From Andrew Lausten’s FB page, regarding his great-great grandfather’s (62d NYSV veteran, Nelson P Dolbeck) diary entry on the occassion of Colonel Riker’s death.
154 Years ago today Death of Colonel John Lafayette Riker at the Battle of Fair Oaks Virginia as recorded in my Great Great Grandfather’s Civil War Journal.
Saturday, May 31, 1862 – As I am now once more quite comfortable, that is for a soldier, and seated on my carpet of cedar boughs, I will endeavor to state a few facts of our adventures yesterday. As I said before, our company was detailed for fatigue duty, and our work was chopping. For about half an hour the trees were slain in a manner, that would do honor, to a northern back woods man, and just as we were getting in our work properly, the order came to fall in double quick, and join our reg’t. The order double quick might as well not been given, for the moment the boys heard the order fall in axes, brush and logs flew in every direction and although we were about a quarter of a mile off yet I think that it would be doing Co. B injustice to say they were over five minutes falling in – getting ready for a march. Either through excitement, or orders misunderstood, our Captain took the wrong road to where our reg’t had been ordered, and it was lucky for us that within a matter of minutes we had travelled about a mile, our pickets Liut Soder (aid de camp for General Peck) rode up to our rear, and informed us that we were on the wrong road. Had we went half a mile farther, our company would to all probabilities, be prisoners now. However as it was we have no reason to complain, for we soon found the reg’t and the smiling countenance of “tall son of York” (Col Riker) plainly told us that we were welcomed. Although but a part of our company was on fatigue duty, we found the balance with the reg’t, fully equipped, with a look of sternness on their manly frames, and a will, a courage, that the Col might well be proud of, beaming from their countenances. A place was soon made us in the line and the order given to load. The enemy did not trouble us, and soon our reg’t was ordered back to camp. Just then a heavy thunder storm broke in upon us, and we were drenched to the skin, before getting into camp. The rain now poured down in torrents, and it rained as it always does in Va, so says the Virginians, as they are generally cheerful amid many privations. To add to our discomfort, we had no means of drying ourselves, or cooking our suppers, but we got our whiskey, which warmed us up, partially, ate our suppers of dry crackers raw bacon and cold water, and then stretched ourselves down on the ground as usual, to get a little sleep and rest. Now on the battlefield and after a hard afternoon’s work, I sit my self down, and by the light of the fire, I feel it is my duty to write a little. It was about 12-M when the orders came to our camp to move up towards Casey’s divis. Our reg’t was drawn up in line, and just then the enemy had drawn in our pickets, and were opening fire on Casey’s divis. We were ordered down about half a mile, our knapsacks were unslung, and we were awaiting our turn. Casey’s men defended their position well, but were terribly cut to pieces. The 55th N.Y.S.M. now made a charge and a gallant one it was. They, too, were cut up badly and repulsed, and it was evident the enemy was gaining ground. Our reg’t was ordered to the right on a double quick, and the good conduct of our boys attracted the attention of Gen Conch Keyse and Peck, and we were ordered further on the right to cut off the enemy that were trying to outflank us. This movement was done admirably and to the letter, and thus we were engaged all the P.M. until about 4 P.M. when our reg’t was cut off by the enemy and being now in the woods, it was impossible to get out in time to gain a good position. The enemy now opened fire on us from our rear, and our orders were to fall back to our reinforcements, the 31st PVI and they supposing that we were the enemy, returned the fire. Our battery to our right was playing in the woods at the same time, and under the galling fire of the enemy and our own men, (though strange as it may appear) we retreated out of the woods, planted our colors, made a determined stand, and only lost one man killed. Our noble Col. Now rode along our lines, with cheering words, and he was shot. The 2nd N.Y.S.M. was on our front and fought bravely until the 34th N.Y.S.V. and our reg’t relieved them. Our men were cool through the action and soon the enemy were driven back with a terrible loss. It was now dark, and we were glad to lay ourselves down on a few rails without food, shelter, or covering, and wet and muddy from top to bottom, yet how thankful I am that when thousands were hurled into eternity to day, my unprofitable life was spared. My first work after the battle was to find Moses who I found unhurt.