Wednesday, September 10, 2014

350 miles, three battlefields...the Union was defeated at each one.

Yesterday early in the morning, as I walked to the bath house at our campground, I came around the corner and startled three deer. They gracefully trotted across the road and peered at me from under the cover of the trees for a few seconds. So quiet. So peaceful. So gentle...

We headed out again for a major drive covering 350 miles and three battlefields. The first was the Battle of McDowell.

Battle of McDowell - May 8, 1862

After the cold, miserable winter of 1861-62 when George was stationed at Beverly and at Cheat Mountain; on April 5th his regiment under General Robert Milroy advanced on Staunton, Virginia to control the roads.
GWO's regiment, the 2nd VA Infantry at the time, was positioned
precisely where I am standing taking this photo. Behind the church and
looking towards Sitlington Hill. Their job was to protect the artillery
and the town from being taken by the Confederates.
Photo Laurie Southerton
They were in the town of Monterey on April 12. As the Union troops moved toward McDowell, they camped in the fields south of McDowell from April 17 through the day of the battle May 8, 1862.

According to the battle marker; "They deployed artillery, including two twelve pounders [that] were planted on the plateau in the rear of [the church] so as to cover the bridge" over the Bullpasture River. After the battle, wounded of both armies were cared for in the church and the dead were buried in the cemetery.

The 6,000 confederates were stationed at the top of Sitlington's hill (1.5 miles straight up the mountain!) overlooking the town of McDowell, where 6,500 Union troops were positioned. As the afternoon grew late, the Federals crossed the swollen Bullpasture River using the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike bridge and advanced against the confederates. The Federals gained some success until "Stonewall" Jackson's brigade arrived en route from Staunton. The federrals launched a furious assault, but the Confederate center held. As darkness fell fierce volleys continued to claim heavy casualties on both sides. Around 9:00 pm, the Federals broke off, burned their camps and retreated toward the town of Franklin.

Battle of Cross Keys

One month later, June 8 1862, George's regiment again faced Jackson's Confederate army at Cross Keys. the Union forces numbered 11,500 (with 684 dead and wounded) against the Confederate forces of 5,800 (with 288 dead and wounded). Despite being outnumbered, it was a Confederate Victory, once again with Federal Troops retreating. George Ordner was wounded here. I believe he was wounded in the wrist, but am looking for documentation. Not sure if I will find it. George's unit was directly in the line of fire in close combat with Confederate forces.

GWO's unit was along the road and crossed the cornfield to meet
the Confederate artillery. (In the read box) It was a fierce battle
and George was wounded here.
Photo Laurie Southerton
Cedar Mountain - August 9, 1862

The third battle site we visited took place a month later, on August 9, 1862 near Culpeper, Virginia. George's unit, under Brigadier General, Franz Sigel was ordered to meet up with Major General John Nathaniel Bank's forces seven miles south of the town of Culpepper. The temperatures were in the 100's on the field. The Federals set up their artillery blocking the road near Cedar Run where the tired Confederates encountered them. There was a prolonged artillery duel between the opposing armies, that resulted in Brig. Gen. Charles Winder, Stonewall Jackson's military leader, taking a northern shell in the side and dying several hours later. The Confederates outnumbered the Federal forces almost two to one, but the Federals gave a ferocious charge and engaged in a fierce, bloody hand to hand combat nearly defeating the Confederates.

General Jackson, brandished his sword still rusted in its scabbard to rouse his flagging troops during this battle. It was the only time he did this throughout the war. The Confederates did a final push as darkness fell that swept Bank's army from the field. The Union army had 2,500 casualties.

Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, was also helping the wounded soldiers after "one of the ugliest battles of the war". This was one of the first battles where she volunteered her nursing services.
Sign near the battlefield of Cedar Mountain also referred
to as Slaughter Mountain.
Photo Laurie Southerton
It was amazing that these three battles that George participated in before heading to the Second Battle of Manassas were Union defeats. What was the morale of the Federal troops at this time? Hot, exhausted, poor conditions, wounded, many casualties of friends and brothers... a bloody thought to a day that began very peacefully.

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