 1886,-- at Presidio, San Francisco, Cal. to Oct. 28, 1886,-- Vancouver Barracks, Wash., Nov. 1, 1886, to Jan. 30, 1889,--

(Major 5th Artillery, Dec. 4, 1888)

Ft. Columbus, N.Y. (commanding post), Feb. 19, 1889, to ------."

This was evidently written before Tully’s service at Vancouver Barracks ended. His obituary, published June 25, 1925 in the Annual Report, Association of Graduates, USMA, adds to the duty there, assignments to Fort Canby, Washing, and Fort Slocum, New York. And then:

"He received his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, 5th Artillery, March 8, 1898, and during the Spanish-American War commanded first Fort Hancock, New Jersey, and then Fort Wadsworth, New York. He was promoted Colonel, 6th Artillery, July 15, 1900, and ordered to the Philippines, where he as in commend of the Cartel de Espagna, Manila, until he returned to the United States in the late fall of 1901 and took command of the Artillery District of Puget Sound.

"He was promoted Brigadier General, U.S.A., February 21, 1903, and the next day he retired at his own request, after over forty years’ service. The last years of his life were spent at West Point, where he died September 5, 1918, at the ripe age of 79 years.

"The foregoing is but the briefest outline of the long and faithful service of General McCrea, and it shows him as a young officer fighting for his country with such dash and gallantry as to twice win brevets, then through the long stretch of years and in spite of the handicap of permanent lameness from wounds received in battle, serving faithfully and efficiently, in a variety of positions, and last, his work accomplished, retiring with the satisfaction of public recognition most justly bestowed."

Home