The Blog of Michael T. Murphy and his lifelong obsession with "little army men" and their imaginary glory, miniature wargaming, and other things...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Battle of Crummettsville...then and now...

This past summer while driving through Pennsyvlania on my way to do an article on the "Amish Rake Fight Klub"; I had the chance to wander off the beaten path, (actually I got lost), and ended up at the small battlefield park of Crummettsville.
When compared to Gettysburg, the other spots in Pennsylvania have gotten a raw end of the tourism dollar deal, or maybe in the long run they haven't had people who seemed to solely exist on making a buck on US History. They don't call Gettysburg, "Greedysburg" for nothin' you know.
Even to this day Crummettsville is still kind of a small town. Sure it has grown over the last 150 years, (a gas station/Quicky Mart that sells horrible BBQ pork sandwiches now rests on the spot of the original warehouse during the battle; the warehouse having been burned down in 1903 by hobos sleeping in it at night); but in a way the town still seems to be kind of caught in a loop about what happened here on that fateful day in the summer of 1863...

The houses that are still standing, show evidence of their years. The Widow Spencer's House is now owned by the Crummettsville Historical Society, (subsidized by the Pennsylvania Amish Cheese Industry), and 86 year old Fannie Coggins will be happy to show you the house as it was during the battle, including the repaired but still visible battle damage to the outside, and the inside of the house, along with the old splintered china cabinet which was a prized heirloom of the Widows, and took a few bullets from Confederate troops firing at Union troops during the battle.
On the floor of the parlor one can still see the faded bloodstains of Pvt. Albert Humphreys of Co. B 85th NY Infantry, who fought from the parlor, shooting from the windows to the rebels outside> Sometime during the battle, 19 year old Albert took a .58 caliber minie ball to his throat and his comrades drug him across the floor to the parlor with the other wounded, where a corporal tried to do his best as the "unofficial doctor" but usually ended up, holding them as they died. Alberts last few moments on this earth were in the Widow Spencers parlor, gurgling from a hole in this throat the size of a half dollar as his blood poured out and stained the floor.

I walked around the house with Fannie (as I had been the only tourist there the entire week), and she seemed delighted to have a visitor...She took delight in telling me all about the fighting and how her very own grandfather was a young man and sat on his back porch with a loaded shotgun waiting for the rebs...
"Would you like to see the pussies?" She asked me.
"Excuse me?" I said, not sure that I had heard her correctly.
"The stuffed cats." She said.
"OH!...ummm...yes..." I replied, somewhat relieved at what could have been an embarassing incident...
Fannie took me to one of the side sitting rooms. It seems that the Widow Spencer was known for her love of cats and during the battle was said to have had 13 black cats. As each of her beloved kitties died, she took it and had it stuffed....so now I was standing here looking at 13 150+ year old stuffed dusty cat carcasses.
Egad...
"Amazing, isn't it?" Fannie said.
"Hmmmm...." I responded.
"Do you want to see her husband?" She asked me.
"What?!" I asked. "Did the Widow stuff him too!?!?"
Fannie stared at me like I had a wart on my nose or something...
She sighed..."So I supposed you'd like to see the battle pictures also..."
"Battle Pictures?" I asked her, my interested suddenly picqued.
"Yes..we had an amateur photographer, A Mr. Igor Brady, the 2nd Cousin to the great photographer Matthew Brady here at the town when the fight started and he was lucky enough to get some photos. Some aren't in good condition though...."

So what follows is a little narrative about a small but bloody battle..."the smaller Gettysburg" as the town folks like to call it. Sure it didn't last for three days, but plenty of men were killed and wounded on both sides and it was a day that no one would ever forget.



GM's NOTE: The game was packed with a great (and I mean GREAT GROUP of players), and Jerry at http://www.games2d4.com/ deserved a lot of praise and credit.

Of the 9 players there, 7 were TMP'ers!!!!! Creepy huh??..Tells ya a lot about that site...




