Charles Redington Mudge in Harvard Memorial Biographies

The following was originally published in Harvard Memorial Biographies, and later reproduced in the book Mudge Memorials, by Alfred MudgeAlfred Mudge, Boston 1868, pp. 370-382. I have included it here in its entirety, preserving the original spellings.

 

cdv-of-lt-colonel-charles-e-mudge-2nd-mass-kia

CRM, photo [CDV or carte de visite] taken by John Adams Whipple (Boston, MA).

 

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Charles Redington Mudge

First Lieutenant 2d Mass. Vols. [Infantry], May 25, 1861; Captain, July 8, 1861; Major, November 9, 1862; Lieutenant-Colonel, June 6, 1863; killed at Gettysburg, Pa., July 3, 1863.

Charles Redington Mudge was the son of Enoch Redington and Caroline A. (Patten) Mudge. He was born in New York City, on the 22d day of October, 1839. He studied for several years at the private school of Mr. Thomas G. Bradford, at that time a favorite teacher in Boston; and went thence to Harvard College in the summer of 1856, joining the Class of 1860. The most salient point in his college career was, beyond question, his exceeding popularity,—a popularity of an unusual and very flattering nature, which made him an especial favorite in his own chosen circle, and also left him perhaps nearly the only man in the Class who could be sure of a kind word and friendly deed from every member. In his case, this popularity was founded upon a remarkable unwavering kindliness of nature. An instinct assured each classmate that there could be no chance of a word of harshness or of sarcasm from him. It was his nature to appreciate the good traits of every one. Each comrade felt that Mudge saw the bright side of his character, and recognized all his best qualities. He had many accomplishments, too, of a nature highly esteemed by young and old. He had a good voice and ear, and sung with spirit from an inexhaustible repertory. He was lithe, muscular, and athletic in build, and very. fond of manly sports and exercises. He was a good oarsman, an excellent boxer, and distinguished in the Gymnasium. During nearly the whole of his college course he belonged to a club‑table, very many of the members of which have since won for themselves honorable names in the war, of whom Colonels Rob’t G. Shaw, Caspar Crowninshield and Henry S. Russell may be mentioned as perhaps the most conspicuous. He was an active and prominent member of the Glee Club, and a leading “brother” of the Hasty Pudding Club. Of the last he was also, during one term, Vice‑President.

After graduating he made preparations for entering the manufacturing business, in which his father’s prominent position gave him promise of an excellent opening. But the breaking out of the war at once changed his occupation, his objects, and his destiny. Every dweller in Boston and vicinity must have a fresh personal recollection of the prompt emulation with which young men from Boston and its neighborhood hastened to solicit commissions in the Second Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers; and among these Mudge was enrolled from the outset, his commission as First Lieutenant bearing date May 26,1861. He wrote, Nov. 16,1862, looking back to these opening scenes:—

If you will just look back to that Sunday morning when you and I jumped out of our beds at the news of the capture of Fort Sumter,—I fully made up my mind to fight; and when I say fight, I mean win or die. I do not wish to stop the thing half‑way. I wish to establish the government upon a foundation of rock.

The results of this earnest trust and stern intent were marked and admirable in him, as in so many others. Boyish things were put off, and their place was filled by a thoughtfulness, a depth of moral conviction, and a steadiness of moral purpose, not often to be found in a young man scarce twenty‑two years of age.

The principles and motives leading him to enter the war were not founded in any wish to do away with slavery. He felt no such active hostility to the great Southern “institution”; and a conflict based solely on the ground of accomplishing the abolition of negro servitude would have appealed to no kindred sentiment in his heart, at least to none of sufficient strength to induce him to peril health, limb, or life in the quarrel. He felt and said that if slavery should come athwart the march of the Northern armies, it must go down; if it should become a matter of military wisdom, or a benefit, in the course of the struggle, to do away with slavery, then, without question, away it must go. But the matter that touched his soul and fired his spirit was the outrage done to the country. Full of patriotic pride and devotion, he resented with the wrath of a personal indignity the wrong inflicted on the nationality of the United States.

The regiment left Massachusetts July 8, 1861; and on the same day Lieutenant Mudge’s commission as Captain was dated.

On the field of war, among regiments from every quarter of the country, the Second Massachusetts Volunteers maintained a high character for drill and discipline, the result of the will and character of its officers. It was first engaged at Front Royal and Winchester, where it was ordered to protect our wagon trains from the attack of General Ewell’s forces. Captains Cary, Russell, and Mudge, with their companies, were detailed to support the batteries which were covering the movement of our troops and wagons on their road to Winchester. Finally they halted and undertook to hold the Rebels in check while the battery could also be withdrawn into the town. Night fell while they were still engaged in this duty. The Rebels, with wild shouts, made continual dashes upon them, and maintained an incessant fire of musketry. The only light was from the blazing wagons; and amid all this the Fifth New York Cavalry, mistaking these companies for a body of Rebels, dashed furiously through their lines, hewing with their sabres and firing their revolvers rapidly on every side, with very fatal results.

