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Portrait of a General: General Roy Stone
Part 1 of 8
Roy Stone was born on October 17, 1836, in Plattsburg, New York, to Ithiel V. and Sarah Stone. His family had been among the early settlers of the region and his father owned a large estate.(1) Roy, who was Ithiel and Sarah's only son, graduated from Union College, Schenectady, New York, in 1856. By the start of the Civil War, Stone was 24 years old and had moved to Warren County, Pennsylvania, where he managed his father's lumber operation.
Edwin A. Glover, writing in Bucktailed Wildcats: A Regiment of Civil War Volunteers, provided a description of Stone as a young man at the start of the war:
Major Roy Stone, a little more than a year before [had been] busily engaged in directing lumbering operations in the cool mountains of northern Pennsylvania . . . . [His] full beard and hard-bitten demeanor belied his comparative youth . . . . Major Stone was only of medium height, but his erect carriage . . . and dark eagle eyes gave him a commanding appearance.(2)
According to a statement by Stone's wife many years later, he had a fair complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair when he enlisted. She did not list his height, but stated that his occupation was "engineer and lumberman."(3)
THE CIVIL WAR
Enter the Bucktails(4)
Fort Sumter in South Carolina was a symbol for all that had come before-the raging debate over slavery that had divided the Nation in fiery rhetoric and political stalemate; the secession of seven lower-South States from the Union in February 1861; their attempt to pull the rest of the southern States into the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.); and the pledge of the new President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, to hold the Union together. Sumter was a Union fort in a seceded State. With Union ships on the way to supply the fort and protect it from the hostile forces surrounding it, President Jefferson Davis of the C.S.A. ordered General Pierre G. T. Beauregard to capture or destroy the fort before the fleet arrived.
First, in keeping with form, General Beauregard asked the commander of Fort Sumter, Major Robert Anderson, to surrender. Anderson, as expected, rejected the request.
On April 12 at 4:30 a.m., Beauregard opened fire. Historian James M. McPherson described the end:
After thirty-three hours of bombardment by four thousand shot and shells which destroyed part of the fort and set the interior on fire, Anderson's exhausted garrison surrendered . . . . On April 14, the American flag came down and the Confederate stars and bars rose over Sumter.(5)
On April 15, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to serve in the Union army for 90 days. The war that was about to begin was not expected to last even that long.
Within 2 weeks of the President's proclamation, Roy Stone was recruiting lumbermen and mountaineers from western Pennsylvania to join the forces of the Union. O.R. Howard Thomson and William H. Rauch described the start of Stone's Civil War years in History of the "Bucktails": Kane Rifle Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps:
The Raftsman Guards were organized at Warren, Pa., on April 28th, 1861, Roy Stone being one of the most energetic in collecting the men who enlisted. Its members came from the lumber districts and were . . . hardy mountaineers, trained to the use of rifles since their childhood. While waiting at Warren, endeavoring to get the State to accept them . . . Stone furnished lumber, out of which the men constructed twelve boats, each capable of carrying ten men with their equipment.(6)
Stone also drilled his men, who had acquired dark blue fatigue uniforms and adopted their name, the Raftsman Guards. Each man clung to his own hunting rifle.(7)
After receiving assurances from Governor Andrew G. Curtin in May, the 101 men of the Raftsman Guards rowed 125 miles down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh, arriving on May 23, expecting to join a 3-month regiment. There, they learned that Pennsylvania had already filled its troop quota.(8)
The Guards traveled by rail to Harrisburg and marched to Camp Curtin, where the men elected Stone their leader with the rank of Captain. They were to join a volunteer regiment of "reserves" (troops above the number authorized by the Federal Government) raised by Thomas L. Kane in the "wildcat" lumbering counties of McKean and Elk. Kane had posted a call for volunteer marksmen:
I am authorized to accept at once for service, any man who will bring with him to my headquarters [at Smethport] a Rifle which he knows how to use.(9)
While the volunteers were waiting at Smethport, one of the recruits spotted a deer hanging outside a butcher's shop. Cutting off the tail, which was somewhat larger than usual, he placed it in his cap. Spotting the recruit with the big bucktail in his hat, Kane decided that Bucktail would be the perfect name for his volunteer regiment from the mountains of northern Pennsylvania.
