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Wayne Post
  • Historically Speaking — A peek at Palmyra’s past

  • First a correction from last week, summer museum hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Heritage Weekend events begin at 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9. 

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  • First a correction from last week, summer museum hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Heritage Weekend events begin at 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9.   
     
    Back to the Civil War and the campaign on Yorktown and Williamsburg by the 33rd Regiment, Company B under the leadership of Palmyra’s own Lt. Col. Joseph Corning, an integral part of the 125,000 soldiers under General McClellan. As Lt. Colonel Custer reported to General Smith confirming that the Rebels had pulled out of their camps and fort during the night under the continued firing of cannons and guns, it became evident that a Rebel strategy was successful. A game of cat and mouse seems to describe this military strategy well. Magruder had done it again and left without any indication.    
    The 33rd’ division was given orders to move in and inspect the camp and fort. It seemed odd that so much was left behind. Corning and his men were awaiting others to assist in the reconnaissance. A twist would take place in weaponry in this war as the 33rd and some of the Vermont Companies poked around. A fuse surprised them as it was lit, they scattered diving for cover. A Captain of a Vermont regiment stepped on this leafy area and set it off, but lucky for all of them it was a dud. They called it a “torpedo” and they were placed just under the ground. Many of these crudely made mines went off, and many suffered the damage. This was a new method of destruction that seemed unbelievable and underhanded. Both sides agreed the use of these mines should be discontinued. The 33rd escaped the wrath of these ground snipers.
    Suddenly, up came a rider from the 5th Regular Military to lead the group across the river. This rider was the same rank as our own Lt. Col. Corning who would leave war and return home; however,  not so for this regular army rider who would ride into history and become a great general; General George Armstrong Custer. The 4th Corp commander rode to Corning and asked what he was doing at the fork in the road. Corning expressed his direct orders from General Hancock. Abandoned enemy redoubts (small bunkers at the side of a fort)  were in site. Questions were always raised why were sites not covered or why were open areas not guarded, but Lt. Col. Corning knew that the answer didn’t matter, but covering these opportune locations was paramount. Fighting could be heard as Corning was to receive new orders from Hancock and join his position. Corning mounted his horse as Major Platner took over command. Lt. Colonel Joseph Corning rode up to the remaining companies of the 33rd. Hancock order Corning, “Take three companies of your Regiment, your colors, and color guard, go into the fort, occupy and hold it.”    
    Page 2 of 2 - The battle plans were being set and the regiments, companies, brigades and colors were all in place. The attempt to take Fort Magruder was part of the mission as well as holding back the Rebels. This would be a full scale battle and Hancock would be put in a position of falling troops and fierce offensive.     
    A call for help would go unheard and then many calls for help were not answered. Hooker was also being barraged with fire. Finally reinforcements came but General Sumner ordered Hancock to fall back. Next week we will continue and see how Hancock did fall back against his better judgment. Again thanks to George Contant and his “Path of Blood”. Col. Corning will make some bold moves next week as the battle continues. Call the museum for information and tours at 597-6981. 

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