Roy Stone, Co. D, 13th Pennsylvania Reserves

Martial Deeds of Pennsylvania by Samuel P. Bates. Philadelphia: T. H. Davis & Co., 1876. Part II, Biography, Chapter XIII. Pages 855-859.

Roy Stone

ROY STONE, Colonel of the One Hundred and Forty-ninth regiment, and Brevet Brigadier-General, was born at Plattsburg, New York. He was the son of Ithiel Vernon and Sarah (Gurner) Stone. He was educated at Union College, and when the war broke out was a resident of Warren county, on the borders of the great forest where a hardy population dwelt. Forming a company from among them, he sought acceptance in the three months’ campaign. Failing in this he kept together his men, and after fruitless waiting, started down the Allegheny river on flat-boats, with the design of joining McClellan in West Virginia, where a stirring campaign was in progress. He was five days in making the run to Pittsburgh, and on his arrival was summoned to Harrisburg to join the Reserve corps just then authorized. His men were armed with their own rifles, and each wore a bucktail, as an emblem of hardihood and marksmanship. They were merged in the Bucktail regiment, which became famous.

Before entering upon the campaigns of 1862 the regiment was divided, four companies being assigned to Colonel Kane for special service, and the other six left to the command of Major Stone and going with the Grand Army to the Peninsula. Recognizing their fitness for skirmish duty, General Reynolds gave them the advance in the movement upon Richmond, and at Mechanicsville and Beaver Dam Creek they were the first to meet the foe.

From his camp-fire on the Chickahominy he wrote to his parents on the 28th of June:

“At noon of the 26th, while on picket two and a half miles from our main body, I engaged a large force of the enemy and held them in check until I was entirely surrounded, giving our troops time to prepare for the attack. I then cut my way out, and by a wide detour through the woods and swamps finally arrived at camp with the loss of seventy-five men. My black horse, saddle, pistols, and boots, had to be left behind. We had been given up as lost, and were received with the greatest demonstrations of delight by General Reynolds and all the brigade.”

The fighting at the entrenchments was determined, but the enemy could make no impression, and at night it was decided to withdraw the Union force to Gaines’ Mill. To Stone was given the place of covering the rear, which he accomplished with entire success. “General Reynolds,” he says, “stayed with us a great part of the time, displaying wonderful courage and skill. Cooper’s battery also remained, and was most gallantly served. Two small companies of Berdan’s sharpshooters were also placed under my command. As soon as it was light, the enemy, who had placed new batteries, and made all his dispositions under cover of night, renewed the attack in great force upon my front, which was the key to the whole position. Again and again they formed for a charge upon our fords, and as often they melted away, before our steady fire, while their batteries at rifle range poured a most terrible shower of shell, grape and canister upon us, shattering the woods over our heads and tearing up the ground about us. Still our protection was so perfect that the loss was comparatively light. We had held them back for two hours and a half, our forces were nearly all safe behind the second line, and we were outflanked on the right and left, when General Reynolds sent us orders to fall back as best we could. It was a desperate business. We had three miles to go without any help, and the men were already exhausted. Our loss here was fearful. We had to traverse nearly a mile before we got out of range of the batteries, which had been firing upon us all the morning. Many men fell while passing over that mile, and beyond that, every man who gave out on the double-quick had to be left behind. I brought in the poor remainder of the Bucktail regiment, one hundred and twenty-five men and five officers, too much exhausted to stand, but full of pluck and covered with glory.”

In the action of that day Stone was again ordered in at four in the afternoon, and until sunset held his ground, when with the entire Union force engaged he retired behind the Chickahominy. In closing the letter above quoted, he says: “No language can describe the glorious conduct of my officers and men. It was more than heroic. Their loss is great. As for myself, I escaped with a slight bruise, though I had a ball through my bucktail and had my second horse shot yesterday.”

