Dan S Root GAR Memorial
N Bridge St
Belding, Ionia County, Michigan
"In Memory ofThe Boys of 1861 - 1865Who offered their services for the integrity and unity of ourGrand RepublicDurijng The War of The Rebellion""Dan S Root Post 126Department of MichiganGrand Army of The RepublicOrganized April 1883Dan S Root Womens Relief Corps No 175Auxuliary to Post 126Grand Army of The Republic1889""Frank R Chase CampNo 25 Michigan DivisionSons of Union Veteransof the Civil WarOrganized March 1914Clara Barton Tent No 7Daughters of Union Veteransof the Civil WarOrganized March 1914"
More memorial have been built in Belding since my last visit, and there is yet another in progress. This particular memorial area is a new presenttion of 90 year old plaques that had been at another location.
The diary entry of Dan S Root was sent to me several years ago by one of his great granddaughters. It is shared here with her permission.
The battle that took place at Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863, is generally accepted as the bloodiest day of the War of The Rebellion. When nightfall came over 18,000 men were counted among the dead, wounded, and missing. This journal entry by Dan S. Root describes some of the action of that day. It alludes to some failures and some small triumphs. But, mostly, it aptly tells of a bloody battle and how men face the prospect of death when the world around them is being destroyed.
Root had enlisted as a Sergeant in Company K, 3rd Michigan Infantry during 1861. His courage and ability to inspire confidence in those around him elevated him to the commissioned ranks and on this day, at Chancellorsville, he was a Captain, in command of Company D of the 3rd Michigan. This journal entry is provided by his descendent, Katie Legato.
May 3rd, 1863
Some picket firing during the night. Daylight came and with it the bullets of the enemy. The first glimmering of the dawn showed our near neighbors of the night to be Graybacks, their pickets, and but a short distance from their line of battle. My men got in several shots apiece and being good marksmen made them count. The range was very close and if an arm or a head showed itself from behind a tree it was a target.
Their advance began and we fell back to the regiment running the gauntlet of their fire without losing a man. We found the 12th Corps posted in rear of our brigade in line of battle waiting for the enemy. We were ordered to fall back to the ground we occupied before the charge which was a small field of about 5 or 10 acres nearly surrounded by pine thickets. In the field was posted the 1st Ohio Battery.
Formed line but were soon ordered to the rear of the 12th Corps. Just as were filing out, the enemy rushed from the woods and made for the battery. The 37th N.Y. the rear regiment of the brigade, formed line to resist them while the rest of the brigade took post a little in rear filling a gap between two divisions of the 12th Corps. The Rebs came out of the wood yelling like devils and confident of an easy victory. But they had different men from the 11th Corps to deal with.
The battery and the 37th opened and mowed them down like grass. They fell back to the edge of the woods and from its cover opened a deadly fire. The 37th, notwithstanding their time would be out in a few days fought gallantly and at great disadvantage until many of their best officers had fallen and the battery was rendered almost useless from the loss of men and horses. When they were withdrawn to the line, one gun had to be abandoned as the horses were all killed.
Our regiment was supporting Lesley’s regular battery that was posted in an open field to the left of the flank road and in front of the Chancellorsville House. The battle soon became general along the whole line to our right, the fringe of it reaching us and the spiteful bullets plunged among us freely. The 12th Corp, one Div. Berry’s Division, and Carr’s Brigade of ours were doing the fighting thus far and a desperate one it was.
From our position we c (could see?) down the line of both contestants. Charges were made and prisoners and flags captured on both sides. The combatants looked to be commingled and shooting each other down almost within bayonet range. Occasionally the cloud of battle smoke lifted and showed the progress of the fight.
We soon got word the gallant Berry was killed, our old brigade commander and as efficient a soldier as any in the field. But we shortly had something else to occupy our attention than watching the varying success of the conflict on our right. A.P. Hill was moving to the assistance of Old Stonewall and we began to feel his presence – the troops on our left became engaged and a rebel battery took position where the 1st Ohio had been and opened on the one we were supporting. It completely enfiladed our regiment and every shot reduced some of it to a mangled mass. We could see the white puff of smoke and knew that it was the signal for some of us to bid goodbye to life. That awful second of waiting to know who it would be was our agony of suspense, but the victim himself never knew. Cannon shot seldom allow much leave taking from friends.
