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

  • We find our 33rd Regiment Company B in the thick of the Battle at Williamsburg. Lt. Col. Joseph Corning of Palmyra has requested to continue to fly his colors and stand fast. This is probably one of Corning’s finest moments and shows the amazing leadership he displayed. His men respected him and followed his every word with vigilance.

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  • We find our 33rd Regiment Company B in the thick of the Battle at Williamsburg. Lt. Col. Joseph Corning of Palmyra has requested to continue to fly his colors and stand fast. This is probably one of Corning’s finest moments and shows the amazing leadership he displayed. His men respected him and followed his every word with vigilance.
    Bullets surrounded them just missing their heads but Col. Corning did not falter as he said, “Attention 33rd about face, steady forward, guide center, march! Halt, about face, fix bayonets, continue firing.”
    Corning noted, “It was done handsomely...It gave me (Corning) full confidence of their obedience to my orders in the future.”
    The 7th and the 6th Maine both fell back as the Rebels appeared closer. Corning heard the heavy hoofs of a horse as Col. Taylor came into sight. None of his men appeared anywhere.
    Corning shouted, “Where are the four companies that were under your command?”
    Taylor replied, “They have come up here, haven’t they?”
    None of Taylor’s men were anywhere. Colonel Taylor appeared to be confused as to where his men were. Corning asked repeatedly, “where are your men”? Col. Taylor replied, down there.   “Well, back there somewhere.”  
    Corning feeling the pressure from the Rebels and the poor leadership of Col. Taylor he was left with no choice but to demand that Col. Taylor determine back where, saying, “For God’s sake bring them here! This is the place for them, bring them here to fight. Cowan’s battery was rapidly running to the rear, and it appeared to Corning that the officers had lost control of their men.”
    Two Rebel regiments appeared to bear down on the 33rd; confirmed when Lt. Brown of Company D was shot. Col. Taylor regained his composure and shouted, “For heaven’s sake stand firm my men. Everything depends upon you.”  
    Corning was convinced there was only one chance. Joseph Corning was preparing his men to charge.” Corning was now in the middle with no support in front and two Rebels regiments shrieking in the midst of smoke from their fire.
    In Corning’s own words, this is his account: “The smoke which was quite thick over my head when I turned back to look, had now settled so as to intercept my view. I hear the enemy shouting “Balls Bluff and Bull Run” I bowed my head to the horse’s neck to look under the smoke. They were about to the line of the large gate posts, about sixty yards. Two minutes more and all is lost, no time for consultation or suggestions. I (Corning) mentally said, these men better die like men here, than go back in a panic and be crowded, drowned, and jammed to death at this dam. One quick look, my head came up, I drew my sword exclaiming, ‘My God Sir, nothing but a charge can check this thing,’ instantly commanding, ‘cease fire forward 33rd, double quick.’”
    Page 2 of 2 - To be continued next week. Again thanks to George Contant and “The Path of Blood”.       
    The Lois McClure may leave Waterford on Thursday the 27th of June and arrive in Palmyra Tuesday July 2, the program at the Alling, 122 William St. Palmyra will be Tuesday at 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. All are welcome and Art Kohn of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will be our speaker. This is a community participation program is a  no charge event.
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