Preston’s Report

19 04 2008

The report of Col. Robert T. Preston of the 28th Virginia Infantry mentions his regiment’s capture of members of the 1st Michigan Infantry, including its brigade and former regimental commander, Col. Orlando B. Willcox.  Willcox remembered his encounter with the 28th VA and its commander, and identified the Captain – of Preston’s report (from pp 295-296, Forgotten Valor: The Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox, edited by Robert Garth Scott, see here):

It must have been with great difficulty that the 1st Michigan cut their way back from their position, for the enemy were now on two sides of them, & I soon found were approaching on a third side.  These were the 28th Virginia.  A party of their scouts or skirmishers were coming up a road in the woods, when I discovered them & ordered the three or four men who had gathered about me to fire upon them, & shouting at the same time” bring up the whole regiment!’ as loudly as I was able, the enemy’s party beat a hasty retreat.  The men said one or two fell.

This little affair roused my strength a little, & had my horse not been wounded, possibly I might have been bound on him & escaped.  The poor steed (a magnificent dapple grey stallion) followed me like a dependent child.  But I had scarce strength enough left to form a plan; my only purpose was to get to the rear before the regiment, still fighting manfully, knew that I was down.

With Capt. Withington’s assistance, I now crossed a fence & was going across a bit of open field holding my right arm with the left, & Capt. Withington’s right arm around my waist, when in this helpless condition we were assailed by Col. [R. T.] Preston, who charged on horseback at us, thundering loud oaths, pointing his revolver & demanding our surrender.  Of course there was nothing left us but to comply.  The stout colonel (for he was a stalwart man with a grizzled huge beard & loud, gruff voice) then demanded who I was, & when I told him, he hallowed like a bull, “You’re just the man I’ve been looking for.”  I replied, “I am an officer & a gentleman, sir, & expect to be treated as such.”  He assumed a milder tone & politely told us [to] keep our swords.

Captain Withington was later Colonel William H. Withington of the famous Stonewall Regiment, the 17th Michigan Infantry.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Bull Run, as was Willcox.

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