The Bucktails and Raftsman Guards had expected their recruitment to last 3 months as part of President Lincoln's initial call for 75,000 men, but that total had already been met. With the war expected to be a short one, the men were concerned they would miss the action if they waited until the next call for volunteers. Thomson and Rauch explained their solution to the dilemma:
They therefore, without murmuring, consented to be mustered in as a regiment of the Reserve Corps, which was a body subject to military duty for three years.(10)
Major Stone and the Bucktails in Action
On June 12, the men elected regimental officers. Stone was elected Major of Company D of the Bucktails, formally known as the Kane Rifle Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve. The Wildcat recruits were forced to send their rifles home; they were issued Harper's Ferry muskets instead.(11) Later, following the Seven Days in 1862, they demanded, and received, rapid-fire Sharps rifles.(12)
The Bucktails saw their first action at Dranesville, Virginia, in December 1861. Upon receiving orders to advance, Lt. Colonel Kane gave the command: "Forward, Bucktails, there's fun ahead." The Bucktails drove the Confederates back with a vigorous, well-directed fire. The engagement at Dranesville, although not classified as a battle, was hailed at the time as a Union victory, welcome news in the North after defeats at First Bull Run and Ball's Bluff. Glover put the incident in perspective:
Although the record books could only list Dranesville as an "engagement," it was a Union victory, and [the Bucktails] had helped to gain it.(13)
In May 1862, the unit was split. One battalion under Lt. Colonel Kane was sent to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Major Stone was ordered to take the second battalion, consisting of six companies, to join the Pennsylvania Reserves of the Army of the Potomac on the Peninsula in Virginia.(14) The Peninsula was so named because it had been formed by the York River on the north and the James River on the south, with the Hampton Roads shipping channel surrounding the southern tip.
In June 1862, Major Stone played a prominent role when his Bucktails were engaged at Mechanicsville, Virginia, on the Chickahominy River. During the morning of June 26, at the start of what became known as the Seven Days, Stone led three companies of Bucktails to Atlee's Station in support of the cavalry. The other three companies of Bucktails and the Fifth Regiment were assigned to watch the Meadow Bridge crossing of the Chickahominy River.
When the three companies and the Fifth Regiment were mistakenly withdrawn from the bridge, General A. P. Hill's Confederate division began crossing the Chickahominy. Stone's three companies were cut off and at risk of capture or defeat. Learning of the withdrawal at Meadow Bridge, Stone warned Company B in time for it to retreat to safety by a roundabout route. He then rushed ahead to warn Company D, the next in line. Assisted by a small guard of cavalry, Stone led Company D on a long detour to safety. Stone's order to Company K to retire was not received, but after recognizing the danger, the company hid in a nearby swamp until the danger had passed and worked its way to safety over the next 5 days.
By 2:30 p.m., Major Stone and the two companies he had helped extricate, B and D, had rejoined the three Bucktail companies that had been pulled back from Meadow Bridge. They were ordered into position, adjacent to two other companies, known as the U.S. Sharpshooters, to resist the main attack at Beaver Dam Creek. Stone directed last minute preparations for what would be his first as commander of the regiment. When the battle began at about 3 p.m., the Bucktails held their position, making every shot count. Glover described the battle:
Regiment after gray-clad regiment started across the creek only to be met with the accurate fire of two Union outfits that could handle firearms just as handily as the best of the Rebels . . . . All up and down the Beaver Dam Creek line the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps held firm in well-nigh impregnable entrenchments . . . . The First and Third Brigades with minor reinforcements had stood off seventeen brigades of the Southern divisions of A. P. Hill, D. H. Hill, and Longstreet. The Battle of Mechanicsville was over.(15)
Stone and the Bucktails remained in their rifle pits without cover during the night.
