1863: Aaron Crouch to Daniel Crouch

This letter was written by Corp’l. Aaron Crouch (1832-1895) of Co. I, 152nd New York Infantry. Crouch’s letter describes the action on 1 May 1863 at South Quay Bridge during the siege of Suffolk in which Gen. Terry ordered the 99th New York Infantry to reconnoiter the enemy’s rifle pits resulting in a “sharp skirmish.” The 99th New York, commanded by Col. David W. Wardrop, was repulsed with 4 killed and 42 wounded. Of the wounded, 9 later died. Aaron datelined his letter 1862 but it was actually 1863.

Aaron Crouch was born in Brede, Sussex, England, the son of Paul Crouch (1798-1851) and Sarah Evans (1800-1842). He was baptised at the Sandhurst Wesleyan Methodist Church, Kent, England on 12/10/1832. He lived his life in Brede until he emigrated presumably with his father in 1850 and other siblings — including Daniel Crouch (1831-1913), to whom he addressed this letter in Mohawk, New York.

Sometime between 1850 and 1860 he married the English born Charlotte Wilson. In the 1860 census Aaron and Charlotte are living in Cooperstown, Otsego County, New York along with their young son Charles b. 1860 where Aaron was described as a carpenter. He and Charlotte had two more children, Thomas b. 1861 and Lily (Lillie) b. 1862 both born in Cooperstown.

Aaron Crouch enlisted in the 152nd New York Infantry Regiment, Company I on 25th August 1862 at Otsego. Aaron was promoted to full Corporal on 28th January 1863 and to full Sergeant on 1st September 1864, he was mustered out with Company on 13th July 1865 at Munson’s Hill, Virginia.

It is conjectured that Aaron never returned home after his discharge from the regiments; his name does not appear in New York census records after the war. In 1870 Charlotte and the three children are living in Cooperstown where Charlotte is described as keeping house with no sign of Aaron. Charlotte and the three children remained in Cooperstown and in 1880 she was working as a Hotel Cook. Aaron and Charlotte’s children all married and lived locally in the Cooperstown and Oneonta area.

There is an Aaron Crouch of the correct age and occupation (carpenter) living in Valparaiso Village, Saunders, Nebraska in June 1885 and he also shows up on the Civil War Veterans Schedule in Oak Creek Precinct, Saunders, Nebraska. I know of only one Aaron Crouch serving in the 152nd New York Infantry so it appears that Aaron abandoned his family after the Civil War for some reason. He died on 25th September 1895 at the Saunders County Poor Farm and is buried in Sunrise Cemetery, Wahoo, Saunders County, Nebraska. The 1890 Civil war Veterans Schedule states that Aaron was wounded in the Civil War and was also suffering from Rheumatism. Whilst in the Valparaiso area Aaron was a member of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) which was a fraternal organisation composed veterans of the Union Army. [information compiled by Trevor Monk, Feb 2012]

Addressed to Mr. Daniel Crouch, Mohawk, Herkimer County, New York

Suffolk, Va.
May 2, 1862 [1863]

Dear Brother,

I now take the pleasure of answering your welcome letter of the 26th which I received last evening [and] also one from home saying that the 60 dollars I sent home had been received. Good.

Dan, I think I closed my last letter to you by saying that the drums was calling us to arms. We was called out but the order was countermanded and we returned to our quarters. The next day we left the old shed and are now camped about half a mile from the Nansamond River on as level a country as you ever saw — that is, on this side of the river. On the other side of the river, it is some sideling and the Rebs have got rifle pits about half a mile from the river. We go down sometimes a few of us and peck away at them, just for fun, and try our guns and hear the Rebs balls sing for they shoot at every man they see and sometimes they make a fellow dodge pretty lively.

Yesterday our General wanted to know what they had up there so he ordered the batteries to open on their rifle pits. Pretty soon we saw 3 or 4 regiments come from the woods to the rifle pits. Then our batteries played on them with great effect but still they came on and got into the rifle pits. They must have stood 3 or 4 abreast and the slaughter must have been great for our shells burst over the pits and in the pits for they throw them shells just about where they want to. There was about 300 of the 99th New York Regiment went over to see what they had over there but they was led by a drunken officer ¹ and did not accomplish much although the brave fellows charged on them and went up to the pit and there was ordered to halt and then retreat. The consequence was that 50 of them was shot down — so much for drunken officers. Our boys say the Rebs hoisted a black flag but I did not see it. But they did shoot at our wounded men laying on the ground. Our regiment was formed ready to go but we did not get the order.

We are getting a plenty of drill now and have to get up every morning at 2 o’clock and stand in line until daylight. We then get our breakfast and in the forenoon we have company drill; in the afternoon battalion drill; evenings dress parade; at half past 8 will have roll call, and so on.

From your well-wishing brother, — Aaron Crouch

Col. David W. Wardrop

¹ Though Col. David William Wardrop (1824-1898) commanded the regiment, it was Lieut. Colonel Richard Nixon who led the reconnoissance over the South Quay Bridge and the charge upon the Rebel’s rifle pits. A newspaper account of the skirmish that ensued claimed that, “The enemy understood the movement and (says a correspondent) succeeded in decoying the brave fellows along, by firing only an occasional shot, until they were very near the rifle pits, when the hottest volleys were sent out from behind their breastworks, and large reinforcements emerged from the woods and deployed in the rear of the pits….”

A diary kept by Eugene Goodwin of the 99th New York wrote: “May 1, 1863 — A very pleasant day. Our reg’t went out on a skirmish. We lost about 60 men, wounded and killed. The enemy was more strongly posted than ever. Our artillery played smartly. I think they did some execution.” He does not accuse the officer who led the reconnoissance of being drunk nor of any other officers in higher command.

A letter to the editor of the Lowell Daily Citizen and News from a member of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment described the skirmish at South Quay Bridge. He claimed that “a detachment of the 99th New York commanded by Col. Wardrop…[went] across the river or creek which separates us from the rebels. Under cover of a heavy fire some some of our forts, they advanced to within a short distance of the rifle pits of the enemy, when they were met with a volley of musketry from a regiment concealed behind the works, which killed and wounded between forty and fifty of our men….” He added, “I don’t know the object of the movement, but it seemed to be a small force to send out to such an exposed place.” Though he implied that the assault on the rebel rifle pits was inexplicable ill-advised, he did not accuse any of the 99th’s officers of being drunk.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Still looking for Aaron Crouch, born 13 Nov 1835; joined Northern Army Cavalry


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