Monday, September 2, 2013

"I tried to hold my place...but soon concluded it was hopeless..." Cresswell Waller and the Second South Carolina in the West Woods. Part I of III.

On April 14, 1861, twenty-one year old Cresswell A. Waller enlisted in Company F of the 2nd South Carolina Infantry at Greenwood, S.C.. A year and a half later, he found himself in the middle of heavy fighting in the West Woods as part of Kershaw's Brigade, McLaws' Division. What follows is the first of three letters that Waller sent to Ezra Carman between December 14, 1899 and June 13, 1901 describing his experiences as a Private in that regiment. Carman having served on the Antietam Board as "Historical Expert," was then a clerk in the War Records Office. He continued to correspond with veterans, ex officio, to gather information on unit movements during the battle. In this capacity, he opened correspondence with Waller on November 24, 1899.
Greenwood So. Car. 
Dec 14th 1899
Genl. E.A. Carman,
Chm Bd Antietam Battlefield,
Dear Sir;
The route of the Second South Carolina as
recorded in the Cope/Carman 1904 map.
Library of Congress.
Yours of 24 Nov with partial map⁠1 enclosed received. It would afford me the greatest pleasure to render you all of the assistance you may require of me in behalf of your most important undertaking. Thirty years, however, you must recollect is a great stretch in this life time of a man & hence the difficulty of a person keeping in mind all of the details of an engagement, hot indeed, but only one of very many desperate ones during the long & continued struggle of 1861-1865.
Deeply impressed with the importance of being accurate in what statements I might make to you, I published a request to all of my old comrades to lend me what aid they could _ Unfortunately, death in the last year and the one previous thereto has removed some of the very parties on whom I mostly relied & they are now as silent as those of your comrades with whom I slept on the night of Sept. 17th 1862.
You have the line of march of the 2nd S.C. Regt. in rank of fours_right in front marked on map very near as they fought. The fence was down for several panels beginning about 60 yds, not certain as to distance, from Hagerstown Pike. Our company on the right & in front was nearing the open place in line of fence when we were fired on. The order was, I think, “Into line on 1st Company. This threw us & Company B through the aperture that forced the balance of regiment to mount the fence_ In the act of mounting, Col. Kennedy⁠2 was wounded. Our company was in the swale, hollow or depression & was overshot by enemy who poured in a heavy fire. Col. K. wnd & Lt. Col Goodwyn⁠3  wnd in 7 days fight at Richmond & absent, Maj. Gaillard ⁠4 was in charge with Capt Cuthbert⁠5 on the right & Cap. Wallace⁠6 acting as major on the left.
In going forward from [the] fence I passed a hickory tree with a bench like rock at its base. Said tree was, I judge, about 60 yds from dunkard church mainly on a southern line towards Sharpsburg_
Arriving at church⁠7, we were still actively firing, when Gaillard wanted some of us to the right of church & nearly perpendicular to the Pike & over it. Wallace was intent on pressing to left of church & diagonally to the Pike. With Gaillard & Cuthbert, I went to the right & over the Pike having another road⁠8 to my left & a caisson between me & it.
I shot, however, mostly over this last road⁠9, because enemy seemed to be bunched over there more than in my front where there were very few. In fact it seemed to be an opening in your lines. Gaillard carried at least two or more of our company, so they say, to a bench like rock & ordered them with others to fire on some artillery in sight in the distance getting ready to fight or move. 
Cuthbert having seen over the crest towards the “bloody angle” tried to form a line “by file” facing that way in a line nearly east & west. I think, Wallace was facing a line at angle to this with Gaillard’s few making a broken V with it very hot for those farthest East & one by one, men would try to get on west side of his western neighbor “leap frog like” until the field was vacated quickly. I tried to hold my place & laid down & fought [but] found myself deserted, hoping parties would come back, but soon concluded that was hopeless & got up broke in more than double quick towards Pike & woods⁠10 under several shots from enemy two balls struck fence whilst I was going through opening between top rail & bottom on main part of fence at the Pike. Found men gathered at A indicated by red letter in map west of Pike & South of Church in South Eastern corner of woods.
I think, the time was about or near 10 a.m. __ Here we staid short time until came down [a] swale, hollow or depression just south of church woods from towards Sharpsburg close in our rear. I took them to be a part of our brigade. We had [our] flag carried to fence (parts still standing) on southern or Sharpsburg portion of woods & had it unfurled & waved to let them know we were friends & when they came up we as well as they cheered lustily & started in again. 
I went by church over Pike across or to north or north west of the road forking with the Pike & up another swale, hollow or depression over clover field &c & up to and over a fenced thrown or knocked when the artillery began furiously to burst forth hurling rails, dust & shells & we began to fall back sullenly at first then rapidly until we reached church where Frank Johnson⁠11 was killed at G (red letter) north of church near a tree. I ought to have stated with the flag incident that a “lively scrap of a fight” was going on in woods to North West of church & nearly in semicircle around it to N.E.
I did not have any definite idea of time in the fight. We staid in woods 2nd time sometime not pursued then by infantry but catching it hot from artillery. Finally we were ordered to fall back in declivity south west of church in woods & thence behind rock fence about 500 yds., I judge, or guess from church marked, I suppose, at C red letter. Here I first saw Kershaw after we separated from brigade to charge & afterwards in short time Genl Barksdale. They were behind fence (rock) & had some altercation about disposition when Kershaw settled it by saying that he ranked him (B.) & in absence of Genl McLaws he ordered otherwise. I had not seen McLaws since our regiment left brigade & [moved to] Hood’s position in woods near church vacated by scattering of Hood’s brigade_
I know Barksdale & staff & part of brigade was at fence because of one of staff stepping on me & my sharp remarks to him at the time two of our men in our company were wounded by bursting schrapnel__ I soon saw Maj. Goggin⁠12 Ad & in Genl. McLaws Div, approaching on a horse which was capering in fright at a bursting shell at, I suppose, letter D. I would say this was 2 o’clock not certain, however, as to time not even certain as to right or left on account of fact having been put in March. 1st towards Sharpsburg in early morning & then made to make almost a right about in marching to get to Dunkard Church__Anderson’s Division⁠13 passed our left whilst we halted facing towards Sharpsburg & learned afterward they were to our right in battle. 
About 2 p.m. or X we were moved to E red letter on map & staid a good while_ There Jackson passed us having surveyed the field in front. We wanted [to] cheer him but were quickly suppressed_
We were afterwards carried still further to the left & had a fence in our rear or westward whilst we faced toward Pike in woods & near the fence were dead union soldiers but I cannot find out from what state they were. I think, however, you were right in inferring that they were from Minnesota⁠14. I may write again as to the state whence the dead came when I hear from some letters.
Memories come trooping up bringing incidents some of which I shut out whilst I mentioned others which had been better left out of this, but they establish facts.
Yours Very Resp
C.A. Waller⁠15