General G. A. McCall, in his battle report, singled out Stone for thanks. Stone noted in his own report the next day that the Confederates had "melted away."
On June 27, the Union leaders decided to shift position to Gaines' Mill, but ordered Stone to hold his position to deceive the enemy into thinking the entire line was still in place. After receiving his orders just before dawn, Stone deployed his men to the right and left, then opened fire. The Confederates, who had returned in force under cover of night, responded. Although outnumbered, Stone held the line until 6 a.m., when a courier arrived with news that the withdrawal had been completed and that Stone could disengage and rejoin the main force. It was a costly retreat, according to Thomson and Rauch:
Captain Niles had been captured after evading the Confederates for several hours. During that time, he buried or concealed the regimental flag in the swamp "and thus saved the regiment the humiliation of having their flag become a rebel trophy."(17)
General J. F. Reynolds commended Stone in the official record of the battle:
I take great pleasure in bearing testimony to the gallantry and good conduct displayed by him while in command of the First Pennsylvania Rifles, at Mechanicsville and Gaines Mill, and particularly in covering the withdrawal of our troops from the former to the latter position on the morning of the 27th of June, which took place under my personal supervision. I know of no officer more worthy to be placed at the head of a brigade of light troops.(18)
General Truman Seymour also praised Stone:
I may say that much of the credit of this day belongs to him . . . [His] conduct of the right wing is worthy of all praise . . . . Major Stone, with rare intelligence, prepared his position and fought it like a true soldier to the end.(19)
Later that same day, the Confederates made another powerful attack. Thomson and Rauch described how Stone and the Bucktails found themselves exposed when troops on their left and right pulled back to concentrate their forces:
Major Stone changed front and fired his last volley. He then attempted to take cover behind a ridge on the right; but, as the position was in the range of the Union batteries, it was impossible to do so. Falling back with the other troops, the Bucktails were then formed in the rear of the hospital.(20)
The historians summed up the day's events:
Thus the battle of Gaines' Mill passed into history. One corps of the Union army had borne the brunt of the attack of two-thirds of the Confederate forces.(21)
On June 30, at New Market, Stone was again prominent in the action when General Robert E. Lee attempted to smash the Union Army by converging all his forces. At one point, when Stone saw the Union forces retreat, he ordered his men to fall to the ground. As the retreating troops passed Stone, he tried to rally them, but was unsuccessful. The Bucktails began firing volley after volley, but Stone knew he could not hold against the strong Confederate attack. The Bucktails fell back about 400 yards before Stone succeeded in pulling together the fragments of the retreating regiments into fighting order, with the Bucktails as the nucleus. ("I moved the whole battalion," Stone wrote in his official report, "which seemed to put itself under my command.")(22)
Glover explained that Stone moved his column up Long Bridge Road to join General McCall and the rest of the Union army:
It was now nearly dark. The artillery fire having stopped, no one knew where the enemy was or, in fact, if he was still there. McCall and Stone rode ahead up the road. Rounding a bend, they almost ran into a column of Confederates which filled the road ahead of them. Brigadier General George A. McCall ended this most bitter of all days by becoming a prisoner. Not so Major Roy Stone. At the command, "Halt-dismount," he wheeled his horse and galloped back down the road. A Rebel ball struck him in the hand as he turned. The major formed a company across the road and started looking for a cannon to sweep the front.(23)
The Bucktails maintained their position for half an hour, but the night was too dark for a fight and the Confederates did not attack. Meanwhile, Stone had become so faint and dizzy while searching for the cannon that he was taken to the hospital.(24)
The North had not won a victory, but had prevented General Lee's plan from succeeding. General Seymour, in his official report, praised Captain Wister and the Bucktails' Chaplain, H. W. Patton, but added that, "Maj. Roy Stone deserves the highest praise on all occasions." Stone's report of what is known as the Battle of New Market Cross Roads summarized his position:
The loss of my command in this action was much greater in proportion than in any of the preceding. I have this morning but 3 officers and 60 men of my own regiment, and 3 officers and 28 men of the U.S. Sharpshooters for duty.(25)
