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Death of Mansfield Part 2

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  • Pa128th@aol.com
    The XII Corps marched over the Upper Bridge and wheeled right along the road that brought them first past the Thomas Farm, then the Hoffman Farm and final- ly,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2002
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      The XII Corps marched over
      the Upper Bridge and wheeled
      right along the road that brought
      them first past the Thomas Farm,
      then the Hoffman Farm and final-
      ly, the Heinz Farm. Somewhere
      just past the latter, Mansfield's
      ranks turned left into the woods
      just north of the George Line
      House. There, they made their
      way into the cornfield immediate-
      ly south of that home. It was just
      past midnight when the XII Corps

      came to a final halt and one keen
      observer noted that the night was
      "close, [the] air heavy, some fog
      and the smoke from the skirmish
      firing...hung low.

      When those ranks became
      settled into their new camp,
      Brigadier-General Alpheus S.
      Williams, commander of the First
      Division, and Mansfield second in
      command, sat down and wrote
      an insightful note to his family,
      informing them that the night was
      "...so dark, so obscure, so mys-
      terious, so uncertain; with the
      occasional rapid volleys of pickets
      and outposts, the low, solemn
      sound of the commands as
      troops came into position, and
      withal so sleepy that there was a
      half-dreamy sensation about it all;
      but with a certain impression that
      the morrow was to be great with
      the future fate of our country."
      Mansfield was exhausted from
      the tensions and marching of the
      day and he too found a resting
      spot on, the West side of a fence,
      Just south of the Line's home.
      Covering himself with a blanket,
      the fifty-eight-year old general
      attempted to get some sleep.
      unfortunately, some of the nearby
      men of the l0th Maine were 'too
      excited or nervous and raised
      their voices causing Mansfield to
      order them to "lower their tone to
      a whisper." With that, he finally
      turned over, and embraced some slumber.
      Before the first gray light of
      dawn on the 17th, General
      Hooker rode to the front of his
      line on the Joseph Poffenberger
      Farm to observe the enemy.
      Across the field, In the feeble
      eerie light, he could make out a
      small white-washed building
      which had been mistakenly Identi-
      fiect as a schoolhouse. In fact,
      Hooker was looking at the soon-
      to-be-famous Dunker Church,
      which was the prayer house for
      the local German Baptist Brethren
      Community.
      While uncertain about which
      or how many Rebels units were in
      his front, Hooker nonetheless
      ordered his men through that
      Great cornfield and directed them
      straight for the white building,
      instigating one of the bloodiest
      spectacles of the war. Attacking
      just after daybreak, Hooker's
      movements and the resulting
      Confederate fire made it clear to
      General Mansfield and his men
      that this day would prove to be a
      hard one for them. Many argue
      convincingly that Hooker gave
      Mansfield no warning or details
      related to his own attack which
      left the XII Corps commander
      blind, if not somewhat confused.
      Irrespective of any such thoughts
      the quick crescendo of building
      battle left no time to ponder such
      trivial issues between corps com-
      manders. It was time to move!
      Mansfield was up before 5:00
      that morning and when he heard
      the firing between Hooker, and
      what turned out to be Stonewall
      Jackson's II Corps, he immediately
      prepared his ranks for battle. At
      first, he confusedly ordered his
      First Brigade, First Division, under
      Brigadier-General Samuel W.
      Crawford to move to the west
      across the Smoketown Road, and
      nearly to John Poffenberger's
      [farm], and then south to nearly
      abreast of Joseph Pofitnberger's
      [farm and then [they] halted for
      almost an hour.." Meanwhile, the
      bulk of Hooker's I Corps was
      directly in front of the XII Corps
      and the balance of his ranks soon
      followed Mansfield's lines in col-
      umn of companies closed in
      mass."

