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THE FIRST NEW JERSEY
FOUGHT AT BRANDY.
"IT was the prettiest cavalry
fight that you ever saw," said the Adjutant, stretching his legs and lighting a
" It was just my luck to lose
it," I answered. "Here have I been lying growling and grumbling while you
fellows have been distinguishing yourselves. It was miserable to be taken sick
just when the army got in motion, and still worse not to hear a word of what was
going on. I almost wished that we had been a newspaper regiment, so that I could
learn something about our share in that day's work. Be a good fellow and play
reporter for my benefit. Freshen hawse, as the nautical novelists say, and
"Well, we were lying at Warrenton
Junction, making ourselves as comfortable as possible after the raid, when, on
the morning of the 8th of June, the whole division was ordered out in the very
lightest marching order. That night we lay close to Kelly's Ford in column of
battalions, the men holding their horses as they slept and no fires being
"At four o'clock on the morning
of the 9th we were again in motion, and got across the Ford without interruption
or discovery. Yorke, with the third squadron, was in advance, and as we moved he
managed so well that he bagged every picket on the road. Thus we had got almost
upon the rebel camp before we were discovered. We rode right into Jones's
Brigade, the First Jersey and First Pennsylvania charging together; and before
they had recovered from the alarm we had a hundred and fifty prisoners. The
rebels were then forming thick upon the hill-side by the station, and they had a
battery playing upon us like fun. Martin's New York Battery on our side galloped
into position, and began to answer them. Then Wyndham formed his whole brigade
for a charge, except a squadron of the First Maryland, left to support the
battery. Our boys went in splendidly, keeping well together, and making straight
for the rebel battery on the hill behind the station. Wyndham himself rode on
the right, and Broderick charged more toward the left, and with a yell we were
on them. We were only two hundred and eighty strong, and in front of us was
White's Battalion of five hundred. No matter for that. Wyndham and Broderick
were leading, and they were not accustomed to count odds. As we dashed fiercely
into them, sabre in hand, they broke like a wave on the bows of a ship, and over
and through them we rode, sabring as we went. We could not stop to take
prisoners, for there in front of us was the Twelfth Virginia, six hundred men,
riding down to support White. By Jove, Sir, that was a charge! They came up
splendidly, looking steadier than we did ourselves after the shock of the first
charge. I do not know whether Wyndham was still with us, or if he had gone to
another regiment; but there was Broderick looking full of fight, his blue eyes
in a blaze, and his sabre clenched, riding well in front. At them we went again,
and some of them this time met us fairly. I saw Broderick's sabre go through a
man, and the rebel gave a convulsive leap out of his saddle, falling senseless
to the ground. It seemed but an instant before the rebels were scattered in
every direction, trying now and then to rally in small parties, but never daring
to await our approach. Now there were the guns plain before us, the drivers
yelling at their horses, and trying to limber up. We caught one gun before they
could move it, and were dashing after the others when I heard Broderick shouting
in a stormy voice. I tell you, it was a startling sight. The fragments of
White's Battalion had gathered together toward the left of the field, and were
charging in our rear. The First Maryland was there, and Broderick was shouting
at them, in what their Colonel considered a 'very ungentlemanly manner,' to move
forward to the charge. At the same time two fresh regiments, the Eleventh
Virginia and another, were coming down on our front. Instead of dashing at
White's men the First Maryland wavered and broke, and then we were charged at
the same time front and rear. We had to let the guns go, and gather together as
well as possible to cut ourselves out. Gallantly our fellows met the attack. We
were broken, of course, by the mere weight of the attacking force, but, breaking
them up too, the whole field was covered with small squads of fighting men. I
saw Broderick ride in with a cheer and open a way for the men. His horse went
down in the melee; but little Wood, the bugler of Company G, sprang down and
gave him his animal, setting off himself to catch another. A rebel rode at the
bugler, and succeeded in getting away his arms before help came. As Wood still
went after a horse another fellow rode at him. The boy happened at that moment
to see a carbine where it had been dropped after firing. He picked up the empty
weapon, aimed it at the horseman, made him dismount, give up his arms, and start
for the rear. Than he went in again. Lucas, Hobensack, Brooks, and Beekman,
charged with twelve men into White's Battalion. Fighting hand to hand, they cut
their way through, but left nine of the men on the ground behind them. Hughes
was left almost alone in a crowd, but brought himself and the men with him safe
through. Major Shelmire was last seen lying across the dead body of a rebel
cavalry man. None of us thought any thing of two to one odds, as long as we had
a chance to ride at them. It was only when we got so entangled that we had to
fight hand to hand that their numbers told heavily. It was in such a place that
I lost sight of Broderick. The troop horse that he was riding was not strong
enough to ride through a knot of men, so that he had to fight them. He struck
one so heavily that he was stunned by the blow, but his horse was still in the
way; swerving to one side, he escaped a blow from another, and, warding off the
thrust of a third, managed to take him with his point across the forehead; just
as he did so, however, his sabre, getting tangled with the rebel's, was jerked
from his hand. He always carried a pistol in his boot. Pulling that out, he
fired into the crowd, and put
spurs to his horse. The bullet hit a horse in front of him, which fell. His own
charger rose at it, but stumbled, and as it did Broderick himself fell, from a
shot fired within arm's-length of him and a sabre stroke upon his side.