The Second then fell back toward Winchester, into which our forces had been rapidly pouring since midnight. At a little distance outside the town they halted, but soon the fighting became general, and two Pennsylvania regiments broke and ran, leaving the Second exposed upon its flank and in much peril. By a skillful manoeuvre, executed at double‑quick, they extricated themselves, and managed to enter the town, when they again made a stand, and again found themselves flanked by a force of Rebels who fired upon them from a parallel street. Here Captain Mudge was wounded in the leg just as he had given the order to his men to face about and give the Rebels a volley—which had had the good effect of scattering them for a few moments. In this brief period of respite a sergeant brought him a horse and assisted him to mount; and Robert G. Shaw (then Captain Mudge’s Lieutenant) aided him to accompany the troops on the rest of their way through the town. The wound, though bad and painful for the time, fortunately neither imperilled his life nor maimed the limb. Careful nursing cured him, but not in time for him to take part in the battle of Cedar Mountain, where his regiment went through so terrible an ordeal. While his friends rejoiced at his escape, he himself was exceedingly grieved at his enforced absence; but as he was at the time upon crutches, and wholly unable to move without their assistance, he had no option but to remain at home.

On the 1st of September, 1862, Captain Mudge wrote to his father :

For the last ten days I have eaten what might pass for eleven meals. For three days our principal food was green apples and water, with occasionally a cracker. We have marched somewhere every day, generally bringing up where we started from. There has been a good deal of fighting, with various success. I don’t think there has been an hour since I have been here, when I was awake, that I haven’t heard firing…. but we are in the best of spirits under it all; in fact, joking more when we expected to starve, than if we were in venue comfortable place enjoying ourselves. I have had a blanket and overcoat to sleep in two nights out of ten only.

A few days later the regiment was engaged in the heat of the battle of Antietam and added fresh laurels to those already gained. It suffered severely both in the officers and in the rank and file. During the battle Captain Mudge was in the perilous command of the color company. His part in the fight is best told in his own simple and soldierlike description:—

September 25, 1862.

Our regiment went in, that is, was actually engaged, three times in the battle of Wednesday. Twice we were very fortunate, making the Rebels run, and not suffering ourselves; but the other time we got the worst of it, losing thirteen killed and fifty‑five wounded, out of less than two hundred…  I got a blow on the ribs from a ball which penetrated through my blouse, vest, and two shirts, and skinned my ribs, but only disabled me for a few moments. I thought I was killed when it struck me, but recovered almost immediately. The flag‑staff was shot almost in two in two places, the socket shot off the sergeant’s belt, and twenty new holes were put in the flag; two corporals of the color‑guard, out of the three present, were wounded, one mortally… As the newspapers have exhausted all the most expressive terms in describing other engagements, there are no words left to express what Wednesday’s fight was; the whole ground was fought over twice, each side feeling how great an issue was at stake.

His well‑deserved commission as Major was dated on the 9th of November, 1862. In this year of hard marching and fierce fighting, he escaped indeed the battle of Fredericksburg; but he was not destined to enjoy repose or safety for any very great length of time. The regiment was ordered hither and thither, through the miry ways of Virginia; and was occasionally allowed time hastily to construct winter‑quarters, only, as it seemed, in order to be straightway summoned therefrom. At last, on the 27th of April, it began a series of manoeuvrings which had as their end another of the great struggles of the war—the battle of Chancellorsville.

For some days they had marched and skirmished incessantly. On the 2d of May they threw up a slight defence of logs near United States Ford; but in the afternoon they were ordered out to capture what was supposed to be a wagon‑train, but proved to be Stonewall Jackson’s Rebel corps. Colonel Quincy was at this time, strictly speaking, in command; but that gallant officer, though exerting himself to the utmost, was so disabled and weakened by severe wounds, from which he had by no means recovered, as to throw an unusual responsibility upon Lieutenant Colonel Cogswell. A harassing night was passed amid constant skirmishing and firing. In the morning the Rebel corps advanced three lines deep to the attack. The Second stood its ground for an hour and a half of hard fighting. Lieutenant‑Colonel Cogswell was wounded early and carried from the field, and his duties then devolved on Major Mudge, who handled the regiment with the utmost bravery and success, and finally broke all three lines of the enemy. In doing so they fired sixty rounds, and exhausted their ammunition. In this helpless condition, however, they stood fast for some time longer, until relief came, and they were at last ordered to the rear. But the route was no peaceful one; they were obliged, still with empty cartridge boxes, to halt at Chancellor House. The enemy’s fire came from three sides, and was very fatal and of increasing severity. At last the regiment was removed to a less dangerous position, where the men enjoyed a short rest, had their cartridge‑boxes replenished, and were then again sent into the battle on the left, marching over ground where the underbrush was fiercely burning, and where the black dust from the smouldering patches blinded and stifled them painfully.

