Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oliver's Story - Ball's Bluff

Tuesday, October 22, 1861

Private Oliver Stanton Bates of Company A escaped injury and capture at the Battle of Ball's Bluff.  His name does not appear on the casualty list for Ball's Bluff in the Twentieth Massachusetts Regimental History and his military records do not include a casualty sheet for wounding.  In this episode he proved to be extremely resilient, as Company A reported the third highest casualties by company for the regiment, totaling 31 killed, wounded, or captured. Only the flank Companies D and H reported higher casualties at 37 and 32 respectively.1

It is unclear from the records whether Oliver swam across the Potomac River or made the passage by boat. He owed his survival in large part to the resourcefulness of company commanders Henry Tremlett and Charles Whittier of Company A and William "Frank" Bartlett and Henry Abbott of Company I, who plotted an escape route along the river bank and remained until all the enlisted men made it safely across the river.2

1 Compiled service record, Oliver S. Bates, Pvt., Co. A, 20th Massachusetts Infantry; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C.; George A. Bruce, The Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1861 - 1865 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Riverside Press, 1906), 59-61.
2 Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 77; Francis Winthrop Palfrey, Memoir of William Francis Bartlett (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton, Osgood and Company, 1878), 26-29.

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