Incredible 6th New Jersey Colonel S.R. Gilkyson Report on Overland Campaign

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Incredible 6th New Jersey Colonel S.R. Gilkyson Report on Overland Campaign

699.99

Offered here is an incredible ALS. Written and signed by Lieutenant Colonel Stephen R. Gilkyson, commanding the 6th New Jersey Volunteers, the four-page document is Gilkyson's report of his regiment's activities from May 5, when the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River, to the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna, and Cold Harbor, through the July 30 Battle of the Crater at Petersburg. The report was written in reply to Special Orders 209, and all combat commands were called upon to submit reports of their actions. The 6th New Jersey was part of Gershom Mott's 2nd Corps brigade.

Of the confusion during the Battle of the Wilderness, Gilkyson wrote:

While endeavoring to get my command in proper order the 5th N.J. Vols moved suddenly by the right flank, and was lost to our view, owing to the dense gross of underbrush. This was not perceived by me until I was informed we had connected with a regiment of the 2d Division, 6th Corps. Almost simultaneously with this announcement the regiment with which I had connected “about faced” and broke through my ranks, perfectly panic stricken and apparently without any cause whatever for at that time there was nothing more than skirmishing on our front. On turning to my left I observed it also breaking in considerable confusion. It was impossible longer to restrain my own men, and they were not rallied again until they reached the breastworks where we spent the night.

During Longstreet's May 6 flank attack in the Wilderness:

the line advanced about one-fourth of a mile further, but had not occupied its new position long before the enemy was discovered on our left flank and in our rear in heavy force. Our front was changed and the enemy kept in check for half or three-fourths of an hour, when we were overpowered, and appearances indicating that the enemy were penetrating still further to our rear, the men could not be induced to stand longer, through fear of being entirely cut off and captured. After exhausting every means to force them to stand, but without success, they were directed to re-form at the breastworks, where we took an active part in repulsing the charge made on the line by Longstreet’s Corps.

Of General Hancock's May 12 attack upon the Confederate salient at Spotsylvania Court House:

On the 12th of May it participated in the charge of the 2d Corps, and the capture of the enemy’s works, guns, etc. After expending all our ammunition, and such as could be gathered from the boxes of the killed and wounded, the regiment was relieved by a portion of 6th Corps, and ordered a short distance to the rear to procure ammunition. While thus engaged, Brig. Gen. Neill, commanding 2d Div. 6th Corps, ordered us to deploy across the opening to the right of the white house, and stop all stragglers attempting to go to the rear. We remained here until near sunset, when we were relieved and joined our brigade.

On May 15, still at Spotsylvania:

During the forenoon we were again marched to the front and placed in a very singular position. Owing to an angle in the work, our backs were directly to the enemy! My men were being wounded constantly from the rear without an opportunity of returning the fire. The 26th Penna. Vols. and two of the Excelsior regiments were thrown into confusion by this fire from the rear, and broke over and through the 6th N.J.V. in disorder, carrying a greater portion of it with them. Through this a report was circulated that “the 6th N.J. Vols. ran and left their colors” which was as false as a slanderous tongue could make it. On the 19th we evacuated the line.

Gilkyson went on to describe the movements of the regiment through the next several weeks as Grant and Lee maneuvered closer to Richmond and Petersburg. After every battle he tallied the regiment's casualties. On June 22, Gilkyson wrote, the 6th New Jersey:

Advanced our line and took position by direction of a Brigade Staff Officer, at nearly right angles with our position of the night before. We were ordered to stack arms then advance to a certain position and throw up breastworks. While thus engaged, a heavy musketry fire opened some distance to my left, increasing in volume as it grew nearer. I ordered my men to fall in and take arms, but before many of them reached their stacks we received a volley directly in our rear.

The signature at the bottom of page 4 is certainly Gilkyson's, as it matches another Gilkyson signature in my collection. I'll happily provide a copy upon request.

The report was written on all four pages of an 8" x 13" bifolium stationery. The paper is in good sturdy condition, not stiff, and not particularly delicate. Very little wear to edges and corners. Little or no toning. Horizontal creases at original folds. Gilkyson had strong penmanship in a more modern style than many (easy on 21st-century eyes).

Full electronic transcript available upon request.

Gilkyson portrait source: www.findagrave.com.

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