Thursday, April 1, 2010

A quiet April 1st for a Medal of Honor winner

April 1, 1864 was a relatively quiet day in Brandy Station. It rained, again. Many, many days of rain in the late winter and early spring. Soldiers pretty much stayed close to their cabins and tents. Soldiers were relocating camps as a result of the Army of the Potomacs restructuring. Gone were the 1st and 3rd Corps. Both had been severely reduced by fighting in 1863 and the reduction gave Meade a chance to remove some less effective generals.

Today at Brandy Station: April 1, 1864
A soldier in the 141st Pennsylvania relocated camp to a position closer to the railroad. He complained about having to do this in the rain.
Captain John. Nicholas Conye (a Medal of Honor winner for his action at the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5 1862) received a letter from a major in the 70th New York about the number of drummers in that regiment. Conye believed they were 1o short, but the major corrected him as a number of privates had reenlisted.

From Deeds of Valor:
When the enemy were overtaken at Williamsburg the Third Excelsior, of the Seventieth New York Volunteers, was in advance. It was a dark, rainy morning. A heavy vapor covered the field, and the smoke of the battle obscured the scene. As the supporting regiment approached, the enemy, who were concealed in the thick woods, sent up the cry: "Show your colors!" The color-bearer waved the flag, and, as its folds spread out and showed the stars and stripes, the rebels advanced from the woods and opened fire. The fire was returned so effectively that they were driven back. Another advance, with re-enforcements, was also repulsed by the valiant Excelsiors.
After several hours of conflict the ammunition became exhausted, and the New Yorkers were ordered to fall back by companies. Sergeant Coyne's company, which during the latter part of the battle was under his command, the captain and lieutenant having been disabled, became separated, and a number of them, missing their way, found themselves with their leader confronted by a party of the enemy surrounding their color-bearer.
"Let's capture their colors, boys!" shouted Coyne, and, with a ringing cheer, the little band made a dash for the enemy. Coyne singled out the color-bearer and rushed upon him. The rebel was too strong to be conquered by such an assault, and defended his flag bravely until a bullet, shattering his right hand, forced him to loosen his hold and enabled Coyne to drag the trophy from him. Tearing the flag from the staff and tying it around his body, he turned to offer battle to any one who should attempt to retake it but the survivors of the enemy were hurriedly leaving the field before a rescuing party sent by General Heintzelman. Of the brave band who had supported their leader but few remained standing, and Sergeant Cook, Corporal Beekman, and Privates Howard and Lynch were killed outright.
Sergeant Coyne received the commission of second lieutenant to date from the battle. He was mentioned for bravery in general orders by General Heintzelman, and was advanced to the rank of lieutenant-colonel for several other acts of gallantry during the war.

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