Major Stone took position at Charles City Cross Roads in rear of a battery of Parrot guns, and while the first charge was being delivered acted as a reserve. That charge was successful; but a counter charge in great force carried the Reserves back, and now Stone received the rebels and in turn drove them. But his men were too few, and they were compelled to retire. Taking up a new position about four hundred yards to the rear he made it the rallying point for the Reserves, and soon had six standards. With this force, which intuitively seemed to place itself under his command, he moved forward at dusk to the front, where the fighting was still fiercely raging. In his official report he says:

“I moved by the flank up the Richmond road, and advancing steadily to the extreme front under sharp fire, halted to reconnoiter, on finding myself among the wrecks of our own batteries where the action commenced. General McCall had come out of the woods wounded and alone, and taken his place at the head of the column. After the halt the General took me forward a few paces with him, and in the darkness suddenly we found ourselves close upon the leveled muskets of a column of the enemy which filled the road in front of us. We were ordered to halt and dismount, but I turned and escaped only slightly hurt, drawing two volleys. General McCall was not so fortunate and is in the hands of the enemy. I formed my first company across the road and went to the rear, by order of General Kearny, who had come up in search of a battery to sweep the road in front. I soon became, however, so faint and dizzy from the effects of my hurt, that I was taken to the hospital and took no further part in the action, which soon terminated.”

The superior marksmanship of the Bucktails and their great value as skirmishers, under such a leader as Stone, pointed to the desirability of a brigade of such troops, and at the recommendation of Generals Reynolds, Seymour, and others, he was sent to Pennsylvania to recruit one. Though the plan was not carried out, owing to his being ordered to the front when only two regiments were full, upon the occasion of the disaster at Bull Run, and advance of the foe into Maryland, yet he was eventually put in command of the brigade increased to four regiments, having in the meantime been commissioned Colonel of the One Hundred and Forty-ninth. With this he took part in the movements preliminary to and in the battle of Chancellorsville. It was incorporated in the First corps, and with Reynolds was on the ground at Gettysburg among the first troops. To Stone’s brigade was assigned the open ground on the advanced centre of the line. As they came upon the field they shouted, “We have come to stay,” and with a heroism akin to martyrdom they proved their determination. In the heat of the battle Colonel Stone was severely wounded and rendered incapable of further duty, a Minie ball striking him in the right hip. He could not be moved from the field, and when, towards evening, the shattered corps was obliged to fall back, he was left in the enemy’s hands. During the two weary days, while the terrific fighting was in progress, he was in captivity suffering from a double torture. When at length the foe, beaten and broken in spirit, began to retire, it conveyed to him the joyful tidings that his comrades were triumphant.

He had recovered from his wound sufficiently, as he deemed, though contrary to the advice of his surgeon, to take the field before the opening of the Wilderness campaign in 1864, and on the morning of the first day was engaged with Ewell’s corps with heavy loss and varying success, and in the afternoon made a strong attack upon the left flank of Hill’s corps with triumphant issue, doubling his left wing back upon his centre, and opening a communication with the Pennsylvania Reserves, who had been completely cut off. On the following morning the division advanced and occupied the Plank Road. While this movement was in progress the wound which he had received at Gettysburg was reopened by the fall of his horse, and so serious was the hurt that he was unable again to take the field. In September he received the brevet rank of Brigadier-General “for gallant services throughout the war, and especially at Gettysburg.”

General Stone was married in August, 1862, to Miss Mary E. Marker, of Pittsburg. In person he is five feet nine inches in height, with a face peculiarly noble and attractive. Though not bred a soldier he developed some of the highest qualities of the profession-a quick appreciation of the situation when in face of the enemy, and accurate judgment of the best to be done to meet him successfully, unquestioned courage, and a devotion that no danger could cool or suffering dampen. Since the close of the war he has been engaged in active pursuits in the great lumber regions along the waters of the Allegheny whence came the men who, as Bucktails, made for themselves and their leader a world-wide reputation.

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Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.