A shot of the battlefield from the Union side. TMP'ers playing the Union side, wait for the Reb fest to begin...




A rarely seen picture of Crummettsville, (alson sometimes known as Crummetts-Towne on local maps), taken from a Union Observation Balloon, right before the battle. One can see the warehouse which was the Confederate objective in the foreground. A gas station is now on the site of the warehouse. The dark building with white trim at the road junction, was the Crummettsville Tavern, but is now the Blue Bird Cafe...Try the breakfast ham, deeeeeeee-licious!!!!




The first forces on the field of battle were 62nd and 65th Pennsylvania State Militia. Young boys and older men, green and untried in battle; they were entrenched on the northern side of Riley Creek. A colored artillery battery supports them.




The Union commander, Gen'l Rosser, (known throughout the South as "Ol' Buzzard Rosser" but known to his men as "The Snappin' Turtle" for his tendency to get into battle and hang on with everything he's got); rides with his staff on the outskirts of town right before the battle...


The Confederate Commander was Gen'l Jebediah Possum-Walker Jones. He was a hard driving commander and although his men sometimes balked at his disciplinarian ways, they knew he was hard and fair, and sometimes crazy...but he fought Yankees until he could fight them no more...
No known photos exist of Jebediah today, although there are rumors going about of a "end of the war Appomattox photo" taken right after the surrender of him in his uniform which will soon be put up for auction.
Jebediah Possum-Walker Jones survived the war, and moved 14 times in his life afterwards...throughout the south, and in various places in Texas and out west...fathering children and burying wives. He was last seen one Sunday morning in June of 1888, with his pistols by his side and a bible in his hand, walking his horse towards a canyon and whistling "Shall we gather at the river"...He had been married 11 times; burying 8, divorcing 1 and having the other two "run off"...
His last words known were said to have been to the preacher that morning..."I hear 'em...the bugles...callin' me to rally my men in the canyon....we'll get the artillery up there and put fire on them yankees like they never seen it! Gen'l Lee will be so proud of my boys!"
And then he turned and walked off...leading his horse and whistling.
He was never seen again...


US Colored Troops take position alongside a split rail fence... This was their first time against Confederate Troops and despite a valiant defense, they were quickly routed by CS Artillery and Cavalry fire.




Confederate Troops easily brush aside the scared green state militia and colored troops from their positions and storm over the defenses with ease...

While Union Cavalry ride hard through the town towards the Reb infantry, determined to stop them...

Meanwhile Union troops from the 2nd Brigade move quickly down the road into town and towards the developing battle...


While the 3rd Brigade comes onto the field in almost parade fashion...


Advancing Confederate troops fire a devastating volley upon the remnants of a routing State Militia Regiment that has been trapped while trying to cross the fencelines...Due to the amount of militia troops killed by CS infantry fire at this location, it has been renamed as "The Militia Fence". A stone marker placed by the GAR in 1907 lists the names of the men that were killed in this area.


Confederate Troops reach the fenceline...beyond it is Crummettsville and the Union forces waiting for them...



GM's Note: A color pic showing 2 of the 3 Union Brigades moving onto the field. 1st Brigade is nearest, while 3rd Brigade is furthest away in the photo. The figure with the Brigade flag is the infamous US Gen'l Owen Sodbucket, (also known as "Old Seconds For Supper"). Sodbucket's brigade has a infamous reputation of breaking in the face of the enemy once the shooting starts and Owen is usually the first one heading to the rear....
The Confederate attack was aggressive yet scattered and uncoordinated. CS 2nd and 3rd Brigades went in as evidenced by this picture, while the 1st Brigade made an unsupported attack upon the Union left flank held by none other than Gen'l Owen Sodbucket, the same commander who's forces had broken at Lumpkins Junction and dawdled at Tuckerville and Owl Creek.


Confederate 12 pounders of 2nd Brigade engage the Union 3rd Brigade troops around the house of the Widow Spencer. It's these very guns that sent shells crashing into her home and the battle scars can still be seen today...