On the night of the 6th they were ordered to cross the river, preserving the strictest silence; for the artillery had been withdrawn, and their position was one of extreme danger. But these orders were again suddenly countermanded; and they passed a cold, wet; and most trying night in the trenches, until just at dawn, they were again ordered to cross. Three weary miles they dragged their chilled limbs in the cold, gray morning, to where a throng of infantry and artillery was confusedly massed upon the banks of the river, whose swollen and tumultuous tide was spanned by two small and weak pontoons. They came across, however— in safety, and thankful for their safety— and marched back thirty miles to their old huts at Stafford Court House. During the whole of this harassing period Major Mudge preserved a decision and coolness which never allowed the men to swerve from their discipline. After it was all over, he wrote to his father the following unassuming account of the perils he had so honorably passed through:—

DEAR FATHER,—I trust the first news you will hear will be of my safety, so that you will suffer no anxiety. I have not even a bullet through my clothes… Our men behaved better than ever. Cogswell was wounded early, and I then took command, gaining and holding ground for fifteen minutes without a cartridge, until ordered to retire, which I did very slowly, halting and facing frequently. We took in four hundred and thirty men and twenty‑two officers, and lost, as near as I can get at it at present, twenty‑two men killed, ninety‑eight wounded, sixteen missing; one officer killed, four wounded, several grazed. I think the killed is larger, as none of the wounded could have lived long.

Later, on the 29th of May, 1863, he wrote further:—

You ask me what my feeling was during the fight at Chancellorsville. Well, it was just what it should be. I was so astonished at my own coolness and courage, that I could not help thanking and praising God for it in a loud voice while I sat there on my horse. I had prayed for it, to be sure; but I never believed a man could feel so joyous, and such a total absence of fear, as I had there. I enjoyed it as much as a game or race, until we were withdrawn; and from that time until we were safely over the river, I, as well as everyone else, suffered the most terrible anxiety you can imagine. Yet I had courage enough, by God’s help, to bear it all coolly.

This letter may be noted as almost the only one in which he dwells at any length upon himself or his own feelings; and here it is in answer to interrogatories from home. It is always of the regiment and of the men that he seems to speak and to think.

His commission as Lieutenant‑Colonel was dated on the 6th of June following (1863). But owing to the absence of Colonel Cogswell who had not yet recovered from the wounds received at Chancellorsville. he was in actual command of the regiment, and he had the honor, before he died, of twice leading it into battle, —at Beverly Ford and at Gettysburg. At Beverly Ford, the Second was one of a small number of regiments specially chosen from the whole army for a task more than ordinarily arduous, and detailed to support a cavalry movement. The choice was felt to be a great distinction, and the troops strove eagerly and successfully to acquit themselves with even more than usual honor. At Gettysburg the disposition of the Union lines bore a rough resemblance to the form of a horseshoe, the rebel forces being upon the outside. Late in the day, on the 2d of July, the Second Regiment, which till then had been posted behind intrenchments on the right, was ordered to march across the mouth or opening of the horseshoe to the re‑enforcement of the left wing, which was engaged and under a hot artillery fire. But they had not been long in this new position before darkness fell, and they were ordered to march back again and occupy their old position, which the colonel commanding the brigade told them they would be able to do without opposition. The middle portion of the space to be traversed by them was a marshy field, and then intervened a belt of woodland, upon the farther side of which ran the line of their old intrenchments. The regiment came into the wet ground, marching by the flank. But the military instinct of Colonel Mudge whispered to him that, before marching in this unguarded manner into the shadowy grove in front, it would be well to have some surer knowledge than the mere surmise of the colonel commanding the brigade. He accordingly sent out a few skirmishers, who reported that a line of rebels was in position among the trees. Not yet quite satisfied, Colonel Mudge again sent out his largest company, under command of a gallant and trustworthy officer, Captain Thomas B. Fox, with orders to come back with the whole story. They found a strong force of rebels holding the old position of the Second, and, having come close to them, drawn a volley from them and taken a couple of prisoners, they returned and reported. Their situation now was trying and dangerous in the extreme.