At midnight, the Bucktails marched to Harrison's Landing on the James River and set up camp with the rest of the Union army. During this period of rest, Major Stone and the Bucktails had only one special assignment, on July 7, but it was one they were uniquely qualified to perform, as described by Glover:
It had been over a year since any of the lumbermen had swung an axe, except to cut a little firewood. The Wildcats were to have an opportunity to do some axe-wielding for army pay. General Seymour . . . wanted a bridge built over a little tributary of the James and he wanted it done quickly. At the point to be bridged the water was ten feet deep in places and the distance to be spanned was several hundred feet. The engineers estimated the work would take several days to complete when they got the material. Stone told Seymour that his lumbermen could do the job in less time and with the material at hand. All night long the Virginia Tidewater rang with the sound of blades biting into trees as only northern Pennsylvania woodsmen could make them bite. Splashing about in the stream until daylight, the Bucktails had Seymour's bridge ready for him early the next morning.(26)
Colonel Hugh McNeil, one of the original members of Stone's Raftsman Guards, had been out of action with typhoid fever but rejoined the Bucktails at Harrison's Landing. McNeil, according to Glover, was shocked by what he found:
"My God! Where are my Bucktails?" Colonel McNeil, just out of the hospital, had hurried to Harrison's Landing to join his men. Now, as the remnant of what had once been six proud companies filed past, the colonel turned paler than his illness had left him. He gazed at the little, wearied, haggard column and cried unashamedly.(27)
The New Bucktails
With the Bucktails so depleted, McNeil recommended that Stone and Wister return to Pennsylvania to recruit a new brigade of Bucktails. In recommending the idea to Governor Curtin, McNeil wrote on July 8:
During the severe engagement of the past few days my regiment was in the hottest of the fight, under command of Major Stone. The generals of the Reserve Corps speak in the highest terms of its efficiency, and of the distinguished gallantry of that accomplished officer. Where the Bucktails fought there was no giving way of our lines, and where the Major would bring up his Spartan Band their brigades would reform and hold their positions . . . . The name of "Bucktail" has become a terror to the enemy and an inspiration to our own men. I can speak impartially of the brave fellows as it was not my privilege to lead them, and as to the Major to him is immediately due the credit of the heroic conduct on the Peninsula . . . . I hope that you may authorize Major Stone to recruit a brigade to be attached to the Reserve Corps. He has won his title to such a command by brilliant achievements on the field that has elicited the commendation of his general officers, and has a reputation even with [General George] McClellan.(28)
After Governor Curtin approved the project, General McClellan issued Special Orders No. 196 directing Stone to return to Pennsylvania to recruit a new brigade of Bucktails.(29) Captain Langhorne Wister, still bothered by the ankle injury he sustained at Gaines' Mill, requested permission to return to his native Philadelphia to help in the recruitment.
Stone and Wister returned to Pennsylvania in July 1862 to recruit new Regiments of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. While Wister recruited the 150th in the Philadelphia area, Stone returned to western Pennsylvania to organize the 149th. Richard E. Matthews, an historian of the 149th Regiment, explained how Stone's personality helped in the recruitment:
His courage in battle and skill in handling men were unchallenged. His daring and energetic personality, coupled with a strong personal ambition for fame, made him an effective leader. Twenty-six years old and already a celebrated personality, he had little difficulty in engaging others like himself to take the responsibility to raise companies for his brigade.(30)
He first selected recruiters who would solicit volunteers in their counties. The recruiters placed advertisements in local newspapers seeking men to fill four new Bucktail regiments. The advertisements often ran alongside a form letter Stone sent to the newspapers in the form of an article. It began:
We need not remind our readers of the glory that crowns the original Bucktails; the name is synonymous with dash and daring. They have conquered the adulation not only of their friends but of their enemies.(31)
As an added incentive, the county would give the volunteers a $50 bounty. Those who did not volunteer might be drafted in response to President Lincoln's call for 300,000 recruits-and receive no bonus.