Our battery was well served but was much exposed and was soon disabled. Several of its caissons were blown up and scattered the fragments of men, horses, and much of the carriages in every direction. Some of the horses became frightened and unmanageable and dashed through our ranks, trampling down the men. The incessant bursting of shells, the deafening roar of musketry, the yells of the combatants, the constant hiss of rifle balls and the dull thud as it struck a near neighbor and his moan of agony, the careening of riderless horses over the field, the shouts of command and encouragement, formed a scene on that fearful Sunday morning I shall not soon forget.
Jackson's Corps slowly forced back our weak line on the right and left our flank exposed. We fell back a short distance and again formed line. The enemy came on eagerly. About this time, Hooker appeared on his white horse, his face as red as the sun at its setting, and ordered a charge. Our brigade made it, led by Birney. When the Rebs saw we meant business, they gave one volley and ran for the woods. But we caught about 100 of them. Sgt. Everette of my company bagged three. In the charge, I was struck in the foot by a bullet and knocked down but soon recovered my perpendicular and found my boot had prevented serious consequences.
About this time, the troops on our left gave way and the Rebs came swarming over the hill at us. We wheeled and went for them and for a few minutes it was give and take with clubbed muskets and any weapon that could be used. But the Rebs, who largely outnumbered us, at length gave way, either fearing attack or something of the kind, and left many prisoners in our hands – one of their officers mounted on a white horse, said to be an aide of Gen. Hill was very active in (?) on his men. At length, Briscoe, a daredevil aide on Birney’s staff got sight of him and went for him, when an angry chase began, but the Reb had the best horse and escaped, B. sending two or three pistol shots after him to hasten his going.
We then fell back and formed line in rear of the Chancellorsville house (which was now on fire) where the new line had been formed. The Rebs made another attack but our artillery drove them back with great? slaughter. They made no further attempts. We lay in this position a short time, then marched back about half a mile, halted a short time, and then returned to the front again, and then marched back again. We were under a heavy artillery fire while we were marching and countermarching and one shell exploded in my company and laid out four of my men. We were finally about 3p.m. sent to the front and took up our position in the advanced rifle, ? hid among the guns of Randolph’s R.I. battery
The rest of the day passed with a little skirmishing and (crossed out: picket firing) solitary cannon shots. Gen. Whipple, commanding the 3rd Div. of our corps was killed just behind our regiment by a stray shot, making the second Div. commander of our corps killed today. We have lost ground today and so I suppose have lost the battle. The losses in men must be about equal. I don’t understand how a general with the means? at his command that Hooker has can allow himself to be outnumbered and surprised. He evidently is not the cunning man but he has plenty of fight in him and will probably give us another chance before we take the backtrack
Our regiment lost 75 of 300. Today one officer (Capt. Mason) killed and several wounded.
It is oten difficult for a family researcher to discern the pennmanship of a relative, especially 150 years after the fact. Ms. Legato advises that where a question mark appears the true text may be in doubt. Captain Root was correct in his assumption that the losses were about equal. What he didn't know has filled many books, but the points he affirms for history are important;
- His reference to the difference between XI Corps and XII Corps - XI Corps was comprised primarily of immigrant Germans that didn't speak English. Most of the Corps had been killed or captured the previous day.
- The 37th New York fought bravely, especially admirable in light of the fact that the unit was scheduled to leave the battlefields the very next week and return to New York state to muster out. They lost 222 men on May 3rd.
- Even General Hooker knew he had made a large mistake. Afterward he commented on the debacle with this, "For the first time, I lost faith in Hooker." But, his mistake wasn't completely an error in judgement - he was probably suffering from a concussion, the result of a cannon shot hitting within inches of him. He refused to allow his subordinates to relieve him of command and that likely created much consernation within the command staff
After the war Root became a doctor and he died of natural causes in 1882. The following year the Root Chapter of the GAR was formed and this monument placed in his honor.