THE fighting at Fort Stedman brought out many examples of
great individual bravery and furnished numerous incidents which
prove the pluck and indomitable courage of the Union soldier, no
matter whether he was in a victorious battle or facing defeat.
At Fort Stedman particularly, where the Federals were treated to
a surprise by the enemy, their conduct was such as to force even
the foe to admire it.
It is recorded, for instance, that one private of the
Twenty-ninth Massachusetts Infantry was surrounded by a group of
rebels, seized by the throat and ordered to surrender. His reply
was: "Never." Whereupon he was clubbed over the back with a
musket and shot in the head, but in spite of his injuries fought
with his opponent, and escaped.
Other brave deeds were those of Sergeant-Major Charles H.
Pinkham, of the Fifty seventh Massachusetts Infantry, and
Sergeant William H. Howe, of Company K, Twenty-ninth
Massachusetts Infantry. Howe's regiment was in camp within the
works when the Confederates entered and surprised them. No shots
were fired, the Confederates using only the butts of their
muskets. The regiment was forced to retreat, leaving a great
number of its men in the hands of the victorious rebels. When
the Federals were already driven out of their works and the
rebels in full possession of the camp Sergeant-Major Pinkham
rushed back into the very midst of the enemy, entered a tent,
seized the regimental colors, and dashed back with his precious
treasure to his own lines. During the subsequent fighting for
the recapture of the camp, which ended in an utter rout of the
rebels, Sergeant-Major Pinkham had a chance to seize the colors
of the Fifty-seventh North Carolina Infantry and carried them
triumphantly into the Union lines.
Sergeant Howe was one of the Union soldiers who was captured
when the rebels took possession of the fort. He managed to
escape his guard, however, and rejoined his comrades in front of
Fort Haskell. When volunteers were called for to serve an
abandoned gun, he with five others undertook to perform the work.
They were exposed to a most galling fire, but he worked the gun
with such telling effect after all but two of the battery men
belonging to the piece were killed that the Confederates were
forced to retreat before its withering fire, allowing the
Federals to come up to the support of the brave volunteer gunner.