Within 20 days, Stone had raised 20 companies of men. James J. Dougherty, another historian of the Bucktails, explained the motivation:
Indeed, this was an opportunity for able young Pennsylvanians to enlist in a proud regiment with experienced leaders while serving alongside their family and friends. While patriotism and pride may have played a role in inspiring enlistees, the promised bounty, no doubt, also contributed to their decision as well. Lumbermen, farmers, and miners from Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clearfield, Clarion, Lebanon, Allegheny, Luzerne, Mifflin, and Huntingdon counties hastened to join.(32)
Stone, elected a Colonel, organized the 149th at Camp Curtin, where they spent 2 weeks in August amidst poor sanitation, foul smells, and swarms of flies. Ten companies were formally organized during the last week of August, receiving their uniforms, Enfield rifles, and some of their bonuses.
While Stone was at work in western Pennsylvania, Captain Wister was recruiting four new companies of Bucktails in the Philadelphia area. His efforts were helped by a $25 bounty for enlistment plus 1 month's pay upfront and $75 at the end of the war. Dougherty described how, when recruitment slowed, Wister took to the streets to complete his regiment:
Wister hired a flatbed furniture car which was decorated with the national colors and placards reading, "Enlist in the Bucktail Brigade!" From poles attached to the vehicle hung a vast array of bucktails that were given to expected recruits. The car was then drawn through the city by horse followed by fife and drums to draw attention. Their efforts were successful and by nightfall they had drawn in enough men to fill out the remaining companies.(33)
By early September, Wister's 150th Regiment was in Camp Curtin.
Colonel Stone planned to raise two additional Bucktail regiments-a step toward promotion to Brigadier General. However, as Matthews pointed out, "the politicking at regimental level with the camp was intense." And Stone lost out in the politicking:
Roy Stone's stature as a colorful and dynamic leader did little to enhance his political power in guaranteeing exclusive right to the companies being recruited under his authorization. Every potential colonel believed he held solid credentials to support his claim for a full regiment of 10 companies. Most were politically active in state politics and many had previous military service experience. Commendations, recommendations and letters of blessing from field commanders held little weight in the halls of the Pennsylvania Capitol.(34)
Aside from politics, Stone's attempt to complete his four new Bucktail regiments was undone by the emergency in Washington. Beginning in early August, Union and Confederate forces had been engaged in a series of battles in the vicinity of the capital. Beginning with the August 9 retreat of Union forces at Cedar Mountain in Culpeper County, Virginia, the Union's ability to protect the capital was in question.
With the capital in jeopardy, 32,000 untrained recruits were rushed to the city from the north. In the emergency, they were transported on the B&O Railroad, many in converted cattle cars, to Baltimore, where they marched from Pennsylvania Station to Camden Station for the last leg of the trip to Washington. Stone's 149th received its orders on August 30 to report to Washington, where their journey ended on Meridian Hill. The 150th would follow on September 5, assigned initially to duties at Soldiers' Home, where President Lincoln spent his summers away from the oppressive heat of the city.(35)
The danger to Washington would last until September 18, 1862, when Union forces under General McClellan defeated General Lee's troops near Sharpsburg, Maryland, along Antietam Creek. It was the single bloodiest day of any war in American history, with nearly 6,000 dead and 17,000 wounded. But it drove General Lee back into Virginia, with an overly cautious McClellan choosing not to pursue the Confederate troops. The bloody victory was a sign to President Lincoln. He felt he had made a covenant with God that if the Union army drove the Confederate troops out of Maryland, he would issue the Emancipation Proclamation-and he did so on September 22. It declared that unless the seceded States returned to the Union, by January 1, 1863, their slaves "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."(36)
