156 Years ago Today: March 31st 1865

On March 28th 1865 Union Troops started the so-called Appomattox Campaign which culminated with the capitulation of the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House.

&thumbnail=tinyThe onset of the campaign was the battle at White Oak Road. In the breach of this battle stood the V. Corps under Maj.Gen. Kemble Warren. With two divisions they attacked the confederate emplacements at the White Oak Road to cut off Robert E. Lee, who was also present at the field, from his reserves under Pickett at Five Forks. On this cold and rainy day 22.000 Unionists faced 8.000 Confederates. At the end of battle U.S. forces mourned 1.870 and the Confederates 800 losses. A heroic counterstrike led by Maj.Gen. Bushrod Johnson’s IV. Corps unhinged the Union lines but they were able to stabilize the front and this battle is true to success that led to the Union victory at Five Forks on April 1st.

&thumbnail=tinyThe 52nd New York took part in this battle on the Union’s right flank among the supporting II. Corps under Maj.Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys. Like in most of it`s war time the 52nd was attached to the 3rd brigade led by Brev.Brig.Gen. Henry J. Madill in Brig.Gen. Nelson A. Miles 1st division. The 52nd was commanded by Col. Henry M. Karples, after Col. Frank was honourably discharged in the fall of that past year.

&thumbnail=tinyMadill led the 3rd brigade (7th NY Vet. Inf., 39th NY Inf. Rgmt., 52nd NY Inf. Rgmt., 111th NY Inf. Rgmt., 125th NY Inf. Rgmt., 126th NY Inf. Rgmt.) at the head of the division into the center of the battlefield up to the grey coats after the devastating counterstrike by Confederates. While the two repelled Union divisions of the V. Corps retreated and formed back into line on the left flank, they received relief from another division held in reserve and the advance of the 1st division of the II. Corps on the Union’s right which the 52nd was part of. In a well organized retaliation the Union Troops repelled the rebels so far as to seize the emplacements along White Oak Road. Maj.Gen. Warren desisted from further actions that day as his men were dripping wet and exhausted. Hostilities died down towards evening.

The battle at White Oak Road was again costly for the men of the 52nd and that so short to the war's end. Lts. Burke, Heydenreich and Schreiber died like seven enlisted men did. Cpt. Degener and 48 enlisted men were wounded. 12 soldiers were missing. A few days later the order to advance was ordered for the last time for the 52nd New Yorker Infantry in the battle at Farmville.

From it’s 1.800 or so men who became part of the unit throughout the chaos of war the 52nd New York lost appr. 1.000 by lead and disease. From the 869 men who left New York headed for Washington in 1861 just 10 returned.

During the course of war the regiment captured 2 battle flags and never lost it’s own “Lady Liberty”. The regiment is mentioned as one of 300 in the book “Regimental Losses in the War” for the valor and bravery of its members.


- Battlefield-Maps

- Battle of White Oaks Road Reenactment


Adolph Fritz - 2nd Lieutenant (ret.)

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