Post War Account of Corp. John M. Stritmater, Co. K
As recorded by daughter Carrie Stritmater and re-typed by E. Gustin
Lt. Craven was at New Castle, PA enlisting men for the army and I went with him to the justice of the peace to fill out enlistment papers on February 22, 1864. About a week later, I went to a big hall in New Brighton, PA for physical examination and was furnished a uniform. We then went to Braddox field camp near Pittsburgh and were in camp there until the latter part of April. We slept on the ground and the mud was at times a foot deep.
We left Pittsburgh in cattle cars the latter part of April for Baltimore, then to Annapolis, MD where we stayed two days and were furnished guns and other equipment. We marched to Washington and camped outside the city, sleeping on the ground in rain with rubber blankets for protection. We marched across a long bridge into Washington and were reviewed by Lincoln & Grant. We then marched to Alexandria and from there to Brandy Station about fifty miles southwest of Alexandria on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.
I was in Company K of the 100th Penn. Regiment (known as “Roundheads”) assigned to the 9th Army Corps, commanded by Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, First division, commanded by Brigadier General Thomas G. Stevenson, Second Brigade commanded by Colonel Daniel Leasure. The 2nd brigade consisted of the 21st Mass., 3rd MD., and 100th Penn Regiments. The 9th Corps was under direct orders of Lt. General U.S. Grant until May 24, 1864, when it was assigned to the Army of the Potomac under Major General George G. Meade. The 3rd Division under Brigadier General O.B. Wilcox and the 4th (Colored Troops) under Brigadier General E. Ferrero, were composed of entirely new recruits and in fact about two-thirds of the entire 9th Corps had just entered service.
The movement of troops across the Rapidan River started on the night of May 3rd and what would latter be referred to as the Battle of the Wilderness began on May 5th. At 1:15 pm of the fourth, General Grant telegraphed General Burnside, from Germania Ford, to make a forced march to that point. We were then at Brandy Station. Our division crossed the Rapidan at Germania Ford on the morning of the 5th and occupied the small fort or earthworks on the south side so as to guard the ford. Later on the 5th, we marched south and early on the 6th our division was at Wilderness Tavern, but General Burnside, with the 2nd and 3rd divisions, had gone further on to the line of battle. We heard firing and saw wounded men being carried to the rear. We were ordered to report to General Hancock to whom we reported at the intersection of Brock and Plank roads, about two miles southwest of Wilderness Tavern, about 8:00am. Barlow’s division of the 2nd Corps was hard pressed by the enemy and our brigade was sent to the left to assist him. Union troops were in three lines. The first had breastworks about four feet high. We were ordered to cross these three lines and go forward but not shoot. Some confederates ordered us to surrender but even then we were not ordered to shoot, but retreated under fire to the rear of the third line and the confederates drove the first line back to the second. We came up and recaptured the first lines.
On the the night of May 7th, the movement of union troops towards Spottsylvania Court House was started, but the confederate troops also hastened toward that point and opposed ours. On the morning of the 8th, the conflict between the armies resumed. Early on the 9th, we moved from Aldrich’s on the Orange and Fredricksburg road towards the Spottsylvania Court House crossing the Ny River at Gate’s House, a mile and a half northeast of the Court House. On the morning of May 10th, we were ordered to make a reconnaissance upon the Court House and in the fighting that occurred, General Stevenson, the commander of our division, was killed. He was succeeded in command by Major General Crittenden. On May 11th our Corps was ordered to withdraw to the northside of the Ny River but before that order could be carried out was ordered to reoccupy our position near the Court House, which was done without serious opposition. On the 11th, we advanced in the woods in low land and it started to rain. We were ordered to entrench and we dug trenches about 18 inches deep but the rain filled our entrenchments as fast as we dug them. We were attacked but repulsed the enemy. We spent two days in the wet ditches or entrenchments. There was more or less continuous fighting during the day bit it was not continuous at night. At night we heard someone moaning and went forward and found a confederate soldier with a ram rod shot into him. We gave him first aid but did not take him to the rear.
On May 21st, we withdrew to the southeast where the country is not as thickly wooded.
On May 24th, and 25th we were at and near Ox Ford of the North Anna River, northwest of Hanover Junction. We found that the enemy were well entrenched at this point. On May 27th we started for Hanover Town crossing the Pomonki River about midnight May 28-29th, and went from there to Hawes Shop about 3 miles southwest of Hanover Town and from there to Cold Harbor and had a hard conflict, the main battle lasting two and a half days. We encountered some rebs with blue uniforms but no flag. We were ordered to the left to a point between Cold Harbor and White House Landing in the Pomonki River and had a battle there.
On June 12th we started towards Petersburg, crossing the Chickahominy at Jones Bridge (the bridge at this point has previously been destroyed) and arrived at Wilcox’s Landing on the James River on the 14th.The James River at this point is 2100 feet wide and there is four feet of tide. The engineers started laying a pontoon bridge at 4 P.M. on the 14th and completed it by midnight. The artillery and trains were taken across first and by midnight on the 16th the entire army had crossed. We crossed on the 15th and arrived in the vicinity of Petersburg on the 16th. We endeavored to capture Petersburg before the confederate forces could be reinforced by Lee, but although we made some gains, we were unable to capture the city as the rebs were promptly reinforced as we laid siege to the city. I lost both my mess mates in the assault.