"I saw all this as a man sees
things at such times, and am not positive even that it all occurred as I thought
I saw it; for I was in the midst of confusion, and only caught things around by
passing glimpses. You see I was myself having as much as I could do. The crowd
with whom Broderick was engaged was a little distance from me; and I had just
wheeled to ride up to his help when two fellows put at me. The first one fired
at me and missed. Before he could again cock his revolver I succeeded in closing
with him. My sabre took him just in the neck, and must have cut the jugular. The
blood gushed out in a black-looking stream; he gave a horrible yell and fell
over the side of his horse, which galloped away. Then I gathered up my reins,
spurred my horse, and went at the other one. I was riding that old black horse
that used to belong to the signal sergeant, and it was in fine condition. As I
drove in the spurs it gave a leap high in the air. That plunge saved my life.
The rebel had a steady aim at me; but the ball went through the black horse's
brain. His feet never touched ground again. With a terrible convulsive
contraction of all his muscles the black turned over in the air, and fell on his
head and side stone dead, pitching me twenty feet. I lighted on my pistol, the
butt forcing itself far into my side; my sabre sprung out of my hand, and I lay,
with arms and legs all abroad, stretched out like a dead man. Every body had
something else to do than to attend to me, and there I lay where I had fallen.
"It seemed to me to have been an
age before I began painfully to come to myself; but it could not have been many
minutes. Every nerve was shaking; there was a terrible pain in my head, and a
numbness through my side which was even worse. Fighting was still going on
around me, and my first impulse was to get hold of my sword. I crawled to it and
sank down as I grasped it once more. That was only for a moment; for a rebel
soldier seeing me move rode at me. The presence of danger roused me, and I
managed to get to my horse, behind which I sank, resting my pistol on the saddle
and so contriving to get an aim. As soon as the man saw that, he turned off
without attacking me. I was now able to stand and walk; so, holding my pistol in
one hand and my sabre in the other, I made my way across the fields to where our
battery was posted, scaring some with my pistol and shooting others. Nobody
managed to hit me through the whole fight. When I got up to the battery I found
Wood there. He sang out to me to wait and he would get me a horse. One of the
men, who had just taken one, was going past, so Wood stopped him and got it for
me. Just at that moment White's Battalion and some other troops came charging at
the battery. The squadron of the First Maryland, who were supporting it, met the
charge well as far as their numbers went; but were, of course, flanked on both
sides by the heavy odds. All of our men who were free came swarming up the hill,
and the cavalry were fighting over and around the guns. In spite of the
confusion, and even while their comrades at the same piece were being sabred,
the men at that battery kept to their duty. They did not even look up or around,
but kept up their fire with unwavering steadiness. There was one rebel, on a
splendid horse, who sabred three gunners while I was chasing him. He wheeled in
and out, would dart away and then come sweeping back and cut down another man in
a manner that seemed almost supernatural. We at last succeeded in driving him
away, but we could not catch or shoot him, and he got off without a scratch.
"In the mean time the fight was
going on elsewhere.
Kilpatrick's Brigade charged on our right. The
Second New York did not behave as well as it has sometimes done since, and the
loss of it weakened us a great deal. The Tenth New York, though, went in well,
and the First Maine did splendidly, as it always does. In spite of their
superior numbers (Stuart had a day or two before reviewed thirty thousand
Culpepper, according to the accounts of rebel
officers) we beat them heavily, and would have routed them completely if
Duffle's Brigade had come up. He, however, was engaged with two or three hundred
men on the left; the aid-de-camp sent to him with orders was wounded and taken
prisoner, and he is not the sort of man to find out the critical point in a
fight of his own accord.
"So now, they bringing up still
more reserves, and a whole division of theirs coming on the field, we began to
fall back. We had used them up so severely that they could not press us very
close, except in the neighborhood of where the Second New York charged. There
some of our men had as much as they could do to get out, and the battery had to
leave three of its guns. We formed in the woods between a quarter and half a
mile of the field, another moved back to cover the left of Buford, who was in
retreat toward Beverly Ford. Hart and Wynkoop tried hard to cover the guns that
were lost, but they had too few men, and so had to leave them. The rebels were
terribly punished. By their own confession they lost three times as many as we
did. In our regiment almost every soldier must have settled his man. Sergeant
Craig, of Company K, I believe killed three. Slate, of the same Company, also
went above the average. But we lost terribly. Sixty enlisted men of the First
Jersey were killed, wounded, or missing. Colonel Wyndham was wounded, but kept
his saddle; Lieutenant-Colonel Broderick and Major Shelmire were killed;
Lieutenant Brooks was wounded; Captain Sawyer and Lieutenant Crocker were taken
prisoners; and I, as you see, have had to come in at last and refit.
"I have spun you a pretty long
yarn, and you must feel pretty tired; but when the memory of the fight conies
over me I get almost as enthusiastic
and excited as when it was going
on. I am so proud of the regiment, officers and men, that I am almost sorry for
the promotion that takes me out of it. Of course I have had to be egotistical,
and tell you what occurred to myself, as that was to me the most intensely
interesting; but I do not want you to fancy that I think I did any better or
fought any harder than the others. In fact, I know that most of the others did a
good deal more than I did; but not having seen it, of course I could not
describe their share of the fight quite so well as that which occurred in my own
neighborhood and to my own person.
"Now I am going to bid you
good-night. I have talked more than is good for me, and you have listened as
much as is good for you. Tomorrow I will come and tell you something about what
we did around Aldie and Upperville."
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