5 Replies Latest reply on May 17, 2021 8:18 PM by Joanne Drummond

    Was White Oak Church attacked in the Civil War?

    Joanne Drummond Wayfarer

      I just received my great great grandfather's Civil War pension file, and it says he was shot in the shoulder at the White Oak Church Camp in the Battle of Fredericksburg in May, 1863. According to what I read, the area around this church was a Yankee encampment near Fredericksburg for seven months starting in November 1862. I was wondering if this camp was attacked in the Battle of Fredericksburg in May or if my ancestor was accidentally shot by another Union soldier. He was a member of the New Jersey 23rd Infantry, known as the Jersey Yahoos, who got their name because they were so disorganized and untrained, which is what led me to wonder if he was injured by friendly fire. In reading about the battle, it appears that the Union had to rapidly change position as they were being surrounded, but I couldn't determine if the camp was attacked.

        • Re: Was White Oak Church attacked in the Civil War?
          Sylvia Naylor Scout

          Dear Ms. Drummond,

           

          Thank you for posting your question on History Hub!

           

          We searched the National Archives Catalog and located Civil Works Map File, 1818 - 1947 in the Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers (Record Group 77) that includes 14 digitized  maps of the Battle of Fredericksburg in the file unit titled Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay, 1784 - 1890. These maps are digitized and are available using the Catalog. For more information about non-digitized maps, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Cartographic (RDSC) at carto@nara.gov.

           

          Further, we located the series Regimental and Company Books of Civil War Volunteer Union Organizations, 1861 - 1867 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1917 (Record Group 94) that includes the Regimental Book of the 26th New Jersey Infantry Regiment. It may contain information about your great great grandfather. These records are not digitized. Please contact the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) for more information.

           

          Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDSC and RDT1. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.

           

          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!

          • Re: Was White Oak Church attacked in the Civil War?
            Bryan Cheeseboro Wayfarer

            Dear Ms. Drummond,

             

            Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

             

            If you already have the soldier's pension file and Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR), you have the main sources of records on whatever happened to the soldier during the war and particularly in the situation as you described.

             

            I'm not familiar with a battle/skirmish of White Oak Church but if it happened, it would be part of the Chancellorsville Campaign of late April through the first week of May, 1863.  The major battles of the campaign were Second Fredericksburg, Salem Church, and Chancellorsville.  But there may have been small skirmishes in the area of White Oak Church. 

            So far as the possibilities of friendly fire or or even an accidental self-inflicted wound to the shoulder in handling his own musket, anything is possible.  But I do question the source that claims the 23rd was a regiment of "misfits and screwballs" who were poorly trained.  Looking at their own unit history doesn't appear to reveal anything unusual to any other regiment of the 6th Corps from the same period. 

             

            http://ranger95.com/civil_war_us/new_jersey/infantry/23nj_inf/23rd_reg_inf_nj.html

             

            Besides this link , you may also wish to read from this article in the Emerging Civil War blog, which has some information on White Oak Church and the encampment of the 6th Corps in that area. 

             

            https://emergingcivilwar.com/2013/01/28/winter-at-white-oak-church/

             

            For more information, please contact the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1)

            at archives1reference@nara.gov.

             

            We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!

             

            Please note that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has suspended reproduction and digitization services until further notice due to COVID-19. Orders will not be serviced until operations can resume safely. Once operations resume, document reproduction requests will be filled in the order in which they were received. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.

             

              • Re: Was White Oak Church attacked in the Civil War?
                Joanne Drummond Wayfarer

                Thank you for your response. I have read a few reports that state the men were untrained and rowdy, which is why they were referred to as the Jersey Yahoos. I finally got hold of the book Journey to Honor, which is based on the diary of a soldier in this unit, letters from commanding officers and a variety of other sources. The book indicated that Colonel Cox, the first commander, only got the job because he was a friend of the governor. He drank too much and had no military experience, so they had few training sessions under his command and didn’t learn proper military behavior. Soldiers came and went as they pleased, and there was no discipline. After Cox got drunk and hit one of the soldiers with his sword, he was court martialed in October and forced to resign. Colonel Ryerson, an experienced military man then took over and instilled a proper military environment and training. The book indicates that they did not shoot their guns in camp and they weren’t even at the White Oak Church on May 3. I believe Joseph Schwickerath mixed it up with Salem Church, which is the battle they participated in. In fact, I found a newspaper article that said he saved the flag when the color guard was shot to death in this battle. The book describes this incident and although it doesn’t mention the soldiers by name, it said some of them around the man who died were also hit.