I’ll get back to my discussion of the civilian Southern Unionists who lived in and around Fredericksburg. There’s some interesting twists and turns that I’ve come across… not what I was looking for, but… and it may be that posts about some of these folks will span from this month through May.
But… today being the 150th of the battle…
We have images stuck in our head that often guide our reflections of different historical events. We especially have images that stick with us regarding the Federal assault toward Marye’s Heights. Some think about the rush toward the sunken road, and have mental images of the Irish Brigade. Some realize/know there were more units involved in the assault.
Still, few, I imagine, come close to thinking that Southern Unionists could have even been in the assault.
That’s right, Southerners attacking the Confederate line in the sunken road. All I need to do is point to the 7th West Virginia Infantry.
Some might argue that these people really weren’t Southern, and that approach of considering them non-Southern would come from different angles. I’d offer, however, that careful consideration should be made concerning the cultural origins of those men. How many were brought up culturally Southern?
Just over a year ago, I posted about a few that I found in my research (Nicholson kin… see here and here). They weren’t raised in the hills of what we now know as West Virginia, but they were raised just to the west of Fredericksburg… on the east side of the Blue Ridge, in Madison County, Virginia.
With that in mind… the report of Col. Jonathan H. Lockwood, 7th West Virginia Infantry, written three days after the battle…
SIR:I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Seventh West Virginia Volunteers in the battle near Fredericksburg on the 13th instant:
Near noon on the 13th, pursuant to orders from General Kimball, the Seventh Regiment was ordered to form on the right of the brigade (the Fourth and Eighth Ohio having been sent to the front as skirmishers), and to be in readiness to move forward to their support. The line thus formed consisted of the Seventh West Virginia, Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth New Jersey, and Fourteenth Indiana.
About 12 o’clock the entire line was put in motion, moving by the right flank through the town. By order of Colonel Snider, of the Seventh West Virginia, I took command of the right wing, General Kimball having furnished me a guide to direct me at the head of the column on the route contemplated, and as soon as we had crossed the canal I filed the head of the line to the right, carrying it sufficiently in that direction to cover the right of the skirmishers under Lieutenant-Colonel Sawyer, of the Eighth Ohio.
Our line of battle being formed, we moved up briskly over a distance of some 80 rods, under a most galling fire from the enemy’s rifle-pits and batteries in front, and a most terrible enfilading fire from his batteries to the right. Colonel Snider having been wounded before the line of battle was formed, I assumed command, and brought my regiment in good order on the line of the skirmishers, when, being in easy range of heavy forces of the enemy, concealed under good cover, my men suffered severely, but returned the enemy’s fire promptly and with effect.
A flank movement being attempted on our right, by order of Colonel Mason, Lieutenant-Colonel Sawyer and I moved our men in that direction, with orders to hold the ground at all hazards, which we did for a long time, when, our cartridges being exhausted, we stood for some time with fixed bayonets to dispute any charge or assault upon our position. We were also to hold ourselves in readiness to charge the enemy with bayonets so soon as a charge along the line commenced, or orders to that effect were received.
Between 4 and 5 o’clock we were withdrawn, by order by Colonel Mason, reporting to him in the margin of Fredericksburg.
Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing was 51,* a full report of which has previously been forwarded.
Among the wounded, I regret to mention Colonel Snider, Captain Watson, Lieutenant Detrick, and Lieutenant Pritchett. My officers and men behaved with admirable coolness and bravery, and deserve well of their country.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
For more about the particulars around the advance of the 7th and the rest of Nathan Kimball’s Brigade, I recommend Frank O’Reilly’s book on Fredericksburg (The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock). If you don’t have it, access to the section of the book that pertains to the 7th in the assault is still available, online, here.
My thoughts go out this day, as well, to other relatives… many more in number, in fact… in the 10th and 33rd Virginia, on the Confederate right, and under Stonewall Jackson.