Source: C.A.C. Waller to Ezra Carman, December 14, 1899, National Archives, Antietam Studies, Record Group 94.

1 Map not found.

2 Col. John D. Kennedy. By July 28th, 1864 he will have received six wounds. He survived the war. NARA, RG 109, Roll 0156. Compiled service records of Confederate soldiers from South Carolina units, labeled with each soldier's name, rank, and unit, with links to revealing documents about each soldier. Hereafter RG109. 

3 Lt. Col. A.D. Goodwyn was “severely wounded in the ankle” at the Battle of Savage Station. NARA, RG 109, Roll 0155.

4 Major Franklin Gaillard. NARA, RG 109, Roll 0155.

5 Capt. George B. Cuthbert, 33, would be killed at Guinea Station, Va. on May 13, 1863. NARA, RG 109, Roll 0154.

6 Captain William Wallace, 37. NARA, RG 109, Roll 0160.

7 The Dunkard Church.

8 This was Smoketown Road.

9 Smoketown Road.

10 Hagerstown Pike and West Woods.

11 Pvt. Franklin P. Johnson, 21, from Abbeville, S.C., served in Company F of the 2nd South Carolina. On January 23, 1864, his father. John B. Johnson, received $75.23 which was his son’s enlistment bounty and back pay. NARA, RG 109, Roll 0156.

12 Major James M. Goggin, VA32, served as adjutant and inspector general in McLaw’s Division. OR.; NARA, RG 94, Roll 0022. Alphabetical card index to the compiled service records of volunteer Confederate soldiers belonging to units from the State of Alabama.

13 This was probably G.T. Anderson’s brigade.

14 First Minnesota.

15 Waller penned a post script “Excuse inaccuracies. Haven’t time to read over.”

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