It may be the most overlooked of all the features on the Bloody Plain–a forgotten survivor that thousands pass daily without a thought. Union soldiers sought its cover; our own Frank O’Reilly identified and documented it: a low stone wall that offered fleeting shelter to desperate Union troops struggling to and across the Bloody Plain.
It’s “the other” stone wall, first identified by Frank O’Reilly in his extensive work on the attacks on Marye’s Heights. His work generated several references to the wall. A man in the 14th Connecticut remembered that his regiment went across the causeway they took position “near a stone wall, behind which a number of wounded lay.” A man in the 131st Pennsylvania of Humphreys’s division likewise declared that his regiment “formed behind a stone wall, just under the brow of a hill, occupied by a battery.”
That battery was Hazard’s Rhode Island Battery, which was one of just two Union batteries to cross the canal ditch that day, sent there, as O.O. Howard remembered, to “encourage the infantry.” Howard’s chief of artillery protested the order to Hazard: “General, a battery could not live out there.” Said Howard, “Then it must die out there.”
Hazard’s six guns thundered down Hanover Street, across the ditch and took position. Two guns went into position on Hanover Street, likely just in front of the Rowe House. The two other sections (four guns) went into position thirty yards back, behind the stone wall. (Four guns of another battery, Franks’s, later came up on Hazard’s left, just east of the Stratton house.
The process of destruction foretold by Howard promptly began. Rather than encouraging the nearby infantry, the presence of the Union guns made them more miserable. Hazard could hardly hope to fire without hitting some of the Union soldiers on the plain in front. So bad did it become that General Humphreys went to each individual gun to get them to stop. Just as bad was the attention paid the Union guns by Confederate artillery on the heights.
Within minutes sixteen men in the battery were wounded; fifteen horses shot down. Hazard summoned ten men from the nearby 15th Massachusetts to keep the guns firing. But soon the folly of the artillery’s presence became obvious, and they pulled off the field.
Given the lack of cover for Union troops on the Bloody Plain, it’s hard not to ponder how many men likely sought cover behind this inconspicuous feature. If indeed the wall standing today is the same that existed in 1862, you can find it at the corner of Weedon Street and Hanover Street. Opinions or additional information are welcome…..