Confederate artillery, although outnumbered was deadly as the 12 pounders caused a chain reaction of 3 limbers to explode, causing havoc and destruction within the center of the line. An entire battery of guns and men were wiped out by this...


But Union artillery was deadly also...here the main firing line of the Union Artillery, (including the 14lb James Rifles from the Artillery Reserve), wait for the Rebs to get within optimum range...


And on come the Rebs...determined but not enough as the Union guns pour fire into them ripping holes in their ranks, and leaving the field scattered with dead and wounded before they retreated...


On the right flank, Sodbuckets men rush forward to meet the enemy and after a volley or two would be rushing back to the rear....with Sodbucket in the lead of course....


An old historical photo of Union 3rd Brigade troops moving towards the house of Widow Spencer. This is the only known photo of the Widows home during the battle. Confederate Troops are on the other side and soon this house would feel the brunt of battle.
This photo was taken by Mr. Igor Brady, 2nd cousin to Matthew Brady the famous photographer. Igor wanted to be the same as his cousin, but instead ended up in the funeral business in Chicago, where he lived until his death of the croop in 1886.
Despite a hard effort by the Southern troops and command, the Union defense was just too great and they had effectively coordinated their artillery to cover the field. As the sun went down the Southern troops pulled back across Riley Creek, leaving Crummettsville still in the hands of the Union.
As I spent the afternoon walking the battlefield and visiting the small cemetery where some of the wounded from both sides are buried, (the confederates are in a mass grave), I thought about how this fight changed this small town forever. The younger folks don't seem to care too much for it, and the older folks tend to cling to "the local history" with a fierce passion. But when they are all gone...then what? Will Crummettsville become another tacky tourist town? (There's already one "Crummettsville Ghost Tour" that not only includes the battlefield by candlelight, but also The Widow Spencers house, (by special reservation only))...
Crummettsville seems forever locked in it's little piece of history, and I hope that it, like much of our countries treasured past, never goes away.
GMS NOTE: This game was almost impossible for the Rebs to win for a variety of reasons.
The first was the distance. due to the size of units on the field, I had to give them room to move and manuever thus it took longer for the rebs to get to where they were, and the Union set up their defenses quickly.
The Rebs also seems to push seperate uncoordinated attacks and seemed to have focused on the hill for a while instead of rushing towards the town at full speed. Union rifled artillery fire was very accurate and while there were no devastating hits like the hit on the Union limber, their fire was very powerful and telling, and caused attacks to break up.
We will be trying this scenario again with the JR III rules system...
It was fun game and I am thankful for so many MANY good people!!! Truly a pleasure in gaming is good friends!!!
The bitterest fighting seemed to come over by the Widow Spencers house. A close, almost desperate fight saw chances of the house catching fire...but luckily for us and 86 year old Fannie Coggins, it didn't, and can still be seen to this day...(The house is open for tours on Wed-Fri 10-12, 1-4, and Saturdays from 10-2; Admission is free but donations are accepted.)
Visitors can see and learn about the history of the house and see the scars and artifacts from the battle. They can also learn about the Widow Spencer, her husband, and her postwar years, (including her trial after being accused of conspiring to murder the town mayor Ebeneezer Crummett with arsenic laced powdered sugar almond cookies). She was found innocent and lived her life quietly and in solitude, (even though she was rumored to be heavily involved in the "spiritualist and seance occult movements of the late 1890's)...The date of her death has never been established as her body was never found. Instead all they ever found was a wonderful old empty house and 13 stuffed dusty cats....

2 comments:

CavScout said...

A discovered journal reported belonging to Jebidiah Possum-Walker Jones, has recently surfaced. In it was a note that stated " If only Gen'l Lee would of permitted me to shoot a Gen'l or two I could of taken that town." Could it be a reference to his defeat at Crummetsville?

Norris Darrall said...

Thanks again for the invite. Look forward to more ACW gaming. Still want to put on the JRIII game. You got good coverage at jriii@yahoogroups.