Say What Special: Kershaw & Custer Aftermath of Sailor's Creek April 6, 1865

lelliott19

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Fought April 6, 1865, near Farmville, Virginia as part of the Appomattox Campaign, the Battle of Sailor's Creek occurred just three days before the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. The Confederate loss at Sailor's Creek is generally estimated at not less than 8,000 in killed, wounded, and captured. NINE Confederate Generals were captured there, including Maj Gen Joseph Brevard Kershaw.

Carle Augustus Woodruff, of New York, was a young Lieutenant serving as the Left Section Chief of Batteries B & L (combined), 2nd U. S. Artillery. When Kershaw and his companions arrived as prisoners of war at the headquarters of George Armstrong Custer, it was Lt. Woodruff who met them and provided hospitality as they awaited Custer's arrival.

In 1876, Kershaw wrote to Woodruff, recounting the details of that memorable day. The letter was later published in The Anderson Intelligencer. Today's 'Say What' quote comes directly from that letter:

"Why General," said Custer, taking my hand with a kindly smile somewhat tinged by humor, "I am glad to see you here. I feel as if I ought to know you." "Yes," said I, "General we have met very often, but not under circumstances favorable to making an acquaintance." This little passage of pleasantry made us quite at home immediately, and very soon the conversation became free, general and kindly around the campfire. With a soldier's hospitality, we were made to feel welcome by our host, notwithstanding our misfortunes, enjoying not a little the camp luxuries of coffee, sugar, condensed milk, hard tack, broiled ham, etc., etc., spread before us upon a tent fly converted into a table cloth, around which we all sat upon the ground, Custer and his rebel guests.​
After supper, we smoked and talked over many subjects of interest to all of us, dwelling, however, almost wholly upon the past. The future to us was not inviting and our host, with true delicacy of feeling, avoided the subject. We slept beneath the stars, Custer sharing his blanket with me. Very soon, he was asleep and I lay watching the glittering hosts of heaven....We lay in the midst of Custer's squadrons; thousands of men lay around us....[The Anderson Intelligencer. (Anderson Court House, SC) February 03, 1897, page 1.]
 
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lelliott19

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@lelliott19 I don't believe I have heard that story. Thanks!
You're welcome John. Here's some additional information. Both men - Kershaw and Woodruff - were Masons. Joseph Brevard Kershaw served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina 1873-1874. When Carle Augustus Woodruff retired as a Brigadier General from the US Army in 1906, he served as the founding Master of Winfield Scott Hancock Lodge #311 on Fort Leavenworth, AR.
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Carle Augustus Woodruff, the young Lieutenant who was on "meet & greet" detail at Custer's headquarters, was a recipient of the Medal of Honor, issued September 1, 1893 for extraordinary heroism while commanding Battery M 2nd US Artillery at Newby's Crossroads on July 24, 1863. In this image, snipped from the LOC, Woodruff is about 21 years old. By 1897, when the letter was published in the newspaper, Woodruff was a Major of Artillery in the U S Army (he eventually made Brigadier General.)

Here's the citation for his MoH:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant (Field Artillery) Carle Augustus Woodruff, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 24 July 1863, while serving with Horse Battery M, 2d U.S. Artillery, in action at Newbys Crossroads, Virginia. While in command of a section of a battery constituting a portion of the rear guard of a division then retiring before the advance of a corps of Infantry, First Lieutenant Woodruff was attacked by the enemy and ordered to abandon his guns. He disregarded the orders received and aided in repelling the attack and saving the guns.
 
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