Colonel Mudge did not know what might have taken place in this part of the field since he had left it in the afternoon, nor in how great peril he might be. The men, too, evidently appreciated the awkward state of affairs; but of them he felt no fear. They had always stood by their officers; their conduct depended upon his; and he now showed the coolness, the ready resource, and the tactical skill of a soldier born and bred. He at once gave the order for the regiment to change front on the centre company as around a pivot, the left wing falling back and the right wing advancing. The manoeuvre was executed with the skill and promptness with which this regiment went through all manoeuvres, and in a few short minutes the Second was in line fronting the foe. The readiness of thought which suggested this rather unusual movement, and the skill with which it was consummated, have often since been spoken of by military men in terms of the highest praise. The regiment next threw up a slight defence of earthworks along their front, behind which they anxiously awaited the dawn. Soon after daybreak came the rather unexpected command for the line to advance and reoccupy their position of the day before. The attempt seemed fatal and without a prospect of success in face of the outnumbering ranks in the shelter of the woods. But Colonel Mudge was too good a soldier ever to question the merits of an order from a superior, and too thoroughly fearless ever to undertake in such a case a calculation of odds. Straightway he gave the brief order, “Rise up,—over the breastworks,—forward, double‑quick!” And up rose the men at the word of their dauntless commander. Without stopping even to fix their bayonets, they sprang over their earthworks with him. He led them boldly and rapidly over the marsh straight into the jaws of the line of woods whence poured the thick, fast volleys of hostile bullets. The regiment’s impetuous charge carried all before it, and they found themselves in their old lines. But Colonel Mudge did not see this triumph; in the middle of the marshy field a fatal ball struck him just below the throat, in the midst of a network of large arteries, and be fell, and died almost instantly.

In considering Colonel Mudge’s character, it may be truly said that he was born for a military career. Before the outbreak of the war he had shown many excellent and most lovable traits, and was a young man of many friends and fine promise; but he never seemed fairly to have discovered his peculiar sphere in life or the pursuit for which Nature had fitted him, until he found himself in the uniform of a soldier on the high road to an active campaign. I have talked with very many officers associated with him through long periods of hardship on the march and through hours of deadly peril on many a stricken field, and they all have one phrase upon their lips,— “He was born a soldier.” Others have fitted themselves for one and another position in military life by labor and pains, but be fell into its ways and met its requirements by a natural aptitude. And as some soldiers shine most in the daily routine of camp life, but the thorough and natural soldier is most tried and most proved in the midst of hardship and danger, so it was amid hunger, cold, and fatigue, and under a deadly fire, that Colonel Mudge’s comrades report all the military temper of the man to have stood forth in its fulness. He was never overcome by any assault upon his physical powers. He reveled in his capacity to endure. His spirits rose as he was called upon to undergo toil and suffering. To courage he united caution and foresight, all the more remarkable in one bold enough to have been tempted to recklessness. He was wonderfully ready in resource; he saw with an instinctive eye precisely what each emergency required; and he acted with instantaneous decision. Not one second of valuable time was ever lost by a doubt or a blunder. Upon the very instant when action was demanded, he knew what was to be done and how to do it. If the story of the maneuvering and fighting at Gettysburg had been the only event in his military career, it alone would have won him a reputation far beyond the ordinary, and would have proved the truth of these statements. The steadfast attachment and strong love of the man—which his family and friends know to have been very deep, constant, and influential probably far beyond any degree that I can express here— was shown by the manner in which he stood by the regiment of his first choice until the day of his death. Dear friends of old college days left him there; very few, indeed, of the officers with whom he had set forth were still around him in his last campaign; many had been killed, but many also had left the regiment to accept higher positions elsewhere, as he too might have done. But nothing could tempt him to leave the Second, to which he was bound by a romantic love.

He was bred and died an Episcopalian. He was never without religious convictions, but the course of military life, with its separations and its dangers, worked especially upon his feelings. He became more thoughtful than ever in matters of religion. He was never without the Church Prayer‑Book, and a friend took it from his pocket after he lay dead on the battle‑field. He never imperilled his life with the rash thoughtlessness of one who has paid little heed to the future, but always with the full sense of that hereafter which was possibly so close at hand. He did not shrink from reading the service of the Episcopal Church before the regiment, on Sunday morning, in camp, in the absence of the chaplain,—a thing which many very young men, amid the influences of camp life would hardly be found ready to do, and within three months of his death, he received the rite of confirmation at Emmanuel Church in Boston, from which his lifeless body was so soon, with military honors, to be carried forth.

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