Accounts of War

Chauncey Wichterman

Chauncey Wichterman, Sanborn, NY“Like many other young men during the great rebellion who went forth in defense of the Old Flag, Chauncey—then a student at the High School at Lockport—dropped his books and went into the army. He was enrolled as a musician Sept. 1, 1862, for three years or during the war, in Co. H, 151st N. Y. Vol. Infantry, and was discharged with the regiment at the close of the war, June 26, 1865. The 151st being a part of the 1st Brigade of the 3d Division of the 6th Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac, his destiny was to see some rough service in the bloody campaign of 1864, under the fearless and inspiring Gen. Phil H. Sheridan.

“Chauncey’s recollection after almost forty years is quite vivid of the time when Sheridan, near the close of the campaign of ’64, had set his camp along Cedar Creek, just above the North Fork, and had hurried off to Washington on some urgent war business, and the Confederate army under Gen. Early made a sudden and impetuous attack before the break of day, Oct. 19, driving our entire army back about four miles, taking 1,400 prisoners and 24 pieces of artillery, and menacing it with a complete and disastrous rout. Sheridan had just at the critical moment of impending calamity arrived at Winchester from Washington, when, hearing by the noise of the heavy guns that his troops were having a serious time, he dashed off to the front with his escort as fast as the horses could run. Chauncey, standing close to the road on which the dashing General came, remembers the very moment when he arrived, leading his escort at some distance, hat in hand, covered with dust, his fiery black charger panting and foaming all over with a lather of sweat; how he was hailed all along the wavering lines with vociferous shouts of delight and applause; how he shouted something in language, as he dashed by, that would not look well in print, but which stirred his men to the highest pitch of enthusiasm; and how, inspired by his words and presence, the pressed divisions and corps soon again compactly united, ready and eager to meet the expected renewed onset of the now exulting enemy. But there was no waiting. The ebb tide for the foe had now set in, and there was no preventing the recession. At Sheridan’s command the whole line advanced with a fervor and firmness that was irresistible, that soon compelled the Confederates to give way at all points and changed their fierce and sudden morning assault into one of the most decisive routs of the whole war; and that closed Sheridan’s campaign of ’64 with a glorious victory, retaking the 24 lost guns, and capturing 24 Confederate pieces in addition, besides many other trophies, and in turn taking as many prisoners from their ranks as they had taken from us and hurried away to rear in the morning.

“As a musician Chauncey did not directly participate in the frequent clash of arms, but when the conflicts raged the important duty he was required to perform made him familiar with the risks and horrors of war. His special service was to help gather up the wounded as they fell, and carry them from the field on stretchers to places of safety, where they could receive surgical attention. The list of battles in which the 151st N. Y. regiment was engaged is a long one, and a full history of Chauncey’s three years’ service would furnish material for a book. His descendants will regret, as he now himself regrets, that he did not keep a journal during these eventful years of service and make daily records of his duties and impressions” (from Heinrich Gernhardt and His Descendants, pp. 132-133).

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