In obedience to Orders, I have the honor to submit the following report of
the operations of the 44th Georgia, Company C under the command of Captain
Clark J. Van Buskirk in the field from October 17 to October 19, inclusive:
Arriving in camp beginning in the early afternoon of October 17th the 44th Georgia set up the Company street on a cow pasture south east of the Belle Grove plantation, aligning our tents north of Lieutenant Mallette and Captain Van Buskirk, who was fulfilling his duty as Officer of the Day for 5th Regiment Staff.
As Friday evening approached news began to pass that nearly half of the expected troops within the Company would be unable to join us in the Valley, and conversation turned to reminiscences of Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and the Wilderness Campaign when we were able to field strength in numbers. Although Four summers of battling have taken their toll on the 44th we remain a premiere fighting unit within the 5th Regiment, well known for our discipline in battle, having been constantly assigned the protection of the flank.
The arrivals of Pioneer John Kalajian and Private Sobelman greatly boosted the morale on the street, which was complemented by the presence of ladies Elizabeth McLean, and sisters Briana and Shaina O’Brien.
Through the night the rebel city continued to grow as canvas avenues of ANV, PACS and Longstreet’s Corps spread across the fields. Smoke from hundreds of camp fires hung above the valley, permeated by a starry sky.
Sunrise revealed a waking giant as dozens of Company flags were unfurled and the valiant defenders of the South took arms and drilled. Brothers Schiewe and Private VanMeter joined the fold. The Regimental Provost furnished a rifle and leathers to Private Lucas, who drilled and participated in the dress Parade before the General. Under the direction of yours truly, Private Lucas Schiewe was trained in the handling of arms and was prepared to see the elephant.
Around 12:30 we were summoned to form up and prepare for battle, witnessing the indoctrination of fresh fish into the fray. Complimented by several additions from a sister Company we marched northward along the Valley Pike where we recruited a veteran straggler from Indiana, (whose rifle was much needed ). Under direction of the general the 5th Regiment jockeyed for position on the rolling Virginia hills, eventually taking a forward position just below the crest of a ridge, where we loaded our arms and prepared to encounter the enemy. Skirmishing developed on our right and we joined the fray releasing a volley into a Yankee line who appeared in our front. For the next ninety minutes the hills in the Valley echoed the reports of artillery and thousands of muskets as two grand armies battled for possession of the real estate. The ranks of both armies were severely diminished by the contest and the ground was littered with blue, grey and butternut. Outnumbered by the forces in blue a controlled withdrawal of the Confederate units commenced. The retreat of the brigades to our right and left resulted in our Division being unsupported and nearly encircled. Having taken 80 percent losses, and left with near as many flags as rifles, the 5th Regiment held their ground, running
so low on ammunition that we resorted to firing percussion caps as an impression that we remained a fighting unit. Hand-to-hand fighting erupted to our left, and the intensity of the volleys noticeably diminished, evidence that the two opposing forces had fought themselves out. We left the field, relinquishing any ground we had gained, and began our long march back to camp.
While we tended to our rifles Lady McLean cooked a meal of Chicken, which was enjoyed by all, and we were informed of a loss incurred by Miss Briana. The field on the Bushong farm at New Market here in the Shenandoah Valley where the cadets from VMI made their brave appearance has become known as the field of Lost Shoes. Forever more, let us remember the field of Belle Grove as the Field of Lost Communication, as Lady Briana was sadly and most unfortunately separated from her device of intelligent transmission. Despite the efforts of many to scour the grounds, the device remains among the missing.
While darkness fell the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up causing some concern for the “comfort” of those relinquished to sleeping on the hard bare ground. The regiment provided beverage and forage to boost the morale of the of those in camp whilst John, Shaina and Michael set off to investigate the festivities at the nearby plantation house where a ball was being held, attended by many Gentlemen and belles in their finest attire. As the hour neared Midnight a rousing rendition of Dixie filled the night, and within minutes the sweet sounds of the string band were replaced by the snores of soldiers.
Sunrise brought the sounds of drum and cannon. The smells of newly revitalized campfires and coffee
infiltrated the air, and, as we had done the day prior, we assembled for weapons inspection and Dress Parade, followed by a Sunday Service on the high ground nearest the pike.
Shortly thereafter we formed up again to in an effort to drive the blue belies from the Valley. The Fifth regiment made up the extreme left flank of the Rebel army and in a coordinated attack a wave of thousands of Confederate participants swept through the Union camps causing the surprised Yankees to flee northward towards the village of Middletown.
We pressed through a swale in the meadow halting on the crest of the next ridge and unleashed a volley into a line of Union defenders in our front, then pressed them causing them to give ground. All along our right we could hear the sounds of battle and witnessed the movement of battalion flags forward as far as we could see.
The Color Company, under the protection of our own Corporal McLean, continued to lead us onward, stopping only briefly, time and again, to reform and deliver round after round of withering fire against our opponent.
A Yankee battery comprised of four cannon deployed on a knoll to our left and the regiment altered its front to confront the new threat. As the artillery commander called for canister we fired and under the command of Colonel Duffy, charged the stand, capturing the battery and paroling them. Mission accomplished we wheeled to the right and rejoined the push towards the Heater House. Dismissing a new threat of infantry in our front we wheeled once again and at the double quick and charged up a hillock. From our new vantage point we witnessed the whole of the Yankee Army beyond the cemetery, being rallied by a General.
The struggle renewed, and the rejuvenated forces in blue mounted a counter offensive all along the line. Seeing that we were being flanked on our left we refused the line. Colonel Duffy ordered the Regiment to fall back across a stream, where we reformed and prepared to make a stand. Calvary clashed on our flank and as a Union brigade advanced across the stream in a gap to our left. They met the fury of our fire and responded with a volley of their own, continuing their advance towards us and causing a general retreat of the rebel forces on our right.
Once again we were commanded to fall back and did so several times, struggling each time to maneuver amongst the rocks while climbing the ridges we had so skillfully mastered on the attack. During these adjustments of our position I saw many of our troops fall, observing on the retreat the rout of the right wing of our army.
Reduced to but a fraction of our strength we found ourselves on a ridge surrounded on three sides by the Yankee forces. As the Colonel and the Color Company retired to the rear the remnants of the 44th Georgia and the 7th Company clashed in hand to hand combat with the 116th Pennsylvania Irish Brigade and those not felled were captured.
All ground which we had gained earlier was lost during the afternoon, and we were obligated top leave the field in the hands of the enemy. The battle having ended, we reformed and prepared to break camp, having burned a great deal of powder, glad for the pleasantry of the weather and the fellowship of friends, new and old.
To that end, let us ALL gather soon under the sycamore and march in unison before cheering and adoring supporters, shouting our allegiance and commitment to the 44th Georgia, remembering the sacrifices being made by those in harm’s way in defense of freedom as well as those who offer their support to the cause. May God’s grace fall upon them and their families for their commitment to Duty.
Corp. James Marshall
44th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, Co. C.
The Johnson Guards