We had not had our shoes off or washed since the beginning of May. We were stationed near the Petersburg-Norfolk Road but the latter part of June we went to a point on the Welden Railroad about 17 miles south of Petersburg at the end of the U.S. Military Railroad. We had several engagements there and later moved to the James River and then returned to Petersburg about July 4th. Our fort was called “Fort Damnation” and was opposite the rebel “Fort Hell”.
The 48th Pennsylvania Regiment in the second division of our Corps (9th) was composed mostly of coal miners. Col. Pleasants of that regiment proposed that a mine be excavated under the rebel entrenchments. This was approved and a long gallery 511 feet long with two laterals, 37 and 38 feet long, were excavated and completed by July 23rd. Eight magazines each containing 1000 pounds of powder were placed in position and preparations were made for an assault when the mine was to be fired at 3:30am, July 30th. Our division was to lead the assault. The other divisions of our corps, including the 4th colored division, were to assist and a large number of soldiers from other corps were in readiness on each flank to cooperate. The Confederate troops opposite us were commanded by General Johnson. On account of a defect in the fuse the mine did not go off as planned and it was necessary to go in to the tunnel and lay a second fuse. The mine went off at 4:40 A.M. Our heavy guns opened up at once and kept down the fire from the rebel batteries except two which were concealed by the lay of the land and woods and could not be reached. Our brigade led the assault and moved up to the crater caused by the explosion. The crater was about 150 feet long, 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep. General Ledlie, who was the commander of our division, did not lead or even accompany us but stayed back in a bomb proof shelter. The 2nd division assaulted on our right and the third division followed in our rear. The fourth division (colored troops) was ordered forward but General Ferrero, their commander, remained behind in the bomb proof shelter with Ledlie. We captured the mud fort of the rebs and prevented their getting their artillery. The 4th colored troops were ordered to capture the crest of the crater and after partial success were attacked and driven back in confusion, some of them firing at our own troops. Satisfied that the time for success had passed, the offensive movements were abandoned. At 12:30 General Burnside sent an order to Brigade commanders to withdraw from the crater when thought best, but soon after the order was issued, we were attacked and pushed back to our lines (only about 300 feet) with severe loss. Both Brigade commanders of our division were captured. The losses to the 9th Corps were about 3500 men killed, wounded and missing. When before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, General Grant stated that he considered the orders as issued by General Meade perfect and that if the troops had been properly commanded and LED in accordance with the order, we would have captured Petersburg, but that the opportunity was lost in consequence of the division commanders not going with their men but allowing them to go into enemy’s entrenchments and spread themselves there without going on farther, thus giving the enemy time to recover from the surprise. He further stated that General Burnside did not prepare his parapets and abates for the attack as he was ordered to do and that the preparation ordered was necessary for success.
Our entrenchments were improved and there was a prolonged heavy siege from July 30th 1864 until March 25, 1865. Early in August, General Ledlie, our division commander, who had been severely criticized for his conduct on July 30th, resigned and was succeeded by General White, who was later succeeded by General Hartranft. General Burnside was succeeded by General Parke.
On August 19th we went to assist General Warren along the Welden Railroad near Globe Tavern and succeeded in driving the rebs back and capturing some prisoners. There were various engagements during the autumn but things were more quiet during the winter. Our corps held the line east and southeast of Petersburg, from the Appomattox River east of Petersburg to Fort Howard, south of the city.
In the latter part of February 1865, the cavalry under Sheridan, cut off Lee’s lines of communication and supply west of Richmond so that Lee determined to abandon Petersburg and Richmond at an opportune time and unite with General Johnston against Sherman. In order to postpone this until more favorable weather, Lee decided to attack east of Petersburg hoping to thus stop Grant from extending his lines west of Petersburg. The attack started before daylight on March 25th on Fort Stedman, held by the 3rd division of our corps. The rebs captured Fort Stedman and then preceeded to attack the other forts on each side. Our division, stationed in reserve east of Fort Howard, had by this time arrived to assist the 3rd division and the rebels were repulsed. Our division was assigned to the task of recapturing Fort Stedman and advanced at 7:45A.M. and recaptured the Fort and took 1,949 prisoners. During the attack, I was wounded in the left arm and side and was taken to the hospital. Our troops took possession of Petersburg on April 3rd.
While in the hospital (about April 1st) the order came for all who could do so to stand in line and I was able, I stood in line and President Lincoln came in and shook hands with each of us.
Lee surrendered on April 9th and, about a week later, I rejoined my regiment at City Point and we went to Washington and Georgetown guarding Washington. After the big review at Washington, we were sent to Harrisburg where the unit turned in our supplies and remained about one week and were discharged on July 26, 1865.
Back to History Page