Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Yankees in the Attic

Posted in Genealogy, Memory by Andy Hall on July 2, 2011

Not my attic, as it happens, but my wife’s. It’s hardly a surprise, but it’s good to be able to confirm specific names and dates, rather than some vague understanding passed down by oral history. It appears that her great-grandfather’s two older brothers, James Bradley Ridge and George B. Ridge, both fought for the Union during the Civil War. Bradley, aged about 17, enlisted in Co. K of the 5th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry on July 21, 1861, and served with the regiment until discharged on July 5, 1865. His older brother George, age about 19, enlisted in the same company in January 1862, and served through the end of the war. He was promoted to Corporal in June 1865, and mustered out of the regiment on July 19, 1865 at Alexandria, Virginia.

The 5th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was originally composed of companies formed in response to that state’s governor’s call for volunteers in April 1861. These units were disbanded after Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops in May 1861, and reorganized themselves as the First Regiment, Colt’s Revolving Rifles, with famed gun maker Samuel Colt as their prospective colonel. The new regiment was quartered on the grounds of the Colt Patent Fire Arms Company at Hartford, but when Colt determined that the regiment should enlist as regulars, the new recruits refused. So the First Regiment of Colt’s Revolving Rifles was disbanded (again) and immediately reformed (again) as the 5th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. And they never did get their Colt Revolving Rifles.

As part of the Army of the Potomac, the 5th Connecticut took part in Pope’s campaign in northern Virginia, and were heavily engaged at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9, 1862. On that day Pope’s army ran smack into that of Stonewall Jackson. After initially pushing back the Confederate line, a swift counterattack by A.P. Hill’s troops turned the course of the action late in the day. The 5th Connecticut, in the thick of the fighting near a local landmark known as “the cabin” (below), lost 48 men killed or mortally wounded, 67 wounded and 64 captured, or 179 of the 380 men present — 47.1% casualties. The regimental history notes ruefully that these losses were “as large as all the rest of its battle service put together,” and among the highest of any Connecticut regiment during the entire war.

“Charge of Union troops of the left flank of the army commanded by Genl. Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain,” by Edwin Forbes. Library of Congress.

The regiment was present at Second Manassas (Bull Run), and the following year in the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg campaigns. After Gettysburg, the regiment was transferred to the Army of the Cumberland, where in 1864 it participated in Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. According to its regimental history, the 5th Connecticut led the column of Sherman’s army that marched into Atlanta on September 2, 1864, after that city’s surrender:

September 2d. We all move forward toward the city of Atlanta, leaving our tents standing. Our regiment has the advance, and the Fifth Regiment Connecticut Veteran Volunteers have the honor of being the first Union regiment to march through the streets of the city of Atlanta. We have certainly earned the honor, for we have made a long and tedious campaign, having been 112 days and nights continually under fire, sleeping many nights in the trenches, fighting at every opportunity, always holding the ground and routing those opposed to us, and finishing the campaign with great honor to ourselves, to the State and to the General Government.

General Sherman says that we will rest in the city for thirty days, and I believe him.

Federal troops occupy former Confederate defensive works at Atlanta. A diarist in the 5th Connecticut recorded on September 10, 1864, “have visited the lines of fortification built by ourselves and the rebels around this city, and also looked around the city. Terrible destruction by shot and shell everywhere.” Library of Congress.

The 5th Connecticut went on to participate in Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” and in fighting up through the Carolinas in 1865. Bradley Ridge was reported missing after the Battle of Averasboro in North Carolina in March 1865, but eventually returned to the regiment. (I have not yet received his CSR, so don’t know the specifics, or if he was captured by Confederate forces.)

That particular line of my wife’s family has a long tradition of military service — her grandfather was gassed with the AEF during World War I, her dad served in the wars in Korea and Vietnam, her brother flew on medical evacuation missions during Desert Storm, and so on. Now that list goes a little farther back, still.