Colonel Stone's men, despite their lack of training or experience, had expected to see front-line duty to protect the city. Instead, the men were assigned to guard duty, work crews, and other tasks far removed from the heroic actions they expected as members of a Bucktail unit. They would spend the winter in Washington on such assignments. The poor morale and lack of discipline led to drinking problems among the enlisted men who, unlike the officers, were prohibited to drink whiskey. In January 1863, Colonel Stone issued Regimental Order #2 cautioning the troops about "indulging in any of those excesses which so often follow pay-day in the army." Anyone who disgraced his own honor and that of his regiment would receive the punishment he deserved.(37)
Daugherty explained how, with morale slipping, Colonel Stone began to shape his unit:
Stone was keenly aware that they would soon see combat and he intended to make sure the boys were ready. Fifteen- or sixteen-hour days were not uncommon and intense drilling soon transformed the troops into a proud fighting force. Before long, however, the troops were assigned more fatigue duty around the city and the tedium resumed.(38)
On October 21, 1862, the 149th and 150th received State colors. Lt. Colonel Thomas Chamberlin's memoir of his experiences in the 150th recalled the ceremony:
Secretary Thomas made the presentation speech on behalf of Governor Curtin, which was chiefly remarkable for its length, while the replies of Colonels Stone and Wister were brief and appropriate. After the presentation of the flags, three vigorous cheers were given for Governor Curtin, and the troops returned to their quarters.(39)
On November 11, they were joined by the newly recruited 143rd Pennsylvania Regiment under Colonel Edmund L. Dana, an engineer who had been practicing law. Although Stone, Wister, and Dana would cooperate fully, Daugherty said the men of the 149th and 150th Bucktails would never fully accept the newer unit of recruits from Luzerne, Lycoming, Susquehanna, and Wyoming Counties:
Having spent the winter together, the men of the 149th and 150th Pennsylvania had built a strong bond. While the officers of the three regiments were cordial to each other, the men had developed a fierce pride at having been recruited specifically into the bucktails. The 143rd Pennsylvania had been assigned merely to fill out the command. As a result they were seen as outsiders.(40)
One of those outsiders, Private Avery Harris, particularly resented Stone's preference for the two Bucktail units, especially Stone's own 149th. Harris' recollections would tarnish Stone's reputation years later and would echo in the histories of the war.
While Stone and Wister were organizing their new Bucktail regiments at Camp Curtin and preparing to move them to Washington, the original Bucktails fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 29-30. The battle, intended to protect Washington from the threat that brought the new Bucktails to the city, was a defeat for the Union forces under Major General John Pope. After suffering extensive losses, he conducted a well-ordered retreat across Bull Run Creek to the city, where he was relieved of his command. Glover explained that the original Bucktails were the last of the Federal troops to cross Bull Run as the army retreated to Washington:
Noting that the bridge [across Bull Run] was unguarded, the corps commander directed the eager Kane to collect some artillery and place it on the left bank. This was done, and the "brave little battalion" [in the words of General McDowell] of Bucktails remained at the bridge far into the night and until all the troops had crossed. They then destroyed the bridge and followed the rest of the Army.(41)
Although the 149th and 150th were to fight valiantly, the original Bucktails, who had earned their reputation on the field of battle, were not pleased that their name and symbol, the Bucktail, was officially bestowed on the new recruits. As Glover explained:
The Bucktails had started something of a reputation. It was only to be expected that there were those who resented any new outfits adopting what many of the First Rifles considered exclusively theirs. The name, so they argued, not only belonged to them by right of first appropriation, but by dint of hard fighting. On the other hand, no one could say that any member of the regiment had done more to make "Bucktail" a respected name and symbol than Major Roy Stone. The war would end in 1865, but the argument would not.(42)
As a result, Stone's and Wister's regiments were known as the New Bucktails, the Second and Third Bucktails, and even as the Bogus Bucktails.
While on the recruiting assignment, Stone took time to marry Mary Elizabeth Marker at the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh on August 14. They were to have two children, Richmond (who died in adulthood of typhoid fever) and a daughter, Margaret, born June 5, 1865. She would marry Lord Monson and live in London.
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This page last modified on 04/07/11