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Battles

Craig's Meeting House, Virginia
May 5, 1864

The engagement was the first of the Wilderness campaign. At five A. M. of May 5th, General Wilson, leaving Colonel Hammond with the Fifth New York at Parker's store till the infantry came up, moved towards Craig's Meeting House on the Catharpin road. At the junction of the cross road leading from Parker's store with the Catharpin road, he stationed his First brigade and sent Chapman's brigade on to Craig's Meeting House. A squadron of the First Vermont, under Captain Cummings, had the advance. The brigade proceeded nearly thither unmolested. At about eight A. M. the advance squad reported a body of the enemy in sight. This was Rosser's brigade (of Hampton's division) which was reconnoitering. Cummings immediately brought his companies into line, sent a courier to brigade headquarters to announce the presence of the enemy, and in a few moments received a charge from Rosser's advance, in which a Vermonter had his skull laid bare by a sabre stroke and another was captured in consequence of a fall of his horse.

Cummings's squadron rallied, fired and fell back to the support of the brigade. Meantime Colonel Chapman had ordered forward Major Bennett's battalion and Bennett was moving out when he was met by the retreating detachment, and a moment later received the full brunt o f the enemy's charge. For a few minutes there was a scene of much confusion, the enemy and the Union troopers being closely intermingled. Soon, however, as the Vermonters breasted back the enemy, the confederates began to give ground. A captain and several of his men were captured, and the brigade coming up, Rosser was driven back two miles to the point where the fight began. Here at the left of the road a strong skirmish line of dismounted men was sent forward, and became sharply engaged. This line held the enemy till afternoon when it was flanked on the left, and fell back with a loss of one or two men. Rosser had now been heavily reinforced with cavalry and infantry; and General Wilson, cut off by the enemy's infantry from Parker's store and the direct road, retreated with his division by way of Shady Grove Church, to Todd's tavern. Here he was joined by Gregg, who had been sent forward by Sheridan to help him, and Rosser and Fitzhugh Lee were driven back three miles to Shady Grove Church. In this action the regiment lost four killed, 31 wounded of whom four died of their wounds, and 14 missing; total 45.*1* Major Bennett and Captain Grover were each wounded in the leg and Lieutenant Henry O. Wheeler of company A was shot through the chest, the ball entering near the heart.*2*

The regiment bivouacked that night near Lewis's Creek, a mile or so east of Todd's tavern, and picketed a line near the tavern the latter part of the night. In the morning it was relieved by Custer's brigade and returned to the trains at Piney Branch Church drew forage and rations, and then moved a mile or more to the right, where the brigade stood in line of battle most of the afternoon and till after dark, but did not become engaged. Surgeon Gale, who was now medical director of the division, was captured this day with his field hospital full of wounded men. He was held for a time as a prisoner; but he and the wounded were soon rescued.

May 7th, the rest of the Cavalry Corps attacked and defeated Stuart's cavalry near Todd's tavern; but Wilson's division was not engaged. On the 8th, starting early in the morning, Wilson moved to Spottsylvania Court House, expecting to be supported by the Fifth Corps. But Warren was delayed by Fitzhugh Lee, and Wilson was soon driven out of the village and back across the Ny by Longstreet's infantry. Company D of the Vermont cavalry was on picket that night, and captured a dozen men of the Thirteenth Mississippi, of Longstreet's corps, before rejoining the regiment next morning.

Notes:

1. Killed-Parker Cole of company B; Horace Hall of company D; John Q. French of company E, and George W. Hemingway of company I. Died of wounds:: Albert Taylor and Ebenezer Blongy of company A; Clarence E. Cushman of company E, and Cyrus S. Tuttle of company F.

2. Lieutenant Wheeler's wound was supposed at the time to be mortal, and his death was reported in the Vermont papers. He was sent to Georgetown Seminary Hospital, recovered and returned to the regiment in time to take part I the Shenandoah Valley campaign.

Source George G. Benedict, "Vermont in the Civil War, 1861-5," (Free Press Association, Burlington, 1888), pp. 633-35.