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"Onward Gerogians" - by Don Troiani

Signed & Numbered Limited Edition Print

"ONWARD GEORGIANS" - Capt. John T. Jordan rallies the 49th GA on the R.F. & P. Railroad - Battle of Fredericksburg, VA December 13, 1862

Image size: 29" x 18"

Edition size: ONLY 350 Signed & Numbered Prints

Price: $250 (When this is sold out, it will only be available on our secondary market--call then for current price and availablity--800-237-6077)

Onward Georgians

Thousands of blue-clad soldiers from General John Gibbon's division of the Army of the Potomac advanced across the open fields just west of the Rappahannock River late on the morning of December 13, 1862. Confederate infantrymen of General A. P. Hill's division awaited them behind the convenient shelter of the raised embankment of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad.

The four Georgia regiments that made up General E. L. Thomas's Brigade prepared for battle in the woods behind the railroad, opposite Gibbon's right. Farther south along the tracks, to the Georgians' right, Northern troops under General George G. Meade surged through an unprotected gap in the Confederate line and threatened to create havoc. That crisis, originating beyond the view of most of Thomas's men, spread northward and engulfed them.

The 49th Georgia Infantry came under fire as it moved toward the railroad, approaching the open fields beyond that swarmed with Yankees. Before the Georgians reached the eastern edge of the woods, the "very dense and thick" trees through which they moved created uncertainty. Bullets whistling through the branches added to their unease.

Once they reached the open space next to the railroad, the Southerners could see their foe and fight them to good advantage from the railroad embankment. In the words of a Confederate general who commanded the line near the 49th Georgia, "the ditch and the cut on [the] R. R. was, on an average, about two and a half feet deep." A Maine soldier wrote five days later that "by the railroad in the gutter…they had great advantage of us as it made a complete breastwork for them."

Captain John Thomas Jordan, commanding Company C of the 49th, faced the crisis along the railroad with firm bravery. The young lawyer from Sparta, educated at the University of Georgia, had celebrated his twenty-third birthday five weeks before the battle. He had served in the ranks as a private for the war's first year; his men knew that their captain would lead from in front.

During the regiment's move through the tangled woods in the direction of the firing, an exploding shell hurled a fragment that hit Jordan with enough force to knock him to the ground. He urged his men forward, saying "the ambulance corps will remove me." Within a few minutes the shock abated enough to allow the determined captain to follow his men to the front, where he joined them just as they went into action.

The Union troops, many of them from New York and Pennsylvania, who tangled with Captain Jordan and his Georgians had advanced through a late Indian-summer day, in temperatures near 60 degrees. The warmth had thawed the cleared fields east of the railroad into a muddy morass, which slowed the attackers down and damaged their unit cohesion. The "plowed fields," a Yankee grumbled, "during the heat of the day were converted into quagmires, so that our infantry were obliged to wade ankle deep in mud." Southern marksmen soon turned their discomfort into a bloody repulse.

A Georgian writing on December 16 marveled at Jordan's performance under fire. When the right companies of the 49th fell back, Captain Jordan "seized the flag, and, springing to the front, with one hand wav[ed] his sword, with the other his ball-riddled banner. Above the salvoes of artillery and roar of musketry, could be heard his clarion voice, shouting, 'Onward! onward! follow me, 49th!'"

Inspired by John Jordan's shining example, Georgians plying their rifles from the railroad grade "piled up the blue coats as they were retreating across the field a little thicker than you ever saw pumpkins in a new ground."

Success in repulsing the Northern onslaught, and the arrival of friendly reinforcements, prompted the victorious Confederates to leap over the railroad and briefly pursue their defeated foe into the fields stretching toward the river. The engagement by Thomas's Georgia brigade had lasted, one of the men noted, "just 33 minutes by the watch."

Later in the war, John T. Jordan earned promotion to a colonelcy. He survived a wound suffered in April 1865, married the widow of another colonel, and died in 1895.

Robert K. Krick Fredericksburg, Virginia


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