Wednesday, July 9, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Monocacy

On July 9, 1864, a Union force under the command of Gen. Lew Wallace and Confederate force led by Gen. Jubal Early clashed on the Monocacy River near Frederick, Maryland.

One of the combatants that day was Private George W. Nichols, a member of the 61st Georgia Infantry, which belonged to the brigade of Gen. Clement A. Evans (pictured).

Writing his memoirs, which was published in 1898, Nichols wrote of that day:

"It made our hearts ache to look over the battle-field and see so many of our dear friends, comrades and  beloved officers, killed and wounded. Our loss was terrible, while the Yankees lost but few. I only saw three dead Union soldiers and I did not see one that was wounded, though I did not go over the field. We could not see a Yankee on our part of the line during the whole advance. All that we could shoot at was the smoke of their guns, they were so well posted. It was called our victory, but it was a costly one, for it cost Evans' Brigade over five hundred men, in wounded and killed. It was said that it was raw troops that we were fighting, but I never saw old soldiers shoot better. The Sixty-first Georgia Regiment went into battle with nearly one hundred and fifty men, and after the battle was over  we could not stack but fifty-two guns by actual count. . . .

It looked like half of the Twelfth Georgia Battalion were killed or wounded. Company D had the sad misfortune of getting Lieutenant James Mincy severely wounded. He was carrying our battle flag. He had picked it up after the fifth man had been shot down while carrying it in this battle and he was likewise shot down at once. He had already been wounded at Manassas and severely wounded at Gettysburg. Here he was shot through the left lung, the ball just missing his back bone. Bloody froth from his lungs would come out of his mouth an nose, and in the front and back where the ball passed through. He has since told me that the Yankee doctors drew a silk handkerchief through him and treated him very kindly. . . .

Here I saw one of Company A of our regiment, Thomas Nichols, (though no relative of mine) with his brains shot out. When I saw him he was sitting up and wiping brains from his temple wit his hand. I went to try to render him some assistance and did so by giving him some water. He seemed to have some mind, for he said that he wanted to go back to Virginia and get a horse and try to get home and never to cross the Potomac again. He lived twelve hours before death came to his relief."

While Wallace retreated from Monocacy, Early continued on toward Washington D.C., leaving his dead and wounded behind. Wallace's delay allowed troops from the Army of the Potomac to strengthen the capital's defenses, and thereby making Early's attempt virtually moot.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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