      Mansfield moved himself up to
      the crest of modern Mansfield
      Avenue, where he sat upon his
      mount watching the unfolding
      fight in the Great Cornfield, about
      500 yards to the south. During
      those moment, he was described
      as "a conscious figure as he
      rode his horse rapidly about the
      field. His actions were nervous
      and excited like those" of a young
      man rather than one far advanced
      in life. He wore a bright new uni-
      form and his long white hair was
      streaming behind as he fearlessly
      reconnoitered the position of the
      Confederates."
      It did not take long before
      Jackson's troops started to push
      Hooker's ranks back through the
      cornfield whereupon Hooker sent
      an aide urgently requesting sup-
      port from Mansfield. Wheeling
      his horse to the rear, Mansfield
      quickly rode back to the line and
      encountered Brigadier-General
      George H. Gordon's Third
      Brigade. Gordon's men, including
      the raw 13th New jersey and
      107th New York, instinctively
      knew they were going into battle
      and started to gather their
      weapons as they heard the cry,
      'fall in.' When Mansfield
      approached, those men began
      cheering him as if he had been
      theirs for months rather than a
      scant two days. Invigorated by
      their enthusiasm and the overall
      excitement of battle, the general
      reined up and yelled, "That's right,
      boys, cheer- we're going to whip
      them today!" Then, moving along
      the entire line, he took off his hat
      and while waiving it high he
      repeatedly hollered, 'Boys' were
      going to lick them today.
      Mansfield began to lead his
      ranks forward with Crawford's
      Brigade leading the way.
      Crawford's right rested on the
      Smoketown Road while his left,
      which included the 10th Maine
      plus the 125th and 128th
      Pennsylvania Regiments, was
      closer or near the woods on Sam
      Poffenberger's farm, east of the
      Smoketown Road. As the XII
      Corps came through those pas-
      tures and plowed fields north of
      the East Woods, they made their
      presence known and felt by their
      deadly volleys. Mansfield's mov-
      ing lines delivered and received a
      series of killing rounds which led
      Colonel Henry Kyd Douglas, of
      Stonewall Jackson's staff, to note:
      "Next Mansfield entered the
      fight, and beat with resistless
      might on Jackson's people. The
      battle here grew angry and
      bloody. [CSA Brigadier-General
      William E.] Starke was killed, [CSA
      Brigadier-General Alexander R.]
      Lawton was wounded, and nearly
      all of their general and field offi-
      cers had fallen back, killing
      [Generals] Mansfield and wound-
      ing Hooker, Crawford and
      [George L.] Hartsuff."
      While there is some argument
      if Mansfield personally led the
      10th Maine forward, we know
      that those boys moved through
      the cornfield south of Joseph
      Poffenberger's farm, moved left
      toward the east and the
      Smoketown Road where they
      knocked down a double row of
      fences as they entered the farm of
      Sam Poffenberger. When the
      10th entered the Poffenberger
      pasture, they also wheeled right
      and headed south, just north of
      the most eastern portion of the
      East Woods.
      Moving In double column in
      mass, the l0th had two columns
      of five rows each making an
      excellent dense target for any
      enemy fire. As they approached
      the southern end of the pasture
      field [modern Mansfield
      Monument Road], just beyond the
      southern edge of that road was a
      hidden line of Confederate sol-
      diers. Unable to resist such a
      prized target, from their covered
      position, those Rebels rose up
      and delivered a merciless volley
      into the compact Yankee lines.
      Immediately, Colonel George L.
      Beal, of the 10th Maine, started to
      bring the regiment "into line" for a
      better fighting position but
      General Mansfield, who was then
      present, countermanded that
      idea. Apparently, he felt that the
      regiment might have to move
      quickly and thought a tighter for-
      mation far better suited for such
      action. Following his counter-
      mand, Mansfield rode away and
      Colonel Beal, not sharing his com-
      manders thoughts, ordered his
      ranks into line anyway. That
      move was executed just behind a
      fence on their front and almost
      immediately, those Maine men
      began exchanging rounds with
      the Confederates.



      Meanwhile, Colonel Samuel
      Croasdale and his 128th
      Pennsylvania were marching
      southward toward the north end
      of the Ten Acre Cornfield. Those
      standing stalks and the trees
      beyond gave excellent conceal-
      ment to the Rebels in their front
      who opened with a horrible,
      unexpected fire which instantly
      killed Colonel Croasdale and
      severely wounding Lieutenant-
      Colonel William W. Hammersly.
      Command then fell to Major Joel
      B Wanner who, understandably.
      reported that the Rebel fire
      brought much confusion and con-
      sternation to his uninitiated ranks.
      No doubt, Wanner himself must
      have been shaken by that volley
      but he cleared his head and
      ordered his regiment to charge
      forward and clear the field of the
      enemy. Wanner later wrote:
      'They started off in gallant style,
      cheering as they penetrated the
      corn field, but, in consequence of
      the overpowering numbers of the
      enemy concealed, [his ranks]
      were compelled to fall back,
      which they did in tolerable order."
      While the attack of the 128th can-
      not be considered a total success,
      it did push the Rebels deeper into
      the East Woods at the south end
      of the Ten Acre Cornfield, costing
      those Keystone boys 118 casual-
      ties.
      While the 128th was making
      Its charge, the 125th Pennsylvania
      was ordered to their aide and
      they poured out of the pasture
      east of the cornfield, crossed the
      Smoketown Road and entered the
      eastern edge of the Ten Acre
      Cornfield. There, they had to halt
      to permit the advancing 128th to
      proceed with their assault already
      mentioned.
      Moments earlier, General
      Mansfield had ridden away from
      the 10th Maine and moved up to
      the newly named Croasdale Knoll
      for a better view of the fighting.
      There, while speaking with
      General Crawford and some other
      XII Corps officers, Mansfield
      became aware of rifle reports
      coming from the direction of the
      10th Maine. Fearing that those
      Maine boys might be firing into
      the ranks of fellow Yankees, he
      dug spurs into his mount and gal-
      loped off at an angle across the
      Ten Acre Cornfield. Excitedly he
      crossed the Smoketown Road and
      then entered the western edge of
      the pasture and onto the road
      immediately in front of the 10th
      Maine. Riding hard along that
      line, Mansfield cried out, "Cease
      firing, you are firing Into our own
      men!" He continued to ride in an
      easterly direction on modern
      Mansfield Monument Road for a
      few hundred feet to a point
      where the road comes out of a
      swale to a knoll. There, the 10th
      Maine had bent its left flank back
      toward the north.



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